Real Estate Agents Must Understand Content Management

Today was a good day. In addition to meeting with some smart minds about artisan entrepreneurship, I had the opportunity to plan a pitch event for would-be entrepreneurs and meet with an existing business owner who desires to invigorate his enterprise. His business is real estate–specifically residential sales. What he’s hoping to accomplish is to build a powerhouse brand that competes statistically with the leading agents in our community while targeting an under-served niche market. He asked me about my philosophy on how to accomplish his goal(s).

We began with a conversation about the role of social media in marketing services organizations. Fairly quickly, I felt the need to draw a diagram to make a key series of points. The figure below is what I drew for him–allow me to explain it to you so that you can be on the same page as we ended up:

 

Everyone knows that Social Media is on the rise and important to reach niche audiences in engaging conversations. What I was able to point out to this entrepreneur is that social media is a subset of Content Management Marketing. Knowing what messages you want to get across is a precursor to sharing the right information through online channels. To begin making posts, tweets, updates, etc without in-depth knowledge of target prospects and their needs is like wearing a blindfold in an archery contest.

Whether it is your strategy as an agent to build your business through referrals from prior clients, key centers of influence, or new campaigns, it is unwise to get spread too thin and not have deep relationships. Given the huge number of users on many social networks, the agent must devise a strategy that isolates niches and pursues them with targeted strategies.

The diagram shows that thought leadership is obtained by creating great content that is shared through social media. In response, the various media provide a built-in feedback loop that should drive future thought leadership strategies. For instance, some agents provide insights in multiple categories for their target audience(s). Whether it is local community, national real estate trends, the agent’s own interests, or local real estate content, the point is to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about.

Lead generation is the holy grail for many agencies that advise real estate firms. They think that, if they can generate enough new prospects for the agents to pursue. they have earned their keep. However, as the agent with whom I was meeting explained, leads that are not qualified and filtered can waste a lot of time. Smart lead generation comes from site visitor capture initiatives that are driven by a content management system that relies on social media to create online experiences for web fans.

 

Having worked in marketing roles for multiple services firms, I have met many peers who are entirely comfortable being creative, attending wine and cheese events, and spending the money of the business owner(s). What many of them lack are measurement systems (metrics) that validate the marketing ROI.  Furthermore, when metrics are available (web analytics come with every website), the marketers often don’t use the information to change the messaging and means of communication. Smart agents know better and use metrics to verify that what they are doing is working.

Competitive advantage is what is so hard to achieve, yet worth the pursuit. It is that unique place where the audience you target perceives that you can solve their needs “better” than any other provider. “Better” means that the home buyer/seller connects with the agent on a personal and professional basis and feels that the fee they pay to be represented is a value that exceeds what else is available to them.

What is your Content Management Strategy? Do you have one?

Social Media Metrics for Your Firm

Professional services firms (law, CPA, architect, engineer, IT services, consulting, etc.) are struggling with modern marketing. Many firms were founded in an era wherein marketing was seen as a “necessary evil.” As marketing (or business development, client development, etc.) has become more essential for improved books of business, firms have begun to hire marketing staff. In most cases, these folks have been tasked with corporate marketing rather than marketing the individual professionals. With the onrush of social media as a marketing discipline, there is a sharp dichotomy between the corporate web presence and the “sum of the parts” of individual professionals’  social media presences.

 

Michelle Golden, who is  very active in professional services marketing organizations, recommends taking baseline measurements as early in the (any) marketing process as possible, and then identifying very specific objectives as part of an individual’s role in increasing his or her—and ultimately the firm’s—visibility. She writes of the individual versus company promotion trade-off, in a blog postWhy Social Media Rock Stars Are Good For Your Firm.(Sometimes CPA- or law-firm partners get frustrated about the attention an individual “supposedly representing the firm” starts getting when their online visibility increases. This (blog post) helps explain to those partners why they should encourage the individual “fame” and not squelch it.) 

Golden says that “You can rarely truly know exactly where a lead is generated anymore (unless it’s from a specific campaign) and that’s OK. We are looking for overall growth. This is all the ROI that you’ll need.”

Here are some specific ways she suggests to put marketing metrics in place:

BASELINE MEASUREMENTS

To accurately assess growth later, I recommend taking these broad baseline measurements now:

  • number of current clients
  • revenue (average and standard deviation)
  • revenue change % year over year
  • client longevity (length of stay with the firm)
  • frequency of client interactions
  • frequency of transactions (purchases)
  • number of clients lost per month, quarter, or year
  • number of new clients per month, quarter, or year

PLANNING AND GOALS

  • Increase retweets and mentions (by anyone) related to [practice topic] from [baseline #] to [goal #] by [date]
  • Obtain [#] retweets and mentions by target personas including peers and thought leaders in the specialty (i.e., Get on their radar. Knowing exactly who they are in advance is best.) by [date]
  • Receive at least [#] unsolicited invitations from trade organizations to speak or write by [date]
  • Earn [#] appearances as media “expert” in [publication or station] by [date]
  • Receive [#] questions or requests for advice from [define personas] every [frequency]
  • Build up to [#] of [define persona] Twitter (or blog) followers (or subscribers) by [date]
  • Move [# define persona, or specific names] from digital to personal conversations by [date]

TRACKING WORTHWHILE THINGS

  • Where did it appear?
  • Who said it?
  • Was it positive? Y/N
  • What was said? Categorize the nature of the comment and keep a clip file.
  • Was the mention about a particular practice, department, or person?
  • Did the mention include reference to your content or website? If so, to what specific content or page?
  • Who responded and how fast? You may want to keep the response in a clip file, too.

Keep the suggestions above in mind as you develop and refine a social media strategy as a part of your overall marketing plan. Helping your team members become better at their online thought leadership will enhance the brand reputation of the firm. In the process, your best indicator of ROI–increased revenues–should show enhanced performance as well.

 

Social Media – the Village Approach to Innovation

It’s interesting how social media has subtly made the migration from a peripheral domain for adolescents to share extraneous to a mainstream business tool. Even within the business arena, social media (SM) used to be relegated to a branding or marketing activity rather than the comprehensive resource many now realize it to be. In a recent blog post, Braden Kelly points out, for instance, how innovation can be fueled by social media:

‘What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)’ Social media serves an incredibly important role in innovation. Social media functions as the glue to stick together incomplete knowledge, incomplete ideas, incomplete teams, and incomplete skillsets. Social media is not some mysterious magic box. Ultimately it is a tool that serves to connect people and information.

How can SM be like glue in your organization? Is there a way to use blogs, wikis, and online videos to enhance learning, information sharing, and collaboration within your daily practice? For instance, posting questions for which your team has no answers to elicit knowledge possessed by others can be a very good use of social media. Or, learning a skill foreign to your core team through an online video can be a means to spur growth or learn how to more effectively manage a contractor/consultant. 

(Kelly:) Social media can help ideas grow and thrive that would otherwise wither and die under the boot of the perfectionist in all of us. Do you remember the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, it takes a village to create an innovation from an idea as well, and social media helps to aggregate and mobilize the people and knowledge necessary to do just that. But, that is social media working in the positive. We must remember that social media tools are just that – tools.

Village innovation – Hillary Clinton should have thought of that! How does the collaboration effect pertain to SM? Quite simply, there is no substitute for building knowledge systems. For non-proprietary information, you and your peers can start an online conversation thread that others build upon and you are able to glean insights non-resident to your group.  When you do wish to protect methods, processes and intellectual property, it is still preferable to find an internal means to capture group best practices, lessons learned, and puzzles to be solved. How could one or more forms of SM enable you to do this better? Kelly suggests that SM tools are seen in a positive light when they do the following:

  1. To make innovative ideas visible and accessible
  2. To allow people to have conversations
  3. To build community
  4. To facilitate information exchange
  5. To enable knowledge sharing
  6. To assist with expert location
  7. To power collaboration on idea evolution
  8. To help people educate themselves
  9. To connect people to others who share their passion
  10. To surface the insights and strategy that people should be building ideas from

The better you become at the above, the stronger your organization’s innovation capability will become, the more engaged your employees will become, and the more ready you will become to engage successfully in open innovation…Please consider the ways in which social media in your organization might be able to strengthen inter-disciplinary cooperation, make the organization itself more adaptable, and how it could help to create an organization with the power to transform more ideas into innovations.

Content That Speaks C-Suite Language

 

Roanne Neuwirth of the Farland Group (http://www.farlandgroup.com/) writes in a post this week for The Content Marketing Institute that McKinsey & Co has mastered the language of the c-suite. McKinsey Quarterly newsletters are read by corporate executives because the subject matter is engaging, relevant, and contains key topics related to global business excellence. Here’s what distinguishes their approach to content that has proven to be so effective:

Data-driven credibility. Whether a survey of hundreds of technology executives or interviews with 15 chief strategy officers, McKinsey starts with peer  insights and gets compelling facts on which to build their content.

Actionable, relevant, timely information. McKinsey focuses on leading-edge management topics that are  top of mind for executives and shares cases, examples and stories of how other executives have taken action on the opportunities and challenges presented. It’s easy to see how to take these ideas into other environments.

Succinct insights. McKinsey extracts the key points, the most relevant highlights and the most provocative  ideas in the layout and design making the key takeaways easily identifiable and consumable.

Channeling their audience. McKinsey moved its  model to a stronger focus on online formats (audio, video, print) and shifted the print publication to quarterly round-ups. It has integrated a strong social and email strategy to ensure that the content gets to executives in formats that matter.

Even though top executives can be challenging to approach, it is well worth the effort. They control the purse strings.  For marketers in the B2B setting, knowing how to attract and engage the attention and commitment of this critical target audience can make a business very successful.

 

Know that top executives think Return On Investment continuously—whether the investment is their time or the purchasing power they wield. As a rule, the psychographic mindset of the C-suite is to trust a small handful of advisors as subject matter experts. Inherently, most sales approaches are mistrusted and it is very hard to gain enough gravitas to be heard among all the voices clamoring for the right to earn the respect and trust sought.

 

Farland recommends the following guidelines for their clients to penetrate the C-suite “blockade”:

  1. Hard facts drive credibility… and credibility is key. Content based on data makes an impression on executives; peer-based insights and stories add to the credibility of the data collected
  2. Provide actionable and timely information on issues that matter, in formats that allow ready extrapolation. There has to be a “so what” that comes out of the data and it needs to be up-to-the minute, on topics relevant to the executive’s business, role, and current challenges.
  3. Summarize, summarize, summarize. Deliver your ideas with targeted summaries, succinct points, where the bottom line ideas and actions are easy to extract and consume.
  4. Channel matters. With executives in particular, the content has to be easy for them to access, wherever they are — on their iPad during a flight, in a printed paper to peruse after dinner, or in a short video while waiting for a meeting to start.
  5. Push beyond the common wisdom and top-of-mind trends. Executive content needs to present a provocative vision for future possibilities.
  6. Evolve from technical to strategic. Executives are not interested in reading about technologies and products—those are only a means to an end…Position solutions in terms of the bottom line and what can help grow the business.


Reverse the Mentoring Stereotype

In its most common context, mentoring is understood as someone with experience (and a few grey hairs!) showing someone younger how to perform key job functions. Yet, one of the hottest trends in human resources is termed “reverse mentoring.” Whether due to job loss and the need for new training, or “Second Act” entrepreneurship, or simply the precipitous amount of change being introduced in organizations trying to compete globally, there has arisen a need for this practice where younger workers are now showing the older ones “the ropes.”

While the concept is that exposure to those outside the corporate suite may be good for staying in touch with the values held by newer workers, there are several other benefits. Higher employee retention rates among younger workers are cited as an unexpected, but welcome outcome. Exposure to management issues and how decisions are made are additional upsides.

When Jack Welch was the CEO of General Electric, he  was mentored on how to use the internet by a young employee in her 20s. He saw such promise from the process that he mandated that 500 of his top executives reach out to younger employees to do likewise. These days, mentees are learning how to use social media effectively from their younger mentors. Even at top ad agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, a worldwide managing director admitted that his more youthful mentors had shown him how to enhance his Twitter posts to be less boring. His eyes have been opened to new possibilities and he now plans to utilize Skype and videoconferencing to facilitate distance mentoring across the firm’s 450 offices. HP & Cisco also have reverse mentoring programs in place.

Michelle Rafter, in a blog post entitled “8 Ways to Make a Reverse Mentorship Work For You,” suggests the following guidelines:

1. Find a compatible partner –someone with skills in areas you’re lacking

2. Set expectations- create ground rules for what you want out of a partnership, such as how often you’ll meet and what both parties will get out of it

3. Get your boss’s OK- A lot of reciprocal mentoring can happen on an informal basis. But if you want or need to set up a formal program, you’ll need your manager’s or company’s approval.

4. Be open to suggestions and criticism- learn in days from someone else what one could take decades otherwise by having a thick skin

5. Make it more than just about tech- maybe a younger person could help you learn about sushi, Chinese, popular music, or even how to lead the next generation more effectively

6. Give as much as you get-the relationship should be mutually beneficial

7. Experiment with approaches– a single department, a program that crosses departments, and a multitude of variations

8. Don’t stereotype- not every 45-year-old has the same knowledge or expertise, so don’t assume every Gen Y worker does, either.