From experience, I can tell you that building a repeat and referral business can be done with virtually no cost and who wouldn’t want that? Zero is certainly the right price. By using the right tools, you can build a tremendous marketing or prospecting base with virtually no additional expense except good effort. In these economic times, you are almost negligent if you’re not using creative marketing ideas.
You probably do your marketing now in some traditional way like through flyers, postcards, Internet leads, telemarketing or even hard advertising in print or perhaps on the radio. All of these methods certainly have benefits that lead to higher volume exposure, but they come at a cost … a very real, very simple and often a very high cost. Passive marketing doesn’t use your time because you’re not working for it, of course, but you might get better exposure. Your logo becomes more commonly exposed and familiar, and your smiling face means visual recognition. Your phone starts ringing and your e-mail inbox fills and that’s terrific.
However, these methods are expensive from printing costs of flyers and mailings, to buying leads, to telemarketing and advertising. The results may yield more cold contacts, where you have no background or rapport, which means a much tougher sales process. The bottom line still is that people do business with people they know and like.
So, what does work? What about your contact database management? Are you gathering contacts? Are you building that database?
He who has the most friends wins and every single person you come into contact with is a potential client, advocate or referral source. Your neighbor has a friend who wants to refinance. Or perhaps a past client refers a prospective new one. Every social gathering and networking event has tremendous potential. Charity events are key because all attendees share a common ground or interest. Don’t forget to strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to you at a football or baseball game, or the man sipping a beer next to you at a bar. Unless you are living in a cave, you have limitless potential if you just look around.
What do you do with all of these new contacts? You only need a customer relationship management (CRM) software package that controls the three basic necessities: Contacts, calendar and notes. I have used ACT! Gold Mine, and others, but keep coming back to old faithful, Outlook. Again, you probably already have it and I stress … at no additional cost.
Expanding your contact database just takes a little practice. Everyone you meet or hear of should go into it. There is always the “My friend Bob needs a mortgage” category. All of your family members, from your twin brother to your long-lost great aunt Tillie, should be in your database. Any and all former, current or future colleagues should in your database. How many have gotten out of the business in recent years that still need these services?
Information on old friends can be easily located via social networking Web sites. Many sites offer lookup features for individuals and public records are just that—public—and are available through county assessors’ and records Web sites. You can build a rapport before you ever make a call. Creative thinking counts and pays off.
The fact gathering is the easy part. Managing your database takes some work and you need to invest some of your time into this task. You have to change the oil in your car, too. Simply run through the database alphabetically when you have the time. Check your contacts and be sure that no one is falling through the cracks. Keep it current by adding and subtracting events, always watching for the possible future strike and removing those events where the contacts are stagnant. Keep a personal calendar for your contacts and check it regularly.
The “how” is easier. The devices you take for granted are your personal goldmines. Your mobile device contains everything you should need and it should be with you everywhere you go at all times. Within that small electronic wizard, you have all your contacts, all your calendar entries, all of your important information regarding timelines like the last time you spoke with a contact, and you can make calls without your computer. That means you can wish Joe Smith a happy birthday on a Sunday and be very sure you do it every year.
All of that is the upside. The downside is the work involved. It takes diligence and a whole lot of it. If you go back to basics and use that “antiquated” telephone you are way ahead. Whether you make one call a day or a million calls a day, the cost is exactly the same. Schedule time for calls and believe that many of them you may not want to make. Sooner or later, they do pay off. Call in the morning when people are still in a good mood and your time is more productive. Return every single call—you never know what’s waiting behind that message and you never want to be known as the person who doesn’t return their calls. You want people to call you back, don’t you?
Have casual conversations, for you will make friends before you make clients. Listen carefully and make notes about family, occupation, recreational interests, education and their dreams. Nothing makes a person feel more important and respected than knowing someone is interested in their life.
Pay it forward by connecting your contacts to each other. You’ll be a hero. Be able to apologize if you’ve been so busy you’ve neglected someone and let them know why. Give no excuses … just explain. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either. It’s alright to ask if they know anyone who needs your expertise. Above all else, listen carefully and completely and take thorough notes.
It’s hard work. But, it works. You have no added expense: you are already meeting people and networking; you already have a CRM package; you already have a phone, and you already have email and the internet. You’ve talked to your leads before or at least a friend or relative and you have some background information. So, use the tools you already have, don’t spend any more money, and build your repeat and referral business.
Adam P. Smith is president of The Colorado Real Estate Finance Group Inc. He may be reached by phone at (866) 423-0564, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.corefinancegroup.com.