Give the public a break…

I just got my mail. Just like every few days there were postcards from real estate agents telling me of home values in my area, telling me they were number one, telling me this is the ideal time to put my house on the market(?), telling me of the homes they have sold recently (? – a quick check of the mls indicates none of the homes has sold in the last 6 months), and advising me that they are the “neighborhood expert”. I have been getting these cards for years. The names and faces change, but the mailbox overload continues.

At some point, somebody has to spread the word. This sort of marketing has a minimal return on investment. Do the real estate guru’s really believe that if you inundate a market with these sort of cards, you will land that listing? Of course, they will tell stories of agents that have had success. The majority of the agents that have invested money in these programs are not agents anymore. They went broke marketing. They took their toll on the tree population, they kept printers in business and they are now selling cars at CarMax.

New agents need to take a long look at how they have treated “junk” mail in their personal lives. Most people will respond to coupons that offer buy one and get one free meals. Real estate agents don’t offer to sell your home for half price if you get the neighbor to list at full price. Brokers across the nation extoll the virtue of farming with postcards. Some firms will even offset your expense with credit for the postage. You still pay the bulk of the bill.

You can show your family and friends the wonderful card. You can sit back and know that 500 people saw your picture. You can enjoy your 15 seconds of fame as your card is glanced at and dropped into the trash.

Of course, if the mail arrives just as a homeowner has decided to sell and the homeowner does not know an agent and the homeowner doesn’t have any friends he can get a referral from and the homeowner has no co-workers he can get a referral from………..he may call the number on the next card he receives. You just have to hope that yours is the one that hits at that moment under those conditions.

Last night, my wife and I were eating dinner when we were interupted by the phone. I am not on the do no call list. It was an agent with a local firm that very politely told me that his company had a listing in the neighborhood and they had a great deal of interest at the open house and was wondering if I was thinking of selling or if I knew of any of my neighbors that might be interested in selling. Sounded good, but the agent works in my office and the home they were referring to was my listing and I sat in the open house they were referring to and there were no visitors. Bad luck for the agent.

The lie bothered me, but I knew they were reading from a script, so I let that go. I was more annoyed that they had chosen to “cold call” a neighborhood at the dinner hour. Of course calling at that time will catch more people at home. Common sense would indicate that interupting a meal will not endear you to anyone. The fact that some of us have not chosen to be on the “do not call” list does not automatically indicate that we are hoping to hear from telemarketers. The list came into existence to stop annoying calls. Rather than take the hint that this method of marketing is neanderthalish, brokers and trainers alike have encouraged “boiler room calling” mentality. They all promise that it is a numbers game and if you call enough folks you will get an appointment and if you go on enough appointments you will get a listing. The public at large is hoping that you stop making the vast majority that just say no your stepping stone to possible success. The general public, whether they are on a list or not, really does have the feeling “don’t call me, I will call you.”

This brings up the last but not the least annoying marketing that I and others have to suffer. Walking the neighborhood may bring your face some prominance. You may get to know a few people. You will also be intruding on a very precious commodity – the free time at home your neighbors cherish. The demands on our lifestyle as we move through the 2000’s are tenuous. Americans cherish the free time they have. Many of them truly don’t want their weekend interrupted by a stranger at the door with a printout of recent market activity or packet of flower seeds. They want peace and quiet and privacy.

There are ways to market yourself effectively. You won’t need to invade homes via the mail, phone or personal appearance. You won’t have to spend yourself out of a career. You won’t have to attend seminars and leave with an annual coaching contract. You won’t have to buy every gimmick thrust on you at weekly sales meetings.

You can do it being yourself, working with your sphere of influence and focusing on being a real estate agent. If you don’t believe it can happen, take the time to read posts by folks like Jennifer Allan. You can be yourself and allow the public a long deserved break. You can do it now. You can do it if you are a new agent. You can do it if you have been an agent for years.

A strong dose of common sense will carry you farther than all the cheerleading and direction of those that earn a sizeable chunk of the revenue you create. It is your decision how to practice your craft. I only ask…give the public a break.

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