In any company, it’s not uncommon to hear the words, ‘your people are your most important asset’.
While this is undeniably true and acknowledged by most, another asset, perhaps our second most important in real estate, doesn’t seem to receive the same level of reverence or recognition.
Your database — your list of contacts and the mass of information you may have about them — is your best source of real estate leads for new listings and for buyers.
It is a prime platform from which you can build your brand, remain top-of-mind, spread the word and personalise your automated communication to such a fine degree that each recipient feels you have written just to them.
So why do so many real estate agencies neglect their database and fail to see its true value?
Real estate leads are only the beginning…
Most savvy business people know it costs you less to retain a client or to secure repeat business than it does to win new business with a new client.
If you’re good at what you do, especially in sales, you are not just someone who facilitates transactions, you are a genuine and dedicated relationship builder.
Your database is an absolute key in not only maintaining relationships with previous buyers and sellers, but continuing to grow and nurture them, even when those people are no longer actively doing business with you.
Leveraging your database effectively can vastly reduce the cost of new leads and new business, and it’s easier to do when you can carefully and accurately produce relevant messaging.
Think about it — you already know this person, you know how they operate, what motivates them, what they respond to and what they need in a supportive sales relationship. Guess work is minimal.
On top of that, you know where to find them, what communication channels they best respond to, and if you did your job well last time, you also know they’ll pick up the phone when you call.
Compare that scenario to casting the net wide for new real estate leads — while your approach is as targeted as possible, it’s nowhere near what it could be if you knew who were talking to. You need to use (and pay for) a variety of channels because you don’t know what is most effective, and you need to play around with different messages to try and hit on the many and varied motivations of potential sellers and buyers.
As listings become more difficult to win, generating more real estate leads and reducing overheads isn’t about cutting budgets here, there and everywhere, it’s about being strategic and smart, and capitalising on the opportunities already in front of you.
A well-structured and up-to-date database can also be a saleable asset within your business. Rent rolls and listings will of course drive the sale of your agency when the time comes. But being able to hand over a long list of contacts that is accurate, maintained and ripe with information for the picking, helps to increase the value of your business and show your buyer there is plenty of potential for the future.
4 tips for making the most of your real estate database
Before deep-diving into ways you can better capitalise on your database, it’s vital you remember when collecting the personal details of anyone, privacy and security are of the utmost importance.
While Australia has quite stringent laws relating to privacy, data collection and breaches, your company may also now be subject to European laws if you are collecting or using data on any of its citizens.
Make sure you are up-to-date with the law, follow it strictly and protect yourself from fines worth millions. If you’re unsure if you are compliant, reach out to EAC’s legal partners, JemmesonFisher, for specific guidance.
Collect more than a name and number
A valuable database is so much more than names and contact details — and most modern platforms have more than enough capacity for many other customised fields!
When onboarding new sellers, think about who they are and what is useful to know about them now, but also think about what information might be important later when you’re trying maintain a relationship with them.
Without invading privacy, try to find out what motivates them, what communication channels they subscribe to and most regularly access, and their family status and milestones. You can add additional information that you know, such as when they purchased last and what type of property it was and any influences on their decision-making.
This information helps you create individual profiles that can be used for more targeted, personal and relevant messaging in marketing.
Segment your list
Most agencies do one (or both) of two things; they either send out one newsletter each week/fortnight/month to everyone in their database, and/or their system automatically sends updates about properties that match their criteria.
The problem with this approach in the first instance is not everyone on your list is a buyer, not everyone is a seller and some are neither. Without the same motivations, goal or needs, many will find your newsletter lacking in value and irrelevant.
In the second instance, just sending a property alert doesn’t help create a relationship or showcase your expertise and warmth like a newsletter can — it’s clearly automated and buyers and sellers know you didn’t have to do any work to achieve it. They want to feel like you’re spending time on them!
So what’s the solution?
After step 1, when you collect much more than contact details, segment your lists — you might segment only into buyer and seller and send two separate newsletters, and this is a good start.
You might (and should!) segment by those two elements, and then again by price range, or family status or any number of other details, and send half a dozen newsletters. When you do this, you can use data fields to populate information about each client and really personalise your communication and make it relevant.
Likewise, for property alerts, try adding in a little intro at the start that includes some of those data fields so it can also be personalised.
A database is only as good as its data is accurate!
Adding to and maintaining the database should be an assigned task, part of a job description just like many other tasks.
As an example, it may be the responsibility of a sales assistant or receptionist to add in new details as they are provided, and each agent may have a deadline each month by which they need to check the records of their clients, update and add anything new they have learned.
Take advantage of free tools
While many agents may have access to a database via their property management software or may have a dedicated CRM (client relationship manager), so many agents still don’t, and databasing comes down to an excel sheet or a notebook.
There are so many free tools that can not only take your database from the page to the screen, but can organise, update and automate data and related processes in ways that will change how you do business.
If you’re looking for a CRM, hubspot is a great free option to try — even at its most basic account, at no cost, it offers more than enough to get started.
If you want to automate communication and send newsletters and campaigns, try integrating with Mailchimp (free up to 2,000 contacts at time of writing). It even has a handy tagging tool now that lets you maintain only ONE master list, mark each contact with a number of different customised/original tags (for example, buyer, seller, lawyer, farmer), and then segment your list at the click of a button as you send a newsletter. Mailchimp or a system like it is a must-have for any modern agency looking to generate real estate leads.
You might think updating your approach to your database and spending valuable time managing it is not as important as the myriad of other duties you have every day, but a solid database is a solid platform for growth.