For many loan officers and real estate agents like you, referrals are the lifeblood of your business. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2015, “forty-one percent of buyers used an agent that was referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or relative.” Even better, “eighty-eight percent of buyers would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others.” NAR’s 2015 Member Profile also shows that 40% of an agent’s business comes from repeat clients and referrals.
So how do you keep those referrals coming in? The best way is by staying in consistent contact with your database. You need to stay top of mind so they remember that you’re the loan officer/agent they want to refer.
But you can’t just throw a single message over your entire database like a wet blanket. You’ve got to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Which leads me to my next point . . .
Your Database is Not a Single Target Audience
Database marketing works when you consistently deliver information the people in your database want to receive. You build trust and you remain relevant—two essential ingredients for success.
But your database is full of people with different content needs; it is not a single target audience. Some people are homeowners, some are renters. You may have a database with first-time home buyers and empty nesters, millennials and baby boomers, people who live downtown and people who live in the sticks.
With all of these varied interests, you can’t create one piece of content and share it with everyone, thinking you’re actually providing something useful. Each group requires its own content that resonates with them.
Imagine how lame it would be if you signed up to receive women’s fashion tips from a blog you love, and they sent you fashion tips for young and older men, young and older women, and kids clothing picks as well. You’d probably have a WTF moment and unsubscribe because only one of those messages is relevant to you.
If you want your database marketing to work at getting you referrals and not unsubscribes, there are a few things you must do. Here’s the right way to execute your database marketing to deliver relevant content that builds trust and boosts referrals over time.
Sort Your Database
The first step to building your database marketing the right way is to start with what you already have. You need to sit down and *shudder* sort your database. How can you know what content to create if you don’t even know who you’re talking to? (The answer is that you can’t.)
To start, sort your database into the following target audiences:
- Renters or homeowners
- Geographic location (choose a few areas that are relevant to your local market)
- Age ranges (18–30, 30–45, 45–60, 60+)
- Any other demographics relevant to your database (maybe it’s lakefront properties, downtown condos, etc.)
Every database is going to vary slightly. If you work with lots of first-time home buyers already, you might want to sort for that target audience. Just use your best judgment.
Set Your Intention
The next step to building your database marketing the right way is to set your intention. Take your newly sorted database and find common themes. What target audience(s) are most prevalent on your list? For many of you, there will be two or possibly three target audiences that dominate the majority of your database. It could be a type of person (like empty nesters), an age range, or a geographic location. The target audiences that dominate your list will be the ones you create database marketing content for.
Now, here’s where we get personal for a minute.
If you don’t have any one target audience that stands out more than another, or if you don’t want to market to the target audience most prevalent in your database, then you have a decision to make. You need to set the intention of your database marketing going forward.
You’re the only person who can create the business you want, so you need to be intentional about how you choose to market yourself and how you choose to build your database. If you want to be known as the VA mortgage guy, but you don’t have any veterans in your database, then you have a problem. You’ll need to build a database that supports your intention.
Nobody said you had to be stuck with what you have, but if you want a different target audience, then you will have to take the time to build it.
If you really do have five separate, equal audiences (which I HIGHLY doubt you do), then you have the lovely task of creating five times as much content or deciding which audiences you’re going to target.
OK, personal moment over.
Plan and Execute Your Content
Now that you know who to target your database marketing toward, you can plan what you’re going to say to them. Sit down and brainstorm a bunch of ideas in a Word doc or an Evernote note. (I love Evernote because it’s available on all my devices, so if I think of something while I’m out and about, I can add it to the list really quick. Plus, it’s free.) Think of the following to get your brain juices going:
- What are the most common questions you get concerning this target audience?
- What concerns or roadblocks came up in your last few transactions with a person in this target audience and what was the outcome?
- What are some frustrations you face with this target audience that you’d love to help clear up?
- What is already being talked about online with this target audience? Are there new points of view you can add to the conversation?
Once you’ve brainstormed ideas, plan out the next two months of database marketing content in a calendar. Writing down the ideas ahead of time means you start thinking about the topic ahead of time as well. By the time you sit down to write, you likely have a good idea of what you’re going to say.
Creating the content calendar is only half the work of planning your content. You also need to set the tasks and the time aside in your daily calendar. Work backwards so you know that in order to publish this content on Friday, you need to have it written by Wednesday. Set tasks for yourself to get each part done, and schedule time in your calendar to do them. Trust me, this is the only way it’ll ever happen. Here’s a rough outline of the task list we follow when writing content for our clients:
- Day 1: Research Topic & Write Outline—30 minutes
- Day 2: Write Draft—60 minutes
- Day 3: Find and Format Images—30 minutes
- Day 4: Edit and Finalize Post—30 minutes
- Day 5: Post Goes Live
Having a task list that breaks things down into bite-sized chunks helps tremendously. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, you can take it one step at a time. And blocking out the time on your calendar means you know you have time set aside to do it.
Measure with Analytics and Adjust
The last step to building your database marketing the right way is to measure what’s working and adjust accordingly. You can’t improve what you can’t measure, but how do we measure whether or not it’s working?
The answer is analytics. All great marketing is measured and adjusted accordingly. Marketing success is often a moving target, and you need to be able to follow that target. Luckily we live in the world of the Internet, and these sorts of things are easy (and often free) to do.
When we publish new database marketing content for our clients at Top Left Creative, we also send out an email to their database letting them know. We do this because a) we want to get as many eyeballs on the new content as possible, and b) we want the analytics! You also need to do the same.
Most professional email programs show you statistics like opens, bounce rates, etc. But they also show you things like how many people clicked on a link and, even better, who did the clicking. Watch for trends in article topics that get read most to adjust what you write about in the future.
One caveat—it’s important that your email add value to the conversation and not just be an announcement of a new blog post. Your database will quickly tire of these emails.
BONUS: The email newsletter is also a fantastic way to know who your most engaged clients are. You can literally see who’s opening your emails and clicking on your links. These are the people who you need to be cultivating a deeper relationship with.
If you have Google Analytics installed on your website (and you should, since it’s free), then it’s easy to take a look at the most popular database marketing content on your website. Navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages to see the most viewed pages on your website in a given date range. And if you choose Source as the Secondary Dimension, you can see where the traffic to these pages is coming from.
Take a Long-Term Approach
Building your database marketing is not quick and easy; all marketing should be viewed through a long-term lens. Think about it: most home buyers/sellers/borrowers start thinking about their upcoming real estate transaction months before they’re ready to start the process. And when they are ready to start the process, they can be anywhere from 60 to 120 days out from closing, especially in hot real estate markets. The soonest you can hope to see any measurable, quantifiable results from your database marketing efforts is six months.
If you talk to anyone who’s been doing database marketing for a while, they’ll tell you that they started it because they knew it was important and that they kept doing it because they knew it would pay off in the long run. Anyone who has started database marketing thinking it would be a quick win usually quits a few months in. Longevity truly is the name of the game.
If you have anything to add to the story, or if you’d like to share some of your database marketing successes, please do so in the comments. We love hearing from all of our fantastic readers!