Not too long ago, before I started learning about educational marketing and implementing it into my business, I was struggling to find motivated sellers in my market. It was not until I switched from a mindset of begging sellers, “Pick me, pick me!” to striving to teach, empower, and educate the homeowners in my area that I started seeing genuine success in my business and marketing.
Before I switched to educational marketing, I tried every single list that was out there. I signed up for some lists that were supposed to only be distributed to a limited number of people per area… and then I found out they were not truly limited. I bought niche lists: inherited property lists, probate lists, absentee landlord lists, vacant property lists, tax liens lists, pre-foreclosure lists. No matter what list I chose I still was not solving my biggest problem, which was that the motivated sellers in my market saw me as just like every other real estate investor in the area.
My “aha moment” came one Friday a few years ago. I was driving home from a house we were flipping across town. I was exhausted, just absolutely beat. All I wanted to do was go inside, have dinner, and go to sleep. If you flip houses, you have been there yourself. It is a rewarding business, but not an easy one, even when you have a great team.
But then I got a phone call while I was still in my driveway. The man on the other end said, “Hey, we got some of your marketing. I want you to come over and check out my mom's house tomorrow.”
I had to tell him I could not make it the next day. I had one other person helping me buy houses and we were already booked. I told him that I could come over on Monday.
You can probably already guess where this story is going. The man says, “No, it has to be tomorrow.”
Now I was in negotiator mode. What about Sunday? How about right now? Even though I just wanted to go spend time with my family, even though I try to keep my Sundays free from work, I knew I needed any deal I could get my hands on.
Many of us get into this business to escape the rat race, to escape the hamster wheel and the grind. However, if you are not careful, the real estate investing grind can be even worse, though perhaps you will get paid a little more. At that moment, real estate felt more like a grind than a dream job. Then I heard the words none of us ever want to hear – regardless of our position or profession. The man says, “If you can't come over tomorrow, don't worry about it. We'll just call somebody else. Aren't you guys like a dime a dozen?”
There was this long pause while I tried to figure out what to say next. How do you respond to a statement like that? Here you are, grinding away and doing all this work, but the people you serve view you as simply a commodity. With increasingly competitive markets, this is happening more and more frequently.
You need to find a way to stand out from the competition in your market. Luckily, there are many different strategies available that will elevate you in your desired market. Do some research and self-reflection to find the strategy that suits you and your business. Using books and education has been particularly effective for me and my students. Focusing our marketing on teaching motivated sellers in our area how to solve their biggest problems has allowed us to position ourselves as trusted housing advocates rather than just real estate salespeople.
You can start with other strategies if that suits you better. Maybe you can use different types of offers. For example, instead of having just one offer, which is the cash offer, perhaps you can try a program where you rehab the house and then buy it, basically a flip your own house deal. You could also run a program that connects motivated sellers to local real estate agents. Any strategy that allows the homeowner to have more options will help you stand out from other investors who are only looking out for themselves, not their clients.
Another easy way to differentiate yourself from the competition is video marketing. You can make a list of the 10 or 15 questions that your motivated sellers ask most often, film yourself answering these questions (a smartphone camera will work great – no fancy equipment needed), put it on YouTube, and then link it on your email signature, your direct mail, your website, and your social media accounts. Almost everyone is on the internet. Motivated sellers are on the internet. Seniors are on the internet.
People are watching videos every day and it is an affordable marketing strategy. Simply turn your phone on, hit record, and start helping and teaching homeowners in your area. You can add your video content to a single playlist and some of your motivated sellers will watch every lesson you publish. Another cool little trick is to shoot the videos out in your local community. When I shoot educational videos, instead of just filming them in my office, I will take my phone and go record in front of city hall or another local landmark – the library or the high school, any of the places that my potential customers already identify with.
Of course, there are other dynamics at play when a motivated seller is choosing a real estate professional to work with, but anything you can do to stand out and establish yourself as trustworthy will put the odds in your favor. The main reasons people will actively not choose you are:
• They think you cannot help them
• They deem your offer unfair
• They do not trust you
Educational marketing, done well, eliminates two of these pitfalls. Sellers will know that you can help them because you already are by addressing their problems and fears with your free content. Now they have seen you, learned from you, and trust you.
You may find, as I have, that once a person knows that you can help them, once you have educated them and taken away some of their fears and stress, it is a lot easier to get them to choose you even if your price is not the best offer they receive. I have had people who have taken $10,000 less because they knew that I was looking out for their best interest and they trusted me. Empowering your potential clients to make the best decision for them, even if the solution they choose is not you, may seem counter intuitive, but having trust and credibility in your business is a truly invaluable asset you will not regret spending the time and effort to build.