Wow! I think I struck a nerve. My report on Zillow that I published over the weekend quickly became one of the most widely-read and widely-shared articles I’ve ever written. I believe that REALTORS® today, as a whole, have a lot of anxiety about Zillow.
And rightfully so. Since my report, I’ve received dozens of emails, calls, and comments from agents who confirmed that the price of real estate leads is skyrocketing. I spoke to agents who use Zillow, Move, Inc. (Realtor.com) and others, and many of them were spending north of $3,000 per month. And the leads they get aren’t even exclusive, but are being sold to three or more other agents.
My first reaction is “Are you kidding me!?” But then I remember back to my first year in real estate when I spent up to $1,200 per month with one lead aggregator. And that was in 2002 dollars. We’ll try almost anything when we are desperate for business.
I think many agents today are trapped like I was in 2002, and that’s why my latest Zillow report struck a nerve.
“Okay, so I want off the Zillow train, but how do I go about it? Sure, I don’t like being dependent on Zillow or Move, Inc. or anyone else for that matter, but the reality is that I need business. I can’t live off the referrals I get from friends and previous clients.”
If that’s you, believe me, I completely understand. I was talking to an agent just the other day who was spending over three thousand a month with “GodZillow” and this is exactly where he was at. It’s the old, “can’t live with them but can’t live without them” thing.
For many agents who are wanting to make the leap to independence, it’s much like what we experience with our clients — they know they should list and sell their home first, but invariably they start as buyers. Why? Because they don’t want to give up the “sure thing” (their old house) without first lining up their replacement. Let’s face it — we are hard-wired with a security need.
The same is true for most agents wanting to break free. They know they need to become independent but they don’t want to let go of the company that has them dependent because they are afraid they will have no leads at all. The problem is, for many of them, after spending more than they can afford on Zillow or whoever, they don’t have any money left to try anything else.
When I heard from many of you, my readers, I suddenly realized that I failed to offer you a way out. Sure I pointed out the obvious problem, and illustrated exactly how and why so many agents have become dependent on the large lead generators, and that it is going to get worse.
What I didn’t do, however, was offer a step-by-step plan for making the jump to independence. I gave you the problem but not the solution. So today I’m going to give you just that: an escape plan that will move you from dependence to independence without making you go broke in the process. And if you follow it, you will soon see that you can do it. You can break free.
In fact, if you do it my way, you don’t have to spend weeks or even months getting free. You can literally do it in a day. I recently received an email from one of our Ultimate Website users, Matt Mouser, who wrote,
“The funny thing is that I was generating new leads within 5 minutes of my orientation coaching call!” Read his entire email here. >>
So here are my five steps to breaking free from Zillow, Move, Inc., your broker, or whoever. Follow them to the letter and you will be independent sooner rather than later.
Step One — Admit and Resolve. Before you can solve any problem you really have to be brutally honest with yourself and admit you have a problem. If you don’t have enough business coming in to make it without buying leads from some aggregator or paying your broker or RELO company a referral, that’s a huge problem. You are dependent on them for your livelihood.
But you have to do more than just admit the problem. You have to make a decision to solve it. If you don’t resolve to be independent, you will kick the can down the road and you’ll be in the same place next year only Zillow’s prices may well triple again. Now that you’ve admitted the problem and resolved to fix it you must…
Step Two — Take Inventory. Inventory your current lead generation technologies. How are you currently generating your own leads. Be honest — if you are not, the only one you are cheating is yourself. You really need to cover all four sources of lead generation to effectively be independent. You can bet that the Zillows of the world are covering them in their lead generation.
- Web Leads. Today over 90% of all real estate customers are beginning online and what’s more, 75% of all leads captured today are internet leads. If you don’t have leads coming in from your website, you are passing on three-fourths of the opportunities available today. Be honest again — is your website doing the job? If you are not capturing leads daily from your website, somebody else is.
- Phone Leads. A full 17% of all real estate customers captured today are captured using IVR phone lead capture technology. While nearly everyone is beginning online, still there are a good number of customers who will never register on a website. For those customers you must have phone capture. I remember the days of sitting at the duty desk answering calls and trying to get phone numbers from call-ins. Many times it was hard to pry an number out of a new lead, while with IVR technology, every lead is captured every time.
- Text Leads. Think about this: Most people don’t look at all their email today, but nearly everyone looks at every single text message. It’s fast, it’s short, and it’s easy. Today a full 8% of all customers captured today are captured using text lead capture technology. That’s twice as many as all the referrals and sphere of influence leads together.
- Social Leads. Social leads, also known as sphere of influence leads amount to only 4% of all leads captured today. Why such a small number? Because by the time they get this far down the sales path, they have largely been captured either by web, phone, or text lead capture technology. Still that is 4% of the business and you need to make sure you cover it with social lead capture.
Now it’s time to be brutally honest about how you’re doing with each of these areas. Maybe you’re capturing leads by text but not getting anything from your website. Maybe you’re capturing web leads but missing phone and text altogether. Wherever you are lacking you need to plug that hole or you will never be independent.
Step Three — Get the Tools. How would you like to build a house without a hammer, saw, level, tape measure, and all the rest of the tools you need? The same is true with building a real estate practice. It is important that you get the tools in place to capture your own leads. If you don’t, getting independent is merely a pipe-dream. If you want to build a house, you’ll need to get a hammer. Sure, buy the best one you can for the lowest price possible, but get that hammer. The same is true for your lead generation tools. This is one place you cannot afford to skimp.
Step Four — Implement. Now that you are committed to become independent, you have evaluated and acquired the necessary tools to do the job, you need to implement a lead generation campaign. Pull the trigger. Will it be easy? No. Nothing worth accomplishing is ever done without hard work, but you might be surprised just how easy it is.
Set up a system so that all your different technologies work together as a complete unit, then turn on the direct response advertising and watch the leads come in. More importantly, set up your system so you can evaluate it regularly and see what is working and what needs more attention.
Step Five — Followup. After you have solved the no-lead problem, the final piece of the puzzle is that you must followup leads immediately. Of course when you are generating your own leads, speed is not as critical as it was when you were only one of many hungry agents calling that same lead, but even with unique leads, it is important to be prompt in your followup. Otherwise those leads will be on to the next agent. The shelf life of a real estate lead is hours, not days.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t plug my Ultimate Website system. Of course you can get each of the tools I mentioned in Step Three (above) from any of a variety of different sources. Maybe you already have some of those tools and they are working fine. I’ve checked around and if you assemble a lead generation toolbox like I have outlined above, you can do it for well less than the cost of buying your leads from a Zillow or Move, Inc.
Part of my job to know what the “competing” technologies cost. That said, you can assemble these lead generation and lead management tools spending about $300 per month on an ongoing basis. Some of the companies require a one-time activation charge or maybe have long-term contracts. Still $300 per month is better than spending $3,000 per month and more buying leads.
But my Ultimate Website system — complete with web, phone, text, and social media lead capture technologies, a self-posting auto-blog, Pipeline CRM contact manager, and a lot more can be yours for a fraction of that cost, and it all those tools and the coaching required to get you up to speed, however long that takes.
Sure, you could buy all the other pieces and put together a “Frankenstein” system with various logins, admin panels, billing departments, and then whenever something doesn’t work quite right they can point to the other guys. Or you can get my Ultimate Website system that is all fully integrated and designed to work together and your leads automatically entered into your client manager for you, and only one place to go for help with any problems you might have.
So let me finish by asking you a question: What would it feel like to become truly independent? How would controlling your own destiny change your practice? Or your life? I sincerely hope you come to a place that you decide to give it a try. I hope you decide today to become 100% in control of your own destiny. I promise you, you’ll never regret it.