Tips for Creating a Customer Plan for Your REI Business
Last time in part one of this series on creating a customer plan for your business, we went over the differences in a marketing plan and a customer plan and why you need both of them. We also talked about how having a customer plan will greatly benefit your business. Today I have some tips for creating a customer plan for your business.
If you missed part 1 of this series JUST CLICK HERE.
Simply put, a marketing plan is used to get leads. It’s used to attract motivated sellers.
When you are creating a customer plan for your business, what you are really doing is detailing your process for keeping and wowing those leads as you move forward. In creating your plan, the goal should be to have a detailed, repeatable process for nurturing the people (leads) that come into your business through your marketing campaigns. It costs a lot of time and money to attract leads, so you need a plan to keep them.
The Anatomy of a Real Estate Deal
In the 1st part of this article I detailed the very basic steps in a real estate transaction for an investor, and I had some tips for #1 which was lead generation. (I will include #1 below).
Here are all the steps one more time:
The Anatomy of the Average Real Estate Deal
- You spend a lot of time and money generating leads
- Your marketing results in the seller contacting you about the property
- At some point you will have a phone conversation with the seller
- The next step is to look at the property if the initial screening call went well
- You inspect the property and decide whether or not to make an offer on the property
- After negotiations that offer is accepted or rejected
- If the offer is accepted you will proceed to the closing/settlement (and get a testimonial)
We’re back to the Big Question
- What can you do differently to be remarkable?
- What can you do to change the way business is done so that you are remarkable?
- What are some ways you can develop a customer plan for your business that “wows”?
#1 Lead Generation
Let’s look at lead generation and how you might reinvent the direct mail process or mail piece sequence.
If everyone is sending the same direct mail pieces; letters and postcards, what can you do differently? How about sending out a newsletter with helpful homeowner tips as your first mail piece? Instead of starting with a letter or postcard that says “I want to buy your house”, you begin your relationship with “Hi I’m Sharon, and I have some helpful tips for you today”. The point is to make a different first impression than everyone else.
Think of it this way; send the sellers something they will enjoy reading and in the process they will be introduced to you as a person rather than a business that wants something from them (their house). By doing this, over time you become the trusted resource in your market. At the bottom of your newsletter let them know that you buy houses and share your contact information.
Taking this thought one step further, why not replace one letter or postcard every quarter with something that would be useful to the sellers like a quarterly newsletter or market update? Information to create newsletters is readily available on the internet.
Doesn’t that make a whole different impression than a “we buy houses” letter or a postcard that’s all about you and your company? You bet it does.
So let’s move on to the 2nd step in creating our customer plan which is marketing.
Real estate investors use marketing to attract leads and to build brand awareness. Having a steady stream of leads is generally responsible for the success or failure of your business. The natural “next step” is to figure out how to get these leads to choose you. So we will focus on implementing the lead generation ideas in #1.
Just about everyone that is sending out direct mail is only sending out a series of letters or postcards. Rinse and repeat, then hope something sticks. You want those sellers to call you. That means you need to stand out. Once they contact you, then you can start the process of building rapport; the “know, like and trust factor” which you hope will result in them selling their property to you.
During this process (whether consciously or unconsciously) you are building your brand. I want to encourage you to really think about this. As you market to motivated sellers, you have the opportunity to stand out from all the other real estate investors.
So How Do You Do That?
Let’s dive a little deeper into the implementation piece of marketing and lead generation and how all this fits into creating a customer plan for your business.
One way you can stand out from everyone else is to change your 1st marketing piece. Don’t send the usual “we buy houses” mail piece. Instead, send something like a simple newsletter that has helpful information for the seller, but also has your tagline (like “we buy houses”) and your name and phone number at the bottom.
With this mail piece your message is that you have some helpful information for them and by the way, we also buy houses if you happen to have a house for sale. When you send the traditional mail piece first your message is clear; I have a company that buys houses.
Use this newsletter type of mail piece for your 1st mailing to a new list. In months 2 and 3 use your regular mail piece. Continue to replace the first postcard or letter every quarter with a seasonal newsletter.
Now you might be thinking this is a lot of work, but it’s really not. You just need 4 or 5 seasonal newsletters or homeowner tip sheets to send out. You will just rotate these over and over so you want these to be an evergreen. What I mean by that is you don’t want to put community events or anything connected to a specific date on there.
Here are some suggestions
- Spring Maintenance Tips
- Tips for Having a Great Lawn all Summer
- Getting your House Ready for Winter
- Seasonal Maintenance Tips (Guides)
- Seasonal Safety Tips (fireplaces, chimneys etc.)
- Christmas Safety Tips
- Landscaping Tips to Make Your Home Pop
- 10 Tips for Awesome Curb Appeal
Remember that your goal is to become the go to person for information. On each newsletter you can include your information about what you do. It’s a gentler approach to marketing.
Stand out; be different; add value and create a whole different experience for your seller
Don’t forget that these can also be posted on your website as valuable resource guides for folks that find you through your website. Don't forget to include your website and how you interact with those folks when you create your customer plan.
#3 Your Initial Conversation with the Seller
You have probably heard me speak about “changing the seller’s expectations” right from this very first contact. The price they are “hoping to get is almost always more than you are “planning to pay”. This should definitely be part of the conversation, but before you start that process, you need to first build some rapport with the seller (there it is again). So how do you do that? You know nothing about this person.
What I do is I begin to ask “family questions” once I have them on the phone. Once I find out why they are selling it’s much easier to move forward. My first question would typically be “why do you need to sell this house”? Wait for their answer before moving on to ask about the property.
Their answer might be:
My dad passed away and I need to sell the house in the estate.
In that case my next question would be “Tell me about your dad and how long he lived in this house”. Now be forewarned, this may take a while. Your genuine interest in their pain is huge for them, and it will give you a big advantage over the investor that jumps right into asking about the house.
After listening to them, my next question would be, “In addition to getting the house sold, what is your biggest challenge? This gives you the opportunity to try to find a solution to their most pressing problem.
Now I know what most people are saying; I don’t even know if this is a deal yet and that’s true. You don’t. However I will guarantee that most every investor will dive right into getting the property information before they ever have any real interaction with the seller.
Big mistake! That is especially true now when it’s very much a seller’s market and deals are scarce.
Step 4 is Meeting the Seller at the Property
If you followed the process in the last step, you should have enough information to move right into the face to face meeting with the seller. You already know what their situation is, you know why they need to sell and what other problems you can help them with.
Here is an example: I met with a woman selling her mother’s house that was part of an estate. I always offer to help clean out the house when it’s an estate and generally people take me up on that offer. In this case, there was a lot of really nice furniture in the house. She wanted to sell as many of the belongings as she could.
I told her in our initial phone call that I could refer her to someone that would be interested in buying the more valuable pieces; the antiques etc. Then I let her know that I had the name of a man who would come out and buy everything else. She could choose whether he would buy everything else outright or auction everything and then she would pay him his percentage of what he made at the auction. The real bonus of hiring him to finish the job was the she didn’t have to do anything with regards to cleaning out the house. Not only didn’t it cost her anything, she didn’t have to do the work and she made money in the process.
What Was Remarkable?
Here is what I did that was remarkable. I sent her this information after our initial call which was before we ever looked at the property. When we finally did meet at the house, guess who got the house under contract? She didn’t even bother to meet with other investors. She was so appreciative that I gave her the information.
You see, I had surpassed her every expectation buy just doing that one thing; being helpful without asking for anything in return. That’s just part of my customer plan!
#5 Inspecting the Property
This piece of the process is pretty straight forward.
A lot of investors “bash” the house as they walk through and do their inspection which is definitely not what you should do. You need to find some things that are positive and point them out. Maybe that is just the neighborhood or a nearby park if the house needs a lot of work. There is always something positive.
It’s pretty common especially with houses in probate to find that there is a whole lot of stuff in the house; stacks of butter tubs, mail, newspapers, magazines, and junk that the deceased kept or even hoarded. Often the folks left to sell the house are embarrassed by the condition of the property. If the home was owned by a close relative like the seller’s parent, they often feels like they will be judged for the condition of the home.
When inspecting the property, you always want to be the investor that is kind, respectful and lets them know that this is actually a pretty normal occurrence. Let them know that you can help with this process; you will completely take that job off their hands at no charge when you buy the house.
#6 Making the Offer
In the last article I said this is the part where you decide whether or not to make an offer. I personally think you should always make an offer, even if you think it will be rejected.
Well wait a minute… did you prejudge whether or not the seller would take your offer before actually making it? I’ll bet you did.
Maybe they said they would not take less than $80,000 and your offer is $50.000. Make the offer. That number they threw out at you might have just been pulled out of thin air. Remember that they are rarely going to get what they want for a distressed property. Sure they might be “hoping” to get a certain amount, but that figure is rarely rooted in reality.
Always make your offer in person or on the telephone. Don’t weasel out and just email them something without calling. (Remember the whole know, like and trust thing?) You have built a rapport with the seller by now if you done your job correctly so use that to your advantage.
Here’s what I do; I prepare a written offer that I send to the seller as soon as I get off the phone with them. In fact I usually hit send while I am talking with them about my offer. I explain that I can only offer whatever amount that I am offering due to the amount of work it will take to get it ready for an end buyer. I don’t go into numbers. I will go over the scope of the repairs and remind them it will be time consuming and costly to get the house in shape for a retail buyer.
The last thing that I do is immediately send them a simple handwritten thank you card with my business card in it. I just simply say that I want to thank them for allowing me to look at the house and make an offer. I also say that I enjoyed meeting them.
It’s important that you do this right away whether or not you end up getting the deal. This is one more way to stand out and be remembered.
#6. Acceptance or Rejection
By now you know if your offer was accepted or rejected so you have two scenarios. If you offer was accepted you want to speak to the seller, thank them and move forward. (Their thank you card is already on the way). Remind the seller that you will do everything to ensure they have a smooth, hassle free closing. Then do it. Keep your word and provide remarkable service.
If your offer was rejected, you need to know why. Ask the seller why they chose the other company. Was it price? Was it something else? You need to find out. This might be something that has nothing to do with price that you can fix.
Then thank the seller for their time, and let them know you would like to be “Plan B” if things don’t work out. Next you ask them if it’s OK to check back in a week or two.
Keeping in Touch
The goal here is to stay in touch with the seller without being annoying. When creating a customer plan for your business, you walk a fine line between being helpful and being annoying. Here’s a way of doing it that works pretty well.
In about a week, you want to touch base with the seller. Give them a call and see how things are progressing. The optimal time for a deal to fall apart is in the first few weeks after the contract is signed.
One week later send the seller the next newsletter in your series. You may also consider keeping one newsletter just for this specific purpose that isn’t in your regular rotation. How about one like “The Top 10 Maintenance Tips for Homeowners” or something along those lines? You can pull together information quickly from the internet.
Make 1 more check in call between week 3 and 4.
After that, continue to touch base with a call or some helpful tips about once a month until the house is sold. You can just put reminders on your calendar.
#7 Closing the Deal
Once your offer is accepted, it’s time to close the deal and get paid. Depending on where you live this might also be called “settlement” rather than a closing.
Everyone is pretty happy at this point, so how can you create a really remarkable experience for the seller and get that coveted testimonial for your website?
Make them even happier.
Bring another thank you card on that day that has a gift card tucked inside. Treat the seller to lunch or dinner following the closing.
While they are feeling great about you and the quick easy sale of their home they just experienced, pull out your phone and get a short video testimonial. If they are shy about doing a video, ask them if they would just tell you about their great experience and let you use that. Then just write it out while they are there or type it into a note in your phone.
You don’t need a million testimonials, but having more than just a few on your website makes you stands out as the market leader. Your potential customers AKA motivated sellers pay close attention to what past customers have to say about you. Think about it; how many times have you looked at reviews before making a purchase? Testimonials are one way you know creating a customer plan for your business was well worth the time and effort.
Finishing Up ….Be Remarkable!
I would encourage you to block out some time in your calendar and do your own brainstorming session.
Stand out or get left behind! I hope you enjoyed these tips for creating a customer plan for your business.
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