Future of Lead Generation: You Say vs. They Say

Happy Friday afternoon, everybody. I normally wouldn’t write something today, but… I’ve been traveling and came down with a cold and have been wanting to write this for a couple of days. Plus, what the hell — maybe some of you will enjoy some light reading over the weekend.

I just recorded a great conversation with Chris Drayer, CEO of Revaluate, about the future of lead generation in light of iOS 13 and new FCC rules that enable blocking calls from strangers. He wrote a great post on the topic, so we got into a wide ranging conversation about that. Expect that audio post up sometime in the next couple of days.

What made it so amusing for me, however, was the fact that a big part of our conversation was something I was planning on writing about before I got sick. In fact, it was right after my presentation at the NC Realtors XChange ’19 event that I thought… hmm, this might be worth revisiting.

Big takeaway: there is no such thing as “social” marketing anymore, because all marketing is now fundamentally social. It’s not what you say but what they say that matters in 2019.

Wooing Customers

One of my favorite short posts from the early years of this blog is this one, in which I used an incredibly on-point illustration from Marty Neumeier’s book Zag: the No. 1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands. I found it on the online design and marketing magazine @Issue and used it to wonder about social networking as marketing.

This is possibly the greatest and most succinct explanation of the various strategies for marketing and promotion there is.

All Marketing Today is Social

During my presentation, I pointed out that in 2019, we have all gotten so deluged by marketing and advertising everywhere we turn that we’re all becoming relatively immune to a lot of this. Whatever the company says about their product or service they’re trying to sell, we just don’t really believe anymore.

For example, car ads.

10 years ago, we used to see ads like this one:

It makes all kinds of claims about the F-150. High strength steel frame, side impact airbags, etc. etc. yadda yadda. People likely saw that on TV, thought, “Wow, that sounds really great!” and went to their Ford dealership to check it out.

In 2019, nobody believes a single thing that a carmaker says about one of their cars. Instead, there are a gazillion YouTube channels devoted to independent third-party reviews of cars. We don’t trust the marketer; we trust the reviewer, and so much the better if the reviewer seems like a normal guy who isn’t in the pay of any particular company. (The good reviewers go out of their way to make any financial considerations, such as free stuff, clear to the viewer. They know that their neutrality is their bread and butter.)

For example, Savage Geese, a prolific car reviewer on YouTube with 280K subscribers:

He’s kind of brutal about the ride, about the handling, etc. But he’s fair about it overall. Someone shopping for a F-150 is going to watch a dozen or so of these kinds of reviews before deciding to take the plunge. (Well, if said someone is younger than say 55….)

Go browse Amazon.com sometime and look at the reviews. They’re a critical part of the marketing of any product on Amazon. I often skip over products that have no reviews, or just a few reviews, even if it looks good and even if the manufacturer claims all kinds of wonderful goodness. That’s for something like a $15 kitchen knife that can be easily returned.

So in 2019, we have car commercials that make very little sense as a commercial for a motor vehicle, like this one:

So… if you buy a Mazda 3, you don’t need to drive but fly around in a magic balloon? Of course not. 🙂 There’s so much feelz, so much invoking of lifestyle and feelings and aesthetic… this is the car commercial trying to be a lifestyle brand.

Mazda knows that the consumer isn’t going to believe anything they say about their own cars. The consumer is going to look at what other people say about the Mazda 3. So they’re aiming for some kind of a brand image, some kind of an emotional brand connection.

REALTOR Advertising: Me, Myself and I

If we look across the landscape of how REALTORS try to promote and market themselves, we come across an interesting phenomenon: the ever-present I. Because it’s actually too easy to find ridiculous tasteless crap ads by real estate agents, I’m actually going to use really nice ads and commercials as examples here.

Please note: I don’t know any of the companies or individuals in these. I found them doing web searches, and was struck by their relative high quality.

First up:

This is a really tastefully done print ad here. Nice imagery, and decent copy that evokes the feeling of HOME.

And yet… WE sell… WE know… Once WE help you…

Then there’s this TV commercial from a top team from Tampa:

Professionally produced, well-spoken, direct and to the point. Obviously, the DuncanDuo are very successful and are probably very good at their jobs.

But I think you can see what I’m getting at with this commercial. It’s just we, our, me, we’re awesome, and so on. It’s the old 2009-era marketing/advertising. It’s #4 in the graphic above: “I’m a great lover. I’m a great lover. I’m a great lover.”

Slightly better is this wonderful video from Decker Realty Group:

What sets this commercial apart for me is the client testimonials about Candace. Granted, those felt scripted and coached but… at least there were people other than Candace saying nice things about her.

Now, as well-spoken as Candace is, try to imagine that video without her speaking at all. It’s just her clients telling you about her. Doesn’t that somehow feel… better?

It’s because we’re all living in 2019 and all marketing is social.

I realize there is a place for self-promotion. You do want to highlight any unique value propositions you bring to the table. You do have to let people know that you’re offering a service. Advertising is not dead.

But I really tend to believe today that it isn’t what you say about yourself that matters as much as what other people say about you.

Wooing: You Say vs. Others Say

Let us return to the graphic above.

The overall mindset of lead generation and marketing for real estate is really focused on self-promotion and hustle. How many times have we heard about time blocking to make your phone calls? The Hour of Power? Newsletters, emails, the 33 touch program, the farming, the postcards, Facebook advertising, Instagram advertising, constant pressure to keep up social media presence, the door knocking…. And we haven’t even gotten to the stuff like robo-dialers, or predictive analytics and Google SEO and so on.

It makes me tired just thinking about the work required. God bless those agents with the stamina and the drive to do those things.

The commonality I find in all of these activities is that they are all in the genre of you saying stuff about YOU:

Does that work? Probably. It’s a numbers game, I suppose, like trying to pick someone up at a bar. Approach enough people, buy enough drinks, get rejected enough, and eventually, you’ll get a phone number.

It works, but damn, that’s soul-deadening work. Sure, it’s the salesman’s life, and everybody has to pay their dues starting out… but that can’t be the goal, can it?

Of course not. The goal is to get beyond that, no?

Especially in 2019, when all marketing is social, what really matters is what they say about you:

The ultimate pinnacle of any marketing effort has to be to become an established brand. When customers approach you, saying, “I understand you’re a great REALTOR.”

Today, you do not get to be a brand because of what you say about yourself. You get to be a brand because of what others say about you, whether they are your clients, past clients, colleagues, associates, vendors, or even competitors.

Idris Elba, People Magazine’s 2018 Sexiest Man Alive, and Sunny’s big giant celebrity crush (she’ll freely admit it, and I 1000% understand it) did not get the title by calling himself the Sexiest Man Alive for years on end. He got the brand by being himself, doing his job, and having other people call him the sexiest man alive.

I imagine that if Idris wants some company, he’s not out cruising bars approaching women and buying them drinks. No, they approach him and buy him drinks.

Think about it some.

How to Apply This Idea

I’d like to suggest some simple experiments in social media, since well, all marketing is social.

Next time you help a client buy a house, put up that post congratulating them on the purchase. But ask them to post their experience with you on their Facebook account, on their Instagram account. You don’t even have to see it. Yes, ask them for a review on whatever review website you prefer while you’re at it, but don’t try to coach them or script what to say. Let them use their own words, their own voice, and just tell other people about you.

If they say bad things about you, well, you know what you need to fix for the next time. If they say nice things about you, well, that’s what really matters in 2019, not what you say about yourself.

For your next listing appointment, try walking in with zero materials bragging about your systems, your marketing strategy, your awesome track record, whatever. Instead, walk in with short interviews with three of your past seller clients, preferably non-professional video so that it doesn’t look like a freakin’ commercial, just giving their impression of what you did that worked for their situation. Then give the potential seller a list of past clients (make sure you clear it with them first) and ask them to pick and choose.

By the way, I’m taking my own advice on this. I don’t do a great job of marketing, but I do have a website for my consulting work. I may look to change all of that content in the near future, following this pattern.

Then let us know what your experience is like after focusing your marketing efforts away from what you say about yourself and towards what they say about you.


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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5 thoughts on “Future of Lead Generation: You Say vs. They Say”

  1. Dudddde… I was just saying this exact thing today with a slight difference (that’s my secret) but YES! Also, I found about your blog from someone who recommended it… So it works.

  2. Just to have you know….my 77 year old mother reads reviews all. Day. Long. She won’t buy anything without a minimum of five 5 star reviews on Amazon. She just bought a used car from Carvana. I think the 55+ crowd reads reviews too. They have more time to agonize over purchases! However, she does not need to sell her home but if she did I am sure she’d scour the internet reading realtor reviews. Actually, I’d give her a referral. I make it a point to NOT represent family members. Been there. Done that. NEVER AGAIN.

  3. A certain presidential candidate has impressed me (in a marketing sense) by taking selfies with each and every person that wants one. (to the tune of a 2,500 person line that took 4 hours) Those selfies get blasted out on social – VERY SOLID, low cost PR/Branding…..other than the 4 hours 😉

  4. Rob, you ALWAYS make me think and re-think things. Thank you for being you and having the courage to post solid stuff like this. And by the way, I’ve been telling others about you for eveh…

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