Real Estate Lead Generation - An Agent's Guide

by Brandon Cornett

Lead generation is one of the hottest topics in the real estate industry, and with good reason. Leads are the first step in the business relationship. So without them, you have no business.

But real estate lead generation is also one of the most confusing topics for new real estate agents (and even some of the veterans). In fact, ever since I've been involved with real estate marketing, one of the most frequent questions I get is: "How do I generate real estate leads?"

Rethinking Lead Generation
My goal with this article is to change the way you think about lead generation. Back in the "old days," purchasing real estate leads was a popular strategy. And while a lot of agents still use this approach to real estate lead generation, it is by far NOT the most effective way to go about it.

Think about it for a moment. When you purchase real estate leads, you are basically buying the names and phone numbers of people who (A) don't know you, (B) haven't asked to be contacted by you, and (C) could very well have an agent by the time you contact them.

In other words, you will be cold-calling strangers, in an age when cold calls are dying out. This is not the best way to approach real estate lead generation. When I listed a home on the MLS a few years back, I was annoyed at the number of real estate folks who contacted me each day. "Do you have an agent? Need help selling your home? Can I come over and give you a CMA?" It struck me as both desperate and annoying. There is a better approach to real estate lead generation!

Make People Want to Contact You
One of the best things you can do to generate real estate leads is to make people actually want to contact you. Think about the difference in mindset here. In the previous scenario of cold calling, you are contacting strangers who don't know anything about you. And because we live in an age of skepticism, they will have a level of distrust right from the start.

But instead of contacting strangers to introduce yourself, what if they contacted you and introduced themselves? For one thing, they would be much more inclined to listen to what you have to say. They would be more trusting and receptive as well. In other words, you would have a much easier time building a business relationship with them. Now that's the way to go about real estate lead generation!

How to Generate a Response
Sure, having people call or email you is the ideal scenario for lead generation. But how do you go about it? How do you motivate people to initiate that critical first contact? Well, there are several things you need to do. Here's a summary:

1. Be Visible
Obviously, people cannot contact you if they don't know you exist. This is where your business visibility comes into play. Online visibility is a big part of this, which is why search engine optimization is such a hot topic among real estate agents. The more visible you are online, the more likely people will be to find you.

You can also increase your business visibility by publishing articles in your local newspaper, publishing articles and press releases online, being active in your community, conducting free seminars, and other aspects of PR. Visibility and awareness are the first steps to generating real estate leads.

2. Be Valuable
The agents who are most successful with real estate lead generation are those who understand the concept of "perceived value." When a person perceives something as being valuable, they naturally want that thing. In real estate terms, this perceived value comes from many elements:

A real estate agent with unique knowledge of a certain niche ... or one who offers access to the best listings ... or one who has a proven (and illustrated) track record of client success ... or one who streamlines the process by networking with mortgage folks ...

These are all ways a real estate agent can increase his or her perceived value, which is the value your audience perceives you to have.

You can also create an item with a high perceived value, and you can in turn use this perception of value to generate leads. Let's examine the concept of "free reports" as an example. Many agents use this approach to real estate lead generation, but they botch the strategy because the report in question does not have a high enough perceived value -- not by a long shot.

A report entitled "Top Ten Home-Buying Tips" does not have a strong perceived value and therefore will not generate many leads. Why? Because (A) it is generic, (B) it does not identify closely enough with the target audience, and (C) it's information that you can find anywhere. It is not exclusive "must read" information. It will not motivate the average reader.

So how do you increase the value of such a report? Easy. You make it a "must read" document. Instead of basic home buying tips, why not boost the value and put people under pressure to read the piece? Why not promote something like this: "Which Happytown Schools Are the Best? Exclusive Report Tells All."

This kind of document would have a much better chance of motivating people and generating leads. It would be easy to tie into real estate, too, so most of your leads would be qualified ones. But this is just something I came up with off the top of my head. You could create an even better "hot button" report with a little imagination and knowledge about your community.

To take this approach even further, you can add a visual element. Have a graphic designer create an eye-catching cover for your report, along with some thumbnail-sized versions to put on your website.

3. Be Trustworthy
People don't trust strangers. We talked about that already. So if you cold call people as a stranger, you already face an uphill climb in terms of real estate lead generation. The key, then, is to inspire trust among your target audience. This will help you overcome the natural skepticism people have and make them more likely to contact you.

How do you generate trust? Testimonials help, especially when you use the former client's full name, photo, and neighborhood. A long track record helps too, as do professional certifications and sales awards (just be sure to tie these back to the success and satisfaction of your former clients).

You can also generate trust by sharing your expertise with people. Real estate blogging is a great example of this. If you publish a real estate blog over a long period of time, and people find that blog online (through search engines or otherwise), they will feel as if they already know you a little. If you publish quality content, people will realize that (A) you know your market, (B) you are active in that market, and (C) you obviously like to help people. Suddenly, you're not such a stranger ... you're a perfect candidate to be their real estate agent.

Lead Generation Success
Being visible, valuable and trustworthy will make your real estate lead generation efforts pay off in the long run. Is all this effort worthwhile? Well, let me ask you this. What would it be worth if you never had to call or email a stranger again? That's a goal worth striving for, isn't it? That's the kind of thing that can happen when you change the way you think about lead generation.

* You may republish this article online if you retain the author's byline and the active hyperlinks below. Copyright 2007, Brandon Cornett.

Learn More
Brandon Cornett is a real estate marketing specialist and owner of ArmingYourFarming.com. For more tips on real estate lead generation, visit the author's website at http://www.armingyourfarming.com