Despite being a brand new agent in a slow San Antonio real estate market, Michele McCurdy has been able to grow her business throughout her first year as a result of her personal marketing campaign. She has applied personal branding strategies, expired listing follow-up systems and proven business-planning strategies to generate leads and reach–and exceed–her sales goals month after month.
Michele McCurdy is no stranger to the concept of building a business from scratch. One of her most successful ventures was a baked goods business she started out of her home in San Antonio, Texas. What began as a few goodie baskets for friends and family became a $2 million business, culminating in the opening of her own successful bakery/delicatessen. Through exceptional word-of-mouth advertising and other grass roots marketing plans, Michele was able to create a thriving business that later became a launching pad as she embarked on a highly successful sales career in the corporate world.
So when Michele chose to pursue a career in real estate a little more than a year-and-a-half ago, she had a much different outlook than a lot of agents who get into this industry looking for a quick buck. She’s a single mother of five and, for her, failure in any of her business ventures has never been an option she could afford. “It was a scary transition into real estate,” Michele says, “but I knew the rewards could far outweigh the risks if I did things right.”
Looking for Solutions
During her real estate training and license prep courses, Michele began asking around to see what other agents were doing to be successful in this economy. She was surprised to learn there weren’t a lot of people willing to invest in their own business. They were not marketing themselves or developing well-thought-out business plans. Finally, one of her instructors suggested that if she wanted to go all-out with her marketing plan, she should look into Hobbs/Herder.
The instructor warned Michele that it would be a significant investment of money, but that didn’t phase her. She came in with an entrepreneurial outlook, knowing that it would take a certain amount of capital to launch her business on the right foot and keep it growing over time. “You have to spend money to make money,” she explains. “I already understood how important branding and name recognition were to building a business and Hobbs/Herder was the answer I was looking for.”
Michele called Hobbs/Herder within a few weeks of getting her license. She put a custom marketing package together and within a couple months, she had her final printed materials in hand and her website ready to launch. She’ll never forget the day all the boxes showed up at her office. All of the other agents laughed at her for investing that kind of money on her advertising and taking such a personal approach in her materials. They couldn’t understand why she was making herself the focal point of the marketing. The negativity didn’t bother Michele, though. To her, it was an investment in her business. It actually inspired her more because she knew she was making a positive step forward while they were all sitting in the office and waiting for leads to appear out of thin air.
Michele attended the Hobbs/Herder Gateway event in San Antonio that same month she received her printed materials. Though fully confident in her decision to invest in this marketing program, she still couldn’t help but feeling a small sense of panic now that her campaign was finally ready to launch. Through the seminar, Michele not only regained the confidence that she needed to push forward, but she was also able to fine-tune her mailing plans and servicing systems. One of the most important things she did after the Gateway is take all the personal letters she received and customized them to her own voice and style. Michele feels this was a small, but significant, step in her preparation because she knew the personal touches would make a bigger difference and she was able to familiarize herself with the meaning behind each of the letters.
Michele made sure to take the time and map out her plan of attack for her first year of marketing before sending out any mailings. She set her budget and she put all the systems in place to ensure that nothing would go off track. Michele chose her mailing farm of 2000 homes (consisting of one-and-a-half zip codes in her the San Antonio area). She developed her “In Touch List,” which is comprised of her friends, family members, past clients and other business contacts who already had a certain level of familiarity with her and her real estate services. Michele committed to sending out two marketing pieces per month to everyone in her farm. She has sent out her brochure twice (once in the first month of her campaign and again six months later) and has followed the Hobbs/Herder Standard Mailing Plan exactly as it was given to her at the seminar.
Goals Set. Milestones Achieved.
As she was getting her systems in place, Michele set a personal income goal for her first year. She determined how many transactions she’d need per month to achieve that goal. She realized that she would need to close at least one transaction a month in order to consider her first year a success. It wasn’t a lofty goal, but a realistic one for Michele.
With her own business background to draw from, Michele knew that her success in real estate would not happen overnight. She realized it would take time to build a strong marketing presence and tap into the minds of consumers, especially in such a slow market. Michele committed herself to a full year of marketing before she’d make a judgment on the campaign’s overall success or failure. Now with less than a year passing since launching her marketing program in September, Michele can honestly say that everything is going even better than she planned.
Michele can directly attribute 12 transactions to her direct mail marketing program. On average, she gets at least three calls per month from potential clients looking into her services. However, the calls she gets nowadays are very different than the ones she received prior to launching her personal marketing campaign. People used to ask her about her brokerage affiliation, her experience in the industry and what she would do to market their listings. Now, the callers she gets are pre-sold on her and her services. They assume from the quality of her own marketing materials that she’s an expert marketer who knows how to attract buyers. They feel like they know Michele and trust her without even having met face-to-face. They rarely ask what brokerage she’s with. It’s a huge advantage for a new agent like her not to have to “sell” herself against her more experienced competitors.
Affecting Positive Change
Michele believes that the personal nature of her marketing campaign resonates well with her target audience. The cover headline on her brochure states “Anything is Possible,” and her own story of how she went from being a homemaker who loved to bake for friends and family to a successful entrepreneur draws readers in on an emotional level. In fact, she had two different people whose homes were nearing foreclosure call her looking for advice. After they read her brochure, they truly felt that anything was possible and knew that Michele would be the one who could help them make the most of the situation.
Michele is also taking advantage of the expired listings in the down market. Every week, she runs an MLS report to track the expireds in the neighborhoods in and around her farm. On average, there are about 12 new expireds every week and Michele puts every one of them on the targeted weekly letter campaign that she received at the Gateway. Over the past year, she attributes roughly 40% of her business to expireds, which goes to show you that there are opportunities to be had with a proactive approach like hers. In fact, many of her company’s office meetings now revolve around why all the agents should be going harder after expired listings, yet nobody is as diligent about it as Michele. That’s why she now does more than half of the total business in her office every month.
Turning Results into Planning
With ten months of marketing under her belt, Michele has been able to track her results and put the data to good use as she sets her income goal for her second year. When Michele used to work at a Lexus dealership, she figured out that for every eight test-drives, one would result in a sale. With that in mind, she was able to determine how many test drives she’d need to have to reach her sales goals. It’s this same basic philosophy that she applies today in real estate.
It All Adds Up to Success
Michele works the numbers backwards. How many transactions does she need per month to reach her income goal? How many leads does she need to generate to achieve that number of transactions? How many calls does each mailing generate? It’s helping her to set her marketing budget and adjust her numbers and systems accordingly. In addition, she is expanding her marketing efforts by advertising in a local magazine and newspaper and is hoping to incorporate some outdoor and radio advertising in the next year as well. “It’s like planting seeds on a farm,” she says. “You can’t just sit back and wait for things to grow. You have to water and cultivate the plants to make them grow.”
Michele is certainly excited about the positive results she’s achieved so far through her marketing campaign and business plan, but she knows this is just the beginning. She knows that while other agents have ceased almost all of their marketing efforts, she is building her brand in her target farm and increasing her market share with every mailing she sends out.
“This is the time to build a brand, because when the market comes back, I’ll be ready for it!” Michele says.