By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
One day your desk is mildly disorganized, the next you find yourself frantically rooting through stacks of paperwork the size of Godzilla trying to find a closing form. Admit it… you have a clutter problem. In Let Go of Clutter (McGraw Hill Professional Publishing, 2001. $16.96), professional organization expert Harriet Schechter teaches you how to tame your pack rat tendencies and become more productive.
A poorly organized office can make accomplishing routine tasks time-consuming–and that’s a luxury you can’t afford when you’re in business, she says. Nicknamed “The Miracle Worker,” Schechter operates a San Diego-based organizing service and teaches workshops on clutter control. She offers readers a simple message: You don’t need to let clutter control your life.
Clutter can take many forms, Schechter says. It isn’t always a simple mess grown out of control; it can also consist of too much stuff arranged in an orderly, but excessive fashion. Thus, “decluttering” requires more than shifting bills from one manila folder to another. It requires a systematic process of identifying and purging anything that creates stress for you because of its appearance, condition, location, arrangement, or quantity.
Yes, this means that you might have to throw something out. The book includes easy-to-use forms and checklists to make this process less painful. For instance, it includes checklists to prioritize what you should keep and what you should throw away.
If you’re hesitating whether to toss a piece of paper or put it back into a file, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a reason you have kept it for this long? (If you can’t remember why you are keeping it, odds are that it’s not that important.)
- If you got rid of it, could you get it again? Would it be worth the trouble?
- If you keep it, will you know where to find it?
- What’s the worst thing that can happen if you discard it?
- What’s the likelihood of that ever happening?
Remember to treat your wastebaskets like babies, she advises. “Keep them within close reach at all times, feed them frequently, and change them often.”
But it’s not enough to barrel through your office with a leaf-blower and an oversized garbage bag until your desk is clear. You need to modify your attitudes and habits to head off clutter. This can involve setting up to-do lists break down projects into manageable chunks or making a conscious effort to selectively evaluate and discard materials before they begin to pile up. When setting up any new organization system, remember that most good systems have three things in common: they’re simple, flexible, and growth-oriented.
Don’t let yourself be a slave to stuff. If your office prompts you to cry out, “How did I get all this stuff?” at least once a day, don’t despair. Harriet Schechter can help you to clear the clutter and keep it away.
By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Establishing loyalty and trust, providing individualized service, maintaining contact with customers–the concepts behind relationship marketing are hardly new, especially in the traditionally high-touch real estate business. Even though real estate is largely one-on-one, it’s easy to focus on the deal at hand and overlook building a long-term relationship with customers. In Become the Brand of Choice: How to Earn Millions Through Relationship Marketing (Lifestyle Press, 1999. $16.95), author Jason Hartman tells readers how to create “customers for life.” This loyal following can form a consistent, profitable client base for salespeople.
Before delving into the sales strategies you can use to build your business, Hartman says, you must first focus on building yourself. Successful relationship marketing depends on your personal commitment to connecting with customers. Caring for customers can’t just be a sales tactic. Fully half the book is devoted to “Conditioning Yourself for Success,” the art of developing the outlooks and philosophies that Hartman believes are the foundation for personal marketing. Such attitudes as a willingness to step outside your comfort zone, a commitment to listening to and helping customers, and a genuine enjoyment of dealing with others are essential to successful relationship marketing, he says.
After walking you through how to ready yourself for relationship marketing, Hartman gets down to business. The book’s second half is devoted to the mechanics of personal marketing and brand building. To Hartman, however, a brand is more than a catchy logo or a name with high customer awareness. Branding is a covenant with the customer. When you spot a familiar brand, be it Disney, Coca-Cola, or General Motors, it triggers connotations that extend beyond simple name recognition to values and emotions—fun, reliability, honesty. Thus, branding becomes as much about expressing your business’s philosophy as promoting its name recognition.
Once you’ve established your brand identity, says Hartman, your next step is to capitalize on this goodwill and keep customers coming back again and again. “It costs five times as much or higher to get a new customer as it does to keep one—or to reactivate an old one,” Hartman says. Your goal is to build your marketing towards creating a mutually beneficial relationship with customers. At the most basic level, customers want your help in buying or selling a home, but you need to ask yourself what other benefits you can offer to them. For instance, you could turn your Web site into a portal for local information, featuring such items as community calendars. The idea is to make your site a repeat destination for people in the community, this way when it comes for them to buy or sell a home, they are already familiar with you.
Databases and e-mail communications have given companies the ability to extend relationship marketing to a large customer base with much of the same high-touch feel. Hartman suggests the following steps in creating your own automated marketing plan:
- Build the database. Track standard information such as age, hobbies, birthdays, anniversaries, and family information that you can use to build a one-on-one relationship with the customer. Additionally, you can include more in-depth information regarding details such as civic organizations membership and any referrals the individual has given you.
- Know the targeted prospects and customers. You need to know your customer before you can tailor your service to them. Build a profile around the features and benefits of the types of homes you sell frequently. Look for people close to you whose buying patterns match this description and identify their goals, needs, and desires as a way to identify other customers who might be attracted to the same product.
- Create effective direct marketing documents. Write letters, e-mails, brochures, and similar documents in a conversational style. For example, if you are spotlighting a home in a brochure, write as if you were describing it to the customer in person. Don’t try to impress by burying the reader in piles of purple prose.
- Apply what Hartman calls “The rule of sevens.” Develop a step-by-step system that will put a document about you and your services in front of customers a minimum of seven times in 18 months. This keeps you from giving up too early and allows you to “touch” the prospects several times in order to increase your chances of making a sale.
- Analyze the results. Evaluate your marketing every week to see which materials are working and which are falling short. Ask your customers to find out what materials drew them in. This could serve you to keep from pouring money into an area that isn’t getting many responses or serve as a wakeup call that you need to rework your copy.
Relationship marketing creates stable, long-term relationships, the book argues. A “churn ‘em and burn ‘em approach” can produce some quick sales , but ultimately is a short-sighted, short-term approach that is harmful to your business. It’s easy to get caught up in the deal in front of you and neglect follow up on previous sales. But by doing so you might be cutting yourself off from a valuable source of future business. Putting a customer in a home shouldn’t be the end of a relationship, it should be a beginning.
By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
One of the first rules of investing is “invest in what you know,” and real estate practitioners are heeding that advice. According to the 2001 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Member Profile, 39 percent of REALTORS own rental property as part of their investment strategy. If you aren’t among these practitioners already, maybe you should join them. Real estate investment offers rewards for both long- and short-term investors, says prolific real estate author Robert Irwin. His latest book, Buy, Rent, and Sell: How to Profit by Investing in Residential Real Estate (McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 2001.$14.95.) offers an introduction to selecting, maintaining, and profiting from a real estate investment. The book is a follow-up to his 1991 book Buy, Rent, and Hold.
Experienced real estate investors will find little new, but novice investors can benefit from the book’s concise explanations and easy-to-understand tips, even if they have real estate experience.
The book is divided into four parts. The first, “Make Your Profit When You Buy” deals with strategies for evaluating and buying a property. In addition to tips on analyzing property values, the section devotes chapters to finding underpriced properties in changing neighborhoods, at foreclosure sales, and through government repossessions. The second section, “Multiply Your Cash” concentrates on the financial aspects of investing. The author provides an overview of securing a mortgage for investment property—and suggests some creative financing techniques if you’re cash strapped.
“Renting in the Real World” advises you on how to select good tenants and hold up your end of the landlord bargain. Several of his tips, such as renting for less than the going rates, may seem contrary to professional real estate practice, but may be useful for the fledgling owner. Finally, “Selling for Profit” leads you through how to unload your property without getting burned by taxes.
Real estate professionals will probably find the first half of the books less beneficial than the second. It isn’t that the first half doesn’t contain valuable information, but a real estate salesperson isn’t as likely to need tips on making offers that get accepted as the lay investor would be. Still, you might want to glance through Part 1 as a quick refresher course, especially if you aren’t overly familiar with the concept of flipping—quickly turning over properties for profit.
If you are more interested in establishing a long-term revenue stream for your retirement or your children’s college, “Renting in the Real World” is probably the most beneficial part of the book for you. The section outlines what responsibilities landlords hold, as well as how to select tenants and properties that will make successful rentals. make your investment worthwhile. Perhaps the section’s best advice for the real estate professional turned landlord is to remember that renting is a business. Set a friendly, yet business-like tone with your tenants, advises Irwin. Many landlords, afraid of being the bad guy, accept late rents and provide unreasonable services. Make it clear that you will fulfill you obligations, and you expect your tenants to do the same. Other tips include:
- Know who you’re renting to. Study tenants’ previous rental behavior to weed out chronically bad tenants.
- Don’t try to avoid children or pets. Welcome families into your property. The potential damage children and pets can cause discourage many landlords, but parents often make reliable tenants.
- Don’t delay fixing a problem. Address tenants’ complaints promptly. Leaky toilets, plugged drains, and broken heaters are your responsibility and will only get worse if ignored.
More than a third of real estate professionals are making money in investing in real estate; maybe you should be, too. Buy, Rent, and Sell sets you on the path from real estate salesperson to real estate tycoon.