This article was previously published in a December 2016 issue of the NAR REALTOR® blog.
It’s that time of year again when most real estate professionals are bracing for a dip in sales as the cold winter months approach and many home buyers and sellers go into hibernation. Even if you don’t have a lot of active clients during this time, there’s plenty you can do to keep your business from freezing while you wait for consumers to return to the market in spring.
Aside from using the holidays as an excuse to reach out to your client base with cards and gifts to stay top-of-mind, the winter downtime is perfect for taking stock of your marketing techniques and assessing what you can do differently for your overall business. By the time you’ve identified and incorporated some changes, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when the busy spring selling season emerges again. Here are five items to put on your winter checklist.
1. Clean up your contact list. You’ve been working all year to build a healthy list of contacts who you sincerely believe will be interested in your newsletter, blog, and social media content. But it takes hard work to keep the list as clean and up-to-date as possible. Look at the bounce rates of recent messages you’ve sent to your customer base, and when possible, track down a new email address for contacts whose information is outdated. You’ll be surprised what you can learn about a client when you follow up to find out why their email address changed. You might discover, for example, that they have a new job that requires a move in the near future. Keep in mind, though, that when it comes to keeping your contact list tidy, if people unsubscribe, you should honor their request immediately.
2. Test email marketing services. There are many options out there, but a lot of practitioners still rely on their personal email addresses to send bulk messages. What you might not realize is that when you send bulk email from your personal account, those messages are more likely to get caught in spam filters. But even if your message does reach your customers, you won’t get insights into what they do once they receive it. Email marketing providers can keep track of your contact list, let you know which emails were opened and when, and tell you which articles were clicked on and shared. (Not to mention that most have a deliverability rate of more than 95 percent, meaning your message won’t get stuck in a spam filter.) So use this time to check out different services and take advantage of a free trial. Find what works for you now, and by the time spring comes, you’ll be engaging customers and driving referrals through your newsletters.
3. Practice curating content that informs. Creating newsletters becomes more difficult than it needs to be when you think you need to produce all the content yourself. That’s why many real estate professionals end up just featuring listings in their newsletters, which doesn’t offer customers anything they can’t easily look up online for themselves. Instead, spend some time this winter researching relevant blogs and collecting trend pieces and news stories your clients will find interesting. Then make them your own by adding your views on the topic as the lead to the story. (Just be sure to give credit to the original source.) You’ll learn that this will save you time and boost your credibility as a trustworthy and knowledgeable resource. By spring, you’ll have collected enough perennial content to launch your reimagined newsletter.
4. Review and analyze your performance. Winter is the best time to look back on your year and compare your performance with the past three years to spot patterns. Also, take a closer look at the source of your sales, and break it down by referral, direct mail, email, open house, advertising, and other criteria. This insight is critical to knowing which avenues deliver the strongest ROI. You’ll be armed with knowledge and know where to focus your efforts come spring.
5. Prepare for tax season. This is about your overall business. Don’t wait until the last minute to find a great accountant with terrific bookkeeping skills. Use the winter to find the right accountant for you and to find those missing receipts for entertainment, postage, gas, and marking materials. Also, don’t forget to dig into your files to prepare your tax documents, including bills, medical costs, and donations. Depending on your relationships with your accountant, you might want to give them relevant files every two weeks so that you always know where you stand with sales, estimated taxes, budget, and savings. Use the winter to pick up this habit. Once it becomes part of your routine, it’s a huge relief when April rolls around, and it’ll allow you to focus on what you do best at a critical time in the year: sell houses!
Just because sales slow down in winter doesn’t mean your business has to stall. Use these next few months to build or reinforce the foundation of your business and shore up solid leads for a successful spring season.