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How Sister Mary can help your agency find its ideal audience. A 3-minute read.

Some stories stick with you forever.

These are the tales that are shared with you and find a special place in your heart and mind.

The following story and its message had that effect on me.

And it carries a critical message for estate and letting agents.

Around 20 years ago, a friend of mine called Dermot told me a story about his auntie Mary, Sister Mary, to give her most often used moniker.

It was one of those stories where I can remember exactly where I was—leaning against my clapped-out VW Golf on the Stonebridge Estate in London where I grew up.

The Story of Sister Mary

Dermot’s aunt had become a nun in west Ireland back in the 1950s. She was in her early twenties.

This was not uncommon for Irish families to have children dedicate their lives to the Catholic Church.

Sister Mary’s spiritual calling took her 6077 miles away (as the crow flies, I Googled it) to South Africa. She never returned to the village in Galway where she grew up.

This was a South Africa deep in the evils of apartheid at the time.

Sister Mary was sent as a missionary to a township, I can’t recall the name but remember it wasn’t Soweto.

She embraced her community work with the violently oppressed African people.

Dermot told me that she saw her role as someone there to care for the people rather than convert them to a credo.

She lived among the dignity sapping poverty, the suffocating oppression and the state-backed regime of violence, intimidation, and fear.

She saw the riots, the brutal police raids. She crossed the line between spirituality and politics by joining the fight to end the inhumane abomination, which was apartheid.

Sister Mary was there when Nelson Mandela was jailed in 1962.

She was there cheering along with the townspeople when he was released from prison in 1990.

Sister Mary had grown old.

She had watched babies grow into adults, witnessed families become splintered by the evils of oppression but also united by a common goal of freedom.

The petite nun from a faraway land was a part of South Africa’s story.

A Homecoming Offer

Dermot, who was a natural-born storyteller, told me his father had visited her in South Africa on her 70th birthday.

It was the first time the siblings had seen each other in more than 40 years.

Dermot’s dad asked her why she didn’t come ‘home’? Back to Ireland where she could see out her days in comfort and relative peace.

The new South Africa was fairer but also more violent and, in many ways, increasingly unstable. He was worried about her future.

During his stay he chipped away at her, selling all the benefits of being back home and surrounded by a large family.

Her ultimate response stopped his pleas in their tracks.

And was something we could all do with remembering.

Sister Mary turned to the brother she loved dearly and said: “I can’t leave.”

He tried one last time. “But Mary, wouldn’t you like to be back home with your people.”

She paused (dramatically according to Dermot) and gently said: “Brother, this is my home, and these are my people.”

Sister Mary died peacefully a few years after that visit.

She was remembered fondly by people in Ireland but adored and revered by her people in South Africa. She had done a lot of good in a time when things over there were very bad.

What’s this got to do with agents?

Good question. But if you aren’t clear who your target market is, your people, you’ll struggle with marketing.

By clearly defining who your people are, you will be able to create the right tone of voice and identify the ways they like to be communicated with, i.e. Telephone, Facebook, email, or direct mail.

By knowing your people, you’ll use your marketing spend more wisely, train your team more and understand what their problems, interest and goals are. And how you can help them.

If you find your people and are true to them, just like Sister Mary you could end up remembered, trusted, and dare I say it perhaps even loved.

Thanks for sharing this story with me.

Amen

Father Jerry

The Not Very Religious at all Church of Estate Agent Content.

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There was a good, healthy debate on an industry Facebook forum a couple of weeks ago.

At its centre was the assertion that winning awards was worth promoting.

And they certainly are.

As is having a dominate market share.

As is using your testimonials as part of your content marketing mix.

As is highlighting the amount of work you do in your community.

And shining a spotlight on your Google Reviews is always a good idea.

These are all essential pillars of your agency’s marketing temple.

It’s called a marketing mix for a reason – to work properly, it needs to be mixed.

But if I were backed up into a corner by a ‘hangry’ Mike Tyson and asked to choose between awards or reviews, I would go with reviews….then dive through the ropes to safety.

And to head off any accusations of pushing an agenda, for the record I have both—awards for my journalism and loads of Google Reviews for my business.

Here’s my thinking.

I feel you can do more with good reviews than you can awards. There are more stories to be told around why customers regularly leave you great reviews than why judges picked you for an industry gong.

The Gods of Google Reviews

Google Reviews are becoming increasingly influential in a customer’s buying decisions.

Google a sandwich bar or a hairdresser in your area.

The most prominent thing that’ll be put forward to you is the reviews the business you are looking for has received from customers.

For estate agents, these Google reviews need to be taken as seriously as a brown envelope landing on your doormat from the HMRC.

If people are using Google Reviews for making decisions as small as where to buy a cheese and ham sarnie what do you think they’ll make of an estate agency with a 2.5 (out of 5) star rating?

Who is more likely to get called in for a valuation? The agency with 69 reviews, a 4.9-star average and a legion of fans, or the agency that might be good but doesn’t have review gathering as part of its marketing strategy?

Check out Google Review Gods like Location Location and Paramount Properties. I’d instruct those guys off the back of the Google Reviews alone.

Customers are digitally savvy now, and the battle to win their instruction starts WAY before that first point of traditional contact.

But how do you get more Google reviews?

Follow Stephen Brown, from SJB Consultancy’s advice and ask for them. And keep asking. And keep asking.

Or speak with someone like Alex Evans from Estate Apps, who has a cool app for agents that makes getting them a lot easier.

Or use John Paul from the Castleden Group’s systemised approach to agency and have processes in place to collect them consistently.

It takes time, but it’s worth it.

Keep the faith.

Jerry

PS: One way of getting more great reviews is winning more instructions. My canvassing letters campaigns are now on general release. For more information ping me an email with the postcodes you serve, and I’ll send you samples.

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A 3-minute read.

I was recently asked by a couple of clients, what was it like working with estate agents?

The truth is, it’s very similar to working with journalists.

For context, I’ve worked in journalism since 2004. And I’ve been a PR man turned content marketer for estate agents since 2015.

So, I’ve got a foot in both camps, and I’d like to think an understanding of what a great agent does and how a brilliant journalist behaves.

There are plenty of similarities between excellent agents and the best journalists.

For starters, they both lay claims to being omnipresent members in the top ten least trusted professions whenever this tired old annual report is wheeled out.

Below are seven skills I see the elite performers I’ve met in both industries share.

1) They are good people. Estate agents were often ashamed to share what they did for a living. “A slippery estate agent, eh?” was one response an agent told me he received when at a kids’ birthday party he told another parent what he did. Sure, there are dodgy characters in both professions, but they don’t last the test of time. The good guys and girls usually win in my experience.

One thing I often heard was, ‘A reporter, eh? Not going to write a report about me, are you?’ Met with a smile and the thought in my head ‘not likely mate because you’re too bleeding boring.” Anyway, back to the skills.

2) Good with people. The best journalists I’ve worked alongside were the most connected. They knew everyone they needed to. They took the time to get out there and get known. I see the same approach from leading agents. Their community knows them and what they stand for.

3) Tough Nuts. Call it resilience, durability or mental fortitude. Both professions face a lot of negative responses. “No, we don’t want to sell our home with you.” “No way do I want to speak with you about my wrongdoings etc.” The best kept going until they got what they were after. Undaunted and undamaged. Being brutally honest this was a weak area of mine. I took rejections to heart.

4) Serious about their craft. The best estate agents I work with are all over podcasts, books, courses and opportunities to learn more about their profession. The best journalists I’ve shared offices with are the same. They take their qualifications and knowledge building very seriously. As an editor once said to me about taking exams and qualifications seriously ‘just because people write it doesn’t make them a journalist.’

5) Pressure handlers. I’ve always been struck with how the best agents keep calm during stressful situations like fragile chains and dealing with problem tenants/home sellers. A busy newsroom approaching the deadline to get the paper to print or a story online is a hugely pressurised environment. Some floundered, the best flourished.

6) Generous. Going back to point one. The best agents usually support their communities in kind and charitable ways. Check out Location Location in London, Knightsbridge Estate Agents in Leicester and Sacha Scott in Nork as evidence of that. And while reporters don’t usually earn enough to be philanthropists the elite are often kind, patient and generous when asked for advice or help.

7) They are obsessed with competition. This is the one area that the best of the very best from both industries stand out. The cream of the agency world feature people who are obsessed about improving their service, their skills, the results they get clients. The most committed journalists I’ve met are entirely focussed on their craft and being the best, breaking the big stories, grabbing the front page.

Looking back at these seven shared traits and skills they could be applied to many elite performers in all walks of working life.
Be that in an estate agency office, newsroom, building site, classroom or anywhere, people are striving to be the best they can be.

Thanks for reading.

Jerry

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Hello People of Estate Agency Land,

In this 2-minute read, I’m going to share with you the number one thing which will kill off your agency if you let it.

The good news is there’s some simple stuff you can do about this fearsome thing.

I’ll get straight to the point – the moment people start seeing your agency as boring they’ll start ignoring you.
Being ignored leads to becoming irrelevant, and that’s what terrifies me and maybe scares you.

But even worse than being overlooked is when your community starts paying more attention to your rivals (if they’re not boring too).

So, what’s boring agency content look like?

1) Your agency only talks about your awards, your market share and your social media is just listings.

2) You have no content strategy.

3) Your marketing materials wouldn’t stand out if they were lined up in an ID parade.

4) You sound like a stereotypical estate agency.

5) You follow the approach of trying to appeal to everyone.

Here’s how you can make your agency more attractive in the eyes and ears of your audience.

1) Start mixing it up and start talking and writing about things that aren’t property-related but are of interest to people. i.e. How to do a digital detox in lockdown, ways to care for your pets during the lockdown, tips on working from home without distractions.

2) A content strategy can be as simple as having a weekly blog, a Facebook page updated every couple of days and an email database you ‘touch’ in a non-sales way at least every ten days.

3) Bland is banned – if your agency doesn’t know its tone of voice, you’ll end up sounding like every other agency. Brands and businesses that are true to their voice stand out because they sound like humans, not faceless entities.

4) A former journalist colleague of mine now works for a large bank in their communication and content department. The BIG boss of the bank told his team in no uncertain they must stop sounding like a bank and more like a trusted friend. What does your agency sound like?

5) My style of writing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For some, it’s too informal. Not salesy enough. But that’s cool. Because I know I’m not right for them and vice versa. These agents aren’t my market. Know YOUR market, for your agency, why not create an ideal client in your mind and start thinking about their issues, aspirations, problems, and interests.

Be Different

When was the last time you saw an agency take a chance and do something out of the ordinary with their marketing? When did you see something and think ‘that’s different.’?

This lack of action or chutzpah means there’s an opportunity for more creative thinking agencies to get noticed and stay clear of being branded boring by having a boring brand.

Finally, I think agencies would do well to remember what Seth Godin said about businesses standing up and out.

“Don’t fear being different. Fear being boring.”

Our time on earth is short, so why not make it more interesting?

Go well and go make a difference.

Jerry

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A two-minute read.

So, the Government have set agents in England free from the shackles of lockdown.

But as agents fly out the traps, like kids chasing down the road after an ice-cream van, slow down and think for a second.

What is the thing top of most people’s minds now?

I’m guessing it’s around health and keeping themselves and their families safe and well.

Of course, some people, a small minority, don’t give a monkey’s about social distancing. There’s a word for them – eejits.

Nevermore than at any time before is hygiene going to play a part in people’s decisions.

Consider this.

Do you get the agent round who was sounding like he had a sore throat when you called him, and he didn’t discuss anything other than taking your details and arranging a time?

Or do you go with his competitor who asked you a series of health-based questions and then explained how she would carry out the valuation safely?

I’m a content creator, so I think of everything in terms of how you can create content around it.

The good news is there are significant content opportunities here.

Below are five ideas on being seen to be clean and using that content to gain an edge and protect you, your team, your clients, and your agency’s reputation.

1) Create a short video featuring you talking about your Covid-19 health and safety policies. Share what steps you are taking to keep people safe.

2) If you have a Be Clean Be Safe, or similar policy and guidelines, share the hell out of it. (Just don’t half-inch it from another agency without their permission. Copyright infringement is costly.)

3) Take photos of your PPE – Clean Kits – deep cleaned office. Share on social media.

4) If you have a High Street office, place your Covid-19 policy in your windows for the community to see.

5) Create a blog outlining in steps how a viewing or valuation will be conducted as you exercise the highest levels of care and consideration.

All businesses are going to need to be seen to be clean, especially agents.

A variation on this mantra is Be Clean – Be Safe.

If you aren’t following either, you will fall into the lazy and dirty category at best, the recklessly dangerous category at worst.

And both are bad categories to be wallowing in.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, stay seen, be clean.

Jerry

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I wrote this back around March 25 when we went into lockdown.

A lot has happened since then, so below is an updated version.

UPDATED

Back around the time of the global credit crunch, I was lucky enough to work for a PR expert who had also been a journalist for 30 years.
He was a cantankerous old pumpkin but very worldly-wise.

He’d been in the media midst of the early 1990s recession, reporting on 9/11 and PR’ing during the 2008/09 crash.

I’ll never forget him telling me about the three predictable phases of communication we go through while the planet deals with global events.
It’s essential agents, and business owners understand these 3H’s as taught to me by my version of Mr Miyagi.

They are:
Help: when bad stuff happens, people need support, reassurance and guidance. Your content and comms should revolve around helping people right now. Ask your community what your agency can do to help, which I know many of you lovely people are doing.

Update: We’ve seen lots of agents doing great things for their communities. Foodbank collections, offices decorated to thank the NHS and even Let’s Talk projects that offer lonely or vulnerable people a chance to talk and get things off their chests.

Hope – in a recession this phase is when you’ll see and hear the phrase ‘green shoots of recovery’. With the Coronavirus I’d imagine this phase will be heralded by news of infection/death rates dropping, restrictions being relaxed etc.

For agents, this is the time your content can start selling the dream again. Begin talking about the property market once more and helping people prepare for the next phase, which follows.

Update: As of May 1, I think we’re taking our first tentative steps into this phase. Infection rates are steadying, talk of the end of lockdown is happening, and across parts of the world, quarantine is being relaxed. Now’s the time to start talking about what your agency is going to do when lockdown ends. And what people thinking of selling or renting can do to prepare.

Happiness – This is the phase when things return to ‘normal’, and if you have got your content right during the first two phases you’ll be ahead of your rivals when the race starts up again. The level playing field is a myth. You have to stay ready to be ready.

Update: No crystal ball gazing from me, but one of the things I think agents need to do is to be seen to be clean. People are going to be very health/virus conscious post lockdown. Agencies should think about how they will get that ‘clean’ message across. And if they do it’ll make helpful, interesting content.

I hope this helps make you feel a little happier about this sh!7e situation we’re all in.

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The Three Content Phases of a Global Event.

Hi folks, just a few thoughts on communication and marketing while we’re locked down.

Back around the time of the global credit crunch I was lucky enough to work for a PR expert who had also been a journalist for 30 years.
He was a cantankerous old pumpkin but very worldly-wise.

He’d been in the media midst of the early 1990s recession, reporting on 9/11 and PR’ing during the 2008/09 crash.

I’ll never forget him telling me about the three predictable phases of communication we go through while the planet deals with global events.

It’s important agents and business owners understand these 3H’s as taught to me by My own version of Mr Miyagi.

They are:

Help- when bad stuff happens people need support, reassurance and help. Your content and comms should revolve around helping people right now. Ask your community what your agency can do to help which I know many of you lovely people are doing.

Hope – in a recession this phase is when you’ll see and hear the phrase ‘green shoots of recovery’. With the Coronavirus I’d imagine this phase will be heralded by news of infection/death rates dropping, restrictions being relaxed etc. For agents, this is the time your content can start selling the dream again. Begin talking about property once more and helping people prepare for the next phase which follows.

Happiness – This is the phase when things return to ‘normal’ and if you have got your content right during the first two phases you’ll be ahead of your rivals when the race starts up again. The level playing field is a myth.

Is the content you are creating now ready for the three phases?

Go make a difference.

Jerry

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Just when estate agencies across the UK thought it couldn’t get worse, a plan by a secretive Proptech billionaire Proptech have been leaked to the press.

We have been provided with a secret copy of a news release from Cayman Island-based company, called Robotic Revolution (RR).

The release, which was due to be announced tomorrow, stated that the Footsy listed company is aiming to change the face of how homes are bought and sold.

It said: ‘We will be bringing disruptive, innovative and game-changing automation machines to the UK which are designed to reduce the roles and risks of flawed humans involved in property transactions.’

Our understanding of the statement and subsequent private emails we’ve accessed is that RR aims to eradicate the role of estate agents by up to 75 per cent by 2022, by replacing them with – robots.

Missing from the news release were mysterious Yorkshire Billionaire Adola Etish’s hacked email comments below about his ‘robot agent army’.

Etish, who ironically made his fortune in gardening tools and then hedge funds, said: “Due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus people will soon be even more scared of meeting estate agents.

“This is the perfect time to launch our product. Our robots come in all different shades of silver, can be programmed with regional accents and you can even mute them if they are waffling too much.

“They will all be sanitised and washed daily. You will not have to train them, discipline them or drug test them. One thing I can tell you about robots is that they aren’t dossers.

“We will make them available 24-7 to our clients. Our business model is firstly to sell the robots to unscrupulous corporate agencies who only care about the bottom line and get rid of staff at the drop of a hat. Then when the greedy bosses are hooked, we will up the ante by introducing Android Agents, which look just like humans, and start charging them ridiculously high fees and make jaw-dropping profits for our shareholders.”

Straight talking, Estate agency industry legend, Terry ‘No bullsh*t’ Bryans, who once owned a single office agency in Monken Hadley, said: “This is terrible news for the industry. It’s not as if we haven’t had enough threats with Brexit uncertainty, Rightmove treating us like Dickensian beggars and the Coronavirus. Now we have a bunch of Metal Mickeys and Marys coming over here taking our jobs. Well, let’s see how they cope with an 11-person chain, stroppy solicitors and student lets.”

His feelings were echoed by the man described as the Guru of all gurus and once voted Guru of the Decade, South East region, by industry award panel, the Jestas, Danny Dinkle. He said: “If these robot agents do take over it’ll be the end for all of us. Well, apart from me, because I’m a trainer and I’ll be pitching for the gig to equip these robots with the best lines of patter and how to negotiate even if their batteries are running low.”

The official date for the launch of Robot Agent has now been put on hold thanks to this article.

This breaking story will be updated. More to follow.

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All estate agency offices across the UK are closed for the foreseeable.

But they aren’t closed for business.

So it’s more important than ever to think like a Dalek if you want to remain to be seen.

Instead of the malevolent Metal Mickeys’ mantra of Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate – think:

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

I’ve seen a few posts around about ‘regular’ content on social media. If your regular content is all about property or markets or even worse your agency you need to think again and fast.

I’m sensing this kind of content over the next fortnight or so will fall on deaf ears and could even become carbon monoxide marketing – where you can’t see the damage it’s doing to your brand but it is.

Using the HITS way of content my two articles this week are – Ways to calm anxiety in testing times and How to home school successfully. And there are loads more like this in the pipeline using the HITS method.

Landlords are a different case altogether and will need educational content around their obligations, rights and responsibilities during the outbreak.

Stay safe, sane and seen people.

Jerry

PS: To find out more about the HITS system send me an email.

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