client experience

A Promise Made is a Promise Kept

I'm going to tell you an uncomfortable truth...we're all liars. 

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I know, it stings. Even when we pride ourselves on our honesty, we lie constantly. Maybe not to others, but certainly to ourselves. How many times have you promised yourself you would start on that project or that diet or that workout today, which turns into tomorrow, and eventually next week. It's not long before tomorrow turns into never either. And, that is scary if not downright terrifying. But this begs the question - why are we so comfortable breaking promises to ourselves when we couldn't imagine doing it to others. 

My a-ha moment was when I started keeping promises to myself. When I made my items in the day as non-negotiable as the deadlines set for my projects and clients, I began to see - when you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen. But as for excuses? They're the byproduct of not wanting something bad enough. 

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You will continue to produce at the standard that you set for yourself. You just have to ask yourself, am I aiming low or raising the bar? I get it, these small every day promises that you break to yourself may not seem like a big deal. In fact, you probably think I'm blowing things way out of proportion, but the truth is, I'm not. Your actions will dictate your success and if you continue to break promises to yourself, it won't be long before you're breaking them to others. 

What I love about a relentless commitment to your promises is that it forces you to be intentional about the promises you make, the goals you set, and the commitments you agree to. You're forced to slow down long enough to not only think about the commitment but the ripple effects it may have. This process of slowing down and being intentional about your time and your commitments will have drastic impacts on your effectiveness and efficiency. Just watch. 

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Current & Past Clients Relationships

While online lead generation is all the rage, we all know that there is plenty of revenue to be earned from our relationships. We are, after all, a relationship business and our ability to leverage and grow our existing relationships. Here are 5 ways to make the most of these relationships:

Understand their holistic needs

This is all about offering a value-based strategy with your clients. When you understand the holistic needs of your clients, you go beyond just the symptoms of their problems and get to the root issue at hand. This allows you to demonstrate huge value in that you understand their needs better than any other agent and are best suited to deliver for them in an impactful way.

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Check in along the way.

Many agents make the mistake of simply plugging clients into a tried and true method of doing business. While this isn’t completely off-base, consumers change and so does the nature of our business. You have to establish yourself as constantly evolving and constantly responsive to your client’s needs by checking in with them as they navigate the process with you. Aim to please, but more importantly - aim to evolve by asking “how could I be better tomorrow?”

Retarget them on social media.

This is one of the most underutilized methods for staying in touch because retargeting is often misunderstood or not understood at all! By retargeting your consumers on Facebook or Instagram, you’re able to continue to grab their attention with information that is directly relevant to them. This is an extremely cost-effective way to mass market highly relevant content. If retargeting is not something you fully grasp, partner with someone who does so you can utilize it in your business.

Keep in touch.

Talk about missed opportunities! Keeping in touch is one of the lowest cost solutions to growing your business. Too often we think “I don’t know what to say” or “they don’t want to hear from me” and if all your talking about is real estate, you’re probably right. But think about how you feel when an old friend calls or sends and unexpected gift or note. It gives a sense of surprise and delight and that’s exactly what you want to deliver to your past clients.

Fully understand their journey with you.

You can’t expect to solve someone’s problems when you don’t understand their experience. Taking the time to fully understand what your prospects and clients are going through is essential to building out a truly memorable user experience. Focus on asking questions that will help reveal how you can enhance your processes and better connect with your clients then implementing solutions designed to address those problems.


Moving Forward

Great brands are more than just fancy (or simple) logos, more than just vision statements, or cutting-edge marketing. The core of a great brand rests in their actions and the actions of those associated with the brand. It requires that you take the words off the page and live your creed. But to build a great brand, you have to have more than branding - you have to have character. 

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Take, for example, Uber. This is a brand that despite their one-time lofty valuation of $69 billion dollars, has had their fair share of struggles. In fact, many of my friends have fully abandoned Uber as a result and moved to other rideshare providers such as Lyft. But Uber as a brand is making an effort to come back from their setbacks through their new Moving Forward campaign. Now, taken at face value there is nothing particularly remarkable about Uber's moving forward campaign and many probably see it as a mere effort to regain the sought after appeal that they once had. Frankly, I thought that. But then I experienced what my hope is the campaign in action. 

Last Friday night, my wife and I took an Uber to dinner to see our friend play music at a local restaurant. After some glitches with the app, the driver, Vicki, called us to ensure that she was headed to us on the fastest route. This was my first inclination that we were about to have a great experience, but at the time, it didn't seem any more than good customer service. She was pleasant to talk to during the ride and very accommodating asking us standard questions such as "would you like the air adjusted?" or what type of music we preferred. I jokingly asked her if she had ever considered real estate. All in all, 5-stars! 

Now, when it was time to come home, my wife went to call another Uber to take us home. What are the chances, but it was Vicki again! We laughed to each other when she picked us up exclaiming how that never happens. We chatted with her our whole ride home and learned a lot about her story and even about her recent homebuying process. The fact that we asked about that, we'll just call an occupational hazard. Vicki dropped us off, wished us well, and went on her way. 

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Here is where things get interesting. On Sunday afternoon, our doorbell rings. I couldn't figure out who would be stopping by, and when I answered the door, it was Vicki! I was obviously surprised to see her, but she immediately held out her hand with a set of car keys explaining that she found these in her back seat and she thought they might be ours. They weren't. So, I asked her, "what are you going to do now?" She went on to explain that we were her sixth house and she had about fifteen more to go by to see if they had left the keys. Talk about living your creed of making the rider experience next level! Vicki is the example. She's living it. 

You see, Vicki probably doesn't even know about the Moving Forward campaign. I didn't until the other day either. And she probably doesn't have any personal connection to the company's leadership. Not to mention, she does this as a side hustle. But what Vicki does do is she lives the commitment the brand is making to move forward, to improve every ride, and to put people first. I can think of a long list of things that Vicki probably would've rather done on Sunday afternoon than drive around to all of her riders pick up points, but to her, it wasn't about what she preferred to do. It was about the commitment she had made to a brand, to the rider, and to herself. That's something to be proud of. 

5-stars, Vicki.  

Effective Communication Starts With You

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No matter how many transactions you do, every real estate transaction is different. They each come with their own clients, cooperating agents, inspectors, lenders, appraisers, and most of all - complications. In real estate, but mostly in life - effective communication is essential.

So often when there is a lapse in communication, we are quick to blame the other party. Yet, when things go off the rails, we often must look inward to solve the problem. Others ability to understand us and further communication with us starts with us

Here are some easy-to-implement ways to improve your communication:

Set Expectations. We hear a lot about setting expectations - with our clients, on the other side, with other agents, etc. But this goes beyond setting expectations during the transaction and boils down to the need to set expectations at every turn. 

Have Empathetic Awareness. Empathy goes a long way to effectively communicating with others. It helps you understand what they're going through and how it is impacting their position so it offers insight into how what you communicate could be interpreted and even responded to. When you take the time to understand how the other half lives and perceives you can understand how to communicate effectively with them. 

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PRAA. This one is a tough one for me. Sometimes when we're driven by passion, it is difficult to pause long enough to really absorb what someone else is saying or consider an alternate perspective. This is a huge disservice to both ourselves and our communication. Instead of charging ahead, I use this acronym to help me communicate effectively. Whenever I hear something, I try to take the time to pause and truly listen to what the other side is saying, not just hear it. From there, I reflect on what was said, why it was said, what the tone was, and how I can respond. Next, I adjust my response accordingly. Not necessarily to abandon my perspective, but to deliver my thoughts in a manner that the other side will be most receptive to. And lastly, then I act. Saving actions for last isn't always easy, but it is certainly worth the time you'll save in ineffective communications. 

Whether or not you utilize these methods, investing in your communication skills isn't just a necessary component for a successful real estate career, but a successful life. Becoming an effective communicator you will see the benefits both in your career and your personal life. I guarantee it. If you're looking for one thing that can truly set you apart from the pack, this is it. 

Set the Standard

One of the things I love most about being an entrepreneur is that I am able to decide who I want to work with. My clients make up a hard-working, committed group of individuals and teams who believe in doing the work. It makes my work so much more rewarding and satisfying. What if I told you that you have the same luxury? You can choose who you work with, too. And more importantly, you can decide how you are treated in this business. 

In real estate, this is admittedly easier said than done. It is difficult to resist the urge to "jump" when the client/prospect says so, or to be responsive at all hours because our livelihood is constantly at stake. The question looms in our minds of..."if we set the boundary for ourselves, will another agent be able to swoop in and capture my clients?" It is certainly a risk and I wholeheartedly acknowledge that; however, I don't believe that it is as big of a risk as we have convinced ourselves. 

Our businesses and our lives are a product of the expectations that we have set for ourselves and for others. You are responsible for teaching people how you want to be treated and they are responsible for how they choose to interact with you as a result. If you find yourself with no downtime or feeling frazzled, you have likely let people control your boundaries instead of controlling them yourself. In a business where time is at a premium, you have to have the willpower to control how you allocate it. Just remember, every time you say "no" it opens the opportunity for a whole lot of "yes."

How Can I Help?

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My good friend, Zach Schabot has a saying that he uses with almost everyone he speaks with on any given day... "how can I help?" No, he isn't a barista at Starbucks and he doesn't wait tables - in fact, he works for Zillow. But this is something Zach has been saying for years, long before his time at Zillow. This sort of saying is exactly why Zach has always been someone I have trusted and looked up to. 

So, maybe you're asking yourself...why is such a simple question a business revelation? Well, because far too often, we don't ask the question. We assume that the mere fact that someone is working with us means they are satisfied or even happy. But as Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing and countless other books talks about - just because a client is current, doesn't mean they're happy. To ensure that you're delivering happy experiences - Stratten suggests a practice called the "StartStopContinue," where you ask your clients three questions:

  1. What should I start doing?

  2. What should I stop doing?

  3. What should I continue doing?

I firmly believe that sometimes we avoid asking questions when we're afraid of the answer or not committed to putting in the work to make the change the answer may call for. You see, asking isn't just about personal gain, it is about understanding the context of how you are interacting with others. Are you consistently engaging with your clients the same way that you are engaging with your prospects? Are you valuing their business the same way that you value a prospect? Do you even know if your current customers are in fact happy or are they just so far along that it is more of a pain to switch agents than to just continue their mediocre experience? If you have to wonder, you don't know, which means you need to ask. 

Let's say that your focus is referrals. When 80% of people seek a recommendation when making any kind of buying decision and over roughly 67% of people take that recommendation - referrals are a good focus as well. The key to referrals is that you have to ask your clients to refer you! Happy customers may very well be happy, but consumers don't frequently talk about their experience (both positively and negatively) unless they are prompted to. Don't be shy, tell your clients how they can help you grow your business. They often want to help, but they don't know how to best do so. People inherently want to help those that have invested in them in a meaningful way. They want to help, they just need you to tell them how to go about doing so. 

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Now, back to Zach and his helpful saying. Well, the phrase "how can I help?" isn't anything groundbreaking, but the practice is. What makes this special is Zach never leads with this statement - instead, he invests his time and energy in you to understand what it is you're doing, what you want to achieve, and how he might be able to help. Then...he asks. Anyone who knows Zach is probably smiling as they read this because they know that he is being 100% genuine with an offer to help in any way that he can with just about whatever it is that he is learning about at that moment. It is one of those charming qualities of his. But this goes beyond charm, this is just plain good business. You see, asking has gotten a bad rep. It has been perceived as pushy and self-serving, but this ask is neither of those things. Why? Because this ask is truly selfless. It is asking to invest in you even more than he already is. That, my friends...that is special. That, my friends...that's Zach. 

 

 

Deliver With Care

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Last night, I came home to a package on my front porch. The box was beaten up and half opened. My immediate thought was - "I wonder what happened to that thing!" My second thought, however, was, "I can't believe this was how they handled someone's package." Sure, it was a box of paper towels and nothing inside was damaged, but the nature of the delivery changed my entire feelings about what I was receiving. I went from feeling excitement and curiosity of seeing what might be inside a box to questioning everything about the box and the person that delivered it. 

Okay, I'm probably overthinking the situation, I mean, it was paper towels. But, this got me wondering - the way we deliver our thoughts and feelings matters just as much. And in real estate, we have no shortage of things we deliver - messages of excitement, tough news, hopes, dreams, and just about everything in between. What happens if we ignore our delivery and don't handle these things with the care they deserve? Someone might miss the intended message all together if delivery isn't handled properly.  This makes you think twice about how you say things, doesn't it? It did for me. I know, it is still just a box of paper towels, but follow me for a second. 

In his popular TED Talk, Julian Treasure suggests that when you approach someone with honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love - they are absolutely more likely to listen to your input. Interestingly, none of these work alone, but rather, they must work together to effectively deliver our thoughts, opinions, or even expertise. For instance, honesty alone can be rather brutal. "Mr. & Mrs. Jones, that price just doesn't make sense. Your home isn't all that nice" might very well be true, but it certainly isn't a sentiment being delivered with love or care. A simple adjustment to say "Mr. & Mrs. Jones, I would love to sell your home for that price! But, based on the comparable properties we simply cannot justify that. The upgrades you have done are beautiful and have certainly added value, but I also know that it is important to be moved in your new home before Joey starts school in August. If we price your home competitively now and market it effectively; we don't have to worry about adjusting the price later, how that may look to buyers, and we can focus on your next chapter. So, what do you say?" 

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Do you see how the tone and delivery of the second version far outweigh the first? The difference was love and care. When we take the time to deliver things with love and care, the entire message can be received differently. Take for example the company Zappos, who's entire branding is "Delivering Happiness." They are so committed to delighting their customer that they want everything about the experience of dealing with Zappos to bring happiness. And frankly, as a frequent Zappos shopper...it does. You see, delivery makes a big difference in how someone feels about whatever they are receiving whether it is words or an Amazon Prime order of paper towels. So, as you kick off this new month, think about how you will deliver happiness. How will you delight your customers?

Love Is A Verb

Well, just like that, February is here. The month of love. Love is something we're pretty familiar with in real estate. Homes are often bought and sold during moments of falling in and out of love. And of course, there is the ever-popular sentiment of "I LOVE my clients."

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Now, I'm not saying that you don't love or appreciate your clients. I actually believe that you genuinely do. All I'm asking is: do you make a an effort show that to your clients on a regular basis? This thought took me back to the John Mayer song, Love Is A Verb. You see, the act of love requires effort, presence, patience, and action. My guess is that you likely showed your appreciation through a lovely closing gift, but what are you consistently doing now to continue to show your clients you appreciate them? The transaction has finished, but have you fallen out of love? Closing gifts are great, but when you have a stack of branded swag in your office that you grab on your way to closing, it comes off as a generic token of obligation.  I mean, I can't recall the last time someone sold a house because of a knife set their agent gifted them at closing. Worse yet, what if things didn't go smoothly? Still thinking a knife set is a great idea? Instead, why not jump at the opportunity to leave someone with a smile? Take the time to come up with something personalized that show you value who they are and the opportunity to work with them. Sure, it will take more time and more thought, but haven't they earned that from you?

As I was scrolling my Instagram feed this week, I came across The Amy Curtis Group's post about their Vision Board Party. I instantly thought to myself, what a genuinely engaging way to show your appreciation for your clients and friends! And what better way to connect, I mean really connect with people than to explore their hopes and dreams together. The entire idea really got me thinking how lucky we are as agents to help people navigate, achieve, and live so many of those dreams. It is pretty powerful. Isn't it the least we can do to show them, love?

Showing appreciation is a constant process. And with any process, it requires mindfulness in order to continue to deliver. But, mindfulness is hard. Much like love, it requires time, patience, and effort. But it isn't impossible. This month, I challenge you to find little ways of letting your clients - past and present; your friends; and yes, even your loved ones know that they matter and you appreciate them. Maybe it is a quick text with something that made you think of them or maybe it is an email to reach out and check-in. Maybe it is even giving the gift of your time and enjoying their company. Regardless of how you choose to show your love, make sure you remember what John Mayer says....

Love ain’t a crutch. It ain’t an excuse. No, you can’t get through love with just a pile of I-O-Us.”
— John Mayer, Love Is A Verb

Swag That Sticks

don't know about you, but I love good swag. Not the junk that someone tosses in a gift bag, but something I like to call "sticky swag." Swag is really just a vehicle to tell your brand story or start a conversation. Isn't that the goal? To get your consumers/clients to tell their story that you were a part of? I think so. To me, there is nothing more frustrating than combing through the meaningless trinkets that are brought home that don't resonate with me. Why? Because they don't make sense. They seem wasteful and thoughtless. In a world where every dollar matters - why are you wasting money on swag that doesn't tell a story or that you need a manual to figure out? Like this pen that BMW sent me a few years ago that took me 15 minutes to figure out was a pen!

So who are some companies with great swag? A few of my favorite companies with "sticky swag" are Contactually, BoomTown, and Giveback Homes. Why? Because their swag is second to none and their story always resonates. They have "sticky swag" in that none of their swag feels like they just dug through a closet in the marketing department and gave you the random junk they found. Their swag has thought, has story, and most of all - has purpose. As a real estate agent, you should have the same intent when you give away swag. You should want your swag to be useful, interesting, and meaningful. 

Take for example, Contactually. As a Contactually Ambassador, they take the time to send me swag from time to time. What is fun about Contactually is that they find a way to give away swag that you will use on a regular basis. More than that, they have swag that can save you in a pinch, like when you need to give your phone a little juice or your 5-year old forgot sunglasses on your Bahamian vacation. But, more than the physical swag, Contactually has a way of showing you that they care. Like when they sent me this kaleidoscope after I shared a very personal story of the meaning of kaleidoscopes to me on stage at Inman Connect San Francisco last year. 

Contactually understands that the impact of swag isn't always in the item, it is in the story. When I share how they took the time to not just send me an item, but seek out and have a hand-crafted item created to show me how much they value me as a customer...I think, "wow, that has impact." Are you conveying how much you value your customer's business? 

Personal connection drives growth. Just as the meaning of swag is more than the item, the reach should be too. "Sticky swag" is swag that your client's want to share and show off. These don't always have to be high-dollar items, but showing to clients that you value when they share your story and your brand is a great way to maximize your reach. 

On a recent vacation, my fiance was wearing some swag sunglasses given to us by BoomTown. The sunglasses met the basic criteria of "sticky swag" in that they were slick looking, comfortable, and something that we wanted to use. This is something that BoomTown does extremely well! Their swag is always high-quality, which is so worth it, because it has a much longer shelf-life. They also have the BEST t-shirts of any company that I have come across. 

I digress...well, as we ventured out on our first day of vacation, we had arranged to swim with the dolphins. When the trainer asked my fiance to borrow her sunglasses so Astro could take them for a spin, we were excited to watch. Luckily for us (and for BoomTown) there was a professional photographer on-site. The remarkable part of this story, besides the dolphin's ability to balance the sunglasses as he swam, was that the first thought we all had was "make sure the photographer gets a shot so that we can share this with the BoomTown team!" How amazing is that? Not only were we utilizing the swag, we had the desire to share it because the company made us feel valued. The company made us feel like that would matter to them. 

So, if you think about your swag - what makes it "sticky?" Do consumers find it useful, engaging, and important? Swag is just like content in that what you put out is a true reflection of your brand. It has to make sense. Let your swag tell your brand's story, have a little fun with it, show your consumers that your value them, and you never know - maybe they'll send you a picture of your swag on a dolphin someday. Imagine the possibilities! 

*Disclaimer: I am a Contactually client and a past BoomTown client

Beyond Showing Up

Last week, I headed off to the grocery store. It was a rather dreary day where everyone sort of had that weather related scowl on their face. As I walked in the store, I was greeted with a lovely smile and positive energy by Janice, one of the employees. Her smile was contagious and immediately changed my entire energy. As I shopped around the store, I kept smiling and thinking to myself, "wow, she really is a great brand ambassador with that kind of energy."

As I rolled my cart to the checkout, again Janice greeted me and helped me load the contents of my cart onto the counter. As we put the last item on, she handed me a bouquet of flowers, to which I replied "Thank you ma'am, but those weren't mine." Once again, Janice greeted me with her warm smile and replied, "Everyone needs a little sunshine in their day! They're from me to you!" 

I was floored. So much so, that I sent my fiance this photo as I wheeled my cart back out to the parking lot. In that small moment, Janice shifted my entire day. It wasn't what she said or did (although both were undeniably charming), it was what she did that was beyond my expectation. She surprised and delighted. She did more than just show up. Nothing that she did fell into Janice's job description, but her action that exceeded my expectations ensured my continued business. 

One of my favorite blog posts of all time is Beyond Showing Up by Seth Godin because he explains that merely showing up isn't enough anymore. It isn't enough to meet expectations, you must exceed them. Think about that for a moment. When you go to a deli and order a sandwich, it is your expectation that after a few minutes - the person behind the counter will slide over a sandwich. Sure, the taste may exceed your expectations. The service may delight you. The price might even make you want to come back. But what if you ordered a sandwich and nothing ever crossed the counter? That is the equivalent to a homebuyer or seller utilizing you and you not helping them buy or sell a home. Getting to the closing table doesn't exceed expectations. You're merely delivering the sandwich at that point. There is so much more that goes into exceeding expectations! 

Sure, half the battle is showing up, but you realize that is only half  the battle, right? You still must "surprise and delight" as Seth puts it. You still must prove the reason why they chose you. Why they love you. Why you matter beyond your presence. When we spend our days merely meeting expectations by closing transactions, we are doing nothing to ensure our growth or customer satisfaction.

What is funny about us as professionals is that we spend countless hours and thousands (maybe millions) of dollars seeking how to set ourselves apart when the answer is right in front of us. In fact, the answer is us! It is you. Your actions are what set you apart - not some shiny object or fancy software. Your ability to connect as a human. Your ability to surprise and to delight. Your ability to overdeliver. 

I ask you, how are you working to surprise and delight your customers each day? Are you leaving an impact? Are you meeting expectations or exceeding them? If you step back and look at your business, I think you will find that surprising and delighting your consumers is much easier than you think. 

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