From a friend who is an established consultant, who has both worked for major consultancies and run his own shop. He gives us these useful pointers today -
"A Primer on Collecting Late Payments"
Anyone who has ever done business has had occasional difficulties collecting payments from customers. Experience shows that putting some attention (in advance) on a couple of key items can help resolve the lion's share of these issues.
First general rule: Your written communication style and professionalism can go a long way toward inducing unwilling customers to pay up more quickly than otherwise.
Let me clarify these two terms:
By "communication style" I mean, whatever you do to inform the customer about his financial obligation -- initial written agreement, general terms and conditions, invoice, reminder letters, notice of breach of contract or other warnings, do it in a timely, crystal clear and understandable way. I recommend you spend at least some time up front thinking about what you would say in each of these documents, so that it doesn't sound as if it has been prepared in a rush or under stress.
By "professionalism" I mean striking the balance between being friendly toward your customer but strict about the payment deadlines (which you clearly set in writing at the time you made the agreement with the customer. I know a lot of business people are extremely aggressive to the point of being offensive and hostile, but in my experience you stand to lose business and create conflicts by failing to add personal consideration and the human touch.
In the oilpatch where I worked, industry standard was net-90, and if you didn't like it you could suck it.
The way the little guys (like the guys that changed our truck tires) got around it was refusing service unless it was accompanied by a credit card or purchase order. No invoicing allowed. However, that only worked once said company had run out their credit all over town and they had no other options.
I'm guessing you have nowhere near that kind of traction. If you're going to negotiate, you have to be willing to walk away; for you to have power you have to be hard (or at least inconvenient) to replace. Aaaaand, you have to remember that even if you get a verbal agreement, they still might not uphold it (you already have a written contract, so what's bitching going to do?)
Personally, if they say net-60 and they actually DO pay after 60 days, I wouldn't choose this battle (check with other vendors...someone's always willing to bitch). If they don't pay reliably after 60 days, you're essentially making yourself their bitch (see also, Don't Buy The Keg)
"I know a lot of business people are extremely aggressive to the point of being offensive and hostile, but in my experience you stand to lose business and create conflicts by failing to add personal consideration and the human touch."
It can be tough to find a balance between being pushed around and sounding aggressive.
I just started with a client, a large corporation. Even though they signed a contract agreeing to net-30, in the kick-off call, they said, "Oh, we have to pay net-60 due to company policy."
So what do I do? I still want this business and I know they are reputable about sending payments.
I decided to broach the subject; to get an explanation at the very least, while agreeing to the net-60.
Was it worth touching the subject from the beginning to show I am not a push over? Or was it a battle not even worth fighting?
“A Primer on Collecting Late Payments, Part 2"
The first general rule on collecting late payments was about overall professionalism and communication style. The second point naturally follows from the first one and is a critical elaboration of it.
Second general rule: Payout and delivery, both amounts and due dates are a critical part of the agreement. Make sure they are stated in writing in advance.
Be aware that it is bad practice to make any business agreement otherwise. In many cases it may be appropriate to add provisions to the agreement for late payment, which may even include late payment penalties or collection charges. It is a good idea to tie the price very specifically to the payout, payment terms and deadlines. For example:
* A payment of USD $1,000 will be made by the buyer on 5 March 2012. * This amount represents a 20% discount off the regular price of USD $1,250. * Discount prices are no longer valid for payments made later than 10 working days after the due date.
I was recently on a social media panel for the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS, on behalf of DROdio Real Estate. The panelists were:
1Daniel R. Odio
I was recently on a social media panel for the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS, on behalf of DROdio Real Estate. The panelists were: 1Daniel R. Odio 2Danilo Bogdanovic 3Heather Elias 4Frank LLosa A video of the event is above. Transcription of Event: Welcome everybody to the social media panel. My name is Ainsley McDougal. I am the online communications manager for NVAR. Let me tell you a little bit about the speakers today. We'll start with Danilo Bogdanovic. Danilo is a member of the Information Management Committee at Virginia Association of Reatlors. He is a Founding Member/Advisor at Center for Real Estate and Social Technologies (CREST) and a Real Estate Consultant and REALTOR at Market Advantage Real Estate. 00:00 Heather Elias is a full time Realtor with Century 21, Redwood Realty in Ashburn. She writes about Loundon County Real Estate on her blog: www.localmusings.com and she writes about local market stats at www.localmarketstats.com Heather has spoken about social media in RE Tech South in Atlanta, Georgia and various real estate bar camps across the country. She writes for the Virginia Association of Realtors blog which is www.varbuzz.com as well as forwww.agentgenius.com. She has a heavy emphasis on online marketing and social media usage. Roughly 75% - 80% of her business is generated from these efforts. Heather graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Journalism. 00:58 Next I will introduce Frank Llosa. He is the principal broker and owner of www.franklyrealty.com He is a graduate from the university of Virginia at School of Commerce. Before entering Real Estate, Frank was a professional photographer with photos featured in National Geographic Traveler, Time Life, Esquire, GQ, and Petersons Photographic. Frank then went on to create two successful dot com sites for real estate. He began his career as the MBA Rookie of the year for 2003 in sales. Just last week In Man announced that he was the finalist for two awards, one for his blog entitled "Trust Me, I'm a Realtor," and for his www.franklymls.com site which was the first wiki mls site and his blog has been quoted in Business Week, CNBC, and dozens of other publications. 01:59 Last but certainly not least, Daniel Odio who is the founder of DROdio Real Estate, Inc. which is a real estate brokerage. He is the founder of CardÃ©a Commercial Real Estate Advisors which is a commercial real estate brokerage specializing in replacement properties for investors. Daniel is a registered securities representative series 22 and 63 licenses. He has been featured on CNN, CNBC, TLC,The Wall Street Journal and many other publications for his innovative use of technology and social media in the real estate business. Daniel is the creator of www.IdealRoute.com which has been branded by VAR and it's a tool that allows you to use the most efficient route when showing properties. 02:49 Let me start out by taking a poll of the audience. Here is the first thing we want to know: how did you all find out about this? Could you raise your hand if you found out about this from twitter? A couple of people. Did you all get the e-mail we sent earlier this week that prompted you? OK. What about Face Book? Did any of you get the Face Book invitation? A few of you. And what about www.nvar.com? Wow. We're going to work on our website. 03:22 Before we begin with the different topics that we want to talk about, the panel would like to know how many of you use, primarily to communicate with your clients, e-mail that is your primary form of communication? What about texting? What about phone calls? Still tried and true method. Instant Messenger? And who of you are currently blogging? How many of you use Twitter? Those of you on twitter today can see that we have a has tag. What you see on the screen back here is the stream for everything that's being posted to the hash tag. You'll see several of the panelists put things up on there and if you have a question you can put it up on there. I'll keep monitoring it and see what happens. Who of you uses You Tube? Now let's differentiate. Who of you uses videos on your websites? One hand. Who uses Active Rein? Is there anything else that I didn't cover that you all are using? 05:23 All right. I think we're going start off pretty big and heavy. Everybody is here to hear about social media, so do you all actually find that there is a return on investment for use of social media? 05:40 Daniel Odio: Let me start by saying I'm really excited to be here with you guys because there is so much opportunity for you to use these tools that we live by to really increase your business. It's a very exciting thing to be here. Specifically for the ROI question, absolutely. We wouldn't be dedicating a lot of our time to it if it wasn't really, really effective. I'm sure we will talk more about that. For example, our firm hardly ever does any traditional marketing, i.e. flyers, and that sort of thing, postcards, we do it almost all electronically now. That gives you an example of how effective it is for us.06:37Heather Elias: Obviously in the opening remarks she said that I generate about 75% - 80% of my business from my social media efforts so obviously I'm seeing a return on investment. I view it as a tool to reach out to my clients, but also to prospect for new clients. Definitely like Daniel said we wouldn't be spending an inordinate amount of time if we weren't seeing real active business from it. 07:05 Heather? Is that 75% - 80% return clients or new or combination? 07:11 Heather Elias: That is newly generated business via social media efforts. I've been in business for five years so I'm at the point in my career where I don't have a lot of repeat business yet, so I'm using it as a way to generate new business. That's all new business. 07:34 Frank Llosa: I'm in the same boat as Heather. 75% of my new business comes from social media or online efforts. I don't do pretty much any direct mailing, post cards, print ads, none of that, all the traditional marketing. I know it works for some people. I came from a company that has used it for 20 some odd years and it's still working for them. For me that's just what I prefer. Not to say that you can't mix the two. I believe the return on investment is greater because the cost of newspaper and paper is just going up versus everything online. Social media is actually cheaper if not free already. That's why I think the return on investment is much greater. 08:26 Danilo Bogdanovic: I also question absolutely but with my blogging it's so integrated into my business I can no longer segment it down to see what part of my business is that. It's all part of it. You don't say what percentage of your business is your phone. Once a week I'll get an e-mail that says I just finished reading two or three hours of your blog and I want to use you and I want to use you next week. They're asking me to sign an exclusive agreement because because I have a blog saying why they should sign an exlusive buying agreement. I reply to their e-mail right away and so it changes the way you do your business. 09:18 Daniel Odio: If it's OK I'd like to just add onto what Frank is saying and define what social media means to us. If I were sitting in your shoes and if I hadn't been using it, I would be curious as to what exactly it is. So maybe I'll just start with that and then we'll all add in. Social media is a tool like the telephone is a tool. You have to think about it as a tool. It's not some crazy, not understandable thing. Just think of it as another type of telephone. The way that I approach social media is by really focusing on the content. What I mean by that is we are all experts with our profession. We have so much content inside of our heads and it's so hard to get that content out of our heads and into the hands of the people that need to know about it when they're making a purchasing or selling decision. Social media is that vehicle that allows us to communicate the expertise that's in our heads and put it into the hands of the people that need it while they're making that choice. That's the beauty of social media. For example, at www.DROdio.com/lowball there is a video that I spent an hour and a half putting together; longer than I would ever spend talking to a client about a topic if I were meeting with them. I really put a lot of thought about what I wanted to say into that video. A lot of new clients that are very price-sensitive I just sent them that video. That's my expertise from my head transferred to You Tube so that clients can now get it 1000 times over and I only had to spend an hour and a half once. So that's an example of using social media like Frank was saying writing two or three hours on a blog about things he talked over with a client and then 1000 or 10,000 people can read that blog over and over again. It's really working in your favor. 11:07 Frank Llosa: It's not only the 10,000 people that can read it, but also the three people that would want one hour of your time for you to explain it to them one on one. So it's two different audiences. One is like the random surfer that finds it and two is someone who asks a question that requires a long answer. You have to then spend ten minutes on the quick version or one hour version talking about the pro's and con's or what we do it spend about eight seconds sending a link to something that I wrote that talks about it that took four or five hours to write and is in depth and updated. Initially they might be put off, "You sent me a link. How impersonal." But when they actually go to the site and read it they understand that I wouldn't have been able to write that e-mail from scratch just for them. 12:07 Danilo Bogdanovic: I'm going to take onto what Frank said. A lot of people may wonder how long do we spend doing this. I'm not a writer. I don't know how many hours. This of it this way: in a conversation about short sales, you could probably talk for four hours to somebody asking a question about it versus taking two to four hours or even longer if you're just starting out and worrying about how to write, but when you have enough stuff posted, you just send them a link. That's true for any and all things. How's the market? Funny you mentioned that. I just published a blog about that yesterday. Here's the link. You're spending time up front, but in the long run you're actually saving a lot of time so that you can show property and do things that truly translates directly to money and then this brings the clients in and you get a following from that. People start reading it. I'm sure Frank and everybody here can attest that a usual e-mail or phone call will be: "Hey, I've been reading your blog ..." You have no idea that they're out there. They're just kind of watching you. Not like Big Brother. All of a sudden they call and they say: "Hey when can we go and see properties. I have a pre-approval letter from XYZ bank, I'm good to go, I know what I want, what are you doing this weekend. 13:30 Daniel Odio: The craziest part about it is that it's like a warm referral. They act like warm referrals. These are cold leads that are acting like warm referrals because they've been reading about all this stuff that's been inside your head. 13:55 Heather Elias: When you walk in the door and someone has had the time to look at what you've put online whether it's video content or a twitter stream or a blog, they've already sort of been introduced to you so you don't have to put your expertise forward in the first 15 minutes you're in the door. They already have a pretty good idea about who you are. A strict definition of social media from my standpoint is it's another way to meet clients that I otherwise wouldn't have had an introduction to whether it's someone who e-mails me because they've been reading my blog or if it's someone who is looking for help in buying or looking to relocated to the area. Those are people that I would have never met if they hadn't read my blog or found me via twitter or something along those lines. From my standpoint it's a means of communication. It's no different than having a conversation with someone you just met at the grocery store. You just have to have a computer. 14:58 Daniel Odio: If there is one thing that you take away from this conversation today from my perspective it's just that this is supremely accessible stuff. There is no cost or very low cost. Everybody in this room can walk out today and go do a You Tube video today and get that information out of your head and into the hands of the people that need it. It's very, very doable stuff. So that's my hope that you leave today feeling empowered that you know how to do this. 15:25 Danilo Bogdanovic: Just to touch on what social media is, think of it this way, media is a way of basic communication. Rather than the Chamber of Commerce meetings, rather than the telephone, rather than going out to happy hours and luncheons and dinners and meeting a friend of friend at a cocktail party or a kids birthday, those are all ways to communicate and we've all been doing that for years. Now we're just taking the same type of communication and we're just putting it online. So it's the conversation you've always been having, you're just doing it online. The social aspect of it is - first you start doing this stuff and then, all of a sudden, people start commentating and reading. Then you engage in conversation online. That's really the social aspect of it. So that's basically what social media is, at least in my opinion. It's just a different means of communication doing the exact same types of communication as you have been for years. 16:28 Frank Llosa: I see it as everyone having their own HGTV channel and you're the host. Everyone is watching you like they watch once a week and you are driving the ship. You become the CNN. They go directly to the source that CNN is asking which is you. One might ask: well why are we telling you guys how to get on social media because then you might be competing with us and taking away our readers. It doesn't work like that. The more content that you put out there, the more knowledgeable consumers are and the more likely it makes them to buy because the biggest hindrance to buying is information, I think. So the more information you have the more likely they are to get off the fence. Also the more you write, the more people there are reading, the more content there is out there which makes them more likely to read out stuff. So it all works together for the betterment of everyone. 17:21 Heather Elias: Here is the great thing too: when you put yourself out there if it's in a blog or whatever vehicle you're using for doing that, that puts your own voice out there and that's why it's not us teaching what we are doing. It isn't a competitive thing because no one else can be me just like no one else is going to represent you out there. You will attract clients that want to work with you. They're going to respond to what you're writing and that's what's going to cause them to email you. 17:52 Ainsley McDougal: So if I could put a caption around what you all just said basically social media regardless of the tool that you use whether it be Face Book or Twitter or blogging it just means that you're putting yourself out there for whoever to read it and whoever wants to follow along can and that's a way of communicating not only who you are as a person, but the institution and experience knowledge that you all have gained through your real estate career. 18:24 Daniel Odio: Just to put a finer point on that, it's very importantly not just existing clients, but it's those people making that purchasing or selling decision. So I always say it's getting that content out of your head and into their hands. 18:38 Heather Elias: You could view it as having a store that's open 24 hours a day and that blog is my store front. Somebody might see something they're interested in so they're going to shop a little bit. It's not a product, but it's the product of my expertise. I don't have to be monitoring it constantly for someone to come on and find me. 18:55 Daniel Odio: Just to give you one example, who here works the Herndin market where we are now? 10 of you. How many buyers and sellers are there in Herndin right now looking for property at this very moment? 50? 500? Why don't they know that you work Herndin. They should know that. That's what social media allows you to do. 19:33 How do you start a blog? Everybody has a website. How do you cause it to have a blog? 19:39 Daniel Odio: We're going to get into a lot of the details on how to handle the specifics. I don't know if we want to structure that answer. 19:50 Heather Elias: We'll get into the specifics later. Ainsley McDougal: I think the next thing that I want to get is how did you all start? Before you ever got into blogging or Twitter, how did you all start? What did you choose to begin with? Did you already know? Did you have an idea of where you wanted to start or did you just start? 20:16 Heather Elias: I sort of fell into it and it grew. I saw a few people raise their hands and say they were blogging with Active Rain. That's where I got started. I started writing there and I think my Twitter account came after, but I would say starting the original blog on on Active Rain was how I got started. Danilo Bogdanovic: The question is: Do you have to be a good writer and the answer is absolutely not look at Frank! That actually ties in with what Heather said. I started out blogging. That was my first thing before Twitter and all this other really cool stuff now. I was the absolute king of run on sentences when I started blogging. My one sentence was a paragraph long. So it took a long time, I asked a lot of questions about what other people wrote. I was horrible. I had to learn how to write. Here I am today so it can be done. There are people who specialize in Journalism and English hit the ground running that's fine they fail in other aspects such as statistics and mathematics. I focused more on statistics to get comfortable with it rather than the long writing. 22:26 Heather Elias: We're going to talk about etiquette. Daniel Odio: One thing that I would say is that I completely understand how intimidating this can be to make a You Tube video. All it is is an extension of yourself. It's an extension of the stuff you already have in your head. I would say that you should start with the stuff that you are the most comfortable with. Are you most comfortable with writing or are you most comfortable being in front of a camera or just doing an audio when you're driving to see a client and you think about a short sale piece of content just record that and get somebody to transcribe it into text for you. Even if you just take a video of your cat walking across your desk. Just make yourself take the video and upload it to You Tube and then you can check that off your list and say you've done it. It's not worth anything. It's a cat, but I've done it. 23:28 Frank Llosa: It's what I call the hello world blog post or video. There are two hurdles: one is creating your YouTube account and creating your blog and the second one is writing something monumental. Well remove that and just people the camera in front of yourself and say: "Hi, test, hello world," end. Get it up on YouTube and you have officially started your You Tube Channel. The second is writing something monumental which we'll talk about later what to blog and websites you can post. Your first post should be "Hello World." and then submit it to Ainsley and she'll have some kind of contest. 24:23 Daniel Odio: The last thing on this for me is: you do not need to be intimidated you do not need to be perfect. I personally think the more real the video looks the better. I, as a consumer, if I see a polished video it looks like a marketing slick to me. But if I see someone who just has a camera and is saying something to me that is really valid I tend to gravitate towards that more. So don't be intimidated by the professionalism piece of this because that's what you're selling; you're selling yourself. 24:52 Frank Llosa: No editing. Just take the video camera, shove it in your face, stutter, skip, mess up and just post it straight raw. If you try to get into video editing it's just never going to happen. 25:06 Ainsley McDougal: So would you say that video is a good way to start for those who may be intimidating by writing? Heather Elias: I was going to make another suggestion that these guys didn't mention and that's doing a photo blog as opposed to a writing blog. Just go and snap pictures of the neighborhood that you work in and put those up, one picture a day. You're showing that you know your area and that you're in your area. Not everybody likes to use video. I do some, but that's not a main focus for me. If you're intimidated by the writing and you're intimidated by the video, that's another option as well. 25:45 Daniel Odio: It's whatever you're most comfortable with. If it's Twitter, if it's a blog, if it's video, whatever is easiest is the best thing to start with because honestly the biggest enemy of doing this is: "I'll get to it later." That's the biggest enemy especially when you're busy with clients and your traditional business. When transitioning into social media, you have to do something that is easiest enough that you just do it now. Like Frank is saying: do not edit. It's an hour of editing for every minute of finished video. It's not worth it. Just redo the video if you have to, but don't even do that. Just put it up there. People will appreciate you. 26:19 Danilo Bogdanovic: There is never a right or wrong thing to do. Photo blogs, videos, writing, whatever you feel most comfortable with is what you should start with. The more comfortable you are with something, the more your voice is going to shine through. The more your voice shines through, the more people are going to realize how genuine you are. That will eventually translate into your clients following you. Whatever you're comfortable with, just go with that. 26:50 Daniel Odio: Here is one of the big things from me which is - and I know we have some differing opinions so let's definitely share them - I think that it's very likely that you may start this and get frustrated because you're not seeing a return on it. If you're going to be blogging, you may have to write several hundred blogs before you really see a measurable result from it. A lot of it depends on: are you blogging about a neighborhood, are you blogging about foreclosures because there is a lot more competition for one versus the other. So a lot of it depends on how you angle this, but this is an investment that you're making. If you can convince the world, and specifically Google, that you are a subject matter expert, then when people start searching for those terms you will be returned as the expert. That's when this virtuous cycle starts and people start coming to you and saying: "I want to use you." You don't even know who they are. "I want to use you because I know that you know what you're doing because I saw you do it in this example on your blog." 28:00 Frank Llosa: I'm actually in the process right now of creating a mini TV show. HGTV is doing a show called: My First Place so if I find a road to them I can hopefully get on the show. It's suppose to be like a behind the scenes look at buying a house. Well I'm doing a behind the scenes of behind the scenes. So I'm actually taking a video camera to every initial meeting and video taping what they thought of it and I'm going to make a separate You Tube channel of every single one of my interactions with this couple. That's just something else different that's constantly changing and evolving. 28:46 Frank Llosa: If you like a video that I've done you can post it in your blog. If you want to write about short sales you can link to somebody else's blog. If the customer knows you they're still going to come back to you, but they've gotten my four hours of information. That's allowed. That's fine. You always have to have permission to link to something. 29:39 Daniel Odio: In terms of just linking to someone else's content we do that all the time without asking because it's taking the visitor off your page and onto someone else's so you're running the risk that someone else might get that client. You can run that risk if you want. Frank would probably love you to run that risk. Now if you were to repost his content that's plagiarism and obviously we all know about that. 30:00 Frank Llosa: People do it. 30:02 Daniel Odio: OK, maybe we should talk about that. Another reason that you may not want to link to his content is because from Google's perspective, you get very richly rewarded for original content and you get no points for using somebody else's content. But they do. So if it's important to you to try to become that subject matter expert you can't just link to Frank's content. But if you just want to give the user knowledge about what Frank wrote about then you absolutely can. 31:11 Daniel Odio: Irene said a buyer doesn't wake up looking for Daniel, they wake up looking for a house. So that gets to this subject matter expert question or theme that we're talking about. That buyer is going to find you because of that knowledge that you're making available to them that has nothing to do with you. It doesn't have to do with Irene, but it has to do with the fact that you know local-specific information and here's what it means. It's something that leads people to you. It's like bread crumbs that you're spreading across the Internet with your knowledge. 32:00 Danilo Bogdanovic: Actually no buyer in the world wakes up and says I'm going to go online to fine a house. That's not how they start the whole thing. They start their process by finding out how to buy a house. They all know where to find a house. Everything is ingrained in their heads. They know they can type in the search engine: "Homes in such and such a place." But first time home buyers are going to go online and search about anything in that particular community that they're interested in. They're looking for so much information that has really nothing to do with looking for listings on line. That's where your blog comes in. You provide them with information that is hyper local to your area and you can go a little bit outside of that as well. But you're providing them with information that they would need for the entire process, the entire transaction. That positions you as a credible Realtor who has knowledge and experience and that's what brings them to you through Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL, all the different search engines. So that's the first part. Then they go looking for a home. 33:26 Ainsley McDougal.: So social media is not just online marketing? 33:29 Heather Elias: Absolutely not. It's personal marketing more so than it's online marketing. It's not a vehicle where you say here's my listing I'm trying to get this sold. You don't do that on social media. Social media is about presenting yourself and creating relationships.. It's developing a relationship that ends up in a transaction later on down the line. A lot of the time with social media too there is hot leads where it's I'm looking for a house today let me find a Realtor online. It's more of an ongoing OK, they've read my stuff for six months and now they're at the decision point. So it's more of a slow simmer rather than a fast boil. 34:11 Frank Llosa: Also I have a site called www.franklymls.comwhich integrates the MLS searching into social media. What that does is allows anyone from any company to have reviews about a neighborhood for example. If you're an expert in a neighborhood for example, you write about it, you post it on the site, and your neighborhood review will be attached to every single home within that neighborhood forever. Your name is going to be at the bottom. So if someone hits a house in a certain neighborhood and they scroll to the bottom and you've written a review, what better person to contact than the person who have written that review. The site also allows you to review homes to individual listings so that's where the MLS search and social media comes together. 35:10 Frank Llosa: If someone just goes towww.homesdatabase.com it will have the name of the listing agent. If you have an account onwww.homesdatabase.com you pay them $400 per year, it gets rid of the listing agents name and puts your name on every single listing. But this is a little bit different. This puts your name on every single listing where you are the neighborhood expert regardless of who comes in. 35:40 Daneil Odio: I'm realizing based on what you're saying that we may have a bit of a different view of the traditional Real Estate which is listing focuses. We do a lot of buyer representation and I personally look at listings as content. It's nothing more than content and content is currency. So whether it's a listing or whether it's a You Tube video that I'm making of all offers or a hyper local post or whatever it is, that's just another piece of currency and we tend to get a lot of our buyers from that. A traditional agent will focus a lot on getting listings. We tend to have a lot of buyers coming to us because of all the content that we've put out there on the web. So maybe there is a little disparity there on how your business is. If you want to talk to the listing piece. 36:38 Heather Elias: Whatever the focus of your writing is is what you're going to attract. I think the neighborhood specific information works from a standpoint of people who are thinking about listing their houses as well. I look at it from the standpoint of where you focus your business. If you want to get more specific that's fine. I can cover all of Northern Virginia but I write about the area that I know about the best. From a listing standpoint I most likely to get people that are within the county that I write about. If it's buyers they can be coming from all over the place. 37:42 She's asking where the inquiries come from whether it's from people who are local or outside the area. Danilo Bogdanovic: To touch on that real quick, for a number of reasons I know there are plenty of Realtors that focus on Maryland, D.C., and Virgina but in all seriousness, how can you know all that like the back of your hand? You can't. If you write big posts you're going to come across as vague and it will not reward you because they are looking for specifics. The more specific you are the better they will treat you and the more you will come up in search results. So when you're talking about a specific area that you're most - you want to become an expert, that's the whole point of it. To become an expert you are going to show people that you really know this one area whether it's Arlington specifically condo's, etc. That's where expertise is going to come through and people are going to notice. So I think you should really focus on the area that you know best and run with that. 39:00 Daniel Odio: The reality is you guys probably already know the answer in your head. It's just getting it out to world. You already know what you're good at. You probably have certain buyers that you could work really well with. You know certain areas. It's not anything crazy. It's just you everywhere so that people can find you. 39:50 Frank Llosa: The point that he makes about everywhere is actually very important so I want to highlight that. Often times the people that find me have found me in four different avenues so it's advertising 101. If I hit the customer three times. So if I advertise through a blog and then they find you on Face Book. Has anyone seen the Arlington Wrap? The You Tube Video? That is not me, but he's my client. He lives in my condo. He lives across the hall from me and he found me on Face Book. That's real. It's call the Arlington Wrap. You just look that up on You Tube. 40:03 Which of your social networks is your favorite? 40:20 Heather Elias: I have actually seen the way in which I use Face Book change a lot in the course of the last two months in terms of driving traffic to my blog. Face Book has a personal and a business page. Actually I just did a panel discussion on that earlier this week. Face Book pages versus your main profile. I do have a business page set up and I put very different content on that than I do my regular Face Book page. Just to give you a short run down on that, I don't want to inundate friends and family that I'm connected with on my main Face Book profile with a lot of business information. So I set up a Heather Elias fan page. That's where I put the business content because if people have opted into that to be a fan I figure they have asked for that business content. So that's where I stream the links to the blog and update the links. So that's a great way to separate business and pleasure on Face Book. 41:40 Ainsley McDougal: Do you find that a lot of people who are your fans on your business site ask to be your friend on your personal site? 41:46 Heather Elias: I guess because the fan page is so much newer they have already befriended me before they became a fan although I will say that there are plenty of political area folks that have signed up to be a fan that I have never met before that are a friend of a friend and I think that's probably where the greatest benefit comes from. There is an introduction that takes place there that I don't even have to be part of but now that they know who I am are getting my expertise that way. 42:11 Daniel Odio: I would actually answer the question very differently. The question I would answer is what's one of the most useful technology tools? Who here does not listen to their voice mail? Who here reads their voice mail? I have not listened to a voice mail message in two or three years if you can believe that. There are several services, the newest is called Google Voice. But there are some others like www.phonetag.com and www.callwave.com. When some calls you your voice mail message it is transcribed into text and an e-mail is sent to you with the audio file attached so I can listen to it if I want to. I can't tell you what a time saver that is, especially in this business. If you've ever had ten messages waiting for you, that's just completely gone and you can forward the voice mail. For example, if a listing agent leaves an offer on a property I'll forward that to the client so they can actually listen to the message because it's about the offer they made. So things like that where you can actually re-purpose that content and just be able to forward it along is just amazingly valuable. So phone tag is probably your best option. It's like $20 a month and it replaces your existing voice mail. People don't even know the difference when they're leaving the voice mail. It works very well. Frank Llosa: I use a service called Answer Connect so that if you call my phone and don't reach me it rolls over to an actual operator somewhere that will answer with your company name, take a message and sent it to me via e-mail. So that's what I do. I don't have voice mail either. Ainsley McDougal: I want to get back to the marketing thing because I think it's important to highlight the fact. How do you all use social media to supplement the little traditional marketing things you do? 44:58 Danilo Bogdanovic: To start off we talked earlier about saving time much like you could do a lot of this traditional stuff where you send post cards, etc. Imagine putting a picture of a house you just sold in a particular community on a post card along with a link to your blog or your website and sending it to all the neighbors. Then having details that are important to the neighbors on the blog or website. So you're now advertising as selling the house as you have been doing for years, but you're pointing them to your blog. So them come to your blog and they start reading and they see that you are really knowledgeable and know the community and State. So basically you can add it onto what you're doing currently and eventually what will happen is that you realize that the return on the social media is greater than on the traditional you may want to shift the focus and shift the money. There is a lot of ways you can supplement it. Also while you're out talking at traditional places like the Chamber of Commerce or whatever it is you can just hand people a card - that actually do not have a phone number on them so that people don't bug him with phone calls for feedback. 46:28 Frank Llosa: On the business card it says special card just for showing for feedback please send an e-mail with a link to the property and there's not phone number on it except for people who check it online and then they end up talking to someone in Ohio who tells them to e-mail me. So it all integrates and works together. 46:45 Danilo Bogdanovic: You can take stuff on your business card and really make it prominent for them to go to your blog or to Twitter or wherever you want to point them and that's how you can supplement it. Primarily for me it's saving time. 47:00 Heather Elias: I don't strictly use social media as my entire basket of eggs in terms of marketing myself. I do still occasionally do print media or postcard mailings. You can put your blog address on any traditional print advertising that you do, at the bottom of any letter that you do, mailings to your clients. That's getting it in front of your clients without having to send them an e-mail without having to tell them to visit your site. Traditional marketing can back up your social media efforts. 47:37 Frank Llosa: My business cards have my Instant Messaging address on it and clients that are technologically savvy appreciate that. I have a new card coming out with the cell phone numbers in such small 3 point font so the whole point is don't call me. I have one card that says: "Frank Llosa Google me" and the other side says: "I'm kind of a big deal!" A great way to make fun, cheap business cards www.overnightprints.com they put out coupons every once in a while. I just made for a client a just moved card for a pack of 50 for $12.00. The front and the back said the greatest Realtor in the world helped me buy this house with a link back to my blog. They're going to mail it out to all of their friends. 49:08 Daniel Odio: Are you referring specifically to using camera's and blogging and things like that? The reason that we invited you to bring laptops because I think some of us are more than happy to stay after and help you set some of this up. It's so easy to say it sounded really great, kind of confusing, I don't have any idea where to start and we don't want that to happen. So if you want to stay afterwards and you have a laptop we can help you get set up. Right now I'm capturing this content using this voice recorder and I actually just wrote a blog about all of the equipment I use so if you go towww.blog.danielodio.com there is a post there that talks about the type of camera that I use which is the one on the tripod over there and the type of voice recorder I use and why. So that is a great way to actually get some specifics. It's a total of $230 of equipment that I use so that you can take that content out of your head and share with the world. The reason I'm capturing this is because our firm is looking for tech savvy agents and that's a very hard combination to find, but I know that if I can capture this content and put it up on the web, I've got a much better chance of agents finding our firm because they're seeing this content. So this is just an example of what we're preaching today. That's why we're capturing this today so that people can learn from it even if they couldn't be here today. 51:28 Danilo Bogdanovic: To touch upon the question: you guys have no idea how easy you have it today in 2009. In October 2006, everybody here has been blogging for a while, there was nothing. I mean no support, there were maybe 20 Real Estate bloggers in the country and it was hit or miss. I don't how many times I screwed up with my blogging but I made mistakes and it looked horrible when I published it. I had to go back and delete what I just did and I spent hours and hours and hours. Now you guys can go and literally just Google and it says how to start a blog. You will get hundreds of results, videos, tutorials, other blog posts, countless resources that you can read. It just takes some time. One thing before you really get going with a blog, the first thing you should do is read before you write. You've got to read before you write. Go get ideas of topics and you will see how people write, how their blog is laid out, and you will see 30, 40, or 50 blogs and you can take little pieces from each one and say: "I would love to integrate this into mine." Get a better idea of what you want yours to look like and also a better idea of what you want to talk about and what it's going to sound like. You might see a blog that's heavy on video and thing that's really cool. So you've got to read before you write and don't ever be afraid to ask. The blogging community is very open with what they're doing and how they're doing it. Technically we are all competitors, but we're not. Her clientÃ¨le is going to be different than mine even though we're in the same county. We each have our own voice, but we share ideas, we link back and forth, and talk about what worked and what didn't so always ask. 53:51 Frank Llosa: Would you like a You Tube account? We're going to set it up for you right now. We're going to show you exactly how to set up a You Tube account. I have a video camera and we're just going to have you say for three seconds what your name is. You're the most eager we're going to go with you. I guess there are three excuses: not finding the time to do it, not being willing to do it, and not having your makeup set! 55:00 Heather Elias: There is nothing wrong with preparing before you do it. 55:06 Frank Llosa: So our goal here is just to make a five second video saying: "Hello world, my name is ..." and then just say your name. That's it. We're just going to do something like that. I'll tell you when to start: 1, 2, 3, Hi I'm _ hello world. So that's it. We've created the video. The next step is the memory card in here. We're going to take the memory card out and give it to Ainsley and she's going to show you the steps for creating an account. The card goes right into the laptop or you can just plug the camera right into the computer as I'm assuming you all are comfortable with that. As far as the You Tube account name you can do it with the name of the town that you're like Arlington homes or something like that or just your user first name last name which is probably the easiest. We'll just do that right now. So Ainsley is going to set up an account for you in the background. 56:15 Daniel Odio: While Ainsley is doing this one thing that I would say in terms of how to get started is I think you've got two main goals here with leveraging social media. The first larger goal is to become viewed as a subject matter expert so be viewed as a subject matter expert so that when people search for something real estate related, your name comes up. That's a long term goal. That requires a lot of content to be posted by blogging and You Tube. But the more immediate benefit I would say goal as well that you should have is: how can you save time by doing this. So I would say that the next time that you have a client ask you that same question that you answered 100 times, whether it's "What's a short sale?" "What's an REO?" "What's in the neighborhood?" Whatever that question is that you're always answering, I would say that Henry Ford would love blogs because it's like an assembly line; you do it once and you can use it 1000 times. So next time you've got that, why don't you say to the client: "I'm going to really compost a thoughtful answer for you." And put it to a blog or do a You Tube video and just make that the content that you put up and send them the link. Just try that. I think you'll find that when you do that a couple of times, you're going to feel so refreshed that you don't have to launch into that whole thing." In fact, when you do talk to a client about it, you can talk to them about the more advanced pieces because they've already read the two hours that you put into that basic information and you can talk to them about the details of a short sale instead of having to go over the basics. 58:02 Danilo Bogdanovic: A quick tip a wise blogger once told me a while ago: keep a pen and notepad handy and when you get that question that you are tired of answering like Daniel said you've told 1000 times jot it down. If you're ever out in a neighborhood and you see new constructions or great incentives, jot it down. So keep something handy where you can write it down. Whether it's that day, the next day, or a week later, you have that pen and paper so you know what to talk about. I think we all go through writers block. Some weeks there is nothing to write about. At least in my head I don't think there is anything to write about and all of a sudden one day it's like I don't have enough hours in the day to write everything that I'd like to. You can spread that out. 58:50 Frank Llosa: People have different styles. Some people will write frequently once a day or once every other day shorter posts. I tend to write longer posts and it takes me two or three weeks to get them out. I have a blog just for typical questions. I don't want to bug my regular readers with that. I have a Realtor-focused blog on the latest gadgets, tips, and tricks that I don't want to bug my regular readers with. There are different ways to do things. 59:32 Heather Elias: Can we bring the twitter feed back up for a second. You can find people that have already come before you that will help you with it. I just send out a quick message and can people say hi. These are all people that are on Twitter that helped me figure out how to do what I do now, that got me from starting active writing to have my own blog. There are so many people out there that will be perfectly happy to answer whatever questions you have along the way. All you have to do is reach out to them. 01:00:10 A really nice thing about this Twitter feed is that it's there forever. Every post that you see people are putting a hash tag and a key word in their post so you can find all this content, tomorrow, a year from now and the way you do it is you just go to search.twitter.com. In the search box you just type in the hash tag which is NVARwiki and since everyone is putting that key word in on all their posts today, which is why they're coming up here, they will also show up when you do that search as well so you'll have that whenever you need it. 01:00:55 Heather Elias: I also want to insert that www.VAR.buzz.com the Virginia Association of Realtors puts a lot of content in there and it's worth reading. Having said that, last year they did what they called the "Crest Survey." It was a two-part survey of bloggers in Real Estate. What they discovered is the most successful blogs post between five and ten times per month. Maybe once or twice a week. Any more than that and people tend to unsubscribe because it's too much information and they don't have time to read it all. Any less and you're like the second most successful group. I think it's important to say that even though it's important not to get writers block, it's not like you have to be posting every single day. Once a week is a great expectation to start with. 01:01:45 Daniel Odio: I think everyone has their own style so sure it seems perfectly fine although what I would say is a great way to figure out what you're going to write about if you don't have a client question to answers is read other Realtors blogs. You'll come up with all sorts of things to write with something that a Realtor wrote. Just go read any of the blogs up here and you'll have plenty of thoughts to write about. 01:02:18 Danilo Bogdanovic: The other thing you can do is to turn your e-mail into a blog post. So if someone asks you a question about what they should do, take their question, post it on your blog, change the name and answer the question there. Instead of sending an e-mail back to the person send a link to what you just wrote and tell them to post any follow questions they may have on your blog. 01:02:49 Frank Llosa: So we're on You Tube right now and we've transferred the memory card to the computer. That might be a step that some people might not understand how to do that part yet, but you have to know how to do certain things like getting the memory card into your computer. Now to set up the user account you enter the user name and press check availability. The account is available. So you enter your zip code and your birthday. You Tube will send a confirmation e-mail once you have signed up. Accept the user agreement. Type in word verification. Go to your e-mail and check for the confirmation e-mail. After your e-mail is verified, click here to manage your account. Go to www.YouTube.com after verifying it and then your account is right there. So you can go straight to upload. He already has an account confirmed and we are now going to upload the video file by pressing the upload video button. We put the video on the desktop to find it easily. You're going to have to name the video. This is how people find you on You Tube so you want to use a keyword, a specific word so people who search for that topic can find it. The more specific you are the more likely that you will come up higher up in the search. Scroll down and there is something called tags where you can put words that describe the video. Pick a category. Share with the world. Press OK. Save changes. And it has successfully uploaded. To watch the video go to the user name at the top. It says my videos. Press play. It might take a couple of minutes to process. Now you have a You Tube channel. The website address is www.YouTube.com/ your user name. That's the process. You can choose your resolution. Different cameras have different resolutions. You Tube compresses it by 90% so it's going to bring it down big time. Usually just use the middle setting and you'll be fine.So what you can do is take your video camera and walk through the house, taking a video of the home and you can post it on You Tube or all the Realtor sites and it will be a video instead of just still pictures. That's www.videosbyaddress.com Right now it's free. 01:07:09 Daniel Odio: By the way it looks very much like since we're up here and we're the experts there is a community of Real Estate Agents that live this way and we very much feed off of each others tips and tricks. So thank you for contributing. What Doug was saying is you can go to Hulia and there are questions there posed by buyers and sellers and that can be your content to write blog postings. That's an excellent idea. 01:07:57 Frank Llosa: Another way to start blogging is to go to each one of our blogs and write a three or four sentence reply to your three favorite posts. So that's you starting a blog by commenting on someone else's blog post. You don't have to have an account or anything. Just add your comments. Add your feedback. That's a great way to start blogging. Different Cameras have different resolutions. You can choose your resolutions within the camera it will have higher and lower. You Tube will compress it 90%, so it's going to bring it down big time. Usually you just find the middle setting. We can help you on the camera. The middle setting in fine and and if you don't know, just use what's on there. 01:13:49 Danilo Bogdanovic: The cameras are all good with video. I have a Flip Mino HD. It's $200. It's real easy because it has basically one resolution that it's set on and it's not that high even though it's HD. Hit one button to power it on. Hit the red button to start recording. Hit it again to stop. Then what you do is this USB comes out and you plug it right into your computer. It brings it right up what's called "Flip Share" it's their software and it's cake to upload a video. Once it's uploaded you can actually make a movie with it, and put a title and credits at the end. It will ask you where you want to upload it; You Tube, Face Book, where ever you want to do it. Just one click of a button and it's done. 01:14:38 Frank Llosa: The five steps that we did he just moved down to two steps. There is no card. Danilo Bogdanovic: It's a Flip Mino HD. I recommend getting this new one with the HD. The new one is black and the old one is white. It's $200. 01:14:58 Daniel Odio: Also on thatwww.blog.danielodio.com on my social hardware page I talk about an alternative to Flip that you can use if you'd like. I do have it here. It's a Kodak camera. The software is a little better on the Flip. There are some thing that I personally like about the Kodak. If you get a little more advanced with your video and you want to be able to swap cards in and out the Kodak can do that where the Flip can't, but by all means, the Flip is a great way to start. It's so super simple. This Kodak camera is a little bit better for being able to do some more advanced things. But either way you can't lose. 01:15:32 Frank Llosa: I'm posting right now the video camera that I like which is the Samsung NV24 on Amazon for $140 and the benefit there is that it's a super wide angle camera. It gets 80% more of a photo in than other cameras. So it's a huge difference. Also with a video there is a lot of shaking problems and the wider the camera, for some reason there is less shake. So even video taping yourself on a wide angle you'll see more of you and it will shake less. 01:17:24 Daniel Odio: You have to walk before you can run. All the things that we've been telling you are super basic things that we've been doing for a long time, but it's a great place to start. Once you're comfortable with blogging and You Tube there is a whole other world of Google search engine and optimization for very advanced things that we'd be happy to talk to you about. You've got two goals. One is to be that subject matter expert that comes up when somebody Googles short sales, but that second goal is much more attainable which is to save you time. Really that's where I think that's where you should start so you're not answering that same question over and over again. 01:18:41 Frank Llosa: Google mathematically will look at the keywords on your blog posts as one of the variables. It will also look at how many things you've written, how many years you've been writing, how many people link to you. So Google will mathematically calculate in all of these variables who gets up first. You can buy your and blow a $1000 really quickly so do not buy ads unless you really know what you're talking about. Don't hire someone for pay per click ads. You think $1.00 to pay per click is not a lot, but then you come back and your bank account is wiped out. You don't realize you didn't set a maximum. Don't be buying ads. I guarantee if you buy local people are looking for that stuff. 01:19:43 Heather Elias: What you're really asking about is search engine optimization. It's also called SEO and my shameless plug is that NVAR in its June addition just did an article on it. 01:19:53 Daniel Odio: The short answer is you do nothing, but write really good content. The long answer is much more complicated. 01:20:00 Frank Llosa: And tag it appropriately. It's a great answer. 01:20:06 Heather Elias: Keyword tagging at the bottom of it is what's going to show Google what you're writing about as much as the content itself. 01:20:14 Frank Llosa: Does everybody know what we're talking about? If you look at Google search result page you see the stuff at the top and then at the side and then there's stuff in the middle. Everything on the top and the side, those people have paid to be there. Everything in the center is what we call organic and we're talking about how to get up in the organic search results. Like Daniel said, it's good content, correct keywords, and correct tagging. 01:20:38 Danilo Bogdanovic: Organic means like ground up. 01:20:40 Frank Llosa: Yeah organic means that basically you haven't paid for it. Google has their secret algorithm which they claim changes every quarter and they basically index your site, which is they look through your site and your blog posts, look at the key words and then based on that they reward you how long you've been writing. The longer you've been writing, the more they reward you. It's one of these, it's kind of like a J curve. You start out real slow and then all of a sudden you get picked up and then boom! You start heading up. 01:21:12 Daniel Odio: It's actually a lot like Real Estate. Are you renting that space on google or are you buying it? If you're renting it it means that you're paying Ad Words which means a dollar per click or whatever when you stop it goes away. You don't get any lasting effect from it. Buying it is you're actually getting Google to think that you are the best possible results or return for that query and that's what we're talking about here. We're big, big SEO's (Search Engine Optimization) fans. 01:21:48 Heather Elias: Everybody up here comes from a slightly different background. SEO is important. I'm not saying that it's not, but don't feel like you have to become and expert on SEO as you get started. That's something that you can grow into as you go along. 01:22:04 How long are you on the computer everyday? 01:22:07 Heather Elias: I use blogging as my way of prospecting. What's your primary method of prospecting? 01:22:14 I do a lot of mailings.01:22:16Heather Elias: OK. How much time do you spend a day on mailing? From my standpoint I using social media and linking to it through other social media adverts is the way that I prospect for business. That varies by day, but that's the time that I set aside to grow my business. Some days it's three hours a day, other days it's not as much, some days it's more than that. My husband would give you a completely different answer. But that's where my business comes from so that's where I spend my time. I think that's probably average. 01:23:13 Frank Llosa: You Tube is owned by Google so they'll love you even more. 01:23:25 Frank Llosa: One thing I do is for instance if you do a video on You Tube you can then embed it into your blog post, but when Google goes through your blog you're not going to get rewarded for that video being on there so you're going to want to maybe do an outline of the main topics in that video with the keywords because then the keywords will be picked up and you'll get ranked higher. But then if you link back obviously your You Tube will be embedded, but you also have the URL back to the video on You Tube because sometimes people who work in corporate America in a cubical aren't' even allowed to look at You Tube videos. Some companies have that policy so they can't actually see the video so they can click on there and save the URL for later. You're rewarded doubled if you do it correctly versus being penalized. 01:24:17 Heather Elias: SEO is very complicated. Don't get overwhelmed by it. 01:24:20 Daniel Odio: Just for those of you that are already using You Tube whether it's for business or pleasure, once semi-advanced tip is I actually have a wonderful woman in Kentucky who transcribes all of my audio and video into text. The reason I do that is because Google cannot yet search through video to pull up those key words. This audio right now that I'm capturing will be up on our blog and will be transcribed as paragraphs and paragraphs of text within about one week. That's how we do part of our SEO for example. So that's kind of interesting. 01:25:06 Heather Elias: So who wants to set up a Twitter account. Did you notice we had somebody in the room setup a Twitter account as we were going along? There was no picture posted so I can't tell you who it was. 01:25:50 What blogs do you guys read? 01:25:53 Frank Llosa: We are going to have a website up after the class. Where we went through what blogs we were reading and what blogs were the most influential or good examples and also blogs that give you resources on how to blog and how to use social media. Those would be the answers to your question. They are from all across the country and some international. It doesn't matter. 01:26:32 Heather Elias: Check out: www.NVARwiki.com 01:26:34 Daniel Odio: If I can just take a second to give props to NVAR here. To walk into a training classroom and have reserved seating for laptops is just amazing and to have a wiki created I just think it's unbelievably phenomenal. Five years ago it couldn't have been done. Congratulations. A wiki is a website that anybody can edit and add to. Like Wikipedia. If you wanted to you could change an entry on Wikipedia right now. If they agree with what you said. That's the beauty of wiki. It allows for collaboration. 01:27:23 Heather Elias: So we're putting deep minds together to collaborate. What you can do is go on and comment on the post if