Have your leads dried up? Referrals gone quiet? Are you getting leads but they go nowhere?

In the real estate business, there can be a natural ebb and flow in activity throughout the year. There are seasonal highs and lows, market conditions can influence, location plays a factor.

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And yet there are agents whose business remains consistent no matter what’s going on externally, while others in the same market are struggling.

So what is their secret? Are they better at marketing? Perhaps. Have they just been around longer and are better known? Maybe. Do they spend more on advertising? Possibly.

If you are struggling to generate a steady flow of leads for your business, you may just assume marketing is the problem and you need more of it. Your response might be to get more active on social media, spend more money on advertising, hire a lead generation company to send you leads or build a new website. There are many ways to fix a marketing problem.

But…do you have a marketing problem?

Many of the agents I talk to come to me frustrated by the lack of results they are getting from lead generation activities that are costing them hundreds of dollars per month. The biggest complaint? Too many bad leads that go nowhere.

What are they looking for? A better strategy. A better way of attracting leads. Better leads. They come with a perceived marketing problem. But regardless of what marketing tactics you are using and how much money you throw at it, if you are not consistently converting leads to customers, your problem may not be a marketing one.

Before you can solve your problem, you need to determine if it’s a marketing problem or, more fundamentally, a business problem.

Why is this important? You can’t solve a business problem with more marketing.

If your message is confusing or not connecting with the right audience, shouting louder isn’t going to help. Trying different tactics or spending more on your marketing without addressing the underlying problem is like trying to wallpaper over a hole in the wall. It may look good, but the problem is still there.

To determine if you have a business problem, you need to look internally at your processes, your client management and your brand. Some signs you may have a business problem:

  • Your leads aren’t converting
  • You don’t have a clearly defined target audience
  • Your service doesn’t match or align with your promise
  • Your service is weaker than your competitors
  • You have no distinct point of differentiation from your competitors
  • You’re not getting referrals or repeat business

If you are seeing some of these signs in your business, you may need to take a step back and evaluate the underlying cause of your problem. Do you have a clear vision for your business? What is your brand? What makes you different from the competition?

Fix the underlying cause and then you can build a marketing strategy that will start to work.

But what if you do have a clear business vision, a clear target audience and your internal processes are working? Your problem may just be with your marketing.

Here are some signs you have a marketing problem:

  • You don’t have a marketing strategy or it’s out of date
  • Your advertising is attracting the wrong audience
  • You’re not attracting enough leads
  • Your target audience is too broad or generic
  • Your content and messaging is generic and not specific to your target audience
  • Your marketing material is old or of poor quality
  • Your marketing efforts are inconsistent or sporadic

Simply hanging an “I’m a Real Estate Agent” sign on your door is not going to cut it. Your branding, your content, your messaging, your customer service – everything you do – must appeal to and resonate with your target audience.

To do that, you must have a clearly defined audience, whose pain points and issues you understand and address in your marketing…and in your business. And, you must have a clear point of differentiation – a brand that will draw that audience to you.

The bottom line is, you need to understand where the real issues are with your business so you can focus your time, your resources and your money on fixing the right problem.


  1. Another long comment; but for those who choose not to read, that is their choice.

    The use of the word competition, to some might reflect on seeing the business as a competitive “game.”

    Think about this for a minute: you have no competition. You are you. Show them (the public) your own “stuff.” Your UP. Your unique proposition. What do you offer would-be buyers and sellers that makes you worth a top-dollar range paycheque. Why should anyone pay you anything at all, and why should you be chosen to represent the would-be buyer and seller? And why, specifically, they should choose you to “represent” them. Take time to explain fiduciary duty and agency. Don’t be in such a rush. And never knock down colleagues during presentations.

    Start by developing rapport – from your very first point of contact. Don’t forget you are always being presented with the opportunity of building business for the future; it doesn’t always mean trying to get a contract signed that day.

    It’s true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. How you look, how you sound, the business image you project. Your tone of voice, your choice of words. Some could be offended by your content use of even casual swear words that they don’t use at home. (This topic appeared in a recent REM article.) Might seem odd perhaps but might be a deciding factor as to whether you get hired. You want to be remembered, but for professional reasons.

    Often called mirroring (not in a negative sense), watch the reactions of your maybe about to be client. If the public approaches business in a sloppy laissez-faire attitude it doesn’t mean you get to drop your standards even if you choose to be more casual in your approach and lighten up.

    There’s room for all business models and no one system should be seen as competition. I don’t know if it’s a mentally held advantage but I went into each situation with the presumption that I had no competition, believing I would get the contract. More than 99 times out of a 100, I did. I believe it’s all tied to attitude.

    I think it was attributed to auto maker Ford who said: if you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you won’t.

    The colour of the corporate brand “name” doesn’t matter. But I was more than fortunate with the at the time in 1991 unusual colours I chose to represent my corporate boutique business. It was very different at the time. But if you work under a corporate banner, why wouldn’t you be proud to tout your own company colours? Build a unique identity but tied to the company you represent or who represents you. With corporate permission perhaps expand on the corporate colours by adding a unique promo line that speaks to your UP but makes the corporation proud to have you on board.

    Part of my unusual success ratio came about by my being different. Sometimes highly criticized other times applauded, everything I did seemed to be different. I was easily identifiable. Kind of like the old real estate story of the agent who always carried a red umbrella everywhere he went, even on a sunny day. My signs could be seen for long distances, easily identified. I was my own UP, but my vehicle was unnoticeable on purpose.

    Car wraps and extreme vehicle signage kind of went the way of the high button boot for some agents, as would-be clients didn’t want their neighbours knowing they were moving, requesting agents to arrive in a plain brown wrapper like some postal delivery services offer.

    And the offer of using an agent ID’d moving van sometimes became an impractical advertising method for those agents due to insurance costs, damages incurred, and accidents involving the vehicle. Big liability. And often did not even use regulated corporate ID colours. If you can’t be proud of the company colours you are affiliated with, maybe you should find a different name brand to represent.

    Not everyone has marketing skills but there are boatloads of assistance available for hire. Money well-spent.

    Cash in on your UP (not just unique proposition), maybe your unique personality (the tallest guy in the business, or the shortest; the gal in the red suit or the one with the green hair maybe). The ugly impactful tv ads that promote the bank green ads can’t be missed and can easily be remembered.

    REM is a Canadian real estate news magazine, but is read all over the world online. As such years ago I added our easily identifiable maple leaf icon to my signature to remind outside readers that I am Canadian.

    I’m surprised that more crossover ads aren’t taking advantage of the REM opportunity to promote their non-real estate businesses, that are indirectly associated: carpet companies, window manufacturers, renovators, roofing companies, brand name paint companies and appliance manufacturers are missing big opportunities to be seen among agents, buyers and sellers in the public realm who read REM.

    Carolyne L ?

  2. Your basic concept is accurate. I believe we are on the same page. I guess the language has evolved over the years. Branding has taken over from, getting known in your farm area. What I observe today is that Branding or re-branding results in a sales rep changing a photo or some over done tag line. Trying to create a web site or some Facebook campaign. To be successful a sales rep has to prospect. Which means either spending time getting known or spending money. And to compete with the handful of “teams” that seem to dominate markets. One would need a budget of $100,000 or more. These sales reps market themselves as sales reps but in reality they are medium sized brokerages with 20 or more people on their teams. Bottom line is these teams market for listings. Nothing else. Once a sales rep gets listings the buyers fall in place. But your article has induced thought and ideas. So it is successful.

  3. You lost me at. Reply way too long. Basically farming an area? That is as old as the industry. It was the basic thing a sales rep did between 1967, when education became a requirement to get a license to trade , and the late 1990’s. That is creating a market ” Niche”.

    • Thanks for your interesting comment. Newbies need to be taught the (old) years ago basics perhaps so they preempt the struggles many go through. Perhaps my post was at the wrong comment. Please accept my apology. Clearly we don’t have the same thoughts on what creates success. Different strokes for different folks. I’m convinced you had a much more successful career than mine in nearly four decades when I had been told I would never make it in real estate

      Carolyne L

  4. The challenge with real estate is inventory. A sales representative can do all the branding and marketing they want and still end up with nothing. Consumers are not looking for a Realtor, they are looking for a property. Any sales representative will tell you that when they have the product a consumer wants the consumer comes to them with zero marketing. Having a “niche” can work but more importantly it is getting know by potential Seller’s, not chasing down Buyer’s, that works. When a new property comes up in my neighbourhood I never hear this. ” Did you see Brokerage ABC sales representative Anyone has a property listed for sale?” Never. I do hear things like. “You know that beautiful Victorian everyone likes? It is listed for sale. Or. “Guess who just listed their house for sale?” Or. ” It looks like the Jones’ are moving their house just came onto the market.” That is why the top sales representatives spend thousands of dollars on bill boards, print ads, news letters and print advertising. To attract Seller’s so they can have an inventory to sell. It is getting into the consumer’s Evoked Space to acquire an inventory of listings. Imagine a factory with nothing to sell. All the marketing in this universe will not help them.

    • As per your second sentence: “Consumers are not looking for a Realtor, they are looking for a property.” …
      But it doesn’t hurt to be top of mind…
      I always called it “building business for the future.” I didn’t know any agent in my trading area who kept volumes of database building materials organized and at their fingertips. I’ve written at REM about the colour coded system I developed that really helped me. I was completely new to the business and the area. I knew from nothing and nobody.
      So all I could do was study the “dailies” until I saw a pattern taking shape upon which I built the system beginning gradually that sustained my outrageously successful career. And I’m not smart enough to at the time even realized what was happening. I was unofficially building a farm that made my garden grow (and bloom, and summer fallow), changing it up a bit from time to time to keep a fresh fertile growth in motion.

      Perfect example you do a CMA and based on the would-be seller’s needs and expectations you might feel that now would not be an opportune time for him to sell. Knowing of course that the market could change completely the next day. Even appraisals are only good for the day on which they are written.

      How many bankers don’t even know that? And brokers and salespeople, too? And certainly often the public / homeowners do not know that.

      So having done the CMA and having had the sellers decide not to go to market at the moment how many sales reps keep an open, hiding in plain sight, quasi active file of such information, always ready to light a match to start the fire.

      This in no small way contributed to 60% of my business being double-ending back in sub-agency days in particular. In many cases it took 2-5 years to turn that CMA procedure into business. Is it simply having patience? Not necessarily. But it clearly is building business for the future.

      Every now and then you stay in touch with the CMA folks. And let them know there is always an open door if they have any questions or needs. And, even more noteworthy if a really really real buyer possibility match shows up who would you first advise as to the possibility of the perfect seller-match being already in your files?

      Worked for me. Perhaps just happenstance. But I always believed in the theory “build ‘it’ (your filing system), and they will come. Review your system regularly, update it and maybe even send along a beautifully rememberable “marketing” piece in particular if you are involved in one of their neighbour area transactions. “The Robertson’s over on Smith street have just chosen me to help with their real estate needs. Any questions, you know you can call me any time.” (No, you are not being a nuisance; it is just a market-update and an invitation to connect if they desire.)

      Carolyne L


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