Warning: Copywriting For Real Estate Businesses Isn’t for Wimps!

Years ago, back when I was stupid about marketing, I tried writing all of my own copy.  For some weird reason, I didn’t even think that it mattered how I wrote an advertisement for my product, I just threw a description of what I was selling on a page, and left it to die a horrible death.

I tried making my website look cooler, and added flashy looking junk in a vain attempt to sell what I had to offer.  My sales weren’t stellar, to say the least.  Actually, looking back at the whole debacle, I did manage to sell some eBooks online because I had accidentally picked a focused niche that wanted what I had to sell.

But because my copy SUCKED, (and I’m using that term lightly) I only sold 20 copies at $25 apiece. I quickly got the idea that Internet marketing wasn’t as easy as I thought.  If only I had actually heeded the words that were in some of the IM courses and books I had bought, I might have done some damage; but alas, I did not.

Now that I’m older, wiser, and educated in the ways of “meister word-craftsmen”, I clearly understand why I had so many epic failures in my attempts to sell my puny trinkets.

To be fair with myself, I did have an excuse.  Since I had never started a business of any kind, I had very little experience at selling anything.  Fortunately, I knew enough NOT to start a big business, or get a loan of any kind.  If you’re going to fail, do so as cheaply as possible.  With the advent of the Internet you can easily start a business without plunking down a lot of money.

So, I learned a lot without losing my shirt or living out of my car.

But I was small potatoes in the scheme of things. I’m amazed at how many accounting firms, law firms, real estate investment companies, and multi-million dollar development businesses make the same mistakes as I had made!

Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Take look at Exhibit A. This is the epic copy from a rather large accounting firm. (The name has been changed to protect the innocent.)

Exhibit A:

Once an accounting firm and now a Family of Companies, XYZ is among the fastest growing professional services firms in the state. We are recognized as a leader in every area of service and have garnered numerous awards across industries. We pride ourselves on expert business support with comprehensive services that are customized to meet client needs.

We seamlessly integrate our diverse offerings for services that are efficient, cost-effective and convenient. With personal attention, professionalism and the utmost integrity, we serve our clients in beneficial ways that keep them coming back for more.”

On the surface, this all sounds very professional and accountant like.  One can only hope that accountants don’t talk like this when they go out on a date, or they’ll never “go forth and multiply” if you know what I mean.

(Get it?  Accountants…Go forth and multi….never mind.)

Now, just to be fair, this is very typical of what I see everywhere in professional business copy, so I don’t want to shame or ridicule the nice folks at XYZ.  I merely want to point out that their copy sucks and despite my being a genius, I too have made that mistake.

Are You Missing the Secret Sauce?

What’s wrong with this copy?

Well, other than mentioning THEMSELVES eight or so times in the copy, they fundamentally left out the most important part of the message to potential prospects.  The missing ingredient that they skipped right over was, “What we can do for you!

commercial real estate developer copywriter

That’s right. People probably care more about your pets than your bragging rights.

That’s right, people looking for a solution to their problems don’t give a rat’s buns about how long you’ve been in business, how fast your business is growing, how many awards you’ve won, or any of the other impressive accolades you can give yourself.  They don’t even care about how many times you tell them you’re professional, because everyone does that.

All they want to know is one or two key pieces of information:

What can you do for me, how can you solve my problem?  Or, if you’re in the financial or investment business, “How do I make money?”

Learning Copy from a Salivating Blood Sucker

Apparently, the nice folks at the XYZ firm haven’t seen an episode of Shark Tank yet.

Kevin O’Leary (A.K.A. Mr. Wonderful) almost always asks the blunt questions.  The one I remember from the show the most is, “How do I make money?”  I love the way the words just ooze from his lips, almost like a salivating vampire.

Take a look at Exhibit B:

But he’s right, and despite his overt bluntness, he’s being very honest.

Actually, I take notes whenever Mr. Kevin speaks, because he’s asking the questions almost every copywriter needs to think about while writing copy for prospective clients.  Usually people want to know stuff like:

  • How do you cure my itchy skin problem?
  • How can you help me get a better opt-in rate on my website?
  • How long will it take for me to get down to the dress size I desire?
  • How can your eBook tell me the best social media strategy to use?
  • What’s in it for me?

Thinking about this in real estate investment or development terms:

  • How can I turn a quick profit from your investment advice?
  • What kind of track record does your business have? (Not how long you’ve been in business, but how many impressed and satisfied clients can you refer them to.)
  • What’s the background of the principals of this company, or their agents?
  • How can you reduce my risk on this project or investment?
  • What can you do to make sure I’m legally safe on this development project?
  • How often will you update me on the progress of this project or service?

You know, stuff like that.

Most of the time, people could care less about where you’re located at, what awards you’ve won, and how professional you say you are.

If you’re hitting the prospect hot buttons things are usually much different.

The fact that you’re saying exactly what they want to hear in the body of your copy reflects the fact that you’re very savvy in your business and business dealings.

social media course

Crap in…Crap out..

There’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for.” In other words, if you buy cheap crap, you’ll get cheap crap.

It’s the same with advertising copy ― Crap in…Crap out. If you hire a cheap copywriter, chances are you’re wasting your money.

Inevitably, you’ll feel like you’ve been cheated every time, because even though you didn’t spend a lot of money, you did waste some of it.  You also wasted time in your business, giving your competitors an opportunity to get it right while pulling ahead of you.

Very rarely does a solid copywriter write for money in the hundreds of dollars unless it’s for charity work or a very short paragraph or two.

The problem with most companies is they don’t really understand how much revenue they’ve lost over years and years of running with the cheapest solution.

Trust me; I’m an expert at this.

Way back before I decided to learn how to write advertising copy, I had a website that just slapped together. It sat online for years and didn’t do me a bit of good.  So, not only did I lose business, but I also lost years of potential prospects and clients that I could have done business with until this day.

Why I Want to Kiss a Vacuum Cleaner Salesman

For years, the wife and I went through about a vacuum cleaner a year.  Most of them clogged very easy, or parts would break, or something would jam into them that you just couldn’t get out.

vacuum

You can’t do without one, so I guesstimate that we went through about $3000 in vacuums over the years. When you consider that a decent vacuum will run you somewhere between $200 ―$400 a shot, it’s possible to spend quite a bit on them.

One day, we were in Sears and there was a guy demonstrating a Dyson. He went through his whole demonstration and showed how well the thing worked.  I was actually quite amazed with how easy you could take the thing apart, and how you could reconfigure the different parts in a whole variety of ways.

There were no bags on the vacuum, and all you had to do was press a button on a canister and empty it.   If something got clogged in it, all you had to do was get a quarter and use it to turn big plastic screws that gave very easy access to places that you needed to get a clog out.

I was very impressed with it, because it was a common sense design that any engineer would be proud of.

However, a Dyson at the time cost just over $500! Were they out of their minds?

Yep, that’s what I blurted out loud at the salesman.

“Sir…” the salesman smiled, “Are you concerned with cost, or price?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you bought those other cheaper vacuum cleaners, and as you mentioned, they cost you all sorts of money; money getting fixed, replacing parts, and buying other new vacuum cleaners.  So they cost you quite a bit, right?”

“Uhhh…Yeah…”

“While the price of a Dyson seems expensive, it will save you a ton of money in the long run.  It’s so easy to fix a child can do it, it doesn’t require expensive bags, and it’ll last you for years.  So, are you concerned with cost or price?”

“Uhhh…”

I was speechless…I was without speech. (Believe me, that doesn’t happen too often.)

We have owned our lavender colored Dyson for the last decade, and despite my wife breaking a part on it by accident a couple months ago, it still works better than any vacuum we’ve ever had.

A relative even bought us a brand new Shark vacuum last month and we’re still using the Dyson because we like it better.

I swear, if I ever see that salesman again, I’ll kiss him.

So you have to ask yourself the question, am I concerned with the price of hiring a good copywriter or should I count the cost of not hiring one?

What You Should Be Looking For

Let’s say you’ve bought into the idea that maybe you will want to increase the response rate of your website or, direct mail piece by hiring a copywriter.  Perhaps, you can now see the value of having very professionally written brochure that actually sold prospects on the idea or a knock ‘em dead video sales letter.

You’re going to need a good copywriter, one that knows how to write the kind of copy that your company needs.  Yes, there are all sorts of copywriters out there and only a handful is the Gary Halbert type.

In case you don’t know who Gary Halbert was, he was considered to be Holy Grail of copywriters.  The unique thing about Mr. Halbert is the fact that he could write just about any kind of copy.  It didn’t matter what industry or product he was writing for, he always hit his mark perfectly and made massive profits for the businesses he worked for.  Not very many copy guys can do that.

There are a few others out there like Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, and Jon Carlton that can pull this sort of thing off, but they are few and far between and extremely expensive. (Sometimes they get paid $25,000 a sales letter or more!)

So, what you’re going to need to find is a copywriter that is specialized in the type of business that you’re in.  Someone that understands the real estate investment or development business and understands your prospects, language, and marketing strategies ― A real estate development and investment copywriter!

There I said it!

As a matter of fact, that’s the niche I’ve decided to work in.  But if you’ve already contracted a copywriter for this particular type of niche, there are a few things you need to look for.

For one thing, you don’t need to hire someone that writes in this niche all of the time.  Decent copywriters can and do write in more than one niche, but if you know that they are knowledgeable about your industry that’s a major plus.

Another thing that’ll help you is to take a look at samples of their writing. If they have copy that looks and reads professionally then chances are they should be able to do the job for you.  Testimonials from other happy clients are also a major plus.

Many times you can tell if things are going wrong by the professionalism that is displayed at the onset. If you’ve displayed interest in hiring a copywriter, and he can’t quote a price to you based on what you’ve told him, then that should be a warning sign.

NOTE: In this situation, I’m talking about an email transmission or a substantial conversation wherein you have already told the writer what you want.  Depending on how much work you’ve got to have written, he may not be able to immediately spit out a quote to you. 

But if you’ve sent a description of what you need to have done, and he’s still grasping at straws as to what you’re going to pay, this may not be a good sign.  However, If the copywriter sends you a professionally written contract with an itemized list, that’s a real good indication of his professionalism.

The Colombo Factor Should Be Present!

If you don’t know who the iconic character Colombo is, you need to get on Netflix and watch a couple of episodes.  He’s a 1970’s detective that’s chronically asking questions to people he suspects of committing a crime.  As a matter of fact, he just about drives them nuts with his questions alone.

columbo

Well, copywriters need to be just like the lieutenant.  They should be asking a lot of questions.

For my copywriting business, I have prepared questionnaires that I send to my clients even before I’m contracted.

What’s the reason for this?

First of all, I’ll need to know all sorts of things like:

  • What the goal of your marketing is
  • What type of traffic driving strategies you’ve been using?
  • What other types of marketing has your company been using?
  • Were these strategies effective?

Usually, the initial questionnaire is several pages long.

The other reason for this is to prequalify the prospect before they sign the contract.

Many times when the client is faced with a questionnaire like this, they balk at it.  Perhaps they were thinking that the copywriter was a mere hobbyist that was going to perform these services dirt cheap.

Once the prospect takes a gander at the preliminary question sheet I send them, they know I mean business.

By the way, that’s just the preliminary questionnaire.  After the contract is signed, they will get another rather large questionnaire asking all kinds of questions about their services and especially their clients.  If the contracted party can supply me with a list of happy past clients, I’ll send them a sheet to fill out too.

So, if you are hiring a copywriter and they aren’t asking you all sorts of questions…RUN!

The other thing that I want to mention is that if you are hiring a copywriter to write several pages of copy and their price is isn’t over at least $1000, then chances are you’re going to get what you paid for.  A good copywriter has to do a ton of research before he even writes a single word.

He has to analyze your site, consider your marketing strategy, think about how you’re going to follow up, and investigate your competition, just for starters.

So, if you get a bunch of questions from a copywriter that you’ve hired, that’s a good thing.  Make sure that you answer all of the questions he asks you, because it’ll make your copy a bazillion times better.

Other Factors That Are Muy, Muy Importante!

(These are so important, they warrant 2 Muys!)

The one thing I always try to impress on my clients is the personal touch they’ll receive from working with me.  I don’t like working on copy without keeping the clients “in the loop”.  Since they’ve contracted me to write the very best copy that I can, they need to get daily updates from me by phone or at least email.

This lets clients know what I’m doing, while letting them know how the progress is coming along.  It also gives me the opportunity to ask a few more questions if I need to.  As a businessman, I understand that the more contact I have with my client, the more familiar they will be with me and they’ll understand my writing process. They’ll also see how much care I am putting into their copy.

The more they hear from me, the more they’ll trust me and let me know their concerns.  Not only that, but we will probably develop a working relationship that can go on for years.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas on what to look for while shopping around for a copywriter.

If you’re in the professional real estate development or investment business, please keep an eye on my blog at: www.ElmoCopy.com

I’ll be writing many in-depth articles on copywriting and marketing for this industry, and I look forward to reading your comments and answering any questions you may have.

To Your Continued Success!

Mark “Elmo” Ellis

Real Estate Investment and Development Copywriting

 

 

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Marketing News! – A High Profit Marketing Process for Property Development and Investment Property Companies

I recently performed a search for the term “marketing processes” and discovered something interesting.  In almost every one of the articles I read, the focus was on the front end of the sales process.  There was great detail on how to create a sales funnel that gets the clients in the door and the services sold, but very little thought about what happens after the sale is made.

What I enjoy doing for companies is helping them set up processes; I think this is what sets me apart from many other copywriters.  Instead of just writing a single direct mail piece, I like to show my clients how to have a process in place that gets results over and over again.

True Story from the Crypt

It seems like companies really don’t count the cost of client and customer retention.

CryptA few years ago, I had an account with a communications company for home services.  I had purchased all of their broadband services on a bundled account, and did so for the better part of a decade.

Through this company, I was using, telephone, cable TV, and the Internet; my monthly bill was significant and I didn’t mind, because their services worked fine.  Since my billing was paid by credit card, they got their money every month like clockwork, and I never missed a payment.

One day, right out of the blue, my Internet was cut off.  At first, I thought the service might be down for updating or repairs made somewhere in the system.  However, when I checked my email, I noticed that there was a message from my broadband company informing me that they were shutting off my Internet.  According to them, (I say “according” because this was never proven or verified) one of the computers in my home was sending out some sort of spamming or advertising virus that my computer had contracted form someplace on the net.

Thus began a month long battle to find out where on my computers the mysterious virus was.  The company turned my Internet back on and within a week shut it off again, sending me an exact duplicate message like the first one.

I spent days trying to get this resolved.  I consulted with their online techies, each one real estate developershaving their own ideas and theories as to why and where the mystery virus was coming from.  I bought the best and most expensive antivirus software on the market and came up nada.  I enlisted my son who performed IT work in the U.S. Air Force to examine my computers and he couldn’t find a thing.

I called the folks up at my cable company and told them all I had gone through.   Sheepishly they told me they were sorry, but if my computer emits this virus one more time they were going to have to cut me off for good.

This was my last chance with the Internet.  If I couldn’t find out where the mystery virus, I couldn’t have Internet services anymore.  Bear in mind that at the time, I had a full-fledged ecommerce business running and it was getting close to Christmas, my busiest time of the year.

So, in one last desperate attempt, I replaced all of my computers and held my breath.

They cut me off.

I called one of the executive managers with this company about all that I had gone through  and detailed everything I had done to correct this problem, but all she could say was, “Sorry.”

Finally, I told her, “Look, I’ve spent what would be the equivalent of a new car with your company, why don’t you send one of your tech people over to take a look at my system, so we can all figure out where this problem is coming from.”

“I’m sorry we just can’t do that.”

I could feel the frustration swelling up in my face.

“You mean to tell me you won’t even roll a truck out here for a customer that has never missed a payment for over 10 years?”

Pause…

Unpleasant silence.

“You do realize that if I can’t have Internet connection I’m going to cancel all of my services with your company.  That’s phone, TV, everything.”

“I’m sorry, “she said flatly, “There’s nothing we can do.”

“I’d like to cancel my account, right now please.”

And so, the broadband company I had relied on, told all of my friends and neighbors about and paid on time for over 10 years and I parted company. I will never, ever go back.  As a result, I found a cheaper Internet service company that never complained about my computers emitting a mystery virus, and I tell everyone I know to go with THAT company.

This company failed to count the cost.  They should have looked at how much it would run them to send a truck and a techie to my home versus how much money they’d lose over another 10 years of monthly payments for all of their services.

Really stupid, don’t you think?

Now, why did I tell you this story?

First of all, this company, which was in a very competitive market, failed to have plans in place to take care of situations like this.  When you’re in business for as long as this company was, you should have a well thought out plan to handle contingencies like this.

There are many situations in your business that are very similar.  Yeah, there are some instances where you have to fire the client; however, if you have a system in place you can retain good clients and avoid losing piles of money that have been slipping through your fingers.

social media course

The Part Where You’re Hemorrhaging Money in Your Business

Okay, let’s take a less extreme example.

Let’s say you get a new client and you perform a service for that client.  What’s the next step?   Do you put that client into a database and forget about them?   Or, would it be better to have a procedure in place that lets them know you’re still thinking about them?

And while you are keeping in touch with them, you can educate them about other benefits, services and products that you have that they may be interested in.  This can be done many different ways, from newsletters to birthday cards.

The usual objection to this is, “Well, that sort of thing costs money.”

No kidding.

But think of the advertising dollars you’re saving by making a direct hit on your target market.  If someone has spent or invested a large amount of money with your company, that means they probably know and trust you.  If they know and trust you, there’s about a 70% chance that they’ll spend money with you in the future, or refer you to others that will spend money with your firm.

Your easiest and best clients are always the ones that have already done business with your company.  Try getting those results with websites, ads, and other forms of marketing.  You need to have a mapped out strategy in place to continue soliciting and reminding happy clients of the other services and products your company offers.

To go back to our original client scenario, I’ve prepared a sample graphic of how mapping out and executing a process can help boost your sales tremendously.

Real Estate Developer Infographic

In this example, you’ve completed the entire sales process, and your client has skipped happily out the door, happy with the investments or services that you’ve completed for them.  However, right after the sale has been made, you automatically swing into action.  Using your client database, you send out automated emails every week giving your happy patron great information that they couldn’t get anywhere else.

Also, you send out birthday cards, Thanksgiving Day cards (not Christmas cards, because they’ll get buried in the piles of other Christmas cards) anniversary cards, and whatever else you can do to remind your serviced clients that you’re still thinking of them.

It wouldn’t hurt to call them once every couple of months too, even if you’re just going to leave a message on their answering service.

The Hidden Opportunity

The reason for the methodology behind this madness is to not only have your prospects/clients remember you and stay familiar with your business, but also to EDUCATE them.

Salt and peppered throughout your correspondences you’ll be giving these people great advice and giving them tips on how they can make even more money by doing business with you.

For real estate investment companies, you could easily tell clients about different investment vehicles and how they could improve their portfolios.  If you’re a real estate development company, you could easily talk about the ways in which your company could save them more money on their next project.  You could also point out steps you could take to ensure that they’ll get exactly what they needed to have completed on time.

Of course, you could hire a good copywriter who would craft a message like that so it didn’t sound like you were selling to them, but letting them in on “trade secrets”.

The point is, if you don’t have processes in place for your marketing, you’re leaving a ton of money on the table that could easily be replenished whenever you needed it.

Developing a Well Thought Out Plan

Since writing a blog post that explains how to market your business would probably take volumes and several years to write, I’m only going to talk about a small section of your business.

For the sake of this post, I’ll tell you about what I do for my clients immediately after my initial contact with them.  Now bear in mind, this has all been thought up well ahead of time, because I don’t want any lag.  I like to give my clients momentum right out the starting gate so that they can feel my expertise and enthusiasm.

Step One:  First of all, any of the people I get initial contact from, I immediately ask them if they would like to get placed on my mailing list.  I politely inform them that I will not bombard them with loads of spammy email trying to sell them junk,  and that at most they will probably only hear from me once a week to let them know about my latest blog posts.

Of course, this initial email is professionally written and ready to send out ahead of time.   The reason for this is simple, like any other sales oriented business, copy writing has a lot of tire kickers.  There are loads of people that will ask you questions, act interested and then leave.

However, that doesn’t mean they won’t ever do business with me, it usually means they’re really not ready AT THIS TIME.  So, keeping them in the loop is a really good idea.  If they receive regular messages from me pointing out valuable resources or articles, they will see my professionalism and remember me.

Think about the industry you’re in for a second.  Do you know anyone that keeps in contact with prospects that have contacted them over a long period of time?  If there aren’t, you may have a clear advantage over your competition.

Step Two:  If the prospect contacts me for extensive information on my services, I‘ll send him a sheet that outlines the process I use to write copy.  (You can read it here:  “Before I Write a Single Word…”)  This is still prequalification of the prospect, because until he has seen my quoted price and signs a contract, he is still just a prospect.

Back when I was new to writing advertising copy (and stupid), I’d be so eager to write for someone I’d start their project before they signed a contract.  I got a lot of practice, but I also wasted a ton of time on these people.

Step Three:  If the prospective client wants to pursue my services further, I’ll send him a professionally written contract with my quote on it for him to sign.  If he balks at my price, I’ll remind him to take a look at the sheet I sent him outlining my writing process and the care he’ll receive from my services.

Step Four: Once the contract has been signed, I have more documents in place to send him, to include an initial questionnaire to begin collecting vital marketing data.  I actually have a series of questionnaires to send clients, but I usually space them out over a two week period so as not to overwhelm them.

Some of the other documents I will send at this point explain in great detail my process for writing his copy.  Writing great, knock-your-socks-off copy takes a lot of time, and letting your client see the research, writing, rewriting, testing, rewriting some more,  counseling, etc. is important. It will show them the entire process while letting them see what care and professionalism I’m giving them.

Step Five:  Now the client is on my “A List”.  He receives daily email from me keeping him up to date on the progress I’m making on his copy and shoring up a few other questions I may have for him.

The Point of All This Is…

If you don’t have processes like this in place for your business, then you’re probably going to have a long, hard road ahead of yourself in terms of marketing.

The really cool part about this is that it’s so cheap. Sure,  it takes time to put a system like this in place, but think of all the money you’ll be wasting by not having a system in place like this.  You could use a billboard or run a pay-per-click campaign online, but that alone won’t cut it.

The famous marketer, Dan Kennedy always points out that you can have great marketing on the front end, but what’ll you do once you get them in the door of your business?

The Secret Edge That Most Copywriters Have

Good copywriters understand processes like this.  They know full well that just writing a sales letter or a squeeze page isn’t enough.  You have to have well written email follow ups, direct mail correspondences, brochures, etc.

And each one of these pieces has got to sell, Sell, SELL!

If your company is handing out brochures that aren’t written by a copywriter that deeply understands the sales process, then you’re wasting your time and money.  You can’t imagine how many business people I’ve dealt with in the past have gone out of business because they never considered putting a process in place.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a high end consulting business either.

It Doesn’t have to be This Way!

Years ago, I was helping a man that had a catering business.  He had a great service and products but his business never grew beyond being just a small enterprise.

So I gave him a few processes to follow that would definitely help him out.  One of the ideas was to give out a few chicken wings to everyone that got on his mailing list.  He would ask his customers for their home and email addresses, and in return when he verified their email address he would send them a free coupon in an email that they could redeem for free chicken wings.

This way, he could send well written marketing messages and offers to these people informing them of all of his specials and new products, thus increasing his customer base.

Alas, he never implemented any of the common sense ideas I gave him and he got burned out.  His business never moved forward; it was not profitable enough to keep going, and it wasn’t any fun just spinning his wheels endlessly.

Get Your Processes in Order

If you take a little time each day building marketing processes for your business, you will see a major transformation.  First of all, your company will be immediately perceived as a professional player in the field you’re playing in, whether it’s real estate investment services or development.  When clients think of which company they’d rather do business with, they’ll think of the company that looks the most professional and knowledgeable.

Second, your business will have a smooth, automatic process that will make your marketing much easier and cheaper.  You’ll hit a target market that is far more interested in what you have to offer.

Third, the market place and prospects will see your name and message over and over again.  You won’t be a stranger like everyone else in your niche.  You’ll be the go to guy or business that has the most name recognition without spending Mega-Bucks on advertising.

To Your Continued Success!

Mark “Elmo” Ellis

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