By Catherine Willems

Do a Google search for lead generation strategies for real estate and you will get a bazillion hits. Okay, in my case I got 11 million…that’s pretty close to a bazillion.

Lead generation is the No. 1 one challenge I hear from real estate agents every day. It’s a challenge in many highly competitive industries. I face a similar challenge in my industry and over the past 10 years of running a business through highs and lows, I can safely say that not all leads are created equal.



What do I mean by this? As I’ve said, not all leads are created equal and there are a bazillion opinions on the subject of lead generation. It’s no surprise really, since pretty much every business on the planet needs to attract customers.

And that is fundamentally what lead generation is – the process of attracting potential customers to your business on a consistent and predictable basis. And the right leads are easier to convert so you spend less time chasing and more time selling.

How do you attract the right leads to your business?

There are several tactics to lead generation, but fundamentally there are two main ways: buy them or attract them. Let’s look at the first – buying leads. This typically involves paying a company to send you leads. There are plenty of companies that do this. You pay a monthly fee and they send you leads based on some type of criteria – usually geographic.

There are pros and cons to the lead purchase approach. One advantage is that it takes some of the marketing pressure off you and you just have to call people to make appointments. The biggest downside to this approach – something I hear time and again – is that the quality of leads tend to be poor, making it difficult to make appointments, let alone turning any into clients.

If you’re considering this type of service, do your homework. The biggest questions to ask are how the leads are generated and how they are qualified.

Many times leads come from people filling out forms to download a free report or to get a free home evaluation. The offer, how it’s positioned, the information that’s collected and more will affect the quality of the leads that these approaches deliver.

With these tactics the focus is on quantity versus quality and you could spend your time contacting people that a) have no idea why you’re calling them or b) were just looking for some free info and are not interested in buying or selling right now.

The other approach to lead generation is focused on attraction, not purchase. This involves a more strategic approach that is designed to have people reaching out to you rather than the other way around.

A strategic approach helps you identify who it is you want to work with, what their needs are and why working with you is the best decision they could make. It’s about positioning yourself in the market you want to be in and giving people a reason to contact you.

With the right strategy and the right positioning, you start generating leads from people who actually want to work with you. So while you typically see fewer leads with this approach, your close rate tends to be much higher. Quality versus quantity.

There are pros and cons to this approach as well. The advantage is clear: better leads means less effort to convert.

But you need to develop a strategy and positioning and it can take time to establish a presence in your chosen market. I would argue however, that you should be doing this anyway if you plan on being in this business for the long term.

There are different cost structures to these approaches. You can pay a lower cost per lead to get a lot more contacts…but in the long term, you’ll spend more effort trying to convert those leads. Or, you could spend the same amount and get fewer but targeted, high-quality leads, which will result in a higher cost per contact.  However, your conversion rate for those leads will be greater. Leads that are targeted and high quality will always get you more clients with less work.

What’s your experience with lead generation? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments below.

Self-described geek, artist and fledgling hockey goalie, Catherine Willems has been in marketing for over 25 years and focused on digital since it became a thing. Since starting her own business in 2009, she’s helped over 100 clients across two continents achieve online marketing success. As the owner of Realty Marketing, she says she has faced the same entrepreneurial struggles as many of you and can pass on her learnings to give you back your late nights and weekends. Book a free consult today or call 416-994-2332.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “The best lead is the one that contacts you, directly. ” That’s exactly right, Carolyne. I’m a firm believer in setting yourself up to ATTRACT the right leads to you. And yes, how you manage those leads when they come in is absolutely critical to your success.

    But just putting up a sign to say you’re in business doesn’t mean the phone is going to ring. You need to make people aware of who you are and typically that involves some form of marketing yourself.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Carolyne!

  2. I wish you well in your new business.

    Header at article could be expanded to say: “but they are ALL equal opportunity employers…”

    You can pay for all the leads in the world but if there’s no meeting of the minds and no conjoining – dictionary def:
    join; combine.
    “an approach that conjoins theory and method”

    of the personalities involved, the ship will never leave the dock.

    Perhaps there’s too much concentration on getting leads and not enough discussion about what an agent does with the leads he does get.

    The best lead is the one that contacts you, directly. Asks for you by name and will not be easily swayed into working with someone else. He asked for you by name. He does so with a purpose: he wants what you have; knowledge or skills you have that he doesn’t. And he’s saying: “I’m available; if you treat me right you will get a big paycheque.” How much more clear can it be.

    A little appropriate reference is the story Jeff Sterns wrote about the refrigerator debacle.

    He needed a refrigerator. So he went to a specific place that sells appliances, with the intent to buy one. He was a live-lead. My goodness! What an opportunity for the appliance salesman. Jeff had even come well-prepared. Obviously the lead was mishandled to the enth degree.

    This is a perfect example of how real estate leads, legitimate buyers and sellers who call or appear at the real estate reception desk are handled: a full scale debacle. Often the one sitting at that desk, or answering the phone will be the first contact “lead-protector.” The chief, first touch point at any company. Often the most important job in the company.

    I have often been heard to say: “Nothing sells like a SOLD SIGN.” That sign will have babies. Sometimes like rabbits reproduce. But what happens to those reproductions? Somebody’s wanting to sell/move or buy a property; maybe both.

    And that person’s buy or sell will produce more buy and sell business, even without their specifically referring you to anyone.

    It’s an inert yet unstoppable series of events brought about first by a for sale sign, or even an ad call, but mostly brought about by the sold sign. But the point of contact is dead and useless unless handled well.

    If you or your company has enough signs out in a given area, you can’t help but become a dominant player in that marketplace. It’s unstoppable. Live leads. Only you can mess it up by how you handle the lead.

    Some company, some agent is going to get business brought about by existing signs. Sometimes it’s a sign, any sign, that triggers the mind of a would-be buyer or seller, who otherwise might have had no such intention.

    Of course direct sales marketing promo does help row the boat to its destination. Just listed cards, followed by just sold promo pieces help make the phone ring. But really that is just support back-up.

    One branch management forever difficult to deal with problem is when an agent has had multiple business in a certain geographic area and many calls or visitors appear as a result. The lead does not necessarily go to the agent who made it happen. Mostly it’s not the company name that made it happen, although there are a few wonderful companies out there. Some offices even have rules that unless the lead asks for a specific agent by name, the reception desk just decides which agent gets the lead, or all no-name leads are “processed” through the manager.

    There’s no easy system ever been formulated to deal with incoming no-name business leads. But once an agent is allocated to deal with that lead, it comes down to how the lead is treated.

    I go back to referencing my pinned maps and charts and graphs. They were my support system that verified my production. Not long after I started in the business, I decided to remove my name from the office duty roster. Every time I was “on duty” I turned an incoming call or visitor into business. There was something very disturbing about that. Lots of how-come questions. Others did roster duty and produced no business even from incoming calls or visitors that were real live leads.

    Kind of like Jeff Sterns’ refrigerator story. And he told two friends and they told two friends (like the old shampoo commercial). And then he told REM readers. Fortunate for the store, he didn’t name them.

    When you connect with a live lead, simply make sure you treat them like the bucket of gold they are. They might only think they are ready to do business, and together you discover they are not. But that is not a lost lead. If you handle it right it will produce more real business than you can handle. It’s another form of live lead that has babies.

    It’s true. It’s the law of reciprocity at work. For some reason it seems the topic of how to deal with that all important first connection isn’t stressed in textbook learning or to any large degree in seminars.

    Paying for leads is often a useless activity. With all the other things agents need to pay for, there should be no need to pay for leads of any kind from any source. Simply network and treat people right and you will never be short of leads in your own pipeline. And that will provide you with an abundance of self-generated marketing materials.

    How do I know about such things? I’m living proof. I did it my way… Like “the little engine that could;” and did.

    One of my sign-off’s on the bottom of my corporate boutique stationery was: Carolyne Realty Corp.
    Small Company ~ but we’re BIG in Brampton.

    And all my corporate envelopes were preprinted in a magenta line, in the bottom right-hand corner reading:

    Thanks for your continued support …

    (Always with the ellipsis.)

    Carolyne L 🍁

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