How to Get More from Your Sphere
Everyone has a sphere of influence and in real estate, your sphere of influence is typically your greatest asset. Your sphere of influence (also called “SOI” or “sphere”) consists of the people who know you and know of you. Your sphere is your personal and professional network, including your family, friends, and people you know through affiliations like school, work, church, volunteering, sports, activities, and more. Because your sphere knows you, they are generally more likely to listen to you and advocate for you. Consequently, your sphere of influence is your most important source of referrals and repeat business.
Nurturing your sphere of influence is such an important strategy to grow your business, and one that has led to so much success, that a huge portion of the real estate industry focuses solely on selling to their spheres. Brokerages like eXp and Keller Williams, and methods like Larry Kendall’s Ninja Selling, encourage agents to focus largely, or completely, on building relationships with the people who know them. So, what can agents do to effectively build relationships with the people who know them and how can digital marketing and technology help them nurture their sphere of influence? Read on for the top ten ways to nurture your sphere.
- Be Social
- Leverage Video
- Use Email Marketing
- Engage with Your Sphere on a Personal Level
- Develop Great Content
- Have a Daily Routine
- Segment Your Contacts
- Serve Highly Targeted Ads
- Have Fun
- Don’t Forget to Ask for Referrals
1. Be Social
By nature, social media is social, meaning it only works because it involves many people who together form a network, or a community, and interact with one another. Social media has literally changed the world – it’s altered the way we communicate, the way we consume information, the way we make decisions, and the way we do business, among other things. And yet, its success is based on the very simple and very human idea that we are all wired to want to connect with each other. For businesses, this has presented myriad opportunities, and some challenges, and at times, overcomplicated what marketing in the age of social media entails. In fact, there’s an entire industry based on social media marketing which really isn’t any different than content marketing which really isn’t any different than marketing. Marketing is literally what you do to sell your products or services. Content marketing is the concept of creating and sharing content such as images, videos, blogs, etc. that help you sell your products or services. Social media marketing is doing that on social networks. Isn’t that all the same thing?
The importance of calling this out is that to effectively nurture your sphere of influence and leverage social media as a place to foster connections with the people who know you, and the people who know the people who know you, it’s more important to focus on the social aspect of social media than the marketing aspect. Yes, you should create and share great content, such as beautiful photos of homes you were in, videos exploring cool spots in your town, infographics highlighting key trends in your market, but more importantly, use social media to have conversations and make connections. Social media is all about sharing ideas and thoughts. Instead of just posting a listing photo or sharing a blog without context, experiment with video, polls, interactive content like stories, and user generated content (that’s when you ask other people to post things). Have fun. We’ve seen clients get hundreds of comments on personal posts that aren’t real estate related, such as posts about new year workout regimens. Why not embrace that? Remember that the key is to respond to the comments you’ll get – to continue the conversation so it stands out and has an impact. Agents often think very literally about how to market their services, but content that doesn’t even mention the words “listing”, “buyers”, or “sellers” once can be far more effective in reminding your sphere – who already know you – that you’re around and available to help them with whatever they need, real estate related or not. It also gives them something shareable to pass along to their sphere, which grows your reach and maximizes your chances of getting your name out there in front of an equally valuable audience.
2. Leverage Video
People want to watch the Internet. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic and in the last year we have overwhelmingly increased our time spent watching and marketing via video. As Wyzowl’s recent State of Video Marketing survey concluded, consumers continue to use, expect, and look forward to amazing video content from brands and companies “feel more positive about the return on investment offered by video than ever, as it continues to strongly influence traffic, leads, sales, and audience understanding.” Why do we love video so much? Our brains are hardwired to process images far faster than text and video adds the elements of movement and audio to already more memorable visuals. The average viewer retains 95% of a message when they watch it, as opposed to a mere 10% retention rate when reading it. And videos that tell stories are even better, which is particularly key when reaching out to your sphere, on social media, via email, or through advertising.
Videos allow you to express your emotion and foster stronger connections with your audience. Videos are also more shareable. And creating shareable content is key to not only creating stronger connections and staying top of mind with the people who already know you, but growing your sphere too. People share things when they resonate with us so much that we think others will appreciate them, too. And when we see someone in our network share something, we’re more likely to notice it and it’s more likely to resonate with us simply because it was shared by someone we know and trust. This is how things go viral. You take something that elicits a strong emotional response, preferably a positive one, and combine it with the channel like social media, which already, by nature, is social, and you’ve got a winning combination of something people want to see and want to share.
The best part of video, especially video that tells a compelling, emotive story, is the more people like it, the more search engines will like it too. Videos are not only more likely to be shared, but they’re also more likely to increase engagement on your social media posts and dwell time on your website too, which is the time people spend engaging with your content. This improves your search engine ranking, which then ensures more people find your content, which feeds the cycle. More eyeballs on and more time spent with your content is the winning combination all marketers seek. Check out this article to learn more about why video is good for SEO and give it a try. Video doesn’t have to be high quality to be powerful. If you’re still not convinced, check out these tips to produce amazing videos.
3. Use Email Marketing
Email marketing is still one of the most cost effective ways to reach your potential, current, and past customers, and it’s also one of the most often overlooked parts of a successful marketing strategy. Email marketing is all about nurturing your contacts, often referred to as your database. These contacts include people who never worked with you, but whose contact information you have, as well as people who’ve worked with you multiple times, and everyone in between. So the key with email marketing is to segment your contacts and make sure you’re sending people content that’s relevant to them, and your relationship with them. Let’s start with those people who never ended up working with you. Lead nurturing is the process of developing relationships with potential customers at every stage of the sales funnel, and it’s key to growing your business, as most people need time to make a decision. Lead nurturing requires listening to your potential customers’ needs and providing information they need, such as market updates for the people trying to decide when the right time to sell is, or community information for the people trying to decide where to buy a home. It is time consuming and therefore, most people don’t do it. It is also really effective because selling is not a linear process. According to Gleanster Research:
- 50% of the leads you generate are qualified, but not ready to buy right now.
- 25% of the leads you generate are totally unqualified; they won’t ever buy.
- So at any given time, only 25% of your leads are ready to buy.
A huge difference between a successful company and a mediocre one lies in how the remaining already qualified leads are handled – possibly 50% of your business. These people become part of your sphere and targeted email marketing is the single best way to continue the conversation with them, without actually having to dedicate a lot of time to it, so you can focus on working your “hot leads” and selling real estate. The reality is, if you stick it out with them, you also have a good chance of being the only name they remember. Because on average, prospects receive ten marketing touches from the time they enter the top of the funnel until they’re closed won customers. And yet…49% of marketers include less than five touches in their lead nurturing programs. So pay attention to every lead and they’ll most likely pay attention to you.
4. Engage with Your Sphere on a Personal Level
The great thing about your sphere of influence is they already know you. At the very least, even someone who inquired about your services through your website and never became a customer knows enough about you to have reached out to you. Take advantage of that and be authentic with your sphere. Authenticity helps us build deeper connections. Tell stories, share updates, and foster connections on a personal level, because your sphere already likes you, and as previously mentioned, we are hardwired to want to connect with each other. Struggling with work life balance? Share it. Offer fell through? Share it. Feeling vulnerable about an upcoming speech? Share it. Or, on the flip side, looking for testimonials? Ask your clients for them directly, and share what it would mean to you if they provided one. Looking for referrals? Just ask. You’d be amazed at the responses you get when you show up as your authentic self. Social media is great for this, but we also recommend scheduling some live events (yes, even virtual ones! Non-real estate related is encouraged, like a virtual book club!) and picking up the phone. If you call five people you know every day to catch up and actually share with them how you’re doing, you could learn a lot about where they are too. Be intentional and show up ready to listen, or you might be disappointed when you feel you didn’t “do anything” all morning. Fostering your relationships on a personal level is well worth the time, though you may not always see the immediate impact.
5. Develop Great Content
High quality, unique content is the cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy and is especially important for nurturing your sphere. In Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow, he talks about the importance of being remarkable – of literally being someone people remark, or talk, about. Marketing is all about amplifying a message and what better way to do that than to give your influencers, the people who already know of you, know you, and presumably listen to what you have to say more than others, something great to talk about. Think of your sphere like a force multiplier. The more you can produce content they’ll like, the more they’ll like it, which search engines will like (as all they want it to get more clicks), which will lead to new people discovering and liking your content, which will grow your sphere, which means you’ll have even more people to notice and engage with new content, continuing the cycle. The key is to really make sure the content you’re producing is content your sphere will like. Listen to what they’re saying and measure what works. Try different things if you’re not sure. As Google’s John Mueller reminds us, Google won’t index content unless it’s “useful, unique, compelling, or high-quality” so once you find out what interests them most, go all in on that. Remember that what’s interesting to some won’t be to others and that’s okay, though you should have a niche that represents your brand well. Check out this article for more on how to build your brand online.
6. Have a Daily Routine
Developing a contact strategy, setting goals for yourself, and keeping track of what you’ve done are all key to nurturing your sphere. You may assume that because your sphere are people you know, you’ll be talking to them regularly, and that may be the case with some, but it’s also likely the reason most people get most of their referrals from a sub-segment of their total sphere of influence. If you really want to nurture your entire sphere of influence, be intentional about building a daily routine that involves contacting a few people within your sphere every single day. I’ve heard of systems like the 5-5-5, I’ve seen variations based on time (an hour a day spent calling your sphere) – whatever works for you and is going to stick is what you should go with. Don’t worry about the exact number, as the goal is simply to put in the activity and make sure you’re spending time on the most important things.
7. Segment Your Contacts
As mentioned throughout this post, there are several reasons to segment your contacts and they all boil down to effectiveness and efficiency. As a busy real estate agent, you want to develop a process that can be used overtime without a lot of iteration and customization. You also want that process to work. Developing personas is the process of identifying key segments of your audience. This can be particularly useful for sphere marketing as you have a wide range of people within your sphere of influence, from people who know of you, but have yet to use your services, to people who are your key influencers and send you the most referrals currently. By segmenting your contacts and defining your personas, you can identify what matters most to each and tailor what you say to them accordingly. Plus, there may be different ways you want to reach the different personas, or segments of your sphere, and that may influence organizations you get involved with, channels you spend time and advertise on, and more.
8. Serve Highly Targeted Ads
Per Comscore, people are 3x more likely to search for you or your company after being exposed to a display ad for you. And people overwhelmingly trust brand messages after seeing them across multiple channels, with 87% of Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report respondents saying they have strong trust in a brand’s message after seeing it across six channels vs. only 13% who have strong trust after seeing it once. Online advertising can be highly effective in reaching a specific audience with a message that’s tailored to them, at the right time, in the right place, and at the right frequency for that message to resonate with them. For sphere marketing, online advertising can be particularly effective as Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Microsoft’s Audience Network (which includes Bing, LinkedIn, and thousands of other websites), and other channels all allow for highly granular targeting, including targeting based on past behavior, such as people who visited your website, and targeted by email list, which is where your database comes in handy. You can use your contacts to create separate advertising campaigns targeting specific sub-segments of your sphere, such as past leads who never transacted, past customers, repeat customers, and professional contacts, and serve them messaging specific to them. Tools also exist to do other things like create lookalike audiences in Facebook targeting people who act like your past customers, and target people who have interacted with your ads, such as clickers, sharers, video viewers, etc. The key with these strategies, as with any online advertising, is to be intentional about how you segment your audience, what you say to them, and where you direct them. Their entire user experience, from the ads they see, to the landing page on your website where they land, should be personalized to them and consistent.
9. Have Fun
The key to nurturing your sphere long term is to make it fun and to make it efficient. The idea of nurturing your sphere long term can be daunting to many real estate agents who see nurturing your sphere and getting your next commission check as two conflicting things. On the other hand, many people who’ve already worked with you don’t need or want to be “sold to” as they’re either not in the market, don’t need convincing of your value, or both. Many people in your sphere simply need reminders that you’re around and available to help others. It’s still true that many people can’t remember the name of the real estate agent who helped them. According to the National Association of Realtors’ most recent data, 26% of sellers used the agent they had previously worked with to buy or sell their home. Yet 74% said they would use their agent again. So, why the huge delta? Because we have terrible memories. If all it takes to significantly grow your business is to develop a few drip campaigns, or sequences of emails, that you can use to make sure your past customers – especially those who haven’t already worked with you multiple times – remember who you are, it’s well worth it. Focus on entertaining, light content that they’ll want to read given the life stage they’re likely in. If you work with a lot of people who have recently downsized, set up a drip campaign talking about making the most of an empty nest or having a life after your kids leave. Create a series around DIY home decoration and resources to inspire our inner Martha Stewart and set up anyone who’s recently moved into a new home to receive them. Have fun and make them evergreen, so you can send them anytime and not have to worry about re-writing them, and you’ll get a lot of mileage out of them over the years.
10. Don’t Forget to Ask for Referrals
Last, but not least, one of the top ways to nurture, and get more business from, your sphere, is to simply ask for more business. Sometimes we don’t ask the most important questions because we forget. And often, it’s because we’re afraid to get an answer we don’t want. The thing is, people love to help others. In fact, in study after study, people overwhelmingly feel a stronger sense of purpose when they know they’ve done something to help someone else. When we let other people know what will help us, they overwhelmingly jump at the chance to do it. Similarly, we often fear direct questions like asking someone for their business, even if we’re really really good at it, because the fear of rejection is so powerful. The key is that usually, when someone says no, it’s not a personal rejection. So consider the last time you asked someone “Do you know anyone who may be interested in buying or selling a home?” and make it a part of your regular calls. Make sure you follow up right away on any tips people give you. After all, you’d do that anyway for any leads. And when you think someone in your sphere may be getting ready to buy or sell themselves, make sure to ask them how you can help them too.
These are just some of the ways to market to your sphere and get more business from your sphere. Contact us today to learn more and talk to a strategist about what makes the most sense for you.