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April 2009

Yahooooooo!

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I think that's what Members Laura Duggan and Patrick Birdsong must be saying right now--not only do they have the most expensive listing in Austin, Texas, but it has also been featured as "the most viewed expensive home" on Yahoo's homepage and has been in the rankings for five days. 

Yahoo_screenshot

This great exposure on Yahoo has resulted in over two thousand folks visiting their website and registering to see more listing details--in just two days. 

As Laura says, "You gotta love that viral marketing!"

Congratulations Laura and Patrick!


Website improvements

Construction We're working on our website.  Very soon the site will have a new look and feel--with much improved navigation. 

Over the next few days, you'll see a new page design appear.  As our web designers implement this, you may find that things look a bit odd or perhaps don't work.   Don't worry, in just a day or two things will be back to better-than-normal!

Soon, we'll be making a BIG update to the Member Directory that we think you'll really like.

Much like a nice kitchen renovation, we'll be living with a bit of dust and noise for the next couple days, but I think the results will be worth it!


Strategies to power your luxury business, despite hard times (Part II)

In the previous post, we looked at five key strategies for keeping your luxury home marketing business on track during a slow market.  Here are five more smart strategies to consider implementing:

  1. Ask for and reward your best customers for referrals of their peers
    Don’t be hesitant about asking past clients for referrals. If you did a good job for them, chances are they’ll be happy to refer prospects to you.  Just be sure you ask in a benefit-oriented way.  “Do you know someone who might need my real estate services?  You know I’ll work hard to do a good job. Can you think of anyone who is considering buying or selling?”  When you do receive a referral, handle it with care and immediately reward the source of the referral.  Don’t wait to see if a transaction closes.  Immediately send a thank you with a small gift.  If the gift is part of a set, so much the better.  Start with two pretty coffee mugs or a silver mint julep cup and add another one with each referral received.  This not only says, “Thank you,” it provides an incentive to refer again.

  2. Target specific market segments
    Trying to be all things to all people makes you an expert at nothing. Instead, focus on specific segments within the luxury market.  Downtown condos and townhouses, waterfront/waterview properties, gated communities, properties priced above $5 million, or country club developments are all good examples of specific segments.  While you may be able to combine several related segments for an effective luxury home strategy, only in very small markets (where you have to be a generalist to have enough business to make a living) can you focus on all price ranges and property types.  Otherwise, brand yourself as a specialist within a specific property category or two. Your goal is to be known as the “go to person” in your targeted market segment.

  3. Understand that every home has a story, and that your job is to tell it!
    Effective marketing is about understanding what makes a home unique and being able to answer the question, “Where is the value in this home?”  The ability to do this separates great listing agents from average agents.  In other words, what is this home’s story and how can you tell it effectively?  The copy you write about a home should tell the story and quality photographs should reinforce the story.  Here is a headline and subheadline to illustrate: 
    European style home on a 2-acre dream lot, gated community
    13,000 square feet with wine cellar, 5-car garage, and backyard “sports complex”

    How many reasons to buy does this headline and subhead provide?  Compare this to a property address used as a headline.  Which do you think has more marketing power?

  4. Look for value (pinch your pennies)
    Today’s market demands that you run your real estate practice as efficiently as possible.  Take a tip from other agents who are using technology to do more for less.  Aaron Wheeler of Oakville Properties in California’s Silicon Valley, uses DocuSign.com to get legal document signatures no matter where in the world his clients might be. He has eliminated overnight delivery charges from his expenses and saved deals with the ability to collect signatures almost instantly.  He also does one might call “soundbite market research.” He uses Twitter to test property headline alternatives.  The headline which results in the most clicks on a property link, is the headline he uses in his promotion.

  5. Become THE luxury home expert
    If you’ve taken an Institute for Luxury Home Marketing training course, you know the single most important thing I believe you can do to build your business, regardless of market conditions, is to become THE expert.  The most effective way to do that is to regularly analyze the market and create a Monthly Market Update Report which looks at activity in your local luxury market by narrow price ranges. Breaking the luxury market into price ranges and tracking key information -- including number of properties in inventory, number sold, days-on-market, and percent of list price for which properties ultimately sell – will make you an expert who is able to provide important information to your buyers and sellers.  Remember that the luxury segment is primarily composed of bottom-line oriented business people who expect you to “know the numbers” with regard to real estate. If you can demonstrate you have your fingers on the pulse of the market, you’ll meet the important criteria of “Is this agent a true luxury expert?”

The economy has taken a tool on the luxury market, but this profitable segment will bounce back. In the meantime, by working smart, you can continue to do business and position yourself for future luxury market share growth.  


April Wealth Report Newsletter

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Members can find the April issue of The Wealth Report Newsletter from The Luxury Institute on our website.  This issue features insights and commentary on marketing and sales practices in two market segments:

  1. Luxury Vacation Real Estate
  2. Fractional Ownership & Private Residence Clubs

Members can download it here (login required).


Strategies to power your luxury business, despite hard times (Part 1)

The luxury home market is the niche that is generally the last to slow down and the first to bounce back during a real estate market downturn.  But, what do you do in between, before the market snaps back? 

The New York-based Luxury Marketing Council, whose members are international purveyors of luxury products and services, surveyed members to determine how they plan to survive and thrive in today’s market. Reviewing the strategies their members reported using caused me to think about how some of their ideas might translate into strategies an individual luxury agent could use in today’s challenging real estate market. 

Here are five of ten strategies adapted for real estate (with an idea or two along the way).  Watch for part two with for the remaining five strategies.

  1. Identify and “hug” your best customers
    Take your list of previous luxury home buyers and sellers, add your best prospects and ask yourself how you can initiate meaningful interactions with them.  How can you add value to the relationship and keep it active?  Providing specific up-to-the-minute market information is one way to stay in touch and provide value. One member of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing follows up with her best customers by sending them information targeted to their specific interests.  For example, for her clients who love fine food and dining out, she’ll send a recent restaurant review with a short personal note.  If clients are environmentally conscious, she’ll send information on new green products for the home.  This approach tells clients that she cares about them, recognizes what’s important to them, and helps cement her relationships. It’s her way of sending her best customers “big hugs.”

  2. Increase the perceived value of your service
    Here’s an easy way to start to “beef up” the value of the service you provide.  Make a list of all the customer contact points you have with a buyer in a normal transaction.  Then make a second list of the contact points in a seller’s transaction.  On each of the lists, choose just three contact points.  Then ask yourself what you can do at each point to make it better, easier, faster, or more fun for your buyer or seller.  If you can come up with just three things, you’ll enhance the experience and be perceived as delivering more value than your competition.  You can almost hear the buzz, “Do you know what my Realtor did for me?”

  3. Invest in one-to-one permission e-marketing and consider social networking
    The affluent consumer is a user of technology.  In fact, as wealth goes up, so does Internet use.  If you want to attract wealthy clients, you’ll need to polish your Internet marketing skills. While you could advertise online, a more cost effective approach is to utilize sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Linked-in to build your brand.  One way to create visibility and demonstrate your expertise is by commenting in Q&A sections on sites like these.  Creating your own blog is another way to establish a strong Online presence.  If you don’t want the commitment of writing a blog, comment frequently on other’s real estate blogs.  Just be sure to conduct yourself as professionally online as you do in the “real world.” 

  4. Consider hosting small, targeted events for your best customers and their friends
    Face-to-face is still the best way to stay connected with people and to create new relationships. Create affordable, meaningful ways to interact in person with your best customers.  Many agents do annual client appreciation events to stay in touch. Why not expand that concept with small, simple events that keep you connected?  Some luxury agents plan small events around client’s interests. Plan a small local hike for your outdoor loving clients, provide bottled water and trail mix, perhaps find a local expert in flora and fauna to help you lead the hike. Not sure about clients’ interests?  Schedule a series of adult ice cream socials at a local ice cream parlor (use the kid’s party room). Almost everyone likes ice cream! When space allows, ask clients to invite a friend.  This expands your circle of contacts with people who are probably similar to your best customers and helps make your events business-generating activities. 

  5. Partner with kindred spirit brands
    Companies which sell products and services to the wealthy are working to leverage their time and dollars, just like you are.  Look for creative ways to work together.  Don’t limit your thinking to just real estate related firms.  While an international resort community developer may be willing to host a special event for your best customers and pay you a referral fee if a sale results, some non-real estate firms may be equally interested in cooperation.  If your local Williams Sonoma gourmet kitchen store has a cooking demo area in the store, they may gladly host a free cooking class for you and a few clients. Give your guests an inexpensive goodie from the store and you’ve stayed in touch in a fun, meaningful, but inexpensive way.  This ties in nicely to idea number four above. Get creative!


None of this is rocket science.  It’s all about focusing on your best customers, staying in touch in meaningful ways, adding value to your service, and using technology to build your brand -- things you should be doing regardless of market conditions.  Remember to watch for part two in an upcoming post for five more strategies to help you prosper despite today’s market conditions. 


"Best of the Best" Luxury Home Appliances and Bathroom Fixtures Brands

Hansgrohe Bath

The Luxury Institute has just released its 2009 Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) survey, which identifies the top brands based on the ratings of wealthy consumers.

Which luxury home appliances brands deliver the best combination of quality, exclusivity, customer experience and peer prestige?  High net-worth consumers rated Wolf, Viking and Sub-Zero the "Best of the Best" among the 20 brands that were rated.

In the bath fixtures category, Hansgrohe, Showhouse by Moen and Franke were rated the top three among 16 brands.

Here's a link to the Luxury Institute press release.


GMRE Hosts "Million Dollar Mastermind" Call

Next Wednesday, April 8th, at 3PM EST Justin Zimmerman of Good Morning Real Estate is hosting a "Million Dollar Mastermind" call on the luxury market featuring Laurie Moore-Moore and Institute members Anita Rich from Los Angeles and Laura Duggan from Austin.

More info and registration

The call is free and open to all agents.  As with the other Good Morning Real Estate calls Justin will record the call and email the mp3 to everyone who has registered.  Register and ask questions here.