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Is 12 Months Too Long? The Real Estate Blog Is The Ultimate Drip Marketing Campaign

The industry stats claim that it will take between 6 and 18 months to incubate the Internet Lead.
Is a mean of 12 months too long?
Can the real estate blog accelerate this?

First, let's define the Internet Lead:  A valid email address, acquired through your Internet presence (read: site).

The obvious is that with an email address you are limited as to how you can communicate to them.

Without a blog:
If the direct communications (personal, direct email efforts) are ignored, you are left using email drip systems (canned?) and IDX listing updates (better).
I can see that with only these options in your arsenal then 6 to 18 months of incubation should be expected.  Email drip systems work well to continue to educate and brand, and IDX maintains buyers' interest, but neither really work the warmer lead, still hiding behind their email address.

The Real Estate Blog is the new Lead Incubator.

Internet leads receiving your bog's email blasts/RSS feed (related: Your Blog Is Bait) will very likely come to one of two early decisions: die off or embrace.
An active blog will post at least once a week, probably more.  Frequent blog blasts sent to your audience nearly force them to make the choice to either 'belong' or split.
(With RSS the effect is the same - the information is either desired or ignored).  This decision will be made way before 6 to 12 months, try 3 to 6 weeks.

Sure you'll have your 6 to 18 'monthers' - but the increase in the interest and participation of the warmer lead will accelerate the incubation period as well as engage more education seeking leads.  Aren't those the leads we want most, the ones that are looking to do business soon, and not years from now?

First, let's examine how the use of standard tools (no blog), can cause a lead to take longer to incubate, if at all.

The warmer leads (under 6 months), hungry for resource, and education, yet still want to remain 'anonymous,' may continue to seek out information elsewhere.  If you are not answering the questions they have and not providing information to them at the pace they require, then you are not meeting their needs.

The colder leads (6 months - 1 year), may not be so cold.  Maybe they are timid of the current market.  Maybe they are scared of their credit.  Maybe they have just been told by friends that now is just not the right time. Yet you know that if you were able to get them on the phone, you would be able to educate them on why moving forward today is better than holding out for another year.  Are these leads going to get the current, relevant and trustworthy information that they need to make this decision from your static website?

Overcoming these and other objections, would have kept prospects on track, but unfortunately they were not handled by your website (nor drip campaign), therefore extending the incubation period.

Second, when was the last time you actually updated your drip email campaign?  Does your drip email campaign actually have relevant statistics, or are the emails going out with common advice or standard branding ("your Realtor for life")?

What can't be ignored, is that overwhelmingly these canned emails are disregarded and seen as spammy. Unless you are constantly updating the emails that are being sent out, they are going to be outdated, irrelevant, lacking emotion, uninspiring, and missing a core ingredient of prospecting; relating on a personal level.  A blog reflects persona, community and connection. Most drip email campaigns are impersonal and scheduled.

If in fact, you are making the effort to actually provide current, relevant and unique information in your drip campaigns, why limit the exposure of efforts to a lead list?  You are blogging in a vacuum if you don't take your knowledge to the web.

How can the use of a blog help incubate Internet leads more quickly as well as engage the warmer lead?

Frequent, relevant content maintains a prospect's focus, keeping them warm.
Rich, deep content, based on common challenges and needs will educate, impress and help you overcome objections keeping prospects on track.

The participatory element of the blog encourages prospects to accelerate their reciprocal communication while still maintaining their distance behind their email address (or RSS feed).

Blog writing also helps bring the human element to the Internet based relationship you have with your prospect (related: Being Business Friendly in Business Blogging). Writing style, personification and current communication will firmly engage your prospect in ways that IDX listings, canned email drips and your static website will fail.

How to get them to react is all in the call to action.  Clear service offers, calls to action and baited participation, supported by your prospects' desired insight is the key.  When you are bringing the knowledge, present the opportunity for them to respond to it.

Is a mean of 12 months too long?

Yes. 
The length of time it takes to incubate an Internet Lead in most cases is dependent on the efficiency in which their objections were handled. By moving your voice online, you can answer these objections in real time (and in archive) and in turn move that lead closer to commitment. The blog, when used properly, can be a step back to the incubation of the traditional lead (walk-in, sign call etc.), something that is done in 6 to 18 weeks, not months.

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Comments

Well said, Jim. I, too, am of the opinion that blogs are not just link bait but also lead bait. It's just a matter of using the right content to keep visitors engaged and the right tools to call them to action. Simple formula- guarenteed results.

I'm of the view that my blog is my giant prospecting, geographic farming, mobile office resource, listing/buyer rep presentation all rolled into one.

I don't mean it's pure hard sell - that would suck. It's information, it's relationship building, it's fun, and it's sell.

The blog is on 24/7/365 so how can it not do things faster than me trying to meet and greet and play phone tag? I'm going to New Zealand for three weeks over Christmas.... but my blog ain't.

I had one lead who used my site for two years before she sold and then bought. I have some out there now that probably won't do a thing until spring, giving me the opportunity to slowly build relationships with them over a period of months, with out spending any money. All last Winter I worked with a couple in France. They bought a townhouse in last July. By the time I met them in person we felt like we had known each other for years. I love working with these people. I don't use drip email, instead I use top producer to remind me to follow up on a regular basis.

Great post Jim, and dead on. Consumers have finally wrested away control of real estate information, and we must deal with them now on their terms. In the end, it's still about relationships, but to form a relationship with someone who wishes to remain anonymous requires us to put our knowledge and personality out there and let them choose. People love to buy and they hate to be sold. The consumer no longer has to put up with being sold. We have to learn a better way to let them buy.

So, I have the option of adding folks to my blog's e-mail blast. I've made the offer via opt-in in the past and had no response. Are you suggesting going the other route and adding them with an opt-out option?

John,
Although some readers may disagree, and it may not be the best excercise to promote... I would still consider 'signing up' my email database to the email blog blast. In doing so, things that I would make crystal clear in the blast would be:
1. Short intro as to what the blast is, and how often to expect it.
2. Option to sign up for RSS instead of getting emails
3. Obvious opt-out option.
-
You will more than likely lose a percentage that don't 'appreciate your effort,' but just the same, you will be delighting others... And isn't it those for whom you work in the first place?
----

Teresa,
I'd have to say that the directly personal approach that you take to maintain the contact/relationship with prospects is superior due to the fact that it is personal and timely. I too, try and maintain that personal communication on a 'software reminded' basis, knowing how effective it will be. Nonetheless, my approach to the article was just having a look at how a blog might be able to speed up the incubation process as a replacement and betterment of the standard drip email marketing and monthly newsletters that are so common.

I have found out in my 3-4 months of blogging on Active Rain that it is an excellent tool. I have found that propects really get an oppotunity to learn about me and the way I do business by reading my blogs.

I have just started one on TypePad and guest author at www.nelalive.net

I have had great success in this short period. Blogging has greatly helped my business development and allowed past customers to stay engaged with me.

Brian,

I love to hear about the success that blogging has brought agents. I stand up on this soapbox everyday expressing how valuable a marketing to it can be, and it is always reasurring to hear from the those in the trenches. Great job. I'd love to hear what types of content you feel has been leveraging your blogging success.

Jim, this is good. My business is pretty much all internet these days so obviously this post jumped out at me. I need to re-evaluate my numbers and time spans from initial contact to conversion.

I think the key to the blog and leads is all about creating a personal relationship without ever talking to the person. Email drip systems as you mentioned are "cold" and often don't give the "human" touch. A properly written blog can help a potential client come to trust you as a real estate expert, and to feel comfortable with you before they ever speak with you.

great post jim. i have people sign up to use my mls search which has given me a lot of emails. these people aren't too committed to me directly. how should i go about pursuing these people.

Unfortunately most of your numbers are pretty accurate. Web leads can take FOREVER to pan out, and can sometimes drive us agents nuts in the process. I think it's important to think from their standpoint as a consumer/client/customer and remember that when you walk into a new clothing store, you just want to look around at first. But then when you find something you like, that's when you want to personal connection and advice from the sales rep.

I suppose that just reinforces your other posts about quality of content. Keep up the great job Tomato!

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