7 LinkedIn Hacks for Growing Your Business in 2017

By Amanda Creter

By Amanda Creter

When it comes to marketing yourself and your business on social media, what are the first platforms that come to mind? Facebook tends to be the first place most young professionals and entrepreneurs turn to. Although Facebook can be a great resource to grow your presence on social media, many tend to overlook other outlets. One that a lot of individuals don’t invest much time into is LinkedIn. Many view it as a forum to look for a new career or recruit new talent for big corporations. It is not commonly associated with small business, entrepreneurs, or fields such as Real Estate. However, given the chance, LinkedIn could benefit you in more ways than you realize, and here are 7 hacks to kick starting your business presence on LinkedIn.

1)      Complete your Profile. This may seem like a pretty straightforward task, but you would be surprised by the amount of LinkedIn users who have not completed their profiles. A complete profile lays out a better story of your history, your skills, and how you may be a valuable contact to someone.

2)      Create a Business Page. LinkedIn is not just for professionals looking to change careers. You may not think you will gain much from LinkedIn outside of connecting with others in your industry, but it is a good way to keep in contact and up to date on potential clients.

3)      Link your Business and Personal Pages. This way you can promote your business on your personal page as well. You can also link your personal page to your business website. By linking these two pages you give connections a look into yourself personally (the individual behind the brand that they can relate to) and by showcasing what your company/business does.

4)      Join/Start LinkedIn Groups. See a group that interests you? Maybe it’s about Marketing, Real Estate, or the area you live in. Whatever it is, join in and share your opinions (or expertise!) If you don’t see a group that interests you, or you see enough mention of a topic that doesn’t have its own outlet, create a group for it! Maybe you are in a large group of other Real Estate Agents and you want to connect with a handful of them specifically. Create a smaller group to converse in, you never know what resources they may provide in the future.

5)      Update your Company Page Frequently. Use this to your advantage. Post frequently, but make sure your posts hold value. Don’t post something that you wouldn’t put on your website or other business pages you have. Add your blog, but make sure they have content your audience would find beneficial. Post visuals, but make sure they are eye catching. Don’t just post any image that comes your way.

6)      Interact with other Professionals (but don’t accept/invite everyone!). Be picky. Yes, you are on LinkedIn to network and make new connections. But not everyone that adds you to LinkedIn will be relevant to what your goal is, growing your business. Take the time to review the profile of every person that adds you. If you think they could be a resource or potential client, then feel free to add them. And this goes the other way around as well. Don’t start adding people to grow your connection count. Quality over Quantity is an important adage to live by in this situation. If you add and accept just anyone, eventually your 3rd party connections will be a complete mess, and you won’t be able to keep up with those who have pertinence to your business.

7)      Customize your URL. This will make it easier to search for you and share your profile with others.

LinkedIn isn’t a good fit for everyone. Those who are not looking to grow a business, change careers, or Network, will most likely stick to platforms like Facebook where they can keep up to date with friends and family. This makes LinkedIn a more niche platform for professionals to use. Take the time and learn the ins and outs of LinkedIn, stay up to date with the changes it makes, and it will pay off for you professionally!

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Is A Marketing Assistant Exactly What You Need?

By Amanda Creter

A new world of possibilities for the modern day Real Estate Agent has been unlocked when it comes to marketing. Many professionals have integrated new strategies and tactics that are setting themselves apart leveraging social media and other distribution channels. However, with these new opportunities also come new responsibilities and many Real Estate Agents simply don’t have the time to invest to make sure they are staying competitive. This is leaving quite a bit of their potential market untapped, open to other Agents who have taken steps to monopolize marketing.

How have they done this? Aren’t they just as busy? They were most likely in the exact same boat as the next agent. So when it came time to expand their team, they looked toward the role of a Marketing Assistant, knowing the advantages such a role would give them in the industry. A real estate team can benefit from many roles, each specializing in their respective duties. Why should a Marketing Assistant be at/near the top of your list? Here are a few areas of value one can bring to your team.

·         Generating/Creating Content – Most Real Estate Agents don’t have much time to post anything other than Congratulations to clients who have just sold or purchased a home. Writing is also not every Agents strong suit. A Marketing Assistant can help a Real Estate Agent or Real Estate Team bridge the gap by creating marketing content. Whether this be weekly blog posts, systematic posting on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc), or adding relevant material on an Agent/Teams website, this creates a web presence they wouldn’t otherwise have. 

·         Lead Management – While they are running your social media presence, they can also be monitoring and following up on leads that come through these channels. Today’s Real Estate Agent has so many lead channels to choose from or invest in, which can become overwhelming. Often times the leads go unchecked because an Agent/Team doesn’t have the time to follow up. Adding this task into your Marketing Assistant’s duties while he/she is already managing your marketing initiatives may be a cost effective way to ensure your leads are not wasted.

·         Market Research – You are busy working with clients and growing a team. You most likely do not have the time to sit down and research what makes your competitor more successful, or what you could be doing more effectively. A Marketing Assistant will be able to do this and provide you with a comprehensive break down on what you are doing well, and what could be improved upon. This may provide you or your team a distinct advantage over the competition.

·         Advertising – The preferred way for Real Estate Agents is to operate and build their business through word of mouth. This takes time to build and Agents still need to cultivate their message to their past clients to maintain their referral business. For a newer Agent, or an Agent trying to grow a team who needs leads to distribute to their team of Agents, a referral based business may not  produce enough leads to sustain a team. When it comes to advertising, many Agents may be challenged finding where to start to build a sustainable pipeline of leads. A Marketing Assistant can spearhead lead pipeline growth initiatives while managing the projects.

A marketing assistant is not only limited to helping out in the areas mentioned above, but those with more experience can take on and understand SEO and Social Media strategies, digital transformation initiatives, and planning/overseeing promotional activities or customer appreciation events. Depending on the structure and goals of your business, a Marketing Assistant can be salaried or paid hourly. If you have your sights set on continuing to grow and are unsure of how to execute against a true marketing strategy, this hire may play a vital role to your organization.

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Executing Strategy: Different Approaches to Consider

By Amanda Creter

We have already discussed strategy and some of the popular strategic techniques. Picking a strategy that speaks to you is the first step. But where do you go from there? Having a strategy in place isn’t enough. You need to be able to effectively execute that strategy to create long term success for your business, and most business owners will admit that execution is their number one struggle.

                So what is the key to business execution? Like strategy, there is no right answer. Many forms of business execution exist and each one has its place. Here are a few noteworthy examples to help you decide which best aligns with your specific strategy.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Covey, Huling, McChesney

·         Discipline 1 – Focus on the Wildly Important: In the simplest terms, the more you try to split your focus, the less you will end up accomplishing. This is often a hard task for leaders to practice, because they want to try and do it all. But to be successful, you need to focus on that wildly important goal and pursue avenues that are in line with helping you achieve that goal.

·         Discipline 2 – Act on the Lead Measures: This discipline focuses on the notion that not every action your team performs will be equal in importance. This is why the first discipline is so important. With a clear goal in mind, you can more easily identify which measures require your attention. Instead of focusing on Lag Measures (things that have already happened), you can then focus on Lead Measures (high impact items that need to be focused on within your company to achieve your goal and fix your Lag Measures).

·         Discipline 3 – Keep a Compelling Scoreboard: To maintain motivation you need to engage with your team in a way that drives them to succeed. When they know the “score” and whether or not they are “winning or losing” the level of performance and productivity will rise. The key to keeping score however, is that you allow them to create the scoreboard so that they can instantly and easily know their place on it.

·         Discipline 4 – Create a Cadence of Accountability: The first three disciplines set you up for execution, but it isn’t until the fourth discipline that you truly begin to execute. You do this by establishing a system of accountability. Unless your team is holding each other accountable, and being consistent with that accountability, you will not be able to achieve your goals. They have to know that they are being held to a certain standard, and that they can in return ask their teammates to hold to that standard as well. With regular accountability check ins, your team with be invested in achieving the goals you have set forth.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

·         The People Process: Focuses on looking into the future, instead of in the past or present. Most companies look at employees and evaluate whether or not they can do the job they are currently doing. According to Bossidy and Charan, you should be looking at employees and evaluating whether or not they can do the job of tomorrow. The types of assessments most companies have in place look at past performance, but don’t effectively asses future capabilities.

·         The Strategy Process: Are the people you have employed capable of executing your strategy? With an effective skills matrix in place, you can address the lack of certain areas of skill within your company before they compromise strategy.

·         The Operations Process: Most strategic visions require that skill levels change and advance over time. By having a system in place where employees can easily access learning materials to increase their skills, you help them achieve skill milestones that aid in your strategic objective and timeline.

The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage by Robert Kaplan and David Norton

·         Stage 1 – Develop the Strategy: This stage is heavily focused on conventional strategy. First you need to clearly outline your mission statement, values, and vision. From there, start to do an analysis, such as a SWOT analysis, on your competitors and market trends. Completing analysis’s like these will give you the information critical to developing your strategy.

·         Stage 2 – Plan the Strategy: Once you have developed your strategy, then transform your objectives and goals into short term plans of action. Create a plan, identify gaps, and implement your strategy accordingly.

·         Stage 3 – Align the Organization with the Strategy: Once you have a clear strategic plan in place based off of your mission, values, and vision, make sure you have articulately conveyed them to your team. If they do not see your dream and understand it the way you do, they cannot effectively implement strategy to help achieve those goals.

·         Stage 4 – Plan Operations: Align your strategy with the most important aspects of your business. Do not waste your time or your resources improving aspects of your business that are not absolutely vital to your strategy. Instead focus on the core processes that will help facilitate stronger strategic and operational ties.

·         Stage 5 – Monitor and Learn: Do not just sit back and assume that everyone understood your vision and is now executing strategy the way you desire. Check in frequently to get status updates and feedback. This way you learn of a problem in the strategic operation early on, and can address it as soon as possible.

·         Stage 6 – Test and Adapt the Strategy: Be pliable. At some point along the way your strategy will need to adapt. As you grow, your goals will begin to change, which will require a change in strategy. Over time you may also see a change in your market, whether it be consumer or competition, and to remain successful you will need to be able to adapt to that change. If your strategy fails early on, try a different tactic. Strategy is not a perfect science, and will require trial and error.

These are only a handful of the examples of Strategic Execution out there. No strategy is the same, and therefore no execution will be the same. Do your research, and create a strategic execution plan based on what you are trying to achieve. Many struggle with strategic execution, so don’t be surprised if you don’t succeed immediately. The key is to keep adjusting and adapting until you do.

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Real Estate Agent Productivity Hacks and Tools: Here are just a few, what are you using?

By Amanda Creter and Alex Mont-Ros

     We’ve used the saying “time is money” before. In a busy real estate market, truer words have never been spoken. To be as successful as possible, a Real Estate Agent must learn to maximize their time and become as productive as humanely possible. The most successful agents don’t waste a single minute of their day. They have mapped out and organized their business so it is a lean, mean, well-oiled machine. To take your business to the next level, you must do the same. Here are some hacks to help get you started.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems

     The number one tool at an Agents disposal is that of a CRM System. If you are not using one, then you need to seriously take a look at how you are running your business. From our experience, the majority of business an agent receives is through word of mouth and on a referral basis. This is why top Real Estate Agents will ask often and strategically throughout a transaction if their client has any referrals, usually at set points throughout the transaction. These leads need to be tracked and managed so the business can have a line of sight on where the potential next transactions will be coming from. With regards to referrals and timing of when to ask for them, The Real Estate Trainer mentions, “always bring up the topic at the listing consultation, after successful open house, after an offer is accepted, after inspection repairs are completed, after a home appraises, at closing, and after many other steps in the typical transaction are completed.” For these new leads that will come from asking for referrals, a CRM is a must. If you already have a CRM and it’s working for you, stick with it. If you have yet to REALLY incorporate a CRM into your business here are a few you can try free.

·         Streak – If you already use Gmail and find it easy to navigate, check out their FREE CRM tool. They even have an option specifically for Real Estate Agents

·         Hubspot – Hubspot offers both a free trial and a full program upgrade. This one is more like a traditional CRM, and for anyone who may have past experience using them, you may find this one more user friendly than others. The coolest feature I enjoy about this one, the ability to track when someone opens an email. For marketing campaigns this is a great feature as it ties right into your email allowing you to get instant notifications and increasing your ability to convert leads.

·         Brivity – A CRM created by Top Real Estate Agent Ben Kinney. This CRM takes your business to the next level by increasing the effectiveness of customer service and marketing tactics and strategies. It is also a fantastic and effective Time Management Tool as well. Ben Kinney is well known in the industry and this tool was built by agents for agents. Highly recommended!!

These are just a few of the CRM options available to you. No matter which system you choose, we highly recommend FULLY implementing one if you want to grow your business!

Project Management and Collaboration Tools

     One way to stay on top of your business is by using a Project Management and Collaboration Tools. There are many out there to choose from. Here are just a some we recommend:

·         idonethis.com

·         Trello

·         Asana

·         Groupme

·         Slack

     These all have free versions and are easy to use. I really enjoy using idonethis as it allows you to keep track of tasks, reminding you and your team of what was accomplished the day before. It then keeps those tasks that were not complete on the list until further notice, updating you at a set time every day through email notification that you can control. Pretty cool, super simple, and highly recommended.

     Most of these tools allow you to input every aspect of your project(s), assign tasks to team members to be completed, input deadlines, create check lists (that can then be assigned to different team members), among many other features. And it is all in one easy to use interface. Keep track of your day and what your team members are doing so that everyone stays on track and is maximizing their productivity.

Transaction Coordination Services

     We have discussed in the past how having a Transaction Coordinator or Transaction Coordination System in place will save you valuable time you could be spending networking and growing your business! Contracting your Real Estate Transactions out to a qualified team will increase productivity, assist in bringing in new business, and improve customer service. This can also have the added effect of increasing how often clients refer you out. Remember, transaction management can take up to 10-20 hours per transaction. As an agent, if you are coordinating transactions, you are missing out on executing against revenue generating activities. Delegating is what leaders of a business do to go above and beyond, and transaction coordination should be on your list of the next set of activities that you stop doing and start delegating.

Tracking Your Time

     A key step in understanding how to increase your productivity is by being aware of how and what you are spending your time on. You may think you are using your time each day, week, or month to the fullest, and maybe you are, but using a program that will track what you are spending your time on will show you if you need to refocus your energy on other tasks. These are some great tools for teams who have admin or staff working on key projects for the business as well as keeping track of your own time as a business leader or owner as well.

·         TimeDoctor – TimeDoctor is an app that can be placed on all of your devices, such as phone and computer. It will track what you are doing during the day (example: how much time spent on social media, emails, research) and will give you a daily, weekly and monthly break down. You can review the reports and be aware of areas you are or are not spending enough time in.

·         Hubstaff – Similar to TimeDoctor and allows you to track your activity daily, weekly, and monthly as well. Another feature that couple be a bonus is that you can add your team onto the account and see how productive they are as well. This will help your entire team with Time Management.

     These are only a few hacks to help increase productivity and time management. There are many options and variations out there at your disposal, and any number of them can make all the difference. Try out a few different programs and tools to implement, get a feel for what is right for you and your team, and customize your routine from there. Once you are organized and maximizing your time to run more efficiently, you should see a growth in your business! 

If you know of any other great hacks or tools to increase productivity, please share with us by commenting below!

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Real Estate Challenges Series: The Bozo Explosion

By Amanda Creter and Alex Mont-Ros

     A few months ago, we met with a very successful real estate agent who was struggling with team members and getting them into production. Time and time again this real estate agent/team leader would hire on someone to find out a few weeks later they were not a good fit and momentum was always lost. As we examined the business from a transaction coordination and consultative perspective, we identified that the team leader was not hiring the type of agents that would help raise the bar on the overall team’s production and growth objectives, which builds momentum and attracts other talented individuals. This was one reason amongst many why their business began to struggle. Most of us never give a second thought as to why this happens to countless teams that are eager to be successful, but continue to be plagued with an unproductive team.

     Any number of factors could have influenced the trajectory of why a real estate team fails to meet their potential. One element that we see often influencing a real estate team’s success, or lack thereof, is the management teams' ability to hire the right talent. In previous Real Estate Challenges Series articles, we’ve discussed the importance of taking your time on hiring the right fit for your company and how it can influence the outcome of your company’s overall success. When it comes to hiring talent we have experienced our own trials as an organization, so we can empathize with those that are going through this today.

      The point we want to drive home is if you hire team members that don’t raise the overall benchmark or bar of the team/organization, you will end up with inept employees or independent contractors that will not add the appropriate value you were looking for. Steve Jobs labeled this the “bozo explosion”. Jobs believed that “A Players” should hire other “A Players”. We are in agreement on this and it needs to be a clear expectation that the leader sets as the standard for all new hires coming on board. When management hires anything less than an A Player, it increases the odds of business integrity degradation and lack of high performance. In return, it becomes a trickle effect where B, C, and D Players become the norm and sets the benchmark for the organization. These players will most likely produce the outcome of a failed organization.

     Notice the image below for two examples that keep the organization or team thriving and on the cutting edge, versus the example that don’t move the organization forward and creates roadblocks to true growth and success. On the right side, the CEO or Real Estate Team Lead and those under them (think of them as Executive Assistants, Transaction Coordinators, Buyers Agents, Listing Agents, Marketing Coordinators, Etc.), were A Players and the hiring process continued to meet the standard of hiring on A Players. This increases the odds of bringing out the best outcomes for the roles they were hired into. However on the left side, When that same CEO or Team Lead hired on a B Player, they also were more inclined to hire down and not challenging the status quo which created a ripple effect of more poor hires. Thus, as Steve Jobs would mention creating the “bozo explosion”.   

     Now, you may be looking at this image thinking your team or organization is different. You may have a small Real Estate team and only have one manager, with a handful of Agents under him/her. With a small team, you couldn’t possibly have a bozo explosion on your hands, Right? If you don't know, its time to take inventory of your team. If you already made the mistake of hiring  B, C, or D Players, take corrective action. By now, you already have an idea of those on the team that are not a good fit by the deterioration of the quality of work, decreased productivity, and possibly stunted company growth. Either provide them better training, repurpose them to a better fit within the organization that plays to their strengths, or cut ties with that employee or independent contractor. Keeping them around hoping they will improve within their current role only hurts the members of your team that are working hard and being productive...the A players.

     Another way to prevent the bozo effect is by diversifying your team. You need different perspectives to think outside the box and grow in ways you may not have seen on your own. Diversity within a company is healthy. You shouldn’t rule a candidate out because they don’t have the right resume. Plenty of candidates have the perfect resumes and still end up being B, C, D, or worse, F Players.

“Keeping them around hoping they will improve within their current role only hurts the members of your team that are working hard and being productive…the A players.”

     So how do you go about hiring A Players? It seems like a simple answer, hire someone smarter and better than yourself. It really is that simple on the surface and you shouldn’t be threatened by this. Many times we may not hire better and smarter because we feel they will out do us and eventually not see the value to stay for the long haul. Another excuse or fear may be that you become exposed of some insecurity as a leader. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to hire smarter and better, it’s what your business needs, not a bunch of bozos you can tell what to do who add no sustainable value to the organization. A better practice is to interview someone with the thought in mind “would I want to work for you and can you do what I need done better than myself?” If the answer is yes, and they are qualified with a proven track record, you may have found your fit. 

     It is also worth noting, just because a person is smarter, doesn’t mean they will actually be a good fit within your company so don’t make the mistake of hiring just smart people. They could be extremely knowledgeable within one area of the business, but lack EQ and the expertise within your particular field. The worse is having someone who is a genius, but lacks work ethic needed to get the right things done. As Mark Zuckerburg mentioned and rings to be true, “Raw intellect is not the only measure of an effective person; the real trick is finding smart-working people who aren’t jerks that get stuff done.”

     As you are working to grow your real estate business and hiring on team members, keep in mind that you are not alone in this struggle, and let us tell you, the struggle is real. Focus on finding A Players that may be smarter and can do what you do better, or that can focus on doing the tasks better that you don’t find productive as a leader. With this type of focus, you just may reduce the risk of having a Bozo Explosion within your organization.

Please comment and share with us your thoughts below.

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Real Estate Challenges Series: Hire Slow, Fire Fast??

Contributors: Amanda Creter and Alex Mont-Ros  

     When you are growing your real estate business, there comes a point where you can no longer do it alone. You have more on your plate than you can handle, so naturally, you begin the hiring process. This is necessary and vital to your organization. However, you should be very careful during this phase, because it can easily hinder growth, instead of aid it. Who you hire, especially early on, is paramount to the construction of your team and the trajectory of your business.

     With most startups and specific to real estate, once you feel the pressure to bring someone on, you’ve waited too long. You feel like you “need someone NOW.” Flash hiring because you need the “bodies” can get you into a lot of trouble and set your company back. Former Apple Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki said "When you're in a rush to fill openings to respond to growth, you make mistakes. Unfortunately, many companies adopt the attitude of, 'hire any intelligent body, or we'll lose business--we'll sort everything out later.'' This method, though it may be effective in the interim, will not serve you well for the long haul.

     So what is the best approach when it comes to your real estate business and who you align yourself with? There’s a lot of controversy over the mantra “hire slow, fire fast”, but many successful business owners support this philosophy. I think what many people miss is that this hiring process isn’t advising you to take a long time to interview and bring on each new person, but it does recommend you perform your due diligence and not rush it.

     Instead of reviewing a resume and conducting 1-2 interviews before extending an employment offer, take a bit longer to get to know the person, and how well they will mesh with your team. If feasible, possibly extend an invitation to come in and work side by side with your team for a day. There are other plenty of great ways to perform this due diligence such as implementing Panel Interviews with a few trusted people, usually no more than 3, who can walk through situational & behavioral questions and role plays with the candidate. This process usually removes the hiring manager and allows their peers or trusted few to interview the candidate and give their unbiased opinion, allowing the collective group to rate as a whole the candidate. Keller Williams Realty also has a well built out structure called Recruit Select to help identify the right candidate for the job. Involving your team early on will help in the decision making process, and could save you from a catastrophic hiring mistake. But what do you do if you’ve already made the mistake?

     Most individuals are not trained on how to bring on new talent, or cut ties with someone who just isn’t working out. It’s a process learned over time, by trial and error. It’s okay if you have already made the mistake of hiring too quickly and now being faced with the dilemma of what to do next. If you already have the feeling a team member isn’t working out, it’s time to part ways. Keeping someone on staff that just isn’t working out hurts both your team and your business. A bad apple can slowly poison the rest of the batch. If you keep someone around who shouldn’t be there, your team will notice, and begin to question why. You may feel a sense of loyalty; maybe you hired a friend, or this is someone who has been there from the start. But waiting won’t resolve the issue, and it isn’t kind to keep someone around that is detrimental to everyone else.

     Firing fast when you realize the person isn’t a fit is crucial to your business. As the saying goes, “you are only as strong as your weakest link.” You are running a business, not a charity. You have clients, and possibly investors, to answer to. You cannot afford to keep someone around that isn’t working out. Firing someone is never easy, and never feels good. It requires being a leader and having hard conversations. When all is said and done, your business and your team will thank you for doing what was necessary for them to thrive. 

If you know of any other great ways for hiring the right talent and avoid making bad hiring decisions, please comment below and share. We would love to hear from you.


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References:

Kawasaki, G. (2006). How to prevent a bozo explosion. Retrieved from http://guykawasaki.com/how_to_prevent_/