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Does your marketing message communicate how busy you are, or how successful you are?

This morning I read a headline that made me think of that Britney Spears song, “Oops! I did it again!” Once again, another real estate company is reporting some “numbers” designed to get people – consumers, agents, Martians – to gasp. Seems like their website has generated some few millions of “leads” to their agents. You know, buyers who go on their website and ask for more information. It’s another orchestrated PR campaign to get the public to say, “Wow! That’s a lot! It must mean they are really good!”

Too bad, then, that it’s just another example of totally meaningless marketing. What’s worse: Generation X and Y know it.

I never understand why real estate company marketing departments feel compelled to release numbers – usually just because they are big. Are more leads better? Possibly – but if anyone knows, it would be Matthew Ferrara & Company. We have helped more agents worldwide adopt and implement some of the most advanced leads management software. We have literally delivered thousands of webinars to the agents, brokers, relocation directors and managers. We’ve seen the reports and we’ve seen the way agents treat (and sometimes mistreat) those millions of leads. In the end, we continue to say what we’ve already said:

Most companies should never brag about the number of leads they generate. That is, unless they convert a good solid percentage of them!

Oh, we get it: Releasing your lead generation numbers is very wink-wink nod-nod. Some marketers love to do this kind of marketing, called “associational” relevancy. They combine two concepts – a large number and a seemingly important criteria of success. They make them look like signs of market prowess. For example, someone sells more cars than anyone in America. But does that tell the whole story? Not for many companies, once you look at loyalty repurchase rates, repair rates, resell value, and so on. So the “volume” of a something is frequently a shallow factor of performance.

The same is true for the number of leads a company generates. To be honest, we think it’s a very meaningless indicator of sales performance. The only thing that really matters is the conversion ratio of leads. One or one million.

Why do they do it? Two reasons: First, it’s supposedly a way to “recruit” salespeople. A company might think it looks attractive if it generates more leads. They rarely talk about whether their salespeople are well-trained enough to convert them into closed deals. Consider real estate: Competing on the number of listings a company has is hollow: anybody can pick up listings they might never sell.

Outcomes. Sales. That’s what matters.

Ironically, consumers understand this. Especially Generation X and Y consumers. They aren’t so willing to accept fluff marketing messages any more. When they work with a company – say, to sell their home – they only care about results.  Or, at least they should.

Trouble is, too few brokerages are willing to compete on outcome-based criteria; They still attract salespeople from the “we’ve got more of everything” mode. And they still bedazzle consumers by focusing on “more” rather than “better.”

Smart salespeople can make themselves impervious to this puffery by simply changing the terms of the discussion.

Imagine a salesperson saying to a consumer: I know you’re talking to other companies. And I suspect they are talking about all the “traffic” they generate to sell your home. I’d like you to consider: Are you looking for exposure, or a sale? Because at the end of the day, my value proposition includes things like:

  • Our sale to asking-price ratio
  • The shortest time on market
  • A competitive percentage of lead-to-closing conversion

In other words: we know how to market your home; we can capture those leads; and we perform best on them – converting more inquiries into appointments, offers and deals, than the other guy.

How do we prove it? Our actual sales numbers. NOT our marketing numbers.

Eventually, the real estate industry will learn that meaningless numbers create meaningless value statements in the marketplace. The endless war between “who has more” is merely draining companies of resources, and distracting them from the most important mission: getting homes sold. And if you can do both, your best competitive advantage is to release your closing ratios, not your traffic stats. 

Tell the public what you get done, not how much noise you make.

Those are performance numbers worth marketing. And that’s the only thing consumers find meaningful.