How Did You Get My Name?

By asking prospects this simple question, you’ll learn if your hard-earned marketing dollars are working.

I used to throw thousands of dollars at print and online ads for my real estate business, believing they’d give me exposure and bring more clients through the door than I could handle. I watched other agents do it, and it seemed to be working for them. But after several months and many dollars down the drain, I didn’t see any increase in my customer base. The only thing that went up was the ad sales rep’s bottom line.

I’m not saying real estate professionals shouldn’t take out ads. But we all lean on marketing crutches—tactics we’re told are tried-and-true or products and systems we’re promised will send us automatic leads. That’s not how you should decide where to spend your marketing dollars. There’s a simple way to find out what kind of marketing actually works for you; just ask your prospects one question: “How did you hear about me?”

I learned to do this early in my 35-year career, asking all my leads why they called and how they got my name. I became lax about it when business was booming, but when things slowed down, I bought into marketing gimmicks to pick up more clients. I realized I had gotten off-track eight years ago after becoming frustrated with the lack of results from my print and online ads. I vowed to begin asking every prospect these questions again—if only to prove to the advertising and lead-generation companies that they were doing me no good.

That’s when I learned what I really already knew: Most prospects contacted me after seeing my yard signs or being referred by one of my past clients. This was a wake-up call to stop throwing my money away on marketing products that weren’t working and focus on getting more signs into my community and working my client database.

Knowing where your business is coming from helps you make smarter decisions about where to spend your marketing dollars and how to use your time. But you can’t rely on anyone else to give you this information; you have to find it out for yourself. I see too many practitioners exhibit blind faith that whatever marketing company they’re working with will send them leads automatically. If that were true, those companies wouldn’t need to call us; we’d be calling them.

Failing to find out where prospects learned of your business isn’t a rookie mistake. I was 27 years into my career when I realized I was passing up such a clear opportunity to better my business. But I’ll admit that even after I corrected my mistake, I wasn’t immediately ready to give up all the other marketing crutches I had relied on. It took more than a year to let them go and refocus my resources. Once I did, my business began to increase. After reorganizing my marketing focus, it was only a few weeks before I saw a big uptick in leads and new business. And in the first year, I brought in 10 percent more income.

With the endless marketing opportunities the Internet now affords us, it’s even more critical for you to know where your business is coming from. On top of that, it’s an ego boost when prospects tell you they called for a particular reason. It lets you know what you’re doing right. How can you know what’s pulling the clients in if you don’t ask them?

I ask all prospects who call, e-mail, or meet me at an open house how they heard about me or my listing. I don’t miss many opportunities anymore. When you slow down and regularly assess where your clients are coming from, you’re better able to target the right people.