Technology is moving so fast these days that every time you turn around, the hot new, cutting-edge toy you just bought becomes almost instantly obsolete, or at least dated, by the latest and greatest new thing. It’s no wonder, then, that some agents have succumbed to the belief that recorded telephone hotlines, as a direct response mechanism, are outdated and inefficient. After all, isn’t everyone on the internet now?
Well, it’s true that the worldwide web has infiltrated our households. In fact, in a recent study, 266, 224, 500 of the 344, 124, 450 people living in North America were internet users – that’s a penetration of 77.4% and a growth of 146.3% in the last 10 years. Pretty impressive, right?
But these numbers are no more staggering than the numbers for telephone usage because, after all, cell phone usage has also taken the world by storm in the last decade. In a 2007 study, 846.8 of every 1,000 people in the US owned a cell phone and 2/3 of these also had a landline. At the end of 2009, there were 4.6 billion cell phone users worldwide … 300 times as many as there were just 20 years earlier.
My point is, BOTH internet and telephone usage is huge. As a society, we widely use all forms of technology to remain connected, so just because the internet is newer, and perhaps sexier, doesn’t mean it’s the only way people seek information.
Can you think of many major, successful companies that don’t have a telephone presence as well as a web presence? Coca Cola’s is 1-800-GET-COKE. Audi’s is 1-800-FOR-AUDI. Hilton Hotel’s is 1-800-HILTONS. Why do you think that is?
Well, these mega companies offer their prospects a way to reach them by phone (as well as internet) because despite how widespread internet usage is, telephone usage is just as much a part of our lives. The fact is that both the internet and a telephone hotline are perfect vehicles for your direct response ads because both offer prospects an easy and non-threatening way (available 24/7) to get the information they’re after without having to speak with an agent. As I’ve said many times, people don’t want to be “sold” – they don’t want to play cat and mouse with a hungry agent and it is for this reason that you’ll generate three times as many leads using a recorded hotline message as compared to doing it the old way where you had prospects call into the office to speak with you directly.
Frankly, I couldn’t imagine a successful real estate business these days that didn’t embrace BOTH technologies, and talk to any of our mega successful members and they’ll tell you that their most effective campaigns offer both a hotline number and domain name for prospect direct response.
So why is it that some agents aren’t seeing the results they desire with their hotline leads? In 99.9% of cases it’s because they’re not using their hotline effectively.
As most of you know, I highly recommend that you use two different kinds of hotlines in your business: the Information Line for your less branded/fly under the radar ads, and a USP/Property Tree Hotline for your branded ads. The biggest mistakes agents make have to do with the USP Hotline, and here’s why.
As you’ve no doubt heard me explain before, it’s virtually impossible to sell a house in an ad. You know yourself from calls you’ve fielded on your own that when a prospect reaches you to discuss a certain property you’ve advertised, most often they’ll disqualify this particular property once they speak with you for one reason or another (it’s too big, too small, wrong location, too expensive, etc.) When you speak with them live, voice-to-voice, you can often turn the situation around by telling them about other properties once you get a feel for what they’re looking for, (or you can offer them a free report that would interest them). However, because you’re not speaking with them voice-to-voice on an automated hotline, you have to mimic what you would do and say if you were speaking to a live prospect. Clearly, if all you attempt to do on your hotline script is sell “a” particular property, odds are high that your prospect will hang up and you’ll lose any further opportunity with them.
Used correctly, your USP/Property Tree allows you to turn this situation around as it enables you to duplicate the process of live call conversion. The main greeting gives prospects the opportunity to get the specific property information immediately by entering the 4-digit ID# they called in on, but it also makes universal offers of much wider appeal to buyers and sellers (e.g. a free list of distress sales in their area, or the 7 most common seller mistakes — in other words, hotlists or reports that are of universal and compelling interest to buyers and sellers.) Since we all realize that very few prospects will be interested in the specific property they call on, it’s the universal offers, communicated on the main greeting, that appeal to many more prospects, compelling them to leave a you their contact information.
A very important aspect of the USP/Property Tree Hotline is that this hotline has branching capabilities (i.e. the prospect can navigate through the system by pressing a single digit on their phone for the offers that appeal most to them) which allows you to create a better dialogue with prospects in a way that mimics what you would do yourself if you were speaking to them “live” in person. The net result is you end up with a lead.
Here’s a last very important point. Neither a recorded hotline nor your website should cost you anything if you use them effectively. Whatever minor monthly upfront costs you incur will be more than paid for in a single deal, so don’t use cost as a reason to not offer your prospects easy access to you.