The state of real estate lead generation is constantly evolving. What brought in great leads at an affordable rate a few months ago might not work today.
Since Zillow introduced its iBuyer program, Facebook advertising, and more, many real estate agents are looking for new and innovative lead generation strategies.
Here are 37 innovative real estate lead generation ideas to keep your phone ringing off the hook in 2020.
Nathan Dadosky, Director of Marketing, Game Plan
“There’s a problem with traditional forms of lead generation―there are too many steps.
Each step in the process is an opportunity for a lead to lose interest or otherwise drop out of the lead generation process. Contrast that with Facebook Messenger ads, where an individual has the option of starting a live conversation when they click an ad as opposed to filling out a form—eliminating several steps in the conversion process.
What’s really cool about this type of ad is you’re giving a lead the opportunity to start a conversation with you without coughing up their precious contact information, which can mean more leads at a lower cost and better response rates.”
The Close Editorial Team
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Kelly Lise Murray, J.D. Co-founder & CEO, Divorcethishouse.com
“OK, let’s stop beating around the bush here. Competition for the low-hanging fruit leads in pretty much any farm area is usually fierce.
If you want to get and close more leads, sometimes it can help to think outside the box. Do you want genuinely motivated leads? How about leads that have a court order to sell their home? How about leads who really, really, really want to move?
If you’ve got reserves of patience and empathy, then working divorce leads might be the perfect lead-generation strategy to close a few more deals this year. There’s even a designation—RCS-D (Real Estate Collaboration Specialist – Divorce)—that you can get to show potential divorce clients that you know your stuff and mean business.”
Jeff Manson, Founding Partner & CEO, Real Geeks
“Did you know that text messages have a whopping 97% open rate compared to 20% for emails? The only problem is that tapping out individual texts to your leads takes up way too much time you could be spending cold calling.
Using the advanced text messaging platform you get with Real Geeks CRM that comes bundled with its IDX [internet data exchange] websites, you can automate your text marketing and start filling your calendar with showings tomorrow.
Of course, text message automation only scratches the surface of the lead gen and marketing features Real Geeks offers agents. Click to learn how you can use Real Geeks to use bulk text marketing and more.”
Christina Griffin, Tampa Bay Realtor & Team Leader
Circle prospecting is one of the best ways to stake out your claim in your farm area. If you want to become the real estate agent in a neighborhood, you’re going to have to get in front of the neighbors as often as possible.
The only problem is that some neighborhoods are already blanketed with door hangers, flyers, and postcards from your competition. With a little creativity, you can beat the competition to the chase before they get their flyers printed.
Working with real estate coach Tom Ferry, Tampa Bay Realtor Christina Griffin came up with an ingenious strategy to reach homeowners in her farm area.
She bought lists of homeowners’ cell numbers, then, after cross-checking with the DNC, used a clever new app called Slydial Broadcast to leave them all voicemails advertising her next open house automatically.
The response was immediate and massive. She got 200 leads on her first day. To learn more about how she did it and her inspiring personal journey, check out our case study on Griffin’s real estate lead generation strategy here.
Chris Linsell, Real Estate Coach & Staff Writer, The Close
Predictive analytics has been on the wings of real estate marketing for a couple of years now, but it stormed the stage and grabbed the spotlight with the emergence of SmartZip. SmartZip uses hundreds of data points from across the internet and from your local MLS to determine which property owners in your targeted geographic area are most likely to sell this year.
Rather than trying to market to an entire community, you can focus only on property owners who are most likely to sell and ensure you’re the first Realtor they talk to. Lock down your territory with SmartZip here.
Leigh Brown, Realtor, CEO, Author, Coach & Speaker, Leigh Brown
“Calls to whom? The contacts in your phone. The people you actually know. Statistics show that an estimated one-third of the public does something related to real estate annually―renovations, updates, repairs, refinancing, buying, and selling―and savvy Realtors are there for all of those steps in the work of being the trusted Realtor adviser over time.
Costs nothing. How to make it happen? Set a doable goal of one call per day. It will get done—and once you do one, you’re likely to make two.”
Alisa Cunningham, Realtor, Douglas Elliman
“A great opportunity is to approach local animal shelters or rescue groups and offer to sponsor an adoption event. You give them money to pay for renting a space, tables, and canopy shelters, maybe hire food trucks to be there, do advertising for them, and then show up and work the event. People love their pets—most people consider them members of the family.
Being of service and finding a home for those abandoned pets is critical work and usually appreciated, plus you get to talk to people. Pet lovers bond with other pet lovers. ‘Creating home for you and your pets’ or ‘Finding homes for you and your pets’ or something like that. But you have to be a pet lover yourself.”
9. Become The Digital Mayor of Your Farm Area
Let’s face it, if you want to 2x your GCI this year you need to become a hyper-local expert online. The only problem is that it’s getting harder and harder to break through on social media, even with paid ads…
Luckily, there is a much better way to show off your hyper-local expertise and build lasting relationships with local business leaders and influencers that lead to referrals. Parkbench hands you the keys to a sticky, hyper-local website that centers you as the expert in your farm area.
Of course like anything new, spaces are filling up fast. Parkbench only allows a limited number of agents per local area. Click below to find out if your farm area is still available.
10. Pitch Your Listing (or Expertise) to News Outlets
Christian Petterson, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development & Realtor, iSella.com
“Most people do not think about pitching their listings to news outlets, but it has surprisingly proven to be one of the best strategies for getting a lot of leads extremely quickly. One of my listings was featured in a New York Times article last week, and I have been receiving at least five calls a day since publication—I had three showings just today. It’s amazing to see the response you get when backed by a reputable publication. Not only can I sell a property extremely quickly through the publicity, but I gain a lot of new clients for other listings as well. The response from media coverage has blown me away every time.”
Don’t have New York Times-worthy listings? You can still pitch journalists your expertise on sites like HARO or by following the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter.
Lily Stern, Digital Marketing Analyst, The Close
“Did you know that even after a buyer contacts an agent, they go back to Zillow an average of 27 times and look at 77 more listing pages in 30 days? That means that even if you answered your phone right away and wowed them, there’s still a huge chance they’ll wind up working with someone else. Even worse, you’ll never even know it. They’ll just stop returning your calls.
If you want to triple your lead conversion, then Zillow Premier Agent’s new feature, My Agent is for you. It puts only your contact information on every single listing your lead looks at after they contact you.
Even better, My Agent provides agents with deep insight on which properties they’re viewing, saving, and searching for on Zillow.”
Sebastian Frey, Broker & Owner, Realty World Virtuoso
“When a borrower starts to miss payments on a mortgage, a lender or loan servicer will often order a ‘broker price opinion’ (BPO) on a property in case they end up having to foreclose, do a loan modification, or short sale. They may do this before it is reported as a late payment to a credit agency, and well before they file a notice of default. This is an early indicator of a homeowner who may need to sell sooner rather than later.”
Jim Morton, Founder ProspectsPLUS!
“Since Facebook recently changed its advertising policies to address fair housing concerns, real estate marketers have been scrambling to find ways to target their message to homeowners only. Instead of beating your head against a wall, why not just get tax assessor data and start a targeted direct mail campaign?
Using a service like ProspectsPLUS!’s MapMyMail, Realtors can buy homeowner data to target confirmed homeowners only, or even find absentee owners. They also have done-for-you direct mail campaigns and tons of customizable templates for flyers, postcards, and door hangers.”
14. Meet Your Top 50 Contacts in Person Once per Quarter
Nate Martinez, Owner, RE/MAX Professionals
“Lead generation is about personal connection. At our office, we have created our ‘Top 50 program,’ where we designate the top people in our network who have the greatest potential to bring in one piece of business. From there, we look to meet with our contacts once a quarter face-to-face to learn more about their lives and develop a deeper relationship with them. We also host exclusive parties and events, which we invite our ‘Top 50’ to, including movie nights, parties, and so on. Leveraging your network is a great way to generate leads and in order to get those, you need to build strong personal relationships with them.”
Kristina McCann, Founder, Off Market Homes
One of the most common misconceptions with online advertising is that you need to push your “personal” brand constantly. In reality, of course, most people are not looking for you. Many of them might not want an agent at all. Instead, build a brand that offers buyers and sellers in your area something they want. That might mean IDX listings or, in East Bay San Francisco Realtor and entrepreneur Kristina McCann’s case, discovering that what buyers in her area wanted most was off-market homes.
After building and launching her site, she generated $40 million in buyer leads in her first month.
Kevin Ward, Yesmasters
While your competition is sitting back waiting for leads to roll in from Instagram or Pinterest, take the bold route, and pick up the phone.
Sure, it’s a little intimidating to get hung up on, but there is no better way to build the thick skin you’ll need to become a top-producing real estate agent.
To become a cold-calling ninja, you’re going to need three things: a great for sale by owner (FSBO) script, FSBO leads, and a growth mindset & a good sense of humor.
A Great FSBO Script
Even the pros memorize and use scripts when they’re pitching FSBOs. We recommend Kevin Ward’s excellent FSBO scripts. Here’s a great archive of FSBO scripts, including Ward’s from Keller Williams Moving Careers.
Even the best script in the world won’t help if you don’t have leads. There are plenty of places to get local FSBO leads. REDX offers great FSBO leads all over the country at great prices. Click below to check your ZIP code.
A Growth Mindset & a Good Sense of Humor
If you ever want to get leads from cold calling, you’re going to have to get used to the idea you’re going to get rejected 99% of the time. Of course, that 1% might be enough to launch a new career as a listing agent, so the odds are actually in your favor.
To help deal with the rejection and stay positive, you need to develop what’s called a growth mindset. Luckily, we have an article on how you can work to develop a growth mindset here.
Jason Pantana, Tom Ferry Master Coach, Speaker
“Good old-fashioned sales letters. There’s a difference between direct mail and drip mail. Most of the time in real estate, we call drip mail ‘direct mail.’ For instance, sending postcards twice a month to a geographic farm isn’t direct mail—despite calling it that—because it usually isn’t angling for a ‘direct response.’ To the contrary, it’s more about creating top-of-mind awareness and branding. Direct mail has more to do with organizing a vetted and scrubbed list of ideal recipients and then delivering a calibrated letter—or a few letters in a row—that are designed to get the recipients to take action within a relatively short time frame.
Given that the market is adjusting pretty much everywhere, we’re having some clients who are sending out kindhearted and well-reasoned letters to absentee owners in communities and areas where appreciation has been favorable and where it looks like selling now may be the best play in the foreseeable future.”
Nelene Gibbs, Broker & Owner, Nelene Gibbs Real Estate
“One suggestion I offered my newer agents was to go to the mall or shopping center during the holiday shopping season and hand out business cards attached to a candy cane to everyone walking by. No need to wait in line to see Santa to get a candy cane. Spread a little Christmas cheer with the candy canes and, hopefully, pick up a new client or two for the new year. Everyone loves a candy cane at Christmas.
One other suggestion I had was to print water bottle labels, go to the shopping areas where the crowds line up waiting for the big Black Friday sales events, and pass out water bottles with your brand—business card—on them to the crowds waiting in line.”
Nick Slocum, Partner, Realtor, The Nick Slocum Team
“Far and away, our two best unique leave-behinds are when we had placed an American flag on each lawn just prior to the Fourth of July and when we place a pumpkin on each doorstep around Halloween. The response is incredible and the connection to the community is even better. In fact, over the years, the neighbors have come to expect it and often refer to us as ‘The Pumpkin Guys’ or ‘The Flag Guys.”
Dan Prud’homme, Owner, Carolina Realty Group
“I don’t just reach out to listings that are newly expired like everyone does, but I dig deeper and pay special attention to the ones that expired a year or more ago, that never relisted. I figure that at some point these potential clients wanted to sell, so why not reach out to them to see what their plans are, how they may have changed, and how I could help them meet their objective. If their plan is to sell sometime in the future, I offer to assist them with a strategy so they’re ready to hit the ground running when the timing is perfect.”
Sean Moudry, Real Estate Coach
“Most people think getting started is the hardest thing to do in real estate. But most people have never tried to scale a successful real estate business. Trust me, it’s much, much harder. I should know. 10 years ago I scaled a brokerage to 100 people, but it didn’t last. The problem was that there were only so many hours in a day, and our leads and clients needed us ASAP, 24/7. Mere mortals couldn’t keep up… then the recession hit.
Luckily now it’s 2020 so we have apps like Zurple that use patent-pending software to analyze a lead’s behavior to figure out when they’re ready to transact, BEFORE they’re ready to transact. Even better, they generate those leads for you so you can actually focus on closing and generate leads while you sleep. It’s the software I wish I had 10 years ago.”
22. Make a Plan & Work the Holidays
Courtney Poulos, Broker & Owner
Since most of your fellow agents will head for the hills during the holidays, staying in the office can mean easy lead generation. Here are a few tips from Los Angeles’ Acme Realty Founder, Courtney Poulos, on generating leads during the holidays.
“My advice to newer agents who are looking to work through the holidays would be to use the fact that you are present and available during the holiday season as the dominant messaging in your marketing. If you have listings that you are going to be showing during the holidays, have holiday-themed events, such as a holiday-themed broker’s open with spiced cider or at your Sunday open house, have a jazz musician playing holiday music. You can also take new pictures of the property with some holiday decorations to use in your social media posts.”
Justin Potier, Broker, Carrington Real Estate Services
Since you’re going to spend a ton of time in coffee shops anyway, why not advertise your services for free?
Justin Potier of Carrington Real Estate Services had an agent who set up their laptop to work, then put up a little sign, saying, “Free real estate advice.”
Eseosa “Sosa” Eke, Founder, Sosa Real Estate Design & Branding
“If you’re going to events where everyone else is just like you, your odds of meeting quality leads are slim to none.
Instead of going to the same old real estate mixers or networking events, think outside the box and join some non-real estate-related local events. Your next client can be found at a community yoga workshop, a sip and paint night, a book reading, or even at a concert.
Just be careful of trying to ‘sell’ to people you meet. Instead, go to an event you’ll truly enjoy, engage in the flow of conversation, and when you get the ‘what do you do?’ question, give them an answer that truly makes your real estate services shine. Even if you don’t get any new leads, you’ll spend time doing things you love. How can you go wrong?”
Chris Linsell, Real Estate Coach & Staff Writer, The Close
Ecommerce has hit the reset button in terms of expectations for customer service speed. When a prospect is looking for more information about a property or your services, they expect an answer IMMEDIATELY, and that can be a problem if you don’t have your computer up in front of you. Solve this problem using CINC and their Speed to Lead feature.
The folks at CINC HQ will monitor your incoming leads and act as your own personal concierge, getting them on the phone, qualifying them, and then connecting them straight to your phone without all the email or text messaging back and forth, saving you a ton of time and upping your conversion rate.
CINC is great for solo agents, but really shines with teams and brokerages who need an easy way to distribute leads across multiple agents.
Tristan Roberts, Lake Tahoe Realtor
“Too many people believe that the time has passed to rank organically on Google successfully—specifically targeting ranking opinion articles for individual property addresses and then providing ‘the rest of the story’ so the potential buyers can read your opinions of the property’s strengths and weaknesses. This works extremely well with very high-end or historic properties. The buyer gets to hear your tone and gets a feel for your personality as well as some honest insight about the property they’re considering buying.”
Cynthia Emerling, Associate Broker, Finger Lakes Premier Properties
If you join your local chamber of commerce, you can get your name and business listed in newsletters and websites and get referrals and make valuable connections who are well established in your area.
“You can become members of the town and county chambers that your office is in, as well as nearby areas or counties that you serve or have offices in. Similarly, you can look into becoming a member of a destination marketing organization (DMO) or convention & visitors bureau (CVB). Sometimes these are the same as the Chamber and other times they are a separate entity.”
Shawn Breyer, Owner, Breyer Home Buyers
When doing search engine optimization (SEO), focus on building links back to your site from sites that are relevant to your business. If you’re selling houses, then getting a link to your website from a blog on Realtor.com is going to drive your site up in the Google search rankings. Whatever you do, don’t perform shady backlink building practices, such as buying 500 backlinks for $20 on Fiverr. SEO won’t produce leads for your business immediately but, over time, your organic lead flow will increase, which will improve your ROI on your business drastically.
Want to learn more about SEO? Check out Backlinko’s 2019 Definitive SEO Guide here.
Rebecca Saenz, Realtor, RE/MAX Estate Properties Los Angeles
“I have found through the years that agents do not have enough knowledge of how to guide their clients through real estate investing from their primary residence. I work with business managers and accountants to share business and guide our clients together to gain wealth through real estate. Most people think you buy a house and live in it, sell it, and buy another one but what if they kept that first house and bought another one, and gained passive income from the first? I have clients for life because they trust I’m guiding them on the right path of when and what to sell based on their needs and income desires in the future.”
Akos Straub, Top-producing Chicago Realtor
“In my opinion, the best underrated lead-generating technique is accessing and utilizing your current network. After all, unlike cold internet leads, these are people who probably already know and trust you. So, carve out time every day to reach out to your sphere and just ask for business. Lead generation doesn’t get much simpler or more effective than this.”
Bryan Bowles, Founder & CEO, Transactly
“You don’t need to create one, but get involved. For example, create a survey to find out ‘What’s stopping you from buying a home?’, and then engage people individually in a very casual manner. The key is coming up with creative content that makes people want to participate, remaining consistent, and measuring the results. I see too many agents who let these things go if they don’t see immediate results or start getting busy.”
Cindy Bowman, Listing & Marketing Manager, The Ramsey Group
“A great, underrated lead generation technique for real estate agents? One word: Altruism. Do good for others without expecting anything in return. Get involved with charity or civic organizations and do so with the sole intention of helping. A side effect of doing good is that it gets your name in front of others and, more importantly, it gives those people an opportunity to learn something about you outside of real estate. When a real estate need finally arises, you’ll be top of mind and thought of more as a ‘real person’ as opposed to ‘just another agent.’ Also? It feels nice to help others.”
Kyle Alfriend, REMAX Hall of Fame Agent
“Create an ‘avatar’ of your ideal client—their income, interests, personality, age, family size, and hobbies. Then, post a steady stream of videos and blogs on all social media outlets—all about those things. If they are active, start running and biking, and posting updates on your activities. If they have school-age children, attend school sporting events, concerts, and plays, and post about them. Restaurants, wine enthusiasts, religious events, sporting events, hiking, swimming, and charitable causes—identify your ideal client, then post yourself being involved in the things they do.”
34. Pitch Local Real Estate Investors
Alison Bethell, Real Estate Investor & Editor, The Close
If you’re working in an area with a lot of investor activity, then seeking out investors to work with may help you close more deals this year. Sure, you may not be working with glamorous properties, but if you get in good with a busy investor, you’ll never need to worry about lead generation again.
What does it take to become the go-to real estate agent for your local investors? Here’s Bethell on what she looks for in a real estate agent.
“As an investor, I look for certain things in a Realtor that a first time homebuyer doesn’t necessarily need. I want a Realtor who is either an investor themselves or has at least two years of experience working with investors. The Realtor needs to be a strong negotiator, know the market, and not be timid about submitting conventionally low offers. I look for a Realtor who thinks outside of the box, has access to off-market listings, and has a strong network including lenders and title companies.”
Even if they already love you, everyone loves getting presents, even small ones. That’s why Coldwell Banker agent Heidi Sutter’s system of rewarding referral sources helps keep a steady stream of referrals in her inbox.
“For me, one of the best lead generating tools has been to reward my referrals with a handwritten note and gift card. Doing so has been key for my business and proven to be one of the best ways to connect with clients, friends, and family who are kind enough to refer my services. Here’s my formula:
- $5 gift card and thank you note at introduction to the referral
- $10 gift card for gas, along with a handwritten note thanking them for the referral again and providing a quick update on the progress, once buyer or seller signs a contract or lists
- Hand-delivered $50 gift card to a local restaurant once the client closes
This helps make and maintain a personal connection.”
As long as you have the expertise and steer clear of violating fiduciary laws, offering to help your clients with other financial needs can be a great way to stay top of mind and increase referrals. Here’s Coldwell Banker agent Dane Galden on how he offers other financial services to his clients.
“In addition to working with buyers and sellers, I have a background in helping clients work through their financial needs—anything from showing them how to save for a child’s college education, to planning for retirement tax-free. This gives me a reason to talk to my clients every year to check in and update their goals as needed while building lasting relationships. The value that I bring to my clients allows me to be top of mind when they’re ready to buy or sell, and it works great for referrals as well.”
37. Call People in Your Sphere to Mark Milestones & Birthdays
“I do not cold call—ever—but I do call people in my sphere to congratulate them about their milestones and that brings results, guaranteed. It’s a great way to stay connected and top of mind. Take birthdays, for example—every day, Facebook will tell you whose birthday it is, so you just have to pick up the phone and call them. [Almost all] of the people you call will appreciate it, and guess who will they recommend or work with when the time is right? Same goes for milestones like a new job or pregnancy news. How awesome to get a call from your friend that happens to be Realtor?”
Bonus Tip: Stop Screening Your Calls
Emile L’Eplattenier, Managing Editor, The Close
Study after study shows that the faster you get in touch with your leads, the better chance you have of closing them. While most agents know this, many end up hurting their business by trying to take advantage of it. For example, we all know agents that have a separate Google voice or Grasshopper number for leads that they answer right away no matter what. That’s great, but what about your clients? Shouldn’t they get your immediate attention too?
Too many agents wait until they’re “ready” to return that client call. Instead, why not pick up the phone with a warm hello, tell them that you’re in the middle of a showing, and then schedule a time to call them back?
If you want to avoid spam calls at showings, just dump your clients, online leads, and website leads into one separate number as soon as they come in. This way, you can answer your phone and know it’s either a client or a lead.
Next Steps: How to Choose a Lead Generation Plan That Works for You
Now that you hopefully have some inspiration after reading our list of lead generation ideas, let’s take a look at what the experts say about choosing which ones work for you. After all, not all lead generation strategies are created equal. Some work great for certain types of agents, while others fail miserably.
The trick is to choose which methods to spend your hard-earned time, money, and effort on strategically. Let’s take a look at a few general strategies that will help you choose a plan that works for you.
Understand How Pareto Distributions Work
Vilfredo Pareto was a 19th century Italian civil engineer, economist, and sociologist who came up with a mathematical formula to explain power distributions in nature, society, and business. He discovered that in many cases, 20% of most systems produce 80% of the results. You might know this as the 80/20 rule.
You might notice this already in your business. For example, many agents find that roughly 20% of their customers might produce 80% of their GCI. When it comes to lead generation, you will likely find that 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results. This is why choosing the lead generation strategies that work for you is so important.
Make a Plan That Gets You a Mix of Top of Funnel & Bottom of Funnel Leads
While getting customers early on in their home search is important, very few agents have the time to nurture leads forever without generating any income. Quick wins that bring in revenue are crucial for any business. So make sure you have a healthy mix of strategies that get you customers who need to move yesterday and customers who might not move for a year or more.
For example, home valuation landing pages are more likely to attract sellers who are close to pulling the trigger, while cold calling landlords of distressed properties might get you leads that might sell six months from now.
So when choosing a new lead generation strategy, make sure to ask yourself if it will generate more top of funnel or bottom of funnel leads. If you’re busy, then top of funnel leads are great. If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, then you should focus on quick wins instead.
Create a Plan That Fits Your Unique Personality
One mistake that many agents make is trying to push themselves to generate leads using techniques that don’t fit their personality. For example, if you’re an introvert, cold calling FSBOs will probably only leave you frustrated and broke.
Close contributor and real estate coach Sean Moudry has developed a unique system that tests agents for their personality type using a variation of the Myers-Briggs test to help them find the perfect lead generation strategy for them.
If you want to learn more about Sean’s system, check out his site, 16 Strategies, here.
Are you a new agent or an experienced agent who is trying to shake things up a bit? If so, check out some of our deep-dive resources to learn more about filling your pipeline with leads.
Over to You
What real estate lead generation techniques are you using for 2020? Still sticking with Zillow? Let us know in the comments.