Winning new business

October 6, 2010

Winning new business is very much down to understanding your market and gaining useful knowledge in order to attract new clients.

There are a few steps to be taken under consideration when trying to win new clients:

  • Research:

Market trends news in the sector

What competition is doing

Maximise the use of old database of contacts – update them

  • Use Referrals:

Maximize the use of previous clients’ positive referrals from satisfied customers

Identify unique selling points and communicate these extensively.

  • Network:

Attend networking events, trade shows, seminars and exhibitions where potential new business can be found.

Join trade associations and relevant business groups that can help.

  • Work in partnership:

Get in touch with other businesses offering services that are aimed at similar customers;  it can prove very cost effective to get to new customers.

  • Professional  image:

Approach new business in the right way, using presentation material, professional image.

  • Assess, improve your image:

Update your business details, website with the latest news. Showcase success stories and case studies and highlight your products and services. Engage customers and attract new ones through forums, web-based seminars (‘webinars’) or podcasts. Maximise use of social media to get in touch with relevant businesses in your market.

Tideway Communications believe the best creative results come from properly knowing our client’s business. We make it our mission to fully understand and reflect their objectives and their values. That’s how we get the very best results.

We offer a full range of creative communications services including:

  • bespoke multi-disciplinary communications programmes
  • corporate identity programmes
  • strategic media planning and media buying
  • media relations, public relations and social media campaigns
  • writing for print and online media to include full length articles and features,
    corporate literature, sales brochures and newsletters
  • copywriting and translation
  • sponsorship
  • TV, radio and press promotions
  • presentations and conference organisation
  • exhibitions
  • event management

Contact us

direct line : 020 8878 0787
e: email us
m: 07973 836 503
www.tidewaycommunications.com

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Stop clamouring to be heard. It’s time to listen.

Without exception our agent clients have all asked me the same question: “Kerry, how can Tideway Communications help us to get better, more qualified leads in this tough market?”

I always say, “Start by listening.”

So what does that mean?  The market certainly is tough.  Sometimes the first sales method to be cut is the marketing budget.  We have been able to prove that media relations – influencing journalists to write articles about our clients’ services or products – is a cost effective way to get quality leads.  But it is no use harking back to the heady days of 1997 when we would get 127 leads from one article in the Sunday Times about a development in Portugal – which would then convert to 13 villa sales.

Today, people are not only reluctant to commit their savings to overseas property but banks are reluctant to let them borrow to buy anyway.  There is also so much competition out there now.  Almost every country is willing to sell real estate to a foreign buyer.   So, less demand spread much more thinly, is the agents’ dilemma.

Big efforts to capture more leads using websites are currently having mixed results.  Internet World Stats claim 1,733,993,741 people are now online (that total’s rising as you read) which represents over a quarter of the entire population and usage is growing at 380.3%. 85% of people hunting for a home use the internet to start searching. What do the other 15% do? I reckon they read something in the papers…. then they go online.

The internet may have revolutionised the way agents sell property, but things then began to get impersonal.  There are many more agents selling more property to fewer buyers – despite there being more people online.  And this has greatly contributed to that thinning effect.

“Pay per click” got agents very excited a couple of years ago but they are now starting to wriggle and writhe as the heavy click usage fails to convert to anything half decent.   One client commented, “I wish they’d stop browsing and clicking and do something useful instead.”

He meant he wished they’d buy a property – from him.  But in fact he is the one who must do something useful.  And that is the key to what Tideway Communications is helping our agent clients to do right now.  It is time to change.

An agent’s brand must be so much more than just an umbrella for showcasing a selection of properties.  Getting people to fill out a form may increase the database but it’s now looking very restrictive.  What do you really know about these people?  Some databases are currently proving useful to sell cheap properties to bargain hunters, but we believe there is little point flogging your consumer database again unless this time you are providing something personally useful.  We think the estate agent needs to get back to providing the personal touch because despite of the anonymity of the internet, offering value (and not just cut-price bargains) is especially needed today to attract customers.

We say agents need to provide an experience, an individual experience, ideally a very positive and useful experience which is going to result in customers telling their friends just how pleasant the whole process was.  What is more personal than having a conversation with a customer or potential customer?  It’s what agents have been doing for years and the best ones have been doing very well.  Finding out what is really on their potential customers’ minds and then acting to do something to help.

Welcome to social media marketing.

Social media – all internet based – sounds like a juxtaposition of terms.  Where is the socialising in being stuck behind a computer?  But there’s a great deal of noise going on across the web which can be used by an agent to help him identify buyers.  Tideway’s PR strategy for our agents is about listening and creating conversations.

Our job as marketing and PR consultants is to help our clients to plan. There is absolutely no point tweeting, blogging and posting videos on YouTube without a plan.  We sit down with our agents and ask them exactly what they want to achieve.  We talk about business objectives, we talk about goals.  We talk about what makes them different from their competitors.  We discuss research, training, inspiration, conversations. We make sure that our clients have their company story straight and we decide where to take that story.

We work out exactly who our agents’ customers are and exactly what communities are important to them.  We decide how we are going to reach them and we allocate the right people for the job so they can respond correctly.  We also set in place ways to measure what we find out and what we achieve.

Then comes the listening part.  So much of public relations has been about transmitting our clients’ message.  But today we advise our clients to listen first.  That way they can hear what people are saying about them or the projects that they sell or the countries in which they sell properties. And then our clients can respond to those concerns or questions and the qualified lead will emerge.

It’s important to search about and find out not only who is talking about you, but if they are not talking about you, then why not?  You must give them reasons to do so.  Ask them “How can we help?” and then help them.  Whether it’s telling them where the local hospital is or what the weather’s like, you are helping them to find out what they want to know.

Mike Cliffe-Jones, the MD of Estupendo Lanzarote has been using social media as a business tool for his agency for about a year.  He says, “Twitter allows us to start a real relationship with people well before they are ready to find a property.  The benefit of contacting people early is that we are already friends by the time we actually meet and they are keen for us to be the ones to find them a property. The point of contact for most agents is much later in the buying process – when that person feels no affiliation with one agent over another.  We help people with the general stuff: ‘Which are the best resorts? Where are the best beaches? Where are the kid’s schools? Which bank should we use?’ Ultimately the only way you are going to do business is face-to-face, but by this stage you already know the names of their kids, where they live and what they do for a living so they feel like old friends.”

The key point in this is that a potential purchaser is much more likely to purchase a property from a brand that he trusts.  Tideway is helping our clients to build that trust. The key is to be transparent and truthful.  A potential buyer gets comfort from hearing information from a trusted third party.  Journalists (mostly) fall into that category which, coupled with their ease of use, is why newspapers and magazines still play an important part in the marketing mix.  Many journalists are writing their information online as well and still providing that “third party” endorsement.  It works.

Of course much of that content can be provided by the agent – if he has the time – and we actively encourage our clients to participate.  But yes it takes time and energy to develop a relationship.  So content is also provided by PRs such as ours and we work with people to identify, develop, monitor and measure opportunities to have conversations – with the emphasis still very much on useful.  You need to be authentic in order to create a meaningful relationship.  It’s a fact that the consumer will actually prefer to go with someone he has already formed a relationship with.  That person can be you.

So take another look at social media marketing.  Used alongside traditional methods of PR, this is what is working for the big consumer brands and there is every reason why it can also work for the property industry.  We can understand in these tough times why many marketing budgets have been cut, but social media marketing is not expensive and I believe it is starting to bring in the better more qualified leads that agents need.

So come on… it’s time to listen.


Tideway Communications has been appointed by The Little House Company to manage the PR for their re-launch which will take place on 15th September 2010.

www.thelittlehousecompany.co.uk is the UK’s most established private property sales website and its re-launch date has been chosen to coincide with its tenth anniversary.

Kerry Nicholas, Managing Director at Tideway Communications says, “As house prices fall in many parts of the UK and estate agents still seek their 1.5 – 2 % cut, many vendors are taking matters into their own hands. It is estimated that private sales websites currently account for just 2% of the market in the UK – in the USA it is more like 15% and in Germany it is 60%. There has been very little change in the way properties have been sold in the UK for over 50 years and the market is ripe for innovation.”

She continues, “Already 80% of property buyers use the internet to search for what they are looking for. The next obvious step is to make contact with the vendor directly. Our client, Nick Marr, CEO of www.thelittlehousecompany.co.uk believes that private sales in the UK will double to 4% in a year and keep doubling each year until the figures are closer to 50/50.”

Kerry Nicholas also believes that the PR campaign may rock the boat amongst the traditional estate profession. Marr insists that he is not against the estate agency profession and does not discourage vendors to use his website alongside the services of an estate agent.   But he is keen to promote the fact that the law does not require a property transaction to be managed by an estate agent – that it is safe, legal and allowed for people to bypass the services of a conventional estate agent.

  • The Little House Company provides a leading online direct advertising service for private property sellers (selling homes without an estate agent). Over 70% of all UK buyers now use the internet to find their next home and The Little House Company offer one of the most established and effective services for advertising any UK home directly to a vast audience and potentially saving £000’s in agents commission.
  • Their SELF-SELL no-agent advertising packages give you complete control over your advertising with online 24hr access, no time limits, no hidden charges and superb customer service and support.
  • The straightforward online registration process allows you to set up and manage all your details easily and quickly and their automated systems update all the advertising on their entire network for you.
  • It’s just like placing a private ad in your local paper, but MUCH better, more targeted and effective. The advertising fees are fixed, there is no commission or anything else to pay on completion of your sale and your advertising continues until the property is sold – no time limits, no hidden costs.
  • The Little House Company properties are widely published on the leading UK property portal websitesHome.co.uk, Fish4 and Homes & Property (the Daily Mail group property website linked to other sites in their network) and well ranked in major search engines like Google – in all the advertising appears on over 350 UK websites, including 4Homes (Channel4) and 300 local newspaper websites around the UK.
  • The Little House Company is not an estate agent and therefore their advertising does not conflict with a Sole Agency contract. You don’t have to give up an existing agent to use their service, but you WILL save the agent’s commission if you find your buyer using advertising you purchase via The Little House Company.

A Press Release is simply a written statement to the media. It can announce a range of news items: scheduled events, personnel promotions, awards, new products and services, sales accomplishments, etc. It can also be used to generate a feature story. Journalists are more likely to consider a story idea if they first receive a release.

Write the headline. It should be brief, clear and to the point: an ultra-compact version of the press release’s key point. News release headlines should have a “grabber” to attract the journalist’s attention.

Headlines are written in bold and are typically larger than the press release text. The first word in the press release headline should be capitalized, as should all proper nouns. Most headline words appear in lower-case letters, although adding a stylized “small caps” style can create a more graphically news-attractive look and feel. Do not capitalize every word.

The simplest method to arrive at the press release headline is to extract the most important keywords from your press release. Now from these keywords, try to frame a logical and attention-getting statement. Using keywords will give you better visibility in search engines, and it will be simpler for journalists and readers to get the idea of the press release content.

Write the press release body copy. The press release should be written as you want it to appear in a news story. The lead, or first sentence, should grab the reader and say concisely what is happening. The next 1-2 sentences then expand upon the lead.

The press release body copy should be compact. Avoid using very long sentences and paragraphs. Avoid repetition and over use of fancy language and jargon.

A first paragraph (two to three sentences) must actually sum up the press release and the further content must elaborate it. In a fast-paced world, neither journalists nor other readers would read the entire press release if the start of the article didn’t generate interest.

Deal with actual facts – events, products, services, people, targets, goals, plans, projects. Try to provide maximum use of concrete facts. A simple method for writing an effective press release is to make a list of following things:

Communicate the 5 Ws and the H. Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then consider the points below if pertinent:

  • What is the actual news?
  • Why this is news
  • The people, products, items, dates and other info related to the news
  • The purpose behind the news
  • Your company – the source of this news

Now from the points gathered, try to construct paragraphs and assemble them sequentially: The headline > the summary or introduction of the news > event or achievements > product > people > again the concluding summary > the company.

The length of a press release should be no more than three pages. If you are sending a hard copy, text should be double-spaced.

Include information about the company. The title for this section should be ‘About ABC Company’. After the title, use a paragraph or two to describe your company with 5/6 lines each. The text must describe your company, its core business and the business policy and must include your website.

Add contact information. This will allow journalists to get in contact if they need more information or would like to interview key people associated with the story. This is usually your media / PR department / agency. If you do not have dedicated team for this function, you must appoint somebody who will act as a link between the media and your people.

Other Tips

  • Include the company name in the headline, any subhead, and in the body of the first paragraph for better visibility via search engines etc.
  • If the press release is for immediate release, you may write “IMMEDIATE RELEASE” in all caps on the left margin, directly above the headline. If the release is embargoed, put “EMBARGOED UNTIL…” with the date you want the story released. A release with no release date is presumed to be for immediate release.
  • Research actual press releases on the web to get the feel of the tone, the language, the structure and the format of a press release.
  • The timing of the press release is very important. It must be relevant and recent news, not too old and not too distant.
  • Include a “call to action” in your release. This is information on what you want the public to do with the information that you are releasing. For example, do you want them to buy a product? If so, include information on where the product is available. Do you want them to visit your Web site to enter a contest or learn more about your organization? If so, include the Web address or a phone number.
  • Do not waste time writing the headline until the release is done. Copy editors write the real headlines in newspapers and magazines, but it is good to come up with a catchy title or “headline” for the release.
  • Send your release by e-mail, and use formatting sparingly. Giant type and multiple colors don’t enhance your news, they distract from it. Put the release in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment. If you must use an attachment, make it a plain text or Rich Text Format file. Word documents are acceptable at most outlets, but if you are using the newest version (.docx), save down a version (.doc). Use PDF files only if you are sending a full media kit with lots of graphics.
  • Use your headline as the subject line of the e-mail. If you’ve written a good “grabber” headline, this will help your message stand out in the editor’s e-mail inbox.
  • Craft each release to target a specific media outlet and send it to the specific reporter who covers that beat. This information can usually be found on the outlet’s Web site. Blasting the identical press release to multiple outlets and multiple reporters at the same outlet is a sign that you are taking shortcuts rather than targeting a specific market.
  • Avoid jargon or specialized technical terms. If accuracy requires the use of an industry-specific term, define it.

Warnings

  • Always remember that editors are overworked and understaffed. If you can make life easier for them, you’re more likely to get coverage. If you write a press release that’s close to the way the editor will actually publish it, it may see publication with minimal editing. But if you fill it with fluffy advertising copy, don’t use proper AP style, etc., the editor must severely edit your piece to use it. That means he or she is more likely to just move on to the next press release–and there are plenty of them.
  • Avoid the temptation to clutter your lead with a glowing generalization about your company (“ABC Corp, a global leader in the manufacture of high-end widgets for the royalty of Europe, today announced…”) Many releases are written this way, despite the fact that editors delete this kind of fluff. Everybody says they’re the leader. Don’t waste the editor’s time. The place to put a description is in the company information section of the release. But keep it accurate and factual.
  • When e-mailing a press release, do not make the subject line of your e-mail “press release.” You will only blend into the crowd. Get the editor’s attention by making the subject line your “grabber” headline, e.g. “Brand Co. wins $30 billion government contract.”