Spare a thought for the estate agent today.
That estate agent staring at screens, enthusiasm dimmed by the peaks and troughs of the industry, the vagaries of a malevolent office boss, working like a cockroach, not a unicorn, to find property listings, good at many things, excellent at others and rubbish at some of the 7 skills needed, often not a copywriting expert.
It’s only Monday too.
They’re not my words – they’re the loosely paraphrased words of Ryan Fletcher, an American podcaster and real estate expert on Agent Marketing Syndicate.
I’ve listened to a few now and, once accustomed to the high octane staccato delivery and fruity language, what he and others advise rings out loud and clear and the results of realtors on his podcast speak for themselves.
What does he say?
Ryan calls traditional estate agents “low information estate agents” who suck the life out of its employees and, to put it simplistically, act like cockroaches, who gang up, with a relentless sales message that would-be home sellers pay heed to in boom, but ignore in quieter times.
He’s attacking an American model but having worked in estate agency myself, albeit briefly, I can see parallels.
The cold calls, the leafletting, the relentless marketing campaigns don’t work, Ryan claims.
What does work is:
Marketing as storytelling.
I was pointed in another direction last week by a good friend, Chris Arnold, of Agency Negotiation, who sent me a fine article by Sam Ashdown about estate agents floundering because they’re expected to be:
- Copywriting experts
All usually without formal training.
That was 20 years ago too but some facets of the estate agent’s job have been added to:
- Social media marketing
- Website conversion
- Email marketing
Now, Sam rightly points out that the real meat of an estate agent is still working with people and building relationships, but an estate agency in 2017 has two choices to cover these 7 aspects:
I think there’s a 3rd way though and it’s something of a meld between the two: coaching.
Cards on the table, I worked in estate agency, began in a bubbled frenzy of enthusiasm and quickly became disillusioned – disillusioned with the amount of work for little in return, the crippling portal costs for start-ups and the behaviour of some rival low information estate agents.
Other aspects were beyond me too: I couldn’t master photography; I still can’t. It’s why when we sold our house the online estate agent outsourced photography to a brilliant Norwich freelancer: Jamie Reid.
Floorplans flummoxed me too.
But what I could do and do well was social media marketing, website optimisation, blogging and email marketing.
So the middle way is coaching.
Here’s the sell.
This is based on what I currently do.
You outsource your blogging, social media marketing, website optimisation and email marketing to me, or to another copywriting expert, like Sam Ashdown.
Not your photography.
Not your leafletting.
Not your office politics.
I can do all four well.
But here’s the best bit: you outsource and get trained in those four aspects.
This is not cheap talk – this is what I’ve done for many companies now.
They’ve each paid me an agreed amount upfront and I’ve gone to work on the aspects they want and I then advise.
After 3 weeks. you’re then contacted by me to arrange a face to face or Skype call for me to come in to do what I’ve done since 1987: teaching – not English but writing and marketing.
Employ a copywriting expert to outsource and coach staff – or pay for training – or carry on as a cockroach.
I did mention at the beginning of this post about Ryan Fletcher.
Tony Robbins, another fantastic influencer who states repeatedly and eloquently, amongst other golden advice, that marketing is about telling stories, just as Ryan does with his notion of sitcom-based newsletters.
There’s something utterly compelling about stories – they’re memorable and often passed on.
It’s something a copywriting expert can coach you in.
I’ll go back in time now to my early years – please indulge me there is a point to this and I’m sure you’ll see the link.
I’ll spell it out too.
At 37 years of age, after shrinking to emaciated proportions of 10 stone with a 28 waist at 6 foot 2, I thought I was dying.
I coughed up blood daily, had vomiting and diarrhoea and was in constant pain – all the indications I thought then of cancer.
Not only that, but I was permanently exhausted, had a 24 hour a day head echo, whirring in my cranium.
I was physically and mentally ill and I thought death was at the door, not life continuing as a teacher and future freelance writer and copywriting expert.
It wasn’t though – to cut a long story short – it was a food allergy, an allergy to gluten that was destroying my body and nervous system.
Not one professional in those 37 years of life ever correctly diagnosed until I met a niche gastric specialist who took hours to solve what others had failed to do in 37 years.
On relocating to Scunthorpe in 2001, a visit to the doctor about these issues led to an emergency hospital admission and a stomach specialist diagnosed what was causing 37 years of utter misery – it was wheat, rye, barley, gluten.
My early years were as miserable as my laters and here’s an excerpt from an, as yet, unpublished autobiography:
Please indulge me; this anonymous autobiographical tome has been a long time coming. It’s self-centred, as it’s about me, about my life, my family, my career. It may strike you as indulgent and self-possessed and I apologise, but what it isn’t is a niche piece for diagnosed and undiagnosed coeliacs.
Hopefully humour and personality will shine through, even in its darker moments and there’s a few of those along the way.
Let me start then with the opening gambit, explaining what gluten is, what a food allergy has done to me for 51 years of my life.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats (when they’re cross contaminated). Gluten free oats are free from gluten obviously but contain Avenin, a similar toxin, which some diagnosed coeliacs can tolerate, others can’t.
I’ll leave oats for the minute though and tell you about gluten.
Julius Caesar and Aristotle allegedly suffered from eating gluten – so it has a long history. It only came to prominence though in World War 2, when bread was rationed, and in Holland a connection was made between improving gastric conditions of children and gluten, once bread was eliminated from a daily diet.
Speaking in broad terms, it’s the glue that holds grains together – hence why gluten free products often fall apart – without this Pritt Stick protein.
This innocuous sticky protein though is a major allergen around the world – 1 in 100 just in the UK suffer from coeliac disease yet only a tenth (1 in 1000) are medically diagnosed.
I’ll come on to diagnosis later in chapter 9 but now I’ll focus my memory on birth and early childhood.
I don’t remember my birth – who does from those heady hippy days of the mid 60s before selfies, Instagram and Snapchat.
A polaroid self-developing camera was seen as avant garde back in the day and I don’t think we owned one.
I was born into a solid working class family in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, born at home I think at a healthy weight of 9 and a half pounds so the theory of gluten ingestion as a foetus did not impact I recall on my weight – though it did with our daughter.
Born as the middle of what would become three children: older brother, younger sister.
I wasn’t breast-fed – I have no visions of my mother’s mammaries in my subconscious. I’ve spent most of my life since sucking on bottles however – but that’s a story for later.
Childhood to five was pretty uneventful.
I recall being an avid reader, with zero energy.
Lying on the bed, sofa, tucked into an Enid Blyton tale of childhood sexism and casual racism, was my Utopia. I had no desire ever to leave the comfort of books behind to kick a ball around with my older brother, or play outside.
It was the inertia that came from eating gluten daily.
Bit more science here at this point.
Those allergic to gluten see ingestion of said protein as an assault on the villi. Villi are the microscopic hair-like projections that line the intestines and absorb nutrients from food.
Except, when allergic to gluten, they flatten and go into hiding, leaving the body listless and the bread roll abandoned, causing gut rot and pain for the villi’s owner.
My diet was fairly typical from 1965 to 1970. It wasn’t carb rich, gluten loaded, it was balanced and quite healthy.
But I failed to develop physically in those formative years.
I remember my mum being so concerned about my skeletal frame and non-existent zest for life that she approached a doctor about me.
You see, I consciously rejected gluten from birth.
Beans on toast saw me eat the beans, but not the toast.
Fish fingers led me to peeling the breadcrumbed batter away.
A ham sandwich resulted in the ham being eaten but not the bread.
You get the idea.
As a result, I have a photo from Green Top first school, which was posted to me by a class mate on Facebook and my physique with stick insect legs and arms caused much recent merriment. I was easy to spot and easy to carry. I was all skin and bones. The villi, you see, were flat, leaving me with no fat, no muscle tissue, just a taut frame.
Sad looking back.
As are all my photos until 2002.
I remember distinctly the walk from the classrooms down to the primary canteen where 8 sat around a “server” who’d dish out the two courses and pour the metallic water from the steel jug into the Duralex glasses, which we tipped over before filling to “check our ages”.
The server, the dinner ladies, the teachers, knew little about food allergies and I compliantly ate everything without question as it was expected and I did as I was told at school.
Again, Physical Education or Games, perturbed me in reception and year one.
Physical movement, hand – eye coordination was not something I was capable and it immediately marked me out as odd as playing out, playing sports, was the norm in 1970, when there was little else to do, at school or at home.
One memory does resonate though.
My mum worked flexibly, seasonally on the land, and with a door-to-door credit company.
My dad spent all his working life at International Harvester / Case tractors in Doncaster.
I remember distinctly being left in the care of my older brother for 5 minutes whilst my mum “popped out” to ring my dad from a neighbour’s phone, leaving a sixpence with me and my brother, for ice-cream, should the van turn up.
I think she was pregnant with my sister.
Anyway, the ice cream van did a no show, so I did a very natural thing – I swallowed the coin. It was gluten free, so no big deal I thought.
I’m still not sure why I did this, at the age of four, but I did.
The upshot was I was taken to the doctor’s – these were the days when you could show up and not spend 90 minutes ringing from 8 am praying that the line is not engaged. The doctor was as non-plussed as everyone else, but prescribed an action plan.
Get him on a potty.
So I had to excrete in a potty to add to the ignominy of being a stick insect child with no energy, whilst my mother went through the motions.
It was sloppy. I remember that clearly . The sixpence when it had worked through my system, came out blackened from its intestinal trek.
My mother still has that blackened coin to this day.
37 years into my life, I found a medical expert.
As an expert in a niche of gastric problems, he took under 24 hours to solve a riddle that others could not in 37 years.
Back to the real point though, apart from the long anecdote, is that Dr Penston made me well, his findings made Ruby, our daughter, well.
His skills and explanation of his medical diagnosis coached us as parents into seeing the warning signs and making a very poorly child well.
If your copywriting, social media marketing, websites content is sick (old meaning, not new), you need a Dr Penston to check the problem, explain what is wrong and make a remedy.
You can outsource, you can train or you can be coached by this copywriting expert, leaving your sales negotiators and letting negotiators to do what they do best: connect with people and property.
That’s not me bragging.
I’m shocking at any form of DIY, a mediocre cook and an awkward athlete.
But I can write and promote a business or brand through social media marketing – I’m an expert on both, particularly the property niche.