Making First Contact

Thursday, January 16, 2014

As I talk with appraisers across the country, I’ve heard there is a slow-down in some areas now (although others report they are as busy as ever). We can choose to think negatively about a slow time, or we can see the slow time as an opportunity to market, market, market.

Many times, we’re tempted to sit back and wait for the next assignment, taking for granted that business will simply come through the door on its own. But we can’t always assume business will come our way – sometimes we need to drive business to us! What are you doing to actively promote and expand your business? Let me share a few ideas related to marketing, which can be useful in the short-term and long-term.

  • Visit realtor groups and speak on a variety of topics: de-coding appraisals, market analysis, inspection items, appraisal methods 101, etc..
  • Send postcards to agents with listings that have been on the market longer than typical. Or email them. Do they need a second opinion?
  • Drop in to attorneys’ and accountants’ offices and leave a resume. Follow up with a phone call.
  • Be sure that your current clients know the full extent of your various services. Would a friendly email remind them that you also perform appraisal reviews?
  • Go to local networking events, like those put on by chambers of commerce.
  • Send follow-up cards or emails to new contacts.
  • Meet with local bankers and give them a market overview, demonstrate the technology you use, and have a question-and-answer session.
  • Provide a free email newsletter that contacts can opt to receive.
  • Start or update your social sites, like a blog, website, facebook, linkedin, youtube. Network and introduce yourself to second-degree contacts.
  • Join online discussion groups and present yourself in a professional manner.
  • Meet realtors one-on-one and offer to measure a house for them. They may be a homeowner’s contact in estate, trust, divorce or other life change situations.
  • Work with a county’s appeal board for property value disputes.
  • Volunteer for state and local boards. Write a column for your local newspaper.
  • Contact and update your current clients regarding your updated resume, license expiration date, new services, etc.. Are there new contacts at their company?
  • …the list could go on and on…

The bottom line is to be the local expert (and be sure you can deliver). Some argue that it doesn’t really matter nowadays if you know a local bank officer or a realtor. But in my experience, these folks invariably know people who need appraisals. And nothing in USPAP or appraisal independence rules bar us from marketing ourselves – we are running a business.

As with any marketing endeavor, you’ll get a lot of “no”s before you get a “yes”. That’s okay. First Contact is nerve-racking and scary. But making contact with new (and don't forget the existing) clients means you’ve reminded them of your name, voice, face, and services.

Back in 2006, I visited a small local lender, via an “in” from a loan officer I had known for several years. I met the manager and she told me they already had a small list of appraisers they used, but she took my letter and card. In 2008, long after our meeting had been pushed to the back of my memory, she called and explained that an appraiser was retiring, and they wanted to add me to the list. It works – sometimes later than sooner!

What have you done lately to market your business? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

Joshua Walitt is a Certified Residential Appraiser in Colorado, VA- and FHA- approved, and speaker to lending and real estate groups. Reach him on LinkedIn or @joshwalitt on twitter.  Learn more by visiting his bio page.

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