How To Connect On A Real Level In A Virtual World

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How to connect on a real level in a virtual world

Personal relationships are what bind business relationships, and that’s especially true in title and real estate. In 2020, the pandemic and resulting lockdown have tested personal relationships. But, the inability to meet in-person has prompted new opportunities to meaningfully connect.

In March, when COVID-19 began its community spread around the globe, many of us felt it was “game over.” I was on a cruise when the mayhem began and after quickly returning home, tried to imagine how my business — which depends on face-to-face networking and engagement — could continue.

Like the virtual cavalry, Zoom quickly arrived and, after the dust clouds of security issues settled, it shot to global prominence. No longer dismissed as a weak substitute for in-person meetings, videoconferencing was now standard operating procedure — and it is sure to maintain a big role post-pandemic. 

Experiential marketing, forced intentionality and tech

As virtual doors were opening for relationship-building, it was clear that this was a perfect time to focus on “experiential marketing.” Experiential marketing is a way to create a closer bond between a business contact and yourself, your service and your brand by immersing them in a fun and memorable experience.

It begins with truly listening and paying attention. While meeting with them, find one takeaway about the person you want to build a relationship with. It could be a hobby, family activity, favorite sports team or anything they’re passionate about. 

Then, be creative and follow up by recommending a book, an app, a restaurant or a pertinent podcast — something that is directed toward them and shows that you not only listened, but cared enough to do something about it. This practice reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “What’s the best marketing strategy in the world? Care.” 

Experiential marketing is also a great opportunity to use traditional interactive tools, then combine them with tech. Handwritten notes have tremendous impact. Just think back to how you felt the last time you received one! I get excited knowing someone took the time to put pen to paper, find my mailing address and mail something. I do this regularly, and I promise you — it works.

Using some of the great tech tools now available can add to the uniqueness. After all, in this case, you are using technology to grow relationships, not hide behind it. Here are three tech-assisted note-writing programs I recommend: 

  1. Felt: With this app, notes are in your handwriting. Use your phone and write out a note with a stylus or your fingertip, select a template, then upload an image if you want. It’s sent as a paper note in an envelope addressed in your handwriting. Super simple, and it’s just $2 per note. 
  2. Postgram: Focused more on postcards, but with a letter format, this service is also available for $2. Lots of cool templates, customizable color palettes and image uploading capabilities. Type your message, and sign your name. It’s probably a novelty for the person who receives it, and it could be a point of engagement.
  3. Adobe Spark: This app for any device has a free version that allows you to create your own card, print it locally and then write on it by hand. There are lots of sleek templates that work for flyers, marketing collateral or other purposes too. 

I often use a handwritten note or a personalized video to invite a potential or existing contact to a virtual lunch or coffee. If I can, I find out what they like to eat or their favorite coffee and invite them to share lunch or coffee on Zoom. Then, I have the food or coffee delivered to them prior to the call. Or, even without the meeting, just sending a thank-you lunch is a way to make sure they know they’re appreciated. 

Everybody likes to be considered an expert in their field, so if you have a newsletter, podcast or blog, reach out to an appropriate customer for help on a topic of interest and record an interview to publish, post or podcast. Invite them to participate in a webinar or virtual forum. The serotonin from the invitation alone will strengthen that relationship!

These efforts are part of “forced intentionality” — an important practice, thanks to the pandemic. Traditionally, as salespeople, we often rely on routines of informal drop-ins that put us in an office where a customer of ours might casually give us some business.

That isn’t possible now, so we have to be intentional. Now, I create a target list of five, 10 or 20 people with whom I want to create a meaningful relationship, and use definite schedules and strategies to make that effort intentional and effective.

How video saved the real estate star

Something else I do regularly is create and send personalized videos. You can look and speak directly to them through the camera. This way, they get an idea of who you are, and right now, this is truly a powerful option to connect from a distance. And yep, there’s an app for that!

These are the four I recommend to help make those videos easier to produce and more enjoyable to watch. What’s more, they can all be used right from your phone. No one expects it to be perfect, but these will make you look good and more professional.

  1. Adobe Rush: This allows separate editing of audio, so you have greater production freedom. It also has lots of templates. It’s similar to iMovie, but way more functional. It is included in the Adobe free version.
  2. Power Director: This lets you string together some videos very quickly, and they will be more seamless. There are paid versions available, but the free version is sufficient.
  3. Clips: This comes auto-downloaded on every iPhone with many great templates. You can easily change the aspect ratio from wide to square for Instagram and more. Awesome graphics are provided. All you have to do is type in information. 
  4. Quik: A GoPro product, but you don’t need a GoPro to use it. Super simple, drag and drop, it edits clips together automatically, adjusts the audio, and more.

Once the video is made, there are many ways to deliver it. I can tell you that statistics clearly show that open rates for text-delivered videos are through the roof compared to anything else.

For tracking opens and views, use BombBomb. It supports delivery via text, email or other methods, and lets you see if it’s been opened, watched and, if so, for how long. It also tracks any links clicked. Knowing it’s been viewed allows you to follow up with a personal note. For example, “I see you were able to take time to watch the video. I appreciate that.” 

The pandemic and lockdown have also lowered the mandatory cheerfulness bar for sales and marketing. We often feel the need to be super positive and act like everything’s great. While no one wants to deal with a “Debbie Downer,” this year has been a complete disaster for literally everyone, and being genuine and sharing our stories is another important way to connect on a real level. 

That said, the real estate world has continued to be robust and stronger than ever in so many ways, thanks to many different factors. So, it’s important to keep things in perspective, and I, for one, am truly thankful to be a part of this incredible industry.

Sam Trimble is a marketing and technology director at WEST, a Williston Financial Group Company, in El Paso, Texas. Connect with him on Instagram or Facebook

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