“Small Business Stacey” interviews Ruth Malkin, a top producing realtor in the Greater Boston area to learn her secret ninja marketing strategies that make #RuthRocks
Download/Listen To This Show: (46:45)
Ruth is a top performing realtor in the Greater Boston area. She is doing so well she even has her own hashtag #RuthRocks. She’s built a business on her terms where she gets to spend lots of quality time with her kids and travel the world.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a realtor or not, you’ll learn many actionable marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.
- Create a business on YOUR terms. It’s the punchline of life. Building a business around the lifestyle you want to have
- Started in real estate in 2000 after getting her MBA. The market was crashing but she got a few job offers. Made her realize she wanted to “work” but she didn’t want a “job”. She got into real estate without any prior experience. Then took time off to be a stay-at-home mom. A personal situation forced her to go back to work so she started rebuilding her real estate business again from scratch.
How do you differentiate yourself from all of the other realtors out there?
- There is a lot of competition, especially in the luxury market in Boston. It’s a high average price. The higher the price range the harder the competition and the fewer sales you end up getting. Therefore differentiation was important from the beginning.
- When I got started the way I differentiated myself was to wear a red suit. Everyone else was wearing gray and black. I did completely different photographs from what everyone else was doing on their business card. I wore my hair down and full which was unheard of at the time in real estate and any business. It started with a look and people would recognize me from the picture on the cards they’d get in the mail because it was so distinctive and different looking than everyone else. I wasn’t trying to look “the part”.
- The thing about real estate is it’s all personality. It’s about working with people. Everybody has housing needs. There are realtors who work well with you. There are realtors who work well with others. In order to grab a bigger share of the market it took a lot of mindset work, learning from experiences, and honing in on my skills. Others just do it haphazardly.
- I was very strategic about building my skillset, doing marketing, with a goal in mind. I don’t give up. When most people think of sales people they think of flamboyant, outgoing personalities. I’m actually very introverted which I think makes people more comfortable.
- I never push or feel like I’m “selling” anybody anything. I’m just there to help people make a decision. I always put clients ahead of commission and I think that comes through. My tagline is and always has been “I help people make great real estate decisions.” I need to understand WHY people want to sell their before I can consult on HOW to sell it.
There’s 3 M’s to what you do: mindset, marketing and money. When it comes to mindset how can a realtor get their head clear to be successful?
- It’s really important to understand fiduciary responsibility with clients. People get caught up in drama when they’re thinking about things other than “What is the best thing for my client at this moment?” That’s when they start making mistakes, giving bad advice, and doing things that are more about closing the sale moreso than about the client.
- When fiduciary responsibility became ingrained in everything I do, things went a lot more smoothly. It’s easy: who is your client and what are you doing for them at this moment? That is the only thing that should drive your activities.
- You have to maintain a positive disposition. We must have a positive belief in ourselves, even on our worst days. You have to do whatever you have to do, whether that’s hiring a mentor or a coach, listening to audiobooks in the car instead of pop music (turn that off!). I subscribe to Audible and always listen to positive audiobooks, especially when things are stressful or particularly bad in life. That’s my queue to put something on that is going to turn things around. For some people it’s meditation, for some visualization. It took me years of trial and error. You have to make the commitment and take the time to work on your positive mental attitude and disposition. It changes everything.
- My owner in my brokerage said “You doubled your business from last year. What changed?” The only thing that came to mind was mindset.
What about “money” and how it relates to how you use it to grow and invest in your business?
- I invest very generously in my business. It’s a priority. I believe in growth. You have to spend money, but wisely and strategically. I think long and hard before I spend money but I do spend. I think the best place to invest your money is in the people that can help you get stuff done and know a lot more than you do. It took me a while to learn “you can’t do this alone”. If I don’t I will never develop beyond $7M or $8M which was a good living but not where I wanted to be. As soon as I let that go and let the purse strings open, even if it meant putting it on a credit card, things really started opening up.
Marketing: every realtor knows they need to do it, but they get stuck. They start doing “ant marketing” – what everyone else is doing. How are you differentiating yourself and your business with your marketing?
- If everyone is doing X, Y and Z, I’m going to do A, B and C. I’ve done a lot of competitive research and I try to fill in the spaces where I see things are lacking and strategically look for the opportunities. We have suburbs that are terribly underserved.
- Unless you get really specific about who your client is, you’re not going to be able to craft a message that anyone is going to want to hear. Realtors are so afraid of going specific, but when you do, it opens up doors. Suddenly you’re the expert of X, a leader in that specific community. Without getting specific you’re just another realtor out there.
- The fear is if I become an expert in condos, which I am, specifically the lower end of the market, it doesn’t mean I’m not selling $2M or $3M houses, but I can’t the the jack of all trades to everybody. By being specific and crafting my message to my market I have people saying “Of course I’m calling Ruth. Who else would I call? She gets me.” It allows you to serve people really well.
- I realized there’s a benefit of working with someone who’s NOT realtor-specific. Those companies do the same things for everyone and the message is generic. I want someone with a completely different way of looking at things.
- Marketing is marketing. It’s also ever-changing. We do a lot of testing and we’re flexible – trying things out and seeing if they work. Consistency is so important!
While other realtors are spending tens of thousands of dollars each month on advertising, your strategy is organically based, using social media. How are you leveraging that media?
- Social wasn’t intuitive for me, then I started looking at it as an extension of relationships. Social has allowed me to connect with my clients, or almost clients, or soon to be clients. I shamelessly friend people. If they friend me back I know we’re going to work together. If people like you they will hire you.
- It first started with me just being me, showing I’m human . . . with my kids, my messy house. Then I started sharing my expertise. I do a ton of videos. I don’t dress up, if I’m inspired I just whip out my phone and just talk. Everyone is sick of everything being over-produced. I’m unscripted. I just have “conversations”, keep it short and respect people’s time. I don’t do video for the sake of video. Have something important to say. When it’s valuable, they will listen and click.
Reputation is a key part of social media. Hiring a realtor reputation is important. Nobody focuses on this yet people call you and say “I must work with you!”
- Happens all the time. They find me online and it’s because of my online reviews they want to work with me.
- I have 58 5-star reviews on Zillow. Having that, irregardless of what platform, it’s as important as the commission – meaning I’m going to do whatever I have to do to help them.
- I don’t share my reviews, some people do.
The big elephant in the room . . . . real estate has changed. Everyone is online. You can see a property online. How do you see the online world changing the real estate industry?
- I love that home buyers and sellers have access to the information. The more information the better. Helps with transparency. I am not threatened by that.
- Many were threatened by Zillow. Not me. It’s part of life. Redfin is out there. I’ve never lost a deal to them. It’s a completely different model and agent.
- I don’t think the whole industry will change for the need and use of full-service agents. I think they’ll even dominate more because there will be a need for people who want phenomenal service. The industry looks great for someone like me who takes it seriously.
Absolutely. Because you’re not a commodity. And people are willing to pay for that.
- People want to be able to trust someone. It’s long, and unpleasant, process. My job is to take the edge off. Agents who can’t do that won’t do well.
You built this business on your terms. Other realtors now come to you wanting to do what you’ve done. Fourth “M” is mentoring. You help other realtors learn what you’ve done to build your business.
- It’s about helping them figure out their way of building out a business they love. It’s different for everyone. How do we provide phenomenal service but love our life? What are the things you should be doing when it comes to marketing? It’s not about following someone else’s system. Those formulas don’t work because it doesn’t reflect what YOU want to do. I help them do marketing consistently and enjoy doing it because you’re good at it.
- I couldn’t do cold calling and it would never work for me. Some people are great at it. Build a business around your life, your skills, your personality.
- The conversation starts around what do you like to do vs here’s what you should be doing.
What words of advice would you give to a realtor who is struggling? Perhaps new or been in the business awhile but not happy with the results?
- It comes down to having a goal of what you want to achieve, not something someone else told you to achieve. You have to be fanatical about it. Sometimes you’ll fall on your face. That’s fine. It’s just another step. I know my goals every moment.
- Having a plan to achieve those goals doesn’t have to be crystal clear. You work on your mindset and commitment to achieving whatever you want to achieve.
- Nothing happens without a personal connection. In real estate you cannot sit behind a computer or just send out direct mail. You need a personal touch – making a phone call, visiting people. Get out there!
Don’t hide behind the technology. All marketing is H2H – human to human. People do business with people!
How can people get in touch with you?