List Issue: Programs & Profits
The best associations are recognized as those that know how to custom-tailor programs, products, and services to meet the ever-changing needs of their members. They know how to keep their services fresh, relevant, and valuable to members every day. — Best Practices for Realtor® Association Executives, 2003.
5 tips for PR on a shoestring
1. Feed the press. Sine most small local papers can’t afford real estate reporters, provide them with articles and resources such as a monthly or weekly real estate columns. Whatever you provide, commit to their deadlines. You’ll lose your credibility if you don’t come through as promised. If you’d rather not write, develop story ideas and send those to your local publications with a list of members who’ll make good interviews (make sure you get approval from the members first).
2. Make the press an affiliate member. Invite the local paper to become an affiliate member of the association and give them access to your housing stats, research, and members. In return, ask for events coverage or free space to run an article by the association president—this could be anything from a piece on area homebuying trends, to a how-to about working with a real estate professional, to new-construction announcements.
3. Be open to all avenues. In small markets, a 30-second television spot during the local network evening news can cost under $100. Approach communications with an open mind and explore all the options.
4. Be a prepared spokesperson. Get to know the local reporters and always respond quickly to their requests. If you’re a reliable go-to source for real estate information on a tight deadline, the media will feature you frequently.
5. Create concise, clear press releases. The press is more likely to run releases that don’t require editing. Good press releases are brief, concise accounts of events or activities; have good quotes from leadership or members that would be interesting to the public.
Source: Shane Shapiro
5 ways to pitch a story to an editor
Your stories don’t have to be masterpieces; they just have to contain good, accurate advice or information about your market. 1. Keep it short, just the who, what, when, where, why (the most important), and how. 2. Add third-party market research or other validating facts to build credibility.
3. Know the publication’s audience and customize your release to the readership. 4. Emphasize that your goal is to help the publication provide valuable housing information, not to blatantly promote your organization or its members. 5. If possible, give editors the opportunity for an exclusive. This will help build relationships.
10 ways to get your new international program started
1. Conduct research on foreign investment in your local market.
2. Survey your membership; be sure to collect data on foreign-language proficiency and CIPS designation.
3. Contact your local consulate and ask them to attend an association social function; give them speaking opportunities.
4. Work with local university professors who specialize in other cultures on programming for your association events.
5. Organize a networking event at a local ethnic restaurant; kick off with a panel of Realtors® from that country or culture.
6. Analyze U.S. census data for foreign-born population in your area.
7. Generate support from your association’s directors, leadership, and staff.
8. Earn the CIPS (Certified International Property Specialists) for AEs designation.
9. Attend international meetings and events at NAR conventions.
10. Become an NAR Ambassador Association.
5 expert tips on event planning
1. Be professional. “Sometimes when staff people get event planning added to their other duties, they don’t take it seriously,” says Joyce Beach, vice president of professional development and communications for the Oregon Association of Realtors®. Beach recommends becoming a certified meeting planner through the Convention Industry Council.
2. Know your audience. The predominant age, gender, and education level of your audience can make a difference in everything from the amount and type of food that would be suitable to how you set up a room for speakers, says Lucy Hadley, director of professional development for the Columbus Board of Realtors®, Ohio.
3. Have contingency plans. “Anticipate problems before they happen,” says Charles Hall Jr., president of Association Services Group in LaGrange, Ga. “Flexibility is the key,” adds Tracey Floridia, director of conferences and professional development for the Virginia Association of Realtors®. “You want to control everything, but you just can’t, so you plan for everything as best as you can, then are ready to improvise.”
4. Learn the lingo. To get the most value for your money when dealing with hotels and vendors, you must understand terms such as attrition, force majeure, and rooms-to-space ratio.
5. Plan networking time. “Our members often say they get just as much out of talking with peers and comparing notes in the hallway as they get out of formal sessions,” says Floridia. “Sometimes they also need time to get away from everything and recharge their batteries.”
Free stuff for associations from NAR
Answers to AEs’ top questions about ethics training
Question #1 Must ethics course instructors be certified to teach the quadrennial ethics class?
Answer: No. Instructors do not have to be certified, and each association determines if the course they offer meets the required learning objectives.
Question #2 What is the deadline for taking training for the second quadrennial training cycle?
Answer: All Realtors® have the same deadline: Dec. 31, 2008.
Question #3 Do NAR’s online ethics courses qualify for continuing education credit?
Answer: CE credit depends on the requirements of your state licensing commission, but these courses typically are not recognized for credit.
Question #4 How early in the second cycle can I complete training?
Answer: Training can be taken at any point in the cycle. NAR encourages Realtors® to act early to avoid the rush of members completing their training at the end of the cycle.
Question #5 Can I get the final exam answers for NAR’s online ethics courses?
Answer: To preserve the integrity and useful life of the course, NAR does not share the questions or answers.
Question #6 Where can I find more information about the ethics training requirements?
Answer: Online at REALTOR.org/mempolweb.nsf/pages/coetraining
6 places to market the value of membership
1. Dues billing letter. Your annual dues bill is the ideal place to spell out just what your members are paying for, including advocacy through government representation, association publications, networking opportunities, educational programs, and money-saving member discounts.
2. Dollar-and-cent breakdowns. Include language like this in some of your publications and dues billing letter: “The cost of membership today, including your lockbox key and MLS service for a year, is about $XX, or about $XX per day. Where else in America could you go into business for yourself for $XX per day, including inventory?”
3. Brochures. Nearly every association develops some type of printed member benefits brochure to disseminate. Visit the Realtor® Association Resource Exchange (REALTOR.org /rare.nsf) to download PDFs of association membership benefits brochures.
4. E-mail taglines. Every e-mail you send to your members is an opportunity to market your programs, products, and services. At the bottom of each e-mail, add a line that highlights a program and links members to more information online.
5. Web site. Post an extensive member brochure as a PDF or put a prominent “Become a member” button on your home page that links to a list of benefits and discounts, an online membership application, and an annual dues breakdown.
6. Annual report. Use your annual report—published in your monthly magazine or line—to drive the value message home to members. The report can detail the year’s legislative accomplishments; cover legal, education, and event highlights; and summarize the association’s work on behalf of members.
10 reasons to earn your RCE designation
It energizes you. “It got my creative juices flowing again. The wealth of knowledge gained by reviewing all the information to prepare for the exam was a great refresher and motivator. I’m proud to have earned the designation and encourage others to ‘Just Do It.’ ”
—Pamela Krieter, rce, Realtor® Association of West/South Suburban Chicagoland
It makes your job easier. “No matter how long you have been in the real estate industry, your job will become easier because of what you learn as you study for, and achieve, your RCE designation.”
—Randolph Wright, rce, Collin County Association of Realtors®, Texas
It exemplifies your dedication to the AE profession. “Earning the RCE designation was an important step along the path of AE professionalism. It says to my members and leadership that I am serious about what I do and know what I am doing.”
—Laura Burns, rce, Clinton County Board of Realtors®, N.Y.
It leads to career advancement. “If you believe in professional development, you believe in the importance of obtaining your RCE designation. So many of my friends who have taken a position with another Realtor® association have told me that their initial interview was predicated on having the RCE designation, which says that members are noticing the RCE.”
—Elaine West, rce, cae, Greater Lansing Association of Realtors®, Mich.
It establishes you as a role model. “Even though I have had the CAE designation since 1983, I thought it was important to obtain the RCE so that I could encourage other AEs in Indiana to work for it also. It’s like RPAC; you cannot ask someone to give if you are not a contributor yourself. I would also encourage others who have their CAE to take advantage of the CAE+5 program.”
—Richard Nye, rce, cae, Indiana Association of Realtors®
It symbolizes your competency. “Earning the RCE designation is the pinnacle of my Realtors® association management achievements, as it sends a message to my association members that I have the knowledge and experience in the areas of Realtor® association management that make us competitive, proactive, and leaders in our industry.”
—Carol Shapiro, rce, Eastern Middlesex Association of Realtors®, Mass.
It provides a sense of personal achievement. “Receiving the RCE designation was very rewarding to me as the fulfillment of a longtime goal! It is a great feeling of pride and accomplishment to have my name added to the list of distinguished AEs and CEOs who are fellow RCEs.”
—Carol Vieira, rce, South Metro Denver Realtor® Association, Colo.
It advances your career. “Working toward the RCE designation was crucial to expanding my knowledge of association management. The RCE program allowed me to grow and develop the necessary skills to transition from government affairs director to eventually becoming the CEO.”
—Karen Wingender, rce, Greater Rochester Association of Realtors®, N.Y.
It can surprise you. “After 20 years I wanted to see what I didn’t know, and I found out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did!”
—Jane Forth, rce, Bucks County Association of Realtors®, Pa.
It gives you a new networking community. “I wanted to join the ‘best of the best.’”
—Andrew Schaus, rce, Arkansas Realtors® Association
It’s easier than ever with technology. “The online exam was very convenient for me—I appreciated having a local proctor administer the exam for me before it was offered at a national meeting. The local online exam process worked very well for me.”
—Jules Wade, rce, Memphis Area Association of Realtors®, Tenn.
10 ways you can’t use the Realtor® marks
1. Never use the Block “R” or the Futura “R” as part of a company or individual’s name in advertisements or on the Internet.
2. Never use Realtor® or Realtors® in the name of your firm. The marks can be used in conjunction with the name of a member’s firm with some form of punctuation, but not as part of the name of a firm itself.
3. Never use descriptive words or phrases to modify the term Realtor®, such as local Realtor®, professional Realtor®, etc.
4. Never use Realtor® as a synonym for a real estate broker or salesperson. For example, descriptive phrases like “your neighborhood Realtor®,” “your Realtor® for life,” or “Realtor® of choice” present this inaccurate definition of the membership marks.
5. Never hyphenate, reconstruct, expand, combine, divide, or misspell the terms Realtor® or Realtors®. Some popular misspellings: Reelter, Reilter, Realtar, Real-tor.
6. Never use the term Realtor® in lowercase. Some people believe that by using the term in lowercase they are using it generically, but this is not correct.
7. Never use the Realtor® marks for any non-real estate business a member is involved in.
8. Never use the marks to differentiate among members. For example, don’t use the terms “full-service Realtors®,” “discount Realtors®,” “commercial Realtors®,” “online Realtors®,” etc.
9. Never use the marks anywhere they would be difficult to remove in the event of termination of membership (e.g. telephone numbers, license plates, permanent signage).
10. Never suggest that all Realtors® in a geographic area are part of a single firm. For example, ReMax San Francisco, Realtors®.
3 things I’ve learned Ty Strout, rce, CEO, Arizona Association of Realtors®
1. Be totally honest, even when you feel something will reflect poorly on you. You ultimately are responsible. Accept that fact and move on. Deflecting blame or responsibility is a waste of time and energy and diminishes your “integrity capital.”
2. There is no such thing as too much information when dealing with elected leadership. Give them as much information as you can, such as financial statements, and let them decide how much they want to absorb.
3. Thoroughly prepare for meetings with leadership. Anticipate questions and concerns, and be in a position to respond factually. Try to respond to a question with “I am not sure but will find out as soon as possible and get back to you” no more than once per meeting. If you don’t know, though, don’t wing it.
12 ways to honor members
By replacing production-oriented awards programs--or enhancing them--with recognition based on service, Realtors® associations are not only helping to elevate the public image of members but are also making a positive difference in their communities. Below are popular awards given by state and local Realtors® associations across the country. If you’d like to launch a new service award program, visit the Realtor® Association Resource Exchange (REALTOR.org/rare.nsf) for criteria and sample entry forms for many of the following awards.
1. Local Good Neighbor. Given for extraordinary commitments to improving a community’s quality of life.
2. The R.O.T.Y. (Realtor® of the Year). Given for combination of Realtor® spirit, civic and association involvement, and business savvy. Usually elected by peers.
3. Humanitarian or Spirit Award. Given for a history of service to housing or non-housing-related charities and causes.
4. Realtor® Hero Award. Given to a member who saved a life.
5. Environmental Award. Given for work with a commercial or residential development that preserves natural habitats.
6. Rookie of the Year. Given for the highest sales figures coupled with great contributions to the association and community.
7. Housing Award. Given for outstanding leadership in planning or implementing a community or housing need project.
8. President’s Award. Catchall honor for a significant contribution to the association or its president in a given year.
9. Distinguished Service. Awarded sporadically at the discretion of the president, with approval of the executive committee.
10. Realtor® Achievement or Hall of Fame. Given to members who have made exemplary and long-term contributions to the community and local, state, and national Realtor® associations.
11. Omega Tau Rho Award. Created by NAR in 1950, it is awarded to members with exemplary dedication and service. Recipients are members for life.
12. Circle of Distinction. Awarded to applicants who have earned a minimum number of points for involvement in board activities, education, designations, and community involvement.
6 things I've learned Bob Hamilton, rce, EO, Georgia Association of Realtors®
1. To survive, you must master the art of multitasking.
2. Set realistic goals and timeframes within which to accomplish them.
3. Plant lots of “seeds” (your ideas and suggestions) for elected leaders to “cultivate.”
4. It’s imperative that you have written job descriptions.
5. All employees must receive annual written performance evaluations.
6. Seek ways to save money through sharing services with other associations.
Education directors’ top picks
In a recent survey, Realtor® association education directors revealed these top ways to attract students.
Most Popular Course Topics
*Tax Deferred 1031 Exchanges
Top Attendance Boosters
*Quality instructors and classes
*Market several times through various media
*Discounts for early bird registration
*Bring a friend/bring a rookie, new member—discounts on multiple registrations
*Offer multiple credits (ie, for ce credit, designation credit, etc.)
13 best practices for steller customer service
1. Answer the phone. Get call forwarding or an answering service, or hire more staff if you need to. Just make sure that someone—not a machine, if possible—is picking up the phone.
2. Don’t make false promises. Reliability is the key to any good relationship. If you say, “The class will start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday,” make sure it does. Otherwise, don’t say it. Think before you make any promise, because nothing annoys customers more than broken promises.
3. Listen to your customers. Get rid of the sales pitches and the product babble. Let your customers talk, and show that you’re listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.
5. Deal with complaints. Sure, you can’t please all the people all the time, but if you give one complaint your full attention, you may be able to please that one person that one time. You’ll make your customer happy and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service.
4. Follow up. A few days or weeks after the initial contact, call or write a member who had a complaint or problem to make sure the issue was resolved.
6. Train your staff. Talk to your staff regularly about what is and isn’t good customer service. Give your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions.
7. Throw in something extra. Whether it’s a discount coupon for an oil change, additional information on how to use the product, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they would.
8. Be honest and open. The more you reveal about your association procedures, policies, and finances, the more the members will feel a part of the organization and be less likely to complain.
9. Strive to improve. Don’t be satisfied if no one complains. You can always find a way to reduce paperwork or waiting time or to provide more information for members.
10. Solicit service feedback. Conduct regular customer service surveys. This not only provides great ideas for improving service but also shows members you care about service.
11. Be professional. Treat all customers with respect, and use appropriate titles (Sir, Ma’am). Be personable, but not overly familiar.
12. Apologize. Even if you aren’t directly responsible for a member’s problem, accept responsibility for it on behalf of the association and do whatever is necessary to resolve it. You can’t let your ego get in the way or try to blame someone else.
13. Show a positive attitude. Your attitude not only affects how you approach your job, your members, and your coworkers, but it also determines how they respond to you.
Adapted from articles by John Tschohl, founder of Service Quality Institute and author of six books on customer service, and Susan Ward’s e-zine; 8 Rules for Good Customer Service.