Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Don't Forget Your Clients!

It's important that your clients, customers, past clients and sphere of influence know that you are thinking of them and thankful for their business especially during this extremely busy time of the year.  It is easy to send them an email or postcard with a simple holiday greeting.  If you need help with this then call me - it's my specialty to make your "business partners" feel special at all times.

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Do you need assistance in becoming the success you know you can be or help maintaining your current success? Contact Jeri today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Do you need assistance in becoming the success you know you can be or help maintaining your current success? Contact Jeri today.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't Forget to Thank Your Clients & Prospects

Your clients, prospects and sphere are the roots of your business.  Take advantage of this special holiday to thank them for their business.

Need help with this? Contact me today to find out how we can turn this special holiday into a great prospecting opportunity for you.
Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Do you need assistance in becoming the success you know you can be or help maintaining your current success? Contact Jeri today.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Are You Falling Back for Prospecting?

Have you remembered to take advantage of
this week's prospecting event?

It is time to "FALL BACK" an hour as Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday morning, November 7th at 2 AM.  This is a wonderful opportunity to touch base with your past clients, your sphere of influence, your farm area and any other contacts you need to keep in touch with.  

Need help with this?  Contact me today to find out how I can turn this annual fall event into a great prospecting opportunity for you.

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996.  Do you need assistance in becoming the success you know you can be or help maintaining your current success?  Contact Jeri today.

Monday, October 04, 2010

It is Time to Fall Into Prospecting

Fall is here for many of us and that gives us yet another opportunity to contact our clients, our sphere of influence, our farm area or our prospects.  There are so many ways to keep in touch with people.  One effective way is to remind everyone that certain things need to be done as the seasons change.  Fall is a great time to send out a reminder on ways to prepare their homes for the winter ahead.  Use a checklist to open a dialogue with your prospects as they may call you for recommendations for a chimney sweep, someone to check their heating system or someone that can clean their gutters.  Use the time wisely to find out if they are happy with their current home situation and don’t forget to ask if they have family, friends or coworkers  that need a new home as well!

If you need a checklist, or a few ideas, then click the image to download my checklist.  If you need a more customized list for your specific area then contact me and I’ll create a list that is unique to your area.

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996.  Do you need assistance in becoming the success you know you can be or help maintaining your current success?  Contact Jeri today.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been involved in a research project which had me viewing hundreds of real estate websites. I’m compelled to write this article based on what I saw while conducting my research. Although I didn’t keep track of the following results in a scientific manner you can get a rough idea of the problems I saw.

  • Lack of relevant key words – 80% (ie: name of the town, area or major employer, the term relocation, relocate or moving to…)
  • Lack of phone number on home page – 40%  (I was surprised by the number of sites that actually “hide” their phone number deep inside their site, usually on their contact page)
  • Lack of office location – 50% (If I am not from your area how can I locate your office?) 
  • Lack of how you can benefit the customer and/or client – 30% (I was surprised to see websites still dedicated to the attributes of the agent, the agent’s family, the agent’s hobbies, the agent’s pets, even the agent’s grandchildren. I think Facebook and LinkedIn are the proper venues for this-but more on this in another article) 
  • Lack of sophisticated, dynamic, interactive websites – 65% (This observation really startled me. With all of the inexpensive template website companies today it is a shame that an agent would have a website that looks like it was designed in 1970.)
Now, why should I be bothered about these statistics? Look at today's economy. It is bad for many real estate agents and these agents are wondering how they can survive. If you are in this category then take a look at your online presence. You aren’t still in the last century are you? You can get virtually left behind if you don’t keep up!

Take a good look at your website and the content. Are you offering anything valuable to a visitor? What do your visitors consider valuable? Do you really know what your website visitors are looking for? Do you really have an idea how people search and find what they are looking for?  You’ve got to know! You aren’t spending the money on a website just to give a visitor something to fill up a few minutes of their free time, are you? No!! The ultimate goal is to generate business!

What do you need to generate business? You need a visitor that is informed about the services you offer or specialize in and is compelled to take action and contact you. This also means you need the visitor to know how to contact you. Your phone number and address needs to be in a prominent position, above the fold, on every page. Don’t make your visitors search! They didn’t come to your page to play hide and seek!

Speaking of hide and seek, can the right people find your site? If you want to attract a specific niche market then your site needs to be optimized to attract those customers you desire. If the largest employer in your area relocates a lot of executives on a regular basis and that is your desired market then make sure your site reflects that. Don’t have a site that is so general that no one can locate you when they are searching for real estate information in your area.

What you want for your website is essential content! You want content that is necessary to the visitors and that in turn will generate business for you.  If you need a website review please contact me and I'll give your site an unbiased opinion and let you know if your site is meeting the needs of your intended target. 

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Do you need assistance in becoming the success you know you can be or help maintaining your current success? Contact Jeri today.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Using the Email Subject Line - Correctly

As a virtual assistant I get as many as 200 emails a day.   I am a member of many industry related forums that are very active on a daily basis.  I also get emails from clients, prospective clients, friends and family.  With so many people communicating with me my inbox fills up fast on a daily basis.

I have had many people ask me how I keep my inbox organized and how do I prioritize the large amount of incoming emails everyday.  Throughout the years I've experimented with many organizational tools.  What works for me may not work for you therefore I won't go into detail about how I currently organize and prioritize my inbox with the exception of one important aspect. 

Regardless of which email delivery system you use you have the ability to filter, sort and move emails.  One of the most common methods of sorting involves sorting by the sender but one aspect of the email that is vital to me in project management is the subject line.  My inbox organization works best when incoming email arrives with a subject line relevant to the enclosed message.  I often sort, filter and file emails according to subject, especially when multiple people are involved in the same project. 

As a client of a virtual assistant how does this affect you?  As a client you are a vital part of the project communication and it is extremely helpful when you use the correct "labels" in your subject line.  For example:  You've asked your VA to work on your current database, specifically cleaning up the contact in your "farm area."  If you send her an email that has a subject line of "Farm Area Database Project" then your VA is instantly aware that you have information pertinent to the project.  On the other hand if you send an email with the subject line of "Email from John" then your VA doesn't have a clue what your email content is and will likely not prioritize that email as it should be.  Also, she will already know the email is from you because your name is right there beside the subject line as the "sender." Does this subject line make sense to you?

With my email delivery system, Outlook 2007, I can change the subject line of incoming emails so that I can filter and file messages appropriately.  This is also helpful if I need to search for information regarding a project in the future.  But -- changing the subject line takes time, although just a few seconds, but time nevertheless.  If you send your VA multiple emails a day that need editing in this manner then you are wasting time, or money that could be better spent working on your projects.  You are typing a subject line anyway, why not type an appropriate subject line to begin with?

Today we are all looking for ways to economize and reduce waste.  This is a small item but if you are truly looking for ways to cut back then look at how you might be wasting not only your time but others with how you are creating your emails.

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Do you need assistant in becoming the success you know you can be or help maintaining your current success?  Contact Jeri today.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mutiny Against Lackluster Agents!

Yesterday in what promised to be a wonderful trip, full of great sightseeing and new experiences, I found myself right in the middle of a huge sales pitch. I've been disappointed in tours before but this was different. I didn't see this coming. It wasn't the experience that myself or the others on the tour were expecting, or mentally prepared for. The tour director's words were so well rehearsed that he couldn't answer small non-tour related questions. He appeared to be more like a robot than a human. Needless to say I was disappointed with the tour and the entire day turned sour. The beautiful surroundings dulled and the things we were brought to see became no more than a commercial trap for foreigners.

This morning in my reflection over the day I brought this back to first-time home buyer's searching for their dream-home. 

  • How many agents are working toward a commission and not assisting the buyer?
  • How many agents are going through the motions of showing homes, completely void of emotions and compassion for the buyers?
  • How many agents really care whether or not the buyer finds a home that meets the needs of the buyer?

My husband and I have bought several homes as the military has moved us around the country. When we have the misfortune to cross paths with a "robot" agent we quickly severe all ties and move on to another agent that will really meet our needs. But I wonder how many buyers know that they don't have to stay with that terrible agent?

Yesterday as I was forced to continue through my tour with the "robot" tour guide I daydreamed of what would happened if the bus full of people said "no" and refused to continue the tour? It would not have made a big impact, not even a small ripple in the sea of tour agents in this small country. But what if unhappy buyers across the USA stopped working with the lackluster, non-caring agents in their communities? Think of the ripple effect!!! 

As the internet continues to educate buyers the agents without the personal touch will fall by the wayside.  Don't get caught standing in the road as your buyers toss you aside!

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Visit her website, www.TheSecretAssistant.com to find out how she can assist you today!   Contact Jeri today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Go Viral With This New Social Media Listing Tool

Advertising your listings just got easier and best of all it is FREE!   We all know that social media is “the place to be” and Realtor.com is making it easy to advertise your listings in a consistent and professional manner.   As a bonus your sellers, your friends, your family, even your kids can advertise your listings!  Watch your new listings go “viral” as everyone shares your listing.

Let me show you how easy this is.  Using your CRM system email your new listing information to your database.  Be sure to include your Realtor.com url.  You can find this URL on your Realtor.com listing page near the bottom of the listing information, above the map.

Ask your database members to share the listing with their Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn friends.  At the top of the listing page, on the right, is a “share” button.  Click this button.

The dropdown box lists all of the social media venues available to the user.  Follow the prompts and the listing will be shared on their social media pages. They have the opportunity to add comments before the listing is posted.  This is a great place for posting how wonderful the property is or how great their listing agent is! (If they want to share the listings on more than one type of social media they will have to do each one individually.)

Be sure to tell them to have their family and friends to do this as well! The more people that “share” your listings the more exposure their home is getting on the “world wide web”!   With more than 400 million people on Facebook alone think of the marketing power you have!  Best of all – it is FREE!

BTW- Don't forget to "share" your own listings on your own social media pages as well!

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Her expertise includes listing coordination, including advertising. Does your advertising need a boost? Contact Jeri today.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Do You Know WHERE You Are Advertising?

Have you googled any of your listings? Seriously, put 123 Main Street, Anywhere, NY in the search box. In preparing this article I googled one of my client's listings. The results yielded an amazing 131 search results! Have you tried this with one of your listings? As a real estate agent you should be well aware how important the internet is to your business. In the recent 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers released by NAR it was revealed that an astonishing 90% of all buyers used the internet to search for their next home.

  • Do you represent your listings well on the internet?
  • Are your sellers happy with your internet advertising of their home?
  • Are your sellers aware of where their home is advertised on the internet?

If not then you are failing to provide them with a vital part of your overall marketing plan for their property. Are you taking advantage of all of the internet marketing opportunities available to you? It couldn't be easier to saturate the internet with your listings. Let me give you a few examples:

If you use Postlets then your listings are automatically syndicated to FrontDoor, Google Base, HotPads, Oodle, Trulia, Vast, Zillow, BackPage, DotHomes, Enormo, Local.com and Lycos. You also get the links and code for posting to Facebook, Twitter, CraigsList, FriendFeed and other. Best of all, you can do all of this for FREE....YES, no cost to you!

A second, equally excellent option is ListingsToLeads. This innovative online program syndicates your listings to the same partners as Postlets but also gives you syndication on Google Maps, Yahoo Real Estate, AOL Real Estate, CyberHomes, HotPads, LakeHomesUSA, CLRSearch, PropBot, Vast, eRealInvestor, LandWatch, ResortScape, Oodel, Walmart, MyRealty, Overstock, InvestorLoft, Military.com, OpenHouse, Homes.com, TweetLister, HomeAway Real Estate, Property Pursuit, HomeWinks, Relocation.com, RealtyTrac, My Home Renter, Homes & Land, Home Search, Keller Williams Listing System, Showing Suite, Pulse Mailing, Austin Home Search.com, Scripps, Northern Nevada Regional MLS, MLive.com, Maine Homes.com, Homes Database, Property Shark, Sierra Nevada Media Group Real Estate, Smart Zip, Suburban Real Estate News, Open Houses Inc., Homes Book.com, Sokous.com and Spotlight Preview. A few of these partners are regional and not applicible to everyone. You will find the majority of these partners are included in your ListingsToLeads subscription.There is a subscription charge for the use of the ListingToLeads service and at this time I do not have a price breakdown of those charges. If you contact Scott Pierce at L2L he will be happy to assist you with that. I'm sure you are asking why go with a subscription-based service when Postlets is free. The way I see it is you actually generate income with L2L because you will attraction more leads due to their fully branded, website and social media integrated listing advertisements. Each ad has a call to action but the big cost saving comes with the one click CraigsList post tool. It is also extremely easy to post to Facebook as well.

A third, and widely used system, is vFlyer. One of the most unique features of vFlyer is the ability to generate printable PDF versions of your flyers, as well as create embeddable widgets for your website or blog, and much more. vFlyer doesn't miss a beat in syndicating your listings either. You'll find they will add your listings to Trulia, Oodle, Google Base, Vast, Yahoo! Real Estate, Zillow, Geebo, OLX, HotPads, DotHomes, Lycos (via Oodle), Cyberhomes/AOL, FrontDoor, Backpage (Business Subscribers only) and Kijiji (Business Subscribers only). You can also post vFlyer listings to CraigsList and Facebook. vFlyer offers a free, ad-supported service as well as a number of subscription options.

Many MLS systems syndicate your listings. It is important that you maximize your photos and write a creative and narrative description in order for your listing to "put its best foot forward." I know many times you need to get your listing into MLS fast with the intention of making it look better later. Later may be too late because many times your listing is syndicated right away.

If you have a website based on a template system, such as Point 2 Agent, Agent Image, Z57, Advanced Access, Best Image, or any of the many other excellent systems available, you will have automatic syndication. As with your MLS, create the listing to the best of your ability when you first post it.

As you can see, there are many advertising possibilities available to you for virtually no cost, or very little. With 90% of buyers shopping the internet for their next home they are certainly the most educated buyer a real estate agent has ever worked with. Don't take this too lightly or you will find your premium listing inventory growing smaller and smaller.

One of the best options you have is to consult with a real estate virtual assistant on how to maximize your internet presence.  The benefits will be greater than you can imagine!

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Her expertise includes listing coordination, including advertising. Does your advertising need a boost? Contact Jeri today.

~~NOTE~~ Jeri does not work for, nor represent, any of the companies mentioned above.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Today, as St. Patrick's day is celebrated throughout the world, I wanted to jump on the wagon and celebrate with you as well!  When thinking what I could share with you my thoughts went into several areas.  My Irish heritage gives me a DNA that loves the beat of the bodhran and I go giddy over Riverdance.  I know most people love a little Irish liquor called Bailey's but I prefer Saint Brendan's.  In fact give me a pot of coffee and I'll finish a jug of Saint Brendan's in record time! I was the only kid on the block who spent hours searching for four leaf clovers and it has always been my dream to search for four leaf clovers in Ireland. So, although I've haven't had the pleasure to step foot upon Irish soil yet, I am Irish to the core.

Because this isn't a blog for me to gush over the features of a good Irish step dance, Irish whiskey or even a good pint of Guinness then I need to stop myself now and get on with something real estate related. Right? Yes!

In the spirit of St. Patrick's day let's look at what many others are doing this week, going green.  So many articles are being written this week about what we can do to better improve our "carbon footprint" while we are here on Earth.  As real estate professionals we have a responsibility to see that our clients have homes. Regardless of whether they buy or rent, in the end our job is to see our clients placed in adequate shelter.  We certainly want that home to be safe and in that process why not make our clients aware of their carbon footprint as well? 

Why not give your clients a green gift when they move into their new home? Most agents give their buyers a token of their appreciation, a housing warming gift.  Why not make that gift more green?  A gift of earth friendly products show your client that not only do you care for their comfort as they move into their new home but you are also concerned for the earth as well. I know many Realtors give their clients gifts that make that first night in their new home a bit more comfortable.  Why not use earth friendly products? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Organic Soap
  • Organic Paper Towels
  • Organic Toilet Paper
  • All natural breakfast foods
  • All natural paper plates/utensils
  • Energy-Saving Light Bulbs
  • Green Cleaners
  • Coupons/Gift Certificates to local market offering locally grown foods
  • Coupon for Free Dinner/Pizza (great for that first night) An organic or all-natural restuarant is preferrable.
Use your imagination, shop locally and see what interesting items you can find.  Don't forget a few snacks too! Place your items in a nice, reusable and attractive basket and leave on the kitchen cabinet for your buyers. 

Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day.  If you just can't get enough visit www.st-patricks-day.com to get a really good dose of Irish music, photos and fun. As for me I'll be out and about searching for that four leaf clover today and listening to a little Irish music. Click to hear to hear a wee sample of my favorite! (or click below)

Do you need ideas for closing gifts?  Contact Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant today!  Email or visit http://www.thesecretassistant.com/

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Time's A Changing!!

Need help communicating important events with your clients?  Contact Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, for information on how to stay in touch with your client effectively. 

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


In this advertising series I’m stressing the importance of marketing yourself.  Let’s spend a few minutes answering a few questions:

1. You need a new car.  How will you decide to purchase that car?  Ad #1 or Ad #2?

 2. You would like to get married. Will you marry the nice person in Ad #1 or Ad #2?

3.  You need a personal trainer.  Will you hire the person in Ad #1 or Ad #2?

4. You need a new home.  Will you hire the agent in Ad #1 or Ad #2?

Carefully consider why you made the decisions you did in each instance?  I’m assuming you selected Ad #1 in questions 1-3 and probably most of us selected Ad #1 in question #4.  Do you understand your reason for the selections? 

A photo speaks a thousand words.  Cliche I know but so very true.  You can scream “I Sell Homes” from the roof of your office everyday but if you do it wearing a bag over your head then no one will know who you are.  Understand the analogy?  Do you have your photo on each and every piece of marketing and correspondence that leaves your office, right down to your post-it-notes?  If not then email me and I will send you a fresh supply of those brown paper bags. 

If you do have a photo then three cheers for you!  One more question.  Is your photo up-to-date?  Could you be arrested for a bait and switch operation?  You know what I mean!

I’ve contacted realtors before that looked like this on all of the marketing material I saw:

When I arrived at the appointment they looked like this!!

Needless to say my husband and I didn’t "like" any of the homes we were shown and found a reason to cut the appointment short. In my opinion if an agent cannot even post a real photo then what else is she hiding?  I don’t want to know so I’ll find someone else!!!  Get the point?  Keep your photo up-dated.  With today’s high resolution point and shoot digital cameras it is too easy to do. 

Marketing rule of thumb #1:  Create marketing as if you were marketing to yourself.  Would you buy a house from YOU?

Evaluate your marketing, even items that you might not perceive as marketing such as notepads, pens, letterhead, etc.  What is your marketing saying?  What are you marketing?  Are you selling your services or dozens of little tiny houses in an ad?

What are you REALLY selling?

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Her expertise includes listing coordination, including advertising. Does your advertising need a boost? Contact Jeri today.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Are you a patron of the fine arts? Do you rush to every new gallery opening and every new art exhibit? Even if you answered “no” to both of these questions you may be very familiar with abstract art. Many artists have painted in this style and Picasso is probably the first artist that you think of when thinking of abstract artists.

If you are like me you have to squint at times to try to see what is really in the picture, or to try to figure out what the painter wanted you to see. What do you see in this painting?

Although this isn’t the work of Picasso you will recognize it as abstract art.  As a real estate agent are you surrounding yourself with abstract art on a weekly basis?  Are you commissioning your own works of art each week?  NOAre you sure?  

Are you guilty of advertising in the abstract style?  Do your ads look like this?  

WHEW!  There is a lot of “stuff” on this page!!  How many people will actually take the time to look at this entire ad?  If you “squint” at this ad what do you see?  Nothing special, do you?  What is this ad really trying to accomplish?  In my opinion - too much! There is just too much on this page, making it too confusing. Our eyes just won't focus on something so busy so our brain is told to "turn the page."

Let’s look at a much “cleaner” ad.



I don’t know this agent.  I don’t work for her and didn’t create this advertisement but I believe it is brilliant!

Everyone knows that real estate agents sell homes so this agent didn’t crowd this ad with dozens of tiny photos and descriptions.  Instead she knows that intelligent people seek an agent first and she has created an ad with her identity first and foremost. She is asking prospects to call her for her expertise, not because of the white house in the 3rd row on her ad.  By running this ad everywhere, on a consistent basis then she gains the trust of her target market (highly intelligent people) by her overall appearance that she is the expert.

This has been proven in market after market.  Agents sell homes, not ads.  What are you really selling in your ads?  Do you know?  Are people squinting to read your ads or just turning the page?

Jeri Winkler, The Secret Assistant, has been working in real estate since 1996. Her expertise includes listing coordination, including advertising. Does your advertising need a boost? Contact Jeri today.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Do People Know What You Are REALLY Advertising?

If you lived in a foreign country, couldn’t understand the language and saw an ad on TV should you be able to immediately recognize what product is being sold? Of course! Well, that isn’t always so.  View this current commercial running every 5 minutes on my local cable TV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flA6bD_OzJA I don’t have a clue what they are selling!  After doing a bit of research I found that it might be a loan company’s TV ad. Crazy, huh?

Are you guilty of advertising your services this way too?  Do you want your “audience” (ie-prospects) to remember the cute house, the catchy verbiage or YOU?  When it comes right down to it are you marketing the same house over and over or are you marketing your services?  Do your ads contain a lot of info about the houses you have available? Of course!  But, are you “selling” yourself short in the process of keeping your clients happy in your marketing efforts?  After all they hired YOU to sell their house, won’t the next client be looking for an agent as well, not a pretty house? 

I know there are arguments for and against the concept I’m talking about.  If what you are doing is working then stop reading this article and get back to work.  If you are not getting any results from your marketing efforts then it is time for a change.  How?  When? How much will it cost to change?  Good questions.  I’ll address these questions in upcoming articles.  In the meantime dissect your marketing.  Do you know exactly what works?  Do you know how it works?  Knowing the answers to these questions goes a long way in understanding why your marketing doesn’t work.

Until next time…