With every deal, agents have the opportunity to gain transaction knowledge and improve skills in negotiating, legal and regulatory matters. On the other hand, many agents focusing on transactions find it challenging to fit marketing activities into their day-to-day routines.Though the past few years have been characterized by quick sales, rapid price appreciation and record commissions, this prosperous period has had an unexpected downside – many residential real estate pros enjoying their success neglected the marketing basics that are crucial for long-term success. Today, many agents are reevaluating business plans to meet the challenges of slowing markets, increased competition, and emerging technologies. Here are some questions agents might ask to see if their marketing efforts are on target in 2007:o Research the National Association of Realtors calls a “troubling disconnect” shows that nearly 80 percent of buyers begin their home search on the Internet, but less than 10 percent of real estate marketing dollars are spent online. Most agents are willing to increase Internet marketing activities, but are not sure which online channels and activities will produce the best results.o Do your marketing materials pack that visual impact? Many agents simply print, copy and paste material from the MLS and other sources that were never intended for consumers. A high percentage of property listings still appear without photos. Today, consumers have higher expectations and want maps, images, and current data wrapped up in a professional presentation. Younger consumers who grew up on video games and 3D graphics strongly respond to color and visual impact. Agents who understand this can use high-impact materials to stand out from the crowd.o There are many online sources for consumers to obtain information on individual properties. But what about neighborhood and community information? By a wide margin, buyers rank neighborhood quality as the most important factor when deciding where to purchase a home. By providing neighborhood expertise in addition to individual property knowledge, agents can gain a competitive advantage.o Ready for the end of one-size-fits all marketing? One of the most successful tactics for online marketers is segmentation – developing multiple marketing messages to target specific customer profiles. Today, the U.S. population – and probably your own neighborhood – reflects more generational and racial diversity than ever. That means you need to know your audience and personalize more than ever. It’s a challenge because what works for empty nesters probably won’t resonate with generation Y buyers coming into the market. It’s an opportunity because real estate niche markets can be very profitable, even when broader market conditions are trending downward. Focus on marketing and prospecting Real estate marketing and lead management have changed dramatically in the past few years. As Web technology advances, people are able to perform more tasks related to buying, selling and home ownership online. Naturally, more real estate marketing activity has moved online to capture these consumers.Unless you’re fortunate enough to work in an office with a proven lead generation/management system, you’ll need to develop these skills to build your real estate practice. Putting aside the larger debate about lead aggregators and which types of leads are good or bad for the industry, the source of leads is an important consideration.Before the Internet, real estate leads came from referrals, cold calling and open houses. They were usually self-generated and each received a personal follow-up. Contacts generated from databases or Internet may or may not be self-generated, and it’s often not practical to follow up on them on a case-by case basis.They could originate from your agent website, or be purchased from any number of third-party lead sources. Their quality may vary depending on how the lead was captured and other factors. When leads are not generated through your own marketing activities, you must take steps to make them your own:o Have a system in place to manage your lead pipeline – often shown as a funnel – to ensure you’re taking advantage of every lead that comes your way.o Measure the cost and quality of leads from various sources to determine which types of leads work best for you.o Handle leads quickly and efficiently so that lead generation and conversion becomes part of your day-to-day agent routine.