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Marnie Seinor on structure, database DNA and connecting with her local community

24 July 2017 Tamikah Bretzke

There’s no such thing as an “off switch” in real estate – so says McGrath agent Marnie Seinor, who came in at number 78 in this year’s ranking.

She joins host Tim Neary for this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents to explain why she runs a tight ship, and how doing so enables her to effectively manage client expectations while also meeting personal commitments.

You’ll also hear how Marnie successfully built a reputation in her local marketplace by leveraging close relationships and giving back to the community.

In this episode, find out:

  • How Marnie harnessed social media and video within the business
  • The importance of managing a “clean” database
  • What a top-ranked agent looks for in support staff

Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to us now on iTunes!

 Full transcript

Tim: G’day, everyone. It's Tim Neary here. I am the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents show. Thanks for tuning in. This is the show where we bring in and chat to the very best agents in Australia, and I'm very pleased today to welcome to the show rank number 78 in the REB top 100 agents ranking for 2017 from McGrath Estate Agents in Coogee in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. It's Marnie Seinor. Hello, Marnie, and welcome to the show.

Marnie: Thank you very much.

Tim: It's terrific to have you on this show. Look, you're top 100 again this year in 2017. It's quite an achievement. Tell us quickly how you do that. How do you stay on top of your game?

Marnie: Yes, it's a lot of hard work and a lot of hours put in, but behind the scenes, it's a lot of organisation and structure in my team to stay on top of it.

Tim: Yes, yes, and we were just talking a little bit about some of the techniques that you use, and you mentioned one in particular around video. I suppose the industry's been changing a lot in recent times, and you've been adapting with that.

Marnie: Definitely.

Tim: Talk to us a little bit about how a video is, about how you're incorporating video into your business and the benefits of it.

Marnie: Yes, sure, so I think that we need to change with the market, and that's all around based on how you market the property and how I market myself out there in the marketplace. We've gone a little bit away from print media marketing in the local papers, et cetera. I'm doing a lot of social media marketing, which is where now, I've implemented videos into my marketing packages, both for the property but also for myself, for personal branding.

Tim: Obviously, you didn't start at the top, so let's go back. When you started out in the business, the first thing that you wanted to do, I suppose was build a database. How do you go about ... You know, if we're talking to young agents starting out, how do you go about building a database?

Marnie: Sure. It's all around your database. It's extremely important to have a clean database. That is from every time I meet a buyer, every time I do an appraisal, everybody goes in my database. Then, through the database, you do marketing directly as an EDM or sending newsletters. It's direct marketing, and it's less time, obviously, from picking up the phone and actually calling everyone in your database, which I still do but it's a way of touch-pointing to your clients and reminding them what you do every day on a daily basis through direct marketing through that database.

Tim: You would have started out with just a clean piece of paper and a pencil and no names on there. Then, it would have built over time to what it is today. What information, when you're putting in new details, and what information about that person do you want to capture?

Marnie: Sure.

Tim: What do you want to know about them?

Marnie: I have actually, yes, gone from the palm card days that used to store them in those boxes into now a more sophisticated database, which I'm also trying to get my head around. I'm very still a little bit old school in that way. However, what we obtain information from buyers that are coming through the door is a name, a telephone number, e-mail address. I'm actually going down the path now of getting post codes. From there, we put them in the database, and then we categorise the database, whether they're hot buyers, warm buyers, cold buyers, hot buyers with a property to sell. We categorise them, and every person that comes into my database has a DNA. The DNA is whether we call them on a weekly basis, fortnightly basis, drop off magazines to them, depending on how hot or warm or cold they are is to what we categorise them and have a plan for them in the database.

Then, a daily task will come into my e-mails every day, and they're from people that we're put in six months ago or a year ago and just to remind them. They're a reminder for me to call those people.

Tim: Okay. How many people are you calling on a daily basis?

Marnie: At least a hundred. I'm making a hundred calls a day.

Tim: A day, okay, so your database must be quite substantial then?

Marnie: Yes. My database is enormous. I've worked on ideal week, so when I say a hundred calls a day, it's not just to my database, but we're entering at least between a hundred and 200 people new on a fortnightly basis into the database, whether they're home-owners or buyers. I make a hundred calls a day, depending on where I am on my days of the week. Monday is callback day. Tuesday is callback day, but Wednesdays is a day that I sit and call my database, so I'm very structured around my ideal week and when I'm prospecting or when I'm doing callback calls.

Tim: Okay, and we talked about this issue of being structured a lot with real estate agents. It seems to be a pretty much a cornerstone of the business is to have that structure.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: It's interesting that to talk about that. I want to just talk a little bit more about that database, because we also talk a lot about what is the optimum size of the database? It seems like yours is probably going to be on the larger size, and if you're adding 200 names every fortnight, then it's like a balloon. It's just growing all the time.

Marnie:  Yes, yes.

Tim: How big is the database?

Marnie:  I've got about 13,000 in my database, but it's also clean data. It's really … I cleaned mine out a couple of years ago. There's a lot of double entries, but there's a really solid 6,000 that's clean home-owners. I've got another file that's just e-mail addresses, not as clean, but they still get a newsletter every month. I'm still in contact with them, but clean data, there's probably about 6 to 10,000 clean, clean data.

Tim: Yes, yes. You said a couple of things there that I want to pick up on. One was that your database is categorised.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: A, B and C?

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: Also that it's clean data. I guess those are two very important aspects of the database.

Marnie: Absolutely. If you're going to constantly send in newsletters or EDMs about new listings that come available, that it's got to be clean data. People don't want to be flooded with e-mails that aren't relevant to them either, so if I listed a new property, and I've got home-owners in the database under that same suburb, then I'll send those home-owners a result or a new listing. I won't send it to my whole database where it's not relevant information to those people.

Tim: It's about having a robust database. It's about having a substantial database, but it's also about having an intelligent database.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: When you're talking to somebody, when you're sending a message, you know where to find the person that you want to send that message to.

Marnie: Absolutely.

Tim: Otherwise, it just becomes spam.

Marnie: That's right.

Tim: Then, it works against you.

Marnie: Absolutely, works against you.

Tim: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Marnie: Definitely.

Tim: Terrific, Marnie. If we can just take a step back again.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: You start with the database, you build the database. You've been in the business a long time. I would imagine the next thing that you want to do once you've got that database going is to build yourself a reputation in your local marketplace. How did you go about doing that?

Marnie: Sure, so yes, that's really important. I had moved into real estate and started selling real estate in my local area where I grew up. Later in my career, to me having a presence in that area was really important. It's like it's starting all over again, basically, but how I did that was I'm really fortunate to have three children. I do use my children in that way that I will sponsor their rugby. I sponsor their league team. I sponsor the swimming. I sponsor the nippers in the local area, so I have presence in the area. I also went back to my local school and sponsor their art shows and their end-of-year assemblies and present awards. Then, everyone knew in my area what I actually do for work. I think at that stage in my life that I decided to commit 100% and make real estate, it's my life rather than just a job.

It does take over your life, because everywhere you walk and everywhere you go to a function, everyone just wants to talk about real estate because it's everyone's second hobby. That's how I build my presence in my marketplace, was through my children's sports and local schools and local faiths. I put a lot back into the community.

Tim: You talked about going back to the school that you were in, talked about having a presence in the community and also that real estate takes over your life. I guess those two things work hand- and glove, don't they?

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: I mean you want to tell people what you do. You want to become a presence in the community, so there's no real off switch, is there?

Marnie: There's definitely no off switch, yes.

Tim: Yes, yes, yes.

Marnie: I think once you decide that you're 100 per cent in it, you realise there is no off switch, which can be exhausting as well, but I love what I do, so I don't mind it. Yes, there is definitely no off switch.

Tim: Then, talking about no off switch and becoming exhausting, there would have to be a time that you would start to bring on an assistant and bring on other people to help you with that. Somebody starting out in the business, what is the time? When do you know that it's time to bring on somebody to help you?

Marnie: Yes, I think it's really important to once you feel like you're drowning in your work, which I still do every day, but once you feel that you are not servicing your clients and you're not communicating when you should be, then it's time to start delegating your work and put on a personal assistant. I put on a personal assistant because I needed to spend more time with my children, and yes, because you are busy. You're out running around doing appointments. You can't do everything. For me, I'm a sales agent. I'm not an admin computer person, so it was good for me to put on an admin person, which allowed me time to spend with my clients and do what I'm best at doing.

Tim: That's an important part as well. An important point is that when you're looking for somebody, you want somebody to compliment your business.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: Compliment what you do and not take over from what you're doing because you don't want to clash. I suppose you want to have somebody that's going to help you. What do you look for when you bring in on an assistant?

Marnie: Absolutely, it's really important because you don't want somebody to come in and just take over. You know, you need to have people around you that you can rely on and trust and that you feel confidence in delegating your work to them and letting, really handing over your business to them. Especially for me, I'm out of the office a lot, so I need to know that when I've got the girls in the office, they're actually working in there, doing what they're supposed to do. Staff, yes, I found it really hard to find good staff and to surround myself with good people, but I'm really fortunate that I have found Elizabeth that has been with me for over four years. She's amazing, and she's my backbone. She's just amazing. She shadows me everywhere. She now has been with me so for such a long period of time that she's starting to communicate like and talk, you know, talk like me, which is amazing for me to have.

Tim: That's an extension of the brand, isn't it? Yes.

Marnie: Yes, it's an extension of me, definitely, and of the brand.

Tim: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Marnie: She's amazing. I've also now got somebody in the office, who's just doing admin. She's quite new, but yes, it's hard to find the right people, so I've now taken a step out of interviewing because I always have the wrong people, so I come in on the second phase of the interview stage and assist in that stage. Yes, I always look for people that have skills that I don't have.

Tim: Yes. I mean that's a good tip, is that you say that to get out of the interview stage in that initial one, particularly if you realise that you're hiring the wrong people. Get out of the way. Let somebody else do that. Then, come in later on.

Marnie: Absolutely.

Tim: When you talk about hiring people, a lot of the time, it's almost like looking for somebody similar that you're going to get on with but looking for somebody that's dissimilar that's going to do the things that you don't want to do.

Marnie: Definitely, yes.

Tim: That would be a bit tricky, I would imagine.

Marnie: Absolutely.

Tim: Yes, yes.

Marnie: I've always ... I have hired people in the past that remind them of me, so it would have been the wrong person. Now, I go for somebody that's opposite.

Tim: Yes.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: Hey, Marnie, terrific. We're getting to the end of the show. Before, and I always like to ask for a couple of top tips before we end off, but before we get to that, you mentioned a little earlier that your secret for success is the hard work that you put in. Then, you talked about an ideal week. I just wanted to go through that with you. Just talk us through what is an ideal week in your diary, in your calendar?

Marnie: Yes, I have to work to an ideal week, and my staff actually work on an ideal week as well.

Tim: Yes.

Marnie: Then, we know nothing is left unturned, so my ideal week is Monday and Tuesday, I need to stay in the office and get on top of my callbacks. I do all my own callbacks. Wednesdays also, prospecting, whether it's through the database or to people that have appraised their properties. Thursday is generally out of the office. Friday is floating around, showing properties and calling my owners for the open day on Saturday. I do stick to a structured diary. I have three children, so in my calendar, my children's activities, my children's life. When I'm picking up, what I'm not picking up, so I do appointments on my way into the office and my way home. My staff know when I'm dropping the children to rugby training or swimming lessons. While they're training, I'll do an appointment. Everything is very structured in my diary. Also, my staff have that structure as well. Elizabeth knows what she's supposed to do on a Monday. Tuesday, checklist for everything. Everything we do has a checklist and what day of the week it's supposed to be done.

Tim: Just to make sure that you get everything done.

Marnie: Everything done.

Tim: Yes, yes.

Marnie: Then, I'm not checking up on them either. I can grab a file at any stage and look at the checklist. That's tick, tick, tick, done. I know that Monday, reports go out to my vendors. I know that I can call my vendors on a Tuesday, and they have received that report.

Tim: That's the structure that you were talking about.

Marnie: We are very, very structured. Without that, it just, yes, it's too crazy.

Tim: Yes, yes, yes. I also like the way that you said that working your children into your calendar and you talked earlier about also that real estate is your life.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: It's not just real estate and then family. The two are actually together.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: The world’s sort of melt into each other.

Marnie: Yes, absolutely.

Tim: Yes, yes.

Marnie: Yes, they do.

Tim: Right. Those top tips. For when you're going in to see a vendor and you're doing a listings presentation. Somebody listening to the show is starting out. What's the thing that you would tell them always do? What's the one thing you always do?

Marnie:  Every appointment, we have a to-do list around it, like a schedule around it. It's really important to, before you go to that listing appointment, to already had looked up what they paid for it, when they bought it. Back to basics, you know? I Google who I'm meeting because sometimes, you might be meeting somebody, you don't know who they are. Then, you find out so much about them, so before a listing appointment, again, I'll have checklist. I'll make sure that this is what I need before actually going to the house. Always back to arriving five to ten minutes early, switched on. You go in there. You know your product before you go in there. Then, you know, you look at old photos. You know if they're ... Then, you can ask the questions, "Have you done this renovation?" You know, you get to know your product before you actually go.

Tim: Right, so it sounds like preparation.

Marnie: A lot of preparation.

Tim: Yes.

Marnie:  Before we go, a pre-list kit's dropped off with a candle. I know the girls have already done that. I know that when I get to do it, they've already have received information about me and a candle. We just have little, little things we do. No matter what the value of the property is, everything is done the same way. We stick to that. We stick to that for every property. For somebody starting out, I think it's really important just to go. Liz will eventually be her own agent, so it's going back to the basics for her. We still do it on every listing, is when I list a property, it's just listed around the property. Call the owners or industry. Invite them to the open home inspection. Follow them up and drop them a, "Thank you for coming." Every time we sell a property, same thing, just sold around the area. Give them a call. Drop them something that we just sold. Put them all in the database, so it's those.

It's like door-knocking but without warning them that we're coming. We do that around every property, and if you're being consistent in doing that around every listing, leads will eventually come from that. It's just being persistent and consistently doing the same thing each time.

Tim: Yes. It's back to that structure. As you're talking, I'm getting this idea of, I want to say paint by numbers, but that's probably being a bit flipping. That's probably not paint by numbers. It's probably just doing the right, just doing the right things.

Marnie: Absolutely.

Tim: Then, bringing your own personality and your own flavour to it at the same time.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: Yes, yes.

Marnie: Yes, and always staying on top of that and being innovative in yourself. I'm beyond marketing my brand through social media now and through the community. We're doing VIP opens and yes, we're doing a bit of American style and having champagne and cheese platters and mid-week opens, inviting neighbours.

Tim: Fantastic.

Marnie: It's working.

Tim: Yes, yes.

Marnie: We're always trying something different. I've been doing the videos now that we spoke about before, and they're working on social media. That's property videos. Then also my auction videos, which are a little bit more raw emotion on those videos on the auction day videos. It's working.

Tim: Okay.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: On that score, those are the final top tips that I wanted to ask you. When you get the listing, what's the top tip for the buyer to get it sold, marketing tip? Then just a general tip around moving into the world of social media and using take in the business.

Marnie: Yes.

Tim: Your top tip for marketing the property once you've got it listed.

Marnie: Once I've got it listed is again just getting it out there. It's always structured, but we look at who our target market's going to be. We look at where our buyers are going to come from. We get it out there to those people. Presentation of the property is really important, getting that right photo because now, it's all internet marketing. It's that one hero shot that you have to get correct. You can't have terrible photos. It's the photography, everything done professionally. Get it out there in the marketplace. Make sure we have a discussion around price to the vendor before we go live, so the background price guide is where we want it to be.

Tim: You're setting expectations like that, I suppose.

Marnie: Setting expectations before we go to market.

Tim: Yes, yes.

Marnie: Then also, the communication. Communication for me is really important. That's with the vendors and also the buyers. I'm meeting vendors throughout the campaign two or three times face-to-face, communicating to them where we are in the campaign. When the auction day comes, there's no surprises. Everyone, the buyers and the vendors are all under one page. We are selling everything, so it's working.

Tim: Yes, and that comes back to that word again, structure. When you're working towards a structure, and you're ticking all the boxes and you're making sure everything is done, then there won't be any surprises.

Marnie: That's right, yes.

Tim: Either for you or for the vendor.

Marnie: Yes, yes.

Tim: Last question, social media is becoming more and more relevant. Tech is becoming more and more relevant, so you started out with calling cards as I did all those years ago. It's a whole different world these days.

Marnie: It's a whole different world.

Tim: How do you embrace technology? How do you work it to your advantage?

Marnie: I pay someone.

Tim: Smart, yes.

Marnie: I pay someone to do my social media post because yes, it's moving too quickly. I honestly, all the cookies and how we're marketing property. It's becoming feeds. Properties coming on people's social media pages, it's something that I'm not an expert at, so we do have people working for us that help us do that. I do have somebody that does my posts. Every time I list a property, it's consistent with that property throughout that whole month of the campaign that, that will post the property at certain times.

Tim: Yes, and you know what? I think that's a smart play because social media is there. It just gives us everything. It just gives such an enormous reach across so many different platforms. To get somebody to do it that understands it and can keep up with it is a smart play.

Marnie: Yes, definitely.

Tim: It keeps you in the game as well.

Marnie: Yes, yes.

Tim: Yes, yes, terrific. Hey, Marnie, it's been a pleasure to have you on the show today. Thank you very much for coming in.

Marnie: Thank you.

Tim: All the best as you go forward. We'd like to stay in touch, really do, and see how you go.

Marnie: Thank you very much for having me.

Tim: Yes, all right then, you're very welcome. Thank you. Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me at Twitter @TimothyJNeary. If you want to do that, realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia and on my guest today, Marnie Seinor. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.

Marnie Seinor on structure, database DNA and connecting with her local community
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