By Jim Droz

Converting Mickey Mouse Leadsa>Even though you’ll never sell a house to Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone, you’ve likely received e-mails from these guys in the past. Maybe you’ve even heard from George Jetson, Dudley Do-Right or Yogi Bear as well.

Unless it’s Halloween, these people obviously don’t exist, but real people did type in those names when looking at your real estate site. And since they’re looking, chances are they’re thinking about buying a house. But is it a good lead or a bad one? Since you don’t know at first, you have to treat it like the former unless you get a bounce-back or other error message immediately after responding.

If any portion of the lead has what appears to be valid information, it needs to be worked. If it’s a good e-mail address, a personal e-mail from you should say something like this:

“I got your request for homes and I respect your desire to remain anonymous and not speak to me yet, so I’m setting you up to receive listings in your area and when you’re ready to talk we can customize the search to your exact needs. … Even if you’re not looking to buy for a year or two or need help with credit issues, I’d be glad to help any way I can. I’ll stay in touch via e-mail as long as you want to keep getting information. Thanks for visiting my site. Feel free to e-mail or call me anytime.”

If humor seems like an appropriate ice-breaker, perhaps your response could start with

“Hey Fred, Wilma here. Don’t forget to pick up 10 pounds of brontosaurus for our burgers tonight;” or maybe, “Hey Yogi, don’t forget we need hot dogs for our picnic this weekend.”

Then you can get into the nitty-gritty of your message.

But regardless of the tactic used, responding and staying in front of the lead could pay off now or down the road. After the initial response, set them up on drip campaigns even if they’re unresponsive. Nurture the lead on an automatic system, such as what HouseHunt calls TIM (Total Internet Marketing), and send monthly market information, helpful tips and regional listings as a way to stay in touch.

“The biggest thing for me is sending out a personal e-mail right away and then getting them into TIM and setting them up to get the various newsletters and getting them on a drip campaign,” said Lisa Hayes, a successful agent with an office in Fernley, Nev. “It’s funny how they won’t sometimes respond to you right away or take your phone calls, but then all of a sudden something clicks with them and they’re ready. And that’s mostly from the fact that they’re getting something from some source of the drip, whether short term or long term.”

But while the world seems to be moving exclusively toward dialogues of the e-mailing, texting and Tweeting variety, never neglect the power of face-to-face meetings as ways to add personality and see if the prospect is for real or not. A willingness to meet with you is one of the most efficient and effective ways to determine their viability.

“I want to actually have conversations with these people to find out how serious they really area,” Hayes said. “It’s the only way I can move forward effectively … if they’re serious, of course.”

Questions to help determine their seriousness should focus on how long they’ve been looking, their motivation for buying, neighborhoods they’re interested in, whether they have a home to sell before they can move, loan pre-qualification, their experience with the process and time parameters.

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