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by Sara Bonert (Zillow)

Cyndi Lesinski

Cyndi Lesinski's Key to Success: Staying Current

With her feet planted firmly in the present, Cyndi Lesinski always has an eye on the future.

"I want to be in business 15 years from now, so a current sixth-grader could likely be my client," says Lesinski, agent and owner of Cobalt Realty Group, a real estate brokerage with offices in Camarillo, Ventura and Santa Clarita, CA. Lesinski is also a member of Women’s Council.

These kids are so savvy about technology," she says. "They're using computers and tablets and iPods and cell phones. They're texting and instant messaging and posting photos – and they've been doing it for years already. How am I going to serve them as clients if I don't have the same knowledge of technology? Why would they want to work with somebody who hasn't kept up with the ways in which they think and live?"

An impending milestone birthday caused Lesinski to recommit to "staying current."

"My vision of staying young and staying current in my business is to stay informed on the best resources available online," she says. "I believe that the revolution of the internet hit years ago and we are just all seeing the small impacts of it in our business practices. Real estate is changing. Banking is changing. Insurance is changing."

That flexibility and forward thinking has helped Lesinski be a top-producing agent in the Los Angeles area for nearly 15 years.

And it isn't about writing code or building your own website, says the mother of two. "It's about embracing change and being willing to meet your clients or potential clients using means that are comfortable to them. It could be as simple as texting instead of calling or posting home photos on Instagram instead of printing a gazillion fliers."

Lesinski leverages her marketing dollars by working through multiple online – and offline – channels.

"I find that within my public conversations about real estate it is inevitable that someone will reference Zillow," she says. "Thus, to me, that has become one of my highest priorities. LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are all part of my current resources. I do some better than others, and I'm always working on improving my performance."

Lesinski emphasizes that socializing on Facebook isn't the same as prospecting on Facebook. She also stressed that just because a lead doesn’t come in through an online channel doesn't mean the client's decision to call wasn't influenced by something they saw online.

"About 40 percent of our leads come in through phone calls and, of those, about 60 percent tell us they're calling because of reviews they read about us online. Another chunk of our leads come thanks to referrals from clients we originally met online," she says. "So, when people say they don't want to pay a couple thousand dollars a year to work with companies like Zillow, I wonder if they've thought about both the direct returns and residual returns they’re missing out on."

While more than 90 percent of her marketing budget is devoted to online channels, Lesinski still relies upon some old-school means to reach out to clients. She sends "just listed" postcards to targeted neighborhoods, mails a monthly item of value to her top sphere (past clients, friends and business associates) and occasionally invests in a grocery cart advertising campaign. She also co-markets with local businesses and real estate affiliates that have advertising budgets, such as insurance agents, mortgage brokers and pest control companies.

Lesinski regularly reviews her marketing expenditures to determine which investments are offering the best return. "What worked last year might not work this year," she says. "With the evolution of online programs, you have to be open to trying new things... and next year's big thing may not even have been invented yet."

Lesinski says she's been interested in homes and construction since she was a child, watching custom homes being built in her neighborhood. "I probably should have gone to school to become an engineer or architect," she says. Instead, Lesinski earned a degree in sociology and social work. After college she worked in an agency where she was tasked with placing foster children with families.

"It was good working with kids and helping them to transition into a stable family home environment," she says. It's not a huge stretch to see how those skills apply when working with families and helping them find a place they can call home. "Both fields center around serving people, figuring out what they want, what they need and then guiding them through the transitional process."

"I also find it is very important to belong and be active in associations, including the local board, Women's Council and other REALTOR®-based network groups," she says. It is a combination of REALTOR® connections and business savvy that can be the deciding factors in closing a deal.

Sara Bonert ZillowSara Bonert is Vice President of Agent and Broker Services at Zillow. She joined Zillow in 2005 and is responsible for partner relation team activities such as training, educating and communicating with the agent and broker community. Sara also works to ensure that data feeds from 1,000+ data partners are processing correctly every day on the site. Sara got her start in real estate online advertising at Citysearch.com in 1999 and has also worked with Network Communication, Inc., publisher of The Real Estate Book and Apartment Finder, where she helped launch an online advertising component of the traditionally print product.

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