In this economy, we probably all know someone who has fallen on hard times. Maybe you have a family member who’s lost a job, or you know a friend whose income has dropped drastically.

Try to think of someone you know in this situation, and let me ask you a question about them:

Have they stopped eating?

Chances are, no matter how bad things have gotten, they have not given up food. Maybe they’ve had to change what and how they eat. Maybe they’ve had to be more careful about how they spend their grocery dollars – fewer meals out, more store-brand food items, more burgers and fewer steaks. They might have had to change what they’re doing when it comes to food, but it’s likely they have not stopped eating.

Heck, maybe they’ve given up cable TV, started taking the bus to work or clicked the thermostat down a few notches to saving on their heating bill. Those are the things people do before they stop buying food.

Why? Because no matter how bad things have gotten, we all have to eat.

Unfortunately, that simple logic doesn’t always transfer to our businesses.

I have seen it first-hand, and you probably have, too. As housing markets across the country have declined, agents have had to cut back. What I have seen is that one of the first areas to get cut is marketing. Want proof? Look at the size of your local newspaper’s real estate section or your area’s home buyer magazine this week compared to what it was just a couple of years ago.

Commission income drops, and so does marketing. And I’m not talking about agents simply doing less marketing; I’m talking about a virtual stop to ALL marketing. This is a mistake. And what follows when an agent stops marketing is almost unfailingly inevitable.

They are out of the business. Starved out.

Marketing generates the leads that are the food for our business. You have to have food to live, and so does your business. No matter how bad things get, food should be the last thing you cut.

Like food, lead-generation and lead-conversion are not luxuries; they’re necessities. Luxuries are the office that’s bigger than we need, the fancy phone system, the personal assistant. When times are tough, no doubt, fixed expenses need to be trimmed.

These luxuries in our businesses are the cable TV, dinners out and expensive car payments that a household trims before chopping the grocery budget. Marketing is that grocery budget, it’s the last thing you chop, not the first.

It’s vicious cycle, I know. Without selling houses, you can’t pay for marketing. Without marketing, you can’t sell more houses. But like you’d find a way to feed your family even if you had to cut everything else, you’ve got to find a way to continue to feed your business … even if it means cutting back everywhere else.

Look, we had it easy in the steak-and-lobster days of the housing boom. But just because you can no longer afford steak and lobster doesn’t mean you can afford to stop eating.

You might have to change the way you market – develop more affordable campaigns, tactics that get you more bang for the buck. You might have to get creative and find ways to stretch your marketing dollar, the way a struggling family stretches the grocery dollar, but you cannot stop marketing, just as that family can’t stop eating.

You wouldn’t let your family starve. Don’t let your business starve, either.

Believe it or not, you can learn a very valuable lesson on marketing in a unique story about two farmers. You can read the story and find the marketing lesson at

    15 replies to "How broke would you have to be to stop eating?"

    • Jeffery Mellen

      The business brokerages network will give you access to some large pool of individuals who have the details about businesses for sale and buyers or investors searching for a company venture. By producing good use in the info you’ve, you may be cutting a provide and make a handsome profit out of the transactions.

    • Stewart

      There are some great posts here about Rob’s article, and the market. While there are some agents out there now really killing it, there are the rest of us trying to figure it out so we can be killing it too. And that’s what’s great about Rob’s blogs and information from many other sources too….it opens our eyes and minds to what others are doing out there that may be working for them that’s worth trying as well.

      Yes, I’m struggling too right now while my attorney-wife stays home and homeschools the kids. That’s the sacrifice we decided to make. But I’m determined to make it through this market and come out the other side stronger and a better agent and business person for it. Yes, it can be demoralizing at times, that’s why you have to keep putting the good stuff in and tune out the bad. We are one of those that recently shut off the Dish Network. Partly to save $53/month, but mainly so we can spend more quality time together as a family. We’re playing more games with the kids than we ever did and we’re all doing alot more reading and more involved in church.

      I don’t recall where I got it from, but I recently posted a quote on the wall across from my desk: “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchhill. 8 times more millionaires are made in this kind of market than in good markets. I, too, can have the occassional pity-party, but I want to be one of those millionaires so I have to shake it off and keep focusing on the positive. Jim, come along for the ride, you’ll like what you see. Good luck to you all and God Bless you all.

    • Elaine

      No BMW driving housewife living off her doctor husband here — just a single-closer-to-fifty-than-forty-parent who started selling real estate three years ago at the kitchen table of a dumpy apartment with her son to support on no support payments or anything even close to a nest egg. I now own a modest home and have a thriving business from hard work and marketing marketing marketing. No matter how slow it gets I continue with my marketing and networking and it has paid off. Consistency is the key for me as is a positive mindset. The minute I start to feel sorry for myself (and I have many reasons for which I could collapse into a heap of self pity and rage) my business suffers.

      No advice here I only know what has worked for me and at the risk of repeating myself mindset and marketing were and are key.

    • Sherry

      Jim and Mike – I’m married to a Realtor and work in the biz with him…so he doesn’t get to live off me :-))

      I love this market!!! LOVE IT.
      Those of us still working HAVE to cooperate to make it–something we all ‘should’ve’ been doing anyway. Read some Bob Proctor and the Science of Getting Rich. or Wallace D. Wattles.

      Lots of those who simply wanted to get big commission checks being a Real Estate agent are gone–YAY!

      As for the housewives etc with a working spouse – easy to distinguish yourself from them. EASY easy easy.

      Time to be the professionals that Realors are and show it off.

      There are tons of things to do that cost nothing! Press Releases are free. ebooks can be put together for nothing except time, you can even make some money.

      Think outside the nine dots.

      Learn to do short sales–no real competition there–do them better than anyone else!

      Get people around you who are focused on success and find a way to work with them (you will have to change your thinking and speaking or they won’t let you anywhere near them!)

      You get what you focus on—enough said at this point.

      Do it or don’t–there is no try.

    • Ernest O'Dell

      Hi Jim,

      Rob has made some valid points — not only in his original post — but also in his reply to you. Don’t look at this as just some sort of “positive affirmation” or an “intention” from some new age guru.

      Let’s look at this from another perspective. Let’s look at reality.

      Not some form of “cooked up” alternate reality.

      No, no…

      What I’m talking about is taking a hard look at yourself.

      Back about 10 years ago I was coming up on 49 years, and I wasn’t really encouraged to see 50 on the horizon. As a matter of fact, it was depressing as hell.

      Now, I’m 57 going on 58, and I see 60 “comin’ round the corner’ at about 60MPH!

      But you know what? Somebody told me something similar to what Rob said: I had to re-evaluate myself and see some things that I didn’t see.

      Does that make any sense?

      I was told to “re-invent” myself.

      Well, how in the hell do I do that???!!!

      Now, I was getting angry and frustrated.

      While I was sitting there thinking about the Twenty-Somethings booting me “out to pasture” and feeling sorry for myself, it was a Twenty-Something who came along and gave me — not only encouragement to keep going — but some ideas.

      They told me that I wasn’t utilizing all the talents I had acquired over the course of my life.

      I thought: “WTF? Is this kid a PSYCH101 student?”

      I was about ready to kick myself in the rear end for even allowing this snot nose to see my sore spots. I should have kept my walls up, but she loved me like her own dad and she was much more perceptive than I had ever given her credit.

      She always noticed when I was sitting alone on my free time… writing. And writing… and writing some more.

      She asked me, “Ernest, why don’t you write a book? Why don’t you get inside people’s heads and minds and talk to them? Why don’t you tell them YOUR story.”

      I thought she was just being altruistic and nice to me because she had been taught properly and she was just being respectful to her “elders.”

      But when my good friend Dr. Joe Vitale told me the same thing, “Write a book…” I figured it was something worth pursuing.

      Joe (and my “adopted daughter” Christina) told me that “…everybody has a book up here,” (pointing towards their head).

      I went home, licking my emotional wounds because a Twenty-Something had just been validated by an internationally known author as having — basically — said the same thing to me.

      Now I felt really depressed.

      I sat there in front of my computer and pulled up my Windows Explorer and did a search on all *.doc files. I had over 3,000 and almost as many PDF’s that I had compiled in a 4 year stint. (This was about 5 years ago.)

      Over the course of the past ten years, I have compiled enough articles, reports and notes (and a few “swipe files”) that I could have easily put together a book of some sort. Now, I just had to figure out what I was going to write about.

      Looking back in retrospect, I remember where all of this started: about the time I was in First Grade. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I’ve been a writer “of sorts” for most of my life. I still have some things I wrote when I was in high school sitting in a “keep-sake” locker in storage, and I might just pull it out one of these days and brush the dust off them.

      But getting back to you…

      You say you’re almost 50, got a kid in college, and nobody’s making any money where you work.

      Well, I know your frustration. I’m not going to placate you and say “I feel your pain,” because I don’t. But I do understand.

      Yes, I’ve been there, done that.

      Sometime, you just have to stop beating up on yourself, step back and look at the “Big Picture” and do a review of your life.

      Your “brief” reply certainly wasn’t brief, so it shows that you have the capability and talent to write. Now, just break apart some of those long paragraphs and give them some “white space” to make them easier to read.

      Yes, you’re a writer… that’s clearly evident.

      Now, it’s time to put some of your knowledge and experience down on paper.

      I was on the phone the other night with one of my agent/broker friends in the Texas Hill Country, and she’s doing exceptionally well. Something like 174 sales last year, and a few of them were large acreage, multi-million dollar ranches. (They say everything is big in Texas. Looking at her sales, I believe it!)

      That’s more than 10 sales a month, dude!

      She writes a column in the weekly local newspaper. Her husband is in the custom home building business, and she’s recently become her own broker.

      And she’s only been in the real estate business less than five (5) years.

      Now, tell me something… what is she doing different that YOU’RE not doing?

      She must be doing SOMETHING different, that’s quite obvious! But, intrinsically, what is she doing different than what YOU are doing?

      She’s imparting her knowledge of the industry to the public and they now view her as “The Expert.”

      Why don’t you look into hooking up with your local newspaper and asking them if you can submit some freelance articles? Or, put together a New Release of your agency and how you can help homeowners through the buying process and get on the morning news shows at your local TV station.

      Don’t think you can do it? Sure you can! All you “gotta do” is quit whining and moaning and see what you have. You have experience that nobody else has! You have “insider” knowledge about a lot of things that no one else knows about.

      You come across as complaining about all the work you do (paperwork, abstracts, mortgages, filings, etc.) that you don’t get paid for. But you know what? You could write a “how to” book about that paperwork and give it away as a promotional tool for yourself.

      Just a little “guerrilla marketing” on your part.

      And on the brochure, make sure it’s got YOUR contact info on it.

      What do you think Rob Minton has done?

      He’s put his knowledge and experience together about what he’s learned in the RE industry, and he’s put it into writing — in one form or another — and he’s capitalized on it.

      He didn’t sit around moaning about the down side of the industry: he took the negative side of the story and flipped it on its head and told people about it.

      I did the same thing. My background has always been in sales, marketing, advertising, and working in the telecommunications industry. I’ve worked within a lot of other industries during my “writing” career, because writing was my passion. All I did was tell people what I knew.

      Now, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have some detractors. Some people will come along and tell you, “Ah! What the he** do you know?”

      Then you can tell them, “Go back and read what I just said. Evidently you didn’t “get it” the first time; or you didn’t bother reading it.”

      Look, Jim, it’s like this: get at a higher altitude over the “turkeys” in your life and start flying around with the eagles. Subscribe to some of the blogs on Read Rob’s articles here. Join Facebook, and start sharing some of that knowledge and experience you have up there in that noodle of yours.

      You’ve got a lot of information up there that you could monetize. You just haven’t learned how to do it yet.

      But, you know what? At 50, it’s never too late.

      The ONLY time it’s “too late” is when you wake up from a “dirt nap” and find yourself in a box.


      Dude! Google my name: Ernest O’Dell (with or without the apostraphe). And don’t confuse me with the dead guy. There’s another guy “out there” with my name… takin’ a “dirt nap.” That’s not me.

      Rob is here to help. We all are.

      And I hope you don’t feel like I’ve been beating up on you. You’ve been doing a fine job of it yourself, so I didn’t feel it necessary.

      Ernest O’Dell
      Guerrilla Internet Marketing
      P.S. I’m also on Facebook at ernest.odell

    • Mike

      I can relate to the guy struggling in the Biz. Been peddling dirt for 30 yrs. Had to get a part time job for health insurance, and some retirement, since our ” Union ” dues do not cover those items like the other organized labor outfits. Tough, keeping up with the housewives working in the Biz for spending money, their rich husbands wont give them. Retirees that want somewhere to go, so they get licensed and sit on floor time till someone walks in and they give them the tour of town and fumble a deal together on your listing, and you do all the work, cause they have no clue! You work a customer for weeks, then the day yuour out oftown they call another Agentto see their property, and ur done!Love this Biz! But, as Rob says, ” We let things happen that we should control ” Just gets a little disheartening sometimes Rob!

    • Sherry

      PS Jim–team up with related businesses to do marketing together–let them pay for all of it while you do the legwork.

    • Sherry

      Reply to Jim and to Rob replying to Jim: Jim, you are right–it is not easy necessarily…but there’s the opportunity. Been there re: money and bills and teeth etc.

      What is great about this time is the enormous opportunity — HUGE! VERY SMALL actions make a BIG difference in a market where all people and Realtors see is the down side. Find those very small actions that you can take on zero to little money–they are right in front of you and if you are reading any of Rob’s stuff, he points them out to you.

    • Donnie Worley


      This is one of the best and most useful pieces of advice I have read on your site! Thank you for posting this tidbit. It reaffirms where our focus should be and how easy it is to lose that focus in difficult times.


    • David Jackson

      Hi Rob;

      Marketing…expensive…is it worth it?

      Is there a marketing system which pays for itself?

      David Jackson

    • Doug Francis

      I have to admit that you are right. Yes, you may have to re-evaluate your real estate marketing expenses (maybe for the first time) but the benefit will make your efforts more targeted, measurable and effective.

    • Ernest O'Dell


      Great article. I just shared it on Facebook with all my real estate subscribers.

      You make some extremely valid points about marketing. Like eating, it’s a necessity.

      I just got off the phone with a broker last night about lead generation and marketing and we’re putting together a plan to dominate this market. I’ve done it in other markets with other brokers, and we’re going to do it again.


      Ernest O’Dell
      P.S. I wrote a private email to you about a week ago. I probably didn’t make myself clear in my first email, so I’ll try to clarify myself in my follow up.

    • Jim Lindy

      I will try and be brief. When I read stuff like you just wrote yeah, you make it sound simple. Cut back here, there, and everything is OK. It is not that simple. I have a marketing background. My marketing is outstanding. When I lost my job, I became a full time real estate agent. It was tough. I have been full time now for 3 years. Imagine becoming an agent just when everything crashed and you have lost your health benefits, your pension, your weekly income. Fast forward, you spend your savings, you leverage your credit…you still look for a job on the side just in case but when you are in your late 50s really you are not going to be on a twenty somethings top pick unless its at a fast food chain. Anyway, I did pretty good last year, 24 transactions…best in office, but I cannot get out of my debt, my daughter is in college getting almost nothing now from me…yes my heat is turned down, my food intake very different, creditors calling every minute, but my spirit and my emotions are the problem. Buyers are afraid to pull the trigger and I dont blame them. They buy a house today, they are probably over paying because they realize another crash is on the horizon. When sellers made 5-10% more month over month in the boom, no one complained. When buyers offer 5-10% less month over month, how dare they! This morning a filling fell out of my front tooth…I have no money for the dentist but am suppose to smile and be positive. You are missing a huge piece of the story, its not that its a simple budget adjustment…it goes to the core of emotions and being able to put one foot in front of the other and see a future. I get your message, and for the most part agree. However, I dont think its a simple adjust budget solution that I have read for years…always the same outline, never any guts. Remember, 10% of college grads in this country can get a job, the others cant…the real estate industry had a type of earth quake in this country complete with after shocks, however, we are headed for another one…not like Haiti, but very similiar results…and when you are standing in ruins, it is hard to see where to begin. Thats one problem. The other is the very nature of our business. Why do we accept not getting paid for what we do!( I cannot think of any industry where you do the work, sign the paperwork and if something outside of your control happens or someone just changes their mind, we do not get paid…and dont tell me its sales, when car sales folks are held to higher standards and have to take continuing ed classes, maybe ). Why do we give our MLS listing away for free to other web sites only to pay to get ourselves highlighted on their web site? Why are we held to higher standards and look away when we see those standards broken? Anyway, our industry needs more than me adjusting my food allowance to put an ad in some paper that wont work. Out of this mess from our industry’s earthquake we new and different ways and it may happen to us without us deciding how it will evolve. Just like out goverment looks after the big corporations and banks forgetting the everyday folk, our industry is not paying attention to how it works at the small individual agent level. There is not one agent in my office that is making a living in real estate. Yeah, the guy with the corporate pension who works part time is fine, the doctors wife who works in real estate and drives her bmw is ok and gives the industry a good reputation, but no one is making a living on their own!!!!!!!

      • Rob Minton


        As your comment came in on this post, I was writing my weekly business building fax for my Master Marketers club. In the fax, I share a story about a business I own with a partner. I realized that my partnership was over a few weeks ago when I received an email from my partner where he shared numerous problems and challenges in the business. He even suggested that I walk away from the business because things were so bad.

        The reason I realized my partnership was over is because I believe you get what you “see” in life. My partner didn’t “see” an amazing business with happy customers. He saw problems, challenges and hassles. More importantly, he didn’t “see” opportunity.

        Yes, we all have problems and challenges in life, but it is your job to control what you “see.” You control what you “see” through what you read, watch and who you associate with in life.

        It’s impossible to build a fantastic business or life, if you can’t “see” one in your head.

        As for our industry…

        There are no rules that say you have to give away things for free. There are no rules that say you have to do things the same way other real estate agents do them. Just because agents in your office aren’t doing well, doesn’t mean you can’t do well. Birds of a feather flock together.

        You get to design your business any way you want.

        STOP watching everyone else and start making things happen in your business. STOP complaining about how bad things are and start working to create your own opportunities in life.

        Rob Minton

    • Debra

      I listen to your advise all the time. I have cut back pm
      marketing but my website is picking up more leads now

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