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Marketing Strategies for Turbulent Times

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april08_cover_80×105.jpgAdvanced Access, eNeighborhoods, Homes.com and Number1Expert offer tools for tough markets

By Charles Warnock

In real estate, there is no such thing as business as usual. With sales flat and housing prices slipping in many areas, concern for the overall economy continues. At the same time the market slows, innovation in real estate tools and technology sprints ahead. Today, agents have more options than ever, as a host of Web- and technology-driven marketing solutions continues to emerge.

But which solutions work best for today’s doldrums and tomorrow’s recovery? Top-performing real estate pros know that surviving tough times means adopting long-term success strategies. In other words, when the going gets tough, top agents and brokers step up their marketing efforts.

Now is a good time to work on fundamentals-defining and refining your unique marketing message, and strengthening key marketing channels. Real estate pros need prospects and leads today, but they also need marketing tools that enable them to thrive when the market heats up.

“Those of us who have been through a few market cycles know that slow markets are an ideal time to increase market share. Active real estate professionals have the opportunity to win some business from competitors who have decided to lay low until the market recovers,” says Stu Siegel, Dominion Enterprises’ vice president of strategy. “It’s easy to get sidetracked by current conditions, but those who work on their marketing now will be prepared to ride the momentum that’s coming.”

When sales are booming, it’s easy to lose focus on the fundamentals. Who are your most profitable customers? Can your website be found easily? Are you generating enough leads to sustain your business? Do you have an e-mail marketing strategy? Do you combine print and online marketing channels for maximum reach? How do you make the most of your most important time?

“Real estate professionals need to streamline their business processes and be able to create local, personalized information in a cost-effective way. Relevance and targeted media are essential,” says Peter Ill, president of Dominion Enterprises’ real estate businesses. “Today’s buyers and sellers are demanding, and tomorrow they will want even more information, faster and personalized to their needs.”

And one success factor that won’t change is the need for tools that make successful real estate agents stand out. The real estate businesses of Dominion Enterprises-Advanced Access, eNeighborhoods, Homes.com and Number1Expert-are committed to providing specialized services to the real estate industry. This collection of independent businesses was brought together under the Dominion Enterprises umbrella to provide real estate professionals a range of proven marketing tools.

“If real estate professionals can demonstrate unique value-what they offer clients that no one else can-at the start of the relationship, they will build successful practices. We help agents initiate and build relationships among buyers and sellers with a range of cost-effective solutions,” says Ill.

“Our real estate businesses were not selected with the goal of creating a single, mega-brand,” he explains. “We work as a team with a cooperative spirit, but each of our businesses operates autonomously for maximum creativity and flexibility. That said, real estate professionals should know that all of our brands are backed by an experienced senior management team and the financial strength of a very successful company. Our businesses deliver a range of services that providers of point solutions can’t match.”

“All of our companies are leaders in their fields and show strong growth, even as the market slows,” says Dominion Enterprises’ Executive Vice President Ernie Blood. “We’re joining forces where it makes sense, and we can deliver value for our customers. If we can help our customers improve sales, service levels and profitability with an innovative product or service, we’ll find a way to make it happen.” RE

For more information, please visit www.dominionenterprises.com.

Homes.com

What they do: Some 3 to 4 million home buyers visit Homes.com each month to search more than 1.6 million property listings and find qualified local real estate professionals. The company also provides real estate marketing solutions to agents and brokers, including property listings, local brand advertising, website development, search marketing and local print advertising. Among major real estate websites, the company offers a unique combination of print and online marketing tools.

What’s new: The popular Harmon Homes magazines were re-branded last year with the Homes.com name. With a combined circulation of more than 1.7 million copies each month, Homes.com’s print publications extend local reach and drive online traffic to Homes.com and local AgentAdvantage websites around the country. Homes.com has a growing business in Power Search, a program that helps real estate professionals increase their search engine visibility and lead generation activities.

Perspective: “More listings, better search tools and an expanding range of innovative marketing solutions is our goal,” says Jason Doyle, Homes.com vice president. “Successful real estate professionals don’t become invisible during tough markets. While there is no denying the real estate industry’s challenges, we’re focused on delivering website, advertising and lead generation solutions that make a difference in any market.”

In the trenches: Marketing strategy and results is the name of the game for Denise Broesler and Kathryn McGee.

“Homes.com’s print and online vehicles are consistently progressive,” says McGee, broker, Charles Rutenberg Realty in Orlando, Florida, who’s used Homes.com’s print publications for more than 10 years and whose listings are now posted on the site. “They go out of their way to expose you in the right areas and achieve the most traffic.”

Broesler, with Homes.com for about three years, agrees. For her, it’s all about exposure and results.

“Homes.com’s search engine optimization (SEO) has brought me up to the first page and number-one position on many search engines, which makes sense because the company itself is on the first page and easy to find,” explains Broesler, broker associate, RE/MAX Properties Unlimited in Morristown, New Jersey. “Whenever you associate yourself with that caliber of company, you know the SEO results will come.”

Ultimately, at a time when some suggest marketing and advertising cutbacks, both Broesler and McGee believe differently-put your dollars where they matter most.

“Homes.com has helped my business flourish,” says Broesler. “When I started with Homes.com, I only had 90 leads-that’s total. Now, I’m up to 1,700 leads. That’s results.”

Advanced Access

What they do: With more than 35,000 real estate clients nationwide, Advanced Access is an industry leader in website development, hosting, e-mail and Internet marketing. Through its Affinity Marketing Program, Advanced Access has forged agreements with 13 of the largest state Realtor associations across the country.

What’s new: Advanced Access celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2008. In addition to its popular Classic PackageTM 4.0 website, the company is introducing a new product called LeadMoreTM that’s designed to drive visitors and capture more leads for Advanced Access clients. In fact, says the company, LeadMoreTM is guaranteed to generate qualified leads to help real estate professionals generate more business.

Perspective: “In the field of website design and Internet marketing, a lot of companies have come and gone in the last decade. We’ve been here from the beginning, and we’re growing every year,” says Justin Davis, Advanced Access’ vice president and general manager. “Through all the advances in technology and design, we’ve maintained the same high level of customer service we founded this company on. We will continue to develop and design new solutions that help agents gain new business and provide higher service levels to their clients.”

In the trenches: According to real estate professionals, what sets Advanced Access real estate sites apart is the fact that they’re staying up-to-date with industry technology needs-so their clients don’t have to.

“Advanced Access gives me the tools and the potential that I need to take my website to the next level,” says Christian Amacker, broker/owner of Beeline Realty & Property Management in Lake Elsinore, California. “You have to be educated and understand the search engine trends and what they’re looking for. Advanced Access puts all the elements right there.

“It’s like they’re my marketing partner,” Amacker adds. “They allow me to focus on the needs of my clients and not advertising, marketing, printing, etc. It’s a huge help.”

Dee Parrish of Prudential Carolinas Realty’s Parrish Team says Advanced Access makes it easy for agents from the get-go, regardless of prior knowledge. “One morning I woke up to a beautiful site and warm leads. Advanced Access always makes me feel that I am a valued client and they are willing to discuss ways to keep my website unique and content-rich,” she says.

NUMBER1EXPERT

What they do: Number1Expert provides websites and white-glove service to an exclusive clientele-real estate’s elite performers. Number1Expert websites are used by top producers around the nation who exceed $5 million in business or 50 transaction sides each year. Real estate professionals who meet those criteria can receive Number1Expert credentials and premium Internet marketing across an expanding network of websites. Number1Expert agent listings receive featured, members-only placement on the company’s network of sites, and agents generate a reported average of 52.1 exclusive leads per month. Agents proudly display the company’s Top Selling AgentTM credentials because the average Number1Expert outsells the typical real estate agent 8 to 1.

What’s new: While the Number1Expert Premium Advertising Network continues to grow, the company is rolling out two new product enhancements, including Expert Analytics, the company’s bid to provide real estate’s best Web analytics solution. Agents will have exclusive new reporting and analysis tools to optimize their Number1Expert websites and make better marketing decisions. Agents will also be able to incorporate a new IDX solution called Leopard SearchTM, a visual map search that allows visitors to search for listings by drawing shapes on a website’s map interface.

Perspective: “We will continue to generate premium marketing products and services to make sure the Number1Expert brand remains the first choice for top agents and brokers,” says General Manager Terry Fowler. “For over a decade, we have helped buyers and sellers who want to connect with a local, top-selling real estate professional. Our brand means exclusive premium websites and lead-generation tools to help Number1Expert’s agents and brokers master Internet marketing and outpace all competitors.”

In the trenches: In 1997, the real estate industry perceived websites as simply a passing fad. But for Demetria Chadbourne, she liked what she heard, and jumped onboard with Number1Expert, an Internet pioneer at the time. Flash forward 10 years later and it’s hard to imagine her Portland, Maine-based company, Demetria’s Team-The Real Estate Group, without it.

A one-stop shop, as Chadbourne coins it, Number1Expert provides a website template that continues to be updated and customized with every market change. By partnering with search engines and other real estate sites, the entire experience is cutting-edge, content-filled and easy to navigate.

“Since the market is so dynamic, they are staying ahead of the curve. I like a proactive, can-do attitude,” says Chadbourne. “Better yet, we don’t have to do the technology research and social networking-they do it for us.”

In addition to its technology advantages, Rosemary West of the Rosemary West Team says Number1Expert’s exclusivity and reliable leads help to set her business apart. “There’s a minimum amount you have to be selling to get involved with Number1Expert,” she explains. “These high-level Realtors set the bar and Number1Expert brings us to the forefront.”

eNeighborhoods

What they do: Since 1997, eNeighborhoods has provided real estate marketing solutions and data services that leverage the powerful combination of home and neighborhood information. The company recently added eProspecting and Katabat to its portfolio of agent, broker and enterprise services. More than 500,000 real estate professionals in the U.S., Canada and Australia use eNeighborhoods’ technology.

What’s new: eNeighborhoods is moving more toward a Web-services version of its core products to create more “data-enabled” applications, along with an updated website and e-mail marketing/lead generation package. eNeighborhoods powers remax.com and LeadStreet agent websites, and recently announced a partnership with Realogy to deliver a national Internet Data Exchange (IDX) solution. Realogy signed a multi-year agreement to use eNeighborhoods’ Enterprise IDX platform to power the property search for consumers visiting the CENTURY 21, Coldwell Banker and ERA real estate brand websites.

Perspective: “eNeighborhoods was the first to combine home and neighborhood data into an original line of real estate marketing tools, and I think we still do that better than anyone,” says Greg Robertson, eNeighborhoods vice president and general manager. “We’re focused on creating more interactive applications that leverage home and neighborhood data for the agent, broker and enterprise levels.”

In the trenches: According to Phillip Orr, president of relocation and broker for Coldwell Banker Ozark Real Estate Company in Pocahontas, Arkansas, when he first came across the eNeighborhoods program in the mid ’90s, he immediately felt it was something that could “set him apart.”

Providing him with the ability to instantly do a market analysis of any location in the country, the eNeighborhoods product enabled Orr to become a leader in relocation and referral business.

“I use eNeighborhoods for a lot of things,” Orr explains. “I use it to solidify what customers are telling me about their market; I use it to locate brokers in other markets; and I use it to find factual information for a CMA.”

Orr has no interest in entertaining programs with a similar offering. “eNeighborhoods was out there in the beginning,” he says. “Someone may come along with a product that seems better, but will it still be better five years down the road? If I choose a program, I want to work with it long-term. The more successful brokerage firms don’t jump ship every time a new product comes along.”

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