By Gabriel Gross and Zoltan Szendro
RISMEDIA, June 19, 2008-Last week in our two-part Neighborhood Expert series we argued that with free, easy to use, and widely available tools like single property websites, social networks, blogs and widgets you can position yourself on the web as a neighborhood real estate expert, which is one of the reasons why consumers want to work with a Realtor.
Your value to a client is essentially because of the expertise you have. In addition, for a client to work with you, they will have to like you. Therefore, the question is how can you best advertise and promote your skills and qualifications – and your charisma and charm – more proactively to reach the maximum possible number of potential clients.
This week, we offer a list of a dozen ideas on how to do just that for a low-cost or free.
Here are a dozen ideas that are simple, effective and low cost or free:
1) Add short, local news to your emails that you send out to your farm, and with your printed communications. I see many agents sending out to their farm the latest home sales statistics. That is great, but how can this achieve differentiation from the other agents who send out the same numbers? By contrast, if you add some interesting news item about local politics, culture or events, your communication should be much more memorable and effective.
2) Create single property websites for your featured listings that are syndicated to the major real estate classified portals and include in each listing a well written “About this Neighborhood” section. This has the potential of capturing the client’s attention even if the listing itself is of no particular interest to them. Remember, when a consumer decides to buy or sell a home they will start the process by trying to get a feel for the real estate market. That is when you want to “catch” them because they are, at that time, unlikely to be already working with another agent. Also, early in the buying cycle most consumers have not yet narrowed down what they want, so they are looking to determine where the better areas to focus on might be, and so they will need your local expertise. The second benefit of adding a good neighborhood section to your single property websites is that the search engines will index this text and provide “Google Juice”. A good example of such a listing is http://www.greathealdsburgrealestate.com/
3) Spice up your single property websites with photos and videos of the neighborhood and with local market statistics. First, see if you can find an appropriate free video on YouTube or Google Video. You will be surprised how many good free local videos there are. If you can’t find one, hire someone to make one – for a few hundred dollars you can get a 3-4 minutes good video made which then you can re-use for every listing in the same area. Market stats are also a good way to show clients that the time to buy is now and that you are on top of what is happening in the local real estate market. Some single property website providers even provide market stats for free with their service.
4) Use domain names for your single property websites and virtual tours. Domain names are cheap – less than $15/year – and not only will your seller appreciate it but you can also display it with a hanger in front of the home, and add the domain name to paper advertisments such as newspaper ads and printed flyers. Keep the domain name after you sold the house – it may help you land another transaction in the future when the home gets sold again. Or transfer it to the new owner as a closing gift.
5) Create a short video or slideshow of yourself or at least a nice photo and add it to your single property websites, even your e-mails. Think of each moment of contact with a stranger on the Internet as a 60 second interview. You have an unknown person’s 60 seconds attention span, a potential client worth thousands of dollars to you. Don’t rely on the fact that there is a link to your own website from your listing site because consumers will most likely not want to click on it – remember, at that time they are searching Zillow, or Trulia or Google Base for listings, not for agents. However, if your single property site includes a tab titled “About me,” or “Specialized RE Services” they might just click on that – and your first contact with a potential client may have a positive outcome.
6) If your single property website provider offers it, include a Map-Based MLS section in the listing that shows other MLS listings in that neighborhood. With the MLS Search embedded in the listing you may effectively divert consumers from continuing to view listings on the classifieds portal to viewing listings on your own MLS search tool. Thus if they find a listing that interests them, the lead will be yours!
7) Don’t delete the single property websites once the listings are sold. Just mark the listings “Sold” and keep them – these will provide valuable link backs to your own main website and another search-engine indexed touch point on the web. If your Map-based MLS Search is included in each property site, then over time you will accumulate this way a growing number of “touch points” on the Web where consumers can find you and then use your search tool.
8) Set up a blog and blog about your neighborhood and listings. It is simple to do, low cost and effective. Blog content is indexed much faster than traditional websites, and blog headlines can be easily streamed into single property websites and widgets, thus increasing the potential exposure of the content. One hour each week should be plenty to create interesting local content. Add your IDX search engine to the blog, that way your readers can search your listings from the blog directly.
9) Learn about widgets and start using them. Widgets are easy to create, visual, “viral” and you can use them to market your listings, attract buyers, and to gain exposure for yourself. Think about them as mini websites for your real estate information which can be embedded in your blogs and social network profiles. For example, you can create a slideshow widget that shows new listing in a particular area.. To learn more about real estate widgets see http://realbird.typepad.com.
10) Hold “Virtual Open Homes” using webinar software and your single property websites. With low cost services such as WebEx, GotoMeeting or more recently Acrobat.com by Adobe (free) you have a great way to save time for yourself and your clients. You may set up a reservation form on your websites for clients to sign up for the virtual presentation and then walk them through the house and neighborhood and answer any questions from your computer. This is of course no substitute for the traditional open home events, but it can help maximize your time and productivity, while also giving you a way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
11) Create specialized, “vertical” websites and market them each separately. For example, if you find that REOs are in big demand, create a blog and website for that type of property. You may then issue a press release – a great way to jumpstart your marketing, and you may mention and add links to all your other sites. Press releases are very well indexed by search engines and cost under $100. Check out Prweb.com for example.
12) Join LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks. These are free, easy to use and you’ll be amazed how fast you will connect with people and how fast your network will grow. This is no substitute for attending your local Elks club or PTA meetings but it will help you keep in touch and connect.
To read Part I of this article, click here.
Gabriel Gross, CEO and Zoltan Szendro are executives with RealBird.com.
For more information, visit www.realbird.com or call (866) 551-2934.
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