By Jonathan Nicholas
RISMEDIA, May 17, 2008-There is no such thing anymore as too much information. These days, withholding information makes us less valuable to potential clients, not more. From new buyers to empty nesters, your website should be a one-stop resource that answers every possible question a customer might have. The following are the concluding four concepts, a continuation of our two-part series, capitalizing on that idea and will do wonders to not only drive traffic to your website but to convert that traffic into clients and future referrals. Integrated well with one another, these tools will make you stand out from the crowded field of agents looking to get new business.
6. Give your website’s visitors an Ivy League real estate education.
The old-agent model was to be light on information and detail, and heavy on direct response. Today, the opposite is true.
To be successful, agents must have comprehensive information about the home buying and selling processes. What is pre-approval? Is that the same as pre-qualifying? What is a home inspection? Is that the same as an appraisal? Inexperienced buyers want an extremely broad A-to-Z overview of what it takes to buy or sell a home. Remove the mystery.
As you educate prospective buyers, you’re building loyalty without even having a relationship. If your website can be the first place they think to go to when they want information, chances are pretty good that you’re going to get their business.
A healthy percentage of buyers are first-timers. They are going through an education process that might start 12 months before they are ready to ask for an agent’s assistance.
And they’re not just finding areas they like and eliminating homes but also learning the actual process of buying a home from offer to closing. Why not be the one who teaches them? The ability to pull down detailed information that educates them about this sometimes intimidating process can be extremely reassuring and helpful.
There are many convenient delivery methods for your information. PDF reports allow buyers to download the information to their computer and read or print it at their convenience. You can make the home-buying process a “class” where you offer a different “lecture” every week via a podcast buyers can download and listen to, again at their convenience. Or you can teach the process using a combination of video, audio and PowerPoint slides. You can also very inexpensively use any number of Flash video software to do 15-minute vignettes on buying and selling. The possibilities are limited only by what you can imagine.
7. Offer non-intrusive lead-generation forms.
Requiring an upfront lead-generation form as an information exchange tool is an outdated tactic. Instead, think of these forms as offering the buyer a chance to raise his hand and ask you for help. You are showering perfect strangers with the gift of robust, abundant information all throughout your site. When prospects have questions, they won’t be afraid to ask you for assistance because you’ve already been helping them. With so much information on your site, you’re giving them reasons to interact with you.
Though you’re providing information, you still need to have the ability to interact and know who’s coming to your website. Your website is a sales tool, so use it that way. Throughout your site, offer-but don’t force-prospective buyers to ask you for more information. Though you’ve likely answered a majority of their questions with the wealth of information you’ve already provided, they may still have questions or requests.
Scatter information-request forms throughout your interactive website.
To make it easier to decide what to ask for, the most common questions and requests often include:
– How much is my home worth?
– Will you send me more in-depth information on a particular property?
– Will you conduct a comparative market analysis (i.e., a home evaluation)?
– Will you sign me up for new-listings reports via e-mail?
– Will you alert me when podcasts or other educational materials become available?
– Will you send me a relocation package?
– Can you set up a viewing appointment for a particular property?
– Can you prequalify me?
– I have a home to sell before I buy. Help!
When a user is ready to make those kinds of requests, you will often be the first person they think of. Why? Because you’ve spent months planting seeds with them through your website’s content instead of wasting time cold-calling a pile of low-quality leads.
Offering several ways for visitors to transition from passively looking at your site to actively seeking your expertise for even the smallest question can quickly turn into new business. They’ve now come to you instead of you going to them.
8. Use objective data and third-party testimonials.
Real estate ranks in the bottom five of all industries for trustworthiness-right alongside attorneys and used-car salesmen. We’re also a very egotistical industry. Avoid the temptation of having 10 pages on your website devoted to telling visitors how fabulous you are, how many homes you’ve sold and the number of dollars you’ve generated.
When you build yourself up like that, many prospective buyers will think, “That agent’s too busy for me. I’m not going to call.” Over-hyping yourself drives as much business away as it might bring in. Remember: It’s not about you, it’s about the property. Instead, illustrate your value with objective data and testimonials from happy clients.
It’s good to talk about the value of a Realtor-how using one can save or make money for buyers and sellers. The approach you choose, however, will make all the difference. Instead of saying, “I sold $2 million worth of real estate last year,” it’s much more compelling to say:
– “On average, buyers who worked with me in 2006 saved $6,472.”
– “I worked with 26 sellers in the past year and, on average, got them 98 percent of their asking price.”
– “Last year, I worked with 32 buyers. Of those, I averaged a savings of 12 percent off the listing price.”
You’re showing customers in a powerful, concrete, provable way that you have real value and that your services can often pay for themselves. No one can argue with that.
In addition to using data, put genuine, heartfelt third-party testimonials on your site.
Every time you have a happy client at the closing table, put them on camera.
Visit the family of first-time buyers on their moving day. Make an emotional connection with future buyers and sellers. Allow them to imagine themselves sitting at the same closing table or loading the moving truck. In a relationship business like ours, there’s nothing more powerful.
9. Learn and implement Internet syndication.
Your website should feed-or propagate-your listing information to numerous other sites on the Internet, such as Yahoo!, Trulia, Google Base, Craigslist, Oodle and Live Deal. With live feeds, every time you put a listing on your site, it automatically syndicates to these other sites. Such movement will amplify each listing’s impact, increasing the number and quality of your leads substantially. For those agents who are less technologically inclined, syndication is easy to set up through a good Internet developer. With many vendors, syndication comes as part of a whole website package.
Now that you’re syndicating your listings, you can accurately quantify and qualify where your traffic is coming from. This is especially helpful for those agents who have a limited marketing budget. With metrics in place, you can spend more money on sites that get more traffic and cut back on others that don’t.
10. Build a robust administrative/back-end area for your site.
No lead-generation website would be complete without an exhaustive backsite that:
– Houses all incoming leads.
– Has a contact management capability where you can search by last name, zip code, price range and MLS number.
– Has listing management functions for all of your individual listings, including adding and deleting photos and banners, changing descriptions and price, managing virtual tours, etc.
– Has a lead follow-up system that allows you to create campaigns and track online viewing habits, and that develops a profile for each visitor.
– Can automatically send select clients information about events in a neighborhood, such as a new restaurant opening.
– Can send automated e-mails asking how a client’s search is going or offering more educational information such as, “10 things you need to do before writing an offer.”
– Houses your monthly newsletter.
Look at everything on your back-end area with an eye toward touching base, educating, assisting with searches and providing neighborhood and lifestyle information for each of your clients. RE
Jonathan Nicholas is a consultant for Obeo.
For more information, please visit www.obeo.com.