By Andrew Wetzler
RISMEDIA, May 27, 2008-For most real estate professionals the business climate has changed dramatically. Whereas for several years, simple presence in the field was a license to be successful and earn a significant living, today a much better strategy needs to be utilized, just to stay on the playing field.
In an e-commerce environment the focus or goal of a website is encouraging the site visitor to buy something. Since that approach is not likely to work for real estate transactions, the most critical objective is to capture the contact information from a visitor so that a pipeline of prospects can be developed. While the gist of this article is about utilizing the Internet to help locate qualified prospects (buyers or sellers), I think it’s also important to mention that leads arising from the web will still need to be worked effectively.
Building a pipeline begins with attaining both a phone number and an e-mail address from someone. If you have a traditional direct mail program in place, then a street address is vital as well. While direct mail can still be of value, e-mails can be powerful, better targeted and less expensive. For example, by grouping your prospect base into categories (like single family vs. condo buyers or buyers vs. sellers), you can send out e-mails that are tightly aligned with someone’s interests. You will experience a much better response rate by segmenting in this manner.
Here are a few more ideas to boost the effectiveness of your website/online lead generation efforts.
Take advantage of the two main opportunities on search engines: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing. SEO, also know as organic or natural search is the process by which a site is designed to be aligned with the algorithms of the engines. Key ingredients include robust content, search-engine-friendly architecture and effective linking strategies. Each major search engine has a paid component to their search results as well. This involves paying for site visitors on a “per click” basis. There are a series of variable that need to be considered when starting a campaign. These include keyword selection, geography (where do you want your listing to show up), bid strategy (how aggressive do you want to be? What is your budget? etc.).
Keep the content on your site fresh, accurate and robust. For example, it’s a big turn-off to arrive at a site with inaccurate information or links that don’t work. Create a compelling reason for someone to search for properties on your site, rather that just going to aggregate search sites.
Honor channel preference – By that I mean make it as easy for someone to contact you via e-mail as by telephone. Prompt follow-up is also critical. Make sure you get back to them before they have a chance to reach out to a competitor. And as already mentioned, get complete information from each person so that you can maintain multiple contact points with them.
Utilize a contact management program. There are a number of these programs on the market today that will allow you to keep in close contact with those who warrant it, schedule others for contact later on, and also parse the database for mailings (as described above).
Study competitor sites. Although most sites have similar attributes, especially ones that are template driven, others are unique with varying degrees of professionalism. While a template site is okay, it has limitations from both a design standpoint and from a Search Engine Optimization perspective. Many Realtors have sites through the companies that they are representing (Prudential, Century 21, etc.) and also have another site that allows greater flexibility and opportunity for differentiation.
Really Important – If you send an e-mail to your database and you do it in one bulk e-mail, make sure that you blind copy (bcc) all of the recipients. I received an e-mail recently from the developer of a new community. The e-mail was sent to 200 + individuals who had requested to be on the mailing list. The person who sent it out didn’t bcc everyone, and the entire list saw each other’s names. Besides the negative credibility impact for the developer, it was likely a bonanza for the handful of other Realtors in town who were on the list themselves.
There is no question that this is a challenging time for most people associated with the real estate industry, including homeowners who are trying to sell their properties. The factors that fueled the market on the way up, along with the ones driving the downturn are out of the control of any individual.
What remains in your control is the lead generation and follow-up process. Hard work, strong organizational skills and a willingness to embrace e-mail/the Internet, are important ingredients to attaining impressive results in a tougher marketplace.
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Andrew Wetzler is President of MoreVisibility. Founded in 1999, MoreVisibility is a two time INC 500 company and leader in Search Engine Marketing / Optimization. Andrew can be reached at awetzler@MoreVisibility.com.