RISMEDIA, March 5, 2009-Looking for ways to make your website and the Internet work harder for you? A virtual office website, or VOW is a great solution to consider. It is an excellent way to create and grow relationships with consumers that will lead to future transactions.
Why do VOW’s make sense for today’s real estate consumer? According to the Swanepoel 2009 Trends Report, “It’s crucial to make sure that your customers trust you before you try to sell them anything…The goal is to create an on-going, non-pressured dialogue with the prospect….This is best accomplished by “not providing just the basic information they can get from any number of other sites.”
VOW’s are a great method for accomplishing this important goal. Historically, in agent-consumer relationships the flow of information was one way – the agent would find the information for the client and send an e-mail or a link. You can differentiate yourself using a VOW to provide many high-touch services. With a Virtual Office Website, the flow of information is bi-directional. VOWs can help create a conversation with consumers.
Think of your VOW in the same way as you think of your IDX website. The only difference is that it requires registration to get access to the deeper level of information like listing history, tax data, and sold listings. Virtual Office Websites allow an agent to create a “conversation” with a customer using automated tools. We know that registration requirement rule is the top “no-no” of a successful online strategy, but access to this deeper level of listing information is the tradeoff for the consumer.
According to one agent interviewed by WAV Group: “My VOW helps me build a relationships with a potential customer without lifting a finger.”
VOWs keep the real estate broker and agents at the center of the transaction by only allowing the MLS data to be displayed to registered users.
With a virtual office website, you may invite potential clients to gain access to the same accurate, comprehensive and timely MLS information that REALTORS® use to provide their services. This level of information includes everything in the MLS other than confidential information that protect the privacy and security of the seller. This depth of information is only available through a VOW, and consumers can only access it through their REALTOR®.
One agent using a VOW told us, “Clients really appreciate the “insiders look” at the MLS data. They like to educate themselves about the market and VOW’s allow them to do this with the best information available.”
Understanding this, the goal of a REALTOR® is to offer access to this richer information when they first come in contact with a potential client. Consider your VOW as the ultimate call to action in all of your communications.
Encourage telephone inquiries to register on your VOW
Anytime you answer the phone, or call a potential client, offer them access to your virtual office website and explain the benefits. “By accessing the local MLS information through my virtual office website, you will be able to see the most accurate, comprehensive and timely property information – the same information that I review as your Realtor to find listings for buyers and to prepare home valuations.” Be sure to combine your offer of access to this property information with your service offering. Explain that you will always be on hand to answer any questions that they may have, schedule a showing, provide your opinion of the pricing relative to location, and support them in making an offer or marketing their home.
After you invite them to access your VOW, request all of their contact information, including their e-mail address, and offer to send them a link to set up their profile. Offer to configure their search criteria for them and tell the customer they can add additional criteria or modify their search anytime.
One agent who is currently using a VOW told us a very interesting story: “I had gotten an e-mail inquiry from a potential client which I had not yet responded to. He then called me and told me he really wanted me to register him so that he could get as much information as his neighbor was receiving from me. He told me if I did not sign him up immediately he was going to find another agent to work with. That was the first time I had a customer begging me to register to receive more information from me! I like VOW’s a lot!”
VOWs are also a great way to “watch a listing.” A VOW product like Listingbook, for example offers an automated method to attract new customers through its Prospect Manager. Buyers and Sellers, regardless of their “move status” can view listing history to understand price changes, days on market and other information that will show trends in the marketing of a home. This feature enables agents to manage many more prospects because it gives consumers the information they want while the agent stays in control. Seeing the prospect’s activity allows agents to react at the exact right time to interested prospects. In today’s information starved society, Real Estate information is attractive to everyone. From nosey neighbors to serious buyers, all of the MLS data is available for agents to gift to their prospects. This is a very exciting way to engage a customer in a conversation using your VOW.
Promote your VOW on every public website you can
Agents and Brokers use a variety of websites in the marketing of their services today. Make sure to offer registration to your virtual office website on every public website, blog, or post that you can.
To get started, send an e-mail to every registered client who is getting listing updates from your IDX website. Explain that deeper information is available on your Virtual Office Website – information like pricing history, sold listings, tax information, lot dimensions. The differences in IDX data and VOW data will vary from market to market. Ask your MLS for a list of the differences.
Make sure to add language to all of your virtual tours as well. Note to visitors that your Virtual Office Website is available to allow them to get more information about the property from the MLS database that is only available to REALTORS and registered users.
If you syndicate your listings to third party websites like Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, Cyberhomes and others, make sure that you place information in the remarks that the most comprehensive, accurate and current information about this listing is available on your virtual office website. Serious potential clients on those listing sites will surely enroll in your VOW.
Today, there are also a variety of new online marketing options like Craigslist, blogs and social networks. If you are not using these tools in marketing your property today, get started now. At the very least, join Facebook and post your listings. When you do so, include a link to your VOW and explain that more detailed information like pricing history, etc. is available.
Promote your VOW everywhere you can
By now, you should have a sense on how to get started on the road to using your VOW to develop contacts into new customers. In the marketing of your services, there are a variety of other touch points where you can offer VOW access. Accessing all of the non-confidential information available from the MLS is a tremendously powerful offer to consumers. Be sure to offer access to your VOW at every open house, every mixer, every time you door knock, on every listing flyer, on your business card – on everything.
Make it your goal to have a VOW available for new customer generation as soon as you possibly can. Brokers and agents who are quick to respond are likely to get the most number of registered users and generate the most amount of word of mouth advertising as people begin talking about it to their friends and families.
For more information, visit www.wavgroup.com.