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I’m going to start by saying something contrary to popular opinion: Stop the obsession with online leads. For some reason, there’s an infatuation with online leads in our industry. They’re built up as this real estate marketing magic bullet that will solve all of your real estate problems and immediately and exponentially increase your business. But this is just a pipe dream.

It seems that there’s a new online lead generation tool or company popping up every single day, which makes it exhausting to try and keep up with all the new choices. The narrative is that more leads will equal more business. This is surprising, because while the number of online leads generated continues to grow, the number of homebuyers and sellers remains roughly the same every year. Something just doesn’t add up.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that online leads shouldn’t be part of your business strategy. Yes, millennials are using technology more than any other generation to find agents, and yes, every agent should have a lead generation strategy and understand how online leads fit into that plan. When agents do get a lead, they need to have an approach to respond to it almost immediately.

I’m not trying to challenge the value of an online lead. I’m challenging the mentality people have toward them and the inordinate amount of energy that’s spent obsessing over them. Not too long ago, real estate agents managed to market themselves before the internet, before social media and before all listings were online. Real estate is still a people business.

Leads are people you may or may not know who have shown some level of interest in you or in something real estate-related that you’re connected to. So, why are random people who filled out an online form marketed to and pursued more than past clients and those we see and interact with every day?

The No. 1 source of buyers and sellers is still referrals. In fact, Zillow shows that 52 percent of buyers and 67 percent of sellers are coming from various referrals, past experiences and an agent’s visibility in the community. How does your marketing strategy that’s geared toward your No. 1 potential business source compare to your online lead efforts? There needs to be a shift in the mindset and a focus on how we’re marketing to past customers and people we currently have in our database and even in our phones. Invest in marketing efforts geared toward connecting with the people you already know right now, as these are your leads.

Here are just a few of the many ideas you can try:

  • Host a client appreciation event
  • Try a reverse or regular pop-by
  • Send your past clients a market update once a year
  • Sponsor a local sports team
  • Text 10 people in your phone and ask them how they’re doing

Work to stay connected with those you already know so that they don’t become an online lead for someone else when they’re ready to buy or sell.

Technology will continue to impact how agents generate new leads and market to their sphere. We recognize this here at HomeSmart International and believe in giving our agents 100-percent commission and 100 percent of the technology they need to build a better business. By allowing agents to keep more of their hard-earned money, and by giving them access to a stack of tools and marketing resources, our agents have the financial freedom to invest in the techniques that are right for their business. Whether or not online leads play a large or small part of that is up to them.

Adam Bauer is the vice president of Digital Strategy at HomeSmart International. Bauer is responsible for maximizing the company’s digital footprint and guiding the strategic roadmap for its online presence. For more information, please visit HomeSmart.com/join.

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