This article was originally posted on Active Rain in August 2007.
Yesterday, we talked about the importance of keeping your business pipeline full, even when you’re busy handling “life.” Today, it’s the branding dance.
May I Have This Dance?
Your best strategy for doing business with today’s online real estate consumers is to engage in a subtle branding dance, with you taking the lead. What is the “brand?” First and foremost, it’s you as respectful, helpful, resourceful, knowledgeable and responsive. Secondarily, it’s you as an expert in whatever neighborhood, property type or other niche you enjoy or advocate. This is the type of service professional that consumers universally want to work with. If you perfect the primary brand, you might even be able to get away without having a secondary brand, although I don’t recommend it.
How do you perfect this primary brand? As a real estate professional, you provide listings, listings and more listings to your consumers. Isn’t this what you did before the advent of web marketing? Listings information is what real estate consumers demand! Don’t make your potential client beg, work hard to find or pre-register to get this sought after information. These consumers don’t generally have a relationship with you yet, and they are only one back-click away from being gone forever when they first land on your homepage.
Bonus tip! Forget the free reports and community “information.” Consumers don’t want this fluff and it distracts from your real value proposition. The free report concept was thought up by the web vendors who don’t have a strong listings technology to offer you. It amazes me that these vendors have so successfully sold this as “lead generating” to the real estate community.
Once you provide lots of listings information (making access as simple as possible), only then do you start to think about asking for anything in return from your budding client (hint: this means you absolutely do not even consider asking visitors to pre-register for access to listings). Even at this point, any request for identifying information from your visitor should be intertwined with additional value to your consumer, such as requesting registration in exchange for seeing a listing’s complete address or setting up a private watchlist. A strong, effective, interactive IDX product is designed with exactly these objectives in mind. Weak IDX solutions will not support your branding dance, as I’ve previously written.
Please keep in mind that many visitors will be reluctant to register on your website (i.e., give up contact information) under any circumstances on their first visit to your site. This does not make them bad leads! They are “early” leads with a longer time horizon. If your lead incubation tools are automated, you can fill an entire pipeline with these early leads, and retire happy as early lead after early lead matures. But you have to keep these early leads with you, instead of roaming the Internet looking for additional information.
For these reluctant consumers, your goal is to make your site a “safe,” non-threatening place to return to, and you want to further employ tools that encourage return visits. Prominently advertise that your listings “inventory” is updated daily or encourage visitors to register for daily new listing updates by email. These emails should then have ample links back to your site where visitors can view the details of the listing(s) and save them to their private watchlist. Again, strong IDX solution is an invaluable tool for advancing this goal.
None of the foregoing tools would be available to real estate professionals marketing online, however, if they did not have web-ready databases of listings available. It cannot be over-emphasized that this is a unique marketing opportunity for real estate professionals. It makes me absolutely crazy that agents and brokers fail to recognize and capitalize on this exceptional opportunity. But although there are no better strategies and tools available for converting leads to clients than those described in this post, did you notice that a critical assumption is being made? Yes, you need visitors to your site, if you want to use my strategies to grow your real estate business.
The strategies and tools above assume that you have visitors to your website! Tomorrow, in Make More & Work Less With Smart Lead Generation & Development — Part III, we’ll discuss how to bring more visitors to your site.