Please welcome Kye Grace to the AG family. Kye has been a part of the AG community via comments and social networks for several years now. Kye is laid back, really intelligent and fits well into our find a solution culture. Please welcome him in comments and enjoy his first column:
You’ve probably often seen a realtor or broker’s website and thought, “What a great site!”
Of course, most visitors’ perceptions of how great a site is tends to be based on visual appeal, and not on important factors such as functionality, usability, traffic, and what is known as “conversion rate.”
Sadly, aesthetics tend to be the measuring stick used by both the vast majority of web designers and their clients.
To be fair, this “if it looks pretty, it must work great” mentality is a result of a website having become a “business must-have” nowadays. Real estate service providers are being thrust into a brave new world that requires exponentially more marketing savvy and biz skills then any newspaper ad, mailer, or branded “swag” has ever demanded.
How It Once Was
Think back 10 years. Here’s an old-school marketing scenario that would’ve been taught in any Real Estate Marketing 101 class:
Californian Realtor knows a hot summer’s coming and that people will need to keep their cool more than ever. Fortunately, his dead-obvious problem equals a dead-obvious solution. He stamps his name and brand on a handy cooler to keep people’s beach 6-packs chilled, and then he hands the coolers out to people who obviously have a use for such coolers.
He knows how this works: A cooler is always useful and will get a ton of use outside the home, and every time the owner grabs a cold one from the cooler, they’ll see California Realtor’s name — and so will everyone else who’s hanging out around them..
Realtor marketing was much simpler before the internet: People had a problem, you solved it and your name was there to remind them that you did indeed solve that problem.
Sure, many times the problem had nothing to do with real estate, but you solved a problem nonetheless, while getting your name noticed, and, in turn, you increased your chances of being called upon for their real-estate problem-solving needs.
Then Along Came The Internet
Fast-forward to present-day.
Swag still has its place in promoting your business, but it’s different now.
Now, a marketer’s challenge is the internet, and it’s far from as easy as slapping a brand on anything.
In fact, your online presence allows consumers to pre-qualify you on many more relevant factors than whether your cooler kept their beer cold through the 7th-inning stretch.
Back in the day, the realtor got to pre-qualify clients, but now the tables have turned, and realtors need to make the cut first, since the clients have more information in their hands more easily than ever before.
Granted, not all internet “researching” clients work to the same end. For some clients, this research may simply mean that they want to find you online, confirm you’re a real person and actually work in the business, and they can do this just by Googling who you are.
Far more likely, though, is, when the average consumer ends up on your website, they hope to do more than confirm you are a realtor. They want to see more than just a list of properties previously sold and sale prices that call to mind memories of how high home values were back in the glory days of the economy.
Savvy clients want to see relevant information that’s current and easy to digest. They want access to resources that serve them in their real estate quest and make them feel empowered when talking with their realtor.
Having these resources available and easily navigable are what makes a great site.
Your client want to be and will be educated. The question is, are you going to be the one that helps them get that education? Helping consumers be better equipped to make decisions is what makes you a better professional than the next realtor.
This “education” role especially includes your site.
Yes, They’re Judging You
Face-to-face, you can use communication skills and charisma to buy you time while proving your value. Not so much on a website. If your site visitor can’t figure out pretty darn quickly what your site has to offer or what you can do for them that’s better than services your competitor offers, then they’re going to split, and fast.
Remember the old rule that says you have 10 seconds to make a first impression? You have the same on a website, except visitors don’t have to be polite and nod while you’re talking. One click, and they’re gone. These days, 10 seconds means 10 seconds.
Sure, a site’s visual appeal matters, and matters a lot, but, like the saying goes, beauty is only skin-deep. When clients do a double-take and hang out on your site because it’s pretty, you best offer something more for them, or that sparkle will vanish in a hurry — and so will they.
So What Can You Do?
I could write endless pages in macro level about what makes for a great site and in time I will in bite size pieces.
In the short term, try this exercise: Go to your own site and try using it from a consumer’s perspective. Pretend you don’t know who you are, what you do, or of what the present market really consists.
Then, attempt to solve some of the following common tasks real estate consumers hope to solve when they visit a realtor’s website.
First, search for homes for sale — all of them, not just your or your broker’s listings. Find the current market conditions (the last 30 days, not last quarter or last year). Learn about different aspects of buying or selling real estate. Was it easy to do this? Did navigating aournd the site seem to be logical and have an appropriate hierarchy?
For core real estate topics, it shouldn’t take more then 7-10 seconds to find corresponding links, and should require no scrolling up or down. Critical links should be smack-dab in plain sight the moment someone arrives at your site.
Don’t Make Your Forms Even Easier To Hate
Next, try filling in the “forms” on your site, from a consumer’s perspective. Pretend you have a family, life, job — more important things to do than filling in a form. Remember, your client’s here for information of value, not to write you a book. So, how many questions or fields do you ask them to fill in, then consider how much of that information is really need-to-know right now for you to generate, then convert, their lead? Anything that’s an inconvenience and doesn’t really matter at first, ditch.
Give thought to language used: Is it industry jargon that will confuse clients, isolate them, or is the writing done with layman’s terms that will have a wide appeal for the average client, but do so without insulting their intelligence?
Today, every site tries to extract information from its visitors. On your form pages obvious about what a consumer gets in return for giving you their contact information? Is it genuine? Clients don’t want to give you their information unless they feel they’ll gain something in return. (That “something” can be as simple as quality information or a free appraisal, of course.)
There. Your Site Can Be Beautiful & Useful
One doesn’t need to be around long to learn that looks only get you so far. Heck, keeping beer cold only gets you so far, too.
Solving problems, however, always has an appeal, and so does great information. A problem-solving informative website gets you where you want to be in a potential client’s eyes, so make sure your site does exactly that.
Now someone pass me a cold beer, would ya?
Where to look for your next short sale listing
As the economy shifts, short sales in real estate continue to be a commonality, and many real estate agents are learning how to improve their skills in performing these types of listings.
2012 Is Still the Year of the Short Sale
Despite what the person in the office next to you might be saying, there are still plenty of opportunities to list a short sale. The Mortgage Forgiveness Act of 2007 is still set to expire at the end of the year; this means that those who want to take advantage of this program need to get their homes listed (and closed) as short sales as soon as possible. Additionally, there are still a number of great relocation assistance programs available through many of the major servicers. With these stars still in alignment, now is a great time to take a few short sale listings.
Here are a few places where you might be able to find your next short sale listing:
- The office. Listen to the other agents long for the days of yore when listings grew on trees and everyone was making more money than they could imagine. These same agents may not consider short sales their cup of tea. Why not approach those agents and let them know that you are willing to take those transactions off their hands and will gladly accept any referrals?
- Your accountant. Now, this will not work if you are using TurboTax. But, if you use an accountant or CPA to prepare your taxes, know that he (or she) comes in contact with lots of folks that may need the services of a short sale agent.
- Online. There are lots of different online platforms where you can obtain pre-foreclosure data. Three popular platforms are www.rebogateway.com, www.realtytrac.com and www.foreclosureradar.com. You can obtain data on all sorts of things, such as pre-foreclosure notices, and recent divorces. Use this data when sending out direct mail.
- Answer your phone and return all phone calls. I make it my policy to return all phone calls. I answer tons of questions from folks all around the United States about the trials and tribulations of short sales. My general good will has lead to countless short sale listings and referrals.
So the next time you are considering going out to market for more short sale listings, you do not have to go too far. Many of the tools that you need are all around you. The question is: Do is use ‘em?
Nurture your leads to turbo-charge your business growth
You get a new lead. Now what? Do you take down their contact details? Put them in your contact management system? Simply jot down their name and phone number in a notebook or on a sticky note?
To maximize the number of leads you convert into clients, you need to nurture your leads. This involves adding them to your contact management system (or CRM) and then subsequently assigning them to a lead nurture program (once some sort of initial contact has been made).
For hot leads, during your initial contact with them you’ll of course want to try to win their business right away. But sometimes people are not ready or don’t agree to use your services immediately and this is where lead nurture programs step into the forefront.
Avoid losing business opportunities
Failure to nurture leads will result in lost business opportunities. The fact of the matter is that there are many people who will contact you to inquire about your services or to learn more about what you have to offer. There’s a good probability that those who are interested but decide not to use your services right way will do business with you in the future. They’re just not ready right now or need more time to deliberate.
So this is where lead nurturing comes into play. It’s best defined as communicating with your leads over time in a way that they would find both valuable and relevant. By doing so, you’re staying “top of mind” until the lead is ready to become a client.
A good contact management system should allow you to create your own lead nurture program or utilize a lead nurture program that’s pre-designed for you. These programs usually consist of a series of emails and phone calls at various points in time. Each time a phone call is made or an email is sent, you’re providing relevant and valuable content to the lead so they’ll come to enjoy hearing from you. Your contact management system should enable you to automate the lead nurture emails you sent out and remind you when to make a phone call.
Lead nurturing is truly a must – effective lead nurturing results in more clients, a higher ROI for your marketing initiatives, and stronger relationships with your sphere. Make sure you don’t let your quality leads fall by the wayside.
Gear up for 2012 with short sale leads – tips and tricks
Are Short Sales Part of Your Business Plan?
With 2012 just around the corner, everyone and her (his) mother is talking about how to make more money than ever before. It’s time to start writing your business plan, putting deals together, and figuring out those new ways to be successful next year. It’s the same every single year. When December arrives, agents assess their closings for the current year, and then they jump for joy or wince uncomfortably.
That being said, 2012 will be another good year for the short sale transaction. And, if you have gotten no other message from all of my weekly columns, get this one: you owe it to yourself and to your past clients to add the short sale transaction to your bag of tricks.
You see… Kevin Bacon aside (that’s my tribute to Six Degrees of Separation), everyone knows someone who knows someone that is having trouble making ends meet right now. So, why not help that individual out of a jam, unload the property, do a good job? This might even result in more short sale leads.
Short sale leads are all around you.
Here are a few ways to get some short sale transactions into your pipeline:
- Market Regularly to your Sphere of Influence. It’s not rocket science. If your sphere knows that you can work short sales, they might call you or refer you to someone who needs your help today.
- Use Social Media to Connect. Again, I’m not reinventing the wheel here. Reach out to your online friends. Say ‘hi.’ Remind them that you exist and that you are still in the field of real estate. You might be surprised when you learn about how many did not realize that you are still in real estate.
- Leverage an Open House. Not sure where to begin your short sale lead campaign? Have an open house at one of your listings in a neighborhood ripe with short sale leads. Create invitations. Invite neighbors (in advance). You might be surprised. The conversation can turn to distressed properties at any given moment. Don’t have a listing? Borrow one!
Finding short sale leads is not as difficult as it may seem. The key is to get out and do something. Do it regularly and consistently, and the leads will come.
Photo: flickr creative commons by Orin Zebest
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