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?