The real estate sector has seen some ups and downs over the past decade since the financial crisis and these days, competition is fierce. While estate agents are still key in the home buying process, buyers are increasingly looking to do more leg work online before involving the experts. A study from America's National Association of Realtors showed that 92% of buyers use the internet to begin their house hunting quest, emphasising the need for estate agents to have an active online presence.
Unless your estate agency is active, engaging and networking online, you're likely to be missing out on potential new business and ultimately, increased sales. However, with literally thousands of estate agents having an online presence, you'll need expert online and offline marketing skills to really set yourself apart from the pack.
Here we give you some tips to use the latest digital marketing technologies and platforms in a radical way that ensures your estate agency gets noticed.
- Make sure you're Social. Create social media accounts for your agency on all the big networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google and Instagram if you take lots of pictures of your listed properties).
- Add social sharing to your property pages. It's a great way for house hunters to share the properties they like with their friends and family and you'll be more likely of making a deal.
- Check out what the competition are doing with their digital marketing. What are their websites like and how active are they on social media? Take a critical view of what is clearly working for them and what isn't – then avoid their mistakes and replicate their success!
- Make it easy for new clients to contact you by putting your contact details on every page of your website and have an eye-catching 'contact us' page that leaves the visitor in no doubt as to whom you are, where you are and how you can be contacted.
- Don't neglect traditional marketing and get some impressive-looking business cards made and then hand them around at every opportunity to spread your name locally and get some great properties on your listings or encourage enquiries from prospective buyers.
- Be as relevantly visual as possible on your website and marketing material. You're selling a whole community, town or area rather than just a house so it's great to showcase the best there is on offer, with top-quality images of local landmarks and familiar sites.
- Create irresistibly sticky content to capture leads by producing buyer guides and e-books specific to buying property in your area, making them available for download from your site subject to the visitor entering their contact information – hence capturing a valuable lead. Content that answers as many relevant questions your prospects may have is most likely to draw visitors to your site who are actively engaged in house hunting or have a property to sell.
- Create virtual tours of your big ticket properties that may require more widespread marketing in order to create the interest to get them sold. Allowing potential buyers to navigate visually through a property they may not be located anywhere close to gives a great preview and quickly allows them to determine if they want to proceed with a purchase or not.
- Ensure your website is mobile-responsive and scales according to the device it is being viewed with. The majority of internet users now use mobile devices for browsing and general online activity and so you don't want to alienate this audience because your website can't be viewed correctly from a smartphone or tablet.
- Remain consistent with your newsletters. Email marketing remains one of the best strategies for building client relationships. Collect emails from your website, local outreach or any other methods you can think of. Send your email subscribers the stuff they're looking for – notices about upcoming open houses, new houses on the market, news about seminars you may be offering in the area and any other information relevant to your specific market. If you cover a wide geographical area, be sure to segment your database so the relevant properties are seen by the right audience.
- Consider going 'niche' if you have a lot of estate agency marketing competition in your area and you want to stand out from the crowd. You can set yourself up as the go-to agent for dog owners, families with school-age kids or divorced individuals. Of course that doesn't mean you limit the properties you list to those that appeal to that demographic. The object behind going niche is to raise your profile above the competition!
- Become a columnist in your local magazines to establish yourself as the property expert in your area. Getting yourself in local publications is a great way to get the word out about you and your brand. Write about the reasons why your area is becoming so popular among house hunters. Detail the benefits of living in your community and the quality of the schools in the area. It's important not to be too over-bearing in this role so that the reader doesn't feel like they're being pitched. Rather, being a columnist is an opportunity to create dialogue between yourself and potential clients if you present yourself as the authority on real estate and that will draw new business to you in the future.
- Get branding and order some merchandise like pens, key rings, mugs – the kind of freebies people love and use often and then give them away wherever possible. Attend local festivals and events to spread the word about your brand and make it known throughout the area that you're the only estate agent around worth talking to.
- Develop relationships with local non-competing businesses and they can help you promote your agency in a 'you scratch my back I'll scratch yours' manner. Perhaps you can see if you can get a local café to use your branded mugs or see if you can advertise on their paper placemats. To be truly radical with your marketing, you have to get creative with local partnerships.
- Ask your satisfied clients to write testimonials for you. Only reproduce testimonials on your website that are genuine and clearly relate to the person making the recommendation. Showing that real, live people endorse your services carries great weight with potential clients. Make the most of your testimonials by placing them strategically on your website and sharing them now and then on social networks.
- Make your website easy to navigate and ensure your visitors have a great experience using it. Regularly perform searches with variable criteria to test your users' experience and ensure they have clear and quick access to the information they need. Your website is always a work in progress in this respect and will need to be updated regularly so that there are no properties that have long since sold still appearing as an active listing.
- Create a care package for your clients to give to them on closing the deal. Your relationship with a client doesn't end right after completion and you want them to remember your name so that hopefully they'll recommend you to others. Your care package can include things like local movie or theatre tickets, restaurant discount vouchers and a general guide to where to find amenities like pharmacies, shopping centres and train or bus stations their hours of operation. You'll know better than anyone how to arm a new resident in your community with all the information they need to settle in quickly and your efforts will be hugely appreciated.
- Leverage your call tracking to see which digital marketing channels are working the best for you. Most people use the phone when trying to find a realtor or to make an appointment to view a property. If those calls came about because someone saw your Pay per Click (PPC) advert, you want to be able to track which ads and keywords are driving calls to incorporate into your strategy.
Using a radical approach to your digital marketing may seem time-consuming but in fact, represents a much more efficient use of your marketing time which let's face it, is not the main line of your business! What matters more with any marketing campaign is that it drives results and the best way to do that is to create a strategy that best-reflects your estate agency and what makes it different.
Replicating the methods employed by names on the tips of everyone's tongues like Right Move or Zillow may not work for you because their methodology is driven by a business model that is set on mass marketing property across an infinite demographic because obviously, they have to reflect the wide choice of real estate they have available. Their objective is to achieve high-volume visitor numbers and page views to promote properties for sale, which ultimately increases their advertising revenue.
You, on the other hand, are in the business of closing property sales and although the portals have a vital role in opening the door to a huge and varied audience of potential buyers, you'll want to remain more targeted with your own digital marketing. Stay local, stay current and stay relevant. Identify your niche and explore it. Find a way to develop your agency as the resource for anyone considering buying or selling in your area and you'll be guaranteed success.