The internet has become the primary method used by home buyers when searching for a new home; an unavoidable fact that estate agents can use to their advantage and close more deals!
I wanted to use the example of a major name in international real estate - the mighty Jones Lang LaSalle in fact - to illustrate how they have embraced the internet since its inception to grow their business to its world-leading status.
I use this example because just over 30 years ago, I had a summer job working for a high-quality printing company based in Southwark, London. One of the company's main clients at that time was Jones Lang Wootton who went on to become Jones Lang LaSalle, aka JLL in 1999 following a merger with US realtors LaSalle Partners.
JLL's Pre-Digital Marketing Techniques
As design and printing suppliers to Jones Lang Wootton, we were fundamental to their marketing campaigns. Despite the limitations of pre-digital print and design, JLW always promoted their developments and properties with highly tactile, multi-dimensional brochures and site signs, using cutting-edge design and print finishes to make sure their products could not be ignored.
No expense was spared in the production of pop-up galleries and vast to-scale visuals of some of the most prestigious developments in central London at that time and in the decades since then, the firm has seamlessly evolved into one of the most successful digital marketers in global real estate.
So, what's their secret?
JLL spent the pre-digital years growing and expanding at a time when the only marketing tools available had limited scope. Nevertheless, they pioneered the print sector by allocating significant budgets to what they considered an integral aspect of a project's success, going the extra mile to deliver maximum exposure to prospective investors.
When the internet became mainstream in the corporate world during the mid-90s, JLL used the platform to quickly establish the firm as big league by loading their website with valuable content that gave users, buyers and investors reasons to visit, read and consult with experts in international real estate.
Email marketing campaigns availed exclusive opportunities to subscribers, giving a sense of privilege through personal communication, boosting JLL's profile further.
In other words, no matter if it's digital or non-digital marketing, the secret behind JLL's success is that they know how to work it to the max! To them, it's not enough to have an online presence – their online profile in international real estate is actually borderline domination.
How to Achieve JLL's Success on a Smaller Scale
The information highway is precisely that and if your firm has plenty of unique and relevant information about your marketplace out there in the ether, it's more likely you're going to get noticed. Through effective planning of your content marketing, it's easy to organise a campaign that not only attracts attention to your estate agency but establishes you as the go-to for all things related to property in your area.
By following these 5 steps you can become a local expert and the point of contact for prospective buyers and investors in the area you operate in. Bearing in mind that most home purchases start with online searches, this is a formula that works to attract traffic to your website and ultimately, you will close more deals.
Create Buyer Guides
It's always good to imagine that visitors to your website have absolutely no idea about your area and what it's like to live there. The more information you can provide, the more opportunities you have to answer a question that might be tapped into Google's search box and that will get you further up the results list.
You know the kind of questions homebuyers will have and so it's easy for you to prepare a buyer guide that contains all the answers in one place. Mention schools, bus timetables, sport facilities, local events, and the economy in the area; as much as you can to give a complete picture of what life in your community is really like. That way, you'll soon become the go-to source of information that has a better chance of making a sale.
Make the guides available for download from your website or send a link to a landing page for download if sending guides by email and that way you can capture valuable data and increase sales.
Create your Brand Identity
These days JLL has become the resource for anyone researching international real estate markets and that's because they use their own data from all their offices over the world to produce some statistics you just can't find elsewhere. That's one of the signs of a successful brand identity, particularly in the investment market, irrespective of what the underlying asset is.
It's important that your marketing ‘voice' has authority behind it which can be achieved by following the simple advice given to stockbrokers-in-training – ‘take a view'. What that means is that you should know which way the market is going, what developments are taking place in the area that will add value to your client's investment, what impact rising interest rates will have in real money terms on their borrowing, what the FOREX implications are for foreign buyers in different currencies.
Of course it's impossible to know what's going to happen in the future but the importance of taking a view is that your clients will feel that you are on the case, have formed a strategy and that you have their best interests in mind which will bring credibility to your operation and improve your brand identity.
Create Newsletters that have Value
For years before the dawning of the internet, estate agents have kept in touch with their prospective buyers/sellers with regular newsletters containing their latest listings. Back then, it was almost guaranteed that an estate agents newsletter would lie on doormats across the area buried beneath unsolicited circulars and pizza-delivery menus, waiting to be scooped up and into the bin.
Now we are firmly entrenched in the digital age, we have the same situation but in a ‘virtual' sense rather than literal. Email folders are now rammed to the rafters with junk and spam and even the mail that gets through to your inbox sometimes begs for deletion before opening.
The way to engage your clients to the point where they will click on your email to open rather than delete it is through the subject line. If you refer to our previous For Agents' article Experimental Digital Marketing for Estate Agents, you can find out about A/B testing to create subject lines that achieve the best click-through rates.
The best way to format a newsletter is to include links to previous news articles you have published on your website or to a specific listing perhaps because it's a useful way of attracting more traffic to your website and getting it to stick. Have plenty of images for your listings but don't go overboard. Try and limit your newsletter to either one or two feature properties with links to others on your website or keep it to no more than 5 homes, with 2-3 thumbnail images for each.
Ultimately, make your newsletter something worth reading!
The blog area of your website is where you can let rip a little with your personality. This is where you can express your personal take on market activity, talk about some properties you particularly like or even just tell your readers about the fantastic events taking place in your neighbourhood.
The blog is your estate agency's personal identity and can work with just one contributor or several but as long as they are actually working for the firm and not hired to blog for you! This is where you will share your most relevant and informative content on a regular basis. When you maintain a blog that regularly features unique and interesting information, it shows prospects that you are the expert at what you do.
On your blog you can post on topics that your prospects will be interested in, answer commonly-asked question, give updates on the community, spotlight local businesses and educate your readers on your city.
Write in a friendly, casual tone and don't be too verbose because your blog isn't the place to show your reader how extensive your vocabulary is, it's where you want to provide as much value as possible and that has to be in layman's terms to be an effective communication.
Be Consistent with Your Digital Marketing
It's important to devise a strategy for your digital marketing in terms of what tasks need to be completed on a regular basis and that your approach is disciplined. There's no point being sporadic with your online marketing because in the digital age, content has a very short shelf-life. Completely unique and originally-sourced news articles need to be uploaded with precision-timing so that the spiders, crawlers and bots of the internet search engines pick up on them.
Having outdated blogs, news items and buyer guides on your website represents no value to visitors and if they don't find a listing that appeals, their visit is likely to be brief. It can be difficult to find inspiration for content pieces but it helps if you listen to local radio broadcasts on your way to the office or spend a few minutes checking out what's been happening locally or nationally online and that way you'll always have fresh ideas. Conclusion
Effective digital marketing is essential to your success just as it has been successful in propelling JLL to its world-leading status in the real estate sector. You can use their approach with ease by remembering one key point: no matter what medium you are working with or what platform you are launching it from – it's all about providing value.
Your digital marketing strategy should flow from your passion for property. When you're creating content it should be designed to make it easier for your prospects when they are considering where to live. If you create content that actually helps your prospects in their search for a home, they will be more likely to hire you. Ultimately, a successful online marketing programme will help you generate and convert more leads into actual clients.