Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To compliment the new Real Estate Series launched by OMI, he joins us today to explain 3 skills that are crucial to succeeding in real estate online.
After the housing boom and bust of the mid-2000s, the average cost of marketing residential and commercial real estate shot up by 65%, according to leading experts at Inman. During that time, free exposure has become very easy to obtain. Dozens of websites like Zillow have made it possible to list hundreds of thousands of properties that can be viewed with the tap of a screen.
But increased visibility hasn't necessarily led to more sales. What it has led to is more competition over what voice is loudest, along with a dizzying array of new digital marketing softwares that can leave realtors and real estate firms financially frazzled. This is even more true if they can't measure ROI.
Global visibility has also led to a widening gap between realtors and their leads, because despite their worldwide reach, websites don't always reach the local audience that realtors need.
So how do you reach your ideal audience without breaking the bank? The short answer is to create a simplified digital marketing strategy that doesn't require investing in expensive software, and isn't distanced from potential prospects. In fact, your strategy can be simple, inexpensive, and local if you have three digital essentials.
Let's look at what they are -
1. Experienced Brand Ambassadors
Anyone who has purchased a home can tell you that shopping for a house or property isn't anywhere near the same ballpark as shopping for your summer wardrobe. It doesn't happen on a whim. It takes time, effort, patience and a degree of personal trust that only comes from working with someone who has experience.
More than anything, home buyers and commercial sellers want someone with local experience: someone who knows their neighborhood, who's not only an ambassador for their agency, but also an ambassador for their community.
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter make it easy for real estate agents to go local and build community trust in their expertise. In fact, the big three (and free) social platforms are perfect for showing how big of a community ambassador you are.
Realtors and agents who have expertise can accomplish this using one social profile they dedicate to displaying properties. Doing this can be particularly lucrative for agents if they already have a sizable local following on a personal profile, and are willing to start using it professionally, or at the very least, including an agency link in their bios.
There is a balance to strike here. Agents shouldn't try to make this transition happen overnight. Sudden big shifts in personal branding (i.e., no posts one day and twenty promos the next) can have the adverse effect of turning off friends and followers. If an experienced agent thinks the risk is too great to their personal profile, then creating a new profile on Instagram for showing properties in a particular neighborhood can also work well to funnel potential leads to the agent or agency website.
2. Training in Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization means making your business easier to find on the world's most popular search engines.
One of the easiest ways to do this, especially for businesses tied to a particular locality, is to sign up for Google My Business, which is free. According to data from Moz, having a Google My Business account that lists your name, address and phone number (NAP) is the largest factor for determining local search rank in 2017.
In short: it's important to tell Google how people can reach you, and that you exist to meet a local need.
There are other organic ways to do this. They include following a continuous content and posting schedule, emailing local and influential businesses to see if they will link to your agency website, and closely following metrics like web traffic and incoming links to your agency website.
Have the goal of organic growth (i.e., rising in the rankings based on the quality of industry links to your website), but don't be afraid to pull the trigger on a strategic paid placement if you know it has a high chance of landing in front of your local buyer.
3. Dedication to Lead Nurture
A lasting dedication to nurturing leads and a passion for converting them into customers is arguably the most significant digital essential of all. According to leading experts from Inman, "marketing to contacts over the long term is absolutely essential to generating returns from digital marketing. Online leads, after all, are often months or even years away from buying or selling."
What the experts don't always tell you is that lead nurture can be as simple as setting up a signup form at the top of your website or Facebook page. Doing so can help usher your visitors to fill out a form in exchange for access to exclusive content and property listings.
You can also provide a strategically placed tap-to-call button at the bottom of your mobile website for prospective buyers who are searching on-the-go and may already be prepared to pull the trigger on a property.
For those that aren't ready to pull the trigger (and that's most of us), start developing a persistent strategy for growing and cultivating your sphere of influence. Create a question-based, customer relationship management (CRM) funnel to triage leads. Find out which behavioral indicators (i.e., number of pages visited, clicks per page, time spent per page) that can tell a lead from a serious buyer, and offer to schedule a personal meeting or showing for those who qualify. Follow up with the patience and persistence of a veteran seller, always striving to show something new with each offer.
To learn more about the digital marketing skills essential for digital real estate, consider our new series of real estate classes, geared towards anyone who aspires to sell properties online; whether you’re new to digital marketing or old-hat, our expert instructors will help you to better execute, drive ROI and build competitive advantage.