Editor’s Note: There are numerous books, websites, and other mediums devoted to assisting real estate agents who want to grow their business. Few of these mediums, however, provide substance when it comes to leveraging the possibilities of online marketing. Mary Beth Downing is a Dayton, Ohio real estate agent who has gotten off to a fast start in her career by leveraging the web. In the article below, she shares how she has achieved early success.
Breaking in as a real estate agent is incredibly difficult. This difficulty is the reason why so many agents quit within their first few years, out of frustration. I’ve seen realtor discussion boards in which many agents say that one should only expect to sell three to four homes in their first year. As of this writing, I’ve had my license for slightly over five months and I’ve put eight homes under contract. The most exciting part is that each month has been better than the previous. I’m excited to use this article to share how I’m going about growing my business.
The biggest thing that has surprised me, early on, is the extent to which many new agents entirely devote their time to trying to meet people face to face as opposed to leveraging online resources. These online resources can include paid ads as well as things which you own outright (more on this below). It’s understandable that many new agents don’t want to put money into building a website or into online listings. In my opinion, however, there’s a flaw in refusing to do so. If you take the approach that “I’m not spending any money and I’ll spend my time networking and trying to meet people” then you’re only saving money if you value your time at $0. Given that time is valuable, and can’t be replaced, I find online marketing to be highly effective.
In my first five months I’ve focused on three main areas: my website, my blog, and video. I’ll discuss each of these in turn.
Real estate agents can use their website to attract and capture leads
Most agents don’t invest the time or money to create a website for themselves. This is the first mistake as having a web presence helps to validate you in the eyes of potential clients. Simply, having a website, however, isn’t enough; too many agents build a basic page for the sake of having one, but don’t truly leverage their site. You can use your website to attract clients who would have never heard of you otherwise. You can then use it to capture more of those leads and turn them into signed contracts.
I didn’t want a website that simply said “Hi, this is me. I’m a real estate agent.” I wanted something that would actually provide value to potential clients. This is why I had my webmaster integrate the MLS (through third-party software) into my site. This allows people to search listings of homes for sale through my site instead of through a service such as Zillow. One of the big benefits of this has been that individual home listings tend to show up well in organic search results on Google and Bing. So when people see a for sale sign, and search for the specific address to get more information, my site’s listing of the property shows up. People then land on my website and call me from there. This results in leads with no additional time or meaningful financial investment on my part.
Another big benefit is that the MLS integration into my website allows me to automate the follow-up process. The software I use, to integrate the MLS, allows me to add a lead’s email and other information to a database. That lead will then receive automated emails whenever a new listing, which meets their desired criteria, comes on the market. This means that, instead of me having to call someone about a new listing, they receive it automatically. This helps people to be informed of listings they may be interested in and, importantly, ensures that the information is coming from me. I could spend hours, every day, researching listings and calling people or I could have an automated system which handles this task. I prefer the latter.
My blog is crucial to my strategy of driving seller listings
As I mentioned above, most realtors don’t create a website. Of the ones who do, very few create a blog and maintain it. Blogging is crucial to my strategy going forward. The thing about a blog post is that it can be the gift that keeps on giving. Say, for example, that I write an article on “how to price your home for sale” and it gets clicked on just five times a month in search. That’s five clicks every month that I pay no money for and spend no time on after I’ve written the article. In other words, investing a little bit of time provides me with web content, which I own outright, that will continue to give me indefinite exposure to potential
clients. This is why I wrote a comprehensive series on the subject of “selling your home.” I see my blog as a crucial component to obtaining listings without expending extensive time or money.
Video is important to helping me convert leads into clients
One of the first things I did after starting my business is hire a videographer to make the following “intro” video:
This has been vital in terms of helping me convert leads into clients. This has happened in two ways.
First, the client with the highest dollar contract I’ve signed so far explicitly mentioned my video when they first contacted me. In other words, these clients found me on the web and were considering calling me. They watched my video and it helped clinch their decision. Second, and interestingly, is another call I received. I market heavily on Zillow for a given zip code. My video appears on my Zillow profile as well as on my website. I received a call from a homeowner in the zip code I market to. She stated that she had been receiving letters from realtors offering to assist with selling her home (a common tactic for obtaining listings). She went onto Zillow to get an idea of what her home may be worth as part of deciding whether or not she wanted to sell it. Since I market to her zip code, she came across my Zillow profile and watched my video. She then contacted me regarding the listing of her home and, again, explicitly mentioned my video.
The foregoing are two examples of how my video introduces me to clients and helps me to convert more leads into signed contracts. I own this video outright. That means it’s another gift that keeps on giving. It’s another way that I’m getting clients, on an ongoing basis, without having to expend large amounts of time or pay ongoing amounts of money.
I strongly believe that many real estate agents are missing out on their opportunity to leverage the web. This is actually good news. The fact that agents aren’t leveraging the web means that it’s not as competitive as one may think. In my humble opinion, this is the best way to leverage one’s time and money when growing their business.
I owe a big thanks to Amanda Clark and the team at Grammar Chic for inviting me to write on this topic.