When the Internet was first being promoted between 1996 and1999, it was praised as the next big thing. The prognosticators were parading around at all of the conventions saying, "The Internet is going to change the way we do real estate." They were describing, in futuristic terms, how home buyers and sellers would find our websites and be enticed to look at the pictures and virtual tours. Once they looked at the virtual tours and got excited about the home, they would click on the button in the lower right hand corner of your page that says "Buy It", and you would have sold a home. As exciting as that seemed, it has never happened that way for most people I have ever spoken with.
The Internet is a great tool, and that is all it is - a tool. For some agents, it is an essential tool for their business success. For others, it is a very minor piece of the puzzle. There are a lot of ways to generate revenue in this business, and the Internet is one of those ways.
The Internet is really a lead generation vehicle. It's like direct mail, classified ads, or any other Indirect Income Producing Activities (IIPA) we could use. Creating and implementing Internet marketing strategy is clearly IIPA. When I talk about the four ways to increase production, the Internet fits into those four ways as well. The Internet has connectivity in all four of those methods.
The first connection is the number of contacts you generate. The Internet can increase your exposure to people. It's not a contact based on my definition, but for many agents, an Internet visitor would be viewed as a contact. The method of contact is low quality, however. The copy on your website has to compel someone to do something. The results of direct mail and Internet traffic are somewhat parallel; they are not very compelling when it comes to getting someone to act, book an appointment, or even reveal some information like a personal phone number. Fortunately, the number of contacts can get large enough for some agents to make up for the lower quality method of the Internet, as opposed to the phone. You can drive a lot more visitors to your website than you can make phone calls. The quality of the people and the conversion on the Internet will always be lower, however.
The quality of the prospect is the next area of connection. The quality of the prospect must be sifted through, so you can determine who's a looker, and who's a buyer. Again, this is very hard to do because many of the people are stealth and want to remain that way. That means their motivation, on average, is very low.
The quality of the message is last. It's hard to have a compelling message of what makes you different, why someone should hire you, and what benefits the prospect will receive from you via text and a few previews. You certainly do not have the ability to really determine their desire, need, ability, authority, and service expectations, so you can modify your presentation to the highest level.
The Internet really only helps us with the exposure or number of contacts if we interpret the definition of contact loosely. If you can get enough people to your site, you will generate leads. What you do with the leads when they get there is the difference between a good agent and a Champion Agent.
I really believe the value of the Internet is as a lead generation tool. The proper use is to generate leads that you can drive to a fundamental sales channel. Getting the prospect to reveal their full contact information, so it takes the form of an inquiry, is paramount. This allows you to call them back, which also raises the conversion ratios substantially. Additionally, you have that ninety day window of opportunity for future phone contact within the confines of the no call laws. Most agents are chasing a lot of low probability prospects through the Internet. They have an e-mail address and are sending property match searches daily. They have them on a newsletter that is electronic. All of those methods are automated, so limited time is invested. However, limited reward is created as well.