The first step to finding an Internet strategy that works for you is establishing what strategies you might have at your disposal. There are many more options available than I can list; here our three that I believe are viable strategies for real estate agents.
1. Company image (branding) websites
Branding is a fairly standard term to marketers of all types. It basically means that you’d like to establish a memorable brand for your potential prospects and customers. Ideally, you’d like all of the people in your given market to think about you when they think about buying or selling a home.
There are a few factors associated with branding; however, that doesn’t make it the best solution for 99.99% of real estate agents. First of all, it is very expensive. Second, it takes a very, very long time to establish. Finally, it is almost impossible to quantify the effectiveness of branding. All three of these difficulties are contrary to what most people think the Internet is all about - and rightly so. Branding, therefore, is not a very good choice for an agent on several fronts.
Does this mean I am against a very nicely done website with great graphics and other amenities? No! Absolutely not! I would actually suggest that every agent participate, to some extent, on a main company website that has the typical business card feel.
On the Internet, you can have a website up and running within days or even minutes for the cost of dinner with a loved one, and it will give you all kinds of data about your visitors. There are things you can know about your customer that would blow you away. Basic requirements for this type of site would be a nice look, company logo, professionally placed photos of agents, bios of the agents, and several means of contact for the visitor.
The main purpose of this type of website is to make it easy to get a hold of you. It can have some branding elements like JohnSmith.com or TrueBluePropertiesMontanta.com, or some other domain that fits nicely on a business card and on your company letterhead. Visitors to this site will likely be people who have your letterhead and want to contact you. You should send a lot of traffic there because its sole purpose is to make you look legitimate and help the prospect or customer get in contact with you.
2. Property information websites
These types of sites are solely focused on one property and can be very effective in systemizing the sales process of individual properties. You can purchase these sites for as little as $30 per month for three individual addresses, or you can spend up to $99 per month per address. You must treat these sites as part of a sales and marketing process.
Let’s say you have a house listed at 123 Main Street. You fire up one of these sites, and it allows you to include a virtual tour of the home, all the particulars about the home, all of your contact information, and many more details. The site, by itself, really has no value, but if you run a classified ad in the paper talking about the home along with the 123MainStreet.com link, now you’ve gotten somewhere.
The problem with these sites is that you give away almost too much information. The prospect may make a decision just based on a bad photo on the virtual tour or the fact that the paint color was wrong. There’s no opportunity for you to get them emotionally attached to the property. You can’t answer their objections, and you may never get the opportunity to even know their name.
So, these sites can be a valuable way for you to gain exposure for your properties, but the lead volume will likely be small - albeit, the leads will likely be good ones. Use this type of site as part of your arsenal to gain exposure for specific properties.
3. Lead generation websites
One of the biggest problems with the activities we find ourselves involved in as real estate agents is that we often forget why we are doing them. If I had only one choice for what a website would do for me, it would be to generate leads - not some leads, but a ton of them; not any leads, but very qualified (ready to do business with me) leads.
This brings me to my favorite kind of website, the lead generation website. The sole purpose for this site is to generate a large volume of a specific type of lead, whether they are buyers or sellers.
This will be a website that is designed for a specific, very targeted audience. This could be buyers and/or sellers of homes in Anytown, USA, or it could just be buyers and/or sellers in general. The narrower our focus, the more targeted our niche, the better. So, the best choice of the prior examples would be a site dedicated to only buyers or sellers in Anytown, USA. How about buyers?
For buyers, we need to have the site loaded with content that is extremely valuable to only to our target prospect. Let’s say our site is geared toward buyers in Anytown, USA. The website must be focused solely on things that: 1) Are very valuable to buyers in Anytown, USA, and 2) Will it help buyers in Anytown, USA accomplish their objective, which is buying a home in Anytown, USA?
So, a site that is designed for a target audience, and has high value content to only that audience, will have a high conversion to prospect ratio and will generate a large portion of visitors.