More than 80% of consumers conduct online research in advance of most of their purchases, according to Q3 2015 online consumer statistics recently released by Adweek, a popular magazine and website that covers media news, including technology, advertising, and branding. Adweek states this is true even for items which are eventually purchased at a bricks-and-mortar location—and, as we know, for bricks-and-mortar real estate itself.
In 2016, the individual, couple, or family able to pay a seller's asking price will first check out the listing online—perhaps through a video virtual tour—to decide whether or not to visit a seller's property. This means that when property owners consider which professionals to list with, these sellers must evaluate the professional online presence and skills of the brokerage and salesperson to ensure they can capture the attention of today's online-savvy buyers, engage them, entice them with the listing, and guide them successfully through the transaction.
When sellers have little or no personal experience with online marketing, or marketing in general, how can they effectively evaluate online marketing expertise? Homeowners who consider themselves savvy when it comes to social media and streaming movies, may be at an even greater disadvantage if you believe the saying, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Decoding The Online Listing
Sellers will benefit from understanding the following three Online Marketing Issues when selecting a listing agent:
#1. Commitment to Online
Real estate, its brokerages, and the force of salespeople have moved online. However, having a website, Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter account, or other social media profile is not enough. The skills and knowledge required to create and maintain these portals are not the same expertise necessary to successfully sell real estate. The commission sellers pay compensates real estate professionals for their marketing, sales, and specialized real estate experience, knowledge, and skill. This is what enables them to use these online portals to sell homes. For instance, there's little value in online sites and profiles that look great, but don't show up in home-buying searches by prospective buyers. Poorly-done online listing pages and videos may discourage rather than excite potential buyers.
The goal with online marketing sites and profiles is to attract "traffic"—significant numbers of qualified prospective buyers—and to be enticing enough to keep visitors engaged with listings, so they'll book viewings.
To evaluate a real estate website or social media profile, pretend you're the type of buyer you believe will value your home. Check out the brokerage and salesperson's social media profiles and websites, including profiles at Realtor.com, which compiles Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listings in a searchable database. This research is not to determine if you like what you see, but to decide whether prospective target buyers will be attracted, not discouraged, by the real estate buying experience presented to them.
Online marketing campaigns like those for your listing revolve around social media, mobile computing, and email. When these marketing activities are considered costs, creativity may be undermined and results lower than expected. Professionals who commit to these marketing activities with revenue-generating enthusiasm will gain greater returns and buyer engagement which, in turn, benefits sellers. A thorough understanding of online dynamics is essential for integrating digital with print, open houses, and other marketing elements.
Don't settle for promises or hyperbole. Ask for testimonials and demonstrable results from previous online marketing efforts for properties similar to yours and sold to buyers like those who would be attracted to your real estate.
#2. Who Is The Buyer?
Quality, not quantity, works best with online marketing of specific real estate properties. The goal is not to attract "everybody," but a very special "somebody" who shares the seller's sense of value for the real estate and is ready to pay the seller's price. Seek out real estate professionals who can present clear profiles of ideal buyers for your property. This clarity of target detail will be essential to focus online efforts and concentrate on the type of social media and mobile computing that attracts these specific targets. For instance, Adweek, reports that Facebook discovered: "more than most people, new moms and dads worldwide seem to be uploading posts from their smartphones. The global end of the research—which included 1,000 people from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Australia, respectively—found that new parents use Facebook Mobile 1.3 times more often than nonparents."
Mobile web browsing has outstripped desktop searches. Smartphone ownership continues to grow. With increasing numbers of social media platforms and options, knowing where to engage ideal buyers for your property is both an art and a skill. Real estate professionals have long been expert at converting phone inquires about ads into appointments and sales, but different communication skills are required to convert online traffic into face-to-face meetings and sales. Don't take this expertise for granted. Ask how traffic is converted to engagement to make online marketing efforts productive and revenue generating (that's through the sale of your home among others).
#3. TRUST Is The Deciding Factor
TRUST is a huge factor in online success. Yes, sellers must trust enough to sign the listing contract and trust that their online listing will be a powerful sales tool. However, sellers should not underestimate the trust buyers must feel to be attracted to the marketing campaign for the seller's real estate. Both the real estate brokerage and listing salesperson must possess a significant trustworthy online presence, or the online listing may not be considered.
It's trust that takes prospective buyers to the website or social media platform displaying listings. It's trust that converts this online visit into a bricks-and-mortar visit to the home. It's trust that builds rapport, online and off, and eventually leads to a sale. Professional expertise includes rapport- and relationship-building skills and knowledge that create trust-achievement, online and off.
Online marketing is essential, but it is not enough.
Savvy, experienced real estate professionals understand how the internet can help with marketing issues and expedite achievement of seller's goals. That's the expertise sellers pay for. Will you recognize it when you see it?