Exploring The Value Of A Strong Web Presence To Your Real Estate Business

When it comes to electronic marketing in Real Estate,specifically when it comes to your website, success comes from being on the cutting edge, leading the competition, or watching business pass you by.

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The Results Are In! The PropertyWire.Ca Survey “Successful Habits Of Canadian Realtors”

The results of the PropertyWire.Ca reader survey, Successful Habits Of Canadian Realtors are in!…

According to the results from the recent Propertywire.ca survey, an overwhelming number of Realtors are using websites as a major component of their marketing strategy.

The numbers speak for themselves, says Stafford Scarlett, Business Development Manager with Jumptools Inc: “According to the 2009 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 90% of all homebuyers used the Internet as an information source.   If you are not findable, your clients are going to find someone else.”

“In addition, 68% of all buyers and 64% of sellers interviewed only one REALTOR® before engaging them. If you’re not online, your chance of being that one is greatly reduced. In addition, many consumers interpret an absence of a web presence as a sign that you’re not a serious player.”

Make Sure Your Voice Connects

It’s not enough these days to simply have an online presence.  The presence has to be impacting, visually rich and compelling.  Details must not only re-enforce brand, they have to contribute to an overall perception of a Realtor’s dimension, likeability, personality and abilities. Not only that, a website must be part of an overall marketing strategy, where messaging is consistent with print and other marketing materials.  You must know who you are, and in every point of contact- whether it is virtual or otherwise, must be consistent and compelling.

Scarlett agrees. No matter how a brand or a Realtor is packaged, the end goal is the same- to initiate contact and start the business ball rolling: “A professional website should do one critical thing: prompt the viewer to contact the Realtor. Clients will make this decision if they are confident you can find them a home or sell their home.”

While a website should certainly reflect the personal touch of a Realtor, there are certain questions that you need to ask when looking to include a website as part of your marketing strategy, as James Lau, Founder & President of HomeKey Inc. says: “There are a lot of options when it comes to website design, and it can be very confusing. There are several key considerations: Does your website look professional and reflect your brand well? How your website looks is critically important; otherwise, your prospects will perceive you as unprofessional and be turned off immediately.”

“Does your website allow you to post new content easily? You should have a website that is backed by a solid content management system, like WordPress, so that you can frequently blog and add content to showcase your expertise. This is also very important to raise your Google search rankings.”

“Does your website allow you to properly showcase your listings? Photos, videos, virtual tours, Google maps integration are all very helpful in showcasing your listings. Not only will this help you sell your listings faster, it also shows prospects that you would work hard to sell their homes too!”

“Are your prospects finding you online through major search engines? I am sure you have heard of SEO (search engine optimization), which is another big topic. But in order to have good SEO, your site needs to have the right keywords and metadata around its contents, so make sure whoever you are working with is familiar with SEO.”

Websites have a Place in Referral Based Business

Although some might argue that most of their business is sourced from referrals, which is often the case in relationship-based business, the website is still an essential tool.  Even when it is not centre stage, it is an important supporting piece, as Lau explains: “Over the past several years, a realtor’s website has really become the central point of a Realtor’s overall marketing strategy. A lot of people think that their website is not very important because they get most of their business through referrals. That’s a big mistake.”

“Even when one of your past clients refer you, the first thing your new lead does is most likely to check out your website. If you don’t have a professional-looking website that can show how you differentiate from the pack, your chance of getting the new client greatly diminishes.”

Technology Must-Haves

The beauty of a website is that it lends dimension in a way that print materials cannot. It props up and promotes confidence and trust in ability. To really get all that the medium has to offer, and to take full advantage of the conversational nature that a website presents, many Realtors are using social media extensively on their sites, as well as written blogs and video blogs. A good value-add to help enrich experience for prospective clients, as well as aiding as a property sales tool, is to incorporate digital floor plans (See recent Propertywire.ca article http://www.propertywire.ca/features/features/sales-and-marketing/1217-how-to-enhance-visual-experience-and-add-value-to-your-service.html)

Lorena Romano, Sales Representative with Royal LePage West Realty Group, Brokerage agrees that the main purpose of a website should be to help people pick you out, and form an opinion, and she relies heavily on social media to provide prospective clients with the information they need to choose her: “It is important to show on your website that you are easily reachable. By this I mean, having a link to all social media accounts that a Realtor is apart of.  Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or blogs.”

“I find that people are more interested in knowing who you are, and want to be educated first before hiring you.  My goal is to demonstrate that I provide value and a lot of real estate insight.  If my online presence can demonstrate my value, than I have ultimately achieved my goal.”

It is also important for Realtors to have a website that incorporates industry specific technology, that will assist in driving results back. Having an online presence is not enough. The presence has to be strategic, both in marketing and in its’ operational ability, as Nick Gewarges, Sales Representative, Right At Home Realty Inc., Brokerage suggests: “Realtors should stay away from generic, pre-packaged website designs.  They may look great, but they don’t offer the tools necessary to succeed in our business.  Instead a Realtor should have a website specifically designed and maintained for Real Estate professionals that have the following essential technologies: Automatic listings technology which capture MLS and broker listings directly on a Realtors site, Prospecting systems and databases which provide organized control and maintenance of clients and prospects, E-Marketing and Email campaign technology used to directly send out marketing materials on a scheduled basis, mortgage calculator, and more.”

Leads to Follow

As Scarlett suggests, a website is not just a way to capture leads-it is one of the most effective ways, as long as you have the tools to capitalize on the leads captured from web listings: “Leads from listings are the highest-quality leads since they tell you something about what a buyer is looking for, so ensure that your website makes it easy to feature your listings and those of your office and provides a simple way for consumers to contact you for details. Look for a website tool that allows you to add lead capture forms to any page on your site.

Remember that systematic follow-up on leads is the most important factor in converting them from passive inquiries to clients/deals. So look for a tool that provides integrated lead and contact management along with your website.”

A Job to Delegate

While there is no question of the tremendous importance of having a website in Real Estate, there is also value in having an expert design a site for you, both from cost-effective and time-effective standpoints.

Scarlett says that in the business of relationships, time needs to spent on that- working on the relationships: “Your time is better spent establishing and maintaining personal relationships, which is the core of building a long-term referral base. A website is simply a marketing tool, albeit a critical one. You make money when you are not sitting at your computer; when you are calling prospects, showing buyers homes that meet their needs, or making a great presentation to get a listing. Not sitting at your desk fiddling with a website. Let someone else take care of that so you can concentrate on the people.”

At the end of the day, the real impact on marketing strategy and on business comes down to what you do with the tools you have. Theory only works in the boardroom- it is implementation that hits your bottom line.

Gewarges underscores this fact: “What I do with these tools is up to me.  It is important not to lose site of the fact that a website requires daily involvement from the Realtor.  It’s not enough to have lead generation tools or marketing campaigns without strategically selecting who will be marketed to, what the message will be, and how it will be delivered”.

“On the other side of the spectrum, the results of that campaign must be properly reviewed and audited.  If a Realtor runs the same marketing campaign over and over again (automated via website technology), with little or no results each time, and then maybe it’s time to change the message.  Therefore, it’s up to us to keep track of website marketing and lead generation results, and tweak when necessary.”