by Mike Parker
The Internet has been the game-changer in real estate.
Be honest: did you ever think–back in 2005, even– that more than 80% of all homes sales would begin on the Internet? Well, that day came years ago, yet most of the agent base continues to miss out on Internet sales. This shows why new methods and technologies need to be investigated and considered by any agent serious about succeeding online, because one glaring question remains unanswered: Simply put, how can it be that 80+% of home sales begin online but that 90+% of agents are unhappy with their online marketing results?
Part of the reason is that they keep believing old precepts that may have been relevant in the then, but that are long gone, today. Another reason is that they truly don’t know what is important today. Here are few things that are should no longer be the centerpiece of anyone’s successful online strategy:
“Success is all about the brand”
No, it isn’t. The Internet has reduced the power of Internet corporate real estate brands. Never before has so much information been so available to anyone with a PC. Consumers today are more attracted to individuals than entities: no one cares about being friends with a company and no one thinks a company will treat them as well as a real person will (i.e., a buyer will search for “Wasilla AK Real Estate,” not “International Behemoth Real Estate agent in Wasilla AK”). Buyers search for what they really want in the way that requires the least navigation and the least effort. The Internet shopper resists and resents any effort to make them go through even one unnecessary step to acquire the information they want. That’s because the Internet is all about total intellectual freedom in the privacy of one’s own home or office and that’s part of the reason that a large part of Internet success is all about response time and service (among other things) and not about “the brand” or what franchise you belong to. Besides, with many of America’s oldest and best known brands hemorrhaging money of late and that fact all over the news, who benefits from that kind of affiliation?
“I can count on our corporate IT department for the best guidance on how to succeed online”
No, you really can’t. Just recently, one of the major franchises in real estate completed a new arrangement with their third provider of websites. In years past, they had endorsed one company, then, another, and now they endorse yet another. All three companies are fine companies, yet the online marketing success corporate tried to implement failed, partially because the website is not able to produce success for an agent without certain factors that have nothing to do with websites. It is very hard for any corporate entity to “get it right” because the corporate entity and the individual agent have different goals and a single standard does not work across the agent spectrum.
For example, in 2008 I wrote about an agent’s experience with ‘corporate Internet planning’; here’s an excerpt:
” As all this was happening, the Brokerage’s IT manager came to see Walt to show him the team’s ‘exciting’ new website–where everyone gets a page on the corporate site. “With my new knowledge, I asked him how I was going to get found on the new site”, Walt (Straub) related, “and when he responded ‘We’re still working on that’, I knew my decision was made. I knew I could not count on corporate to make my online marketing work and I knew that I did not possess the specialized knowledge to make it work. ” Walt hired professional online marketing services help; a decision that has paid off handsomely for him.
Corporate has different goals than you do. Corporate isn’t looking to protect your marketplace for you, they are looking to protect your marketplace for them.
A real world example of why the old way corporate loves so much doesn’t work today
A few months ago, a large franchise contacted me and asked my advice on a complete redesign of their Internet Marketing. They offered me a substantial sum just to submit a proposal, and more if it were accepted. I declined, but not before talking with the earnest (but constrained) head of the program. I told him how online marketing success must be done one agent at a time; it simply is not capable of being mass produced. It can be standardized, but it must also be customized. Big software companies (which are what website companies really are) are not interested in individualization; they want to sell their already produced software (the website template) over and over again. They want you and/or a web designer to do all the work, all the customization. It’s a brilliant and profitable strategy.
Unfortunately, the Internet is all about localization and proper (and exact) delineation of what you sell; the better to help the consumer find the right thing when searching online. Few agents or web designers know how to accomplish the foregoing. As for website companies, the process is too labor- intensive and time-consuming to undertake economically. You just can’t make a profit holding hands for $39.95 a month–the client has to do the heavy lifting themselves. The head of the program agreed with me, but said “That won’t fly. They want a traditional approach to Internet marketing.” Folks, the “traditional approach” to Internet marketing just doesn’t work; like everything else in life, methods that were “new” five years ago are now being supplanted by new and more effective methods. Big franchises are lots of wonderful things, but they aren’t nimble, and they just can’t have uniformly super results for their myriad agents. They want ‘standardized’, not ‘customized’.
Many large real estate corporations are stuck in the same old approach to Internet marketing when– if they were paying attention– they would know that it is no longer about building encyclopedic websites that give all information about anything a consumer might want to know and every listing in all fifty states and Canada; it’s not about the website, it’s about the agent and their relationship with the prospect– it’s about getting the consumer to ask the agent for what they really want. Online marketing success is about four things:
- Maintain a good marketing platform with information available to the consumer upon request; get them to tell you what they want and give it to them;
- Make certain that people searching the web for homes can find your site;
- Build traffic and convert visitors to your site into registrations;
- Learn the proper way to follow up these leads; the timing, the methods and the follow-up techniques.
Unfortunately, most corporations prefer to keep on doing it the same old way they always have. It’s up to you to do better.
“Get all the technology you can and you will succeed”
Not really. Technology does not sell houses. Real Estate agents sell houses. The only purpose of technology is to help buyers find you and to help you find buyers and sellers and service them better. Do not waste your time on any “tech advance” that will not improve your ability to accomplish the four goals listed herein and make certain that the advantage that new “tech advance” brings is realistically evaluated. There are a great many “tech advances” that do nothing to increase your ability to sell houses to Internet shoppers.
To make an analogy, the greatest medical diagnostic equipment ever conceived cannot save one human life. It takes a Doctor–one who can interpret the information that equipment provides and devise a proper course of treatment that fits the condition.
And so it is with Online Marketing: you can have video, $50,000 websites, designers bleeding you of thousands of dollars each month, lead management systems, all that–and fail miserably. Why? Because all that is worthless if you have no leads! Most websites do not provide their users enough real leads. Most websites give all sorts of information out, but get nothing in. Companies have figured out that agents want leads, not websites. Agents are tired of fruitless efforts to make their online marketing work. More and more, they are simply hiring someone else to do that for them.
If websites could sell real estate, there would be no need for real estate professionals. You must realize that websites and other technology exist to bring you buyers. Once you–the Doctor–have buyers to talk to, you can sell real estate. All the rest of these “everybody knows” are a form of misdirection. Leave the whiz-bang stuff to others: the path to online success is simple.
The Internet can level the playing field
You should embrace the Internet and learn how to make those four techniques reality. By doing so, you can join the hundreds of agents making great commissions from Internet sales each month. Those nimble agents outperform the corporate approach in every way and they outperform the average corporate agents’ income by a factor of 3X!
With the right help, you can outperform most agents, too. You see, the Internet has the buyers. Everybody is trying to land them, but only those who know the four steps and can put them into action ultimately do so. Perhaps if you re-think that which “everybody knows” you can break out of the 90+% of agents who can’t succeed at online marketing. For certain, if you don’t re-think these things, you won’t succeed online anytime soon.
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