If you want to improve your real estate marketing, for most agents your website is the best place to start.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I began studying and developing real estate agent websites. Way back in 1998, I looked at roughly a thousand real agents’ sites and how they were using them. I was shocked to discover that 98% of them were essentially throwing their money away through the mistakes they were making.
Only 2% of the real estate agent websites studied were likely to be effective in generating new business.
Could these results still be the same today? Surely, things have gotten better. I decided to repeat the exercise to see. Again, I reviewed roughly a thousand real estate agent sites from across North America. I looked at all types: “template” sites from large companies and brokerages, home-grown sites, professionally developed custom sites, and everything in between.
What did I find?
Much to my dismay, things may actually be worse now then they were then.
On a technical level, today’s sites are much better than the ones I reviewed pre-Y2K. They certainly look great and function smoothly. Having a great looking website should be a given for any top agent.
Yet surprisingly, the vast majority of online marketing campaigns continue to make many of the same very costly mistakes I’ve been talking about all this time. And because many agents have shifted much of their marketing budgets online, these mistakes are costing them a lot more money.
Increased competition between agents has made the situation even worse. Finding buyer and seller leads is now easier for agents who understand how to use the Internet to their advantage. These top producers gain huge leverage and momentum, leaving their competitors to fight over the remaining table scraps.
What’s even more surprising is that a majority of agents continue to use the “template” websites hosted by their sponsoring companies or brokerages (we all know their names). If you’re using one of these generic sites, you’re almost certainly hobbling your lead generation.
Luckily, this situation is easily avoidable. Done correctly, Internet marketing levels the playing field, making it easier than ever for new and Independent agents to directly compete with the top producers and larger teams in any market.
The vast majority of agents aren’t successfully capturing business from the Internet.
What are the top agents doing? Well, for one, they are making a lot of money, each and every month, by making the Internet an integral part of their business. What would it be worth to you to close one or two extra deals each and every month, with little extra effort?
Now imagine what could happen if your competitors are in that top 2%? What would your cash flow look like if you suddenly started losing one or two deals each month? Can you really afford NOT to be doing this stuff right?
Your online marketing should be generating you a steady stream of high quality leads.
If your campaigns aren’t producing consistent positive results, you are almost certainly making one or more of the mistakes that follow. Keep reading to find out what they are and what to do about it.
The 8 Common And Costly Mistakes Agents Make Online
Costly Mistake #8: Not Having A Website At All
This was a no-brainer in 1998, although then many agents were slow to get their business online.
Today, would you even consider hiring an agent who didn’t at least have a website? If you’re not leveraging online marketing, you’re not just behind, you’re OUT of the game.
You ABSOLUTELY NEED to have at least one website as the focal point of your real estate business.
Top agents know that their website is the backbone of their marketing. It generates them a steady stream of high-quality leads and gives them all the tools they need to be successful.
Yet many agents continue to resist online marketing. If they do decide to use a website, they simply go with the basic “business card” site recommended by their brokerage, which is barely more effective than no website at all. This resistance may be the single biggest mistake they ever make in their career.
Today, 100% of all buyers start their search for a new home online. Likewise, nearly all sellers begin by researching prices and gathering information online as soon as they start thinking of selling their home. This has made finding potential buyers and sellers much easier, if you know how to use the tools to find them online. How much business are you leaving on the table without an effective way to reach them?
Costly Mistake #7: Not Having A System In Place For Internet Marketing
There are three things you have to do to be successful online. First, you need to be able to ATTRACT qualified buyers and sellers. You then need to CAPTURE as many of these people as possible so that you can follow up with them. Finally, you need to be able CONVERT these prospects into business.
If you can do all three of these things, you can make a make a ton of money. It’s that simple.
But Internet Marketing has a TON of facets to it, and more ways to market than you can count in a day. Without a defined SYSTEM for attracting visitors, capturing them as leads, and beginning the follow-up and conversion process, generating business is like blind archery.
More than ever, having just a website is no longer enough. Your website is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your online marketing. In many cases, it will be your prospects’ first exposure to you.
Do you have a system to ATTRACT, CAPTURE and CONVERT prospects?
Unfortunately, most agents don’t have a very good system (if they have a system at all). They put up a website, cross their fingers and hope for people to find them on Google. They don’t ATTRACT very much traffic. When they do, their site isn’t designed to effectively CAPTURE those visitors. And as a result, there are very few leads to CONVERT.
Think about it for a second. Is this YOUR system?
The need for a website is now clear to nearly everyone. But many still don’t understand the need for a system to organize their lead generation. By putting one in place, you will seize a huge opportunity to leap ahead of your competition.
Many of the top online agents are capturing hundreds of leads per month, each and every month, in a systematic fashion. How many leads did your website capture last month?
Costly Mistake #6: Relying Exclusively on “Image”
Every year, agents worldwide spend millions of dollars on colorful, beautiful and expensive brochures, advertisements. These polished pieces are filled with clever lines that promise “quality”, “integrity” and “service”. This type of advertising is called “image” or “institutional” advertising.
There’s no doubt that “image” has its place in marketing. Leads DO want to learn as much as they can about YOU so they feel comfortable doing business. If you can legitimately say you’re a “#1 Award Winner”, that’s something to be proud of and to let people know about. Once they’ve been introduced to you, “image” helps put your best foot forward.
The problem is in that introduction.
Most agents don’t go any further than presenting their “image”. They believe saying they’re “#1 in Service” will be enough to get EVERYONE to sign with them. Would you sign with someone just because they told you they were #1?
For generating NEW leads, “image” doesn’t make the phone ring. Why? Well, to begin with, “quality”, “integrity” and “service” mean different things to your prospects. The terms are too broad to be useful. And every agent is using the same vague old generalities, rendering them useless.
Image ads don’t tell your prospects what’s in it for them, and give little or no reason for people to favor your business over others.
People don’t want to be sold. They want to be helped.
Successful marketers understand they must also concentrate on a prospect’s needs and wants. This kind of advertising is called Emotional Direct Response Marketing (or Direct Response). Direct Response is as UNLIKE image advertising as it is from cold call prospecting. With effective Direct Response Marketing, you offer people what they are dying to know, and then they contact you to get it. Your prospect is freely motivated (not manipulated) into action.
Direct Response Marketing, by its very name, is designed to evoke an immediate response, action, visit, call or purchasing decision from the viewer or reader. Direct Response Advertising directs people to action. It compels readers, viewers, or listeners to contact you before they buy or sell a home.
It’s also the MOST effective method for generating new leads from the Internet. Why?
People love to use the Internet because it offers a non-threatening and hassle-free way to gather news, facts and advice. They know they can visit your website without the pressure of talking to a sales representative or being sold. They know they won’t have to talk to anyone if they don’t want to. They can spend as much time as they want looking at information without feeling threatened.
But clearly this is a double-edged sword. People know they can visit your site without the hassle of being contacted, but YOU want to talk to the prospects with real potential.
The SOLUTION – use Direct Response Marketing techniques! The last thing people want to do is “raise their hand” so that a salesperson can contact them. In order to overcome their reluctance to being sold, you must give them a forceful and compelling reason to contact you. With a direct response website, people will be compelled to leave their contact information behind in return for the free information you will provide to them.
In the end, your online campaigns need to use BOTH Direct Response AND “Image”. Direct Response helps you attract and capture new leads who don’t know you yet. “Image” builds relationships with those leads that convert them into clients. The combination generates maximum response and profits for your business.
Costly Mistake #5: The Wrong Use of Content
Some agents understand the theory of Direct Response Marketing, but get it wrong in the implementation.
We’ve all seen realtor websites with scores of pages and reports wide-open on their site, encapsulating all of their real estate experience and passing it along to their visitors. These “real estate libraries”, are very useful to potential clients, BUT by “giving away the farm” they remove any incentive to contact the agent!
When considering the balance of content for your website, think for a moment… After someone has visited and reviewed your marketing campaign, what would you most like them to do?
Obviously, a real estate agent would like every site visitor to leave a message that says, “Loved your material! Please list my home!” While this is possible, it would surely be the exception, no matter how impressive your website is.
Buying and selling houses is much too complex a process for your campaigns to close the deal online. Yet most agents try to “hit a home run” instead of lead their clients to first and then helping them round the bases.
The first step in developing your campaigns is to have a focused, achievable and quantifiable primary goal.
What should your primary goal be? Here’s what I recommend:
Get the maximum number of qualified home-buyers and sellers to identify themselves to you.
With this in mind, we can now develop content, tools and strategies for your campaigns to achieve this goal. First, we must find a way to get qualified home-buyers and sellers to identify themselves. This can be done simply by providing FREE information and/or services for them. For example, a free report on how to buy a home with zero down. But this information is provided only AFTER they have identified and qualified themselves.
Contrast this with the “real estate library” type of website. In an attempt to provide a “rich content”, the entire text of the report would be found on the website, free and clear. Why would I contact the agent when I can simply read the report? When I’m done, I’ll leave the site and move on. The agent will never know I was there.
Another common content mistake occurs when you see a compendium of links to other “websites of interest”. In most cases these links simply suck away your hard-earned traffic to other sites, never to be heard from again.
Costly Mistake #4: Not Designing for Mobile Devices
It’s now estimated that 60% or more Internet traffic comes from mobile devices: smartphones, tablets, and laptops. These devices all have viewing screens of different shapes and sizes, presenting unique problems for viewing your website.
Websites that are “mobile-responsive” can detect the viewer’s screen size and adjust the layout and size of the page content automatically. The alternative is a frustrating exercise in pinching, dragging and scrolling that alienates over half your visitors. Even if they want to read your message, it eventually becomes too much work, and if they don’t give up completely, they’ll put it off until they get back to their home computer – and then promptly forget you.
Mobile-responsive design is now a “trendy” topic for web design, especially since Google recently began de-ranking non-mobile-friendly sites in their search results. The ensuing panic among business owners has allowed designers to jack up their fees even higher.
And yet, this is now a mandatory consideration for agents, especially if you market listings curbside, where people will be viewing your site on their smartphone. You need to be ready for them.
Take this test with your current website: Bring it up in the mobile browser of your choice. Is it easy to navigate? Can you easily read it? Most importantly, are there easy and compelling reasons for the visitor to leave you their contact information? If not, the majority of the marketing money or effort you spend driving visitors to your site is being wasted.
Costly Mistake #3: Failing to Continually Test
There are literally hundreds of decisions that go into customizing a website and associated marketing campaigns. Some are much more important than others, but which ones are worth the time and effort? And what adjustments can you make to your site, message or campaigns to increase their effectiveness?
Continuous testing provides the answers. Most agents treat their online marketing as a “set-it-and-forget-it” exercise, as long as it’s providing “reasonable” return. How many of them leave leads, clients and profits on the table by not continually trying new things and improving on their results?
The real beauty of a direct response website is that it allows you to test whether changes have improved the effectiveness of your site or not – provided that you have built-in statistical tools to track the effectiveness of your modifications.
A quantifiable and measurable goal is required to accurately test your content. To start, simply ask, “Will doing it this way maximize the number of qualified home-buyers and sellers who identify themselves to me?” Now every decision about the design of your campaign – from content to graphics to colors – can be measured against your primary goal. (Get the maximum number of qualified home-buyers and sellers to identify themselves when they visit your website.)
Because the goal is quantifiable, you can test any changes to see if they produce better or worse results. Based on the results, you can either keep the changes or revert back to the past version. Over time, you will optimize every aspect of your online marketing, bringing you more leads, of higher quality, that turn into clients, deals and commissions.
Costly Mistake #2: Failing to Effectively Promote
Once your website is up and running, you still have to promote it to create traffic. After all, what good is the ultimate site if nobody sees it?
But the process of promoting and refining your online campaigns to maximize their response rate is a battlefield littered with expensive pot-holes.
You will continually experiment in an attempt to find something that works… anything that works… and you could be making costly mistakes along the way. In the words of marketing super-guru Dan Kennedy, “You can blow more dough and waste more time with the Internet than any other aspect of advertising or marketing I know of, and even ‘smart people’ are doing just that.”
Has your website developer or Internet Service Provider given you a truly profitable Internet marketing plan? Do they regularly update you with insider secrets, with verifiable results, that are making other realtors rich? Listen, “Internet” is VERY “sexy”. Exciting. Appealing. It’s easy to hypnotize people with theories, ideas, techno-babble, and jazzy graphic websites.
Well DON’T BE SEDUCED. Virtually everything I see agents doing with so-called Internet strategies will ONLY make money for “book sellers”, online auctioneers and nationwide marketers.
You need to know what’s working in real estate marketing NOW – and how to best apply it to your website and your business – from sources who work in this market every day. Marketing “theory” just won’t cut it – demand to see real-world results.
Costly Mistake #1: Failing to Leverage Technology AND Expertise
It should be clear by now that attracting Buyer and Seller leads using the Internet is a process with many moving parts. Doing it effectively requires understanding of a combination of tools, tactics and strategies that change faster and faster as technology advances.
If you’re a smaller, Independent Agent, you may wonder how you can compete with the “Big Players” in your market. With their huge advertising budgets and deep pockets for hiring full-time marketing people, their advantages sometimes seem unbeatable.
Well, DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT! It IS possible to generate a steady stream of high-quality leads on a small budget, and to do it in a way that puts you on an equal footing with the Big Players.
But you MUST make intelligent decisions based on REAL strategy, both in the technology you choose and the marketing campaigns you develop.
First, the technology. Many agents use the “template” site provided by their company or broker. These sites almost certainly won’t give you the exposure you need because they aren’t created with Direct Response Marketing in mind. In order to have full control over your Direct Response message, you will need your own custom website, which means hiring a developer.
The problem is that developers are mostly technicians or graphic artists, NOT marketing experts. They spend far too much time (and your money) developing a “cool-look” for your site, rather than putting compelling benefits in front of your potential prospects. They may also invest a lot of effort linking to third-party content (which usually just bleeds your traffic away), rather than work on new and better ways to ensure visitors turn into prospects and ultimately into paying clients.
*** WARNING: Unless your website developers really understand Direct Response Marketing and selling real estate, don’t rely on them to write YOUR message or develop your site! ***
Initial development costs for a professionally-designed and implemented website can easily range into the thousands of dollars. In fact many companies offering “real estate websites” charge outrageous setup fees and up to $250/month for nothing more than Internet brochures. One agent recently told me he spent $5,000 to design his site – Ouch! And then, another $1,100 to update it just five months later – OUCH!
On the other hand, while many realtors pay too much money for a website that earns them next to nothing, others cheap out. They hire a friend who builds websites “on the side”. Why is this bad? Well, as before, is your friend an expert in selling real estate? What does your friend know about marketing? Or selling on the Internet? And guess who is going to continually provide content for your site? YOU ARE!
Then there’s your marketing strategy. Online Advertising has never been easier to break into. You can easily set up and begin running campaigns on Google or Facebook — all by yourself — and begin attracting leads in MINUTES.
At the same time, these systems have an overwhelming number of tools and settings. Without a working knowledge of how to manage and optimize those campaigns, you will surely make mistakes and waste money. Online advertising is also NOT a set-it-and-forget-it exercise – even a well-developed campaign will fluctuate in effectiveness and cost, requiring regular attention to identify and optimize for these issues.
As an Independent Agent trying to compete, you need to make the most effective choices about both technology and marketing. That’s why it’s imperative that you find a marketing partner who understands Internet lead generation AND real estate marketing, who can help you put together the best combination of tools and tactics to attract quality traffic that turns into leads, clients and deals.
Now It’s Up To You
Look, if you were happy with the performance of your online marketing, you wouldn’t have read this far. I’ve identified 8 possible reasons for it and how to correct them.
Your biggest takeaway? The vast majority of agents out there are making these exact mistakes, AND doing nothing about it. (Except maybe grumbling about “the economy” or poor quality of leads from the Internet.)
This is a HUGE advantage you can capitalize on, nearly instantly, to compete with the biggest players in any market, no matter your size of business or years of experience.
When you put together the right combination of technology and strategy, you’ve got the ultimate online real estate marketing solution for the Independent Agent.
If you’re looking for help with your online real estate marketing, I invite you to try OUR solution, built from the ground up for powerful lead generation. Click the button below to check it out.