Digital Marketing is the buzz word for getting more website visitors, getting more clicks on your website and basically getting more customers but sometimes it seems that you just participate because the experts tell you to!
In some cases it is important to stake your place or get your own URL at websites like YouTube or Facebook but the purpose for many sites has most small business owners baffled.
Instagram serves one very obvious purpose to me – it helps you get images from your smartphone onto your website. This means that your staff or contractors can do some of the work that you’d normally pay a digital marketer for.
If you’d like to set up a website for your business using WordPress or some other content management system (CMS), you’ll need your own domain name and then you’ll need a web hosting company.
You can get a website hosting package with email services bundled together from companies like Net Registry, but if you shop around, you will be able to find a good web host in the U.S. that are usually cheaper and provide better service. Here are the details about the hosting company we prefer and why.
How to quote ON THE JOB
FOR TRADESPEOPLE, SOURCING NEW WORK and ensuring you’re getting paid on time, are integral parts of running your own business. As a tradie, the time between quoting for a job and it being accepted by a client can often run into weeks — or worse, months — which can adversely affect your business’s cash flow.
Unlike other small businesses, which can quote for jobs without having to leave their office, a tradesperson has to measure and quote for each job in person. It’s in a tradesperson’s best interest, then, to convert the vast majority of those quotations into jobs.
Quote online, in real time
Many tradespeople, while they may using a cloud-accounting package like Xero or MYOB AccountRight Live, they’re not using it efficiently.
Each time you go out to measure and quote for a new job, draw up the quote on your smartphone or tablet, and send it to your prospect while you’re still talking to them (some cloud-accounting packages allow you to send quotes and invoices by text as well as email).
Each time you go out to measure and quote for a new job, draw up the quote on your smartphone or tablet, and send it to your prospect while you’re still talking to them.
Sending a quote to a prospect before leaving, gives them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have, and may just result in immediate acceptance. But even if they don’t accept right away, it shows you’re keen, capable and ready to do the work.
If they have to wait a day or more for the quote, it could send the message you’re too busy or not interested. It’s also gives the prospect time to “cool off” from the initial excitement, and potentially have second-thoughts about getting the work done.
Connect to your sales software
The next thing you need is to make sure you have a full history of correspondence with your prospects. If you’re not already, you should start using a sales application, like Hubspot. Its basic plan is free, while its premium plan costs US$50/month. Hubspot connects to your Gmail account, and lets you send tracked sales emails — you can also connect it to an application like AWeber or Mailchimp to send marketing emails.
By sending your quotes and other sales emails through your sales software (Hubspot also lets you make free voice calls anywhere in the world), they’ll be tracked, so you not only have a full record of your correspondence with that prospect, but you’ll also see when they’ve opened your emails, clicked on links, opened documents, and so on.
You can also share your calendar with prospects so they can see times when you’re available to complete their job, without having to call and find a suitable time.
Follow up, follow up, follow up!
If you don’t personally have the time to follow-up, you should have someone do it for you — hire a virtual assistant, for instance. A lot of the time, depending on the job, people are still weighing up whether to get the work done and when. A phone call is often all it takes to get a quote accepted.
If you can’t get hold of them on the phone, then “automate” your contact with your prospects. Use your sales software to send “sequenced” emails — that is, a series of emails scheduled to go out at a particular time, when the recipient has or has not taken a particular action.
If you can’t get hold of them on the phone, then “automate” your contact with your prospects.
For help creating sales and marketing messages that will deliver more leads to your business, contact the team at Virion for more information about our content marketing services.
Established brands are fighting the Internet and the agents who used to work for them
Recently some very high profile McGrath real estate agents and executives have left the brand, including Steven Chen (Projects Division), Richard Shalhoub (Millers Point, Sydney agent), Matt Lahood (Head of Sales), Geoff Lucas (John McGrath’s long time Lieutenant). Our own showcase Cammeray real estate agent Derek Farmer has also now left McGrath and can assist vendors in finding a good real estate agent in their area.
But it’s not just real estate agents leaving a brand like McGrath, it’s also about individual real estate agents who work running their own business within an agency who are discovering that it’s important to focus on their own personal brand to help vendors learn a bit more about them. We’ve spoken to many agents from Marshall Rushford’s Melbourne city patch in Caulfield, Esternwick and St Kilda to regional areas like Orange and Lismore in New South Wales and they are all realising the shift in the real estate industry because of the Internet and the growing power of the property portals (realestate.com.au and domain.com.au).
Real estate agents share commissions with their agency
Anyone in sales understands that the financial rewards are excellent if you can sell and good real estate agents spend half their time selling themselves to people ready to sell their homes as well as selling the listings they currently have. This is why it’s important to be trustworthy when speaking to buyers because one day these buyers will end up being sellers – or know someone who is selling their home.
Many good real estate sales agents work on a commission basis because their commission split with their agency is higher and this is why good agents are attracted to real estate agency brands like McGrath and Belle but this is the market space that is changing rapidly.
A strong brand like McGrath uses their brand in negotiations with agents and will often give the agent between 30-40% of the commission they earn when a property is sold. The very best McGrath agents may earn up to 50% of the commission and this is a big issue that causes good agents to leave a brand and go out on their own – after all a good real estate agent is fully licensed to operate their own agency! With very little need to rent office space and the ability to work from a home office with a part time employee (or husband/wife) as a property assistant many good real estate agents are signing up with seemingly unknown brands like Dot Com in Newcastle.
Most franchisers charge about 20%
If you look at other industries where joining a franchise is a popular way to start a business you’d be aware that they charge an ongoing franchise fee of between 8-30% and for most professional services this percentage settles at around 20% so it’s little wonder that good real estate agents get dissolutioned when they have to pay over 50% of what they earn to use a brand name. To make matters slightly worse, these real estate agents still have to pay for their office space, their staff, their own marketing and advertising and all the other costs of running their own business.
Websites, social media Facebook pages and sign trailers are replacing the shopfront
I was speaking with a property management business owner recently and she confessed the only reason she went to the office is to photocopy some documents and get the receptionist to witness something, the rest of the time she was out and about seeing customers and inspecting properties and this is a sign of the times for most professions. Website and Social media marketing give real estate agents the opportunity to be discovered by sellers and sign trailers can be parked in busy areas (as well as at properties for sale) to stay front of mind in the local area.
We help good real estate agents create their own website and manage the content marketing for their social media profiles and most of my time is spent with our content marketing team to generate interesting articles about real estate and other industries we work in. Subscribe for some free guides on how to manage your digital marketing yourself.
Is your preferred agent who they say they are?
If you’ve been following this blog of late (if you haven’t, then you can subscribe here), then you may recall that in a couple of our recent posts we talked about the different tools that are available online to help homeowners find a reputable and trustworthy real estate agent. In one post we talked about the darling of lead generators and comparison websites, OpenAgent; in another, we talked about rating sites like RateMyAgent; and we’ve also discussed looking up an agent’s license using licensing databases in your state or territory.
However, we realise that, if you’ve never sold property before or it’s been a long time since you’ve had to go through the process of finding a real estate agent to sell your home, the process can be a little daunting. So we put together this roundup of the five steps you should take to ensure that you’re selecting the most reputable and trustworthy real estate agent to represent you.
Before we dive right in, we should point out that this list assumes that you’ve already done some rudimentary market research of your local area, and you have a couple of agents names in mind already:
1. Check the licensing register in your State
This is an important first step. Although it’s unlikely you’ll turn up anything untoward, on the off chance that you do, this will help you to discount that agent right away. This is especially important for people who are selling holiday homes or investment properties in areas they’re not very familiar with. You might even like to search for that agent in other states and territories apart from your own, just to make sure they didn’t get into any strife elsewhere before setting up shop in another state. The registers for each state are listed below:
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Regulated Industries, Licensing and Legislation Register Queensland
Department of Commerce WA
Agents Licensing Board NT
Consumer and Business Services SA
Property Agents Board Tasmania
Business and Industry Licensing Public Register ACT
2. Visit the agents’ websites
Do a search of each agent and see if they have their own website that’s separate from their agency’s corporate website. Have a look at the kind of information they provide on their website. Do they publish regular market updates? Do they provide any information about how they work? Have they answered a question or provided information about the sales process or current trends in the market that you found useful?
Give priority to the agents who see the value in providing buyers and sellers with helpful information based on their experience in the industry over the agents only interested in self promotion.
3. Check the agents’ social media accounts
Most agents have some social media presence, so don’t forget to check what they’re doing on Facebook and Twitter and so on, before appointing them as your agent. Look at their feeds to see how they’re interacting with other users online — are they responding to the inquires and comments that have been left for them there? What kinds of comments have people been leaving on their Facebook pages and tweeting to them?
Social media is usually the first port of call for people who are either really satisfied with the experience they’ve had with a business, or really dissatisfied. How an agent deals with both forms of feedback reveals a lot about their character and how they conduct themselves.
4. Read the reviews left on ratings websites
You’d check out the reviews left for a restaurant or hotel on Yelp or TripAdvisor, wouldn’t you? So why wouldn’t you visit a real estate ratings site, like RateMyAgent or RealSatisfied, to see what kinds of reviews have been left for agents there? Keep in mind that for both RateMyAgent and RealSatisfied, agents can pay the platform a monthly fee to manage their profile and the reviews left for them there. What control that gives agents over how they deal with negative reviews is unclear. You might also like to check TrustPilot, which is another ratings websites, though one that doesn’t specifically cater to the real estate industry.
5. Interview the agent in person
Once you’ve done all the online checks you can, it’s time to line up a meeting with your preferred agent (or agents), to see if they’re as impressive IRL (that’s in real life, for those of you playing along at home) as they are online. Don’t be afraid to tell the agent you’re still considering other agents — how they handle this comment will tell you a lot about the sort of person he or she is.
Quiz each agent about recent changes to legislation or real estate practices that might affect the sale of your home. The way they answer these questions should reveal to you how closely they monitor changes in their industry, and, in turn, how committed they are to CPD. This is the final step in deciding which agent is best suited to sell your property. You should also spend some time discussing commission, marketing options, sales methods, and other areas that will affect the sale of your home.
By the time you’ve worked your way through this checklist, you should be ready to appoint a real estate agent to sell your home — congratulations!
If you would still like to learn more about the real estate sales process, including how to manage inspections, offers and following up with buyers, you can download our free educational guide. Alternatively, for more real estate news, insights and analysis, subscribe to our blog.
There are online tools to help
In a previous blog post, we talked about the new era in real estate that allows homeowners to compare real estate in their local area with just the click of a few buttons, using lead generation and comparison sites. As easy and efficient as a lead generation site like OpenAgent may be, and although they’re structured in a fashion to help maintain their independence so they can provide objective information to homeowners, they are a business, after all — and one that seeks to double their revenue in the next 12 months.
This means they have a vested interest in converting each user who comes to their site and hands over their contact details, by matching them up with a real estate agent. For some homeowners, who are either time poor or new to the real estate sales process, using an intermediary like OpenAgent will make the process a whole lot easier. For everyone else, however, they may prefer to do the legwork themselves, so they can be doubly sure they’re appointing the right agent to sell their home.
All agents have to be licensed
Although most real estate agents will disclose their license number on their website, business cards, or by hanging their certificate of registration somewhere in their office, like Bill Tsounias a real estate agent for McGrath in Sydney does, it’s always a good idea to verify that information yourself. In NSW, for example, the Service NSW website includes a portal where you can check a real estate agent’s license.
In addition to seeing that the agent is licensed, it will also list any conditions associated with the license — i.e., whether they may exercise the functions of an auctioneer — any compliance issues, such as disciplinary actions or prosecutions against the agent. It will also list any associated parties, and whether a manager or receiver has ever been appointed before, which provide key details on the financial health of the license holder. There are similar registers in all other states and territories.
First impressions still count
But for all the research you can do into an agent’s license and recent sales history, one of the most important things you can do is to have a conversation with them, be it over the phone or in person. Their manner and temperament, and the way they explain key issues to you should help you decide which agent you feel most comfortable with selling your home. These first impressions still count, even in the digital age.
It’s company policy for McGrath agents to list their license number on their website so it makes it a lot easier for buyers and sellers to verify whether an agent is licensed to handle a particular real estate transaction. It also shows that McGrath is committed to honesty and transparency, an important ingredient in the success of any real estate agent today, and like McGrath, Bill Tsounias is just as committed to being a genuine and reputable real estate agent.
He’s come onboard with Virion to create his own professional website, where he can showcase his current listings, share information about his recent sales, and provide tips and advice to homebuyers and owners about the real estate market and what to expect when buying or selling a home. We have other agents on board who keep clients and vendors up to speed with information and listings using Facebook and other social media.
To begin building your online brand, contact our team to discuss which digital marketing options will suit you and your digital marketing goals. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
Is the internet helping to keep real estate agents honest?
For homeowners looking for a real estate agent to sell (or rent) their property, it’s traditionally been about visibility. The agent with the most signboards, ads in the local paper, the greatest street presence, so to speak, always got the most listings. But just as it did for other business models, the internet is disrupting the real estate industry’s decades-long way of doing business.
Lead generation and comparison websites, like OpenAgent and Local Agent Finder, promise to deliver leads to agents, while also promising to cut through agent spin to help homeowners to find the agent who is truly best suited to sell their property. They promise all that, and to retain their neutrality in the process, even though they don’t charge homeowners a fee for their service.
How lead generation sites work
OpenAgent is the darling of real estate lead generation sites. It’s raised $12 million in venture capital since it launched in 2013. In the last 12 months, it’s also doubled in size, and in that time, matched more than 10,000 homeowners to sales agents; in the next 12 months it hopes to double its revenue. The way OpenAgent operates is pretty simple, and not much different to other sites of its kind. OpenAgent collects information about real estate agents and their sales records by scraping it from other sources, such as Domain and realestate.com.au, while also encouraging homeowners to write reviews about their experiences with a particular agent on their site, which it vets before publishing online.
Agents don’t get to submit their profiles to OpenAgent, nor is their inclusion on the site optional. If they’re a licensed real estate agent, with listings on a property portal, such as realestate.com.au or Domain, they’re automatically listed on the OpenAgent website. When a homeowner registers their details with OpenAgent, they’re able to peruse the recent listings, sales and reviews of all the agents in their area. OpenAgent then follows up by calling each homeowner to get a clearer picture of their property and the kind of agent they’re looking for. Following this, OpenAgent then provides the homeowner with a shortlist of agents to choose from.
OpenAgent doesn’t disclose a homeowner’s details to an agent unless they’re instructed to do so, at which point they contact with the agent on the homeowner’s behalf. If OpenAgent does introduce a homeowner to a real estate, who is ultimately appointed to sell the property, they’ll stay in touch with the owner throughout the process, to ensure the agent is being held accountable; they’ll even help the owner negotiate a better rate of commission. Once the property is sold, OpenAgent then takes a 20 percent fee from the agent’s agreed commission.
What this means for agents and homeowners
Success as a real estate agent today, in an era of lead generation and comparison websites, requires honesty and transparency. Agents can no longer cloak the sales process in mystery or exaggerate their sales history, because, whether a homeowner does their own independent research or uses a comparison site like OpenAgent to do the legwork for them, they’ll find out which agents are truthful and reputable, and which ones aren’t.
With so much information freely available on the internet, whether it’s about an individual agent and their track record or about the local market itself, homeowners now spend less time researching an agent’s credentials and more time weighing up whether they like and trust prospective agents. One of the first things a homeowner will do, once they’ve received a shortlist from OpenAgent or even a recommendation from a friend or relative, is look them up online.
Agents with an extensive web presence, and who are able to show people that they understand the market, that they’re open and honest about their previous track record, and that they’re friendly and approachable are more likely to win a new listing, than those agent who still operate under the old model of smoke and mirrors.
To learn more about the real estate sales process, including how to manage inspections, offers and following up with buyers, download our free educational guide. Alternatively, for more real estate news, insights and analysis, subscribe to our blog.
What ‘data’ makes Facebook so valuable?
As the most successful and most widely-used social media platform in the world, Facebook has amassed a lot of data over its 12 years of existence. That data is what makes Facebook so valuable, but it’s also what guides its business decisions. Facebook knows what emerging trends will be the next big thing, before you could even conceivably call them emerging trends. It’s how they knew to acquire Instagram; to introduce online advertising; expand into news publishing, by developing its Instant Articles service. Facebook is also a major platform for businesses, because of its emphasis on building communities, with whom you can share and discuss information that’s important to you. And all that data Facebook has under its belt, makes it easy to target people not already a part of your community.
Indeed, Facebook is also a major focus of nearly every real estate agent we speak to when we’re discussing their digital marketing strategy. Every agent wants to be on Facebook, and given that it’s more popular than… well, to borrow a phrase from John Lennon, Jesus, it makes a lot of sense to be using Facebook as part of your content marketing strategy. But there are a lot of real estate services using Facebook in ways that have the potential to disrupt the real estate model even further than it already has been.
Using Facebook as a directory for real estate agents
All that data Facebook has under its belt, in addition to the sheer volume of people who use Facebook on a daily – if not, multiple times per day — basis, has made it a very useful platform for real estate businesses to create online directory resources that connect buyers and vendors with real estate agents. The American-based HomeASAP service is the number-one real estate agent directory on Facebook, with over 457,000 members in its directory. As a directory that also connects buyers with real estate listings, it has the power to change the way people look for and buy real estate.
Although real estate agent directories aren’t new — there are plenty similar services, like followit, Local Agent Finder, Agent Select, etc — HomeASAP is unique because it’s directory is hosted entirely on Facebook. Only buyers, vendors and agents with a Facebook account can access the directory, further evidence that Facebook has, itself, become a search engine in its own right. And because the service is hosted on Facebook, you’re able to capture more data than if a person were to anonymously visit your a website.
Could Facebook topple the Big Two property portals?
Facebook allows agents to monitor who’s visiting their page, and it also provides them with a casual way of engaging with potential buyers and sellers who may not be ready to speak on the phone yet. This isn’t possible on a property portal — whether it’s an app or website. Sure, you can track them by inserting a line of code into your website, but they’re still anonymous until they give your their contact information.
With Facebook, you know who’s visited your Facebook page, and you can make contact with them by making a friend request. Because Facebook also makes it easy to share and disseminate information right from the platform itself, it has the potential to topple the property portals, which currently provides agents with little promotional or marketing opportunities, and likewise provides only very rudimentary statistics about who has viewed their listings.
Considering that, second only to Google, Facebook is the world’s most used website and is responsible for generating a quarter of all web traffic, it certainly has the potential to become a powerful player in real estate. If Facebook isn’t already a part of your content marketing strategy, you’re missing out on valuable lead generation opportunities, not to mention potential buyers who may be looking for their next home.
Success on Facebook begins with a successful strategy
Facebook is the ultimate social media platform, and even though it’s an effective platform to build your online profile and market your services to potential buyers and sellers, your success is still entirely dependent on whether you’re using Facebook in the spirit in which it is intended — a social network to connect with people and share information that matters to you, with the emphasis being on the word ‘social’.
To be social means to have a free flow of information that people will engage with, comment on and share within their own, wider social network. If you want to keep people engaging with the information you share with them, you need to create a strategy that starts a conversation and encourages others to continue that conversation.
Learn Digital Marketing or get our help
To use Facebook to begin building your online brand and find out which digital marketing tools will suit you and your digital marketing goals get a free digital marketing consultation.
Alternatively, learn about digital marketing in our online Digital Marketing Training Courses or read about technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.