When it comes to building websites, most Realtors really suck at it. It’s not that you don’t have the work ethic or desire for greatness online. On the contrary! You may be willing to spend THOUSANDS of dollars to have a beautiful website custom-built for you.
What you may not realize is that most websites developed for (or by) agents fall victim to one or more deadly mistakes that limit their effectiveness. When you know what these are you’re well on your way to setting up a site that encourages visitors to take action, revisit day after day, and ultimately increase your business.
Why you should pay attention
A recent review of real estate websites concluded that only 2% of the sites studied were likely to be effective in generating new business.
The downside of this news is that there’s a 98% chance your website is failing to leverage technology to acquire traffic, capture leads and follow-up effectively. If one of your competitors happens to be in the other 2%, you’re really in trouble.
Here’s a list of the 8 most common problems I see in reviewing agent websites. Getting these items straight can increase your lead generation and revolutionize your business.
1. Not having a website at all
This should be a no-brainer at this point. You ABSOLUTELY NEED to have at least one website as the focal point of your real estate business. If you don’t have a site, you’re way behind the game.
If you still need convincing, keep in mind that the Internet is used primarily by middle- and upper-class families with children – a prime demographic for real estate marketing. The vast majority of your target market is already online – how much business are you leaving on the table without an effective way to reach them?
2. “Image-Style” Websites
Most agents believe that marketing means promoting themselves. They believe that saying they are “#1 in Service” means people will sign with them. Would you sign with someone simply because they told you they were #1?
Every year, real estate agents from all over the globe spend millions of dollars on colorful, beautiful and expensive brochures and 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. Image ads usually talk about how great the person paying for the ad is. This type of advertising provides no benefits to prospects, and gives little or no reason for prospects to favor your business over others.
These “image” ads don’t make the phone ring. Why? Well, to begin with, “quality”, “integrity” and “service” mean different things to your prospects. These terms are too broad to be useful. Furthermore, everyone is saying the same vague old generalities.
People don’t want to be sold. They want to be helped. Successful marketers understand that they must concentrate on a prospect’s needs and wants. This kind of advertising is called Emotional Direct Response Marketing (or Direct Response). Direct response marketing 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 motivated (not manipulated) into action of their own volition.
Direct response marketing, by its very name is self-explanatory. It 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.
In fact, the very same emotional direct response techniques may be even better suited to the Internet.
Why is this? 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.
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 real prospects. 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 the reluctance of 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.
3. The Wrong Content
We’ve all seen realtor websites with scores of pages and reports on their site attempting to encapsulate all of their real estate experience and pass it along to their visitors. These “real estate libraries”, while often very useful to potential clients, remove any incentive to contact the agent by “giving away the farm”.
Think for a moment… After someone has visited and reviewed your website, 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 website… Please list my home…” While this is possible, it would surely be the exception, no matter how impressive your site is.
Buying and selling houses is much too complex a process to close the deal right on your website. Yet, this is exactly what most agents try to do with their websites. They are trying to “hit a homerun” instead of leading their clients to first and then helping them round the bases.
The first step in developing your website 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 when they visit your website.
With this in mind, we can now develop content for your site 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 home buyers and sellers. 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 sites. In an attempt to provide a site “rich in content”, the entire text of the report would be found on the website. Why would I contact the agent when I can simply read the report on his website? When I’m done, I will leave his site and move on. He 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.
4. Choosing the WRONG Website Developer
Many agents use the simple 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, you will need your own custom website, which means hiring a developer.
The problem is that the vast majority of developers are technicians or graphic artists, NOT marketing experts. They spend far too much time and money developing a “cool-look” for your site, rather than presenting compelling benefits to your potential prospects. They also invest a lot of effort linking to third party content (which usually will just bleed your traffic away), rather than working on new and better ways to ensure that visitors turn into prospects and ultimately into paying clients.
*** WARNING: Unless your website developer really understands direct response marketing and selling real estate, don’t rely on him 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 of spending $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, for starters, 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 be providing content for your site – YOU ARE!
Another option is a “Real Estate Template” site. These sites are little more than an online business card with very few options for customization. They don’t use any form of direct response marketing, and as a result, they won’t generate you much business, if any! You usually pay both up-front and monthly fees and are often locked in for two or more years.
Many of the companies that provide template sites simply put together a hodge-podge of content and “tools” and call it an Internet system. In fact, most companies that sell this type of site have a “DARK SECRET” that they do not want you to know. They will sell you a site on the premise that they are able to provide all sorts of third party content for your site. They will include within your site links to “valuable information” for your prospects (i.e. Maps, Directories, Financing, School Info).
The “DARK SECRET” is that whenever a visitor on your site clicks on these links, the owners of the linked site may be paying your provider. The linked sites use this opportunity to sell their products and services, RATHER THAN YOURS! These providers don’t care how many listings or sales your site generates for you. They just want to be a parasite on your hard earned site traffic.
And don’t forget about the importance of good copywriting. Regardless of which of the above routes you choose, you might still have to hire an independent direct response copywriter. This would cost you big bucks and you would still be expected to provide all the guidelines for the content. Of course, you could leave it up to them, but what do they know about running a successful real estate business?
5. Not Designing for Mobile Devices
It’s now estimated that 50% 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” are able to 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 will alienate over half the visitors to your site. Even if they want to read your message, it eventually becomes too much work, and if they don’t give up completely, they’ll decide to 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 announced they would be de-emphasizing sites that aren’t mobile-friendly 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.
6. Failing to Effectively Promote Your Website
Once your site is up and running, you’ll still have to promote it to create traffic. After all, what good is the ultimate site if nobody sees it? The process of promoting and refining your website to maximize the response rate is a never-ending battle 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.
7. Failing to Continually Test
There are literally hundreds of decisions that go into customizing a website. Admittedly some are much more important than others.
First, you want to quantify your decisions. To do this, 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 website – from color to graphics to content – 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.
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.
Obviously, without a quantifiable and measurable goal, it would be impossible to test your content.
If you can combine direct response marketing with the most empowering communication medium of our time, you’ve got the ultimate real estate sales tool.
8. Not Having a System
Surprisingly, it’s still quite easy to find agents who think throwing up a website is enough to bring them leads from the Internet. They cross their fingers and hope to be found on search engines, and then wonder why they have so few leads. This “head in the sand” thinking has sadly caused much disappointment and stress to otherwise-capable realtors.
Internet Marketing has a TON of facets to it, and more ways to market than you can count in a day. But without a SYSTEM for attracting visitors, capturing them as leads, and beginning the follow-up and conversion process, generating business is like blind archery.
Everyone now realizes they need a website. But many still don’t understand the need for a system to organize their lead generation. This is your opportunity to leap ahead of your competition.
Comments? Questions? Please let me know your thoughts below.