Generating leads as a real estate agent can be challenging.
Everyone knows a real estate agent or has a cousin or neighbor that is an agent. Buying and selling real estate is about relationships, that's why referrals and in-person networking tend to be the biggest lead drivers for most agents.
So how do you generate leads online without having built that relationship first? It's difficult, but it can be done. More and more people are turning to the internet to find their real estate agents, despite already knowing people that are agents.
Why would they look online? Here are a few reasons.
- They may know an agent but do not feel comfortable with their expertise, enthusiasm or selling ability
- They may be moving to a new area and need someone local
- They may be going through a divorce and need someone who does not have a relationship with their family
- They have a bigger pool to select the right agent, same reason people use online dating sites
- They love the internet and do everything online. Yes, this is a reason
As you can see, there are numerous reasons someone might turn to the internet to find a real estate agent. The only question is, are you positioned to get in front of these people? What does your web presence look like?
Most real estate agents have a terrible web presence. They hire from the same pool of web designers and marketing companies that are “real estate marketing experts” and end up getting the same crappy website as every other agent.
Real estate is about relationships, yet most real estate websites (and the web companies that sell them) focus almost exclusively on the real estate itself and self-aggrandizing promotional copy. Nobody cares how many awards you have won or that you drive a Mercedes because you're so successful, they want to know if they can trust you and that you're not an asshole.
If you're serious about formulating a serious web strategy to drive leads for your real estate business, the strategies below will get you on your way. The real estate category, in general, is super saturated online. Don't publish cookie cutter, “5 Tips To Sell Your Home”, nonsense and expect to outrank monster websites like Zillow or Trulia. As an agent with little resources, you need to think smarter, not bigger.
Make Your Website Not About You
Have you ever been to a party and met someone who talks endlessly about themselves? What did you think of them? Exactly! Take the spotlight off yourself and turn it to your customers. Nobody wants to listen to you talk about how great you are, not in person or on your website. They want to know if they can trust you and if you would be a good fit for them.
Most real estate agent websites place a major focus on searching for listings or using real estate calculators, guess what? Nobody will use your website to search for listings when they can use Zillow, Redfin or Trulia, who have spent millions developing the perfect MLS search engine. Place the focus on the value you give your customers.
So how do you show them this value?
Customer testimonials. Sprinkle them around your website. Have some on every important page of your website and on the sidebar of your blog. Don't house them all on a “Testimonials” page, most people don't won't visit that page, let alone read through them all. Make them short and sweet and focused on common objections people have may when hiring a real estate agent.
Case studies. Almost never used by real estate agents but super effective. A good case study will paint a picture of the value you give to your customers. A good case study will present the challenges the home buyer/seller was having, the solution they were looking for, and how you provided the solution that resulted in a very successful real estate transaction. Case studies are perfect for not only your website, but for in-person presentations.
Your blog. Showcase some of the properties you have sold in the past. When I mean showcase, I don't mean brag about how great you are, I mean talk about the property, your customers and the relationship you had with them. Talk about some of the things you did to help sell the property, some of the challenges you had and how you overcame them. Why would you do this? Because it shows real estate is more than a transaction for you, it's something you are invested in and care about. Your customers are heavily invested in the transaction, show them that you will be too. Make yourself human.
So to recap, make the focus of your website about the relationships you have with your customers. Paint a picture for people of what it will look like to work with you. Use your customer's own words to show the value you bring to every real estate transaction. Getting people's guard down and getting them to like and trust you is how you turn casual web visitors into leads for your business.
Make Your Content Local
It's a waste of time to write generic real estate content. There are too many big players online (real estate portals, the media, major blogs, brokerages, etc) and your chances of outranking or outspending them are about nill.
Your best content strategy is to go local. Even hyper-local. Local may mean an entire city, hyper-local may mean a neighborhood in that city. There are thousands of real estate agents in your city and most of them are trying to cover too big an area. The pizza shop down the street isn't trying to market to people on the other side of the city because they know there are a hundred pizza shops in between.
Instead of generic real estate tips, talk about real estate specific to your area. And just talk about your area in general, not just about real estate. Make your website a portal for your local area. And so many people are spending time on your website, they can learn more about you and your services. Coming to your website in this manner (you as a resource) will increase your chances of them contacting you over some generic postcard you mail out.
How do you do this?
Talk local real estate. What are the best neighborhoods for kids in your area? In what areas can you still buy an affordable detached home? What sub-divisions have the best amenities? These are all things people looking to buy/sell in that area are interested in, and these are things the big players won't be able to offer people. Going niche like this is how small e-commerce sites can compete (and beat) Amazon.com in the e-commerce world.Update people on local events.
Update people on local events. Write about local events like festivals, parades, etc in your area. If there are zoning changes, new development projects and other important matters people might want to know about, write about those too. I have a real estate client that consistently ranks at the top of the search engines for all of these topics in her area because she covers them in more depth than the original news sources do.
Highlight Local People In Your Community. Interview local businesses and public figures for your blog. People and businesses love being interviewed….who doesn't love free publicity? Showcase local businesses in your community and interview public figures. Not only will you get on their radar, they will most likely help spread the word on what a great resource your website is for the community.
And the side benefit for all of this? It is much easier to rank for these topics organically in the search engines than it is for generic real estate topics. There is nothing better than generating leads using free organic traffic that you don't have to pay for over and over again. Become the local online hub for your community by creating and sharing great localized content.
Use Advertising Strategically
Online advertising is not like traditional advertising, where you mail out 15K postcards and hope for the best. The best being maybe 1-2 general inquiries for the 2K you just spent.
With online advertising, you have the ability to reach the right audience at the right time and with hopefully the right message. All at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. There are a lot of great advertising opportunities online for real estate agents right now that you should consider.
How do you do this?
Facebook Advertising. The targeting options are amazing with Facebook Ads. From promoting new listings and open houses to advertising specific services you offer, there are lots of great opportunities to promote yourself with a small budget. You can even advertise on Instagram now using the Facebook Ad Manager, even without an Instagram account. I recently wrote an article on Facebook targeting, you can read it here.
Remarketing. Remarketing is when you have the ability to advertise to someone after they leave your website. Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are the two big players when it comes to Remarketing. It's great for people doing comparison shopping as well as a longer sales cycle, like hiring a real estate agent. If someone visits your site and then leaves, why not advertise to them again and offer some case studies they can read or maybe a “Best Of…” guide for your community? If you can engage them and get them back to your site again, you have greatly increased your chance of generating a new lead.
Local Sponsorships. Remember “Chico's Bail Bonds”? I saw the original Bad News Bears over 30 years ago and I still remember their sponsor. While you may not be as rememberable as a sponsor, people will be using your name over and over again as they talk about the local team you sponsor. It also gives you a great reason to show up to the games and get to know the parents. Show up with ice cream for the kids and become the local hometown hero. The side benefit is that most teams ( and events) will have their own websites where you will also be advertising.
Real Estate Portals. Most real estate portals have their own advertising/lead gen programs for real estate agents. While they do work for some people, they can get pretty expensive fast and you become a bit of a commodity as the relationship is between the customer and the real estate portal, not you. If you do have the budget, it could be worth checking out, as long as you are doing everything else we talked about here. Zillow Premier Agent is one of the big ones to look at.
Make your website local and not about you
As you can see, your website is the hub of your online world and a crappy one will make any lead generation strategies you put in place fail miserably. Use your past customers to sing your praises and to showcase the value you bring to a relationship. Become the expert in your community and deliver the most value you can. As you can see, the online lead generation is a lot like offline lead generation, it's about building relationships and trust between you and your potential customers.