“You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” – W. Buffet
But don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. The fastest way to expand your real estate business is through effective digital marketing. We’ve built sites that vanquished — in internet market share — decades-old real estate brands.
Building a first class website takes a great deal of time, cash and sweat. Not unlike putting up an office down the street. But unlike a brick and mortar real estate office, there are distinct advantages of building a successful site.
- Nobody would scoff at you for opening your doors when all you’ve got is a premium location and bare-bones of a building. You don’t have to start big. Our experience has taught us to improve in increments. As you acquire user data, adjust accordingly.
- Even if your first grand idea fails, you can start all over again by a click of a mouse. But you have to build on a good location — premium domain. It’s half the battle. Be as generic as you can: “Lake Tahoe Real Estate”, not “Tahoe Joe Homes”.
We’ve also learned there are three important things to start with: A premium domain name, a good CMS (content management system) and a valuable idea — a strategy you are passionate about that potentially delivers value to your target client.
This idea should speak of who you are, what you are passionate about and something that will make a a group of people happy they found your content online.
When we started our first site in 2007 all we wanted to do is share a personal story of a real estate agent who made a lot of mistakes in his own real estate investments, and the lessons he learned along the way. We wrote in painful detail of personal defeats and sweet victories. We were real with our audience. The leads followed.
$5,000 in failed website design, overstaying at our limited CMS, and two years later; we were still in the game. Barely. But we started making strides — the website started growing the agent’s business.
Looking back, the reason why we kept going is because we started with a valuable idea. You have to be motivated after one year…Honeymoon ends.
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – C. S. Lewis
IMPORATANT lessons learned in the last seven years:
- A premium, generic, real estate domain will cut your marketing costs in half.
- Don’t worry too much about site design in the first six months.
- Install analytics EARLY. Strive to learn about your users — however little you have — as early as you can.
- After getting to know a good deal about your users, start investing on your site’s design. You won’t be able to attract quality links with a flavorless wordpress template.
- Invest in your site’s logo. Make sure it looks professional and represents who you are.
- Don’t get too creative on the first year, learn as much as you can from sites that are not in direct competition with you.
- Yes, you can look outside the real estate industry for inspiration. (In fact, it is better to look outside.)
- But experiment after you get inspired from others, remember: “Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.” If you can do a quick-and-dirty job and it works, do it. Then strive to improve from it.
- To get ahead of the pack you need to think outside normal real estate thinking. Ask yourself if you were moving to your city for the first time what kind of information what would you want to know?
- Systematically push yourself in learning through experience. Start making mistakes, start experimenting. Test.
- Be consistent in adding new content: bi-weekly, weekly or monthly. Be consistent on how often you post new content.
- Choose 2-3 things you do well and do it the best that you can. (e.g., market knowledge, local news reporting, conversational writing, fancy graphs, etc.,)
- Read books and blogs about writing. Strive for authentic connection to your target audience. Learn how to express your ideas in a clear way.
- Said Winston Churchill, “Perfectionism is spelled P-A-R-A-L-Y-S-I-S.”
- Unless you have previous experience or a pile of cash (for Adwords) it normally takes 18 months to really see consistent results — traffic and leads. Be patient.
- Don’t treat your digital marketing as an “expense” similar to buying postage stamps. You are opening an office without the overhead expenses and much more walk-in traffic. Treat it as one of the pillars of your business. If you do it right your return will be tenfold.
- You cannot not afford a programmer, be clever and search for freelancers in your price range. The good ones are worth their weight in gold.
- Mediocre “aged” sites will beat a really good but younger site. Sites are like wine. The older the better.
- Link out early — make the other sites notice you are noticing them. Shoot them an email them if you must.
- Target long tail keywords — “Pacific Heights Homes” keywords are more profitable than “San Francisco Real Estate.”
- Start Google Adwords early. Even if it’s $200 per month budget.
- The more facts you tell, the more you sell.
- But you cannot bore your people to buying your product.
- Creativity is not a function of size. Small can be beautiful.
- Present complicated subjects in a way that engages the reader.
- Readers admire courage. And humor.
“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.” D. Ogilvy.
Image means personality. Your website exudes the personality of your brand. It will often be the first impression your clients will have of you.
The personality of a website is an amalgam of many things — domain name, the logo, layout and design, its target price of properties; and above all, the person operating behind the website.
The Internet is a big social network divided into different groups and tribes. Behind every Twitter account, Google search, Facebook “like” is a unique person. The key is to find a connection with enough people. It is not unlike high school. People follow people they can relate to.
And Google, eventually, will follow the people.
The only way we know how to make this “connection” is by creating valuable content and marketing it effectively. But it all starts with the company or agent. A real estate website without a personality would hardly attract quality leads. Personality, passion and even quirks play a big part in a successful digital campaign. If you are naturally a “numbers guy”, play that role. But study how you can effectively communicate your data in an engaging manner. Be creative. Or hire someone who is.
If you have a passion for local coffee shops — make an exhaustive list of all the coffee shops within a 20-mile radius. Capture high-quality photos. There are enough people in the internet who will notice. Teresa Boardman is master of this trick.
It pays to give your website an image of quality — a First Class ticket.
This is why we have a different business model than Zillow’s or Trulia’s. These companies have built highly effective lead generation sites. But it doesn’t have character — it doesn’t stick because there’s no sense of place, no atmosphere. . In a sea of agents in their sites, it is next to impossible to stand out. So you end up with one hundred leads, and one closed transaction.
Here I go boasting again: Our sites convert 50% better than Zillow’s and Trulia’s. At the very least, 1 in 50 leads we get, results in a closed transaction.
“Ignorance is far more important to discovery than knowledge. What we don’t know make a great question.” – S. Firestein
Stuart Firestein, PhD, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, gave a riveting talk entitled: The Pursuit of Ignorance.
He begins his talk with an ancient proverb, “It’s very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room, especially when there is no cat.” Generally, we think science is orderly, a collection of knowledge. But real science doesn’t look like that, he says. The fact is very few scientists use the formal scientific method. Really, says Firestein, “It’s farting around… in the dark.”
Ignorance is far more important to discovery than knowledge. What we don’t know make a great question. In every new project I start the first step for me is to begin on a empty sheet of paper — set aside my biases and tainted perspectives. Experience will eventually play a larger role. But in the beginning — especially in the beginning — it is more important to be interested than to start with a premeditated action.