Real Estate Marketing Tip: Best Times to Post to Your Blog and Social Media

Real estate marketing tipI’m often asked what the best times are for releasing blog posts and for posting to “the big four” in social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Newspapers around the globe have the paper waiting on the porch to go with the first cup of coffee in the morning. The general consensus among bloggers is to have the post available before 7:00 am.

Social media is a bit trickier. Here you want to time your posts so your readers will come across them as they skim their social media wall or feed. Time the release incorrectly and your readers would have to scroll down too far to ever spot your content.

For much of our in-house and client work, we use the Buffer app to time-release social posts at optimal times, based upon the content volume. (Client budgets usually dictate the amount of content we publish for them.)

To determine the very best times to post I again checked what Buffer has to say about posting times and frequency.

https://twitter.com/buffer/status/491781752592269312,
http://blog.bufferapp.com/?s=best+times+to+post,
http://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-frequency-guide

Here’s a quick summary of the information:

Facebook

2 times a day, 7 days a week, 10:08 am and 3:04 pm.

Twitter

14 times a day, Monday through Friday, 10:00 pm PT (midnight CT) to 8:00 pm PT (10:00 pm CT) the following day. Maximum 1 post per hour.

On weekends, reduce the posts to 7 times a day, 1:00 am PT (3:00 am CT) to 7:00 pm (9:00 pm CT) – roughly every 3 hours.

Google+

2 times a day, 9:03 am and 7:04 pm. Don’t bother posting on weekends.

LinkedIn

Once a day, 8:14 am. Again, don’t bother posting on weekends.

Over to you

Have you discovered your own “sweet spot” for getting content in front of readers? Is there a tool you like to use to release your posts at the best times? I welcome your comments.

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Generating Leads with LinkedIn (Part 3)

Real estate marketing tipConversion: Acquiring and then moving a member of your audience step by step towards an action that makes them a buyer (or seller)

In the first post in this series I covered packaging; making yourself look outstanding online with a kick-ass LinkedIn profile. In the second post, we discovered ways to make connections. So now you have a network of hand picked connections. Some are prospects, others connect you with potential buyers and sellers. What do you do with them?

As anyone that is very serious about marketing themselves online has discovered, you can have thousands of social media followers, earn dozens of top ten Google rankings and a flood of traffic to your website, and still generate little or no leads. But how could this be?

Let’s bring it closer to home. Do you know of any real estate professional that sits at an open house every weekend, shows more than twenty homes a week, or literally lives in the sales centre of a new development, but rarely (if ever) writes an offer? Close, but no cigar! If “coffee is only for closers“, most web strategies don’t come within a hundred yards of the coffee machine. They simply don’t convert.

There is no business problem that cannot be fixed with a significant increase in sales.
- Kevin O’Leary, on Shark Tank

Visitors rarely contact an agent on the first visit.  A small percentage of the people that find you in LinkedIn will contact you directly. These are people that are looking to buy or sell immediately. And when they do, they will probably contact you through LinkedIn. The strength of your profile and the expertise you demonstrate in your regular posts will be the determining factor.

Our generation has been marketed to death. The last thing any of us want is to be pounced on by another salesperson. That’s one of the reasons social media sites like LinkedIn are usually the first connection with prospective clients. It’s a safe place.

The next step in the sales funnel is getting them to your website. The quality of your profile and posts must intrigue them enough to click through to your site or blog for more information. The better you can align the titles and intros on your posts with specific audience needs, the greater the chance they’ll end up on your website.

This is where many real estate professionals get it all wrong. Instead of providing unique and valuable information for their target audience, the website is all about the agent and what they want to sell. (The standard buyer and seller pages found on almost every real estate site in the world are rarely valuable and certainly not unique.) Industry statistics and analytics data we’ve collected suggest your visitors may come back 5 to 8 times before filling in a form or dialing the phone.

Let’s face it, people are not going to come back to your site several times to hear you toot your own horn. MLS Reciprocity (IDX) listings are available on almost every real estate site. What possible reason is there for them to return to your site enough times to become a warm lead?

If you’re thinking, “I’m doing exactly what everyone else is doing,” you’re probably right. And therein lies your advantage: the ability to provide contrast. You will succeed in online marketing and lead generation to the degree you stand out from the ambient noise. All those competitors saying exactly the same thing… just noise to your audience.

Brace yourself for a shock. Your buyers and sellers don’t actually care about you. The only reason they will contact you, over any other agent, is if they come to believe you can provide a solution for their point of pain. Whether they need to buy, sell, relocate or invest, your content provides you with an incredible opportunity to demonstrate value, and your ability to solve their problem.

Many of the clients I have coached have expressed concerns over “limiting their audience” by specializing. As a copywriter of twenty-seven years, I can tell you it’s a lot easier to write for a very specific reader persona, where I know exactly what their needs are. It’s writing for “anybody” about “whatever” that’s the big challenge.

Let’s say you specialize in single family homes, for young families, relocating to the North Vancouver area. If a family is considering a move into the area, what are their needs? Where do these people shop? Where will their children go to school? If they have a few hours to relax in the evening, what are the areas and activities they might enjoy? If they are religious, where can they go to worship? Where will they walk their dog, go to the vet, or have him groomed? Creating plenty of hyper-local pages and posts that deliver genuine value to these prospective buyers, provides a reason to come back again and again. (And the positive affect building this content has on SEO, rankings and sustainable organic traffic can be significant.)

The power of influence.  When you write authoritatively for a specific audience, on a regular basis, some people will want to subscribe, to avoid missing a single post. For this to work, of course, the content must be extremely valuable to the target reader. Make sure your website offers the opportunity to subscribe to your post updates by email and/or in an RSS reader.

Subscription allows you to gently influence your readers’ buying decisions again and again, with their full permission. When you have visitors returning repeatedly for your content, the next step in the sales funnel is getting them to subscribe to your email updates. You’ll want to offer a downloadable ebook or white paper, that offers even more information to your readers, in exchange for their name and email address. For the example above, something like “North Vancouver Home Buyers Guide – How to Choose the Ideal Location for Your Family,” might be popular. Have your conversion expert craft a powerful landing page that gets readers excited about the free incentive, and provides a form for subscribing to your list. To be CASL-compliant, in Canada, you must use the double opt-in process for sign-up. Make sure to include an added free bonus in the opt-in email your auto-responder sends out.

Your new subscriber is not a warm lead. Do not pounce on them, with a phone call or personal email.

The next step is to fully deliver on the value you promised when they signed up. If you offered a monthly email, with tips for North Vancouver home buyers, make them so thrilled with the information they receive, they can’t wait for the next email. Get a graphic/web designer to make them stunning. Do not send plain text emails.

I’m going to recommend you build at least two lists: one for VIP Updates and another for content subscribers. Do not blast your new listings to the people who have trusted you for the North Van. home buyer tips.

The transition from influence to lead. Avoid “selling” in your email updates. But this doesn’t mean you can’t move your subscribers ever forward in the sales funnel. Every email should provide intros to exciting, extremely useful, pages and posts on your site. And at the bottom, offer them another downloadable ebook. The new freemium item should provide new information they simply must have.

The link will take them to a ‘second tier’ landing page. The form on the page will ask one or two additional questions about their needs. The autoresponder will thank them, providing a link to the new ebook and another bonus item. The new information is added to your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.

Many email strategies include a series of 5 to 10 related ebooks, offered in rotation in the emails. The related landing page for each ebook asks another question or two. By the third or forth download, your CRM’s database will indicate whether you have an interested collector of your content, or a warm lead that has willingly shared additional information about their buying or selling needs.

It’s appropriate to send out a personal email of introduction to your warm leads. Offer to answer any questions, but avoid going into a pitch. You might want to include a link to one of your free downloads as a gift. (You’ll know which ones they have not downloaded from the CRM database.) And then you could mention two properties that might interest them, based upon the information they provided.

Insider tip: MLS Reciprocity allows you to enter the two listings directly into your site’s own listing database, whether they are your listings or not, so you can provide a link back into your own site, rather than the MLS. (If your site does not offer this powerful option, you might consider an upgrade.)

Speeding up the process. There are several ways to accelerate the lead generation and nurturing process. You can publish more content and promote it on LinkedIn more frequently. This will load more prospects into the funnel.

You can send out updates to your subscribers more often, with more great downloadable freemium items. If you want a bigger, better real estate business, build bigger and better content.

And you can interact with your visitors sooner by encouraging them to comment on your posts. Again, no selling when you reply to comments, but this is a great place to recommend they download the ebook that best applies to their comment. You may also consider adding a live chat feature, offering to answer any questions your readers may have.

Lead nurturing is a marathon, not a sprint. Many agents have a churn ‘em and burn ‘em old school “numbers game” mindset. Don’t be so ready to toss a good lead in the bin. If your prospect has downloaded several informative ebooks, and filled in additional fields of information, there’s genuine interest there. They may not want to look at homes or list theirs today, but they’re reading your content for a reason.

Make sure you stay top of mind, in a way that is friendly and genuine. Facebook is a great place to find out more about your new friends, and engage in their lives. For example, you might congratulate him on coming in third in the charity golf tournament or provide a thoughtful comment when her mother goes into the hospital for surgery. Update your CRM constantly with new details and commit to keeping in touch. Always remember that people prefer doing business with people they like. Your engagement lets them know you care about more than the potential commission.

Every few weeks, nurture your leads by sending a personal invitation to a post or article you think they’ll find interesting or useful. The content doesn’t have to be on your site, or related to real estate. You might send a skier a humorous skiing cartoon, or link to a YouTube video. A foreign investor in condos may enjoy an article with forecasts and condo trends on Inman News.

 Back to you

Do you have a LinkedIn success story to share? Or a question about LinkedIn marketing, setting up an autoresponder and CRM or developing all the content you’ll need?

I welcome your comments below, or private email inquiries.

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Generating Leads with LinkedIn (Part 2)

Real estate marketing tipMaking connections

In my last post in this series I covered a LinkedIn profile makeover. Assuming you spent a few hours polishing up your profile, or hired a social media expert for a complete ‘kick ass’ social media rebrand, you should now be ready to begin building your network.

LinkedIn isn’t like most other social media sites. You can’t just contact anyone and ask them to be your friend. Contacting strangers can affect your reputation as a real estate professional. It could even get you banned from LinkedIn.

So how do you connect?

Start with who you know. Most of us don’t knock on almost every door, in our area, asking people to be our friend. But that’s how many networking sites work. LinkedIn has tried to duplicate the natural process we use to connect in business, through an introduction.

Use the search field, or LinkedIn advanced search, to find everyone you already know in the real estate industry. Then look up friends, your alumni and professional associates from previous positions. In the options you have to select from, when you click the “Connect” button, truthfully indicate how you know each person. (If you claim to have done business with strangers you would like to connect with, you can expect a warning email from LinkedIn within a few days.)

Consider the bigger picture. If you want to connect with condo investors in the Vancouver area, for example, who can you think of that already has these people in their connections? Aha… other real estate agents and brokers. You can connect with the ones you know. And who would have these real estate professionals in their list of connections? How about condo developers, home staging businesses and mortgage brokers? Every connection you make gives you potential access to that person’s network. You have to think like a chess player, with more than the next move in mind.

Maximize your invitations. When you receive “please add me to your LinkedIn network” invitation request notices by email, these are pure gold. Do not delete them before fully leveraging the power of these invites.

Click the blue “Accept” button in the email. A page will open in your browser, displaying the “People You May Know” list, which now includes introductions to people from your new connection. Look for new faces. Take the time to carefully send out your own connection requests to people on that list you believe are either a) a good prospect, or b) could potentially introduce you to a good prospect.

Take the time to click the profile pages of potential connections. (The link opens in a new page, so you won’t lose your place.) Every connection you make, influences your potential future connections, so choose wisely. You’re looking for prospective customers, and those that can provide a connection to those buyers or sellers.

With Twitter, there’s an element of social proof that comes from having a large number of followers. 15,000 followers is supposed to imply that the person’s tweets are actually worth reading. LinkedIn has discouraged building enormous networks of useless, unrelated followers by publishing the message “500+ connections” for larger networks. As a real estate agent or broker, geographic location is usually important. If you connect with people in Vancouver, they will help you network with other people in Vancouver.

How to get more invitations. The more visible you become, the more invitations you can expect to receive. And each invitation delivers another fresh list of potential connections. It’s like Christmas! So it’s time to stop lurking in the LinkedIn shadows and become very actively involved.

Join relevant groups and contribute. Search LinkedIn Groups for topics your prospective buyers may be interested in, like “Vancouver real estate investing” or “buying condos in Vancouver”. Join a few that are on topic and popular. Then contribute to the conversations regularly. If the ideal group does not exist, consider starting one.

Like and comment on the status updates of  your connections. When positive and negative changes occur in the lives of your connections, take the time to provide thoughtful and supportive comments. When they post an update, interact and engage. What did you like about the post? Which ideas will you be able to put into practice in your business? The writers love receiving feedback and their connections can read your comments. Always remember that people do business with people they like.

Follow companies. A great way to gain the attention of other people searching for companies connected with the real estate industry is to follow companies that do business in your area.

Create your own company page. If you haven’t created your own company page yet, and you have incorporated your real estate business, you should definitely set up your LinkedIn company page today.

Publish regular updates. You should be blogging on your website a few times a week. Each of these posts provides an opportunity for a status update on LinkedIn, with a backlink to the post on your site.

There is a place for making announcements, like the new condo project you listed this week. But you want to keep self-promotion to 20% or less, or you’ll risk driving away your audience. So what should you blog about? If many of your ideal customers are real estate investors, how about writing a regular ‘how to’ column on real estate investment? You can also blog about zoning changes and their impact on local real estate opportunities. If your buyers are young families, looking for a townhouse, your blog offers you endless topics for your area, like daycare, playgrounds and parks, places to walk a dog, etc.

Curate great content. In addition to your own blog post excerpts, you will probably want to curate content from other relevant sources. A tool like Feedly allows you to monitor the feeds of many blog feeds. I like to begin each day with an espresso, while checking the industry news on my iPad in the Feedly app. (Feedly is also available in popular computer browsers and as an Android app.) Anything I believe my readers would like to read, is sent to Buffer, where it is time-released to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Publish articles. LinkedIn now allows you to publish long-form articles. This opens up incredible opportunities for establishing your authority in your industry, for gaining followers to your company page and connection invitations. One word of caution: make sure this content is completely unique, not a duplicate of something you read online, or even one of your own blog posts.

LinkedIn Invitations emails

When people accept your invitations, LinkedIn will send you an email with the subject line: “LinkedIn Invitations.” Your new connection will be featured at the top, and you will be prompted to check for other people you may know. Clicking the “See more >” link will take you back to the list of people you may know. Chances are you’ve already selected everyone that met your criteria on this list, but it’s a great opportunity to send out a few reminders.

The takeaway

Most real estate pros crash and burn at LinkedIn. They put up a half-ass profile and wait for it to rain. But with a solid strategy, carefully implemented, and plenty of good old fashioned work, the payoff can be extraordinary.

If you’re just starting out or in considerable need of leads, with the help of some coaching, building your LinkedIn connections may be a very productive use of your time. If your days are already full, engaging with prospective buyers and/or sellers, you will probably need someone to handle your LinkedIn lead generation. With coaching, one of your assistants may be able to take on the roll, or you may find it more cost effective to bring on a dedicated expert on a contract basis. If I can answer any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, or contact me.

 Coming up

In the next post, I’ll tell you how to begin converting your LinkedIn connections into email leads and contacts in your CRM.

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Generating Leads with LinkedIn (Part 1)

web-to-sold-tip129LinkedIn has changed the way real estate professionals connect, network and engage. With over 300 million members, it has become the world’s largest professional network.

Many of your local prospective buyers and sellers are carefully evaluating professional profiles before ever making a call or sending an email. LinkedIn has also replaced the Rolodex for networking with other agents and brokers.

An incomplete or outdated profile can hurt your chances of being found in searches, and it can create a negative first impression.

Does Your Profile Need a Makeover?

Update your headline. Does your headline grab the reader’s attention? Will it position you as a leader in your chosen field of expertise?

If you specialize in marketing condos in Downtown Vancouver, make sure “condos” appears in your headline. With so many faces to choose from, the more carefully you target searchers, the more likely you are to be found. If you specialize in oceanfront view properties in Whiterock, stating that in your headline makes you a front runner in related searches.

Trying to cast a wider net tends to work against you here, diluting your relevance. The more you try to appeal to everyone, the less likely you are to connect with anyone.

Specify your location. It always amazes me how many real estate marketers will not fill in the geographic area they service. “Canada” is far too broad. You will never be found by searchers looking for “condos in Surrey”, for example, if you avoid associating yourself with “Surrey.” Commit to your chosen ‘farm’ area when you fill in the Location and Industry details.

Update your photo. If you don’t have an amazing, recent photo of yourself, have a professional photographer take one right away. You want an image that makes you appear professional, but also friendly and approachable.

The mug shots that hang in many real estate offices can be too standoffish, particularly if they were taken with the arms crossed pose so popular a few years back. Cell phone ‘selfies’ and photos where you’re included with loved ones are not professional. The caricature you took home from your Christmas party may be cute, but it makes a cheesy business icon.

It goes without saying that hiding behind a logo or QR code is a very bad idea. This is a people business and, like it or not, you are the brand. Striving for anonymity and a successful real estate career is like trying to drive in opposite directions at the same time.

Fill in the blanks. Take the time to fill in your career background and educational history completely. LinkedIn provides a handy profile completeness meter to assist you.

People that seem to appear out of nowhere aren’t as credible as those that are confident their background and life experience provide a foundation for their current career in real estate. If your career history only covers the last four years, readers will not naturally conclude you’ve always been in real estate. They are more likely to draw from the omission that you may be ashamed of your roots.

You don’t have to include every embarrassing detail of your life, but allow people get to know you. Letting them know, for example, that you’re a golfer, can be a point of connection with a potential buyer.

Be different! As you’re filling in your profile, write for the readers. Think in terms of benefits. If you make a claim, jump to the readers’ side of the table and ask what difference that makes.

Studying the competition can be risky, if it causes you to become another clone. The concept you want to embrace is “contrast”. Show your personality in your profile. The general rule of thumb here is: you will succeed to the degree you stand out from the ambient noise.

Back it up. Anybody can say they are the eyes and ears of their customer, or they have their thumb on the pulse of the local real estate market. In fact, most do say something to that effect.

If you claim to be a hard worker, and incredibly driven, include one or two small stories in which you staged a marathon event to sell out an entire condo building, skipping meals and running on caffeine and passion alone. It can be light and entertaining, and makes the point in a way the standard one-line claim never could.

Optimize it. Go over your profile to make sure you’ve included keyword terms that pertain to your area of expertise and location.

Do your recommendations align with your headline and optimized keywords? It may be difficult for some to delete endorsements for terms like “commercial real estate”, but if 90% of your business comes from condo sales, those endorsements could represent dilution. A bit of pruning can help you show greater focus for the business you specialize in.

Check everything over carefully. In your blog, you wouldn’t click the ‘Publish’ button before checking the spelling and grammar, and verifying dates. Put the same effort into your profile. Errors in your profile send the message that you’re a person that doesn’t care.

This is the first in a series of articles for getting the most out of LinkedIn; turning it into your own personal lead generation machine.

Coming up

In the next post, I’ll tell you how to make connections and build your LinkedIn network.

Real Estate Marketing Tip: The Power of Reciprocity

Real estate marketing tip

Reciprocity Within The Industry

In Canadian real estate circles, the term “reciprocity” typically applies to MLS Reciprocity, or the IDX feed for displaying MLS reciprocity results on the website. (IDX is an acronym for Internet Data Exchange.)

Real Estate boards like the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) and Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) provide their own proprietary feeds. Their Reciprocity Programs allow participating real estate companies to share web based listings. FTP and RETS are the two types of data feeds many third-party vendors also use to aggregate MLS data and display it on approved real estate websites.

rec·i·proc·i·ty
noun \ˌre-sə-ˈprä-s(ə-)tē\

: a situation or relationship in which two people or groups agree to do something similar for each other, to allow each other to have the same rights, etc. : a reciprocal arrangement or relationship

As it applies to IDX, reciprocity represents a relationship in which MLS listings are exchanged and made available across many agent and broker websites. That’s the promise of IDX. Any MLS listing you enter, becomes immediately available across thousands of websites.

So why doesn’t it work all that well on most sites? It’s estimated that if at least 20% of the real estate professionals stepped up to the plate, providing real value to their visitors and search engines, and attracted “eyeballs” to their websites, IDX would fully deliver on expectations. The phone would be ringing constantly and the inbox would be full of inquiries.

Somewhere along the way, real estate professionals bought into the pipe dream that there actually is a quick, ultra cheap, “no work”, solution to success. Pay your fifty bucks a month, bang out a quick cookie cutter site, with MLS reciprocity feed, fill in the 5 or 6 standard pages, and wait for the leads to pour in. Yeah right!

Reciprocity With Your Buyers

There’s a far more important exchange, that many real estate professionals have not actively embraced… the one with the prospective buyer and the search engines that can literally ‘make it rain’. You must share to receive. When you publish regular, useful content, your website is:

1. Worth reading

2 Worth linking to by other sites (this influences rankings)

3. Worth indexing  by search engines (it becomes ‘findable’)

4. Worth subscribing to (you have permission to influence their decisions again and again)

5. Worth sharing through social media channels

Internet marketing works for those who work. There is no free (or nearly free) ride. Failure to invest time and effort into content marketing consistently produces abysmal returns for conventional small businesses, and it works the very same for real estate. It doesn’t have to be you, but someone must be actively publishing regular, epic quality, relevant, hyper-local content on your website. The content must be marketed, and there should be engagement with your prospective buyers in social channels. Subscribers and inquiry leads are nurtured with ongoing valuable content.

Whether you hire a coach for your team, or a content marketing pro that specializes in real estate, you need to become proactive. Traffic is earned. You don’t receive it automatically because you tossed up a cheap website in a few hours. There’s a proven blueprint and carefully executed strategy behind success.

When you sell real estate, you are the brand. Invest in it.

The law of reciprocity dictates that you get out of any relationship, exactly what you put in. When you provide value first, you can expect value in return. Is it worth it? If you’re about the only real estate website in your area anybody visits, and they check out the available MLS Reciprocity listings on your site, who do you think will get the call, or an email? Standing out from the herd has its advantages.

Back To You

In no relationship I know of, can we expect the most, by investing the very least. It certainly doesn’t work in a marriage? :-)

Would you agree, that providing genuine value to your prospective buyers, is the best way to upgrade them into leads? Or have you been led to believe that Internet marketing is a complete waste of time and money, by someone selling more ‘traditional’ marketing? I welcome your feedback…

Content Marketing Stats You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Content marketing statsSome business owners and professionals are still skeptical about content marketing. They’re gradually coming to the realization that advertising on traditional media is coming to an end, and they’re going to have to get on board with content marketing, or lose market share to competitors, but they see taking the plunge in 2014 as opttional.

27 million pieces of content are shared every single day and 9 out of 10 organizations already actively market with content. It’s mainstream, and everybody’s doing it.

NewsCreed has put together an informative slide deck, with 50 marketing stats website owners need to know.

Content Marketing is a Marathon, not a Sprint

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprintOne of the greatest challenges we face as content marketers is overcoming unrealistic client expectations.

Even with high quality content, published on a regular editorial schedule, great search engine rankings and impressive traffic numbers, your readers will probably need to come back several times before they take any action. We have to keep investing the energy, without growing weary.

We live in an instant gratification generation, and publishing content rarely triggers the immediate buying response web owners are hoping for. There’s a tendency to jump ship before the return on investment kicks in.

If runners quit before the first water stop, nobody would ever finish a 10K run, much less a marathon. Rand Fishkin spoke on this yesterday on Whiteboard Friday. He makes a very good point. Competitor impatience is a wonderful thing for those of us that do stick with the program, and it’s one of the reasons content marketing works so well. If everyone hung in there, the competition may be too stiff.

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Are You Saying The Worst Thing Possible?

Real estate marketing tipAs those of you who read my posts will know, I come from the direct sales trenches, where we were taught, “Always be closing!” But more recently, I’ve read many articles that suggest the art of closing is an outdated tactic, that hails from the last millennium.

Quite a few years ago, we spent a lovely Sunday afternoon looking at houses. The third one was exactly what we were looking for. The agent could sense we really wanted it.

She had begun the ascending close. “So you really like this kitchen?” Yes, it’s perfect. “Is the second bedroom a good size for your sewing room?” Yes. “And will the den suit your needs, Cole, for an office?” Should do nicely. “It sounds like you really love the house?” Yes, it has everything on our list. One small “yes” after another…

The next question should have been something like, “So why don’t we write up an offer?” She would then have tactfully shut up and waited (for what often feels like an eternity), until we responded with what would have, in this case, been a yes.

Years later, I still drive by that house from time to time. We never bought it. Do you know what she said to us as we stood by the door, with all those buying signals? “Well you two obviously have a lot to think about…” She made sure we both had her card, shook our hands and smiled warmly, then walked us to our car. I received a voice message a few days later, and I meant to discuss it when I got home… not really sure what happened.

The real estate agent that drove us around that day, was very gracious, helpful and a wealth of information. She had a wonderful personality, and had built a great rapport with us. Sadly, she didn’t want to put those comfortable, friendly feelings at risk by asking us to buy.

Here’s the thing, it is only when we close the sale, that we open the door to future interactions. Had we purchased that home, we would have spent time together during the closing. She would have been invited to the house warming party. And we may have contacted her down the road with referrals. Because she never pressed for a sale, we never saw her again.

Back to you

Do you have a story to share, where you either didn’t pull the trigger, or you locked eyes with your prospect and waited until the answer was, “Okay, let’s put in an offer for…”?

 


StudioPress Theme of the Month

Is a Discovery Process Necessary in Effective Web Design?

Web design discovery process“Look, I just want a quote, okay.”

These are words I’ve heard many times over the years. Prospective clients often balk at entering a discovery process. They assure me they just want a price, so a decision can be made. “Why would you want to waste all this time, when all you have to do is give me your price and I can give you a quick yes or no?”

The problem here is that the new website is viewed as a commodity. People evaluate website proposals the same way they do hamburgers, based upon the list of ‘ingredients’ vs price. In an RFQ showdown, the Hardee’s burger (in the illustration) would lose, because it doesn’t have lettuce, tomato or pickles… a shorter list, even though there is far more burger for the money.

Burger comparisonA client-centric design process assumes that the customer is always right, they know what’s best for their business, and the designer/developer/marketer’s role is nothing more than that of a vendor or ‘work for hire’. That perception, and the way customers shop for internet marketing services, is the reason most websites are listed as a non-recoverable “expense” on the balance sheet.

I’ll be the first to admit that many so-called ‘web designers’ and online marketers are no more than mouse-pushing fulfillment contractors; the unfortunate product of the way most people shop for internet marketing services. It’s very important to differentiate ‘laborer’ from ‘trusted adviser’.

My question is: How is it possible to propose the perfect solution before knowing much about the client, their business, its history, their competition, who their customers are, their goals, or even attempting to discover the problems the solution is supposed to solve?

As an online marketing consultant of more than 17 years, I of course favor an ROI-centric approach with a discovery process, where client profit is priority #1.

Here’s something else few buyers of websites think about. Without proper discovery, a proposal is based on very sketchy information. If that proposal is accepted, the vendor now fears losing the contract by scrapping or revising some of the initial components of the project. So they’ll just stick with the original recommendations, or RFQ bullet points, even though further evaluation exposes a strategy and tactics that are not the right approach at all. Oops!

Commodity vendor vs trusted professional adviser

I see web design, development, SEO and content marketing as being just like any other professional service, such as legal counsel or medical diagnosis. I believe it is a seasoned professional’s duty to carefully research each unique project, assemble the very best solution options for consideration, and help the customer make quality choices based upon the unique aspects of their business, their marketing goals and budget. In the case of online marketing, the right decisions should always result in increased sales, and a healthy return on investment.

When determining the best treatment for complex symptoms, where misdiagnosis could be costly, or even life threatening, the competent physician asks plenty of questions, accompanied by a thorough examination. Additional tests are taken and evaluated. Often more tests are then scheduled to confirm the diagnosis. Physician and patient meet several times to discuss treatment options. And only then is the appropriate treatment prescribed.

With the conventional RFQ or interview process, the owner, or a few members of the management team, look at websites they like and create a shopping list. Without much internet marketing experience, if any, design aesthetics and features become the primary considerations. Requests for quotation are sent out to anywhere from ten to several hundred competing vendors. And the longest list of items on the proposal, for the best price, generally wins the bid.

Experienced estimators quickly learn how to game the RFQ system. For example, one company may list the inclusion of a ‘Blog’, with a paragraph describing it. A competitor breaks that item down into 8 components. They then do the same thing for each item. The resulting twenty page proposal looks a lot more substantial than most of the “thin” ones, almost assuring the project will be won based on perception of “bang for the buck”. For recommendations made completely off the cuff, it does look impressive.

When the buyer puts together a request for proposal, it’s like a patient doing a bit of Google research, providing a self diagnosis for their illness, and requesting physicians to tender bids for the delivery of the chosen drugs or surgical procedure. The approach would be ridiculous, of course, and a misdiagnosis could prove fatal.

Nobody takes quotes from a long list of dentists and chooses the lowest bidder to perform a root canal on the tooth pointed out. It may not even be the right one. Rather, we select an established professional, who takes x-rays, evaluates the bone structure, and then goes through the advantages and disadvantages of several solutions, that may include a root canal, an extraction and bridge, or dental implant.

For the legal profession, it would be the same as preparing your own defense for a serious crime, then selecting the attorney to present your defense in court, as your ‘courtroom puppet’, based upon his/her attire and the price on the quotation. While it’s highly unlikely any self-respecting lawyer would take on the case under those terms, the outcome would almost certainly include a long prison sentence.

Why do we automatically go to established, trusted professionals in these situations, instead of using a bid process? Because the stakes are so high. Yet, businesses live and die based upon the success of their websites and online marketing.

Your company’s future, or your career, deserve the benefit of the advice of an experienced internet marketing professional. To determine the very best solution, there is a discovery process that needs to take place before the adviser has enough information to design a solution that will deliver a solid return on your investment.

The takeaway

You’re buying a successful strategy, and the professional behind it, more than a collection of pixels that make up your website on the screen. Building a lead-generating site, and implementing the content marketing strategy, will probably involve working closely together for months or years. The pre-discovery and discovery processes provide an opportunity for the prospective client and adviser to work together to see if they might be a good fit.

 

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Seeing is Believing

Real estate marketing tipEver wonder why you’re not receiving many emails or calls from your site?

Talk is cheap

Any real estate agent can state that they have their thumb on the pulse of the real estate market in their community. Almost everyone claims that they are the leading local expert, they have the insider information buyers need, and they’re ever so passionate about their community, yada, yada… Read the About Me pages on almost every site and they say essentially the same thing.

Nobody has any reason to believe what you say. As a society, we’ve become very jaded towards marketing statements. A posed or Photoshopped photo in a community setting doesn’t prove you know anything about the real estate in your area. The years you’ve put in don’t prove you’re still a top player. Contrast and proof are key.

What’s contrast? Your website will succeed to the degree your message stands out from the ambient noise. In other words, look at what the majority of agents are doing on their sparse sites, and don’t do that. Be different.

So how do you prove that you are a wealth of up-to-date information, and the go-to Realtor® they should call? Simple…

Demonstrate it with content

Award badges are often suspect. If you say you sell more real estate, you can easily prove it through your site’s vast archive of sold properties. Please tell me you don’t delete listings as soon as they sell, or that you only display IDX reciprocity (3rd party) data on your site.

Your current and archived listings are pure gold. Current listings present your inventory to prospective buyers, but also for indexing by search engines. The archives are huge credibility builders with prospective sellers, and they also present plenty of keywords and content that support local search on Google. Time is money, and there are some brilliant, real estate software solutions for managing listings very efficiently on your website.

It has been said that if you want to be successful in any endeavor, study success. I have been building a swipe file from the real estate ‘heavy hitters’ ($1 million+ per year in commissions) in North America ever since I built the first site for a Realtor® in 1998. Almost without exception, they display their own listing inventory on the pages of their websites, and not through 3rd party IDX data. Think there’s a connection between that decision and the rankings, traffic and success they enjoy?

“To rank well, build a site so fantastic that it makes you an authority in your niche.”

Matt Cutts, Head of Google Web Spam Team

Google is trying to list websites that have real content, published by authority authors in the field, that real people use, engage with, share online and link to.

Most agent’s sites have terrible search engine rankings. No surprise there. They churn out the standard 5 or 6 web pages, have the webmaster drop in an IDX code snippet, so they display reciprocity data, and convince themselves they now have a lead generation machine. And then they wait… and wait… But take a look at the site, for a moment, from Google’s perspective. There’s a ‘Contact Me’ page, with a form, a Home page ‘slider’, and a self promotion ‘About Me’ page… no real content so far. The other 2 to 5 pages are just a regurgitated version of the fluff everyone else puts on their site… essentially duplicate content. And then there’s the 3rd party reciprocity data that isn’t part of the site at all. NO CONTENT is the problem.

The fact that most agents took the easy route in developing their websites and “content” (if you can call it that) opens up incredible content marketing opportunities for you.

When someone pulls out their mobile device in West Vancouver, for example, Google is going to provide a short list of websites for agents that list and sell properties in the immediate geographic area. In this case, let’s say that’s Ambleside. The on-site listings you took the time to re-enter on your website are legitimate on-site content, and validate your claim that you do business in the Ambleside area. Over time you may have accumulated 36 listings (current and archived) within a 10 block radius, so you should be listed right at the top.

While IDX data certainly has its place, it fails dismally at bringing traffic to your site. If you want someone to scan the IDX listings and call you for a showing, you will have to get them to your site first. Your site’s own content, and broader content marketing strategy, makes that happen.

If you’re the prospects’ eyes and ears, in the real estate market, someone needs to be writing in your blog every time there’s a new condo building available, they break ground on a new project, there’s a zoning change that affects the real estate market, etc. You’re very busy, so you may want to have one of your team handle this, or hire an SEO copywriter with real estate content experience, but someone needs to be building your dynamic content.

If you’re very active in your community, your blog and social media pages can demonstrate this as well. The trick here is to make these posts about the reader. Your inclusion in the photos should appear incidental. Focus on the experiences, and sense of community your prospective buyer can expect.

Again, if you take a page from the playbook of some of the heavy hitters, video tours of your listings provide both valuable content for your site, and quality media to share in video posts on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. As with listings, adding geographic references to video is a legitimate (non-spammy) way to establish yourself in local search. How-to videos are also very popular. For example, one week you could create a video on “Choosing the Perfect Vancouver Condo.” You would of course include several of your listings in the video, to illustrate the features available.

Detailed information for each of your neighborhoods can be invaluable for buyers considering a move to your area. And it’s an excellent way to build up your relevant content, authority and organic search traffic. Let’s say you have 7 neighborhoods that make up your geographic territory. If you create 4 or 5 pages of quality information on each, you could have 35 new pages that will decimate the other sites that only devoted a single paragraph to each neighborhood.

You’re selling a lifestyle; not so much a house. Your content is the perfect place for you to show that you really get that. Let the other sites embed their ‘canned’ data, while you give your visitors a taste of the lifestyle they’ll soon enjoy. People don’t tweet and share “listings”much, but they will share a post about a dream lifestyle, or a community experience that touches them.

This is just a short list of some of the wonderful content possibilities available to real estate professionals. Over time you’ll become adept at spotting content opportunities, or you can have a content marketing expert map out a content strategy and publishing schedule.

Is it worth it? Real estate is an industry in which even one or two additional, highly qualified leads per month can make the difference between making a living and enjoying an extraordinary income. A site that does what it’s supposed to — generate leads — is a valuable asset, rather than an expense entry on the balance sheet.

The proof is in the content. The very best of luck, “out contenting” your competition. I welcome your comments and questions.