Real Estate Marketing: Leverage Your Story

Real Estate Marketing: Leverage your story

Are you guilty of underestimating the value you bring to prospective clients? Do you see competing agents as having more going for them? Do they have more years in the business, and an enviable reputation for being the go-to person for listing or showing a home? Do their signs seem to be on every desirable property? Perhaps they have the token Mercedes or Range Rover for schlepping clients around in style, while you drive a Honda. You may be overlooking a major advantage.

The ace up your sleeve

Do you ever apologize for the career you had before real estate? Here’s the thing; not that many enrolled in the real estate licensing course right out of university, or are second or third generation agents that grew up in a real estate family. Many of the top performers had a life before real estate.

Your life experience can become your greatest asset, because it helps you better relate to a certain type of prospective buyer or seller. What you see as a very “ordinary” past, may be the very thing that helps you stand out above the ambient noise.

Your story is your leverage. There are buyers and sellers that will be able to relate better to you than any other agent because of your life experience. Instead of hiding your story, you should include it strategically in your content marketing strategy.

The takeaway

Adding a nifty new IDX widget or animated image gallery to your website isn’t going to make them contact you. People prefer doing business with people they like, feel they can relate to and trust to get the job done. Your website should showcase your story and let your prospective clients meet you in a natural way.

If I can answer any questions, please leave comment below, or schedule a free 20 minute coaching session.

Designing an Effective Real Estate Website

Designing an Effective Real Estate Website

A site designed to give you, the owner, exactly what you wanted may actually be the single greatest obstacle standing in the way of rankings, traffic and leads.

Even a drop-dead gorgeous award-winning website may not be a good design.

What is good design? For the real estate professional, the website must increase sales, not overhead.

Massimo Vignelli often said, “Design is not art. Art does not have to be functional.”

An attractive website can potentially increase page views, lower the bounce rate and enhance the number of earned links to its pages. But is a beautiful site necessary to perform well on the bottom line? Sadly, that would be a no. Four of the ugliest websites have made millions: Facebook, Google, Plenty of Fish and Craigslist.

So what makes a website design good?

It all begins with great content. The design then focuses on presenting your extremely valuable content in its best light. Most sites have it backwards. They design a new site and then replace the “Lorem Ipsum” filler text with hastily written copy.

Value is perceived in under 3 seconds. Visitors should know within 3 seconds if they’ve arrived at a site that is likely to answer their question or have what they are looking for.

It differentiates you from the ambient noise. Your USP (unique selling proposition) should be plainly visible. All other factors being equal, you will succeed to the degree you contrast yourself from the herd.

It connects you with your audience. Your visitors aren’t going to contact you because your IDX widget is cooler, or the design is sexier. They have to like you, trust you and genuinely believe you can help them. Your content must convince them of that.

It takes visitors where they need to go. Calls to action on the home page should grab visitors by the hand and lead them to the content they need by the shortest possible route. No desired page should be more than 3 clicks away.

The visitor doesn’t have to think or work. Where there’s a lot of content, consider using accordion or overlay panels to reveal additional information, so visitors don’t have to click to other pages.

There’s something for all three types of visitors. For search-oriented users, make the search field is prominently displayed. For menu-driven visitors, be sure the menu is easy to use, and choose only the most common menu terms rather than trying to be cute. For lazy users that want content to come to them, a video on the home page can tell your story without clicking a thing.

The pages are fast loading. Good websites avoid resource-hogging JavaScript features and huge images. Consider using CSS3 instead of buttons, box shadows, border radii, gradients, animated transitions and transformations, etc. You will beat your competitors by providing better content; not more gimmicky features and larger, slow-loading images.

Your content has killer titles. A great title will lead visitors to read your page or post. Titles also improve rankings and increase click-throughs from search engine results.

A photo is worth a thousand words. Choose images that not only support your content, but also intrigue your audience. Remember that Google can’t “see” your photos. Make sure you optimize your image file names, titles and  ALT tags.

Take it easy on hi-res images. Not everyone has retina displays. Serving up enormous image files to people that can’t enjoy them unnecessarily increases load times.

Interaction and sharing are encouraged. A successful website encourages commenting and sharing of content. Some of the “evergreen” (will still be relevant and useful a few years from now) content has a high value and this encourages links from other sites.

Real Estate Marketing: Should You Cut Corners in Acquiring Leads?

Real estate marketing tipUsing Insider Information vs Cultivating Leads Organically

Our office is contacted dozens of times each business day by email and phone spammers claiming they are responding to my request for information.

This brazen approach is based on the assumption that I’m so busy I can’t possibly remember who I requested information from, so I won’t catch them in a lie. But, like you, my time is valuable, and I actually do remember that I’ve never contacted these companies before. Would I do business with people that attempt to initiate a relationship on lies? Would you?

Hundreds of CRM (customer relationship management) and other online marketing services exist that offer insider information on anyone that fills in the contact forms on your website, or in some cases, just visits your website. Some ‘scrape’ the information from sites like Facebook, providing personal information only available to authorized “friends”, and you can have this for a modest monthly fee.

Other companies attract subscribers by offering well written ebooks and white papers, in exchange for a name and email address, then collect more and more answers entered into their landing page forms every time you download another document. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by almost daily offers of exciting content for download, you’ve probably been on one of these lists. Along with the form data, they store your IP address. They then sell this marketing intel to their own clients for a monthly fee. Every time you visit a site of one of their clients, they can access all of the stored information on you, plus anything they may have scraped. Well, at least that’s the theory.

On the surface, this insider knowledge is very enticing. Wow! You can know exactly who visited your website. They don’t even have to fill in a form and you can pounce on them with a phone call the very same day.

Where Did You Get My Number?

First of all, I have no problem at all with gaining subscribers by offering high quality information in exchange for a name and email address. If you use the CASL-approved double opt-in process, and then follow up with more valuable information as promised, you have a firm grasp of effective online marketing. You’re building a relationship of trust with your audience.

It’s the organizations gathering intel on prospects that sell the information as part of a monthly service that can be “trust busters.”

1. IP addresses can represent an entire office, family or coffee shop. The chance that you are contacting the person that actually visited your site is a crap shoot. Your opening statement, when contacting them, could therefore be an outright lie: “You were on my website yesterday…”  It’s not a good way to begin a relationship of trust, particularly when discussing what is probably the largest transaction these people will ever consider.

2. Information gained by scraping represents an invasion of privacy. Contacting people, with far more information than you should have about them, is downright creepy. Don’t expect them to warm to you.

If you can’t pass on the allure of insider information, at least reach out to prospective clients in a more natural way. If you call them before a connection has been made you risk being caught in a lie, or creeping them out. You might follow people that have visited your site, in social networks, and find more authentic ways to enter conversations by adding thoughtful and useful comments.

The Takeaway

Content marketing offers you a refreshing way to demonstrate genuine value to your prospective clients.

Real estate is a relationship business, and trust must be at the foundation. Clients need to know that you are the best person to help them buy or sell their home. Why not show your audience that you know a lot more about your area and local property than the competition by producing more valuable content?

Consider earning leads instead of buying insider information about prospects. It’s content that gets visitors to your website in the first place. Provide invaluable additional local information as free downloads and you can expect your visitors to very willingly give you their contact information in exchange for more of the same.


Want to pick my brain? The first 20 minute coaching session is free. (Form to right)

Cole Wiebe

Real Estate SEO: Preparing for 2015

Real estate SEO tipYou may have come across blog articles that state that “SEO is dead”. That statement has made great link bait for over a decade. However, real estate professionals are more baffled by the rapid evolution of search marketing than ever, and need highly targeted SEO and content marketing strategies to gain any traction in the marketplace.

A few years ago, when we optimized client sites, we focused on the keyword relevance of each page, and the quantity and quality of inbound links from other sites. If certain formulas were followed, results were very predictable. That made the system easy to game, and Google began rolling out algorithm updates to target sites with low quality content and links that were enjoying rankings they had not earned through quality content.

Following the Panda and Penguin updates, SEO has become a content play. Publish epic quality (far better than anything competitive sites are publishing) content that provides great value to your audience and your site will send all the right signals to avoid any Google penalties.

More recently, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update is addressing changes in the way users are currently searching. Mobile queries are predicted to surpass those from conventional computers before the end of this year. Switching to a responsive, fast loading site design can position you to take full advantage of this trend. Many SEOs believe Google already favours mobile friendly sites for the coveted top-10 ranking positions.

Hummingbird also enables Google to more effectively process longer, conversational searches that are often presented as questions. As Google moves away from keywords to semantic search, we need to change our writing style to align with user intent. Instead of stuffing our content with keywords like “vancouver condos” and “high-rise apartments in vancouver”, we should try to answer questions like “Where are the new condo buildings?” in our posts and articles.

If you want to outrank the sites currently holding the top positions in local search, you need to “out content” those sites by becoming “more local.”

With a diminishing focus on keywords, we can also expect Google to match user requests with the most local results. For most agents, being “findable” for their farm area means everything. It’s become increasingly important to have your website associated with a local Google My Business (formerly Google Places) listing. Including a Google Map of your location on your Contact page, and publishing regular hyperlocal content also helps establish your location.


Want to pick my brain? The first 20 minute coaching session is free. (Form to right)

Cole Wiebe

Real Estate Marketing: What Should Your Website Have on the Home Page?

Real estate marketing tipEver notice that most real estate sites in a geographic area will have almost the same content? The majority will include IDX (MLS Reciprocity) listings. There’s an About Me page, some buyer and seller pages, and probably one or two forms.

Let’s face it, it’s excruciatingly boring for prospective buyers and sellers to check out a bunch of local agent sites. They’re all the same. The home page will usually have an image slider at the top. (Sliders rotate photos.) Many lazy sites will just post photos of the local area, but a few agents do use the slider effectively to display large, stunning images of their listings, linked to an on-site listing page.

If you’re listing homes, you want to be proudly displaying your inventory. Your real estate photographer is your secret weapon. A drop-dead gorgeous magazine-quality alternative to the slider on the home page is a mosaic layout with large in-your-face photos. Each image in the panel links to the applicable on-site listing page.

Many agents believe that if they can just add a cool enough IDX search interface, a flood of buyers will contact them for a showing. However, statistics indicate that visitors rarely complete an MLS search on the first three visits to an agent’s site. So if they’re coming back a 4th or 5th time, before they contact anyone, guess what they’re checking out… you.

Are you introducing yourself effectively on your home page? People aren’t going to slog through a lengthy bio on the home page. One of the very best introductions you can make is through a welcome video. Given the choice between an agent they’ve already met, by way of video, and all the others they have not, the chances they’ll call you just went up significantly.

Your video should get them to like you. Instead of bragging, provide some valuable local insider information. You want them to begin to trust you. And they should come to the end of the video believing you can help them buy or sell a property. Present your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) clearly, so they understand what makes you stand out from all the other agents that want their business.

Your home page should leave no doubt in your visitors’ minds that they’ve come to the right place. For example, if they’re looking for a condo in Vancouver East’s trendy renovated buildings, and that’s your specialty, your home page should provide evidence of that and link to more information.

If you need to get visitors to return several times, are you providing compelling calls to action on your home page?

1) Are you asking them to exchange their email address for a very desirable ebook with valuable local information? You could create something like: “10 Things You Must Know to Get The Best Price For Your Vancouver East Condo.” Subscribers to your list have given you permission to influence their decisions again and again. Make sure your emails deliver and link back to more great content.

2) Is the home page leading them to the useful hyperlocal “evergreen” content pages you’ve prepared, and your latest blog posts? Are your blog posts so valuable they’ll subscribe to your RSS feed in their reader, to make sure they don’t miss a single post?

While usually not part of the home page itself, make sure your website’s template includes your phone number in the header and additional contact details in the footer.

The Takeaway

Your home page is the most valuable page on the site. Make it a labor of love. Be prepared to tweak it to reduce your bounce rate and increase the number of pages your prospective clients visit.


Want to pick my brain? The first 20 minute coaching session is free. (Form to right)

Cole Wiebe

Real Estate Marketing: Need Leads Before Content Marketing Kicks In?

Real estate marketing tipMany agents simply can’t wait months for enough of their content strategy to roll out for the leads to start coming in. Does that mean content marketing’s not for them?

Paid search platforms like Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Yahoo! Search Ads can begin delivering qualified leads in as little as 48 hours. If you have a new domain, or have changed your marketing focus recently, you may not have any search engine rankings or organic traffic. Paid search offers an attractive stopgap solution.

The instant gratification of buying ads can be a trap however and it’s something you need to be aware of. When you’re maxing out your marketing budget in paid ads, there may be little or nothing left for creating and publishing brilliant content or marketing it through social media. Relying on ads for most of your traffic, for the life of your website, isn’t a cost effective strategy. It’s important to invest part of your marketing budget into epic content (epic = far better than anything your competitors are publishing) as well.

A strategy in which paid search decreases as content marketing results increase can be the ideal solution for website owners that can’t wait for organic results to kick in.

The balance between paid and organic search

Think of paid search as “renting.” You aren’t building any equity. If you have a slow month, and find yourself cutting back on PPC (pay per click) advertising, your traffic will evaporate when you need it most.

Conversely, you own the content you create and publish. Your site’s content, and the marketing of that content in social channels, gradually builds up your online equity every week. When you invest time and money into organic search on your site, in Google, Bing, Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and others, you’re building credibility and authority online. You have the ability to establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field.

If you’re new to PPC (pay per click) advertising, be sure to get some expert assistance. An effective strategy, carefully implemented, with well-written ads, landing pages and expert copywriting, can dramatically increase your return on investment.

High converting landing pages are essential. If your paid visitors aren’t contacting you and joining your email list, you’re losing money. A high bounce rate will also decrease your quality score with Google, and that means you’ll pay a lot more for your ads.

The Takeaway

If you need leads right away, a strategy that includes content marketing as well as paid search may provide the best balance between quick results and long term growth and sustainability.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing: Becoming the Go-To Agent in Your Area (Part 2)

Real estate marketing tipBecoming “findable”

In part one, I discussed the ‘Quick, Easy and Cheap’ rent-a-site solution so popular with real estate professionals in North America. Agents pay their monthly fee, slap up a cookie cutter site in under an hour and wait for leads. And while well established agents can turn up in Google when their name is searched, this minimalist approach doesn’t produce results for newer agents, where they aren’t known as the go-to agent in the area, and someone is searching for a particular type of property in their neighbourhood.

As in all areas of life: minimal investment, minimal return. Contrary to all the spam emails that promise otherwise, there are no shortcuts to becoming the best.

Without “eyeballs” nobody is going to contact you regarding a home they saw in IDX (MLS Reciprocity in BC). They won’t join your email list, phone or fill in a form.

Bottom line: if they can’t find you, they can’t buy from you or give you the listing.

So how can someone rise to become that go-to person? If it took your competitor twenty years to become established as the local expert, can you realistically overtake him/her in a year or two? With the incredible exposure the Internet can give you, the answer in 2014 is “Yes!”

Your website

Credibility and authority are earned by providing incredibly valuable, unique information to prospective buyers and sellers. (The standard regurgitated buyer and seller pages that appear on almost every site in the country do not qualify as unique or valuable.)

With the Google algorithm updates that have been rolled out since February 2011, earning Google rankings has become a ‘local content’ play. And that’s good news for real estate professionals. Create and publish epic (far more valuable than anything the competition is churning out) hyper-local content on a regular schedule, promote it well, and you can expect Google to favour your site with high rankings.

You need to begin thinking of your website as a content platform. Each piece of content should become an asset; it either builds your relevance online, or dilutes it.

Focus

You can’t be all things to all people, if you want to become a recognized expert. You must choose an area to become the leading authority for. Specializing in one type of property or buyer also helps considerably. Specialization requires an act of courage, and not everyone is capable of such a bold step forward. And that’s a good thing, because it allows you to rise above the ordinary agents that are so afraid of missing anyone, they target and consequently miss everyone.

Becoming “more local”

I was in a Skype meeting with someone yesterday. To illustrate the value of relevant content in achieving rankings, I Googled “vancouver real estate”. Google indicated it had 72,500,000 page results indexed. Talk about competition!

The top 2 positions went to MLS sites, followed by Realtor.ca. After that, we came across major news providers, Craigslist, major brokerages and a few specialty real estate sites. Half way down the third page of results we discovered the first agent’s website. So why was he ranked that far down?

The top agent’s website simply had less relevant content for “vancouver” + “real estate.” The MLS sites had thousands of optimized listing pages for homes in Vancouver, so that was a no-brainer. The top ranking news sites had published many articles on Vancouver real estate over the years. And so had the websites of the major brokerages. Craigslist had tens of thousands of current and archived classifieds.

The two specialty real estate sites both focused on condos in a very small farm area in Vancouver. Because their content focus was tighter, one turned up on page one in Google’s results and the other on page two. But even those sites missed the mark, with only one or two pages of local information. Their on-site listing pages (not IDX/MLS Reciprocity feeds) had been aggressively optimized, and that’s the only reason they were able to “out content”some of the big boys.

In case you missed that, one of the quickest ways to generate plenty of local content on your site, for your SEO to optimize for your keywords, is to bring all of your current, expired and sold listings “home.” If they’re only available in IDX (MLS Reciprocity), they aren’t “your” content. (Displaying “piped in” IDX feeds on your site, from an external database, doesn’t physically place that content on your domain.) We will usually install software on client sites that allows them to easily re-enter all of their current and past listings on their own website. The MLS descriptions are rewritten, so they aren’t duplicate content, and then we carefully optimize each page for the keywords we’re targeting. That one insider trick could potentially get you ranked among the specialty real estate sites on the first two pages on Google.

But rankings and traffic alone will not establish you as the leading authority for real estate in your neighborhood.

Trying to “out content” top ranking sites like the top brokerages, MLS providers and directories in volume may not be affordable. But there’s another approach: become more local. And that’s what hyperlocal content is all about, providing higher quality local information than any other website.

We create a long list of things someone considering a move into the area may check out. Where are the parks? The schools? Churches? Grocery and convenience stores? Hair salons? Athletic facilities? What are the annual and upcoming community events? Are there any zoning changes that will affect new real estate and property values? Any new developments coming up? There are over a hundred potential pages and posts in every neighborhood.

If you’re writing a page on the Kitsilano schools, Google what’s currently available. For every piece of content you create and publish, your site’s version must be considerably better. If the top contender has 4 paragraphs and one photo, why not write 4 or 5 paragraphs for each school? Go out and take a main photo of each school, and a few more that feature things like the playground, a sports event, the charity drive results… you get the idea. Include a Google map, with pins for the locations.

So how does becoming the top local information resource help you sell real estate? For one, you’re also building out the on-site pages of your listings. And you’re creating valuable “real estate” information pages. If you sell condos in Kitsilano, for example, I recommend creating at least ten evergreen (will still be current and relevant a few years from now) pages that help buyers evaluate their condo options in the Kitsilano area, and make quality decisions when buying a condo. Some pages would target relocation buyers. Another might be written for retirees. And then there’s the investment buyer.

You will also want to create several must-have ebooks for download. You’re going to entice visitors to give you their contact information in exchange for this extremely valuable information.  For our example, how about an ebook entitled “Kitsilano Condo Buyer’s Guide: 10 Things You Must Consider Before Making Your Decision.” Others could be a “Kitsilano Relocation Kit – 2014 Edition” or the “Kitsilano Condo Investor’s Guide – 2014 Edition.” Each document will be marketed in an attractive landing page, with expert copywriting and attractive graphics.

But what if you’re targeting sellers, not buyers? For starters, it’s far more difficult to write inspired content for sellers, and you are going to need quite a lot of it, published regularly. To attract sellers, you require great rankings. You must be extremely “findable” on the search engines and social sites. Once you have rankings and qualified traffic, you can of course offer ebooks that target sellers; something like “Selling Your Kitsilano Condo: 10 Things Your Must Do to Get The Best Price.” In that way you control the type of leads you’re getting. (If you really don’t want buyer leads, you might also consider selling them to agents that do.) :-)) The other important reason for planning seller content carefully is that you could unwittingly convince visitors to take the FSBO approach. It’s better to provide a lot of hyper-local neighbourhood information on your site’s pages and exchange the really great seller content for a lead.

 Social media

Real estate is a relationship business. But everywhere you look you’ll find offers for a solution that automates social media and avoids the human connection. Saving time and leveraging our efforts can have advantages, but not when it makes our potential clients feel alienated. The primary advantage you offer over your competitors is the quality of experience and personal commitment you bring to the table. That’s another topic, and in an upcoming post I’m going to get into the importance of connection in social channels.

For the purposes of this article, I only want to stress the importance of getting the greatest return from your fresh content, by promoting it when your social posts are most likely to be read.

Facebook: 7 days a week, 10:08 am and 3:04 pm.

Twitter: Monday through Friday, 10:00 pm PT (midnight CT) to 8:00 pm PT (10:00 pm CT) the following day. On weekends, 1:00 am PT (3:00 am CT) to 7:00 pm (9:00 pm CT).

Google+: 9:03 am and 7:04 pm. Don’t bother posting on weekends.

LinkedIn: 8:14 am. Again, don’t bother posting on weekends.

You can install plugins on most popular web platforms that post to social channels automatically. I can never understand why bloggers will so willingly drop the baton right at the finish line. If you spend a few hours researching and creating a piece of extremely valuable content, why would you rely on software to blast out an excerpt it selects out to your audience without even proofing it?

It only takes a few minutes to manually post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. And it gives you the opportunity to proof and carefully tag your posts before they go live. You can also add a photo in Twitter, something most auto-post software won’t do. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ tabs are always open in my browser.

It should be noted that in order for your social media promotion to be effective, it is important to have a sizable list of subscribers/followers to post to. If you are only marketing your new content to 20 people, magic is not going to happen. And the quality of your readership is equally important. If you’ve been connecting with anyone you can, to create an impressive number of fans/followers/connections, I’m telling you the value of “social proof” has been grossly overrated. You need to be promoting your content to potential clients. Developing a good social following  is an area where many real estate professionals require coaching and assistance.

How content marketing is supposed to work

When you’re implementing a quality content marketing strategy, every time a new piece of content is published, and then promoted in social and other online channels, you should see a very noticeable spike in traffic on Google Analytics within hours. You literally have the handle of the faucet in your hand. If you want to turn the flow of leads on, create a great article or post, then promote it. There may be some new subscribers to your RSS feed, and more people will opt-in to your email list. These new subscribers represent influence. They’ve invited you to keep in touch. Some may call you directly, after seeing your new post on LinkedIn or Google+.

Any agent can say they have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in real estate in your area. You’re proving it, and that’s how you’ll become the leading authority over time.

Need leads right now?

Can’t wait for organic results? In the next post I discuss a way to strike a balance between quick results and long term growth and sustainability.

If you’re not already getting every update in your reader, click here and subscribe to our RSS feed today. Or leave a quick comment and check “Sign me up for blog updates!” to be notified by email every time a new post comes out.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing: Becoming the Go-To Agent in Your Area (Part 1)

Real estate marketing tipQuite a few years ago, as I completed the Real Estate Licensing course in Abbotsford, I was sent into the Vancouver regional office for orientation and training.

One of the things our instructor covered was the stiff competition we would face as new agents: seasoned heavy hitters with an established reputation, a formidable network of referrals and contacts, and efficient systems fine-tuned over decades. He warned us of the folly of believing youthful energy, and the willingness to work ridiculous hours, would magically enable us to overtake the seasoned pros.

He produced dismal statistics for the failure rate among new agents, and urged us to find a way to stand out. Specializing by market and/or geographic area, and finding a way to be truly unique was to be our salvation. He warned us against blending in, or trying to become all things to all people.

I made a sketch of the Pareto Principle triangle our instructor put on the overhead projector that day, and have made some tweaks to it over the years. Real estate is no different from other careers: 20% of the agents will make 80% of the money. If they don’t quit, most will fall into the dreaded comfort trap. They make just enough to cover the bills, perhaps finance the token Mercedes and take a vacation every year. They won’t muster the courage to specialize in one type of property or ‘farm’ area; and they will never really “buy in” to their career, investing in “get it done” marketing, coaching or shadowing the very top experts. He warned us about a minimal investment / minimal return mindset. (Been there, done that… more concerned about holding onto every penny of a small income, than investing in a better one.)

Real Estate Agent Incomve Pyramid

I’m sure similar speeches have been delivered to new agents across the country. So why is it that when I check out website after website, almost every real estate agent is doing the very same thing? Monkey see, monkey do.

In my real estate coaching, I often ask new agents how they arrived at their online strategy. I quickly discover that there actually is no strategy. They looked at the sites of a few of the better known agents and brokers in the area, then found a solution provider to essentially duplicate what they had. If the established agent doesn’t use social media or blog, and says it’s stupid, they avoid the content marketing approach as well.

This internet-averse solution generally includes an ultra-cheap rent-a-site solution, at under fifty bucks a month. (Some of the vendors promise your do-it-yourself cookie cutter website will be online in minutes. A lot of research and planning goes into these ‘easiest and cheapest’ marketing solutions. :-) ) A template is chosen, an About Me page is hastily written, a few standard Buyer and Seller pages are selected and the rest of the content comes from IDX (MLS Reciprocity in BC). Ta da!… another live website. And now all they have to do is wait for the leads to pour in. And they wait… then wait some more…

Does this no-brainer / no effort / no investment solution actually work? Unfortunately, for the old school agents that are already well established and connected: sometimes. Why? Because people already know them by name and reputation, and will search for these agents in Google directly with something like, “john smith north vancouver realtor.” They don’t have to be great content creators or active in social media. All they have to is rank for their name. They don’t require any help in getting up to speed with 2014 marketing. In fact, their rankings on Google can be shit (page 50 or worse), and they’ll still get customers by reputation.

But will this work for a new agent, when someone looks for “condos in vancouver?” Hell no! People will only click on MLS Reciprocity listings on your site, or contact you, if they visit your site. So what do you do, when you haven’t established your “kick ass and take names” heavy hitter reputation yet, and you’re not connected with the right people?

You must become incredibly “findable”!

If someone searches for the type of property you specialize in, in your ‘farm’ area, you need to come up in the top 5 results on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. #1 would be better.

And that’s what I’ll talk about in the next post: How do you become findable?

If you’re not already subscribed to our RSS feed, click here and subscribe today, so you’ll be notified in your reader when the next post comes out. Or leave a quick comment and check “Sign me up for blog updates!” to be notified by email every time a new post comes out.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

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.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

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.

Real estate lead generation

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.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours