Author and speaker Chris Smith offers advice on creating an online identity that keeps leads flowing in
By Buck Wargo
Many real estate agents are using Internet marketing incorrectly – and it’s costing them.
So says Chris Smith, co-founder of Curaytor, a marketing firm that works with real estate teams. In his new book, Peoplework: How to run a people-first business in a digital-first world, he details how to use technology as a means to initiate real conversations with real people. Digital marketing can be an effective way to generate leads, but only if agents use it the “right way.”
“If you take this stuff seriously and surround yourself with the right vendor, the right technology and the right people, your business should begin to thrive,” says Smith. “Technology, systems, email and Facebook are all enablers of more conversations with humans.”
Use them correctly, Smith says, and you can boost your sales significantly. Here are his best tips to maximize your digital reach and spark conversations that further relationships:
- Make an honest assessment
Agents should go to their website, spend five minutes on it and ask, ‘would I hire this person?’ Next, look at leads and closings and calculate how much you’re spending on digital marketing versus how much business they’re returning. Don’t automate your processes so much that you forget to analyze whether or not your online tactics are working.
- Invest in quality design
Your website will often be a client’s first impression of your business – it’s imperative it stands out! Don’t just go with your instinct. A variety of experts on design and development are out there, and it’s worth the money to hire them. “You have to invest in design – it’s what makes people trust you on the Internet,” Smith says. “Most of you guys at RE/MAX are really successful offline. You have to find ways to communicate that success and sophistication online.”
Smith suggests Associates check out firms such as Canva and 99designs for help in designing websites, emails, social media images and blog post images and a variety of other marketing materials. He says PicMonkey and similar sites can help with photo editing, and Elance is a great source for hiring freelance designers and writers.
- Enlist the help of a web-savvy partner
Social media allows you to speak directly to customers at a fraction of the cost of traditional avenues, but you have to have a plan. It’s not enough to simply have a profile page and publish subpar posts. Instead, work with a professional to make sure you are generating content that is informative, relevant and above all valuable to your audience. Generating enough content to remain relevant in the social sphere takes time and commitment, so again it may be worth the money to hire someone to manage your digital presence. If you can’t afford to hire an outside consultant, then it’s vital to have someone on your team who’s passionate about technology, online marketing and social media.
- Provide relevant, high-quality content
Smith recommends that agents hire freelancers to write high-quality blog posts that can be promoted on Facebook. It’s also helpful to create a page on Facebook for each listing with a professional photo, compelling headline and information on the property without including the price or address – this prompts people to follow up.
Email campaigns are another effective way to communicate with the people in your database and remind them of your services. You might include a link to a blog post about how much home values are increasing, for example, and how people can increase the value of their home. Sites like BuzzSumo, a subscription service that provides insight into the most popular content and the influencers who are sharing it, can give you suggestions on what articles to share in emails. Outsourcing the implementation and management of your campaign to an email-marketing firm is also well worth the investment.
“When you are helpful, can educate or entertain and do it in 108 words or less, it creates a conversation,” Smith says. “Anyone can buy leads, but you can’t buy conversions. And conversations lead to closings.”
- Target your follow-ups
Agents need to change the way they follow up on leads because that’s the crucial point in converting prospects to clients, Smith says.
Email followed by a phone call is a great way to follow up on leads. Rather than throw darts in the dark, so to speak, send mass emails once a month to everyone in your database, and call those who open them the next day, he suggests.
“It’s much more effective than cold calling,” Smith says.
Responding to comments and queries generated by your online content is also an important form of following up.
Despite the importance of technology, Smith says technology shouldn’t be what differentiates you from the competition. In the end, it’s all about useful service delivered in a personable way.
“Now that it’s all digital, the human experience is the wow factor,” he says.