Ten Ways Real Estate Pros Can Beat Online Competition
#1 -- Partner with Technology Companies. Instead of re-inventing the wheel on your website, partner with organizations that will give you best-in-class service. Find the best neighborhood demographic site, the best MLS listing partner, etc. and integrate them onto your own personalized site through your broker or on your own. Partnering with the best will give your potential leads a reason to visit your site one-stop shopping saving them a lot of time and helping you generate leads.
#2 -- Become Technology Savvy Based on your Business Plan. Technology for its own sake never did anyone (but the technologists who created it) any good. Develop a solid business plan built around using technology and knowing your new market and industry competition and really research and understand the technology your clients want.
#3 -- Choose a Niche. Investors, active adults, baby boomers, first-time buyers. They all want and need something different out of you whether you are a mortgage broker or a real estate agent. The new marketplace has greater room for niche players than for generalists, and you could easily become one with your existing business by creating new strategies.
#4 -- Become Highly Service Oriented. One thing the Internet has had a hard time replicating is service, especially personalized service. Becoming highly service oriented and building your reputation as such will lead to more clients and stronger loyalty.
#5 -- Think Differently -- New Techniques for a New Era. Using the same old techniques – sending out mailers, postcards, updates on prices and the common realtor notepads isn’t going to get you noticed in a completely changed marketplace! Be creative, find your niche, and get that message across to potential clients.
#6 -- Don’t Overlook Lead Generation. A new breed of systems is producing incredible lead generation capability, whether you work as an apartment leasing manager or a high-end home real estate agent. Over 90% of people use the Internet at some point during the buying or selling process; why not use this to generate your new leads? Most importantly, most leads generated on the Internet never get followed up on, and many are warm leads with incredibly responsive clients. Once you get the lead, cherish it, nurture it, and watch your base grow.
#7 -– Support Multiple Technologies! It’s easy to just pick up the phone or send e-mail; based on what method we are most comfortable communicating by. However, you need to communicate based on how your clients want to be communicated with. If your clients prefer e-mail, use e-mail. If they prefer instant messenger, get an IM account. The point is to find out what your clients prefer, be adaptable and support it!
#8 –- Create an Online Community. What better way to create loyalty, be responsive to your clients and listen to their needs than with an online community? Whether you use community forums, blogs or listserv feeds, and these tools can be extraordinarily helpful in getting your name, and your message, out to the clients you serve (or hope to serve).
#9 -– Don’t Underestimate Technology. Technology, two years ago, was a great friend to the real estate professional. It still can be, but take notice of who your new competition is; often real estate companies that offer services for far less than you can. You need to be better than these people by offering better service, better results, easier transactions, or preferably all three -– while still supporting the same level of technology as your competition. This means that 1) you need to know who these competitors are, 2) you need to know what they are doing, and 3) you need to know what your clients want and how and why they are using your competition. By melding all three, you can understand the marketplace and your consumer better than any online company but remember, your fiercest competitor used to be what you were told to embrace – technology!
#10 -– Implement Dynamic Web Sites that are Creative -– Dynamic Web Sites means different things to different people. Technologists might defer to the specific dynamic technology and code, while marketers might refer to an ability to change data on the fly with a changing marketplace. Integrate these different aspects by using technology, by providing more than just contact information (provide access to MLS listings, calculators, neighborhood information, demographics, maps, aerial photographs, comps, whatever you can think of!) on your website. Your website needs to be a portal, a service for your clients. Consider providing Intranet access, letting your investor-clients manage their portfolio and see it grow online. Send e-newsletters out to your clients based on your chosen niche. Show that you are an expert in your field and that you embrace technology that you don’t feel threatened by its existence!
Don’t be too frugal on your technology campaign, but do spend money where it is most appropriate.
Analyze Consumer-Facing Trends and Technology – Embrace it where it’s in your best interest.
Realize that the proprietary nature of information is broken down thanks to the Internet; you need a new strategy.
Focus on different market segments that still prefer to be “walked through” the process of buying and selling homes. Investors who don’t live in the area, first time home buyers frightened at the thought of signing those loan packages, people moving to new locations without the time to look, etc.
Consider Partnering with the “Big Guys.” Partner with companies that embrace technology; if you’re an independent consider working for bigger agencies that offer more technology, more leads, potentially more money.
Embrace For Sale By Owner (FSBO) clients. This a segment of sellers often ignored by real estate agents. Most are savvy enough (or have been told by their online site) to offer the buyers’ agent a commission.
Danielle Babb, Ph.D., MBA, is an accomplished technology professional with years of experience in the real estate industry. She has worked as an IT Leader in residential, commercial, and multi-unit real estate. She has worked for seven years at several Fortune 500 real estate companies in the technology field and is currently a consultant working with real estate organizations looking to improve their potential. She is the author of Commissions at Risk.
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