Gary Nagle of Plasma Realty, LLC, is an independent broker in Fort Mill, SC (www.fortmillhome.com) . Gary has been an agent for almost five years, during which he has devoted a great deal of time and effort (and a reasonable amount of money) to succeeding online. By his own words, he tried hard to do everything right, yet he did not really start to succeed online until he listened to a simple truth that has made all the difference.
Do you require mandatory registration? You might want to rethink that.
“More than 80% of my business is relocation from other parts of the county,” Gary opened a recent interview by reporting, “and all that nearly 80% of my business comes from my website. Until about the first of the year, however, despite retaining CompassSearch and a skilled web designer to make my site more SEO and user-friendly, my site produced “leads” that weren’t very good ones, and no sales. I required up front registration for everyone who wanted to look at MLS Listings via my IDX. While that strategy produced lots of registrations — many bogus — the quality of the registrations was poor.
"Oddly enough, within 5 days of taking Blackwater/Compass’s advice to turn off the required registration, I received my first totally voluntary registration — sometime in January 2008 — and that $325,000 contract went to closing in late February! Since I went to voluntary registration, the registrations are fewer, but the quality is much better. Fewer registrations of better quality means I also don’t waste time trying to follow up bogus registrations who grudgingly signed in because they had to in order to see homes.”
Here is a man who started with his own website in 2004, but who, as he puts it, “had a good website, but didn’t do very well because no one could find it!” So, like so many agents, Gary thought it was the website. He changed platforms in 2006 and “I began to learn about how a website needed to work to become effective.” You see, unless the website is a subdomain or not in the proper format (too much FLASH, <frameset>, no text, optimized for the wrong targets, etc.) it isn’t the host of the website that precludes a site from being found; rather, it is the lack of proper optimization. But that’s another story.
During this time, Gary was an agent with a major franchise. He finally decided to go out on his own — for many reasons — partially because “What I disliked most was that my dollars were going into my broker’s website, but if I received a lead from that website, not only did I have to endure my usual commission split, but I had to pay a referral fee on top of that! Now, those marketing dollars go to my website — and that is nowhere near the amounts that I was charged to support my broker’s website — and I get far more qualified activity from my own site than I ever got from his. If I had spent the money I was charged by my broker in my first couple of years on my own site, I probably would have had the number one website in the country by now, because he charged me A LOT of money!”
Gary Nagle’s first time
Gary remembers all the details of his first Internet buyer. “One of my targeted markets is Rock Hill, South Carolina. When I was setting up my new site in 2006, I got lots of good advice from Blackwater/Compass, including advice to build a community page for each of my four target towns. Sure enough, this Internet buyer was moving from Charlotte, NC, to Rock Hill, SC, and found my site by entering “Rock Hill SC Real Estate” into a major search engine (along with over 2380 other people who have found my site by entering that one phrase since I subscribed to CompassSearch!). They looked over homes through the IDX on my site and filled out the soft lead capture. I called immediately (they were surprised at my quick response, but I knew that was a necessity online). That was a Tuesday and by Thursday we were under contract on that 5 bedroom, 4700 square foot home. We never even looked at anything else—they knew what they wanted once they saw it on my website.”
“Since that happy day, I’ve sold homes to folks from all over; some who never set foot here till after closing! I even represented one buyer with a power of attorney at closing. The rapport we developed online and by phone equaled any other selling experience I have ever had. “
The listing presentation advantage
“I use the various reports that come with my CompassSearch subscription to show sellers how effectively my website performs. It can be a little unsettling for them when I tell them I am going to expose their property to buyers from all over the world, but, no, I won’t be putting any ads in any newspaper or magazines. Once I say those words, I need to be ready to prove beyond a doubt that Internet buyers will actually visit my website and having all this information at my disposal is a tremendous advantage over my competitors.”
Observations and advice from an Internet realtor
“I think my Internet productivity is making my job easier and adding quality to my life that I was missing before. I rarely show a home after 5 pm. I rarely have to give up a weekend to drive clients all over town. Most of my communication is email, so I don’t spend hours playing phone tag. My clients are ready when we finally meet. I can actually plan to take a day off and get away with it!”
Gary Nagle’s experience is a lesson to those who would succeed: despite doing almost everything correctly, in resisting the change from mandatory registration to voluntary, his effectiveness was delayed considerably. When he removed the source of the delay, bingo! He started succeeding.
“My advice to agents is relatively simple: Stop doing things the way you have always done them because those methods will not work going forward. Get your own website, get it optimized and invest some time and money in it. It isn’t a magic portal for business to flow through; you must get familiar with it and understand why it works and why you have it. I know dozens of realtors with “secret websites (that is, they might as well as be a secret because no one ever goes there).”
They tell me ‘Oh yeah, I have a website, but it doesn’t do anything. I don’t know why I spend the money on it, it’s never done anything and I am basically illiterate when it comes to computers, anyway. I just don’t want to take the time to learn all that mumbo jumbo,’ and so on. I have only one thing to say to folks who say that: Get with the program or be prepared to dust off your resume! Today’s buyers are better educated and more tech-savvy than previous generations and they just won’t wait for you to respond to their wants and needs in the same old ways. What they want, they want NOW. If you can’t give it to them, they’ll move on to someone who will. Once you learn how to make the Internet work for you, however, your career will be more rewarding than you can imagine and your quality of life will change for the better.”
“The thing I like most about being an Internet realtor is that I only have to do something one time and it duplicates itself, effortlessly, thousands of time over, leaving me to be more innovative and productive. The CompassSearch product helps me with that very thing by getting the search engines to give me VIP status. That status impresses web visitors; they visit my site; they respond to my marketing; they become clients and they buy and sell homes. It’s the gift that goes on giving!”
It can be something as simple as poor lead capture that is holding you back from succeeding. More likely, however, is that your site is a “secret;” no one can find it and no one visits it. You must: 1) be able to be found by Internet buyers; 2) be able to make those anonymous visitors sign in so you can work with them; 3) be able to follow up quickly and assiduously.
Once you can do those things, then, a minor tweak may be all you need. The key thing to remember is that you cannot possibly know everything about online marketing—no one does. However, you can partner with someone who does know an awfully lot about it and in doing so, spare yourself the wrong turns and disappointments. It’s a lot easier with the right partner on your side. 1) Get found; 2) get voluntary sign-ins; 3) prepare to get busy!