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2008-08-25 17:55:47

Where Is Your Next Prospect Coming From?

We are all on the island of a really tough market, these days. Loan activity is reportedly down 40%, home prices down 24% in some markets (or even more), suddenly we’re back to 20% down payments to qualify for a loan and you haven’t had a new client come your way in months. Is that what’s troubling you, Bunkie?

Well, maybe the example of a real Broker who is on a real island in the Atlantic Ocean can serve as an inspiration to you. For certain, Fred Roven of Martha’s Vineyard Buyer Agents (www.mvbuyeragents.com) has succeeded for years despite having to bring 90% of his clients from “across the water”.  

While the beautiful and famous island called Martha’s Vineyard is an unspoiled coastal treasure, it is cut off from the mainland and served by ferries (weather permitting). There aren’t a lot of people driving around looking for yard signs, if you catch my drift, and buyers come from across the water and hundreds of miles away, as often as not. At times like these, the innovative thinking that Fred Roven uses daily can be valuable to those of us stuck inside our conventional mind-set as regards prospecting. (Prospecting can be defined as that extremely valuable but largely forgotten science of finding clients.) Despite the raft of bad news we get hit with daily, Fred’s Brokerage is even in dollars and numbers with last year.

Servicing the beautiful Massachusetts Island of Martha’s Vineyard, Fred and his associates—Emma Kennedy and Diana Gilmore–have listings from $90,000 to $16,000,000 currently available on their website, and as exclusively Buyers Agents, their business depends on having folks from across the water find them when they go looking for Martha’s Vineyard Real Estate. Having been a broker for 10 years, Fred has lived through the boom in real estate and the aftermath, and when I spoke with him recently, he had some interesting things to share with us all.

MV Buyer Agents sold 21 properties last year and are on track to sell 19 this year, based on what is under contract. The dollars are even. Unlike some other spots, the banks on the Vineyard make investments in mortgages (and they hold those investments as performing assets), and Fred tells me that they have plenty of money to lend  and that he has not yet lost a transaction due to funding difficulties. This, of course, is how all homes used to be financed, before the days of Ameriquest, Green Point and Countrywide, and who is to say that old way wasn’t the best way?

In the face of all this bad news bombarding the consumer each day, how does the brokerage keep up with last year? What are Fred, Emma, and Diana’s plans to help them keep on succeeding during this awful confluence of market and financial difficult times?

The website is lean, attractive, user friendly and unique content displayed right up front. Prospects like that. No clutter, just a tasteful and business-like appearance, yet with a friendly and welcoming demeanor. That’s what internet buyers are searching for! The first requirement and the basis of all internet marketing is to have a website, and these folks have a good one.
 
“Today’s buyers are more internet savvy and they tend to gravitate towards a broker or agent who is the same and who can understand why internet presence is so important,” Fred told me. “People spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a property (or even millions) are internet users. They look at dozens of properties before even contacting a realtor (repeated CAR and NAR surveys validate Fred’s statement).

We’ve always felt that if we can be there when the internet buyer comes looking for property on the Vineyard, there’s a good chance they’ll talk to us, first. Our position on the major search engines makes that a reality: we are there when they come looking for homes, properties, and real estate on Martha’s Vineyard. Many clients tell me that one of the reasons they contacted us was because we were number one on those search engines in almost every Martha’s Vineyard category. It’s beyond debate that a high position on the search engines draws visitors.”
 
“From the early days, we felt that the internet was a great way to prospect,” Fred reported, “and today, we get 80-90% of our leads from our website. 90% of those leads come from off the Island.” Fred has subscribed to Pay-per-click in the past, but discontinued the majority of PPC over a year ago when he subscribed to Compass Search. “We are on the first page of 19 searches organically on the major search engines because of Compass” Fred reported, “and there is NO question that this has been a huge factor in our success.
 
"Our monthly traffic continues to increase. About a year ago, with a large PPC budget, we had about 2500 visits monthly. Today, through Compass, we have about 6600 visits monthly. I have saved a lot of money that I was spending on PPC, and it’s like I have 6600 people walking into my office each month asking about property.” The second necessity for successful internet marketing is that buyers can find you, and 6600 potential buyers a month find MV Buyer Agents. Like all savvy internet marketers, Fred will occasionally use a little PPC to boost a special page, or a special listing, or a special ad in a magazine, but his placement is now organic and widespread for a tiny fraction of what he used to commit to PPC each month.
 
Fred also told me his guidelines for making marketing decisions:
 
  1. “Know your market. Who are you trying to appeal to? What is your special area of expertise?
     
  2. Use a budget; gauge the effectiveness of all paid advertising; If 80-90% of leads come from the Internet, shouldn’t the same percentage of your marketing budget be spent there?
     
  3.  Investigate tie-ins with print ads; Reports are extremely important in terms of planning and decision making. We use the WebReporterTool (a free service of Compass Search) to help us target exactly what works, where. Without a tool like this, you are operating in the dark.
     
  4. Focus on a market segment; we are moving ever more strongly into the luxury market; while this may not be feasible for everyone, some form of specialization usually is. Cultivate a market specialty, a demographic, an affinity—but cultivate something that makes you stand out from the crowd.
     
  5. Pay special attention to your website and to making certain that people looking for homes in your specialty online can find you on the internet. We frequently upgrade our site and we are always looking to make it a place people enjoy visiting. That, coupled with our Compass Search subscription that has us as the number one search result on Google (among others) for Martha’s Vineyard Property, Martha’s Vineyard Real Estate, Homes for Sale on Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Homes, and Marthas Vineyard Real Estate keeps the three of us well supplied with leads. Without an ongoing supply of real leads, our business would have a different story to tell, for certain.”
 The third necessity in internet marketing is to work smart and to have a plan. MV Buyer Agents also possess that necessity in abundance. The fourth necessity is to continually adjust your efforts and improve your content. As Fred explained, MV Buyer Agents do that regularly, too.

This list of things may not be new to you, but here we have yet another successful Brokerage safely navigating the worst down market in recent memory telling us precisely what other successful agents and Brokers continue to tell us:
 
  • Focus on the basics of good business selling and management;
  • Have a plan, a special target market;
  • Make yourself different; bring value to the client by being better;
  • Mine the internet; it’s where the business is and produces 80-90% of this broker’s leads;
  • Make sure you can be found by internet buyers; 90% of Fred Roven’s clients come from areas outside his location. That just can’t happen without being highly visible on the major search engines. You need to be findable—not under your name, but under your specialty. No one outside your town knows your name, but everyone looking for a home in your specialty needs to find you.
There’s no question that we are all facing a rough patch of time. To me, the question is: “Are you going to do something about it, or just sit there and hope this rough patch passes?” Fred Roven and his team are all right now because even amidst the plenty of the past five years, they tended to their knitting and did their homework to secure their spot in internet marketing. Doing so has effectively insulated them from the tremendous downturn we all read about daily.
 
An important fact to consider is that if a three-person brokerage on a small island where properties sell in all price ranges can match last year’s numbers due to their presence on the internet, you can succeed at it, too, once you use the same methods! One thing is for sure: according to NAR, odds are 90% against that you are getting your fair share of internet buyers through your website. There’s might be nothing wrong with your website (if there is, we’ll tell you, free). What’s wrong is that internet buyers can’t find your website and as 66% of all internet buyers find their agent by using a search engine (Source: CAR), it seems clear that if you can’t be found, you are not even in the running for 66% of the internet business, which is an amazing 82%+ of all residential real estate business.
 
How about you? Are you ready to start really using your website as something more than a billboard? Are you ready to make it be found by internet buyers? Are you ready to do something that can have prospects at your door daily in a few months, or are you going to wait it out and hope for a comeback? Would you like to equal last year’s numbers and be secure in the knowledge that you will continue to find buyers, like Fred Roven and his people are?
 
The answers to these questions are what will determine just how long this downturn lasts—for you! As you can see from the continuing stories in this column, while there is a tremendous downturn in the business for most these days, there are many agents and brokers who continue to succeed. Isn’t it time to notice what they all have in common and to get “in common” with these winners?
 
Looking into being found costs you nothing, but not being found costs you clients and sales, every day. Check out what we have to offer and let us know what you think. For a free copy  of our new e-book, "SEO Secrets for Realtors", simply send a blank e-mail to realestate@theblackwatercg.com and you will receive a 12-page PDF by return e-mail.
 
 
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(Editor's note: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Mike Parker is a principal at the Blackwater Consulting Group, Inc., and specializes in online marketing for Realtors®. You can reach him by e-mail at mparker@theblackwatercg.com. Blackwater is a RealTown Approved Vendor and Seal of Approval Participant.)
 
 

 

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