This time last week I was 30,000 feet somewhere above the Gulf of Abu Dhabi, flying back from the Inman Connect conference in San Francisco. ICSF is a cutting-edge real estate technology conference jam-packed with the information agents need to take their business to the next level.
The things I learned in San Francisco are too good not to share, so what follows are my seven most valuable takeaways for Australian agents from ICSF 2013. Many of these tips come from social marketing pioneer and CEO of Hearsay Social, Clara Shih.
1. Be easy to find
Prospective clients, even those who come through a referral, are now Googleing agents before they request them for a market appraisal. What impression are they forming of you?
To make a good impression, agents should have a personal website and well maintained social profiles – at a minimum. Personal websites continue to be a must-have for agents wanting to convey a professional online message, but there are still a lot of agents in the US not doing this despite it being so important. Unfortunately, the same goes here in Australia.
2. Embrace mobile
Over 76% of Australians have a smartphone, and now Google is planning to punish websites that aren’t mobile friendly. If your site doesn’t cater to mobile devices, chances are it will soon stop surfacing in mobile search results.
If it wasn’t before, a mobile-friendly website is now a must. For most agencies, mobile apps are too expensive to create and maintain. Focus instead on building a responsive design – that is, one which looks great on both desktops and mobile devices.
Bonus tip: The best mobile website have a tappable phone number and are location aware (for example, they might show the user properties close to their current location).
3. Connect with customers and prospects
The success of your social media marketing efforts depends on the quality of your network. Just like in your offline marketing, ensure your online networks are made up of customers and prospects.
In the near future, look out for a new breed of social CRMs which combine your database with information from social networks. This will allow you to see all the information about a prospect in one place, giving you vital clues about where they are in the buying cycle.
4. Invest in long term relationships
Repeat and referral business is a lot more valuable than having to constantly search for one-off clients. The goal, then, is to stay top-of-mind with prospects and past clients without being annoying.
Advanced agents are recognising that sending out property alerts doesn’t help build a meaningful connection with their customers. Instead, they’re creating communications that respect a person’s place in the buying cycle. Whether they’re using social CRMs or a more traditional database, the focus is on deepening the relationship, not on short term sales results.
Bonus tip: When you become the trusted expert and advisor, both you and your customers benefit. Listen for social moments that signal money in motion.
5. Create and support communities
Developing long term relationships with prospects is all about being an active participant in your community. Great agents look for ways to create and support communities, whether that’s by bringing people together using a Facebook page or by becoming an active supporter of local businesses.
Agents will need to ask if they want to start a new community or support existing ones. In any case, think community first and database second.
6. Advance your marketing
More advanced agents are looking at ways to reduce their reliance on properties as a means to market themselves. When creating long term relationships with people in your community, your latest listings are of limited value.
While many agents rely on signboards and listing videos to promote themselves, smart agents are also creating content with a longer shelf-life. For example, create suburb review videos that show why your patch is such a great place to live.
7. Don’t forget the end-game
Despite the huge range of technology that agents now have at their fingertips, real estate is still all about connecting with people over the dinner table.
It’s tempting to try out every new online tool that becomes available, but instead put your energy into the tools that work for your business plan. All your online marketing should focus on paving the way for a great face to face relationship.
Any questions? Leave a comment.