Archive for 'success'

A 5 Step Marketing Plan for Single Property Websites

This is the feature article in this week’s RealtyBiz Agent Success Newsletter.

One of the best ways to differentiate yourself from other agents is to offer more value for your commission than what other agents are providing. One easy way to do this is to create a website for your client’s home with its own unique domain name. These types of websites are quick and easy to set up – and because you can add virtually unlimited information to the page, you can use the website as a marketing hub for the home.

Any good website takes some planning to get set up and running. Let’s start with the basics:

Step 1 – What do you want your website to do?

This seemingly basic question is something that 99% of all webmasters never ask. If you don’t set goals for what you hope to accomplish, you’ll never achieve them.
In this case, your website has a number of goals, including:

  • Impressing Your Sellers – The main reason you are creating these websites is to show sellers how much more value you provide over other agents out there. You’re not simply putting up a quick listing on your website. You’re giving them their own site that you will market in all the home’s promotional materials.
  • Marketing The Home – Most means of home marketing are extremely limited by space and price. If you want to run a full-page advertisement including all the home details, it will cost you. The same is true for mailings and any printed materials. With a website, you can put up as much information as you want, without adding cost. And because 77% of home buyers search on the internet, you’re putting your listings out there for people to find.

Step 2 – Who is your target audience?

You might not know exactly who your target audience is, but it’s more specific than simply "a buyer" ready to buy within the next month.

Take a look around the neighborhood. Who else lives there? What are their income levels? What kinds of cars do they drive? How many kids do they have? Take note of the types of people that live in this particular neighborhood. Here are some things to get you started:

  • Demographics – Where do they live? How much do they make? How old are they? Their gender? Their ethnicity? Their education?
  • Geography – Where do they live? Why do they live there? What type of lifestyle do they have in their geographical area?
  • Lifestyle – What do they do for a living? What motivates them? What types of interests and hobbies do they have? What type of car do they drive? Where do they go on holidays or vacations?
  • Life Cycle – Where are they in their life cycle? Are they single, just married, expecting their first child, divorcees, empty nesters, retirees?
  • Motives – What motivates them to buy? Are they emotional or rational buyers? What do they care about – the economy, investing, security, stability, the American dream?

You might ask, why does this matter? The answer is because your best prospects will probably share a number of these characteristics with the current neighborhood residents. Your marketing will work only when you understand who you are trying to target and why they might buy. The best way to understand their motivations for buying is to find out why others bought within this particular neighborhood.

And I mean "neighborhood" – not city or township or several square mile radius. I’m talking specifics. Who lives on this particular street? What about the adjacent streets? What can you learn about them just by their home decorations, landscaping, cars, kids toys, etc? Once you know this type of stuff, you can mention these specific characteristics within your home description on the website.

Step 3 – What is the competition like?

This might be difficult to answer, so here are two places to start:

  1. Check the neighborhood – Are there any other homes on this street or on the adjacent streets that are currently up for sale? If so, what makes them distinctive? What advantages and disadvantages do they have over the home you are listing?
  2. Check the MLS – What homes are in the MLS that have similar features and price to the home you are listing and are located nearby? What are their advantages and disadvantages? What makes them distinctive?

To effectively market a home, you must know what competition you have – and what unique features and benefits your listing brings to the table. Knowing this information helps you distinguish and differentiate your home from all the others on the market.

Think of it this way. Buyers are overwhelmed with choices. When they search through listing after listing, they are looking for something that stands out and grabs their attention. Something that says to them "go see this house!"

If your marketing can do this, you’re going to start attracting a lot more buyers who want to check out this "must see" house. And that means there’s a good chance you’ll close the deal faster- and get paid for your services sooner!

Step 4 – How can you differentiate this listing from others on the market?

At the bare minimum, your website should include the features of the home (price, location, the number of rooms, baths, and amenities) and lots of photographs, but if you want to really generate buzz about the home, tell the "story" of the home.

What’s special, unique or distinct about this home? Why did the current owners buy this home? What do they love about it? What amenities are nearby? What’s the best pizza place in the area? Are there any annual neighborhood picnics or special events? How do the kids like the schools they attend? What’s within walking distance? A 10 mile drive?

Why bother? Because people make decisions based on emotion, not logic. They want to fall in love with their new home – and they’ll justify their purchase with reasons later. People buy homes they can see themselves living in. They have to envision how they’ll arrange the rooms. How they’ll paint the walls. How they’ll set up the nursery. All of that stuff is emotional. That’s why your marketing needs to appeal to their emotions as well as give them the facts and features.

Step 5 – How can you market the website?

The final step is getting the word out. Here are some ideas for marketing your new website:

  • On your blog and website
  • In your ads and mailings
  • On house fliers
  • In your newsletters
  • On riders for your signs.
  • In your online classified ads (Craigslist, Trulia, Zillow, Oodle, etc)
  • In your social media profiles like MySpace and Facebook
  • Twitter (or tweet, if you like) the URL
  • Add to social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us
  • In your email signature
  • In blog comments you leave (don’t spam blogs, but most software asks for your URL – use your listing URL instead of your blog or website)
  • In listing presentations (to show other sellers what you can do for them)

Get Started Today

You don’t have to be a technology genius or pay a web developer lots of money to set up a page for you. It’s relatively easy to set these types of sites up

  1. Set up a free Blogger.com account. You’ll be able to create a new blog for each listing and the process takes about 3 minutes. Watch a video tutorial on how to do this.
  2. Once you have your blog set up, go to the Settings tab and then click on the "Publishing" link. You’ll see something that says "You’re publishing on blogspot.com." Underneath, it will say "Switch to: Custom Domain" Click on the "Custom Domain" link. Go through Google’s easy step-by-step system to buy a domain for your blog for $10/year. Watch a video tutorial on how to do this.

Easy, right? Alternatively, you can set up a free account on Postlets.com – or pay $5 to upgrade to a premium listing.

Setting up single property listings for each of your clients’ homes can be a great way to demonstrate how marketing and technology savvy you are to potential sellers – and they’re simple, fast and affordable to set up.

7 Tips for Coping with Email Overload

This is the feature article in this week’s RealtyBiz Agent Success Newsletter.

I’m now back from Spain and have spent the last week trying to catch up on email, contacts, client relationships, and everything else that I put on hold for my vacation. Getting away was great – and I made sure not to do any work on the trip – but coming home to an inbox filled with thousands of messages was not fun.

While I love the instant access to virtually anyone that email provides, that instant access can be a huge drain on my productivity – especially when 80% of the email I receive is not urgent, doesn’t require a response, or never seems to get to the point.

If you’re struggling to manage your email, here are seven tips to help.

  1. Only check email at certain times. While it’s tempting to leave your email program open at all times, that’s a huge productivity killer. You don’t need to check every email the second it comes in, thus interrupting whatever task you were doing. Instead, set aside 20-30 minute blocks of time two or three times per day to check email. If this type of non-responsiveness makes you nervous, create an autoresponder that states the specific times you check email, when the sender can expect a response, and what to do if they have an urgent need.
  2. Make sure those times aren’t when you are most productive! While it’s tempting to check your email first thing in the morning, this isn’t always the most productive. Instead, Brian Tracy suggests in his book, Eat That Frog, that you should look over your to-do list and find the biggest task that will yield the most positive benefits if you complete it now – and do that first thing in the morning rather than start off the day with email. Your email can wait. Use your most productive times to work on the stuff that matters most.
  3. Delete liberally. You can delete a considerable portion of your email before you even open it just by checking out the sender and subject. Scan both, and then ask yourself “Do I really have to read this today?” If the answer is no, hit delete. Don’t keep it around in hopes of reading it later – it will probably just sit in your inbox unopened.
  4. Scan for action steps and deadlines. Much of the email we receive can be classified as junk mail or notifications and doesn’t require action on our part. Look for email that does require a specific action that must be done within the next week or two and set these email aside. These should be your top priority.
  5. Take action immediately. If the email requires you to take action and you can do that action in less than two minutes, do it now rather than putting it off. It’s better to get things done quickly than to put them off until you prioritize everything. For action steps that will take longer, move the email to a prioritized folder so you can easily find it along with all the other action-oriented emails. Searching for buried email lost in a sea of unimportant email is a huge time waster.
  6. Send concise replies. When you respond, keep it as short and to-the-point as possible. Start off by summarizing the key point you are responding to and add your reply, so your recipients understand your response in context. For instance: “You asked if I can attend a meeting on Monday, June 16 at 3PM. Unfortunately, I’m not available until 4PM. If that doesn’t work for you, I can also meet Tuesday morning.” You don’t need to write a book here. Limit yourself to a few sentences at most – or better yet, if you can answer the question in the subject line, do so.
  7. Outsource your email. I don’t actually do this (yet) but if you really want to take this concept to an extreme, check out this blog post by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, on How to Outsource the Inbox and Never Check Email Again.

Time is your greatest asset, and learning to manage your email effectively can really give your productivity a boost.

Introduction to Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

This is the feature article in this week’s RealtyBiz Agent Success Newsletter.

Online advertising is becoming more popular among small businesses that want their site to display on the first page of search results for specific keywords. Pay-per-click advertising is a great way for businesses to do just that. PPC advertising allows websites to list their sites in search engines almost immediately by setting up an advertising campaign that displays your ads on the major search engines.

A PPC campaign works as follows:

  1. You choose specific keywords that are relevant to your topic and bid against your competitors for display spots in search results.
  2. You write ad copy that encourages people to click on your ad rather than all your competitors’ ads.
  3. When people click on the ad, they are taken to a “landing page” which should be a page you’ve created specifically for people who click on your ad. Your page should explain what you do, the benefits of buying your product or service, and some type of “call to action,” which may be to buy your product or fill out a form to contact you.
  4. You measure the results of you ads by analyzing specific metrics, revise your campaign, and repeat the cycle.

Search engines run your ad either above or beside the regular (organic) listings whenever someone searches for your specified keyword. If the searcher clicks on your ad, the search engine charges you an amount up to your maximum bid – the exact amount is determined by a number of factors including the maximum amount you are willing to bid, the maximum amount your competitors have bid, and how effective your ad is in getting people to click on it.

How the ads show up on the search results page depends on two factors:

  1. How much the advertiser is willing to pay – Advertisers bid on keywords much like an auction. They set a maximum amount they are willing to spend every time someone clicks on their ad. This is known as the maximum cost-per-click. Google analyzes all advertisers bidding on your keywords and sets a pricing structure. The higher you bid, the more likely you will show up in the No. 1 or No. 2 position, but the price you actually pay for each click is determined by what other advertisers bid. For instance, if you bid $1 per click but your nearest competitor is only bidding 50 cents, most of your clicks will probably cost in the 50-60 cent range.
  2. How effective the ad is at getting people to click on it – To encourage advertisers to write better ads, Google incentivizes its program by giving priority display space to ads with the highest click-through rates. A click-through rate (CTR) is the number of times someone clicks on an ad divided by how many times the ad is displayed. So if the ad was displayed 100 times and 5 people clicked on it, the CTR is 5 percent.

The Advantages of Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-per-click advertising offers a number of benefits to businesses who want to get listed in search engines quickly, such as:

  1. It’s inexpensive to get started. You can get started with Google Adwords or Microsoft adCenter for a nominal $5. Yahoo Search Marketing has no setup fee.
  2. You get immediate results. It can take months of work to get a first-page ranking on Google. With pay-per-click advertising, you can set up an account in a few minutes on Google and start generating traffic to your site that day.
  3. You can target your audience. Google and Yahoo make it simple to target your audience by location. You can choose regional and city locations, or even use their local search capabilities to target prospects within 25 miles of your business.
  4. You pay for only those who click on your ad. Many online advertising opportunities ask you to pay each time they display your ad (called an impression). They usually sell advertising blocks per 1000 impressions (called CPM or cost per thousand). With PPC, search engines keep track of impressions, but they bill you only when someone clicks on your ad.
  5. You have control over how your site is displayed. Those sites that show up in the organic results have very little ability to affect how their site is displayed. Google chooses the page from your site that it calculates as most relevant to the query and pulls some content from the page to display. By contrast, with PPC advertising, you have complete control over the ad’s title, description, and even which page it links to within your website.

Pay-Per-Click advertising is a great place to start for any online marketing campaign because it gives you control over how searchers find your site and which page they land on when they enter your website.

Be More Productive with the 80/20 Rule

This is the feature article in this week’s RealtyBiz Agent Success Newsletter.

I’m headed to the Priorat region of Spain for a week on Friday. Of course, I still have a million things on my to-do list and a million more on would-like-to-do list. As I added yet another thing to the to-do list, I realized this just wasn’t working. Every time I crossed off something, I added two new things to be done. Sound familiar?

After taking a deep breath, I sat back down with my list and started prioritizing. It’s so easy to stress ourselves out with all the day-to-day problems that come up, that we often lose track of our goals. In my case, I needed to finish up a client project, write two newsletters, and pack for my trip. Everything else fell into the “would be nice but could wait” category.

What is Your End Goal?

If you also find yourself with the dreaded never-ending to-do list, it may be time to ask yourself, “What do you really want to accomplish?” Setting goals keeps you focused on what truly matters to you. Goals keep you motivated to slog through the daily grind knowing that you are building your business into an asset that will one day work for you.

Ask yourself:

  • Do most of the tasks on your to-do list move you toward your goals or take up time that you could be devoting to achieving your goals?
  • Do they really need to be there?
  • If they absolutely must be done, do you have to do them, or can you delegate them to others?

Use the 80/20 Rule To Get More Accomplished

In 1897, the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80 percent of income in Italy went to 20 percent of the population. While you can argue that the 80/20 principle isn’t exact, it works quite well as a general guideline for business. Roughly 20 percent of your clients will account for 80 percent of your profits. Twenty percent of your daily activities will account for 80 percent of your business’ success. Twenty percent of your inputs produce 80 percent of your outputs. So, if you want to be more productive and grow your business faster, look for the places where you can get the maximum result.

Often, our day is full of things that don’t do much for our business. We might pick up the latest business book, check email, organize our desk, fill out paperwork, surf the internet, chat with co-workers, take calls from family and friends, deal with distractions and interruptions, and so on while only a small chunk of our day is devoted to working with clients or marketing our services – those activities that actually build our business and bring in revenue.

Ask yourself:

  • What can you do right now that will take you a step closer to your goals?
  • What are your most productive activities?
  • Which activities take up a significant portion of your time but leave you with little to show for it?
  • How can you do more productive activities while reducing your time-wasting activities?

How to Create a Successful Real Estate Website

This is the feature article in this week’s RealtyBiz Agent Success Newsletter.

Have you ever wondered why only a handful of real estate sites generate tons of leads while the vast majority of sites hardly ever do? The secret to their success isn’t rocket science – it’s what they focus on.

Most agents decide they need a website because their competitors have one. So what’s the first thing they focus on? What the site should look like.

Not surprisingly, agents want their sites to look attractive and professional, with lots of bells and whistles, animations, and graphics. Next, they realize they need some content for the site, so they add information about their credentials, services, listing information, and processes.

Three Elements of Successful Websites

The problem with this approach is that it neglects the elements of what makes a real estate website successful. Specifically, successful websites:

  • Attract qualified prospects
  • Build a targeted list of prospects to follow up with
  • Convert prospects to paying clients

The site I described initially that focuses on the agent’s credentials and preferences, is, frankly, boring to prospects and does little other than stroking the agent’s ego (for instance, they can now proudly tell their friends and family that they have a website). It’s not the type of site designed to attract qualified prospects. It won’t motivate prospects to give you their contact information, and it does little to convince prospects that they should hire you.

Focus on Content – What Does Your Prospect Want to Know Most?

So what does capture prospects’ attention and get them to take notice? Content that focuses on their problems and concerns. Your prospects want tips and strategies they can use now to get that mortgage, find the right home, sell their home for top dollar, and send their kids to the best schools in the area.

They want to know if, as a single mom, they’ll be able to afford that home, or whether, as a first-time home buying couple, what type of help is available.

They want to know how to ensure their new home doesn’t have water damage or mold or termites or some other unknown that will cost them a fortune down the line.

They want tips on how to negotiate the best price – and any changes or repairs that need to be made.

Focus on Conversion – What Should Your Prospect Do Next?

Good content makes up about 50 percent of a great site. The other 50 percent lies in organizing that content so your prospects can easily find that information.

When someone comes to your website, you have about three seconds to capture their attention. Web studies show that prospects don’t read pages. They skim. So when they are looking for information, they quickly scan the page looking for something of interest. If they don’t find anything, they leave your site and continue their search.

One big mistake agents make with their websites is they assume prospects will know what to do next. They assume prospects will take the time to learn their site’s navigation and browse through all their great content.

The truth is, your prospects won’t, so you must make it easy for them. It’s up to you to guide them from one page to another, asking them if they want to learn more about Subject X, then telling them they should click this link. If they want to join your newsletter, they should click this link. If they want to contact you for a free consultation, they should fill out this form. Etc.

In other words, you must lead them through the content on your site by anticipating what their next question might be, then linking to where the answer is.

Your goal is conversion – getting them to take some action in exchange for their contact information and permission to follow up with them – whether that is joining your mailing list, downloading a free guide, or contacting you for more information.

Test and Measure Results!

Finally, if you’re not getting the results you want, you must try something different. Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Your site won’t suddenly become successful if you just attract more visitors to it. You must work to engage your visitors who are already finding your site and work on converting them to prospects and clients.

How do you do this? You test! Install Google Analytics on your site (it’s free!) and monitor who is coming to your site. Where are they coming from? How are they getting there? Which keywords are they typing into search engines? What pages do they view? How many pages do they view? And so on.

You can tell a lot by analyzing statistics and making decisions on the data you collect. Don’t simply rely on your gut instinct or what a friend suggests. If you aren’t sure which text on a page will convince prospects to fill out your form, create two pages. Send half your traffic to one page and half your traffic to the other. Whichever gets more people to fill out the form wins – there’s no subjectivity there. By testing you can see exactly what works and how well it works compared to other samples.

Is Your Website Working?

If your website isn’t pulling in a steady stream of prospects, it’s time to take a look at your site’s content and conversion strategy. With a little effort, you can put together an informative website that educates your prospects and motivates them to take action.

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