The Bullseye in Your Backyard

I’ve grumbled about this before but apparently, not loud enough. I am afraid, in the interest of being ‘techno-current,’ we’ve strayed from the core marketing strategy that made us great.

Help-U-Sell was founded on one powerful marketing principal:  geographic targeting.  As a broker, your job is to study your overall marketplace – I mean, really study (massage the numbers until they throb, to quote Dr. Dick McKenna) – to determine which specific neighborhoods are most likely to produce listings, the fuel that feeds our lead-generating fire.

There’s a lot in that statement.  Unlike our ordinary competitors who believe the answer to any marketing challenge is to add another agent, we look at hard data about the market and solve our marketing issues by going where the action is.  And we market for LISTINGS.  That’s it.  Just listings.  What about the other side of the business, what about buyers?  We love buyers.  As Don Taylor once said, “People forget, but Help-U-Sell has always been about the buyer!”  But we’ve learned that the best way to find a buyer is to get a listing and another and another.

I talk with brokers every day.  Often I hear the complaint, ‘My website isn’t working, I don’t get any buyer leads!’  My answer is always a question:  ‘how many listings do you have.’  I usually hear something less than 5.  Well Duh!! You don’t have any buyer leads because you don’t have any listings!  Real estate, whether the enlightened Help-U-Sell model or the tired old agent model, has always been an inventory business.  He who controls the inventory, controls the business.

Back to the idea I presented at the start of this post, the notion that we’ve lost our focus in favor of being technologically relevant.  With the entire Universe – especially NAR, Trulia, Zillow, et. al. – screaming that almost every single buyer starts their home search online, we have been lured into believing that we have to market online.  We spend money on AdWords and Facebook pay-per-click, and Google Display Ads; we obsess over our websites and constantly re-work them to become more attractive to search engines.

The results are almost always disappointing.  Even when leads are produced, the quality is iffy at best.  And what kind of leads are we getting from all of this online mania?  Buyer leads.  Again, we love buyer leads, but we also know how to produce them and it has nothing to do with point and click.

Meanwhile, as good Help-U-Sell brokers pour countless dollars and lots of energy into their online programs, I see them ranging all across God’s Green Earth to take a listing here and another way over there and heck – you’re an hour away from my office and in another area code, but shucks, I’ll take your listing!

Stop It!

Use your market data to pick the two or three specific neighborhoods in your Target Market that have the highest turnover rates, and then focus all of your energy in developing listing inventory there!   When a FSBO sign goes up, you know it and are in contact with them that first day.  When one of your competitors gets a listing, you immediately do 50 ‘Arounds’ so the neighbor who is also thinking of selling knows there’s an alternative to 6%.  When you get a listing in your Target Market, you regard it as a gift from the Marketing Gods and you exploit it to the max with signs, and brag cards and open houses and half a dozen other strategies.

Now, once you’ve done that, once it has begun to produce, once you’re getting at least 15% of the listings in your Target Market . . . then, you can consider online marketing.

And the  online marketing you do should be aimed at further establishing your brand.  It’s things like putting your latest Sold & Saved or Testimonial on Facebook and then paying to promote it within your target market.  It’s things like creating a well-focused landing page for a Google pay-per-click campaign aimed at FSBOs in your target market.

Yes, there is a place for the Zillow/Trulia/ ‘buy a Zip Code’ programs.  I know of a few offices that have thrived with those additional marketing pieces.  But you know what all of them had in common?  Tons of listings.  Really.  Go onto Zillow and search for homes in Chino Hills, CA.  Patrick Wood will turn up in Spades.  Why?  Because he has a huge share of the listings in that town.  Zillow works for him – just as it works for Ken Kopcho – because he has a nice chunk of the listing business in his target market.

So, Help-U-Sell Brokers:  use the Internet.  Use it to gather as much data as possible about the individual neighborhoods in your overall marketplace.  Pick a few that have the highest turnover rates.  And then pursue the listing business in those neighborhoods with an unwavering focus.  Do it on foot, in the streets and the mailboxes.  Do it on billboards and bus benches, community sponsorships and involvement, Do it with signs. Get a listing and another and another.  And then, start thinking about how you an further establish your brand in those neighborhoods with online marketing.



Lead Generation II: Digital Marketing

It’s all about the Internet.  We know that.  We hear it all the time.

Like:  89%+ of all homebuyers begin their search on the Internet.  Like:  70% of home buyers use video to tour the inside of homes before physically inspecting.  Like:  home searches on Google are up 253% over the past 4 years.

Clearly, if we are going to be in the business today, we are going to have to be on the Intenet in a lead generating way.

Job one is to be FINDABLE.  My spell checker just underlined that word in red because it isn’t a real word at all.  But it should be, especially when we’re talking about consumers being able to find you on the web.  It’s not good enough to simply be there, to have a website, even a good one.  Consumers have to be able to find you, which means your website has to be attractive to Google.

(I’m using Google here to stand for all Internet search engines.  It is true there are others beside Mother G, but let’s face it:  they are irrelevant at least and copycats at best.  If you are going to generate Internet leads, you’re going to have to learn how to flirt with Google.)

So, what does Google like?  What can you put out there that will cause your web pages to inch up in the big pack of search results?  Google likes content that is:

Hyper-Local – so intimately focused on the local market that it is like a roadmap of the area.

Dynamic – which means changing.  Static content – the pages you build and publish and then forget, – will barely raise a Google eyebrow.  In essence she looks at your static website and says, ‘Eh?  Anybody could do that.  What have you done lately?’

Credible – Certainly you are credible.  You are an experienced professional and you certainly know what you’re talking about.  But that doesn’t score points with Google.  She decides you are credible largely by the other people who think you are credible and she makes that decision based on links:  who is linking to your site, referencing it, talking about it.  If Joe Schmoe is referencing your site that’s nice – and it counts – but if the Wall Street Journal is talking about you, that’s golden.  The other criteria is longevity.  If you’ve been around, building content for months and years, you are seen as more credible than the site that just launched.

Media-rich – Google knows that we users love colorful content that moves, and nothing does that better than video.  Increasingly, content that includes streaming video is king.  To understand Google’s fascination with video, simply consider this:  Google owns YouTube.

Mobile Friendly – More than half of all home searches are preformed o mobile devices and the number is growing.  To people under 30, the phone is a computer.  Whatever you do on the Internet must translate to mobile devices, both phones and tablets.

When I look at that list, I think it says you need a blog, a good blog.  A blog that updates some aspect of your business and the local market every week and does so occasionally with video.  Your real estate website is largely static:  it does not change much over time.  Use your well written, hyper-local blog to enable people to find you and then drive them to your website.

So far, everything we’ve talked about involves improving your organic search results, those that come to you simply because you are good.  But let’s face it:  everyone in our business is working towards this same objective.  You can build your visibility and findability organically, but you will rarely beat some of the huge players aiming at the same consumers.  They have too much history, too much credibility (as defined above) and too much cloudt.  But there is another way to leap-frog to the top:  buy your way there.

Paid search results appear at the top and the side of Google’s organic results.  We all know this because we have become expert at NOT paying attention to those results when we search.  Still, these ads do produce ‘clicks’ over time (if you are offering something relevant and valuable at the other end), and those clicks can result in leads.

Google Ad Words is code for advertising on Google via those pay-per-click entries that appear at the top and side of your regular search results.  You get there by ‘buying’ search phrases consumers in your area typically use when looking for your menu of services.  Others are bidding on the same search phrases, so you’re competing for space; sometimes your ad will make it, sometimes it won’t.  But even when your ad makes it to the results page, you don’t pay until someone clicks on it.

This is where the whole offer/exchange dynamic comes in.  You have to offer something in your ad that is perceived as valuable by your target consumer.  For example:  a Free Market Analysis might be perceived as valuable.  A Free E-Book on preparing your home for sale might be seen as valuable.  A Free Phone Consultation might be seen as valuable.  It is the perception of value that causes a consumer to click.  But then what?

Going hand-in-glove with Ad Words (and any pay-per-click advertising) is the creation of specific landing pages.  A landing page should do little more than gather contact information on the consumer who lands there after clicking on your ad.  Some very short descriptive information is ok, but you sure don’t want to tell your whole story on a landing page!  Anything said on a landing page should underscore the idea that what you are offering is valuable because you’re asking the curious consumer who landed there to exchange their contact information for it.

Facebook pay-per-click works in much the same way except that your  ads look more like ads, featuring graphics and so on.

Your prescription for jump-starting the digital portion of your marketing plan is as follows:

  • Whip your website into shape.  Eliminate wordy content that nobody is reading and replace it with crisp, relevant information.  Wherever possible let video do the talking for you.
  • Build some form of dynamic content into your online presence.  A blog is a great idea IF you can and will create something fresh and original at least every week.  If that’s not something you can or will do, hire someone to do it for you (like . . . oh, yeah!  ME!).
  • Invest in pay-per-click advertising.  Begin with Google Ad Words and, in time, phase in Facebook.  Your Google Ad Word budget should ideally be $10 or more a day.  $5 a day can produce results but will take, well, twice as long.
  • Before you pull the trigger on your pay-per-click ads, make sure you have effective landing pages that relate specifically to the offers you are making in your ads.
  • Be ready to respond.  I don’t mean to imply that you will be overrun with inquiries.  You won’t.  But when a click results in a consumer surrendering contact information, you need to respond immediately.  Letting an hour or two pass by without contact will turn that ember into a cold bit of ash.

Want to talk about your digital plans?  Call me:  (619) 606-2228.


Google Adwords and Analytics for Real Estate

On the Help-U-Sell Power Hour today, Ron McCoy talked with the group about the importance of monitoring website performance using Google Analytics.  It’s a fairly simple process to set up, especially for Help-U-Sell brokers who have an easy to use field in their website back-end for the Google code and a tech support team to help.

What Google Analytics will tell you is:  how many visitors find your website over a given time, how many pages they visit, how long they stay, where they came from (location and referrer), and so on.  It’s great information that can help you evaluate and upgrade your website.

Once it’s set up and running, once the website is localized and optimized,  Analytics is great for monitoring the effectiveness of your marketing.  In today’s online universe, much of your marketing should drive consumers to your website.  If that’s the intent of a marketing piece, you should see a spike in visitors when it runs.

I look at Analytics for The Set Fee Blog every day.  Day in – day out, the numbers are fairly consistent.  My traffic goes down a bit when I go through a dry spell and don’t post for days.  It goes up a bit when I post something that strikes a chord with readers and they share it with others.  But I can also see increases when I market the blog.

I ran a campaign a couple of weeks ago using Facebook Ads.  For $100 (I’m on a budget!), a little side panel ad questioning why real estate commissions are so high appeared on the Facebook pages of consumers who have expressed an interest in real estate.  The ad made about 300,000 impressions and garnered about 100 ‘clicks.’

Analytics for the period showed a nice jump in visitors, page views and time on site.  Of course those 100 people were in the mix, but so were all the people with whom they shared the specific post I linked the ad to:  Real Estate Commissions Revisited.  My Analytics traffic was up enough to convince me (once again) that a few hundred dollars tossed at Facebook Ads once in awhile is well worth the expense!

Here’s an idea for you.  You probably have a card or coupon for $100 worth of free Google AdWords in your desk drawer or in your email.  I say probably because I have several just because I have a real estate license and a corporation.  If you don’t have one, just call Google or send them a request for one (they give them away like candy).  Tell them you want to evaluate the effectiveness of AdWords in driving traffic to your website and they’ll give you the credit.

Then decide what kind of traffic you want, buyers or sellers.  Me?  I want sellers because listings are what’s in demand in my marketplace.  But that’s a problem, too, because I really don’t have a good seller capture page on my website.  So I need to work with Robbie and Peter in Sarasota to build that page.  It ought to look like an ETM . . . OR, hey, maybe it should look like THIS , but including a contact form, too.  The page ought to tell what I do for sellers and include testimonials from happy customers.  Once that’s done I will have a page to drive sellers to.

Now I can go to Google AdWords and create an ad.  But what should I advertise?  Hmmm.  How about:  ‘How to sell your San Diego home and save thousands’ or something similar.  Since you have $100 to spend, set the budget at something like $12 a day – that will get you about a week’s worth of placement.  And then start watching Analytics.  Do you see an increase in traffic to that landing page?  Now, check your own office analytics (your incoming call/inquiry logs):  of the traffic that gets to your landing page, how many actually contact your office.

This little exercise will not only get you familiar with Google Analytics, it will also help you evaluate the value of Google Adwords.

As an aside, given my limited experience, I like Facebook Ads a little better than Google AdWords because their targeting mechanism seems more detailed and precise.  But, to my knowledge, Facebook isn’t routinely giving away $100 of Ad credit and Google is.  Since this is a test and a learning experience, why not do it as cheaply as possible?  If it works for you, then invest a couple hundred bucks in a Facebook campaign targeting people around your office and see how that performs on Analytics.


Pay-Per-Click, Step-By-Step

We all know that carefully planned pay-per-click advertising works.  It can effectively drive traffic to your website, where, if it is handled properly, it can turn into leads. We saw an example of that this morning on the Tech Time Tuesday Webinar, where Jack Bailey increased traffic to his office website by almost 1,000% over a four month period. ,due largely to his pay-per-click campaign on Google. Using Ad Words, he brought roughly 15,000 visitors to his website.  One of his ads – the one offering a free market analysis – had a 31% click-thru rate!  That’s crazy good!  And, assuming some of the traffic is converted to leads, some of which actually buy or sell real estate, the cost can be very low.  Really, Jack’s budget was $12 a day – a little less than $400 a month.

But, how do you do this?  How do you proceed step-by-step to take advantage of this Internet Marketing Bonanza?  Here’s how:

1.  Decide what kind of lead you are seeking.  Are you looking for Buyers or Sellers?  What kind of Buyers?  Buyers interested in Foreclosures?  Buyers looking in a specific neighborhood?  Buyers with little down payment money?  Sellers with equity?  Upside down sellers? Sellers in a specific geographic area?  Step one is all about getting very specific about your target.  The more specific you set your pay-per-click parameters, the more efficient your campaign will be.  In short:  you’ll attract fewer clicks from customers you don’t want (out of the area, just looking, unable to buy and so on).

2.  Build a landing page on your office website where people who click your ad will ‘land.’  A good landing page should address exactly what the ad mentioned.  If it was the offer of a free Market Analysis, that’s ALL that should be on the landing page:  just the contact information capture form and a tiny bit of verbiage explaining what will happen when they sign up.   Some experts say you should keep your branding, both personal and company, to a minimum on a good lead capture landing page.  The idea is that people may sign up online for something they perceive to be of value if they don’t associate it with an ordinary Realtor or real estate company.

3.  Decide where you are going to advertise.  Google is the 800 pound gorilla here.  If you choose this, your ads will appear when people who fit your demographic parameters search for the keywords and phrases around which you build your campaign.  Don’t overlook Facebook.  Their pay-per-click ads have been effective for many, and their targeting process is very specific.  And don’t forget:  not everybody searches with Google.  Some use Bing, some use Yahoo.  You may find more cost effective alternatives if you just look around.

4.  Design your ad.  Keep the verbiage to a minimum.  Stick to exactly what you’re offering. Use Google AdWords to determine which real estate search terms are most common in your area and build your campaign around them.   While Google pay-per-click is all words and links, Facebook allows you to include a photo or graphic in your ad.  If you’re using a photo, note that. sometimes it’s the quirky photo that catches the eye.  **TIP:  Include your phone number in your pay-per-click ad.  Some people will call rather than click, and you don’t pay if they don’t click!

5.  Set-up and budget your campaign.  You’ll set three ‘maximums’ when you initiate your campaign:  your total budget (the maximum you want to spend for the entire campaign), your daily maximum, and the maximum you’re willing to pay per click.  I mentioned Jack’s campaign:  his total budget was right at $1,500.  He was willing to spend up to $12 a day.  I don’t know what he agreed to pay-per-click, but what usually happens is the vendor (Google or Facebook or Yahoo)  will give you a range in which you should bid.  Let’s assume it’s $1.10 – $1.53 per click.  The higher you bid, the more frequently your ad will appear . . . until you hit one of your maximums.  When I’ve done pay-per-click, I’ve set my bid on the high side of the middle of the range.  By they way:  some clicks will come in at less than your bid; it all depends on how competitive the environment around your key words is at that moment.

6.  Track your results.  Conceptually, this step is number six.  But Chronologically?  You probably ought to move this to first.  BEFORE you do anything with any marketing, pay-per-click or otherwise, you must set up your system for tracking results.  How will you capture and track the leads that come in via your Internet contact form?  What about those leads that choose to pick up the phone and call?  And how will you get your staff to take all of this tracking as seriously as you do?  (I’ve always been a big fan of boiling in oil and/or burning at the stake for slackers, but the choice is yours).

7.  Manage your campaign.  Everyday, take a look at your results.  How many leads did you create?  What key words or phrases pulled the best?  Which keywords could you pause or drop from the campaign?  And so on.

Now it’s soapbox time.  This is the moment when all of us need inventory.  Listings are so low right now and the Listing Agent is in control.  This is happening because increased buyer activity as begun to push prices slightly higher – something we haven’t’ seen in years.  Homeowners are very curious right now about what their homes are worth.  They’ve seen the uptick in values and are wondering if they’re still upside down.  Now is the time to do a pay-per-click campaign aimed at these people.  How about a pay-per-click ad that simply says:  ‘Find Out What Your Home Is Worth Today’ . . . leading to the free market analysis page that’s already set up and is available on your office website.

So, let’s do it.  Do steps 6, 1, and 3 – get it all organized – and then call Tony in Sarasota.  He’ll be happy to help you finish the task.  And if you want to run any marketing ideas by me, I’m energized and available.

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