How to use Real Estate Marketing Technology Effectively
By: Jacquelyn Bauer – Director, Point2 Customer Care
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Today, my 70-year-old grandmother has an iPad. Most pre-teens own a smartphone. And the term “cloud-computing” is recognized and understood by a vast majority of the population. Technology is such a ubiquitous part of our lives that most cannot comprehend or remember how to function without it.
Technology plays a comparably significant role for home buyers and sellers, who use the Internet, email, SMS, social networking, mobile computing – and many other technologies to improve both their lives – and the process of buying or selling a home.
Every consumer has some basic demands:
- Value Added
Buyers expect a quick response from real estate professionals and quick access to listings of interest. Sellers expect to know that their listing is online as soon as they have signed the papers. Both buyers and sellers expect access to information quickly and easily.
Buyers want access to listings from the convenience of their computer or mobile phone while sellers want to be able to access their listing information and view any reports generated from it whenever and wherever they want.
Buyers want to be able to find listings from a website of their choosing, be that Zillow, Trulia, Google, etc. Just as not everyone chooses the same flavor of ice-cream, not everyone searches for listings using the same website(s).
Virtual tours, downloadable listing brochures, and CMAs, are all pieces that add value to a listing from the buyer’s perspective. Sellers see value added when their listings are distributed to as many places as possible.
Buyers want access to quality listing data, just as sellers want their home to be advertised in the best, most accurate manner possible. This also ties in to ‘information’. Consumers want access to feature-rich sites, and with as many details about a listing as possible. Listings that display a single, grainy photo, with virtually no additional information are quickly passed over, regardless of their relevance to the consumer.
Based on those demands, how does technology fit into what the typical consumer expects from a real estate professional today?
In an age when ‘technology’ means everything, and keeping up with the times simply means staying competitive, real estate professionals cannot settle for just ‘okay’.
So how does technology change your game plan?
There will always be a need for technology basics: a domain name, branded email account, and a web presence. But what are the more specific needs of today, and more importantly, what will be the needs of the future?
Selective Online Marketing
The term “online marketing” is broad. It covers everything from having a website, to advertising via email, to pay-per-click search engine marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), to participating online in blogs and social media channels.
Is money best spent paying top dollar for a custom-designed website? What about search engine optimization? Do the DIY advertising options available out there such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads deliver enough bang for your buck? There are no universal answers that apply to every agent. Fortunately however, most online advertising options are fairly inexpensive and provide analytics to help determine the effectiveness of your efforts and your reach.
Social Media Presence
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ – the list keeps growing, and will likely keep growing. Once a means to share photos and connect with friends, social networks have been rapidly expanding their reach into areas of business networking, media, and communications.
The advantage of using social media platforms as advertising mediums is that typically the only cost is a little elbow grease. Social media will continue to be a key channel for online marketing and advertising in the immediate future, and real estate professionals should look to this area for significant business growth opportunities in 2012 and beyond.
Generational and Niche Marketing
The preface to “Rocking the Ages” by J. Walker Smith and Ann S. Clurman states: “Understanding generational values and motivations has become essential because each generation is driven by unique ideas about the lifestyle to which it aspires. And it’s these aspirations that determine the ways consumers spend and save their money.”
The book continues, “Marketers who use the principles of generational marketing to understand the factors that influence the values and buying motivations of consumers stand a much better chance of spotting trends way ahead of the competition and reaching customers first in profitable new ways.”
Niche marketing may be equally important to a real estate professional’s marketing plan. Since many real estate professionals focus on very specific market areas (e.g. condos, commercial, vacation, etc.), their applicable audience needs to be identified and marketed to accordingly.
No longer can there be a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing. Get to know your audience and the various ways you can market to them.
Do More With Less
It seems like the days are getting shorter, or our time is filling up more quickly. Either way, technology should help to increase efficiency, not over-complicate things.
Email, instant and text messaging, automatic listing distribution, social networking – all of these tools allow real estate professionals to quickly connect with customers and peers.
Here are a few key things to look for when shopping for technology and business solutions:
Mobile phone providers offer different package options to their customers for a very specific reason. Not every person wants or needs all of the same features. Some require a data plan, while others are happy with just a plain old telephone. Some want call display, others call waiting, still others voicemail. Mobile carriers are successful because they allow their customers to choose which features work best for them.
The same should be true of a real estate professional’s online marketing solutions. Keeping up with the times means having the flexibility to choose the tools that work for each individual’s personal and business needs. Gone are the days of being forced to pay for features that will never be used, all because “it’s part of the package”.
Real estate professionals need to be able to further their education quickly, easily, and in small, digestible chunks. What can be learned via online education? Perhaps the answer should be, “what can’t be?” Product demos, online marketing trends, industry trends – the list goes on. Online webinars, learning platforms, and other mediums provide real estate professionals with the ability to learn affordably, from almost anywhere. Taking advantage of these opportunities provides you with a needed competitive edge.
Automatic Listing Import
Time is money. If real estate professionals are required to re-enter their listings multiple times to get additional exposure, value has already been lost. Accuracy is also a concern when a listing is added manually to multiple sites one at a time. Since technology should be increasing efficiency, real estate professionals need to research tools that will help them distribute their data to numerous destinations from one entry point.
Exposure is a key piece to every real estate professional’s marketing plan. Consumers want their listings advertised in as many places as possible. Syndication is a key piece to the puzzle as it generates massive listing exposure at little or no cost. Enhanced tools such as predictive marketing help identify the areas of interest to your audience and market to them accordingly.
Control Over Listing Data
While syndication and listing exposure are important, significant value is lost when there is no control offered with regards to the flow of listing data. Control should be provided to every stakeholder including agents, brokers, and MLSs/Boards/ Associations. Reporting also needs to be provided to every level so each party can determine if the destinations to which they are distributing listings are serving their best interests.
Another factor to consider is data licensing agreements. Make sure you are confident your technology and syndication partners are serving your best interests – what do they do with your data? What is the licensing agreement? Are you able to easily access their data agreements and terms and conditions statements? Answers to these questions should be clear and easy to find.
Research suggests that the most valuable piece of technology is still the phone. Today’s smartphone is portable, multi-functional, and easy to use. Real estate professionals should be able to have access to listing information quickly and easily directly from their mobile device.
A staggering and increasing number of people are relying on mobile. For the youngest generation, it is all they know. The ability to deliver a seamless and enjoyable browsing experience on mobile devices will only become more important as the smartphone revolution continues to take root.
While some have the time and desire to learn how to code and build their own tools for online marketing (including websites), the majority of real estate professionals view their time as better spent serving their customers. For these, a full-featured, automated service that encompasses all of the above requirements is a must.
Some might be thinking, “Technology is not a new thing, this is the same information we’ve heard in the past.” And you’re right. Technology as a whole is not a new concept. However, effective use of technology is. Many have chosen to jump on every technology bandwagon that has come around, without sitting down to evaluate its true value.
It is important to remember that no matter which direction a real estate professional’s online marketing plan takes him or her, effective use of technology should increase efficiency in the areas of workflow, listing advertising, lead generation, and contact management. If the chosen solution(s) does not do this, it is time to re-evaluate.
To borrow a line from Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changin’”. The world of tomorrow is taking shape today, and now is the time to embrace change. Adapting to the new world order can be a difficult task, but for the real estate professional who is able to stay in touch with the new breed of customer…vast opportunity awaits.