You know that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know someone you care about is making a serious mistake?
Should you speak up? Will you make her mad? Will he resent you for butting into his business?
We've all been there ... between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Damned by the other if we do. Damned by our own conscience if we don't.
That's where I find myself today. But with this post, I've decided I'd rather live peacefully within the quiet of my own soul than to court the goodwill of others.
So, go ahead and shoot this lowly messenger if you must, because I'm certainly making myself fair game.
So many agents are hurting right now ... hardworking, top-notch, quality agents who are at the end of their financial rope and are having to rethink their career for the sake of their loved ones.
Now ... we all know that in a down market in any industry, the rule is to market more, more, more. But if the downturn lasts too long, marketing funds and any reserves eventually run out. And survival -- simply staying afloat to wait it out -- becomes the top priority.
But here's the deal: if you have a Web site that's paid for monthly or annually and your payment is up to date, that space on your Web pages TODAY is virtually "free." By that I mean page content can easily be updated to suit the current market and to suit your current message, without additional cost today.
Delivering your current message via your Web site involves no printing fees, paper costs or postage expense. Also, it's totally unlike space ads, where you pay dearly by the column inch, or television or radio spots, where you pay by the second, to deliver your message.
With the huge percentage of buyers -- last I recall it was 70% -- who begin their home search on the Web, today's agents have an almost unlimited marketing opportunity to deliver their current marketing message to homebuyers through their Web site, at no additional cost.
So, now, I've just got to say it ...
Given the importance of a Web site for attracting buyers ... when I visit way too many agents' sites, I am literally blown away by the flying debris. And...
I ask myself: what could possibly be the marketing logic behind a home page that's so crammed with navigation buttons, graphics, various font faces, a zillion logos, colors, photos and oversized fonts ... that the prospective client's visual, intellectual and emotional experience is like stepping into an exploding minefield in the middle of some gosh-awful war?
Why, I know that as a real estate professional you would NEVER allow one of your home sellers to do this to prospective buyers upon entering a home's front door. An agent's Web site is no different!
"Okay, Kay ... it's great to criticize. But what specifically can I do to make my site better?"
Glad you asked. Here are some guidelines ... okay, rules ... to follow to help get your site up to speed:
- Get rid of the clutter. Please.
- Tone down the in-your-face colors. Research Web site color schemes and pick one that's warm and inviting.
- Make use of white space to ease eye fatigue and encourage your visitors to actually read your marketing message.
- Reduce the navigational choices to 10 or so. More than that is overwhelming. If they're text links and well organized, you can offer more. The goal is to keep it simple and not add to your prospect's confusion.
- Don't love Google more than you love your prospects. What do I mean by that? Don't optimize your site for the search engine robots so much that human beings are repelled by it. What good is being #1 on Google if prospects leave your site a split second after they arrive?
- Never, never, never -- did I say never? -- use the SAME Web page to present your message to buyers, sellers AND other real estate agents who might be looking for a position with your company. Here's why: just imagine the effect on your home sellers and buyers when they read your marketing message proclaiming to other agents what great commissions you pay. "Yeah," Mr. Home Seller says to himself, "with MY money! Well, we'll just see about that!" Click. And away he goes to your competitors' sites. So, be smart. Target only one prospect group per Web site page.
- If you have more than one business, don't dump them all on your visiting prospect at one time. Give prospects a chance to process the basics of who you are before introducing them to your other services. Put other business enterprises on separate sites (research sub-domains). Then, you can link the two together.
I'm certain that as a real estate professional you wouldn't dream of letting a home seller charge prospective buyers an admission fee to see a house that's for sale. Then why do so many agents who otherwise have good marketing smarts charge prospective buyers at their Web site an admission fee to see their listings? "What?" you ask. Yes ...
When you require a prospect to hand over his name and email address to view your listings online, you're charging a fee. Consumers resent this and show it by clicking away from your site and on to the next one.
- If you're charging your prospects a fee to view your listings online, I recommend rethinking your Web site marketing strategy. Do you really want to alienate prospective buyers in a buyer's market? There are other ways to build your list without the negative fallout.
It just doesn't make sense to me that so many agents are doing so many things on their Web sites to chase prospects away. I guess they see everybody else doing it, so they follow the herd.
But the consequences weren't severe during the last market when bidding wars and homes selling in less than a day were commonplace. In this market, however, these mistakes make a difference. Agents who do nothing to correct them are shooting themselves in the foot.
Educate yourself. Go outside the real estate industry and its Web site vendors and research what works on the Web. There is an abundance of free information available to help you. Goodness knows, they even have "eye maps" that trace the human eye's journey across and down a Web page. Then, when you purchase from a vendor who specializes in real estate sites, you can make an informed decision.
My favorite resource for Web site marketing research is www.marketingexperiments.com. These guys do expensive Web marketing experiments for huge corporations and then share research results with subscribers. Subscriptions are free.
This has been a long post. Thank you for hanging in there. I do have a Rule #10, but I'm going to write a separate post for it as soon as possible. Please be on the lookout.
I hope I haven't offended anyone with my observations or hurt any feelings. If I have, I apologize. I promise you my intentions are good. I just want the best for you because...
You see, I write housing articles for custom chamber of commerce lifestyle/relocation magazines. And throughout the last six years, I've interviewed so many people who have relocated and tell wonderful stories of extraordinary acts of kindess done for them by real estate agents. And as a result, I began to see you as our nation's unsung heroes.
I know for a fact -- from the hundred hours or so I've spent listening to your clients -- that the majority of you serve your clients' needs FAR in excess of what you earn. And I happen to think you deserve only the best. With the above information, I have given you my best advice ... even if it's hard for me to say and hard for you to hear.
As always, I love to read your comments!
UPDATE: Certified Home Inspector Dan Hagman is in the process of building a new company Web site. Be sure to read his comment below and my reply.
Writing for your success,
Kay Steele Faulk
The Real Estate Copywriter
"Straight Talk to Buyers" Letter Series - 5 Real Estate Marketing Letters
that counteract media hype and calm buyers' fears, giving them the
confidence to buy. Details at www.TheRealEstateMarketingLetter.com
"A Copywriter's Guide for Real Estate Professionals - How to Write & Lay Out Your Own Personal Brochure" When you order, you get the guide plus over $240 in FREE bonuses. AND for a limited time everyone who orders gets a Special Marketing Bonus: my TWO-LETTER SERIES for marketing to expireds.
For AR Members only: Get a 25% DISCOUNT when you order and use Code 096FJXZ7. Get the details or order at www.RealEstatePersonalBrochure.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Kay Steele Faulk, The Real Estate Copywriter
Specializing in Real Estate Sales Letters and Real Estate Personal Brochures
In the Heart of the Mississippi River Delta ~ Lake Village, Arkansas
Direct 870-265-9897 | Cell 870-265-6266 | Email kfaulk@InHouseWriter.com