Since you are in a service industry, you already have a great asset to help you understand how best to create a Home page (and, for that matter, the rest of your site) - yourself or other salespeople in your own real estate office. More than anyone else, salespeople interact daily with customers and understand what information is relevant and interesting to the types of clients you're courting.
Your Web site contains a lot of glossy sales information. It's more akin to the traditional sales pamphlet. It's like a book, and the Home page is the introduction and table of contents.
How is a book put together? The author doesn't throw every page on the floor in a pile and say "read whichever page you want." What a mess! Yet, some of you do just that in the organization (or lack of organization) of your web sites. There's order, storytelling, and narrative. Similarly, a Home page and a site need to tell various stories and explain your services in ways that make sense to your audience. Since, as real estate agents, you have multiple audiences (verticals), create micro areas that tell the right story, in the right order, for each audience - both buyers and sellers. The story omits unimportant details and highlights the important ones for that audience.
Salespeople do this every day. For example, some of you have a PowerPoint presentation (and some might remember "flip charts") aimed at home sellers or prospective buyers. If they're good, each presentation tells a specific story about what you and your real estate company do in an order that makes sense for that audience, with relevant details and even examples. It leaves out details that are unimportant to that targeted audience.
A good salesperson is a good storyteller. Your job is to tell your story to a prospect in a way that makes the prospect understand, in his own language, how you understand him, his needs, and his problems. And, of course, why you have the solutions.
Your Web site needs to do the same, and your Home page is the gateway for this. If your site is really like a salesperson, then many of the ones I've seen are a lousy one. If a salesperson went into a meeting armed with only your Web site and said to the prospect, "Click something," how far do you think the meeting would go?
Here's your homework:
- Talk to your favorite buddy in your real estate office.
- Ask him or her to try to give you a presentation for a buyer or seller client using only your Web site as a visual aid instead of that PowerPoint presentation or flip chart.
- Make notes about the order in which the story is told and which pages on your site are used as a visual aid.
- If the salesperson says, "There isn't really a good place on your site that shows...", note that, and create the page in question.
At the end of this exercise, you'll know whether your Web site actually has enough of the right content to be a good sales tool. You'll also have an idea of the narrative structure you need to use to introduce yourself to real estate buyers and sellers.
The next step is to create a navigation menu section, (take a look at "What's On The Menu?"), that puts all those pages in the correct order and ensures the major story points (the main things the other salesperson said) are clear and readable amid the rest of your content.
What About the Home Page?
Though I set out to address just the Home page, I ended up talking about what makes a real estate web site really work! This is important because a Home page can only direct traffic to site areas. Once the site areas discussed above are built or re-written, the Home page has a relatively easy job.
The Home page should:
- Provide a simple overview of you and your company
- Give them a brief description of the georgraphical areas or real estate markets you serve
- Let users self-select their category, and direct them to the customer-specific site areas that match
- Provide clear navigation that offers links to homes for sale, helping buyers, helping sellers, and other resources that you offer
If you are using a template, don't just use the canned text that comes on each of their pages! Re-write the content ... don't just use the generic text they provided. Most of these template providers may be good computer techies, but many of them have never sold a paper bag in their lives - much less a house! As the author of your Web "book", tell your story. No one can sell you better than you!