Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why You Miss Most Internet Buyers

By: Mike Parker

“The Internet doesn’t work for me.” That odious phrase is all too common among agents and brokers. NAR echoed those sentiments for 90+% of all agents when they stated that less than 10% of agents with websites were pleased with the production from them. On the other hand, NAR also tells us that over 84% of all residential real estate sales involve the Internet. How can so much business go to such a small percentage of agents?

Contrary to what you may expect, the answer has less to do with money spent than on poor technique. The most beautiful website in the world is of no value to an agent if it doesn’t produce leads on a regular and consistent basis.

I don’t mean to say that effective Internet marketing for Realtors® and real estate professionals is not without cost. It costs money to bring buyers to your website. First, you must build the website and hope they’ll come. They usually don’t. Second, you must subscribe to organic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Pay per Click (PPC) and then they start coming because they can FIND your site. Now what? How do you get them to be more than a blip on an analytics tool and turn them into a living, breathing lead? Traffic is not the panacea, either—a strategy is required to succeed.

This is the real issue in online marketing for Realtors® and for everyone else, too; traffic means nothing but that people are finding your website. Being found is just the first step to succeeding online. Page views and unique visitor data are of value, but the ratio of conversion from visitor to lead is what matters, and you won’t ever get enough leads from your visitors until you wise up to the best kept secret in internet marketing: you’ve got to offer them something to get them to sign in to your site.

How many unique visitors do you need to make your site produce?

Most agents who receive 300 or less unique visitors a month do just fine - the most successful have a conversion rate of 10-15%; that is, 10 to 15% of their unique visitors sign in to the site and are added to the prospect list for drip emails and regular contact. With 300+ unique visitors for an average agent each month - they should receive enough leads to make a living; as more unique visitors come, the agents income should rise accordingly. On the other hand there are those who receive thousands of unique visitors each month and sell little. What explains this?

Not using lead capture is like going fishing with great bait, but no fishing pole

The biggest factor in your site becoming a valuable tool (after optimization and design) is lead capture. Those using effective lead capture have good results with realistic visitor totals; those not using lead capture rarely get any results at all. To visualize this, please close your eyes and imagine yourself going fishing on a pretty summer day: Just toss the bait in the water and the fish will come to it. After the bait is gone, so are the fish, leaving you empty handed if you left your pole at home. But, bring your pole and you could end up catching your limit. Internet prospecting is much the same: a good site and enabling it to be found serves as all the bait you need to succeed, but if you can’t capture the lead, it’s like you forgot to bring your fishing pole with you-- lots of fish in the water, but none caught.

What exactly is lead capture?

Lead capture can be defined as the practice of converting people who window shop into people who you can communicate with, identify and farm/prospect/cultivate. Hard lead capture is the practice of requiring a visitor to sign in before allowing them to view information, like MLS listings. Soft lead capture is the practice of offering a premium or incentive to incent the visitor to sign in and join your information network. Hard is bad, soft is good; hard makes most visitors exit your site, soft makes them want what you offer them and creates feelings of good will. Lead capture seeks to ‘capture’ simple information from a visitor; name, email address and phone number are really all you need to communicate on the most important levels: email and telephone.

What does hard lead capture look like and where should I put this?

"Log In (Not a Member? Sign Up Now"

Any site requiring a log in is death for lead generation. A few visitors may docilely give you their personal information, most will not. You should not employ this technique. (Now that DOJ and NAR have settled, perhaps the MLS in certain areas will drop this kind of requirement to view properties—a good thing for clients and a good thing for agents and brokers!) If your site does use this mandatory sign in, my advice is to contact your webmaster right now and have it changed.

What kind of premium should I offer to attract visitors’ sign-ins?

How about a map of the town? How about the town fact sheet as furnished by the town government? How about anything interesting about where you sell homes? Lacking that, your newsletter or a relocation kit is good. Where I grew up, agents gave away lots of Town calendars, booklets, ice scrapers and thermometers, hot plates and oven mitts; those still work, too—as long as they have your name and website address on them. Best is some kind of promo that gives good information about where the visitor is looking to come to. One successful agent I know made a list of all restaurants in town and another of all important local phone numbers. She put her smiling face in the center, laminated it, and Viola! Another successful premium was created. Use your imagination-- this isn’t rocket science.

No matter what certain agent marketing programs claim, the Internet is where the action is today.

Every time I see that marketing ad that claims that only 11% of sales come from the Internet, I shudder. Look, your own affinity group, NAR, says that 84% of all residential real estate sales begin on the Internet and that 74% of Internet buyers find their agent through a search engine. You absolutely need an Internet presence if you want to stay in this business.

Employ good lead capture today and sell houses tomorrow

It takes only moments to implement this recommendation into YOUR website. Provided it can be found by Internet buyers looking for homes online, this simple change can make the difference between a billboard in space and a real lead generation device. If your site can’t be found, however, all the lead capture in the world won’t help. You must be one of the sites that come up on the first page of the major search engines when your town is being shopped online; once you are there, implementation of good lead capture will work wonders for you. You wouldn’t go fishing without a fishing pole, don’t go Internet prospecting without good lead capture!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ten fastest growing RE markets

The housing implosion is nowhere near over. In 75 of the 100 top U.S. cities, prices are expected to fall in the next 12 months according to Fiserv Lending Solutions.

The S&P Case/Shiller Home Price Index, which tracks 20 of the largest housing markets, showed prices plummeting by 12.7% in the 12 months ending February. That's the biggest fall since the index began tracking prices in 2000.

Meanwhile, foreclosure filings more than doubled in the first three months of 2008, spiking 112%. So far this year 156,463 families have lost their homes to repossessions. Many markets won't hit bottom till late 2009 or even 2010.

Gallery: 10 Homes for Sale in Hot Markets

Pity the residents of Stockton, Calif., whose homes are likely to lose more than half of their 2006 value. But if you happen to live in Texas -- or any of the other cities below -- congratulations: The housing tornado passed you by.

1. McAllen, Texas

12-month forecast: 4%
Median home price:
One year price change: 2.1%
Five year price change: 23.3%
Change in foreclosure rate: 23%

2. Rochester, N.Y.

12-month forecast: 2.7%
Median home price:
One year price change: 3.4%
Five year price change: 20.1%
Change in foreclosure rate: 5%

3. Birmingham, Alabama

12-month forecast: 2.7%
Median home price:
One year price change: 2.9%
Five year price change: 29.4%
Change in foreclosure rate: 20%

4. Syracuse, N.Y.

12-month forecast: 2.6%
Median home price:
One year price change: 0.8%
Five year price change: 29.5%
Change in foreclosure rate: 27%

5. Buffalo/Niagara Falls, N.Y.

12-month forecast: 2.4%
Median home price:
One year price change: 1.6%
Five year price change: 24.5%
Change in foreclosure rate: 14%

6. New Orleans, La.

12-month forecast: 2.2%
Median home price:
One year price change: 1%
Five year price change: 43.7%
Change in foreclosure rate: 49%

7. Scranton, P.A.

12-month forecast: 2.2%
Median home price:
One year price change: 7.2%
Five year price change: 41.1%
Change in foreclosure rate: 8%

8. Grand Rapids, Mich.

12-month forecast: 1.9%
Median home price:
One year price change: -3%
Five year price change: 8.3%
Change in foreclosure rate: 37%

9. Baton Rouge, La.

12-month forecast: 1.9%
Median home price:
One year price change: 5.7%
Five year price change: 38.3%
Change in foreclosure rate: 14%

10. El Paso, Texas

12-month forecast: 1.8%
Median home price:
One year price change: 6.9%
Five year price change: 51.9%
Change in foreclosure rate: 32%

Money Magazine's Real Estate Survival Guide

Friday, May 9, 2008

Are You in Personal Branding Prison?

by James Chartrand

Prison Cell

Have you ever asked yourself if you should be branding yourself or branding your business? You’re not alone. It’s a hot topic these days, and one worth thinking over.

Anyone can open a business on the Internet. The little guy has a chance. The individual can make it big. New businesses are cropping up left, right, and center.

People are feeling good these days, too. They have a shot at being someone special with their name in the lights and their work in demand. For professionals, opportunities are wide open. It’s the time to shine.

But professionals have a problem… all their assets are in their brains. When they go to bed at night, they bring their assets with them.

Consider this: If you need a break, if you want to step back from your business, or if you want to retire, your business won’t carry on. You’ll become another has-been. People will forget about you.

Elvis has left the building, folks.

Damaging Branding

Too much personal branding can be damaging to a professional. If you brand yourself too strongly, you can’t take a break, because there’s no one else to fill your shoes. Without you, your business has no value.

You can’t be replaced.

The client doesn’t want a replacement, either. The client doesn’t want Joe Fantastic to work on his project, no matter how fantastic Joe is. No, the client wants Billy Excellent, the brains behind it all, and that’s all there is to it.

What happens when Billy Excellent needs a break?

Branding Like a Corporation

Think of some big brand names: Apple, Nike, Sony… Everyone knows Nike makes great running shoes, that Apple makes fantastic notebooks, and that Sony makes good stereo systems.

People recognize the brand more than they recognize the people running the business. They buy the brand, not the person producing the item or the service. (Who wants to buy Steve Jobs anyways?)

Think back to Billy Excellent. Billy Excellent could brand his work just like a corporation instead of branding himself as the sole professional able to provide that magic.

That’s smart business. People would begin recognizing the value of Excellent Inc. – not just the value of Billy Excellent. They’d buy from Excellent Inc. regardless of who operates it.

Yes, Billy Excellent is part of that business, but he’s creating the perception that it’s the business providing the magic, not just him.

It’s the difference between building an asset and building a job.

Create a Business Asset

Start building value into your business so that potential customers think of your business name first and your name second. Get people interested in working with your business, not you.

Make sure that if you choose to walk away, your business lives on just like a big-name corporation. You can hire someone to fill your shoes and take over or run the business in your place. You create options for yourself, not obligations.

You can retire. You can move on. You can start working on building another business. Your business never dies, and your future is wide open.

And online, the future is infinite.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Web-Centric Architecture

"A Website should contain as few pages as will meet the condition which give it rise and under which we operate, and which the website designer should strive continually to simplify; the ensemble of the pages should then be carefully considered that comfort and utility may go hand in hand with beauty."

Thank You Frank Lloyd Wright!!

3 Steps to Recession-Proof Your Online Marketing

Written by: Bryan Eisenberg

Everyone’s using the “r” word. Just a month or two ago, online marketers were whispering the word for fear of contagion. Now it’s spoken out in the open. We all seem to sense that we’re in a recession or that one’s stalking us and tapping on our shoulder.

Some sites are experiencing slight sales declines; others are prepping for the recession by trimming marketing budgets and tightening their belts in other areas. Online marketers are being asked to do more with less. It seems it’s going to get worse.

It’s interesting to watch how different companies respond to tough times. Traditionally during a recession, most will cut their marketing spend and ask the sales staff to squeeze more from what marketing delivers. In the online world, most decrease ad budgets, but the first cuts are aimed at any sort of marketing optimization (like analytics or testing). This bunker-type approach often leads to stagnation. Optimization is the last line item you can afford to cut.

Others will pour more money into traffic acquisition and flashy advertising or gimmicks. This kitchen-sink approach is highly inefficient and risky.

Effective Optimization Is a Scientific Process

I prefer a more scientific approach.

The “r” word doesn’t mean failure or certain doom. While we don’t control the factors that cause a recession, we can optimize the factors we do have control over and do our best to build and continually improve a recession-proof Web site.

A site that converts better will decrease cost per acquisition and, in turn, will increase ad spend efficiency. A site being continually improved for conversion can withstand the storms of finicky economic times. Optimizing your site should be a scientific process that gives customer insight and is accountable, efficient, and measurable.

In the midst of the dot-com boom, we took on our very first conversion optimization client and helped the company build an internal process to continually optimize its conversion rate. Everyone else was talking about eyeballs and, to their detriment, got spanked by the mother of bursting bubbles. Site after site went into the trash heap, while our client’s continued to grow and thrive through the worst of it. During that time, the client enjoyed an aggregated 400 percent increase in conversion. Its advertising spend was potent, each dollar spent on advertising was worth four times more in top-line sales. Its competitors could spend the same and a lot more on advertising and couldn’t get similar traction. Some went under.

Building a recession-proof online marketing campaign is common sense, but you must work on it. It’s well worth it. It’s not about getting the occasional gain from a test or analytics but about having a continual process for doing so.

The Cost of Not Improving Your Conversion Rate

Let’s suppose your site draws 100,000 unique visitors per month and you have an average conversion rate of 2.5 percent. If you average sale is $50, then you gross about $125,000 a month. Let’s also say that after some optimization work and a couple tests, you increase your overall conversion rate by just 10 percent (a very achievable goal), and your conversion rate is now 2.75 percent. Your monthly gross is now $137,500. The annualized revenue realized by the move of the needle is $150,000. With a minor conversion increase, you’ve earned a baker’s dozen: 13 months of revenue in 12 months’ time.

If you continue to optimize better every month throughout the year, that 13th doughnut gets bigger and bigger. Assuming traffic costs remain static, ad spend becomes stronger and your cost of acquisition goes down. Even in the likely scenario that your traffic costs inch up, you’re riding the curve instead of falling below it.If you don’t become recession-proof, your competitors will. There are simply no more excuses. A decade ago, putting together the resources for optimization was a challenge. Today, analytics and optimization software are much more easily available and affordable when you look at them in this light. Google even offers them both for free.

Steps to Recession-Proof Online Marketing

Here are three steps you can take to make your online marketing recession proof:

1. Turn your analytics into customer insight. It’s not enough to get reports. Each click is an action taken by a real person. Learn why your customers do what they do on your site.

2. Turn your insight into action. If customers leave your site or landing pages, theorize as to why, then test variations to confirm or refute your insight based on step one.

3. Rinse and repeat.

Don’t become a victim of a recession; instead use it as an opportunity to take control of the things you can and jack up your conversion rate. The dot-com bust would have been a blip had many focused more on the fundamentals of increasing conversion online.I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live through another bust. So I leave you with the wise words of Blackie Sherrod: “The reason history must repeat itself is because we pay so little attention to it the first time.”

What are your plans to recession proof yourself?

. .

Originally posted on ClickZ.

How to Create a Rock-Solid Tagline

by James Chartrand

Rock Solid

Nike said, “Just do it.” Nortel told you to come together. Timex said it takes a licking and keep on ticking. And GE mentioned that it brings good things to life.

Well, good for GE. As far as you’re concerned, you’d probably be happy figuring out how to bring your tagline to life.

Tagline, strapline, slogan… Whatever you choose to call it, it’s all the same. It’s the key phrase that identifies your business by capturing the essence of three elements:

  • Your mission
  • Your promise
  • Your brand

Coming up with a great tagline is a struggle many people face. More often than not, they get it wrong by focusing on what their product or service is and neglecting what it offers.

To capture a reader’s eye at a glance, you need to combine all three elements of mission, promise and brand to create a great tagline that really works. Here’s how:

Step One –Your True Mission

There’s a saying in the copywriting world: Be clear, not clever.

Considering that most of us aren’t the best at coming up with the coolest phrases ever uttered on the face of the Earth, that’s sage advice, especially on the web.

Don’t be cool. In the virtual world, there’s no time for cool. People who don’t know you, your business, your products or your services land on your website. In a fraction of a second, they decide whether to leave or to stay.

Be clear, not clever. Start building a tagline with the purpose of your site. Decide what you have to offer. Are you setting up a blog for marketing tips? Is your website about productivity tools? Do you sell web content? Love songs? Toilet Cleaners?

Pick the focus of your site – and stick with it.

Step Two – So What?

Let’s say your business is iced tea. You sell iced tea mixes, you offer cups, glasses and mugs, and you’re going to have a blog to establish authority as the Iced Tea Emperor.

Your blog’s tagline will probably start something like this: “Iced tea tips…”

And this is where people get jammed. Rockin’ iced tea tips? Great iced tea tips? Iced tea to go?

None of the above. The average visitor that lands on your site doesn’t care. Nothing stands out, nothing seems attractive, nothing compels him to stay.

There’s one fast, easy way to get past this obstacle. Ask yourself this question: “So what?”

The answers you’ll come up with are the benefits a visitor (or potential customer) receives from staying on your site – and that’s important. People always want something. By adding benefits to a tagline, you’re telling people what’s in it for them and what they get from you.

If you’re really smart, use those benefits as selling points throughout your site copy, too. Don’t harp on about how great your product is – tell people what benefits they receive if they buy what you have to sell.

So what are the benefits of iced tea? Iced tea can:

  • Help you quench your thirst
  • Help you hydrate your body
  • Perk you up
  • Cool you down
  • Leave you feeling refreshed

Benefits are the key to better copy, better sales and better business online.

Step Three: A Little Pizzaz

Alright, so you have your mission and you have your benefits. Now you have to add some branding.

Make your tagline reflect your business image. Differentiate yourself from the competition. Your business has a personality, so show it. Give people a little taste of your business’s brand in your tagline.

Let’s say your iced tea business is a little Zen-like. You like to promote tea as relaxing. You want people to enjoy a quieter life. Your website colors are pale and fresh, and even your blog’s tone seems to be calming. That’s your branding at work right there.

Put it to work in your tagline, too.

Pick an adjective that encompasses your business image, take the summary of your benefits and tack that to your mission. What do you get?

“Soothing iced tea tips to revitalize your life.” That’s a great tagline.

Bonus Section: It’s Fun to Pick on Others

Need some practice? Here are two taglines for you to pick apart:

  • Web Business Tips for Writers, Freelancers and Online Entrepreneurs
  • Copywriting Tips for Online Marketing Success

Do they answer all three elements of a great tagline? Are they effective for the web? Would they attract you? What would you change?

Or, maybe you have your own tagline to worry over. Put it up and see if inspiration comes from some helpful suggestions.

You might just end up with a rock-solid tagline that truly works.

About the Author: James Chartrand is the interim editor of Copyblogger due to the abrupt disappearance of Brian Clark. He blogged previously at Men with Pens.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Newspapers And Local Home Magazines Losing Real Estate Advertising To Web

According to a new release from Borrell Associates, real estate agents, who initially tried to appease home sellers by advertising more on traditional channels, this year cut their print budgets and pushed more money into the Web. Total ad spending on real estate has declined 3 percent this year, while spending on the online segment has grown 25.8 percent, hitting $2.6 billion. Borrell projects online real estate advertising to grow at 12.4 percent next year while total real estate advertising continues to compress. In three years, says the report, agents and brokers will be spending more ad dollars with online media than with the newspaper.

Real Estate Ad Revenues for Online/Newspapers/Other Media ($ thousands)

2007 Forecast

2012 Projection







All Other






Source: Borrell Associates, Inc., November 2007

Two million adjustable-rate mortgages are due to be re-priced over the next 24 months and as many as 25 percent of these might go into default as a result, consistent with a report published in October by the Census Bureau showing that homeownership fell for the fourth consecutive quarter. From a peak of 69.3 percent of households in 2004, now only 68.1 percent of households own their own home.

After average annual increases of approximately nine percent in total real estate advertising between 2001 and 2005, the market essentially flat-lined in 2006 and is forecast to fall by 3.3 percent this year, says the report. This trend will continue for at least the next two years.

For newspapers, the situation is worse. The study projects that coming off last year's high of almost $5.2 billion in print advertising, there will be a 6.8 percent decline this year, almost the same again in 2008, followed by a 16 percent fall in 2009 and 13 percent in 2010. By then, real estate marketers will be spending more on online media than on newspapers or local homes magazines.

For more details in the release, and access to the complete study, please visit Borrell Associates here.