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Estate & Letting Agents: Do you really need web portals?

The importance of web portals in the property market has been well-known for many years, but in 2019, an increasing number of estate and letting agents are questioning the value for money in these platforms. With some agents paying more in web portal subscriptions than they do in rent for their premises, there is a need for estate agency industry professionals to examine their use of web portals, and the impact it has on their business.

One issue that is becoming more pressing for some agents is whether the frequent use of online property portals diminishes their business, and what customers need from them. Many short-term business solutions or services look appealing, but in the longer-term, businesses have suffered, and closed, because of an over-reliance on external services.

Therefore, estate and letting agents need to ask themselves do you need web portals, and if you don’t, what do you need to do to flourish as a business?

Marketing your agency is a priority
Marketing is essential, and if you want to ensure your agency is seen by vendors and connects with buyers, you need to use a range of strategies to engage your audience.

Estate agents need to consider the use of:
• Social media
• Email
• SMS
• PPC

These four platforms provide you with different ways to connect with your audience, and it may even help you engage with different people. When considering your marketing options, it is vital to find your overall marketing strategy, and then how each component works in its own right to combine and work together.

Social media activity should be eye-catching, to the point, and engaging. Social media is an excellent platform for people to share content and link to others, but the content needs to be of interest in the first place. Email marketing provides you with the chance to get more in-depth about houses on the market or the services you offer.

Both of these platforms are beneficial, but it is essential to be aware that they are different, and a strategy that works on one isn’t guaranteed to work on the other. Using the same approach on both could lead to weaker results.

Similarly, SMS marketing has a role to play because the property market moves fast. Even though many people are never far away from social media or email thanks to the constant presence of smart-phones, you can’t always be sure you reach people immediately on these platforms. With a text message, people stop and engage directly.

Think about how quickly some properties move when they are placed on the market. If you promise to inform clients immediately when a suitable property becomes available, you need to be able to connect with them instantly, and SMS marketing remains the most effective way to reach people in the here and now.

As for PPC, it is easy to see why this is an effective form of marketing. If you are concerned about the cost, and potential low return, of traditional marketing strategies, PPC will appeal. The name stands for Pay-Per-Click, and only paying when someone shows an interest in your offer, clicking a link is a cost-effective way of reaching out to people.

Not everyone is going to hold an interest in what you offer, and that is okay. However, you’d prefer not to pay to access these people and then learn that they aren’t interested in what you offer. With online property portals, the monthly subscription fee places you in front of a lot of people, but the vast majority won’t be interested in your offerings. With a tailored PPC campaign, you can enjoy a more attractive return on your marketing investment.

How do you attract your target audience? Quality content
No matter which strategy you use, you need quality content to ensure you connect with people. No matter whether you want to engage with vendors, landlords, tenants or buyers, you need to offer them content that they want to read about, and which helps them make decisions.

As an agent, you may need to appeal to different people, who want different things. Vendors want to know that you can sell their home and buyers want to know you can help them buy a home. However, a lot of your work is based on bringing these different groups of people together. You need to have content tailored to specific groups of people, at times, but you also need to have content that shows you interact and appeal to everyone involved with a property deal.

The starting point of quality content is always your audience. Even in an article or post that talks about how good you are or how experienced your company is, the message needs to be about how this benefits your audience. Your experience and local knowledge helping people to sell their home, engage buyers and promote the great hotspots of the area which gets people to take notice is the point of the article, not that you have been in the industry for more years than you may care to remember.

If you use your audience as the starting point when creating content, no matter the format, you’ll significantly improve your chances of bringing people to you and starting business relationships.

How can I engage more people with quality content?
Quality content is the basis of reaching out to people, and in an ideal world, your quality content would be found, loved and shared by many people. However, we know this is no longer the case if it ever was. Social media platforms want to stifle organic growth because they want to sell advertising on their platforms.

This situation is annoying, but if you treat your estate agency or letting agency as a professional business, and you should, you should accept that advertising is a necessary part of the business. You wouldn’t expect a newspaper, radio channel or TV station to feature your company and services for no money, and sadly, this is how we must view social media platforms too.

It is possible to develop and maintain an audience on social media through the use of quality content, but for increasing follower numbers and drawing people to you, advertising works.

Specifically, Facebook advertising campaigns work. Facebook is the most popular social media platform, with the most significant number of users. The costs of advertising on Facebook are more appealing than Google, and tailored campaigns using quality content provide excellent results.

As always, though, there are right ways and wrong ways to advertise on Facebook. It is best to develop a campaign where you let your audience get to know you, get to see what you offer and find out the benefits they’ll receive if they use you.

Firms that jump straight to trying to clinch a deal or make a sale without any introduction or build-up struggle to get results. Given the sums of money and the importance of transactions in the property and lettings market, people want to make an informed decision. There is too much at stake to rush into a choice, and this is why Facebook advertising campaigns that share quality content and build up trust in what you offer is more effective in promoting properties and driving traffic to your company.

Make the most of your content
When it comes to content, it is natural for people to think of blog content and simple social media posts. This has been the way firms have engaged their audience online, but there is a need to change and provide people with what they want.

Changes to internet connectivity, connection speeds, ease of download, devices people access the internet with ever-increasing demands on our time influences how people use the internet.

Detailed written content still has a part to play in the property market, this is a market where people want to make informed decisions, but there is a need to provide snappy, informative information that fits into people’s lives.

In this regard, the importance of video content is evident. There is an overwhelming array of video statistics, but if you need to be convinced by the need for video content, look around you or think about how you enjoy content.

Video is fast, it gets to the point, it is easily shared, and people remember the message of video content more readily than the written word. If you want to engage your audience, you need to ensure you have video content, but the good news is that written content should inform your video content.

Much in the same way your overall marketing strategy should inform how you approach different marketing methods, your overall marketing strategy should be the platform for all your marketing content.

The message you wish to share with your audience should be the same in a written blog post as it is in a video, a podcast, an infographic, a flyer or any form of content you create.

Each format should tailor the content to communicate effectively, but if you have a local house price article, pull out the relevant points and prices and create a video for it. Then, why not use this video content to create a PPC campaign, driving attention and traffic to your relevant and high-quality content.

People want to know about local house prices, but they may find the prospect of reading a full blog to be dull or uninteresting. Therefore, if you promote a short video clip that provides them with everything they need to know in a minute or two, there will be higher uptake.
Following on from this, the people who decide they want to do more with this information can be directed to your site or a social media platform, where you can engage them and provide them with the information they need.

With a PPC campaign, you can reach out to people who fit your demographics and who have a connection to the area you provide information on. You can even run campaigns to reach people who have previously engaged with you, but who didn’t follow up a previous interest.

When you have quality content that informs a specific audience, PPC campaigns directed at this audience are highly effective, providing you with a higher return on your investment.

Don’t overlook traditional marketing methods
While it is essential to embrace the opportunities provided by online marketing and the internet, don’t solely use this medium to reach an audience. There are many aspects of the property industry, which are traditional, and not everyone is internet savvy or actively searching for a new home right now.

As an estate agent, you need to have a local presence, and this is where traditional and physical marketing products have a huge impact. Organising leaflet drops, running adverts in local papers or magazines and creating posters that reach a local audience allows you to speak to a local audience directly.

You have information about local house prices. This is information that local people have an interest in knowing. They may not actively search for this information, but if they receive it, in a newspaper advert or in a leaflet that comes through their door, they will pay attention. This outcome means they pay attention to you, and if they later decide to make a move in the property market or if someone asks them to recommend a local agent, your name will be the one they likely offer.

Think about the consumer journey
If you are struggling to justify traditional marketing activities, or you would rather blitz online platforms, it is vital to think about the consumer journey. No two customers are alike, and many have different starting points.

Therefore, creating quality content that creates more opportunities to connect with people organically makes sense. Paid advertising is essential, but it won’t reach everyone, and it won’t provide the information that everyone needs.

At various points in this guide, the importance of property deals and the cost of buying a home have been highlighted. It is important to remember this because it dramatically influences consumer action and decision-making process.

This is the most significant commitment many people will ever make in their life, and they want to work with an estate agent or letting agent they can trust. Therefore, you need to:

• Show value to your audience
• Detail your expertise in the sector
• Provide reasons why clients should trust you
• Showcase that you can develop a relationship with your client that helps you both achieve positive outcomes
• Generate enquiries

By having a potent blend of traditional and online content, you increase your chances of connecting people, and you have a higher chance of persuading people that you are the agent they need to choose.

You can cut costs by not using web portals
With the leading web portal in the UK increasing their subscription charges, leaving some agents paying more in portal fees than rent, you need to ask yourself if you are getting value for money with your use of these portals.

It is possible to reduce your costs and use these funds in a way that promotes your business and helps you develop an audience and reputation. Right now, the money you spend on web portals provides you with traffic in the here and now, but if these sites stopped, where would your business be?

Would the people who engage with your business through these property portals know where to find you? Would they remember you amongst the volume of agents listed on these sites? Agents must be wary of having limited control in their industry because everything runs through a middle man.

There is also the fact that when you operate on a property portal, your rivals are as likely to benefit from your presence as you are. Prospective buyers will often look at various houses, and even if your listing drove people to the site, it may be that another agency benefits through contact or developing a lead.

The value for money on offer from web portals needs to be considered by estate agents because there are concerns that if problems arise with these portals, your business could be gone.

How can you make yourself the number one choice?
As has been stated in this guide, you need to focus on your audience and give them what they want. A lot of this will be down to the quality of the homes you list and the services you provide around these homes. Your skill and expertise deliver results and breeds confidence, which is what people want to see from you.

However, an estate agent needs to have a presence in their local community, and you need to be a dependable choice for your clients.

How do you develop relationships?
There are many ways that you can develop a relationship with your audience, and it is all about providing them with the best standard of service.

Many people look for instant information and to know about new developments in the property market. Time is of the essence when it comes to finding homes, so why not create an executive members club for clients that provides them with priority access.

This arrangement can be offered to buyers, landlords and tenants, providing them with exclusive access to newly listed homes before placement to the general market. This service will also help you attract vendors because people selling their home want to know that there is a buzz about the promotion of property.

If you know that one agent has a group of VIPs who gain access to property listings for a limited time, you know this creates interest, demand and action. Everyone you could engage in the property market benefits from this sort of experience, which means firms should consider it as an option.

Similarly, word of mouth recommendations are hugely important to estate agents, so why not reward people for promoting you. If your previous clients tell their friends and family members to check you out, you should pay them for doing so. In offering a referral program, you incentivise people to promote your business and direct people to your listings and offerings.

Referral programs are brilliant for agents because it doesn’t just traffic to you; it drives informed and interested traffic. In the present day, recommendations, reviews and testimonials are crucial in persuading people about the merits of an estate or letting agent, so if you receive positive feedback from someone who has used your services, you’ll likely receive more interest.

Be part of your local community
Of course, developing a presence in your local area and community isn’t just about promoting to clients. You need to promote the area, show that you know this area and show that you care. You do this by promoting others and not yourself.

When you use social media, try to be sociable. People will get bored if you only talk about yourself the whole time, so by sharing insights about the community or shining a light onto others who do good work; you position yourself as an agency that genuinely cares.

In the longer term, you will likely receive links and recommendations from the people and firms you promote, which is helpful, but developing your brand, reputation and awareness make a massive difference in reaching out to people.

Estate agents and letting agents operate in a hugely competitive marketplace. You need to ensure people know your brand and agency, and you need to provide them with reasons to call on your services. Solely relying on web portals to drive traffic to your listings or connect with people is a risky long-term strategy for agents.

You need to make sure people know about your firm, about why you are the local agency to trust and why your services positively impact on your clients. At Agent Media, we believe agents can prosper without using web portals, and with our help, you can take complete control of your business, winning clients and pleasing people on your terms.

Need help with your social media marketing? Take our 14 day FREE trial, by clicking here

If you would like to chat then please call my direct line 01480 589003 or email me on ian.watson@agentmedia.co.uk and we can arrange a call to discuss how social media and content can help grow you business.

Written By
Ian Watson
Founder
Agent Media UK


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