(This is Part 3 of a four-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.)

There’s been lots of press about “Internet 2.0.” Internet 1.0 was about content and creating “stickiness” on your Web site (i.e. having people stay on your site to read your content.) Internet 1.5 was about lead generation.

(This is Part 3 of a four-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.)

There’s been lots of press about “Internet 2.0.” Internet 1.0 was about content and creating “stickiness” on your Web site (i.e. having people stay on your site to read your content.) Internet 1.5 was about lead generation. Today, Internet 2.0 is the transition from lead generation to lead conversion.

The real estate industry has always been proficient at generating leads. The biggest challenge facing us, however, is how to convert those leads into signed business.

The California Association of Realtors in its annual study of Internet buyers and sellers reported that 48 percent of the Internet leads are being ignored. There are several explanations for this situation. First, Internet leads can take up to 18 months to incubate. This poses a significant challenge because most agents and companies lack the necessary systems to incubate leads for this length of time. Furthermore, the concept of incubating leads flies in the face of the traditional marketing wisdom. For years, real estate lead generation has focused almost exclusively on “right now” business. Expired listings, FSBOs, referrals and tenants in occupied listings are the four primary sources of “right now” business. Nevertheless, none of these channels addresses the huge migration to the Web. Web leads may take longer to incubate, but 68 percent only interview one agent. In contrast, the typical traditional buyer interviews a median of three agents. As a result, the first agent to reach the Web consumer has a high probability of closing that business. The smartest approach is to shift your marketing to include both traditional and Internet strategies.

Currently, there are several models that attempt to address the often-cumbersome task of “scrubbing” Internet leads and converting them. “Scrubbing” means eliminating those people who are not serious buyers or sellers and who do not want to be contacted by a real estate professional. Weichert’s call conversion center currently connects leads with a live agent in approximately nine minutes or less. Coldwell Banker’s Lead Router system allows the listing agent 15 minutes to respond before referring the lead to another agent. A new system called “realPing” allows agents to use a “push-to-talk” technology to connect when someone is on their Web site and wants to speak to the agent. Agents control when they want to receive leads. When agents are available to take a lead, they activate a pop-up on their Web site that visitors can click. If the visitor wants to speak to the agent, clicking on the button links the visitor directly to the agent’s phone. Then, depending on what the visitor wants, the agent can actually direct the lead’s computer screen to virtual tours and other place’s on the agent’s site, all from the convenience of the agent’s cell phone.

The most exciting tool that I saw at Connect was from Glenn Houck and Andrew Coleman of www.LeadQual.com. These two innovators cut their teeth at HomeGain and played a major role in the success of that venture. LeadQual represents the next generation of lead generation and lead conversion. While most lead generation companies generate unqualified or “unscrubbed” leads, the LeadQual system delivers the lead directly to the agent in two to seven minutes. Here’s how the system works. First, leads to your Web site complete a form, part of which is a request for their phone number. When the lead enters the phone number, the system calls the LeadQual swat team. When the swat team determines that the lead is legitimate, the system then brings up a list of agents who are available either online or by telephone. If multiple agents are available, the company using the system can rank order which agents they want to receive calls. The system then notifies the agent there is a lead. If the agent agrees to take the lead, the system sends the agent the lead’s information. It also calls the agent. Once the agent answers the phone, the system then conferences the agent back to the swat team and the lead. The swat team member hands the lead off to the agent.

One thorny problem still remains however. What if the lead is not ready to purchase now? There are numerous options.

For companies, www.SalesForce.com is a major CRM (Customer relationship management) program. Jack Bowman of Keller Williams in St. Petersburg, Fla., formed a separate company for the express purpose of incubating leads. His team stays in contact with Internet leads until they are ready to begin working with an agent.

For individual agents, a different solution is to use a system such as MyHomeManagementClub.com, which e-mails leads three times per month keeping your name and useful information constantly in front of your Internet leads. Other approaches include more traditional systems such as Top Producer or SharperAgent.com.

Interested in learning more? See next week’s article.

Bernice Ross, co-owner of Realestatecoach.com, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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