Marketing

Testimonials and client reviews are crucial to growing your real estate business

Honest feedback is important, but client feedback is vital

In a recent piece on Inman, Greg Eckler wrote a post titled, “Why honest feedback can trump a glowing testimonial in real estate.” In it, he made some very solid observations that we in the real estate industry need quality feedback from past clients and consumers we have worked with or communicated with regarding buying and selling homes.

How are we doing? Are we doing a good job? That is always a plus. I also agree that, though feedback has to do with the analytics and should cause some soul searching, so to speak, reviews and testimonials are also a crucial must to grow a real estate a career.

What I don’t agree with is the author’s comments. “Who is going to prompt people who don’t like us or would give a bad review?” Eckler asked in his story. “It can be hard enough to get responses to a testimonial request, so why bother asking the bad ones? The good ones need to like us enough to spend the time registering, writing and posting a testimonial — to the 10 websites we are promoting (Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com, Yelp, etc.). I’m guilty of this, too, but it doesn’t help me improve my listings or my business — it’s just marketing.”

In my experience — look at local restaurant reviews on Yelp, for example — people will “torch” a business much faster and be far more motivated to let Zillow or Trulia know of their displeasure in an agent who was unresponsive than a happy client would be in taking the time to go through the hoops it takes to review you on Zillow for a job well-done.

I actually do send links to past clients on every single sale, whether good, bad or indifferent. The hard ones that make you wince a little because an appraisal was low or some other factor outside of your control all the way down to an issue with the buyer’s lender made “everybody” look not so good, yet I send them out anyway.

Regarding honesty, I find that Zillow, in particular, has little care or concern about what “I” think regarding what my clients said whether good or bad within reviews attributed to my work as an agent. I would say this is rightly so. They only want to know the review is from a consumer, and if that consumer has something to say that might impact other consumers in their decisions. That is about nothing but “blanket” honesty.

I agree that we need feedback on showings to help the listing agent and seller. We need to also ask all our clients, not just the ones with good experiences and easy closings, to review us online.

One thing I have noticed and read over the years is that if you have glowing reviews on Zillow, Trulia and Yelp, you had better have “a lot more” than other real estate agents for it mean something. I would contend if you have only a handful of reviews online as an agent, it will be much easier to seem as if you “cherry pick” your clients to review you as opposed to someone with 100 or more.

I say this only as a general comment. That’s why we need to go back to past clients and follow up weekly until they complete them! Let’s face it, most people today we bump into have a profile on Zillow and it seems as though it’s not that much work to ask a client to spend three or four minutes on Zillow reviewing us, unless we don’t “want them to” for some reason. Yet, I hear from other agents frequently the same question, “But how do you get clients to complete a review request?” It’s simply a matter of continuous effort.

I get calls each week from my profile on Zillow. Unpaid for calls and email contacts simply because I have enhanced my profile and online presence, and I work at it. I don’t pay Zillow for leads. I work at keeping my profile up to date.  Love them or hate them, work at taking advantage of the leading portal for real estate buyers and sellers and having a large presence there to meet those who have housing top of mind.

Yes, we need feedback on our listings, both truthful and honest. And yes, we need to hear the truth regarding the services we offer to both buyers and sellers, but don’t discount the most obvious place online to achieve this and market your business by branding yourself just because none of us know what a “Zillow” is.

I cannot tell you how many times I have sat across from someone at a listing appointment, and they tell me, “The main reason you are here right now is because of your reviews on Zillow.” Yes, it is hard, but when is building a brand ever easy? Yes, we need feedback to know how we are doing, but if you can couple this to market yourself as well because you inherently do a good job, then use it to the fullest advantage for the growth and perfection of your business.

Hank Bailey is an associate broker with Re/Max Legends and a Realtor for more than a decade who provides buyer’s agent representation and seller listing services related to residential real estate.

Email Hank Bailey.