Once again, the Rookie Realtor is running down a rabbit hole. Are you making the same mistake?

Once again, the Rookie Realtor is running down a rabbit hole. Are you making the same mistake?

Last week I was on a conference call with Inman News CEO and founder Brad Inman and a number of executives who provide Web services to the real estate community. The subject of the “Rookie Realtor” came up in the conversation. The Rookie originally started by knocking at doors. Door knocking is hard, but it yields consistent results. The Rookie’s latest strategy, however, is actually a giant step backward. The Rookie decided having a Web site was a smart investment. The Rookie has been chewing up valuable prospecting time “working on my Web site.” Once the Rookie’s site went “live,” the Rookie was shocked that only one person visited it. The Rookie fell into one of the most dangerous traps in our business–spending money on marketing without understanding what it buys and whether it will work.

Do Agents Really Need a Web Site?

For most agents, purchasing Web-site technology is a waste of time and money for the following reasons:

1. Marketing via the Web is difficult and highly competitive

Web marketing is all about “location, location, location.” In this case, “location” references front-page placement on the major search engines. Few people “surf” beyond the front page of their searches because they normally find what they want without going further. Obtaining first-page placement is difficult. Web marketing poses a challenge even for the most sophisticated players in the marketplace. For example, I recently did some consulting for a major firm in a large metropolitan area. When I asked them to do a Google search on “real estate” and the city where their home office is located, their Web site did not appear on the first page. What’s amazing is neither did the top six companies in their area. Instead, some Web-savvy agents had top placement. If the big national players are unable to obtain top Web placement, are you truly willing to put forth the time and effort required to do it as a single individual? In other words, if you are unwilling to hire a search-engine specialist or become involved in “pay-per-click” marketing, chances are you’re wasting your money if you expect your Web site to generate actual leads.

2. Web marketing is passive

Like floor time or open house, relying on your Web site to generate business is the same as relying on sign calls to make a living. You are never in control of your own business and can never count on a steady stream of income.

3. No way to convert leads

Most agent Web sites are a glorified electronic business card. The agent provides no incentive for the Web visitor to stay nor do most agents have a way to harvest leads. The overwhelming reason people visit agent Web sites is to see what is available for sale. Sadly, most agent sites do not link to the Multiple Listing Service. Thus, when visitors cannot find what they want, they move quickly to another site that meets their needs. Even if the agent does have what the visitor wants, few provide an 800 number where one can call to ask questions. If the Web visitor is serious, he/she often wants to talk to a live person right away. No phone number means a missed lead.

4. Poor lead follow-up

Even when a Web visitor contacts you for a free report or other information, most agents are extremely poor at following up on their leads. Web visitors want instant gratification. If you only answer your e-mail several times per week, your Internet leads are gone long before you return their inquiry.

Smart Use of Your Web site

Agents do need a Web site to compete on listing presentations. While most sellers have a poor grasp of how Web marketing works, they do recognize the importance of being on the Web. Rather than expecting your site to generate leads, use your print, sign and other advertising campaigns to drive traffic to your site. For example, when an agent meets buyers at an open house, the agent can invite the open house visitors to take a virtual tour of other properties from their site. A Web site can also be a valuable tool during listing presentations. Prior to your listing presentation, you can take digital pictures of the property and post them to your site. You then give the seller the URL where they can see how you will market their house online. When you use your site to support your proactive lead generation activities, you are spending smart money. If you expect your Web site to passively generate leads for you, you’re simply throwing your money down a rabbit hole.

Bernice Ross is an owner of Realestatecoach.com and can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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