Ooops! Did we get it wrong again? We already know most agents don’t bother with Web marketing. Now it seems many of us (myself included) are missing some important lessons in terms of marketing effectively on the Web.

At Real Estate Connect, I moderated a panel on Internet marketing. Marc Davison of VREO Software was one of the panelists, so we had a chance to visit prior to the session. I was quite surprised by what he shared.

Ooops! Did we get it wrong again? We already know most agents don’t bother with Web marketing. Now it seems many of us (myself included) are missing some important lessons in terms of marketing effectively on the Web.

At Real Estate Connect, I moderated a panel on Internet marketing. Marc Davison of VREO Software was one of the panelists, so we had a chance to visit prior to the session. I was quite surprised by what he shared.

In past columns, I have regularly advocated purchasing a Web site that includes a strategy for harvesting contact information from Web visitors. The most common way to do this is with a free report. When the Web visitor signs up for the report, an autoresponder sends out the requested information. The Web site also sends an e-mail to the agent with the visitor’s contact information. According to Marc, there are several problems associated with using this approach.

First, VREO conducted a series of focus groups to determine how real estate consumers would like to experience marketing. Overwhelmingly, the focus groups told VREO they did not want agents contacting them when they signed up for a free report. The truth of the matter is few agents follow-up on Internet leads. In fact, the current research shows 70 percent of us take at least two days to respond and another 58 percent of agents do not respond at all. When agents do follow up from a free report, they often believe they have a legitimate client lead. Instead, the lead is for someone who wants a free report. This individual may or may not be a true prospect. Making matters worse, many agents place their visitors’ names in their contact management system and begin sending them unsolicited e-mail. Given all the spam most people receive, agents who do this alienate the visitor rather than motivate the individual to contact them.

What should we be doing? According to Marc, we should look at successful sites such as Amazon or eBay. Internet consumers want anonymity until they are ready to purchase. They want to see what is available for sale, they want to know as much as possible about the product, and they want information about the individual they will be using when they decide to purchase. VREO’s focus groups said exactly the same thing. Our Web visitors do not want to hear from us until they are ready to do business.

How can we motivate Web visitors to contact us? The solution is surprisingly simple.

1. Web visitors want to know what is for sale.

The simplest way to handle this is with a link to your Multiple Listing Service with a VOW (Virtual Office Web site) or IDX (Internet Data Exchange) solution. They also want to know about comparable sales.

2. Web visitors want information now.

An easy way to supply this is with an 800 number where the visitor can contact you with questions. Surprisingly, most agents rely on their e-mail address as the primary means for Web leads to contact them. Since most agents are poor at responding to e-mail inquiries, having a phone number on your site makes great sense. Furthermore, a lead who wants to reach you will normally pick up the phone and call you.

3. Web visitors return to sites that provide them with great resources.

Include Chamber of Commerce information, data on local schools, facts about neighborhoods you service, and e-coupons from local merchants.

4. A first-class Web site attracts first-class clientele.

Your Web visitor judges you by how professional your site looks. Pictures of you with your family and dog do not convey a professional image. The focus is on you rather than the Web visitor.

Marc told me the goal at VREO was to meet each of these criteria. Check out two of its agent Web sites: www.barbaramalone.com and www.khristajarvis.com.

VREO also won the Inman Innovator of the Year for their transaction tracking and marketing capabilities included in their software products. According to Inman News CEO Bradley Inman, “An Inman Innovator is a company that has demonstrated super-extraordinary powers of innovation through the use of technology or the Internet to positively influence the real estate industry and redefine key business models within the segment. VREO Software is a leader because it uses technology to improve the way real estate agents work and make the real estate transaction simpler and easier for agents and consumers.”

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

***

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