(This is Part 1 of a two-part series. See Part 2: Pay-per-click revolutionizes real estate biz.)

How much money did you spend on marketing in 2004?

(This is Part 1 of a two-part series. See Part 2: Pay-per-click revolutionizes real estate biz.)

How much money did you spend on marketing in 2004? If you are like most agents, the bulk of your marketing budget went to print advertising. To get the most bang for your buck in 2005, it’s time to readjust your marketing strategies to fit today’s consumer.

I recently attended a conference where a speaker outlined some startling statistics. The data for 2004 shows that the real estate industry is still spending 96 percent of its marketing dollars on print advertising and only 4 percent on Web marketing. According to the NAR 2004 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 74 percent of all buyers used the Web in their home search, the same percentage of buyers who relied on yard signs. In contrast, only 53 percent used newspaper advertising and only 40 percent used a home book or magazine. What’s even more surprising is how buyers ranked the usefulness of the information they found. Seventy-two percent of the buyers ranked their agents as being “very useful,” compared to 69 percent for the Internet, 52 percent for yard signs, 32 percent for newspapers, and 28 percent for home books or magazines. Clearly it’s time to adjust our advertising strategies so they match what consumers want and need. To reach more consumers in 2005, consider implementing the following seven strategies.

1. Invest in a top-notch Web site

There is no point in spending money on Web marketing unless you have a first-class Web site. If your Web site is an infomercial for you, Web visitors will surf to another site. To hold their interest, make sure they can link to the MLS from your site. The front page of your site should also have links to school information, a mortgage calculator, Chamber of Commerce information, updated comparable sales, and most importantly, virtual tours and multiple pictures of all of your listings.

2. Put more money into Web marketing

Reduce your print advertising budget and spend more on Web marketing. Ideally, all print advertising should drive people to your site. This means making a fundamental shift from the way you may have marketed in the past. Often times, agents want to give as much detail as possible in print. The new strategy is to use print advertising to motivate readers to go to your Web site. In addition to virtual tours and MLS access, you can offer coupons from local merchants, money-saving reports or online courses to attract more visitors to your site.

3. Make sure your Web site has an 800 number

Surprisingly, many agent Web sites do not list the agent’s telephone number. Be sure to include your phone number on your site. The best approach is to use an IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition) or 800 Call Capture system. This ensures that you will receive the caller’s correct phone number within minutes of when they call on your ad, sign or from your Web site.

4. Include a site map

A site map summarizes the content of your Web site, usually at the bottom of your home page. In many cases, the site map in only visible to the search engine, rather than to your Web visitors. Most search engines only “spider” (read) your home page. This means the search engine may not access all the features on your site. To circumvent this difficulty, ask your Web site provider whether your current site has a site map. If not, add one as soon as possible.

5. Beef up metatags and key words

Search engines match the words Web visitors type in their browser to the keywords and metatags on your site. Important words every site should use repeatedly are “homes,” “properties,” “real estate,” “buyers,” “sellers,” your geographical location, and any special niches you service. These words are the equivalent of using “4 bedrooms, 3 baths, view, and pool” in print advertising. Web visitors generally begin their searches with a geographical location plus the term “real estate” or “home.”

6. Respond immediately to Web inquiries to avoid wasting marketing dollars

This seems obvious, but the research says 58 percent of all agents do not respond to e-mail inquiries from their Web site. Of those who do, more than 70 percent take at least two days to respond. Web visitors want an immediate response. If you use your e-mail address on any of your marketing materials, you must be prepared to respond at least the same day. If you are poor at responding to Web inquiries, hire a virtual assistant to handle this for you. Alternatively, list your 800 number rather than an e-mail address.

The seventh strategy is to use a “pay-per-click” program. If you would like to know more about how pay-per-click works, see next week’s column, “Pay-per-click Your Way to More Business.”

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

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