Using the Web for lead generation is one thing; but a lot of real estate agents react with sheer terror when it comes to setting up their own Web sites (not to mention blogs). I have to do it, too, so I nudged marketing consultant Linda Alexander of write2thepointcom.com for a few tips. Check out her site if you can; it’s cleanly designed and the “portfolio” section is full of free tips for writers.

Q: Every real estate agent now feels it’s about Web, Web, Web. Any tips for someone who is just starting to design his/her own page or site?

A: Keep it simple as far as language and design; don’t crowd your pages with too many words; and focus on your customers and the benefit they can get from you instead of focusing on yourself.

Q: A lot of Realtors seem to design their Web sites by looking at … other sites. How can an agent break out of the copy sound-alike trap?

A: You need to differentiate yourself from other Realtors just as you would in any other aspect of the business; emphasize whatever gives you the edge against the competition.

Q: But then you’re selling. What’s the secret to sounding real and not sales-y?

A: You need to write in a conversational tone.

People are afraid to write because they’re afraid they can’t sound like Shakespeare, but you should write as if you’re talking face-to-face with your ideal customer. Tell your customer what’s in it for them. You can tell them about how many houses you’ve sold, but also how you’re going to sell their house. While the customer is reading your copy, they should think, “this person can help me.”

Q: What if you’re a member of a small boutique, and you find yourself routinely going up against big firms?

A: Go personal. If you’re a boutique firm, there’s probably something you specialize in; you focus on a certain neighborhood or a type of building – focus on that. Sound personal, and offer the reader something he/she can use. On my Web site, there are a lot of tips people can use – it proves to people that I know what I’m doing, and that I’m not just selling.

Q: A lot of agents are scared that if they give away information, the customer will just take it and do the deal themselves, without the agent. What’s the solution to that?

A: It’s probably not true because readers know they’re not experts. By offering them information, you’re strengthening your image and expertise in their minds.

Q: How can you make things interactive?

A: Q&As work, articles work. I’ve seen sites that are just a one-page sales letter, and they do the job; explaining what you can do for your customer and how they can find you.

And one more thing that’s basic marketing: Include a call to action for your customers. Tell them what you want them to do: do you want them to call you for more information? To fill out a form?

Q: I know this is a really basic question, but is that call to action as direct as “please fill out this form?”

A: “To learn more about how I can save you money, fill out this form.”

Q: Are there other things that are very Web-specific?

A: On the Web there’s a lack of attention span. People can click off at any time; don’t make them work to read your page. Longer print copy gives you more time to sell, but on the Web, you want to get the point across quickly before they click off. So keep your writing short.

Also, you can always tweak Web copy; see how much business your site is bringing you, and adjust it until it gets better. The great thing about writing is you don’t have to get it right on the first try.

Q: Say you have a successful sales letter that works for you in print — can you put that straight on the Web?

A: It depends on length. Limit your pages to about 300 words on the Web, if you have more information than that, spread it onto multiple pages.

Q: I’ve been asking you about “dos.” Any “don’ts?”

A: Don’t keep your Web site static; update the information – whether it’s about your latest sale, or a list of painters in the area — so your customers have a reason to come back.

And don’t stuff your page with keywords thinking it’s going to get it a higher search-engine rank. Put keywords in where they would fit naturally.

Q: Should business people who are trying to market themselves start a blog?

A: Yes. It gives you credibility, and it makes your Web site “sticky” – it keeps your visitors coming back.

***

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