(This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1.)
Will you be swept away by the coming riptides of change? Or will you successfully navigate the onslaught on your lead generation and emerge victorious?
Last week’s article looked at the lead-generation battle among the titans of the industry. The question is how can broker-owners and single agents generate their own leads without relying on their company or on a so-called “intermediary” to do the job for them? The answer is to embrace the latest round of new technology.
Blogging and Social Networking
No matter which lead-generation engine you choose, none provides the personal touch that a blog can provide. People crave personal connection. This is part of the reason that social networking sites such as MySpace.com are so popular. A blog allows your visitors to know you in a safe, anonymous form. Users are not forced to fill out an online form to gain access to listing information. Instead, the more you become the one-stop shop for all things real estate, the better your results will be. Your clients may visit the Zillow, Realtor.com and company Web sites. They will generally do business, however, with the local person they have learned to trust or who has a good reputation in the community. Furthermore, if you create a social networking site where members of your referral database or your community can share information, you will greatly enhance the probability that those people will do business with you rather than some stranger they met online.
The great thing about the Internet is that there are so many venues where you can advertise for free. How can you stand out from the crowd? One of the best ways is to make the shift from using a simple virtual tour to using a high-definition movie about the property that includes community information and an interview with the seller, as well as providing a sense of the local lifestyle. One of the best examples of this new service is from TurnHere. On the other hand, at YouTube.com, production quality is not as important as creativity. A number of early adopters have started posting their property videos on YouTube.com. This is great exposure for your listings, especially if your target market is Gen X, Gen Y or Gen Next. Better yet, there’s no cost to post. Thus, if you create a short film, you can market it on multiple Web sites, many of which charge nothing. Compare this to the Realtor.com model where they charge agents to post multiple pictures. This may be at least part of the reason that Realtor.com Web traffic has been on a steady decline, according to Alexa.com. Consumers are going to sites that provide as much comprehensive data as possible. By charging agents to post additional pictures, agents have elected to use other venues that allow them to post additional pictures at no charge.
Kudos to Coldwell Banker for stepping up and playing in this new virtual real estate reality. When I first heard about SecondLife.com a year ago, they had about 200,000 members. The number of people playing today has just exceeded 5 million. Furthermore, this site allows you to create your own online identity (an “avatar”), and you can buy and sell real estate with the Second Life currency called “lindens.” To enter the game, you pay a monthly fee. If you want to make a purchase, you convert your dollars into lindens. You can then purchase anything from virtual houses to cars and clothing.
A number of bricks-and-mortar retailers have opened online stores to start selling their real-world products through a SecondLife.com storefront. As with any venture where there are significant amounts of dollars being traded, you can expect entrepreneurs to attempt to capitalize on the trend. What’s interesting is that Coldwell Banker has challenged the “land barons” who were attempting to form a real estate monopoly at Second Life. If you think this is irrelevant, think again. Second Life just had the first person who has made a million dollars from playing the game. The land barons who formed the monopoly were selling their houses for $60. Coldwell Banker has a team of salaried employees who design and sell Second Life properties, and a well-designed Coldwell Banker house in an attractive subdivision costs only $20. This is a brilliant marketing move. All of these young future buyers will remember who gave them a fair shake at Second Life. Which company do you think that they will use when they decide to buy the real thing?
These cutting-edge Web innovations can give you a significant advantage over your competitors who still are stuck running newspaper ads and waiting for the phone to ring. Each provides a different avenue that individual agents can use to generate leads. Furthermore, these online resources may very well be the preferred lead-generation sources for the Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Next buyers and sellers of the future.
Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.