(This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2, “VFlyer lets agents track return on marketing dollar.”)

Consolidation is one of the key trends occurring in the real estate industry today. Are you ready to capitalize on this trend in your business?

Will there be a single multiple listing service for the entire country? While there has been a heated discussion about this topic, few people have noted the parallel consolidation of the vendor services that agents and brokers use. Integrated, single platforms of services are rapidly replacing the piecemeal approach that required agents and brokers to go to multiple vendors to obtain the services they need. What’s even more surprising is that many of these new platforms are available at no charge.

I recently conducted a new-agent training class and wanted to illustrate to the class how easy it is to set up a Web site. Several years ago, you would have invested several thousand dollars to have a quality Web site. Today, agents can create a Web site in just a few minutes and have an amazing array of services available from that site, all at no charge. Before you say, “I already have a Web site,” remember that searching the Web is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. The more places that you and your listings appear the more likely you will be to generate and convert leads.

Sadly, most agent and broker Web sites lack landing pages. The reason to have a landing page is to motivate leads to give you their contact information. The strategy works by offering your Web visitor a free report or some other offer of service such as a complimentary CMA. Since your Web visitor must supply a valid e-mail address to receive the information, you are now engaging in “give-to-get marketing.” In other words, you offer a service and then allow your Web visitors to determine whether they want the service. In exchange, you obtain their contact information.

An important part of your strategy in working with a landing page is to offer additional services each time someone requests information. For example, if a buyer clicks through from your report, “How to Save Money on Your Mortgage,” you could follow up with “Five Inspection Tips Most Buyers Miss.” The idea is to continue to offer services until your Web visitors decide to work with you.

The challenge for agents and brokers alike is that doing this process manually takes a great deal of time. New integrated technology solutions now allow you to do this quickly and easily. For example, when you sign up for one of the Point2Agent Web sites, you can create a Web site that is packed with landing pages, all of which offer services to your client. Once Web visitors click on a report, the system automatically sends it to them and then adds the data to your contact manager.

Point2’s technology does much more. Once you post a listing on your Point2 site, it is syndicated to more than 20 different Web sites, including Yahoo! Classifieds, craigslist, Google, Oodle, Trulia, Live Deal and PropertySmart. You can also elect through their “Handshake” program to syndicate to any of the other 140,000-plus agents who are already in their system. Their “NLS,” or National Listing Service, allows you to display your listings to the public as well. In addition to these resources, they also have a blogging product included in the package. The most exciting part of this package, however, is their new service that integrates into social networking site Facebook.

Much like MySpace.com, visitors to Facebook can post pictures, videos and other information on their “wall.” Social networking sites are similar to a town hall meeting where like-minded people can gather to share information about common interests. Facebook.com is well on the road to becoming more popular than MySpace.com because it allows users to control access to their network. What Point2 has done is to integrate a new application into its current Web site product that posts your listings on Facebook in the appropriate neighborhood. It also allows you to establish yourself as the expert Realtor in the area by answering questions and participating in the Facebook community.

To establish yourself as an expert in today’s Web 2.0 environment, follow these three easy steps:

1. Participate in a social networking site that is specific to your geographical location or neighborhood

2. Be a strong resource for community information

3. Post plenty of photos and videos about your location as well as relevant and interesting content.

Taking advantage of Web 2.0 is now easier than ever. If you haven’t joined in, now’s the time to do so!

Want to learn more about more Web innovations that can boost your business? If so, don’t miss next week’s column.

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 bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

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