Steps:

1. Know who comes and why

2. Greet them with a smile

3. Give them what they want

4. Make it easy for them

5. Follow through

Steps:

1. Know who comes and why

2. Greet them with a smile

3. Give them what they want

4. Make it easy for them

5. Follow through

Business works essentially the same way on online as it does in the "real" world — converting your existing customers into sales brings you more bang for your buck than trying to generate new customers. That’s according to Daniel Rothamel, who led Wednesday’s Inman News webinar — "Internet Marketing for Brokers: Converting Online Traffic Into Sales."

Rothamel is a real estate agent and author of the Real Estate Zebra blog. Whether online or offline, he said, spending money on advertising runs the risk of potential customers simply filtering out your message as one of the other thousands of ads they are bombarded with every day.

On the other hand, there are already people coming into your "store" (i.e. your site) that you can turn into actual sales.

"It costs far less to retain current customers than it does to acquire new ones. They’ll go out and do your job for you and tell their friends. Real estate in many ways is a referral-based business. (That’s) a lot cheaper than spending a lot of money trying to attract new clients all the time," he said.

Rothamel outlined five easy steps to convert Web traffic into sales:

1. Know who comes and why: This boils down to using website analytics to know who is coming to your site, why they are visiting, how long they stay, and where they are coming from. What time of day are they coming? What are the most popular pages on the site? What is the site’s bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave immediately after seeing the site)? How long do visitors stay on the site? On average, how many pages do they view? What keywords are bringing them to your site?

Knowing that information will help concentrate your efforts and adjust your content accordingly, Rothamel said.

"It doesn’t do any good to fish in a pond if there are no fish in it. Or if you know where the fish are, if they aren’t biting," he said.

He recommended using Google Analytics, Woopra, Sitemeter, and 4Q Online Survey — all of which are free or have free basic versions.

2. Greet them with a smile. "The way you do this on the Internet is by having really solid website design," Rothamel said. "Your website doesn’t throw up all over their desktop and throw links at them that they don’t understand." …CONTINUED

A well-designed site makes good use of white space so that visitors aren’t overwhelmed with information; highlights important features right away that visitors want to have (see No. 3); makes contacting you easy (see No. 4); and promotes something like a Facebook page that will help you follow through with the customer (see No. 5). Rothamel highlighted The Mortgage Reports, LoCo Musings, and Tarbell, Realtors websites as examples.

3. Give them what they want. Potential clients are going to come to your site looking for three things, Rothamel said: 1) market statistics and information; 2) property information; and 3) knowledge and expertise. Some brokerages make searching for homes difficult on their sites, frustrating potential clients, Rothamel said. He recommended blogging as a way to show off your knowledge of the market and your local area.

Whether or not you require registration on your site is up to you, Rothamel said, but if you do require it, "you have to give them some reason to register," he said. Tell them what they’ll gain from registering, whether that’s access to home listings, e-mail alerts, personalized searches, market data, etc.

4. Make it easy for them. Websites need to be designed in such a way as to make the information potential clients want easy to find, Rothamel said, because that "makes them want to do business with you." He gave the example of going to different supermarkets in search of peanut butter but never being able to find it in the same place. Sometimes it’s near the bread, sometimes near the jelly, and sometimes by the dairy section.

"It’s confusing. Just give me the peanut butter! Make it easy for me to find," he said.

5. Follow through. This last step is crucial, he said — fail on this one and all the effort you put into the previous four steps is wasted. Because you’ve set yourself up as someone who gives clients what they want and makes it easy for them to get what they want, they fill out your contact form or send you a message on Facebook and ask you to send them information. If you don’t get back to them, you dash away that picture of you they’ve formed in their mind.

Some brokerage sites don’t even have a way for a potential client to contact them, or make it really difficult to do so, Rothamel said.

Another advantage of keeping track of follow-through is that it creates accountability for you and your team, Rothamel said. Are your agents following up on leads? How often are they contacting them?

"At the very least, you need some sort of autoresponder," Rothamel said, to ensure that a visitor who fills out a contact form will get a response almost immediately.

He ended the webinar with a bonus tip: Gather testimonials. Most people read and are influenced by consumer reviews online, he said, and video testimonials are especially powerful.

"You can see these people. You’re going to know whether or not they’re genuine. People really connect to the video," he said. If you’re hesitant about asking your clients for a testimonial after a transaction, he said, "You’ll be surprised. Most of your clients would love to do it."

The webinar will be available for viewing on the Inman News website by the end of the week.

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