When you first passed the real estate exam, you probably worried about the details of contracts and closings. Ultimately, however, you found out that it doesn’t matter how much you know if you don’t have clients. Lead generation is one of the most time-consuming parts of being a real estate agent, so online leads can sound like a great deal.

Whether you’re deciding to join a portal’s “premiere” service or are looking at lead gen platforms that promise more new clients than you can shake a stick at, it’s important for you to find out how good those leads will be and what it will take to convert them.

Before you sign up for an online service, be sure to do the following:

1. Google wisely

When you Google the lead service you’re considering, most of what you’ll find is their content and testimonials. Pair the lead service name with words like “scam,” “complaints” or “reviews.”

That’s where you’ll hear more balanced feedback, including the worst-case scenarios, from agents so that you can make a more informed decision.

2. Ask colleagues

Check in with your mentor or broker as well as colleagues whose opinion and knowledge you respect. If no one has heard of the service, it might not be as popular or successful as it purports to be.

If they’ve used the service or know someone who has, you’ll get a better sense of how effective it was for them.

3. Start short term

Beware of lead gen platforms that force you to sign up for six months to a year before you can cancel. Their story? “It takes time to work the system and see results.”

In reality, they might put all of their money into recruiting new agents and spend little or no time sending good leads to their existing clients.

4. Cut your losses

Once you’ve started working with a lead gen platform, be prepared to get out quickly if it’s not working out.

Give it 30 days to see results, then cancel if that phone isn’t ringing. You might also need to cut and run if the leads are outside your service area or if the contact information is incomplete, incorrect or unavailable.

5. Respond quickly

When you do get leads, it is important to respond as quickly as possible. Text, call or email (or all three) and continue to follow up. Make sure your chosen lead gen platform has a convenient and user-friendly mobile version so that you can respond quickly on the go.

6. Build your referral network

Some of the leads you get might be outside of your local market or might involve land sales or other properties that are outside of your niche. Build your referral network, so that you can warm up those leads and hand them off to trusted colleagues in exchange for a referral fee.

7. Consider content

If you are interested in developing a steady stream of warm online leads, you might do better to put some time into content creation like blogs, videos or a podcast rather than pursuing the ephemeral promise of paid online leads. These can continue to pay dividends month after month for years to come.

In addition, when online friends, fans and followers have read your blog or seen your videos, they are more likely to want to work with you and to come to you primed for the services you offer. That’s an improvement over colder online leads that might take a great deal of personal nurturing to convert.

Developing your online reach, social media platforms and other online resources involves little or no cost. You might find that content is a more effective and efficient online lead gen source, giving you more control over both timing and messaging — and saving you money in the process.

Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on  FacebookTwitterInstagram  and YouTube.

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