September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.
Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
Call me crazy (I’ve been called worse) but during my “retirement,” I enjoy taking on the occasional real estate-related project for fun, mental stimulation and profit. While I’m not yet at liberty to discuss the details of my latest endeavor, one thing I can say is it involves contacting real estate agents and brokers.
Let me tell you, that can get more than a little frustrating. It’s not the actual conversation that’s frustrating. Talking to agents is almost always an enjoyable experience. After all, most of my friends are agents, and even those who aren’t friends are interesting to chat with. By and large, those in the real estate business are smart, forward-thinking and downright fun people to interact with. I always learn something, be it business or life-related.
What’s frustrating is finding their email addresses. Even getting a phone number often proves to be difficult. You’d think that someone whose business depends on people reaching out and making contact would make it easy for people to, well, reach out and make contact.
This is not always the case. In my experience, it is often not the case. Why? You put yourself out there in the universe, wanting, needing and hoping that someone contacts you. Your bank account depends on filling a pipeline with prospects, having people reach out and make inquiries on your services.
You may very well spend significant coin on marketing and branding efforts. Making it difficult or inefficient for people to metaphorically reach out and touch you just doesn’t make sense. Let’s be real here. If you’ve spent any length of time as an agent, you have probably faced situations like these:
You walk out of your house one morning to pick up the paper. Wait — no one reads an actual newspaper these days. Let’s say you go outside to take out the trash, meet the Amazon delivery person or just to get in your car and head out to work. And staring you in the face is a for-sale sign in your neighbor’s yard — one without your name on it.
Perhaps cousin Sally texts you inviting you to her house warming party. Until that moment you didn’t even know she was buying a home.
Then there is the situation you aren’t even aware of. Someone interested in buying or selling has found you online. Maybe it’s a profile on a portal site. Or your Facebook profile. Or a Google search. Maybe someone has asked a friend who their agent used, and they are simply vetting you online before they reach out, practically waving a commission check in your face.
If they can’t find you on the big sites, that’s a problem. If you don’t have your own website, that’s another problem. I’m referring to the problem where people do find you online and they still can’t figure out how to contact you. That, my friends, is inexcusable.
In the throes of my recent frustration, I turned to Twitter to vent. My friend’s comment was spot-on. “Well, it’s only been 16 years. But still. This secret agent thing has been an issue since Day one of my real estate career, and surely it started long before that.”
You need to put your email address and phone number front and center. They should be politely jammed in people’s faces. One of the principles of real estate sales is getting your name out there and getting contacted by prospective clients. Yet, many make it difficult for said prospects to contact them. It’s baffling.
‘But I have a contact form on my website!’
As you should. Here are the problems with a web form being the only way to contact you. Contact forms break. Maybe a user gets a message or a pop up saying the form has been sent. Often it’s just one line, buried on a page, that no one sees.
More often, a user clicks the “send” button and is left to wonder if their message was really sent. Sometimes those contact forms simply disappear into the ether, and you never get the message. Maybe you changed your email address two years ago and neglected to update your web form with the new routing info it needs to deliver the contact. Maybe you have no clue how to change that form.
Then there are folks like me who love to have a record of communications, and the sent folder in my email client is a great place for said record. When I submit a web form, there is no “paper trail” of our communications.
Suggestion: include your email address (and phone number) on your contact form. Then, people like me — and many others — can use that route of contact if they chose. Providing the consumer a choice is rarely a bad idea.
‘Posting an email address on my website leads to spam!’
Yep, those pesky spammers can create code snippets that crawl websites, scouring them for email addresses. Next thing you know, you’re getting spam email from SEO gurus, insurance sales heathens and all sorts of nefarious characters. Heck, there are even real estate vendors that will spam you, promising untold riches for an investment of “only $29.95 a month!”
Deal with it. Today’s email providers have pretty effective spam filters. Ever looked in that “junk” folder? It’s already full of spam, even if you don’t publish your email address. For those pesky hunks of spam that aren’t filtered, it takes one click to send that email to spam jail.
Learn how to flag spam in your email provider. Seems like getting a listing or a buyer client is worth the seconds it takes to address any spam that may clutter your inbox.
‘My phone and email is right there in the footer on every page’
The footer (the bottom of a web page) is a popular place to put contact info. The problem with that is twofold. First of all, many people don’t know to look there. What’s more, you’re putting a lot of trust in someone taking the time to scroll down in the hopes of finding it.
Suggestion: Put both your phone number and email address at the top of your pages. Make is simple. People are impatient. If they’re looking for contact info and can’t find it instantly, they’re quite likely to bounce off your website or profile and be gone forever.
Likewise, the menu across the top of many agents’ websites has a tab that says “contact.” That’s good practice (just don’t have it lead to only a contact form). You know what’s not a good practice? Having a menu item that says, “resources” and burying the contact info or form under that. Yes, it happens. More frequently than you’d think it would.
The best practice I saw
In my often frustrating journey to find contact info for agents, I came across one shining example of a best practice. What I would do (and what most potential clients of yours will do) when either searching for agents online or vetting a name I already have is Google their name.
Google “Danny Dietl,” an excellent agent and human in the Minneapolis area. The very first search result, above Facebook and Zillow, is Danny’s website. Look what the “meta description” in Google has. There’s his phone and email, front and center. I don’t even have to click through to find it.
The rest of the meta description is also on point, something virtually every other agent/business site is lacking, including my own blog. So, guess what I’ll be fixing today? If you don’t know how to change your website’s meta description, Google has many answers. Alternatively, contact your web provider.
Don’t be a secret agent! Put your contact info front and center everywhere you can. Make it easy for people to reach out to you. End their (and my) frustration. No one wants to start a relationship with their potential agent by searching aimlessly for a way to reach them. Make it easy to contact you.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.