Agents need to focus on more targeted marketing using a mix of traditional and modern methods to optimise their position in a market hit by a shortage of stock.
That’s the message from online valuation and lead generation service The ValPal Network, which represents over 800 agency brands and more than 4,000 branches.
It cites a recent Zoopla survey of some 650 agents suggesting that 'insufficient stock' has been one of agents' top three challenges for three consecutive years - and TVPN says it looks set to continue to be a major factor in this year’s market.
It says a strategy dedicated to driving traffic to agents’ websites and then converting that traffic into vendor and landlord leads is vital.
TVPN - a product of Angels Media, which publishes Estate Agent Today and other Today editorial titles - says a mix of social media and content marketing, pay-per-click advertising and client database mining can be used alongside complementary traditional techniques such as leafletting, touting letters and local newspaper advertising.
"The majority of agents will already be carrying out several of these elements, but if they don't have a way of converting the increased traffic directly generated from marketing campaigns, they won't see an increase in the number of leads they are generating," says Craig Vile, director of The ValPal Network.
"The easiest and most common way to do this is to drive traffic to a defined ‘Call to Action’ such as an instant online valuation tool. This allows you to gather prospects' contact details for your sales team to follow up on" he claims.
He says it’s also critical for agents to check their website on their own mobile device to see how consumers are seeing them.
"Around half of prospective clients will be using mobile devices to visit your website, so you could be missing around 50 per cent of opportunities if your mobile site isn’t configured properly” says Vile.
He adds that one advantage the agents hadn't considered was the positive attitude that has grown within their team - something which is crucial when market conditions are challenging.
"2019 is going to be a tough year for many agents with Brexit uncertainty stifling the market and the introduction of the ban on letting agent fees hitting the bottom lines of many firms.
"However, this doesn’t mean it's time to cut back on marketing, batten down the hatches and become frugal. In fact, it's quite the opposite. If you choose to do nothing, nothing will happen."
TVPN cites the MyLondonHome agency as one example of a company using marketing techniques to maximum effect.
Steven Herd, founder of MyLondonHome, says: "We’ve been able to grow our number of listings by realigning our marketing budget so it's focused on generating vendor leads. In a market with depleting stock levels, hot buyers will soon find your good listings.
"Instant online valuation tools bring all this together and ensure our marketing budget isn’t wasted by providing the team with a constant supply of future vendors who otherwise wouldn’t have engaged with our site."
TVPN says another of its members - Roberts Estate Agents - generated 261 valuation leads in a week thanks to an an email campaign offering an ‘online valuation now’ service.
"We are aware that the leads are not always immediate business, but today’s online valuations are next month’s listings” says Katie Darlow, residential sales director of Roberts Estate Agents.
Analysis carried out by The ValPal Network last year found that 18 per cent of online sales valuations its members generated over a two-year period went on to complete with HM Land Registry.
It says this means members had the opportunity to earn £363m in potential commission from the leads generated between January 2016 and the end of December 2017.