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By Heather Staff

Co-Founder, Spectre


TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

PropTech Today: stock shortage - how can agents prospect effectively?

The biggest challenge facing many agents in the current climate is the general shortage of stock, both for sales & lettings.

Let’s start with sales. To get more stock, you need more valuations. Valuations come from people who fall into one of the below categories:

People who aren’t sure about selling

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People who have decided to sell and are about to choose their agent

People with properties already on the market with a competitor

Let’s start with 1.

There are plenty of people that fall into this category who are perhaps considering selling and may be keeping a passive eye on what’s coming on to the market, but haven’t yet got the ball rolling.

They may also be unaware of what their own property is worth and think that they’re priced out of the properties they’re interested in. They may be unsure whether the current market conditions mean it’s a good or bad time to sell.

These people can be a great source of instructions, but that instruction needs to start with a conversation - so how do you get yourself in front of them?

This is where informative and tailored prospecting becomes far more effective than ‘brand recognition’ types of marketing.

If you’re an established agent, one of the most effective routes is to re-engage with your past purchasers and provide them with an up-to-date valuation. There are PropTech tools available to achieve this - one I obviously know about is Spectre Anniversaries (one of the features within Spectre), which sends a bespoke report to past purchasers automatically on the anniversary of their purchase which includes an estimated valuation. The great thing about this is that it doesn’t actually look like marketing. It looks like you’re continuing to provide a service - it piques their interest - and it initiates the conversation.

In a similar vein, ‘sold-in-your-road’ letters are very effective for the same reason. When people realise their neighbour has just successfully sold with you for £x, it gets them thinking about what they could achieve for their property. Strike whilst the iron is hot - offer to come and talk to them about how you achieved what you did for their neighbour and what you could do for them.

(Tip:  Where possible, filter those properties by property type, estimated value, etc, to target the most similar properties to the one you sold).

Finally, use the demand you have from applicants to contact specific off-market properties with a very targeted message. If you have buyers looking for a detached property on a specific road for example, let them know and start that conversation.

(Tip: QR codes are back in vogue - consider adding them to your prospecting letters to get more engagement.)

Moving on to type 2.

This is where it’s all about making sure you’re, at the very least, invited out to the market appraisal. Here, brand awareness is key, and it pays to be in as many places as possible.

Naturally, boards breed boards, and having extensive or prominent board coverage will help. Think about where your target demographic(s) spend time and are more likely to see your brand, whether on or offline. Also think about which channels are saturated - either generally or by your competitors - and try to allocate more of your spend elsewhere.

(Tip: people are electronically bombarded these days; the average person receives 120 emails per day and sees 4,000-10,000 ads per day, so have a think about other channels to leverage. Physical print is having a resurgence with even luxury fashion brands returning to print medium. Recent research shows that engagement with physical mail is higher than ever at 96%*, so you can often get a lot more bang for your buck.)

Again, sold-in-your-area letters and postcards can be very effective here too.

Finally, type 3, people currently on the market with your competitors.

These are the vendors who are motivated to sell and will return the highest return on investment from your marketing. We know that a high proportion of these vendors will switch, so if you’re not keeping in active contact with them, you’re leaving the easiest instructions out there for the agents that are.

The key with this type of prospecting is to make it look as personal as possible. This is very different to ‘brand-awareness’ type marketing. Fundamentally, they’ve already instructed one of your competitors and inertia can be difficult to overcome.

Even if they’ve been on the market a while or had a price reduction and are feeling frustrated with their existing agent, you still need to give them a reason to switch. So your prospecting message here needs to clearly reflect how you’re different and subtly reassure them that it’s worth the effort to change agent. Don’t go with generic marketing messages!

This doesn’t need to be laborious - there are PropTech tools designed to make every letter look very specific to the recipient without the manual effort.

(Tip: steer clear of barcodes on your letters - it gives off a ‘mass-marketing’/impersonal vibe and add a signature, even if it’s printed. Research shows that even printed signatures drastically improve response rates.)

When it comes to lettings, all of the principles above still apply, however there are two major differences. Firstly, the key is getting your marketing material into the hands of the landlord. Secondly, timing your letters/marketing material to land at the right time is more difficult and therefore structure and consistency are key.

Of course, writing to lettings properties when they are To Let is important, but unlike sales, you don’t know when the landlord is going to be motivated to switch. More often than not, this will be during a tenancy after a poorly handled maintenance issue or persistent rent arrears. Particularly in fast-moving rental markets, the point at which the rental property is on the market may be too late.

It’s therefore essential to consistently contact landlords of tenanted properties with a soft approach. You’re going to want to be in touch regularly so don't go with the hard sell and don’t be pushy!

(Tip: To improve your hit rate with landlords, try to time marketing to land a while before a tenancy renewal. It takes time for a landlord to consider a switch and you want to leave time for that process before the tenancy ends. Often landlords won’t risk a void period, even if it means sticking with an agent they’re unhappy with!)

As a final note, I would add that we’re entering a period where the data available to agents, through various PropTech tools, mean that your prospecting can become very targeted and therefore very bespoke to the recipient. The more tailored the message, the better the response rate and with the right tech, agents can now do that in minutes rather than days.

*Heather Staff is the co-founder of prospecting tool Spectre

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