After the fun and over-indulgence of the festivities, most of us are now back to the world of work. And, with our batteries recharged, we can approach the 12 months to come with renewed vigour.
It’s a time for hope, excitement, bold plans and new, inventive ideas to emerge. All of us in the industry should see 2018 as a year of endless possibilities, even with the ongoing political and economic uncertainty and the elephant in the room that is Brexit.
It’s the year of the World Cup in Russia, the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and, according to the Chinese New Year, the year of the dog. There is also plenty to look forward to from a property perspective, with the private rented sector continuing to grow rapidly while estate agents take a business as usual approach to sales despite external pressures.
PropTech, too, is expected to play an increasingly important role in our sector as entrepreneurs come up with ever more innovative solutions to complex property-based problems.
More than anything, though, the generally accepted rules surrounding marketing will continue to shift and evolve. It’s no longer just about print and online advertising, face-to-face meetings, lead generation, calls to action, customer relationship management and surveys, marketing is taking on a new look to reflect the modern, digital age.
Time, then, to take a quick look at the new marketing tools on the block.
Vlogs (or video blogs) have exploded in popularity in recent years, with some vloggers on YouTube turned into international stars boasting millions of subscribers, book deals, products bearing their name and the ability to reach a wide audience in a matter of seconds.
That’s the main advantage of vlogs – they're easy to produce and simple to upload. As long as you have some decent equipment, a room or space to film in and an interesting message to relay, you can make good-quality vlogs in double quick time.
They are starting to make their way into the marketing world – in fact, The ValPal Network is now using them regularly – as a way of breaking down the barriers between providers/companies and clients/customers. It allows for a more tailored, personal approach – whether in the form of a Christmas or New Year message, or a regular update – and is interactive and interesting enough to get people engaged.
You need to get the tone and length of the vlog right – after all, you don't want to bore your audience – and you need to pitch it appropriately. Do you go for a more casual or professional approach? Do you include a soundtrack? Do you include images, animation and graphs to capture more people’s attention?
It’s not for everyone, but vlogs are an excellent way of reaching people in a near-instantaneous fashion, while giving everything a more human and accessible touch. It’s no surprise that the leaders of major political parties regularly send out video messages, and many other industries are starting to follow suit.
Nothing new, of course, but the technology these days is much better and much slicker, which means people from all over the country (and world) can effectively be in the same place at once without physically having to be there.
Face-to-face communication is nearly always better than hearing a voice over the phone, so the ability to see people's reactions as you discuss ideas, brainstorm and work out ways to improve, enhance and grow your business is the biggest selling point of video conferencing.
Thanks to improved technology, buffering or loss of contact/picture is now much less of an issue. It’s also a great time-saving device. Rather than a businessman or woman heading down from Edinburgh to London for a 30 minute meeting, video conferencing allows commute times to be cut and frees up more time for businesses to concentrate on doing what they do best.
Of course, work can still be comfortably carried out while on a train, coach or plane, but it’s not quite the same, with numerous possible distractions, delays and interruptions.
From an agent point of view, if you have more than one branch in a certain area or multiple branches spanning the whole of the UK, or if you’re a national chain, video conferencing would allow you to share ideas and updates between these branches. They can also be used to strategise marketing plans and work out growth goals.
The evolution of digital marketing
To improve the success of your business, you need a strong digital marketing strategy which includes e-shots (effectively marketing by email), online advertising and a strong presence on social media. You also need a bright, distinctive and easy-to-use website that draws people in rather than turning them away.
A number of new elements, though, are increasingly being used by companies from all industries, including a live chat facility (a pop up box usually found in the bottom right hand corner of the screen) which enables instant communication, as well as website/social media integration. Alerts (whether it be for news, a new property listing or a rental opportunity) are becoming more and more popular, while apps are a very 21st century way of engaging with customers while they’re on the move.
Virtual reality and AI haven’t taken off in a big way in the property industry as of yet, but this is slowly but surely changing as firms become wary of being left behind in the tech revolution. With more investment being pumped into AI by the government, there is a chance that this could filter down to housing, where automation already plays a key role.
The wonders of modern technology allow people from all over the UK to connect with each other in real-time using a web-based video conferencing system. If you want to deliver expert advice or training to a wide audience without leaving the comfort of your desk, webinars are the way forward.
It’s something The ValPal Network has embraced in recent times, with ValPal Director Craig Vile regularly carrying out webinars to help agents get the most from their package. And agents should be considering it too.
The beauty of it is its simplicity – anyone can host a webinar and anyone can tune in to watch one. It allows you to show slideshows and demonstrations as you speak, co-host with other experts, and carry out Q&A sessions with those watching. There are also numerous other features to make the whole process more interactive.
Webinars are a great way for people to learn, a great way for businesses to educate clients or connect with their audiences, and a great way for live interviews to be carried out or new products promoted.
Best of all, webinars are relatively cheap and – in the long-term – can help to improve your agency’s bottom line. They can also help your business in other ways. Letting agents, for example, could use webinars to teach their landlords about matters such as industry changes, legislation and compliance.
That’s that from me this week. Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today