As we move closer to the halfway point of 2019, property market conditions for agents and their clients remain challenging.
Brexit may well have been delayed until October, but its continued impact on people's moving decisions is clear for all to see.
Meanwhile, the fees ban is now less than two weeks away and although most agents will be prepared for its arrival, there's no doubting the inability to charge fees will have an impact on the average agency's finances.
These are the same challenges agents faced at the start of 2019, when many of us will have set targets for the year ahead. Looking back now at the targets you set in January, how close are you to meeting these objectives?
Are you taking the industry's key challenges in your stride or, almost six months later, are these challenges causing you serious problems?
At times when business isn't always easy, you can fall into one of two categories - 'regressors', who batten down the hatches and let the difficult circumstances overwhelm them, or 'impressers', who plan, invest and deliver in tricky times.
So as the midpoint of 2019 approaches and market conditions remain the same, which type of agent are you?
Agent type one – ‘the regressors’
When the going gets tough, the regressors get going, or so the saying goes. There will be some agents out there who in the wake of a tricky market have decided to cut costs. This could be in the form of reducing marketing spend or trimming staff numbers.
While there is no harm in streamlining your operation, cutting the costs that can help you to secure new business and retain existing clients could be detrimental in the long-term.
Figures from the British Independent Retailers Association suggest that in November 2018 there were 135 fewer independent estate agency branches than at the start of the year. On top of this, a report from Moore Stephens shows there was a 4% rise in the number of agents becoming insolvent in the year to September 2018.
It wouldn't be surprising to find that prior to closing down, these firms were cutting costs and closing off to everything around them. Had they remained confident in their offering and committed to securing business through investment, maybe things would have been different? Now we'll never know.
Agent type two – ‘the impressers’
During these turbulent times, there are other business owners who take the bull by the horns and do everything they can to thrive, no matter the trading conditions. These are the businesses I like to call ‘the impressers’.
One of the things these agents won’t be scared to do is investing in effective marketing. Whether this is through focusing on vendor and landlord lead generation, taking advantage of chances to earn referral fees or mining your database to create new opportunities with existing contacts, the options are plentiful.
Agents who take a holistic approach to marketing, which includes social media and PPC advertising, can drive more traffic to their website and raise their local brand profile against the competition.
Of course, you need to make sure the marketing you’re pursuing generates results and is cost-effective. But if it is generating impressive results, is there any harm in putting more money in to build on your success going forward?
Another side of the business that impressers are happy to invest in and dedicate time to during challenging times is staff training and development. Personal service remains crucial to effective estate agency and those firms with the best staff can justify their fees thanks to the great customer service they are offering.
On top of this, the best customer service encourages people to come back for repeat transactions which can help to futureproof your agency and grow your client base through local word of mouth recommendations.
What do you need to do?
When it comes to marketing, it's all about raising your profile in front of the right audience and then making sure you generate leads from this investment. If you utilise an online valuation tool like ValPal to convert your website traffic into leads, you can make sure that your marketing spend is more efficient and cost-effective.
In order to increase your website traffic and subsequently the number of instant valuations generated, there are a number of things you can do. These include:
• Database mining: reaching out to previous contacts and buyers who may now be looking to sell.
• Social media and content marketing: drive website traffic through engaging posts and cement your position as a property expert with interesting blogs.
• Local PR: target the property sections of local newspapers, magazines and websites with interesting views to raise your profile.
• Leaflet drops: a classic agency marketing technique which is even more effective if you direct people to your website so you can get their contact details.
• PPC marketing: put your name in the mix on Google when consumers are looking for estate agents in the areas that you operate in.
Over the last few months and years, we’ve found that in the face of lower average fees, increased government regulation and events like Brexit, it’s those agents taking a positive approach who are getting the best results.
If your agency acts like an impresser and your local competitors are taking the role of regressors, there’s no reason why you can’t improve your market share even though the market is sluggish.
Here at The ValPal Network, we believe that investment in the key areas outlined above, as well as confidence in the service you’re providing, can help you stand out from the crowd and allow you to succeed even when the odds are stacked against you.
We offer free consultations to estate and lettings agent to help you make the most of your marketing budget and start generating more vendor and landlord leads. You can get in contact with our team here.
*Craig Vile is director of The ValPal Network, owned by Angels Media, the publisher of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.