Newspapers are pushed through the door, whereas websites have to pull in visitors - it’s a simple but fundamental difference with vast implications for agency marketing.
Newspapers were like magnetism in physics, a strong localised force. Meanwhile, the internet is more like gravity, a weak force that is everywhere.
The key advantage of a newspaper was it came through the door whether you wanted it or not. Although you couldn’t be forced to read it, many people did and most crucially, they would flick through the property section out of curiosity just because it was there.
This simple act of curiosity caused a serendipity that led to innumerable unplanned sales. Taking Rightmove as a comparison as it represents the most powerful property advertising medium the internet has to offer, sure people come across their dream home on Rightmove, but the difference is they have to choose go there in the first place whereas the newspaper just landed on the mat.
Of course, there are vast numbers of ads on the internet designed to create serendipity but although they are everywhere, they lack the strength of old media.
As with every paradigm shift, there is a period of acclimatisation during which participants try new things most of which don’t work, until they hit upon the new best practice that fits the new paradigm.
In the case of the newspapers, some agents had it down to a tee - grab the middle pages, appeal to your market and be consistent. When it comes to the internet, most agents have struggled to go beyond the portals.
However, social media has given the industry another internet-based outlet on which to spend marketing budgets. If the internet is the forest, data and more specifically leads are the trees, and it’s easy to miss one for the other. The great reveal of the post-newspaper age is hyper-local database marketing.
During the age of newspapers, many agents ran a tight list of buyers and tenants - they were attractive, but shallow. However, now agents need to create their own serendipity and the best way to do that is by building a database of local people and pushing the right message to them at the appropriate moment.
This can be done by using lead farming and nurture programs. Agents are frequently approached by buyers and potential vendors, but the majority aren’t going to buy, sell or rent anything at that moment and there isn’t the time to keep in touch. At least there hasn’t been the time until now.
In recent years, technology has allowed agents to funnel leads into a database and nurturing program that does all the drudgery and heavy lifting. It keeps in touch and it alerts the agent when a buying signal is received. This could be because a message or email that has been responded to, or it could be more sophisticated still and relate to a change in social media activity.
For example, innovations like MovePal from The ValPal Network are helping agents to ensure they are not spending huge amounts on marketing without getting any return.
By sending prospects a full series of branded SMS messages and emails, agents can now follow-up with leads instantly, 24 hours a day. Taking this approach means you can still keep in touch with prospective clients who aren't ready to do business, while reaching out to those already in your database.
This provides your staff with more face-to-face time and significantly reduces the chances of you missing out on business when a lead is ready to take action. What's more, the content you provide as part of a nurturing programme can encourage people to act quicker, while also keeping your brand front of mind for those who will take a lot longer to convert.
Great estate agency is still mostly about having great people but great people still need great tools and having them frees up time and energy to be more productive and focus on the bits of the job they enjoy the most and are best at.
Until now, the majority of agents have been able to gather data but in the main it has gone into an inactive silo which, though accessible, hasn’t been useable.
The key for agents looking to regain control of their businesses is already there on their computers, an endless gold mine of future business – it just needs to be mined effectively.
*Craig Vile is Director of The ValPal Network