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2008-04-01 12:26:00

Property Listings - A Real Estate Office's #1 Marketing Asset

With the convergence of buyers using the Internet to search for homes before they search for an agent and Web 2.0 technologies, an agent’s listings are now a listing broker’s most valuable marketing asset in attracting new business.

Why? Because when buyers search for homes (many of whom will be selling homes), they are searching listings. And the listings that attract them the most and make it easiest for them to contact the agent will be the listings that provide the greatest return on marketing dollars and will be the difference between lost or gained market share and revenue.

Saul Klein, (CEO InternetCrusade and Point2 Technologies), states in his article, “Syndication – Why Is It Important to Agents, Brokers, Buyers and Sellers?”: “A real estate listing is a marketing asset owned by the listing broker” and that it has “the ability to attract new buyers and sellers.”

In the past, the marketing of this “marketing asset” was done by the agent and consisted mainly of snapping pictures with the family camera, putting the properties information in an MLS book, printing property statements, placing an ad in a local real estate magazine and planting a yard sign.

Today sees almost all real estate consumers using the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies, and listings have evolved as the broker’s most valuable marketing asset.

Still, most brokers still operate old business models that rely on the agent to market this most valuable marketing asset. This practice leads to missed opportunities to connect with buyers and sellers and increase revenue.

According to Pat Kitano, Transparent Real Estate, a Business & Finance Blog Network member,  “Real estate agents continually face the Sisyphean challenge (myth about the guy forever rolling a rock up a mountain) of keeping up to date with technology ... they've finally figured out Microsoft Word and e-mail applications, and now they must master a new set of online applications.”

In this scenario, it is easy to see that either every agent’s productivity falls as they spend more and more time learning new online tools and techniques at the expense of being with clients or they give up on using the Internet to its fullest potential all together. Either outcome means less revenue for your office in both the short and long term.

The New Marketing Paradigm for Brokers

The good news is that the foundation of the new marketing paradigm is still the REALTOR and the listing. Buyers and sellers still want to work with experts in the real estate process; otherwise discount real estate firms that have been around now for almost a decade would have taken over the industry!

The bad news is that from the time a listing is taken, virtually nothing is the same.

Producing the Listing - Agents are not producers. Nowhere in the business world, except for real estate, are the agents and sales people expected to be the producers and marketing mangers! Brad Pitt’s agent does not produce and market his movies! But yet brokers continually put the health of their firms, literally, in the hands of their agents.

In order to maximize the return on listings, a uniform and comprehensive marketing plan has to be in place that incorporates the entire marketing spectrum including yard signs, property statements, magazine ads, the Internet and everything else.

A Few of the Basics…

Picture This: Is your property ready for its close up? On the Internet, every photo is worth more than a 1,000 words. The photos of your listings taken by an agent’s family camera do not cut it anymore.

On the Internet, the quality of the picture, what the picture is showing and how it is displayed on the computer screen are all vitally important. A 2” square picture of a bathroom showing the toilet is not good, yet it is all too common on real estate web sites.

Syndication: Google, Zillow, New York Times, Trulia, Yahoo!, and many more Internet sites all allow property listings to be uploaded for viewing by their readers. These sites attract readers by providing your listing information along with other tools such as Walkable Maps (Trulia), etc. that are often more user friendly and dynamic than most multiple listing services.

Your listings must be syndicated to every web site where buyers are or will be or you will lose the business to your competitors whose listings are there.

Integration: Every piece of online and offline marketing that supports a listing, should funnel people to either your office website or the phone. And just listing a url, phone number or email at the bottom of a property statement is not full marketing integration.

Full marketing integration for listings should motivate buyers to contact you directly when they see information on your listing that fits their profile.

Lead Generation and Conversion: Once your property looks as amazing as it really is and it is everywhere that buyers are and the buyer knows how to contact you, how are they actually able to contact your agents and begin a meaningful conversation?

This is why good agents are still a broker’s number one overall asset. No one expects buyers and sellers to sign contracts on the Internet. They still prefer to communicate with a REALTOR to help them through the transaction.

The goal of establishing a unified and integrated marketing program is to use your listings to attract as many buyers and sellers to your agents as possible before they find another agent who will get their business.

Winning the Listing-As-Marketing-Tool Battle

A firm’s Marketing Manager must be able to incorporate all of this into current marketing efforts. If buyers and sellers, who are now online, are impressed with the listings they see from your office, they will be more motivated to contact you, and you will be well on your way to winning business in the Web 2.0 world. Otherwise they will go to someone else who is motivating them.

The discussion above represents just the basic components of a successful Web 2.0 real estate marketing strategy. A complete marketing plan that takes into account your firm and your market place must be completed to win business in the fast changing world we find ourselves.

(Scott Pierce is a REALTOR and former technology insider working with clients in incorporating Internet content distribution for client facing web based applications. Scott has worked with most major Silicon Valley firms including Oracle, Cisco Systems, Intel, Apple Computer, Applied Materials and more to integrate specific components of their websites into their overall web site communications strategy. Scott also graduated with a Masters degree in marketing from Thunderbird – The American Graduate School of International Management in Arizona.)

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