Breaking Down the Barriers to real estate sales: be yourself online
Real estate websites should be so much more than MLS information and a contact form. An effective real estate website should not only sell the services of the office or agent, it should sell their personality and their expertise in their market area. To illustrate this, let’s imagine a person is looking to buy a property in your market area but does not have a particular affinity to any office. This person visits two different websites in their search process. Each of these websites is built on the same web platform, using the same basic functionality and layout. If the structure and functionality are all identical, the element that will distinguish one site from another is the portrayal of the agent’s personality, experience and knowledge of the real estate market. By giving people more information, you give them more opportunities to connect with you on a personal level. I have never met a Realtor who got into the business because he or she lacked personality or an attachment to his or her service area. Connection and personality are what make a person a good Realtor to begin with. In today’s Internet-dominated real estate market, the motivated Realtor faces a new challenge: how to effectively convey personality and market area vision online.
Lets look at personality first. The Internet is inherently a sterile medium, thus it takes a focused effort to give the potential client a real sense of who you are beyond your head shot. A very important factor in getting your personality across is the look and feel of the site. The design elements and images you choose to use not only contribute to the “feel” of your site, they tell the site visitor a great deal about how you view your area. A design that is effective for New York City will not necessarily be effective for Aspen, Colorado for example. Beyond the design, there are more deliberate elements that must be used to give your potential clients a sense of who you are and what you care about. Content is, of course, a great way to give people an accurate sense of who you are. There are however more and less effective ways to go about this. Traditional real estate advertising focused on promoting the celebrity of the Realtor. This kind of “hard sell” approach is not effective in today’s online market. In the information Age, people do not need to trust your pitch when they can go to sources like Angie’s list, Yelp and others to get unbiased opinions. To side-step the hard sell, let your satisfied customers work for you. Client testimonials are an incredibly effective way to allow your past clients to sing your praises. People view client testimonials as an unbiased, value-added way to evaluate a business. Past clients can talk about what it was like to work with you and how you helped them through difficult situations. The most effective medium for these testimonials is video: It lets people see your past clients and their enthusiasm for you and your services. This is not to say that you should be worried about speaking your mind about what you have to offer. Enter the video bio. Video bios are an incredibly effective way to give people a snapshot of who you are and what you have to offer. Recently Union Street Media created a video bio for local Burlington, Vermont, Realtor Brian Boardman. In it we give an up-close-and-personal view of Brian that focuses on his knowledge of the area and shows him interacting with clients. The end result is an an engaging video that shows Brian as an accessible guy with passion and a great affinity for the Burlington area. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpWn6d3USz8[/youtube] This leads us to the other area of importance when developing a personality for your website: your connection to the area. Despite what companies like Redfin are doing in real estate there is still no substitute for on-the-ground knowledge of towns and neighborhoods. People can get MLS information anywhere, what they can’t get anywhere is your particular local knowledge and insight into your community. In the traditional face-to-face real estate sales process, commonality was easy to find: one handshake and you’re off and running. These days, your potential clients begin to evaluate you long before they meet you. How you feature your local knowledge is of paramount importance, or that face-to-face will never happen. Community profiles, area video tours and blogging about area highlights are great ways to feature your knowledge online. Show people what you like about your area, beyond statistics and area attractions. Let your audience know you are active in your community: tell them what organizations you belong to, tell them your favorite breakfast place. The more of yourself that is on your website, the more possible points of personal connection will exist for potential clients to grab onto. Put your self out there. Engage in your website, and see where it takes you.