The housing boom has attracted a flood of newcomers to the real estate profession. Those that have been downsized, retirees and even people who just want a better life style see real estate careers as exciting, less stressful and offering high rewards.
But they soon discover that the real estate profession is saturated and very competitive. It is difficult to break into the market and gain a clientele. Sadly, following the standard real estate formula for new agents usually leads to several years of long hours with low compensation. Most give up and drop out, and their brokers and "established" agents gladly follow up on any leads they may have generated.
According to a recent study by the National Association of REALTORS®, rookie agents are working more but earning less. Agents who have been in real estate for two years or less earned an average of just $12,850 in 2004, and most (54 percent) reported working more than 40 hours weekly. This figure dropped from a median income of $27,973 earned in 2002. Conclusion: there are a lot more people in real estate now all competing for the same business. Trying to gain traction strictly through referrals, sitting in open houses, sending out postcards or handing out flyers is a long haul for novice REALTORS.
In today's residential real estate market, the name of the game is getting listings and buyers from all sources. Just "farming" a territory in the traditional fashion is not a practical strategy for real estate rookies. First, there are no virgin territories. Second, rookies must always overcome entrenched competition. To accelerate their success, new real estate agents need to work smarter than established colleagues by leveraging Internet marketing tactics to promote themselves, tap a broader market and to increase productivity.
Unless a newbie enters the real estate profession with a captive clientele, he or she is better off taking control of their own business strategy. And the one way that a new agent can distinguish themselves today is by coloring outside the lines. Internet marketing is a proven means of helping new agents to stand out from the crowd. Here are some strong recommendations for a new kid on the block:
1. Get you own Website, not a page or subdomain of someone else's site. Build your site to promote yourself, your talents, your listings and your services.
2. Use your Website as the focal point of all your marketing efforts. Everything you do, marketing wise, should be calculated to drive traffic to your Website.
3. Make your Website as enticing as possible. Refresh the content often with community news and relevant RSS feeds to ensure that visitors return often. Try a blog - they are easy to implement and generate interesting content. Offer meaningful articles that appeal to potential buyers and sellers (industry outlook for mortgage rates, major "must do's when selling your home, a summary of local sales, home value trends, etc.).
4. Build visibility among the major search engines, so that your site pops up on the first page when someone performs a search for agents in your locality:
a. Establish a meaningful domain name that reflects your location and market emphasis.
b. Optimize your site for search engines by choosing specific keywords based on your geographical location. Establish proper keyword density in your site content, meta tags, alt tags and internal links.
c. Set up a link-exchange program with complementary sites, such as non-competing REALTORS or real-estate-related services. Building external links adds to your search engine ranking and leads qualified traffic to your site.
d. Be sure to get listed in the major business and real estate directories.
e. Use sponsored search engine listings along with affordable "local search" listings and pay-per-click advertising to boost online visibility and acquire qualified traffic.
f. Get a listing with one or more of the popular online "Yellow Pages," like Verizon Superpages.
g. Tap into local free advertising, like Craig's List.
h. Learn how to use landing pages to capture metrics and tweak your promotional activities for optimal performance.
5. Use viral marketing tactics, such as placing a "forward to a friend" script on your site and in your newsletter, to gain clients with whom you have had no previous contact.
6. Implement marketing tactics to capture sales lead information from Website visitors:
a. Start a free monthly newsletter and offer a meaningful incentive to subscribe. Use this as a mechanism to nurture potential clients through "drip, drip, drip" marketing.
b. Write or acquire a relevant whitepaper or ebook. Use this as a giveaway to entice new newsletter subscriptions.
c. Offer a free "home valuation" service based on local comparables.
d. Place "special offers" in your newsletter that only subscribers can enjoy. This will promote viral marketing among friends and relatives.
e. Hold an online drawing for a desirable prize to acquire email addresses, and then solicit newsletter subscriptions from the entries.
f. If you can afford it, tie into your MLS database so that registered visitors can survey local listings.
7. Enhance your productivity by using an autoresponder for newsletter delivery and automated follow-up to inquiries.
In short, make your Website the destination for all marketing activities. Even off-line advertising should be designed to drive traffic to your Website. Once there, focus on selling yourself and your services to prospective clients. Differentiate yourself from competitors by presenting yourself as more attuned to today's marketing methods, tapping more modern and advanced tactics to find the best home for buyers or achieve the quickest sell at the best price for homeowners.
Compared to the "old school" of real estate marketing, Websites are 24x7 virtual storefronts promoting products, services and talents around the clock to a worldwide audience. Internet marketing makes your promotional dollars go further and helps you to stand out from the crowd. It also dramatically expands your audience, bringing in clients from around the country and even the world.
Rookie agents need to chart their own course to be successful. Don't be afraid to embrace new methods of marketing your services. Above all, don't follow the herd. Be different - take control of your real estate career and leapfrog your competitors through aggressive internet marketing!