The real estate industry in the late ’70s and early ’80s looked very different than it does today. In those days, agents would cart around books with MLS “picture listings” of information on available properties. Since real estate agents were the only ones with access to these books, contacting them was always the first step in a home-buyer’s journey.
What’s more, agents knew that people who made the effort to contact them were seriously considering making a purchase. Typically, prospective buyers would see a listing in the newspaper or on a flier, and call to discuss a specific property—because the agent was the sole keeper of information about that listing.
Then the Internet threw everything for a loop. Websites such as Zillow and Trulia were created, giving buyers ready access to all kinds of property information. This fundamentally changed the home-buyer’s experience.
Today, for 43 percent of buyers, looking for properties online is the first step in the purchasing process, while only 15 percent contact an agent first. In fact, buyers can now accomplish a good deal of what an agent once did for them online and on their own.
In short: Real estate agents are no longer the gatekeepers of property information.
But while many agents worried that the Internet would render them nearly irrelevant, it instead brought them some unexpected benefits. For agents today, the Internet is a bountiful source of leads—and the majority of agents now use digital channels to connect with them.
Digital Marketing Trumps Print, Direct Mail and Telemarketing
Some real estate agents now purchase leads from the very websites that initially disrupted the business model (i.e., Zillow and Trulia). And even more have their own websites and use social media channels to bring leads to them.
In fact, our research shows the number of agents using websites and social media to reach home-buyers has surpassed the number who use direct mail, print advertising and telemarketing:
Marketing Channels Used by Real Estate Agents
However, leads culled from websites still have their drawbacks. In contrast to earlier times, many Internet leads aren’t sales-ready. Some people simply browse without purchase intent. Others may connect with an agent online to get property information, even though they’re still weighing their options. Based on all-too-common conversations in online forums, many agents are spending more energy than ever on leads that never pan out.
Chris Smith, co-founder of Curaytor and author of Conversion Code, explains why it’s been particularly difficult for some real estate agents to make the shift to online leads and inside sales. Agents are used to working with buyers they actually know firsthand, Smith says, while the cold leads culled from real estate websites are complete strangers. As a result, agents struggle to connect with them on a personal level.
Hollis Dean, an agent with Realty Austin, echoes this struggle: “I’m a face-to-face, call-to-call kind of person. I don’t like sitting in front of a computer.”
However, like so many other realtors, his desire to remain competitive eventually changed his stance:
But what does working smarter mean in an age where leads are not only more plentiful, but also more varied in their purchase intent?
Many agents have realized that the Internet, with its wealth of public-facing property information, has changed the value proposition they offer. Marketing themselves solely as information gatekeepers is no longer enough to impress many home-buyers.
Value Propositions Include More Than Property Information
The desire to stand out from the crowd and compete with sites that offer property information for free has led agents to experiment with other propositions. In the early days of the Internet, many began offering various non-real estate information to buyers in an attempt to up the ante.
Some would offer random “gifts” (e.g., free recipes). Others thought personal branding was the way to go—for example, many agents shared information about their personal lives and interests, hoping this would add a human element to their marketing materials and, ultimately, attract buyers who could relate.
These days, many agents realize their marketing communications need to be more relevant to win buyers’ attention. They bridge the gap by offering real estate-specific information that goes above and beyond what might be found on property listing websites. This can be very attractive to buyers who know they want to buy a home, but want someone to walk them through the more emotional side of making such a purchase.
For example, agents’ outbound marketing campaigns may include newsletters with neighborhood-level information (e.g., school district rankings or the the walkability score of different homes in the area). Others may provide tips for those gearing up to make a purchase, such as how to choose the best loan for their family’s situation.
Outreach might also be targeted to different buyer segments. This approach allows agents to nurture leads who aren’t yet ready to buy.
And using inbound marketing, agents can move away from the time-consuming activities of purchasing and trying to engage with large numbers of Internet leads, many of whom may not even be interested in making a purchase. For example, rather than emailing lists of leads and waiting for engagement, some agents provide interesting content on websites, blogs or social media to engage people who are actively looking.
These inbound marketing strategies are meant to draw ready buyers to the agent, rather than the agent seeking them out. Such strategies can also help agents establish relationships faster, since their content creates credibility and trust with potential home-buyers before even speaking with them.
Whether they’re using inbound or outbound marketing strategies, we see many agents looking for software to help turn the Internet’s apparent drawbacks to benefits.
Indeed, in a recent analysis of buyers searching for marketing automation software for their business, over one-third were from the real estate industry. This is impressive, considering the industry has historically been slow to adopt new technology.
Agents Benefit from Using Marketing Automation Software
Agents who seek marketing automation software are often looking for ways to identify sales-ready leads and distribute targeted marketing content to better connect with buyers. These are both things software is designed to help with.
To see what effect software is having on their marketing campaigns, we asked a group of real estate agents about the changes they’ve seen since implementing it.
- The majority (64 percent) say that, after adopting marketing automation software, it now takes less effort to close their leads.
- A majority of agents (60 percent) say using software saves them 11 hours or more per week of time spent on marketing campaigns.
- Over half of respondents (61 percent) say they feel more connected to their clients.
- The overwhelming majority (95 percent) say using marketing automation software has had a positive impact on their sales revenue.
Effort Required to Close Leads Since Adopting Marketing Automation Software
Time Saved by Using Marketing Automation Software (per Week)
Level of Connection With Clients Since Adopting Marketing Automation Software
Impact on Sales Revenue of Using Marketing Automation Software
Technology has changed real estate marketing campaigns in many ways.
Not only have agents had to adapt to the Internet age by adopting digital marketing strategies, they’ve also had to find new ways of differentiating themselves from competitors who offer, for free, the services they once used to capture leads.
For instance, while realtors once were the only go-to for extensive property information, the Internet now freely offers this information to anyone who’s curious.
However, the role of the real estate agent in the home-buying process is far from obsolete. In fact, many agents have found ways to stand out from the crowd and offer a new value proposition. Today’s agents use both outbound and inbound marketing strategies to offer neighborhood-level insights via relevant, interesting and engaging content.
And software is helping many agents find their sweet spot—as the human element that guides buyers through the emotional process of purchasing a home. Many agents are using software to:
- Manage a greater volume of leads
- Target their outreach
- Identify more sales-ready leads
- Save time by automating some of the more common marketing activities
This helps deepen their connection with clients and, ultimately, improve their bottom line.
To learn more about how to choose the right marketing automation system and the ways software can help real estate agents like you, read our e-book. You can also call our Software Advisors for a free consultation: (888) 234-5132.