Over the last five years, countless real estate agents and brokers have invested in WordPress Web sites, mobile applications, IDX for home searches, robust CRM systems, search-engine optimization, pay-per-click through Google AdWords, and social media marketing on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
How’s that all going for you? Have your investments paid off? Was the return on the investment of time and dollars everything you thought it would be and more?
Didn’t think so.
In the start-up world, making a big change with your business model is called a “pivot.” Basically, it means it’s time to make a purposeful decision to change your company’s path. It’s scary, certainly. You may have spent a decade or more building your brand—only to find out that online, no one seems to care.
Let’s discuss some specific actions you can take, starting right now, to relaunch your brand online in the most meaningful way possible.
1. Get a New Bio
If you wrote your own bio, it was probably a painful experience. It’s an unnatural thing to do, writing about yourself in the third person. But bios have become more important than ever for real estate professionals. Just think about how many places you have one: your Facebook profile, Twitter account, LinkedIn, personal Web site, company Web site, Zillow, Yelp … the list goes on.
I would argue a good bio matters, when it matters the most! Google has a free e-book titled the Zero Moment of Truth. It’s about the moment online consumers go from being interested to making a purchase or reaching out to a business. This decision is often driven by your bio. They like your Web site. They like your listings. Do they like you?
Consider hiring a copy writer to compose a new bio for you. A service called eLance can connect you with U.S.-based professional copywriters who have been reviewed openly by their past employers. They specialize in on-demand, one-off work, so it’s a perfect fit for getting a bio done quickly and professionally. Expect to pay about $150.
Once it is done, don’t forget to update all of your existing online profiles with the new copy.
2. Get a New Logo
Having your business card blown up to the size of a Web site is not a logo. A logo should and can be so much more. The logo your company provides may be great, but it isn’t truly yours either. Understanding that a logo is used in nearly every marketing initiative you will do and on every piece of communication you will send to clients, it’s a great place to start when relaunching. Logos that pop become iconic.
Think the Rolling Stones, Nike, and FedEx. Figure out which colors elicit certain emotions and take that into account as you brainstorm. Grab a pen and paper and doodle. Find some of your favorite logos across industries and write out why you love them and what you would like to see comparable in your new logo design.
I’ve had tremendous success with crowdsourced logo design sites like 99Designs and CrowdSpring. As opposed to hiring one designer, you launch an open contest that many can enter and submit logos for. By having hundreds of options instead of a few, you almost always end up with something you like. You can also engage your social networks during the contest for their feedback before selecting (more on the importance of the “pre campaign” in a minute).
When using the crowdsourced sites, I highly recommend choosing the most expensive option, which runs around $799 on 99Designs and $1,349 on CrowdSpring. This higher-end bid greatly improves the quality of the entries and designers you will attract to your project.
3. Build a Mobile-Responsive Site and Home Search
If I pull up your Web site on my iPhone and it doesn’t look great and load quickly, I’m out. This is an industrywide challenge for good reason. Any Web site built before 2012 was not truly “built for mobile.” Take advantage of this for your big relaunch. Market the heck out of the fact that you have an iPhone- and Android-optimized Web site with a home search for your town. Most of your competitors do not have these tools in place yet—they will eventually, so get going!
Relaunching your Web site may seem like a time-intensive and truly costly task, but it doesn’t have to be anymore. Check out this site on your phone that was built by Agent Evolution. It’s built on WordPress, so it’s mobile-responsive out of the box, and it has one-click mobile IDX installation as well. The theme is a one-time cost of $50 and the monthly cost to host it, as well as the IDX tool, is about $40 per month. Keep an eye on the start-up Placester and the custom design shop Ha Media, as additional resources focused on mobile-optimized real estate Web sites.
Keep in mind that simply paying for a Web site and IDX is just the beginning. To truly see a return on investment, you will want to have some strategies focused on generating traffic from around the Web consisting of interested buyers and potential sellers. With a new site, you will need to leverage your existing network. Start with sending some mass e-mails to your database of contacts and leads letting them know about it. Be sure to link to one or two very specific features, ideally the best the site offers.
4. Build Pre-Launch Buzz
It’s amazing what people will do to be a part of a beta test. Launching is great, but the gold is in the pre-launch. Think about the buzz and anticipation that Apple builds when a new device is coming out. It doesn’t start the day you can buy the device; it starts much earlier. With your relaunch, you will want to follow the same model.
Most real estate Web sites are somewhere between adequate and terrible, but yours will rock. Any buyer or seller who has tried to search a local agent or broker’s site in the last few years has likely been somewhat underwhelmed by the experience. I wish it took more to stand out in our industry in 2013 than a well-designed Web site that worked well on a smartphone and that only focused on getting people to the areas of the site they want quickly, but that’s where we find ourselves. Less is more right now and simplicity that is laser-focused on the end user wins.
Your new logo, bio, and mobile Web presence should be leveraged with your “inner circle” before you relaunch. You can use Join.me to share your screen during private one-on-one demos. Call your best past clients and those who refer the most business to you and show them all of these new things before the public can see any of it. I can’t tell you how special this makes people feel.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make online is investing in expensive new tools and technologies for their clients, but then spending little to no time on any “coming soon” marketing. But the best chance to build buzz may just be before your launch.
So you have a brilliant new logo, a bio fitting of your accomplishments, the sexiest Web site in town, and a fresh new e-mail list.
The rest, as they say, is up to you.