Working in the real estate industry much harder work than some imagine. You put in long hours, and you are never guaranteed a paycheck unless you happen to be in the first few years of the business where the agency is subsidizing your pay. Even still, at some point you'll be expected to produce, produce, produce. Living off of commissions can be done, and there are many success stories to prove it's possible, but it takes a dedicated effort and some serious marketing skills to survive out there - especially these days.
Welcome to Internet marketing: the final frontier for real estate or any other business.
On the web, it's all about content. This shouldn't be much of a surprise to you since offline marketing is about content too. Think about it. The best advertising you've ever had has been word of mouth, T.V. and radio interviews, and an op/ed piece in your local paper. Maybe fliers, postcards, custom pens, fridge magnets, and plain old business cards have worked too, but these are just more forms of content - mini-content pieces, if you will. You might not think of word of mouth as content, but it's the best kind of content there is: viral content.
Whether it's print, audio, or video, something that tells your story to your target market is content and you're going to need a lot of it. Consider writing articles and essays aimed at your target audience that solve problems unique to your market. For example, let's say your ideal market is made up of 20 to 30 year olds, with families, who make over $75,000. Furthermore, you find that your best clients are professionals - people who are either in the medical, legal, or financial industry. Write articles directed towards those people. What kinds of problems do they face? What types of problems can you help them solve?
Create videos with useful tips or advice directed towards your target audience. Consider creating podcasts too. You could interview other industry professionals, or professionals in a related industry if there is some way their services might benefit your clients.
By far the best resource on the web for usability is Jakob Nielsen's site on usability (nngroup.com). It should go without saying, but a website that is slow, hard to navigate through, and links that get in the way of users trying to discover information are going to kill the user experience. People are going to leave your site faster than you can say "lickety-split" and you'll be left wondering why your sales are in the toilet.
Basic principles of usability include minimalism in design, an intuitive navigation menu, usable and engaging content on the homepage that demonstrates what the purpose of the site is. If your web designer isn't familiar with Nielsen's principles of usability, ask him to get familiar. If he (or she) doesn't seem interested, find another designer.
You might work for an agency, but you don't have to get lost in the crowd. If you are competing with other agents in your area (i.e. you work for a company like ReMax or Century21), using subdomains might be standard practice. You might have an "agency page" that you're encouraged to use. If at all possible, try to get a page where you can brand yourself. Don't use free domains. They look cheap and unprofessional. Having your own website will do wonders for differentiating yourself from your peers - especially if you have control over the content on the site.
Also, which do you think looks more professional on a business card: www.yourname.com or www.yourname.yourcompany'sname.com or www.yourname.blogspot.com? Obviously, the personal web address makes you look more professional and independent.
It's unlikely that you'll be doing business all over the world, or even across the country. Hire a marketing firm that specializes in local SEO. The company should be able to help you optimize your website for local search - which is what prospective home-buyers will be using when they're ready to buy. If you come up first in the search engine, and you have compelling content that sets you apart from your peers, you're probably going to be considered first.
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