There’s a popular misconception among homeowners these days that all one needs to do is get their property on Rightmove or Zoopla and the offers will start flooding in. Certainly that’s what the online agents want them to believe, but research from Which? released last month revealed that less than half of those who’d recently moved home found their property via a portal.
Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, the survey of 2,000 recent homebuyers found that first-time buyers were even more likely to find their home using traditional methods (60 per cent) rather than property portals or apps (40 per cent), despite usually being younger.
The most popular ‘traditional’ methods were seeing an ad in an estate agent’s window (11 per cent) and getting a phone call or email from estate agent (11 per cent).
But while people aren’t always finding the house they want on a portal, they are increasingly looking for it and making contact with the agents who will help them find it online, so agents need to make sure their digital marketing strategy puts them front and centre in both buyers’ and sellers’ minds.
“With 93 per cent of UK home buyers searching for properties online, it’s becoming increasingly important that estate agents adopt an effective digital marketing strategy in order to reach new clients, and retain the loyalty of those already on the books, particularly in the face of increased and fierce competition,” says Ross Liddell, Operations Director at estate agency software firm Dezrez.
1. FIND THE LOCAL CROWD
The internet may have given us the opportunity to reach people all over the world, but in fact for estate agents, it is usually people living within a relatively small geographic area that they want to reach.
For this reason, some agents focus heavily on SEO to attract new clients. Aaron Cambden, owner of Fairview Estates in Nottingham, says his firm has been working with an agency to identify opportunities to expand its audience using SEO.
“We recognise the importance of ranking well in our own local region for terms such as ‘estate agent Nottingham’ and also ‘estate agent’ which, when someone is in Nottingham, will personalise the search to show Notts based agents. To help us with this, we’ve been working on growing our visibility via promotion of our brand online, with a focus on local websites and publications.”
Digital campaigns are essential for agents to engage potential clients, but don’t forget traditional marketing approaches. Aaron Cambden, Fairview Estates.
And while unpaid search can reap rewards, Daren Bach, Managing Director at communications agency Provoke, says putting some money behind your spend can boost results. “Pay-per-click (PPC) can significantly help to drive traffic to your website. Tailor this by basing it around a 20 mile radius, using terms such as ‘homes for sale’ and ‘property for sale’ to reach those who are actively looking to buy or sell a property.”
Tom Davis, director at Digital Munkey, adds that paid search compares very favourably with other forms of advertising, “There is no other way of looking at Google search other than it’s got great ROI compared to other mediums of advertising for estate agents. For example, Google Remarketing in a week of clicks back to the estate agent website costs about £20 and your brand could have appeared in front of more than 20,000 searches in that seven-day period, which typically results in two valuations for one of our clients. Most estate agents’ average valuation cost is around £1,000 per valuation using other methods.”
3. GET SOCIAL
Many agents are also now focusing on social media to connect with potential sellers and buyers. But it needs to be used for more than simply posting properties for sale, say agents.
Our posts introducing the team, thanking a happy customer for their gift and inspirational quotes, received the most engagement. John Ashcroft Home Truths.
John Ashcroft, owner of Home Truths in Lancashire, has invested heavily in social media as a way of breaking into his rural village market since launching four years ago into a patch where “competition was fierce” and well-established agents had the market cornered.
“We have tried a number of different marketing strategies that are available to smaller estate agents, including advertising in local papers and direct marketing, however at Home Truths we feel that one of the most beneficial marketing channels for us is social media,” he says. “We started our social media journey by combining different types of content and closely analysed the results. We quickly realised that our customers responded to posts demonstrating our personality and enjoyed seeing useful information on the local area, rather than a steady stream of properties. Our posts introducing the team, thanking a happy customer for a thank you gift, and even inspirational quotes, received the most engagement.”
One of the advantages of social media is that it’s easy to track that engagement via various analytics tools, something that came in handy for Carly O’Brien, marketing manager at Michael Graham in Buckinghamshire, when the firm decided to launch a Facebook page to tie in with the revamp of its website.
“We rebuilt our website and we wanted to try and promote it a bit differently rather than just saying, ‘look at our new website’, because people aren’t really bothered if you’re an estate agent if you’ve got a new website,” she says. “We decided to kick it off with a competition to win a meal and a cookery course at Le Manoir.”
The first competition brought a spike in traffic and helped them gather many of their first Facebook likes, and they’ve since held a few more competitions, putting money behind the campaigns where necessary.
This year’s competition to win a cooking course and dinner at The Wild Rabbit in the Cotswolds attracted 594 entries and led to big spikes in traffic on days it was heavily promoted.
As well as making it easy to track engagement, social media offers agents the ability to geo-target, says Daren Bach, “Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can help your promoted ads and posts reach a local audience through their IP address (the address from where they log in) as well as their recorded address (one which they have listed). Facebook and Twitter also offer some useful additional targeting features to help estate agents home in on local consumers that have interests similar to what they are offering.”
But Ross Liddell at Dezrez says agents mustn’t just push things on social media — they should also take part in discussions. “When the opportunity arises, it is important to take an interest in and engage with your customers. Find out where they congregate, and join in the conversation to build a rapport with them.”
3. CONTENT IS KING
With so many agents working to build up their online presence, it’s no surprise some are increasingly recruiting in-house staff to help with their digital marketing efforts. Paul Wood, Director at Midlands agent Pygott and Crone, says, “We’ve invested heavily in our digital marketing over the last few years, which includes recruiting staff with specialist skills in graphic design, web development, videography and animation.”
One result of this investment has been an increase in the video content available on the firm’s website. Paul says their series of ‘Why you should move to….’ videos, highlighting local schools, transport links and benefits, has proven very popular with buyers.
“We also have a number of film guides explaining to buyers and sellers what’s involved when selling or buying a house with us; a simple introduction to our services that’s much easier to digest than a formal brochure – and much more cost effective too,” he adds.
Carly O’Brien says that video guides are something Michael Graham is also considering in the near future, and already the company has a blog that it updates on a regular basis, “It’s all about content now and people would rather read something that is of interest to them rather than us saying ‘use us, we’re great, we’re open seven days a week’ and that sort of thing.”
Michael Graham also pushes out content on a weekly basis using BriefYourMarket, including properties for sale but also details of competitions it is running or events it is sponsoring.
Email can be a good way to connect with potential buyers and sellers, says Suzie Pattison at Ravensworth, but only if done correctly. “100 emails represents 100 digital marketing opportunities – or, more often than not, 100 missed digital marketing opportunities.”
While no agent wants to miss a digital marketing opportunity, it’s important to remember they are just one part of the equation, says Daren Bach. “Whilst digital marketing campaigns are essential for estate agents to target specific audiences, engage potential customers and share vital information, traditional marketing approaches shouldn’t be neglected.
“Adverts and leaflets – used alongside digital marketing – can provide a much stronger integrated approach. Powerful photography used in adverts that promote and refer to the estate agent’s website can be an invaluable tool to connect with customers.”
The search is on
- 9/10 people research online before looking to book an appointment for a valuation.
- 29 per cent of searches never even scroll down that first page on your website.
- 95 per cent of search happens on Google in the UK.
- 4/5 valuations are requested by most vendors.
- £1.90 – £4.50 average cost per click in Google paid search for estate agent searches.
Source: Google UK & Digital Munkey