If you read the property industry forums, it’s not hard to spot grumbles about the fees paid to portals, but, possibly, agents should consider adjusting their mindset to see portals as their champions and business partners. More than just a listing service, portals and their complementary companies offer sophisticated software, business-winning analysis and industry training – usually free to members.
Rightmove is acutely aware of its position in the market, yet it also focuses on how that position can help agents to become more efficient. Rightmove offers many free resources for agents to tap in to, “We spend a lot of time and money developing the market intelligence side of our business so agents can measure how they compare to their competitors, see where they can win new business and save time when preparing for market appraisals,” says Alex Cubitt, Rightmove’s Director of Agency.
Agents can get free training with their Account Manager on using our tools to win market share and we hold webinars on effective use of the data. Alex Cubitt, Rightmove.
Rightmove’s office software is continually being enhanced and the benefits are included in an agency’s subscription.
The software negates the need for agents to manually gather data on what’s for sale and what’s sold in order to conduct market share analysis. Once logged in, the display is ‘real time’ for an accurate snap shot of the live market. The myriad of reports that can be run off Rightmove’s data are invaluable, with over two million reports run in November 2017 alone.
That value does, however, lie in knowing how to exploit Rightmove’s software and although 90 per cent of Rightmove’s clients already use it, there are many agents within that figure who are not realising the product’s full potential and 10 per cent who are not making any use at all of the insights. For all agents, Rightmove offers a full training and support programme, at no extra cost, to help them make the most of these tools.
Estate agency is more than numbers, though. It’s about marketing, compliance and customer care. The Rightmove Hub is a resource for every agent – whether sales or lettings, trainee or agency owner. The Hub is packed full of articles, videos and webinars, covering hot topics ranging from GDPR and cyber security, through email marketing and brand perceptions.
The content is easily filtered by job role and business objective, and can be accessed 24/7. “Agents looking to use these tools to win more market share can get free training with their Rightmove Account Manager, plus we regularly hold webinars on how to use the data effectively in order to win new instructions,” adds Cubitt.
Although well known for its Zoopla, PrimeLocation and SmartNewHomes portals, ZPG Property Services says it is demystifying the digital arena, knowing that many agents haven’t got the time or inclination to learn a whole new marketing discipline. “Aside from our portals, we provide the digital solutions that enable agents to promote their properties and brand, manage their agency, make informed decisions and boost revenue streams,” said Mark Goddard, Managing Director, ZPG Property Services.
Agents can execute a number of online marketing strategies with ZPG. On offer is targeted online advertising via AdReach; email marking via eReach and whole new websites via TechnicWeb. Also in the ZPG stable are a number of cloud-based property softwares (Alto, Jupix and ExpertAgent), hybrid agency solution PropertyFile, design and print company Ravensworth and data insights company Hometrack.
Also, realising that extra income is an attractive proposition in tighter times – ZPG is proving that portals can secure revenue as well as enquiries. Its MoveIT platform has already generated over £1 million in referrals fees for ZPG’s partners, “It has become a net revenue generator for a number of agents who are able to earn an additional £1,000+ per transaction by offering additional relevant services to consumers including conveyancing, mortgages and energy switching,” says Mark Goddard.
“What makes ZPG’s offering unique is that we have everything in one place. So whether an agent is starting out and wants to get up and running quickly, or is a growing agency that needs the latest tools to help them compete, we can help them and minimise the need to deal with multiple suppliers,” he says.
With estate agency founders and backers, OnTheMarket (OTM) is well placed to offer a digital platform that meets the needs of branch staff. While its starting point is listings, with the recent announcement that it has introduced a real time data feed for its clients in tandem with Reapit, the OTM offering is being developed all the time.
There is scope for us to develop a range of consumer-facing promotion and branding products which agents and new homes developers will value. Ian Springett, CEO OnTheMarket.
Agents can already use OTM Expert, which monitors leads – email and phone – and displays performance data so listings can be fine tuned to achieve the best results. “Multiple estate agent employees can access OTM Expert’s data from different branches,” says Ian Springett, CEO, OnTheMarket, which hands power to agents who are on the ground and actively interacting with the moving public.
“There is scope for us to develop and introduce a range of consumer-facing promotion and branding products over time, which agents and new homes developers will value,” adds Ian. “In addition, we expect to add back office products for agents and new homes developers, so watch this space.”
While portals are excellent at delivering leads, providing data and offering support, what happens to enquiries once they are delivered is equally important. You may think every portal lead is instantly pounced upon, but anecdotal evidence and internal audits repeatedly reveal that some enquiries are missed or, shock horror, ignored completely. “We have found that as many as 40 per cent of portal leads are overlooked, which is not good for a brand’s image or for business,” says Jeremy Tapp at Homeflow. Whether by design or not, no agency boss wants to see new business overlooked.
Covering all bases is Homeflow’s Boomerang product – developed to ensure no portal leads slip through the cracks. “Our product ingests enquiries from all three leading portals and automatically responds to each one. The email is fully branded in the corporate style, so it feels like it comes direct from the branch – fired off on a 24/7 basis so the buyer feels they are being acknowledged from first contact,” adds Jeremy. “The emails can feature a friendly introduction from the branch manager, a photo of staff and similar properties to those the buyer is enquiring about, enhancing the chances of an enquiry turning into several viewings.”
Boomerang also serves as an important web traffic driver says Jeremy. “Portals aren’t the easiest places to get live URL links back to your own websites but agents can encourage buyers to navigate away from portal search results. Our emails can be formulated with links taking people straight to the agent’s website.
“To stimulate clicks, we encourage staff not to upload a property’s full marketing pack to the portals, instead keeping back some details – such as more photos, 3D floor plans or videos. These ‘extras’ can be dangled like a carrot in the Boomerang email and buyers feel compelled to click through to the agent’s site to see more.”
It’s not just about securing viewings and offers – a large proportion of buyers will also have a property to sell or let. “We know it is sellers who really explore an agent’s own site as part of the research process so getting as many people browsing your pages and being exposed to your services is what counts,” adds Jeremy.
It’s agreed that portals are an essential part of estate agency, but not every agent, has the time to trawl portals and rival estate agent websites for new leads. Thankfully, the digital nature of property listings may spell the end to the laborious and ‘hit and miss’ task of manual seeking out new business. Agent Canvassing offers an automated software service that delivers agents the full addresses of properties for sale, generates canvassing letters and even posts them out on an agent’s behalf, should they opt in to the discounted print and post service. What’s more, the whole process is GDPR compliant.
Research suggests that manually seeking addresses only returns 45% of the properties for sale. Agent Canvassing’s algorithms obtain 85%. Michelle Meah, Agent Canvassing.
“Research suggests that agents manually seeking addresses only get around 45 per cent – 50 per cent of the property details available,” says the firm’s Company Director, Michelle Meah. “Agent Canvassing’s algorithms obtain up to 85 per cent of the properties, ensuring we capture 35-40 per cent of properties other methods haven’t.”
Those using Agent Canvassing can say goodbye to hours scanning portals for prospects. Instead, they simply choose a geographical area they wish to canvass, choose either a full blanket send or cherry pick addresses they’d like to tout, and set how many times they’d like to contact the vendor. The search takes into account online-only agents, High Street agents and portals, yielding maximum potential leads with minimum effort.
VALUE ADDED PORTALS!
Portal power is unquestionable but the associated products and services they offer seem to be massively undervalued. With bundles of insightful data at their fingertips and an acute understanding of the digital marketplace, agents should be speaking with the portals more often – it’s a no-brainer, given the free guidance and resources available.