In April of 2005, I conducted a survey of more than 250 real estate marketing websites. These were not corporate websites - they were the personal marketing websites of individual agents.
What shocked me was that the majority of these websites (nearly 65%) had no way to capture the email addresses of visitors. I'm assuming the owners of these sites expected visitors to contact them immediately upon visiting.
But that's too heavy a burden to put on a website. It's rare that you can shorten the sales cycle to nothing more than a web visit and expect any results.
On a commerce website, most first-time visitors will leave without purchasing anything. Likewise, on a real estate marketing website, most visitors will leave without contacting the agent who owns the site.
If people leave your website without “dropping off" their contact information, there's a strong chance you'll never hear from them again. That's the nature of the Internet, and it reinforces the importance of having a lead-capturing system on your website.
What happens when people visit your site:
Generally speaking, first-time visitors to your website will do one of three things:
1. They will respond immediately (with a phone call or email).
2. They will sign up for something and then leave the site.
3. They will leave the site without doing anything.
Obviously, you want visitors to take the first or second action. But we know from statistical surveys that most visitors will take action #2 or #3. That makes action #2 (sign up and leave) the overlap between what you want visitors to do and what they're most likely to do.
So make sure you have something for people to sign up for on your website. This is called an “opt in" mechanism - visitors will opt in (or subscribe) to receive future communications from you.
Listings help, but they’re not enough.
Home listings will add value to your website. After all, listings are one of the top items visitors will look for on your site. But listings alone will not optimize the number of leads you capture. They'll generate a phone call here or an email there, but not enough to keep the pipeline filled with prospects.
Listings are a passive way to gain clients, because you're waiting for them to contact you. But by capturing leads through your website, you can shift into active mode and contact prospects with information they want. As a result, your chances of turning them into clients will increase tenfold.
Offer value to gain permission.
To maximize the number of opt-ins, you must offer something of value - a free report, a booklet, a newsletter. You offer this item of value in exchange for the visitor's contact information (and implied permission to use it).
Permission makes all the difference. Emailing prospects without their permission is spam. On the contrary, emailing them after they've expressed interest is good manners (and good business).
Want to increase the number of people who give you this permission? Simply increase the value of the offer. With website traffic being equal, a stronger offer will produce more leads. The two are directly proportional.
If you offer nothing on your website but free information, you will not get visitors and readers to “raise their hands. " Free information is great, but you have to hold something in reserve to elicit calls, emails or subscriptions. Offer something of value in exchange for permission.
Sure, you can educate your visitors. And you should. But always keep in mind the ultimate goal of your personal marketing website - to generate leads and grow your business.
Brandon Cornett has worked as a marketing manager for a direct mail company serving the real estate industry since 1986. He now dedicates his time to helping real estate professionals improve their marketing. His “Modern Guide to Real Estate Marketing" and his free newsletter are available at: http://www.ArmingYourFarming.com