Most estate agents and letting agents that I talk to are pretty confident now about surviving the rest of 2020. They have had the benefit of the furlough scheme, the local authority grant money, reductions in their portal costs, reduced marketing costs, deferment of a quarter’s VAT and deferment of the second tax payment on account. In addition to this, income from residential lettings has held up pretty well, the sales pipeline has started to complete at last and there has been a flurry of new sales agreed. This is great news but the time has now arrived when you need to think about how you are going to ensure that 2021 is a successful year.
Most agents cut back their advertising budget severely during April, May and June. This was understandable but unless you want a big hole in your income next year, then the time has now come when you need to start spending money on marketing again. So what should you be doing?
A good place to start would be to do a Google search for estate agents in your town. Where do you appear? Are you one of the top three agents in the Google Directory or do potential customers need to click on the ‘More Places’ section (which most of them won’t do). Are you on page 1 in the SEO listings? If not, you need to think about spending money on Google AdWords. If you don’t, potential clients simply won’t find you. The campaign must be set up and managed by a specialist AdWord company. The clients that are doing this properly are routinely achieving a return on spend of 400% or better.
Next, look at your Google star reviews. Unless you have at least a 4- or preferably 5-star rating, the click through rate will be lower than it need be. I am constantly amazed by the number of agents who allow a bad review from two or three years ago to continue to damage their ratings. If your rating is below 4 stars, you need to approach clients with a g-mail account and ask them to give you some positive reviews so that any poor ones are forced down the page and out of sight. If necessary, visit them in their own homes so that you can help them post the reviews immediately. This is so important that you need to make time to do it this week.
Next, look at the portal. When did you last change the information about your company in the ‘Find an Agent’ section? This text should comprise your best with unique selling points with a call to action such as ‘Call us now for a valuation without obligation’.
Your website is your shop window on the world and you need to be sure that it is both modern and effective. The purpose of your website is to convert visitors into valuations as quickly as possible. You must bear in mind that 50% of all visitors will leave your page within 8 seconds of arriving. Your landing page must include:
- Your top 5 USPs with a picture to convey each point
- A prominent ‘Book a Valuation Now’ button
- A photograph of your team
- A video testimonial from a satisfied client
- A link to properties that you have recently sold in the area
If your landing page doesn’t include these things, then you need to address this immediately.
Don’t forget social media but be aware of its limitations. Most agents find that social media is more about building a brand than generating specific valuation requests. However, as Facebook advertising becomes better targeted, this is changing and you need to maintain a social media presence. Again, this is best done with the help of a specialist company.
Most importantly of all though, you need to continue to spend some of your marketing budget on more traditional marketing methods. Sold in the Area postcards have been used for fifty years but they are still remarkably effective. One of my clients continues to get over six times return on spend from his leaflet campaigns which is the best return that he gets from any marketing activity.
Your own database of valuations that never came to the market, instructions that were withdrawn and past purchasers and vendors can also be a rich source of good quality business. Most of the larger firms have a telesales team who contact these people on a regular basis and the results that these teams achieve are very impressive.
Newspaper advertising still works remarkably well in some areas so long as it is targeted at potential vendors, not purchasers. The advert needs to include a ‘Thinking of Selling – Why Use Us?’ panel, properties that have recently been sold, ‘Wanted’ adverts, testimonials from satisfied clients and properties that are coming soon but not yet on the internet.
Touting other agents’ unsold properties works far better in a slow market than in a buoyant one but many agents only do it sporadically when they are short of stock. In order to be effective, your touting campaign must start as soon as a property goes onto the market with a follow-up letter at least every seven to fourteen days thereafter.
I would urge you to start increasing your advertising budget in all these areas now so that you can test which methods are working best before the market starts to get busy again. If you monitor accurately the number of instructions that are produced by each marketing method, you will be able to calculate your return on spend on each method so that you can allocate your marketing budget more efficiently in the future.
It doesn’t matter how good your valuers are, they cannot win an instruction unless they are invited to pitch for it. Most estate agents lose many times more fee income through poor marketing than through any other failing.
So, if you want to enjoy a successful 2021, then now is the time to review your marketing.
Adam Walker is a management consultant and business transfer agent who has specialised in the property sector for more than thirty-five years.