By Bob Corcoran
This past summer, my son was looking to buy a home in St. Louis, not far from my office. I intentionally watched as he sat down at the computer and turned the occasion into my own little research project to learn firsthand how consumers really used the Web to search for homes.
First, he pulled up Google and promptly typed in “St. Louis Condos.” (Before I go any further, for all you enterprising agents out there, don’t call him. He’s found his place and is settled in just fine now!) He immediately scrolled down the page, skipping the three paid sponsors’ links at the top, and he ignored the other paid links in the right column. Instead, he read the top three search results.
Later, I asked him why he didn’t go to Realtor.com. He looked at me quizzically and said, “What’s Realtor.com?”
According to a REAL Trends report, an online real estate news site affiliated with the Wall Street Journal (which I highly recommend you read regularly), 90 percent of consumers perform online research before they buy a home. A whopping 96 percent expect a response within 30 minutes or less after they contact a real estate agent, and 89 percent said response time was very important when choosing their agent.
Borrell Associates, an advertising research firm in Williamsburg, Va., found in its 2012 Real Estate Advertising Outlook report that online real estate ad spending will see double-digit percentage growth over the next five years, making real estate one of the largest online ad categories. Also, for now, the largest share of real estate-related spending online will go to email, at nearly 29 percent, followed closely by targeted display advertising (25.7 percent). Then comes paid search (17.7 percent), run-of-site display (15.8 percent), video (10.4 percent) and audio (1.5 percent).
But in five years, Borrell projects targeted display will replace email as the primary ad format, making up nearly half of ad spending, with the share of video advertising doubling to 22 percent. Both ad types are expected to flourish as real estate advertisers turn to emerging platforms, like social media and mobile, to connect with prospects and improve return on investment.
The report stated that future agents are likely to be the most socially-savvy, mobile-connected business in town.
So, here are some key lessons I’ve learned from my research about online advertising:
Lesson 1: Continue to increase your ad budget for online advertising. It’s where the eyeballs are and will continue to be.
Lesson 2: Commit to becoming more of an expert in online marketing. Take at least five hours each week to investigate technology related to the topic. Here’s just one example: Dakno.com, a real estate marketing firm, has developed a system called retargeting that lets you follow and communicate with prospects on the Web after they’ve visited your website.
Lesson 3: Know that when consumers look for a house, they often don’t go to Realtor.com. Instead, they search in a particular city, so focus the information on your website about location to help improve your chances of being found when consumers search online.
Lesson 4: Put a premium on converting online leads by committing to responding to all online leads within 15 minutes. Think of it as fishing: when you feel the bite, start reeling it in immediately!
Bob Corcoran is a nationally recognized speaker and author who is founder and president of Corcoran Consulting Inc. (CorcoranCoaching.com, 800-957-8353), an international consulting and coaching company that specializes in performance coaching and the implementation of sound business systems into the residential or commercial broker or agent’s existing practice.