Once your website begins to generate new leads for you, one of the real tough parts is over. However, you still need to effectively convert those new leads into clients. There are several key differences between the average prospect and one from the Internet. Understanding these differences will save you time and frustration and most importantly will keep you from making the mistake of neglecting these valuable new leads.
The Online Consumer
Online leads usually represent people in the early stages of research who are just collecting information for a potential purchase. It’s often anywhere from 6 months to over a year before a new lead is ready to sell or purchase their home.
Prospective online clients are generally in an information-gathering mindset. They’re accustomed to collecting information freely and anonymously and are often reluctant to provide valid contact information. Because of this, many agents become frustrated with their online prospects and consider them a waste of time. In fact, some surveys indicate that as much as 90% of all agents don’t respond to their online inquiries.
This is a huge mistake as statistics show that online homebuyers are every bit as likely to use a Realtor in their purchase. The key is to utilize the right tools to efficiently follow up with them regularly during the months after the initial contact.
Client Management Tools
First, you’ll need to get a feel for how close your leads are to buying or selling their home and sort them into different groups accordingly. It’s not practical to constantly call, mail, and email every single lead you get. You want to focus more on your hot leads that are almost ready to buy, but still maintain contact with the others to see how they’re progressing.
This can be quite painless and inexpensive with the right tools and methods. Some websites offer integrated client management and follow-up features and there is an abundance of software available.
For example, Blitz Development’s AgentNet Plus websites allow agents to track the number of logins for each of their prospective clients, making it easy to determine their activity and level of interest. You can see at a glance who you should be focusing on and who you can just include in a monthly mailing. Agents can also sort their prospects into different email lists, making it simple to contact all their prospects with related interests.
Whether you’re sending your leads free market reports or updates of new properties on the market, try to address each of their specific needs as much as possible. A family looking for a 4 bedroom home in the suburbs shouldn’t receive emails about your new studio or 2 bedroom apartment in the city. If your emails don’t contain anything useful, they’ll quickly associate it with all the spam that floods their email box everyday and all future emails will go straight to the Trash folder.
For example, the Property Matcher feature provided with the AgentNet Plus websites allows visitors to specify what type of home they’re looking for and sends them automated emails of new listings that fit their criteria. Each time they receive an email of a new property, they also get a link that allows them to log in to their account where all of the properties that match their criteria are listed. This encourages prospective clients to revisit your site and continues to build familiarity.
A monthly newsletter is another good way to maintain contact with previous clients and leads who are still in the early stages of their home search. There are several companies offering professionally written newsletters that can be branded with your contact information. RealEstateABC, Realty Times, and Inman News all offer reasonably priced monthly newsletters. Some website providers can offer these products at a discounted rate through their partnerships with the provider. You should check with your website provider before purchasing these products or services directly from the vendors.
Prompt and Personal Response
You should check your email several times a day and respond to inquiries promptly. Auto responders have their role (which we will get to shortly) but you shouldn’t rely on them to handle your general email accounts.
When someone submits a contact form through your website or sends you an email, they expect it to reach a live person and to receive a personal response. You don’t want to disappoint them with a canned response to their specific questions and requests. The Internet is an impersonal and anonymous medium, but the real estate business is not. It’s important that you take this opportunity to begin establishing a relationship with your visitors.
Your initial contact can very well determine whether your relationship will flourish. Always keep your replies courteous, professional and grammatically correct. Keep your emails concise but make sure they include all of the requested information and address all of your visitor’s questions. You’re probably not the only one the prospective client has contacted but if you can give a personal response that provides relevant information, you’ll be way ahead of the pack.
For local prospects, it’s a good idea to follow up with a phone call soon after. These prospects have more resources available to them and it’s likely that they’ll quickly be contacted by other agents.
Out of town prospects that are relocating to your area are probably working with a longer time frame. They might not be ready to start their search in earnest yet, but it doesn’t hurt to begin building a relationship early.
Auto responders are special email addresses that automatically reply with a prewritten message. You should generally only use auto responders to handle specific inquiries such as requests for market reports or a homebuyer’s checklist. In this case, a visitor to your website may request to have an article emailed to them through an online form, and it would be automatically sent to them without your interaction.
The only time you should be using an auto responder for your general email is when you won’t be able to return emails for an extended period of time. For example, if you’re going on a 10 day trip, you can have an auto responder set up to let your clients know that you won’t have email access until a certain date and to provide an alternate way of contacting you for emergencies.
There are also email programs that not only send an automated reply but also subsequent messages at set intervals. You should make sure your prospects know that they’ll be receiving regular emails when adding them to your mailing list.
Always include a link to your website in all emails
Never use ALL CAPS as it makes it a pain to read and is often perceived as shouting
Never email your clients and prospects by adding their names to the CC (carbon copy) field. Your clients and prospects do not want their email addresses shared with everyone on the list. Use BCC (blind carbon copy) instead, so the email addresses are hidden.
Make sure everyone on your email list can easily unsubscribe. Either a link or instructions on how to opt out should be included with every email.