By Andrew Penner
At Penner Law Firm, our commitment to our industry partners does not stop at keeping them fully informed about changes in legislation. We want to earn our partners more business. Earning more business is much more easily said than done. The real estate marketplace is rapidly shifting from a refinance market to a purchase-driven market as interest rates rise. Good news, right? Well, not so fast. The good news is that an increase in purchase transactions is typically indicative of economic recovery, and oftentimes allows real estate professionals to make more money off of each client. However, the increase in the number of purchase transactions each month is not enough to offset the rapid decrease in the volume of refinances.
With fewer fish in the sea, the real estate marketplace is beginning to degenerate into a survival of the fittest. So how do you adjust your business strategy to adapt to this changing marketplace?
The answer is simple: MARKETING
Marketing is a critical but typically underutilized facet of each organization that is imperative to ensuring success in a competitive environment. The tendency of most organizations is to focus on the clients they already have, and ensure that those clients get pushed through the pipeline efficiently… but what about when that pipeline is empty?
This month’s industry update will focus on low-to-no cost methods of marketing yourself or your business effectively in a new purchase-driven marketplace.
- RETAIN the clients you already have. Sounds simple – do a good job on their file, and they’ll want to come back, right? This may have worked in the past, but now every competitor will be fighting for the client that you once were assured. This means that maintaining contact with your past clients is more important now than ever. There are a few different ways you can constantly keep your brand in front of past clients:
- Email Marketing: Email marketing services, such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact, allow you to import all your contacts and stored emails into categorized “lists” and send pre-designed email templates to all recipients on those lists. Accounts on these sites are typically free until you surpass around 2,500 emails in the database.
- Social Media: With Web 2.0 has come the rise of social media for businesses. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare, and Yelp have become commonplace in the life of many consumers. The bottom line: if they’re there, you should be too.
- Give your clients marketing materials during and at the conclusion of your transaction. Promotional services such as Vistaprint and Branders.com make obtaining marketing materials simple and cost effective. Paper marketing materials can include brochures, handouts, thank you notes, or anything else you wish to provide that includes your logo and ideally some information or differentiating attributes about your brand. Additionally, promotional materials are also great ways to keep your brand in front of customers. Find what kind of items your clients commonly use (keychains, pens, paperweights, cell phone holders, bags, mugs, etc), and custom order these items so that you can give them to your client at the conclusion of their transaction. If you select a gift that is relevant to your audience, they are likely to use it on a daily or weekly basis – thus constantly exposing them to your brand.
- BUILD RELATIONSHIPS to gain new business partners and earn referral business. All marketing eventually boils down to sales. Sales does not necessarily entail “cold-calling” random businesses. In fact, it is best to start with the people you know and spread outward from there. Below are some methods of building relationships that do not involve cold-calling.
- Join a BNI group: BNI is the world’s leading networking and referral organization. There are chapters throughout the country that allow members to network and draw on other members’ relationships to generate referral business. Meetings are usually in the mornings, once every week. If leveraged properly, membership is a marginal fee compared to the referral business you will be generating.
- Ask current customers for referrals: If you like us, spread the word! Word of mouth marketing is both the cheapest and most powerful form of marketing. Make sure that you meet or surpass all of the client’s expectations, then ask them to spread the word to their friends and family. You can even give them incentives to spread the word – e.g. you or the referred client earn 30% off your next transaction.
- IMPROVE YOUR WEBSITE to rank higher on Google and increase online engagement. Everyone searches the web for what they need, whether it be a plumber or attorney. Your website should help set you apart from competitors. Below are some summarized tips for improving your web presence.
- Optimize your content for the terms your clients will be looking for: Most people will search for the service you provide before they search for your company. For instance, instead of searching Penner Law Firm on Google, many of our clients will first search something like “Real Estate Attorney in CT.” When they search it, you want to be there. New tools, such as Google’s Keyword Planner Tool (http://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner/Home) can help you identify which search terms are getting the most volume, so you can optimize your website’s content around those keywords.
- Add and maintain a blog: Blogs perform two critical functions in the online world. First, they help your site rank higher on Google. Adding a blog relevant to your target audience will inherently add more keywords to your website. Additionally, Google boosts the rank of sites that are constantly being updated since that shows the website is still being actively maintained with (ideally) the most current information. Secondly, and most importantly, a blog helps engage your website’s visitors with interesting and relevant content, causing them to look deeper into your site and stay on it longer.
- Make your website more personal: Data has shown that websites that include pictures or videos of the employees or staff perform better than those without. Why? Pictures of employees or staff help the visitor engage with the organization on a deeper level. Pictures also provide an element of accountability. For example, many of our clients visit our “Attorneys” page before filling out our contact form because they want to see and learn more about the attorney that could be handling their transaction.
- Videos help engage the visitor on an even deeper level. Videos can help the client relate to people in the organization, and can also provide useful information. Videos do not have to be long, but they should provide some educational value. For example, a loan officer can post daily videos of himself stating today’s mortgage rates for each type of loan.
- Build Inbound Links: This is the trickiest website improvement we have discussed thus far. A key component of Google’s PageRank algorithm is the number of links from other sites that direct to your site. These links show that your site is an authority on certain matters and can be trusted. Generating these links is not easy, but one simple way to generate these links is to write brief articles on relevant topics, post them on article databases, such as http://ezinearticles.com/, and include backlinks to your site.
- IMPORTANT: Never buy links from companies claiming that they can boost your website rank. Google frowns upon this, and may even blacklist your website if you are caught.
- ADVANCED – Adjust your website’s interface to drive traffic to your most powerful pages or portions of the site: This requires substantial knowledge of HTML and CSS. As you complete the tasks above, the next step is to adjust your interface to better suit your ideal consumer. You want your website to slowly take the visitor through your sales funnel. For example, your homepage should introduce the visitor to your firm, and have some pictures that make the visitor feel more comfortable. From there, you may want your customer to find what sets you apart from competitors. Lastly, you want to drive them to action, most likely in the form of a purchase or contact request. Attractive buttons or slider images are great ways to help funnel your consumer into clicking through to a certain page.
- We suggest keeping a question or comments form on every page so your visitor can always feel like they can reach out to you with any questions.
- Note: There are many other things you can do to improve the performance of your site, such as form placements, color scheme, or load time improvements. We will cover these in greater detail in later posts.
We at Penner Law Firm hope that these tips will help keep your organization prosperous during the tumultuous times ahead. If you have any questions on the content in this blog or on how to improve your marketing strategy, please reach out to Penner Law Firm’s Director of Marketing, Andrew Penner, at email@example.com. We are always happy to help our referral partners to improve their marketing techniques!