January 5th - 2010

Nurture those online leads

Most REALTORS® say referrals and repeat business are their main source of business leads. However, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Technology Survey, 53 per cent of respondents feel the Internet is very important to generating leads.

Most REALTORS® say referrals and repeat business are their main source of business leads. However, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Technology Survey, 53 per cent of respondents feel the Internet is very important to generating leads.

Because most consumers begin their home buying or selling experience on the Internet, it’s important to know how to manage your online leads and convert them from leads to clients.

There are basic steps to communicating effectively with online leads. Much research has been conducted about the habits of online consumers that states 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 people become frustrated with their online prospects and consider them a waste of time.

However, this is a huge mistake as statistics show that online homebuyers are very likely to use a REALTOR® in their purchase. The key is to follow up with them regularly during the months after the initial contact. Patience is also key to success when dealing with online leads as research shows it can take six to 18 months before they take action.

NAR’s website (www.realtor.org) offers lots of advice on how to treat your online prospects like gold including the following six best practices for communicating with online consumers.

Best Practice #1: Respond in Kind
If a prospect sends you an email, respond via email. If a prospect text messages you, respond via text. The general rule is to respond in kind, unless the inquiry explicitly asks you to do otherwise.

Best Practice #2: Don’t Call Them
If you've somehow acquired a prospect's phone number and you're tempted to pick up the phone, stop yourself. You risk driving that potential client away because in all probability, he or she just wanted information, not a salesperson trying to set up an appointment. The only time it is appropriate to call is if the prospects explicitly ask you to call them and provide their phone number.

Best Practice #3: Always Include Your Email Signature
An email signature is an information block, usually at the end of your message, which includes your complete contact information. In addition to being professional, it is a required disclosure by some real estate regulatory jurisdictions. Once you have established a solid and ongoing client relationship with the prospect, including your signature in each email message is no longer absolutely necessary. However, you still may decide it's a good idea, as it provides a convenient way for clients to find your contact information.

Best Practice #4: There’s No Such Thing as Too Fast
Online consumers are a very impatient bunch (remember, the Internet connects people around the world in just milliseconds). They expect a very fast response to their inquiries. Ideally, you will respond to email within a few minutes. While this can present a problem if you’re showing property, at a listing appointment, or in the middle of a heated negotiation, try to at least answer your customer questions within one business day.

Best Practice #5: Keep in Touch, Or Else
It’s estimated that 19 of 20 valid online real estate related inquiries are prospects in the information gathering stage and can be many months away from anything happening. If you want any chance of doing business with this massive 95-percent segment of online leads, you need a way to stay in touch that doesn’t drive them away. Drip campaigns can be the answer as long as your messages are valuable. For example, if all you know is their interest in a particular property, then provide them with ongoing, up-to-date information about properties and neighbourhoods in the general area of their interest.

You want prospects to remember you for the right reasons. Avoid contacting them more than once a week or you’ll likely push them away. On the other hand, make sure your campaign keeps in touch with them no less than once a month. Be sure to make it easy for them to say “no thanks.” At the bottom of each message include easy “one-click” opt-out instructions in case the prospect no longer wants to receive your messages.

Best Practice #6: Treat Online Leads Like Human Beings
The key is understanding human behaviour in the online context, and then leveraging that understanding into practical communication strategies that result in the highest likelihood of converting casual inquiries into closed transactions.

Spending time and effort on better communication with your online leads will pay off. Loyal clients will be the ones who give you the best testimonials and provide you with invaluable word-of-mouth marketing.

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

JeanAdrienD@orea.com

416-445-9910 ext. 246