Real-estate sales are quite different from most sales. Many transactions have their entire sales cycle completed in a relatively short time (depending on the product). Real-estate sales, however, can take up to 18 months to come to fruition. The length of time of the real-estate sales cycle has tremendous implications on real-estate leads, how they are acquired, and how they transact.
THE REAL-ESTATE SALES CYCLE
FOR A BUYER
For the sake of creating a personalized editorial picture, let’s say that Jack and Jill are thinking about selling their home. They might toss the idea around several times while eating dinner or watching TV. They think about their new home and how exciting it would be to make a new life in that new location.
Their first steps might be to either (1) find out what their present home is worth or (2) look at potential new listings in the area.They are in the very beginning stages of their sales cycle. One day, this part of the home buying process will be done in virtual reality, but for now…this part of the cycle will most likely take place on the Internet.
Now we have Jack and Jill searching real-estate websites, such as Zillow, or their favorite local real-estate broker’s website to sign up to receive the newest listings. They might do a Zestimate on their current property to see what they can get for their home. For a more accurate home value, they might even utilize the “get your home’s value” on a local real-estate broker’s website.
During these early steps of the home-selling process, Jack and Jill have most likely become a real-estate lead. Are they ready to sign a listing agreement? Are they ready to drive around with a REALTOR to look at new homes? The answer for both questions is a resounding NO!
Does that mean that Jack and Jill are not legitimate home sellers and ultimately home buyers? Of course not. This is how the process takes place from the consumer side. As for the real-estate agent who received Jill as a new lead for “getting her home’s value”? When Jill didn’t return the agent’s phone call, that agent wrote Jill off as another “junk lead.” At this point, the system of lead generation for real-estate breaks down.
No Shortage of Leads—BUT There’s a Shortage of Conversions
If you’re a real-estate agent these days, then you have hundreds, maybe thousands, of options for acquiring real-estate leads. With the average home buyer becoming a “lead” for multiple real-estate agents during their sales cycle, there’s no shortage of real-estate leads, but there’s a shortage of conversions.
The challenge in the real-estate industry is incubating those leads until they get farther down the sales cycle. Many agents, whether they are dealing with buyer leads or seller leads, give up quickly if they don’t get an immediate response from those leads.
They write them off as “junk leads.” What should happen is to incubate those potential home buyers and sellers as they progress through their long sales cycle.
As they get closer to the end of the cycle, where they NEED to deal directly with a real-estate agent, they usually do one of two things: either choose an agent who has kept in touch with them or become a new lead with someone else and act.
Using a CRM
One of the most common ways to keep in touch with a potential lead as they move down the sales cycle is to use a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager). CRMs are used in just about every sales vertical. At the most basic level, a CRM will hold your database of leads with some level of differentiation (past clients, potential buyers, potential sellers, etc.) and use drip e-mails to stay in touch.
Some of the more advanced CRMs will scrape leads from multiple sources, give a variety of ways to “touch” the client over time and follow the client through their sales cycle; others will even call or text your client. In addition to the major nonindustry specific CRMs on the market, such as Salesforce, Zoho and SugarCRM, they have many CRMs specific to real-estate, such as Follow up Boss, Top Producer and Brivity. Each CRM offers a similar set of tools, but with a different take, and some are more robust than others. Some automate much more of the process while others rely more on human intervention.
Read Our Article on Does Your Real-Estate Website Include SEO?
First, many of the standalone CRMs can be expensive and require a lot of setup work, which may put them out of reach for an individual agent. Second, with a good CRM being such an important part of real-estate marketing today, many real-estate website companies provide their own CRM with their web product.
An example of these types of companies are Kunversion, Real Geeks or Seize the Market. Although CRMs built into your website provider can create an elevated level of synergy, many of the websites themselves can lack the customization as compared to a “built from scratch” site.
Last, many national franchises and larger independent real-estate brokers provide a CRM to agents whom they are associated with. Although broker/franchise provided CRMs are usually the most affordable (sometimes even free) historically, these lack many of the features of the most robust standalone CRMs.
Which one is the best? That really depends on the specifics of your situation, how much money you want to spend, and your technical acumen for setting up a CRM. Options are numerous here, but to be successful in real-estate today, NOT having a CRM is NOT AN OPTION.
Video Provided By Chris Donaldson of Donaldson Education
Video taken from a free webinar from Chris Talks
Real-Estate Marketing Options
“They” say that after four moves in a game of chess, the board can be in 197,472 possible positions. So it is in the case of real-estate marketing ideas. With the mind–boggling number of possibilities for a website, real-estate SEO, lead generation, CRMs, and advertising verticals, it is no wonder that many REALTORS opt for their broker-provided website and incorporated CRM.
If you’re waiting for me to say that’s a terrible idea, then you’re wrong. Agents can have many reasons to opt for their broker set of tools and services:
- Are in the last quartile of their Carrier and not looking to reinvent themselves.
- Don’t want to learn.
- Are happy with their current income.
- Don’t have time to learn.
- Don’t have the technical acumen.
For these agents, their broker-provided tools and services can be a good option. For them, the other option is usually nothing, and that’s a really bad option. With the broker tool usually comes some level of support and recognition for using the service, and the cost is normally extremely low.
Real-Estate Website and CRM Combo
We talked about this option above. If setting up a CRM or attempting to interface a CRM with a different website seems daunting, these options can be good worthwhile. The real-estate website and CRM combo option usually comes with a monthly recurring charge. They may also include add-ons for Facebook and Google Ad Words that is billed through them. Having one dashboard for both your website and CRM and having them fully “talking to each other” can substantially simplify things.
Read Our Article on Real-Estate SEO Best Practices
In my experience, although many of these products have solid CRMs, the website side of the equation leaves a bit to be desired. They aren’t bad if you don’t want to spend a lot of time customizing a website, but if you have a unique design idea or insist on specific branding, these options may not be the best for you.
As a company that has deep roots in real-estate search engine optimization, my experience is that these are usually harder to rank on Google for real-estate keywords. Not saying it can’t be done, it just requires more time and effort to rank these types of sites as opposed to a custom WordPress real-estate website where you have total control. If you are interested in attempting to SEO your own site, you may want to read our REALTORS guide to SEO.
Standalone Non-Real-Estate-Specific CRMs
Many of the largest, most popular CRMs are really designed as enterprise solutions for companies like Microsoft or others that have ultra-powerful products designed to be integrated into the workflow of a large organization.
Many even integrate with the major account software solutions. This requires a ton of custom setup and is expensive. Although enterprise CRMs, such as Salesforce or Clear C2, can be a good solution for a large broker, they are not usually recommended for agents or real estate teams.
CRMs Designed for Real Estate
Real-estate specific CRMs are nice because many of them may include prewritten drip emails and the product has been tailored for the real-estate industry. Even though these CRMs have insight on what is needed from a REALTOR’S perspective, they can still require an intensive setup.
It is recommend that, even if the product includes cookie cutter emails, you should still write your own. Since your first contact with any potential client is generally the most important, you do not want anything going out that sounds sterile.
If you do choose this route, then make sure that the emails you send to your incubated real-estate leads have information about only real estate. Keep it simple. Gone are the days of the reminder to “Set Your Clocks Back One Hour Tonight!”
Read Our Article in Real-Estate SEO, Do Keywords Matter?
Think about it . . . when you see a Toyota commercial, it usually has something to do with an automobile, right? As a real-estate professional, why would anyone e-mail a client with “The Best Pumpkin Pie Recipe for Halloween!” when they should be sending useful information about the real-estate market or buying or selling a home?
The Full Custom Option for Real-Estate Marketing
If you are looking to have a real-estate website for lead generation and want a high level of customization, then many of you will opt for a custom-built website. Building a website from scratch allows you be in total control of the look and feel of the site, but generally has a larger up-front cost. Although you may pay more in the startup phase, your monthly recurring fees will be either very little or nothing.
Another advantage of building a custom real-estate website is that if you are planning on attempting to rank for real-estate keywords, you have much more control of the website URL structure and other SEO functions.
If you take the custom route, you should implement a standalone CRM. You will also need to integrate your CRM into the website so that newly generated leads are added to specific ongoing campaigns. This, once again, is more challenging to complete up front, but gives a high level of control in how everything will function.
Because most REALTORS spend the majority of their time assisting buyers and sellers with their real-estate needs, DEAN Knows has recently rolled out a Concierge Service for the capture and incubation of real-estate leads.
We feel this will augment our real-estate SEO services substantially. We have had tremendous success with our lead generation from our real-estate websites and social media campaigns, but up until now, the agent did all of the critical follow-up work, which turned the lead into a client. With our new Concierge Service, we now handle all aspects of real-estate technology:
- Website Development
- IDX Implementation
- Social Media Marketing Campaigns
- Setup and Integration of CRM
- Lead follow up from capture to closing
At the end of the day, acquiring real-estate leads is not the challenge. That can be done in a variety of ways. What sets the bar for success in the long sales cycle of real-estate is the ability to convert those leads to sales, and a CRM plays a critical part in a successful conversion.
Help Spread The Word...