This is an ongoing series of articles that cover the topics and insights shared during the three-day Real Conf 2021 hosted by Adfenix. The following article summarizes the panel discussion with Zane Burnett and Paul Morgan on Day 1 Session 2 of the conference.
Zane Burnett serves as Chief Digital Officer for Willis Allen Real Estate, a luxury boutique firm based in San Diego county, and Paul Morgan is Proptech Consultant at Kerfuffle.com with over 15 years experience in UK real estate. They are joined by Adfenix CEO Andre Hegge. The group shares their unique and insightful learnings on the importance of agents turning their website into a strategic asset.
Why is the website a strategic asset?
Andre starts by describing the nature of real estate, in the sense that it is an industry that encapsulates both long and short term vision, and the main focus and driver for real estate agents is always towards the next listing and the next transaction. However, there is room to make more leeway for long-term goal setting, because the next transaction does not necessarily help agents long-term, and that is where the significance of websites comes in.
The website is a real, strategic tool for agents because it sets them up for future wins. A website that is not a strategic asset is one that simply sits as a window and doesn’t actually gain value over time. A strategic website, on the other hand:
- Yields recurring visitors
- Improves its ability to capture leads
- Improves conversion points
- Captures as many data points as possible and feeds them into the CRM
- Provides more actionable data over time
Andre believes that the agent or agency that only chases after the short-term aspect, i.e. the next listing, the next transaction, may be successful in the next week but struggle in the next three years. The agent that has equipped themselves with a powerful functioning website will, over time, have a stronger competitive edge.
Paul Morgan agrees, adding that the power of a strategic website includes being able to identify visitors through various forms of tracking, identifying where they are in the customer journey, and how that information is being integrated into the website or CRM. This provides a huge range of advantages:
- Allowing tracking of competitors’ stock, (whether the competitor was selling a property quickly etc)
- Being able to collect visitor names and email
- Being able to track their online footsteps on the site and see if they’ve taken any action in the last twelve months for example
The collective data that can be garnered from all the different touchpoints of a website along with social media activity can provide many ways to win or re-win visitors and surpass the competition. Paul shares that in his experience, these methods have grown market shares by an increase of 15% over a 5 year period.
Zane Burnett of Willis Allen Real Estate also shares that when it comes to making a website truly strategic, it’s an ever-evolving process - one that needs constant tweaks, pivoting and re-evaluation. It’s helpful to think of a website as a living, breathing, evolving creation, so agents need to put in effort, maintenance and be proficient in decision making. Many agencies have made the error of starting website projects with a healthy annual budget to make them flashy and geared up for an important launch, but months after launch-day, these sites actually fail to accomplish the things that a fully-realized website should be accomplishing.
Why do websites need to constantly evolve?
While the ebb and flow and constant shifts in social media platforms are a huge factor, another significant reason why websites need constant care and maintenance is because of changing policies and guidelines of various technologies that allow data gathering in the first place. Another reason is shifts in consumer behaviour and the constant need to try to keep them engaged. No website is perfect across the board, no matter how good they are, and simply assuming that they are will be detrimental to the effectiveness of the site, Andre shares.
For Paul, the ability of a website to deliver business can also depend on how much time and money an agent or agency spends on it. Partnering with a good website provider and having a good development team are factors that make a big difference, and for small agencies, he particularly recommends finding a good small partner that can come up with good social media output.
Fails before Wins
Zane shares some common mistakes or misconceptions that many in the industry still espouse.
- Conventional wisdom says that most visitors hop onto a website to look for and utilize the search bar on the homepage, to search for properties. But a year and a half ago Zane discovered through data from multiple websites that less than 1% of visitors who even land on the homepage are doing anything with the search bar. This means the biggest conversion goal that many agents have is an item that isn’t actually converting.
- Further analysis of traffic activity found that very, very little was actually coming from organic searches such as ‘three bedroom, two bathroom house’. This means that people landing on the homepage organically are not coming to learn about the agent or brand, or even search for homes. Accommodating to this issue requires a strategy adjustment, starting with all the elements on the homepage, so that the ‘choose me’ option is clear when it comes to helping visitors make a decision on an agent.
Words of Advice:
- According to Andre, it’s important to keep in mind that having a network of offices and agents that are digitally educated and adept is a huge asset, because it generates investment and traffic to the brand. It’s the reason why franchises or office networks that have digital-savvy agents are benefiting so much - these agents are not only investing their money and marketing resources, they are building the central brand and driving traffic in leads through the website. Comparatively, agents who are not as digitally adept are not generating the same advantages.
- For Zane, the single most common mistake is the tendency to ‘overbake’ the actual launch of a website. He draws on the Silicon Valley mantra of ‘go fast’, which is the ideology that if you go fast, you can pivot and take the energy that you already have for a project and attack the process of constant evolution, making changes as necessary.
- For Paul, outcome is key. To win by evaluations, agents must ask themselves: are they tracking people? Tracking phone numbers? How does the website respond to somebody who rings it? It’s important to think of creative ways of identifying visitors to the site, because of the sheer value and power of that data. It is key to chasing down competitors, win business and advertise to prospects searching for homes.
Andre closes the panel discussion with one last insight: there is so much value in the traffic further up the funnel, who are not necessarily signing up for an evaluation tomorrow. For many agents out there throwing away any traffic that is not immediate evaluation signups, adopting the right kind of tracking, with the right kind of identification on the website early in the funnel can unlock this huge value of homeowners that visit the site and help start building that tracking mechanism. This in turn can be adopted into the sales process.
Data is king, and the strategic website is key to harnessing that data.
To sum up:
- The main driver for real estate agents is the next listing or transaction, a relatively short-term goal, but it is worth paying attention to long-term goal setting, which is why the website as an asset is important.
- A strategic website yields recurring visitors, improves ability to capture leads and conversion points, and yields more actionable data over time.
- A smooth running website works alongside an efficient CRM, with a slew of advantages: tracking of competitors, collection of visitor details, tracking visitor online activity as permitted
- A truly strategic website means an ever-evolving process - needing constant tweaks, pivoting and re-evaluation.
- Analysis of consumer behavior on website homepages reveals that many in the industry have misconstrued notions of the kinds of metric goals they should be tracking when in reality, they are not actually converting.
- Having a network of offices and agents that are digitally educated and adept is a huge asset, because it generates investment and traffic to the brand.
- The single most common mistake is the tendency to ‘overbake’ the actual launch of a website.
- Thinking of creative ways of identifying visitors to the site is crucial, because of the incredible value of data.
About Real Conf.
Real Conf 2021 is a three-day virtual event exploring ways that agencies and brokerages can leverage the power of digital to increase business opportunities, elevate the brand, and empower agents to deliver success. The conference features hundreds of invaluable insight from keynote speakers, panel discussions and case studies from experts in the field.
All 15 sessions with 25 speakers are now available to stream on-demand.
Gain full access to the stream and watch the sessions in their entirety by signing up here: https://www.adfenix.com/real-conf