This is a contributed article from Richard Conn, Senior Director - Search Marketing at RingCentral.
2020 has been a tempestuous year, with lockdowns, social isolation, and general uncertainty affecting people’s work and leisure. You don’t need the greatest social listening skills to realize that real estate agents need to learn and act quickly to adjust to these ever-changing conditions, which are likely to stick around into the new year. As a real estate agent, you can get ahead by staying on top of the latest industry trends.
Overview of Real Estate 2020
At the start of the pandemic, the number of sales declined and listings were removed from the market. Real estate statistics from September 2020, now show the median list price is up by 11% and the number of days a property is on the market is down by 18%. The number of active listings, however, is down by 39%. So, the tide is slowly and surely turning.
In this article, we’ve looked into current and future real estate trends and compiled a list of our top tips to help agents approach 2021.
#1 Powerful Digital Presence
It’s no secret that online consumption is rapidly increasing, so leveraging digital channels is something every realtor should already be doing. But if you weren’t, then 2020 has definitely made it a requirement.
Currently, the fastest-growing demographic of home buyers are millennials, with over 37% of 25 to 34-year-olds owning a home. Given that 99% of millennial buyers start their search online, you’re missing out if you don’t use digital channels.
Mobile friendly content is also crucial for both commercial and residential realtors. In fact, 58% of millennials discovered the house that they bought on a mobile device. This is no surprise especially because over 90% of millennials are active social media users and spend an average of 3 hours per day scrolling through various channels. 47% of real estate businesses now realize that you can generate the highest quality leads and increase sales using social media.
Here are some tips for real estate agents to maximize their digital presence:
Using social media to build up communication
A good start to being professional is converting your Instagram account into a professional account, creating a business page on Facebook and even claiming your Nextdoor business page.This allows you to share how people can contact you in your page bio and enables prospects to reach you easily with a click of a button. That one-to-one correspondence will allow you to be more personable and helps to build authentic relationships with your prospective clients . Being more accessible and responding quickly lets them know you are willing to take time out for your day to support their needs. This will encourage more people to ask questions and will increase your social media presence.
Establish a content strategy
Ensuring that you are posting the right content for the right platform is a must in social media marketing. Use platforms like Instagram to their full capacity by creating Instagram stories and polls to encourage engagement. You can also use images on Facebook to elicit the most engagement and post questions on Twitter to encourage a response from your followers. Posting consistently is also key to building a solid online presence. We’ll talk about this more later.
Highlight the right things
It goes without saying that your social media page should be authentic, but it should also showcase your achievements. Highlighting positive reviews will build trust with your audience. Small gestures, like posting an anniversary picture of closing a deal with a family, will show your audience that you value them.
Use data and analytics
Knowing who your audience is and who you want to engage the most with your posts should determine the type of content you choose. For example, if your target audience is families, posting studio flats isn’t useful. You should also track your posts. Find out what’s working, what’s not, and most importantly, why and how you can change it. You should constantly be collecting insights. This can be tracking which type of posts receive the most engagement, finding out where leads are coming from, and observing the way your audience interacts with your social media on their path to becoming a client.
Use professional photography
Splashing out on some pro photos is a great way to attract customers. You will definitely recuperate your investment as research shows that high-quality photography increases the price of a property by $3000 to $11,000.
Creating your own website
A big part of having a strong digital presence is building your own real estate website. This will allow you to present your specialties, customer testimonials, and showcase your brand. Website optimization is also important to ensure that the customer’s experience is fluid. This can include optimizing your website design so that it is user-friendly, ensuring web navigation is easy to follow, and using keywords.
Another way to optimize your website is by using chatbots. A chatbot is Artificial Intelligence that can be located on your website and it can replicate real estate to customer interactions. They are also available 24/7 which increases customer satisfaction and can help generate leads.
Your digital aspirations for 2021 shouldn’t just lie within social media. It should include everything such as filing, resources, and communication. Good communication pathways, like VoIP, are essential and they’re even more important when you’re working remotely. There are a variety of VoIP pros and cons, but having the ability to integrate your company’s communications into one solution is definitely an asset in real estate.
#2 Marketing Overdrive
Marketing is crucial for any real estate business. It is a direct communication path to your audience and when done correctly it can set you apart from your competition. This will be particularly important in 2021 due to saturation and more realtors attempting to acquire online leads.
As we mentioned earlier, having a content strategy in place is vital. Here are some methods you can use.
Reduced budgets are causing realtors to move away from traditional marketing and advertising methods. An inexpensive and effective way of generating leads is by creating content.
Blogging is great for real estate businesses as it can provide a boost to SEO and help make you easier to find on web searches. Producing high-quality, useful blogs can also help you to establish yourself as an authority and leader in the industry. Articles, webinars, and infographics are just a few of the many channels you can use to create content and get your name out there.
Content marketing can also include videos that can be posted to platforms such as YouTube. Here’s what the research shows about real estate video marketing:
- It can increase qualified leads by 66% per year.
- Brands that use this technique can increase their awareness by 54%.
- 84% of new homebuyers say videos are incredibly useful for their property research.
Whether you outsource to a video production agency or create your own, investing in real estate video content marketing is a must in 2021. Here are a few tips to help you optimize your real estate videos:
- Engage with a story. A home is a place where people create experiences and memories. Use this ethos to tell stories within your videos that evoke emotion.
- Present the location. Highlighting the advantages of that specific location can help the viewer to imagine themselves living there.
- A clear call to action (CTA) is vital. Whether it’s for a form or placing an offer, a CTA takes the prospect to the next step and a good CTA increases conversions by 90%.
73% of real estate agents use some form of texting or SMS to engage with clients. Let’s have a look at why.
Text messages are a more personal form of communication and initiating a dialogue is much easier. In fact, data shows that 98% of text messages are opened and 90% are viewed in under 3 minutes of being delivered. SMS marketing is also far more cost-effective and out-performs email marketing. Text message responses are over 200% higher than email and increase referrals by 32%.
Once a prospect has given consent and opted-in, here’s how you can do it.
- Develop a keyword so that prospects automatically receive the details for the property or type of property they’re looking for.
- It’s hard to sell someone on a property with just words, so enable MMS so prospects can see images and videos of the property.
- Gather data. This includes names, budget, location, etc. so that even if you can’t convert them this time, you know what they’re looking for if the right property appears.
Despite the advantages of SMS marketing, email marketing is still one of the best strategies real estate agents can use to expand their reach. This is because emails don’t have a length limitation, meaning that, unlike SMS, you can provide your audience with far more information that can help them to convert.
Here are some tips you can use to maximize your email marketing impact:
Tailor your emails by audience
The main aim of email marketing is to get clicks. One of the ways you can do that is by targeting your emails based on different customer personas. For example, the email you send to someone who has attended a viewing should be different from the one you send to someone who is just beginning their property search.
Know your client
To ensure efficient tailoring of emails, you need to understand your audience. Collecting data about your customers’ preferences, needs, hobbies, etc., and placing them into groups is called segmenting. You can collect data from phone calls, email surveys, forms, and questionnaires.
Engage with past clients
Your past clients have the ability to help you generate leads. They can provide direct referrals or even testimonials that advocate your services. This is why remaining in contact with previous customers and leveraging their positive reviews is something all real estate agents should be doing in 2021.
It’s important to keep track of feedback, especially reasons for unsubscribing. Listening to customer complaints and even praises is an easy way to illustrate what you’re doing right and what you can improve on. Successful real estate businesses use effective performance management tools to help them improve their email marketing strategy.
Networking is a great way to build relationships with potential prospects. Just because seminars, conferences, and meetings are all currently on hold, it doesn’t mean your networking should also be paused.
Social media groups and social networking through virtual events are great resources for connecting with clients. You should take note of the event attendees and reach out to the ones you feel are most valuable.
#3 Technological Innovations
In the current climate, in-person property tours are becoming harder and harder to conduct. Many other industries have adopted remote work or other virtual alternatives. For real estate, the value of virtual and interactive viewing technology has increased and will continue to increase in 2021.
A virtual reality (VR) tour provides an engaging and realistic overview of the property that has the ability to move a prospect to the next step of the sales pipeline. Advantages of VR viewing include:
- Increased safety, as it can be carried from home.
- More convenient for the customer, as the property can be viewed anytime.
- Open to clients from anywhere in the world, not just local ones.
- Improves your brand image and distinguishes you as a business that is at the forefront of technology.
Community and Testimonial Videos
When you lease or buy a home you are joining a community. But, with visits and community tours becoming more and more difficult, the importance of community videos has increased. These videos showcase what living in that area is like and include things such as amenities, schools, and local businesses. Recently, some real estate businesses have adopted the use of drones. This aerial footage can capture the features and general lifestyle of the location.
Without in-person viewing, it’s even more crucial for you to build trust with the customer. Testimonial videos can provide you with trustworthy referrals that you can proudly show off. Videos showing previous clients that are expressing positivity can also help customers to choose your service. However, you must ensure that the video’s dialogue is relevant to your target audience.
Another option is the use of a live stream. This is a simple way to carry out multiple viewings at once. Many people see them as more authentic, as the video isn’t edited. They’re a great way to increase customer engagement. All you need is to figure out what the best video conferencing software option is, a mobile device, and some enthusiasm.
One key use of automation is chatbots. A chatbot can be either a simple set of rules, or an automated artificial intelligence (AI) service. Located on your website, it replicates realtor to customer interactions. They are also available 24/7 which increases customer satisfaction and can help generate leads.
Automation is also useful in nurturing leads. Automated workflows have the ability to send emails to prospects at specific points of the journey and improve their experience such as when they request a viewing or sign a lease. You can also use Kanban style tools to help manage and automate your workflow.
Automated drip emails can also help you to follow up on stalled leads Converting a prospect into a customer takes time and consistent email follow up. But, you must ensure that your communication is both personalized and doesn’t make the prospect feel pressured or irritated. Drip emails do all the work.
#4 Property Specialization
Is 2021 going to be the best year for real estate in the United States? Probably not. The average real estate prices are looking to fall by around 5-10%, so it’s going to take more than just an engaging sales page to convert prospects into leads.
The growing accessibility to information has made customers more independent. You need to reinforce being subject-matter experts by offering specialized solutions and products.
It’s important to set a goal to specialize. With marketing budgets declining, having a niche demographic is easier (and cheaper!) to advertise to. Also, specializing increases your referrals as you become more reliable in your chosen niche.
A great way to lean into your niche and make yourself known is by hosting free webinars. Conveying helpful and tailored knowledge will have a positive impact on your audience and you may even gain new clients.
Here are three ways you can specialize:
- Choose to market only one type of property such as high-priced estates or sustainable buildings.
- Only engage with a specific type of customers such as families or people purchasing homes that they want to renovate.
- Choose an unsaturated, unique location.
#5 The Human Element
2020 was an uncertain year for pretty much everyone. This is why it’s more important than ever for real estate businesses, in 2021, to understand their mission, goals, and what they can or can’t realistically achieve.
Having clear and positive values is a must during a crisis. Many communities and charities have struggled during this period and require support. Taking part in and contributing to social movements is a great way to give back to the community. It also allows you to build up your brand and emphasize your company’s charitable visions. Customers, of course, want to work with capable real estate agents but they also want to work with ones that care about causes.
You don’t just have to donate to give back to the community. As a real estate agent, you probably know every nook and cranny of your neighborhood. Use this knowledge to bring light to areas of your town that could do with some renovation such as transforming a vacant space into a park or playground.
A lot of people have been saying that “2020 is a year to forget”. But the impacts of 2020 have and will continue to have a huge effect on the upcoming years - and that doesn’t have to be entirely negative.
Aside from the chaos and the constant use of the word ‘unprecedented’, 2020 has highlighted the importance of adaptability. The real estate industry is ever-changing. Agents should learn how to turn each challenge and opportunity to their advantage by staying updated on new trends and keeping a forecasting eye.
Digitalization is here to stay. Whether that’s virtual reality tours, social media, or drone-shot videos, this is a trend you have to be a part of to survive in 2021. But, digitalization and marketing shouldn’t take away from your human side. Helping out in the community through services and advocacies has always been important and will continue to be so in 2021.
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