It may sound cliché, but the old adage “work smarter, not harder” is the most relevant piece of advice for agents and brokers alike. Increased costs and changes in homebuyer behavior have made it absolutely necessary for all agents to embrace this principle – especially when pertaining to marketing.
Even if things are going relatively well, one thing holds true and that is you can always improve your marketing initiatives. After all, your success as a real estate agent hinges on how well you can effectively market yourself and your business.
It’s Time for a Wake-up Call
If you’ve been a real estate agent for any amount of time, then you’re aware that the No. 1 source of leads comes from previous clients, friends and those you have interacted with. However, were you aware you could still be missing out on additional prospects within that same pool?
A study done by BrightLocal in 2014 found that 88 percent of the 2,104 respondents trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. To fortify that point, just think of the last time you traveled and used Google, Yelp or any of the hundreds of other review platforms to make a decision about a place to stay or where you would eat. Circling back around, people are still going to search for you – even with a referrers advice – and what is posted online can influence whether that client actually picks up the phone and calls.
To put it simply, we are living in the age of online reviews, where these reviews are taking on the role word of mouth. And, with so many platforms offering the ability to publish experiences, there is a huge opportunity for any person to share a bad customer experience. Just take a second to type in Google “worst realtor ever” and you’ll see results ranging from Zillow and City Data to Facebook and YouTube.
Take the Time to Listen, or Automate it
Not every business has the budget to hire an employee, or team, to handle social media and third party review platforms; however, you don’t need a team to understand your online perception.
For social media, create searches for your name, business, neighborhood and location, then sign up for either HootSuite or Tweetdeck and display these saved searches as feeds. This breaks things down so you can easily take a few minutes each week to skim.
Pro tip: use search.twitter.com for advanced search functionality.
For search engine results and third party reviews sites, take the time to set up Google, Yahoo and Bing alerts in the same fashion as social. With these alerts, you can use advanced search operators that will allow you to really narrow down and target specific words, strings of text, while omitting other results that may not be relevant.
Creating Profiles that will be Used
Many will tell you to create online profiles on every social media and third party review site; however, I would advise against this. Only create what you can manage. Empty or bare profiles offer the perception that you do not care, and open the door for spam comments and trolls. Choose the profiles that have the most value for your audience. For agents, great options include LinkedIn, Google+, Zillow and Trulia. These are directly in your niche and are where your potential clients will be searching.
Pro Tip: If someone has already reviewed you, and a profile has automatically been created, be sure to claim that profile so you have control over it.
Upon completing your selected profiles, go on the offense, asking clients for reviews and recommendations. When asking for reviews, prioritize your target review platforms by where they appear in organic search. You want to make sure potential clients are seeing the reviews, and if they are buried 10 pages deep then it may be difficult for them to shine through.
To collect reviews, consider a simple follow up email after your client closes on their home, thanking them for choosing you and also asking them to rate your service. Within the email, provide a direct link to the reviews section of the selected profile with a simple message, for example it could say Leave a review for Veterans United on Zillow Directly linking removes extra steps for the client and increases the likelihood they leave a review. The simpler you can make the process, the more results you’ll see.
Responding to Reviews
For the review platforms you control, set up email notifications that alert you any time a new review is posted. This allows you to respond promptly – something that can help calm a disgruntled client. If you do find yourself in a situation where a client has left a negative review, you’ll want to respond as soon as possible, but should never react in that exact moment. Take some time to consider what you will say and decide if the review elicits a response. Some battles you just can’t win. If a person is only there looking for a fight then you would want to avoid responding to prevent heaping coals on the fire.
As for your response, it should not be defensive, but should acknowledge the issue. If you have in fact made a mistake or provided poor service, apologize to the client publicly so others know you are making an attempt to reconcile the issue and care.
No matter how you respond, avoid creating any sort of banter. You do not want paragraphs of back and forth conversation for all the public to see. If there’s something that needs to be further discussed, invite them to contact you offline or contact them directly. And, if you come to a resolution, ask if the client would update their review. NEVER ask them to remove the review, but to update their rating or feelings.
If someone posts something nice about your business, get on there and thank them! Your happy clients deserve to know you heard their message and are thankful for their business. Above all, remember that no person or business is perfect. You’ll see a share of both positive and negative reviews; however, it is how you handle them that will show your true reputation.
Feel free to check out some of the responses to Veterans United’s Reviews on TrustPilot here for an example.
Photo courtesy of flickr user Ray_from_LA.