Taking Your Web Site Seriously?

By Beacon Staff

This is the first in a series of articles about the use of technology for marketing purposes – by businesses in the Flathead.

The easy one to select first is the real estate business. Why? Because the market is supposedly down and just about every real estate firm has a site.

However, I’m troubled by what I found and almost wonder if folks are taking their websites seriously. Given that we live in a resort area outside of Glacier National Park, you can’t just assume that because the locals don’t care (a mistaken assumption, I think) that your site doesn’t matter.

I looked at numerous local real estate websites and found these things:

  • There are a few real estate service bureaus that tend to create most of the sites (yes, there are exceptions). You can tell because the sites of several competitive real estate companies are being serviced by the same out of town service. The layouts are the same except for color and a few graphics. The site structure is identical across several competitors. Where is the competitive advantage from using a template website that 12 other Realtors are using?
  • Most of the sites did not have curb appeal, something I would expect any real estate business to understand.
  • Yes, there are exceptions, most local agencies with sites built by local web companies (how cool is that?)

All of these sites had a few critical things missing:

  • Almost no testimonials, those that did use them were weak, missing info, not used strategically, or years old (if dated). One notable exception – Matthew Hohnberger’s – still leaves room for improvement.
  • No blog (one exception that didn’t motivate the reader to return, with no posts in almost 3 weeks)
  • Almost no video. What video there was came from their national organization. It was homogenized corporate content that isn’t specific to Northwest Montana or even to your agency. If you’re an agent here in Montana, do you think I can drop an expert agent from Miami or Dallas here and have them know what to talk about? No. Any video is better than no video, but you need video of YOUR staff, talking about issues in THIS area.
  • No audio.
  • Few or poor photos – a few have photos but are overwhelmed by large unbroken paragraphs that provoke clicking the back button. Almost all were scenic shots. Only a few included a high quality photo of the real estate agents (first impressions…). One included a photo of the sign on their building (?)
  • No specialization. “I specialize in finding homes for people ” is not a specialty. I found a few that specialize in waterfront properties or property in certain areas, but none of them stepped out and said “This territory is mine and you are making a mistake if you work with someone else.”
  • No city specific sites. The Kalispell market is not Whitefish’s, nor that of Columbia Falls or Lakeside. Each clientele has different budgets and different needs.
  • Very little establishment of personality on the part of the business, or the people working there.
  • No use of Web 2.0 / social media technologies. It isn’t just a buzzword.

I suspect a lot of the above is caused by depending on the broker’s national affiliation for websites. Many are fill-in-the-blanks websites with little localized content or regional information. Even agencies that are not affiliated with national firms were missing most of this stuff.

The problem with using templates that BigRealEstate offers is that the successful, smart agent can’t stand out from a crowd of starving, Tercel-driving agents who are working two other jobs and selling every other weekend. Surely you don’t want me selecting you out of the Yellow pages. You want me to know, long before I sell a house, who I insist upon using and why.

If you are that agent selling only on the weekends, you definitely should be taking notes.

If you’re doing well in the real estate business (smart ones do well regardless of the economy), you have to be asking: Why is this important? Because people who choose a real estate agent should be – if you do things right – choosing an agent for life. How many sales is that for you? How many sales is that for referred friends?

It’s not about the technology, it’s about the clients.

However, the tech stuff speaks to the younger crowd, and to the web-savvy crowd.

Right now, the field is wide open for the person or business that steps up.

If you aren’t in the real estate business – you should be looking at your site through a very similar lens. Don’t discard the conversation just because you aren’t a Realtor.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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