Anarchy, choices and a crowded forest
Every so often, reruns of real estate’s greatest hits play in my head. Products, tools, strategies and opinions hoisted up and infused into our collective brains.
It’s a purposeful exercise. To think forward, we must be students of the past. But as the world speeds ahead, a review of where we’ve been doesn’t quite cut it.
What if everything you were told was wrong?
Granted, it’s a broad sweep. But stick with me. It’s an important exercise.
Your notion of a website. SEO. Marketing. Recruiting. Social media. Mobile. Content creation. Syndication. Branding. E-signatures. Consumer behavior. What if everything you’ve based your decisions on was wrong? Or no longer applicable?
For example, consider the real estate website. Arguably, it’s one of your most visible brand assets.
Look closely at this navigation scheme I found on the first site I clicked on after running a random Google search for real estate brokerages:
This sequence of nav items – with the exception of the blog – hasn’t changed since 1998. The naming conventions are unappealing and confusing. “Home” is unnecessary. What does “Tools” mean to a user? The items evoke no brand vibe and point to pages that are meaningless to the user.
Navigation should only include primary items. Mixing business needs (Careers) with consumer needs (Search) is bad form. Using verbs increases clicks. Consider this scheme from another site:
The use of stock photos is another legacy practice that should be exiled. Here’s an example from a “Buying” page:
This loving couple, is stock photo #284561 and has been used dozens of times for all sorts of advertising. Like this one:
Seems to me, a brokerage whose primary function is to “market homes” should consider using photos of past customers as a simple solution to this dopey practice.
“Quick Search” and its cousin “Advanced Search” are a legendary duo that continue to grace the majority of real estate websites.
The idea of Quick Search was concocted during the mid ‘90s and never made sense, yet I marvel at how often this foolish practice has been copied. Today, web users are methodical. They use the web to learn. Discover. Entertain themselves. A better headline, right for the times, and one that might help your SEO efforts or evoke brand vibe seems practical. Like these:
These are both far better choices.
Listing detail page
At 1000watt, we refer to the listing detail page (LDP) as the money page. The example below is the LDP for a $7 million home. Notice the single small, cruddy image surrounded by a pool of tiny words. This page might as well have been ripped out of a 1985 edition of the MLS book.
Merchandising a $7 million property online (or any property) should look exquisite. Like this $6 million Kogo Yacht for sale:
Given the importance of a LDP to the home seller, buyer, broker and listing agent, addressing this age-old design aesthetic seems imperative.
These samples are the tip of the website iceberg. They represent some of the many practices that have become standards in real estate. Passed down from one century to the next. Created by developers who built products for themselves.
But things have changed. You’ve changed.
Your products should reflect this reality.
The time has come to ask some fundamental questions.
Why build a website that features the exact same listing feed as every single one of your competitors?
What is your editorial strategy and how do all of your various social sites and brand-generated content align with that strategy?
Who’s your primary audience? Pick only one. The agent, the industry or the consumer?
If you could place only one item, one feature, one message on your home page, what would it be?
What is the one thing that sets you apart from your competitors?
Why does your “About Us” page read like a history lesson?
What is your mobile strategy for 2014, when your digital brand touches will be mostly mobile?
What’s your mechanism for making sure inquiries are responded to in 5 minutes or less?
What’s the one big, cool marketing idea you have for 2014?
Beyond the website
My observations don’t begin and end with websites. I see issues baked into everything a real estate business does. The tools, products, features and practices you’ve adopted over the years are impeding your efforts, turning potential customers off, sending web traffic and business to others and keeping you from recruiting the kinds of agents you want working with you.
How can you spot them? Start by asking the hard questions. Pick everything apart. It’s precisely what we do each time we take on a new project. We do it with relentless disregard for the past.
Slaying the demons that allow bad ideas to flourish and aligning people to look at everything with new eyes helps ensure those demons never return.
The results speak volumes. We see an increase in leads ranging from 10 to 40% every time we replace a 2003 listing detail page with one designed for today.
Replacing one vendor whose brand tagline should read, “No, no, and sorry, but we can’t do that either” with a new vendor whose “can do” philosophy ended years of pain and hemorrhaging cash for our client, has enabled their dream of displacing their closest competitor.
Questioning a product despite our concern that it might offend the client, led them to realize that the branding was never properly conceived. A new identity followed. The immediate buzz from the first new marketing campaign now has them questioning everything.
Your SEO tactics. Your social strategy. Or lack of either. Your marketing. Your productivity tools. How you position yourself to your customers. Your coveted logo. Your identity.
Question all of it.
Ever read this book?
Of course not. Great success stories about companies that never change are never written.
The don’t fix what isn’t broken cliché is your enemy. Modern day innovators break everything. They create new models, new fashions, new designs, new enhancements, new packaging, new copy and new ideas.
This invigorates the marketplace.
It attracts consumers.
It drives competitors nuts.
It’s what I hope to inspire you to do.
Smart industry takes and creative inspiration.