Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy #4

June 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Robin's Ruminations

#4  Get Some Training (fourth in a series)

blogicon1It always seems difficult to fit professional development activities into a busy work life.  And required training, such as Ethics or Fair Housing, may use up as much time as you believe you can spare.  However, now, when you are a little less busy, is a great time to invest in your professional development—learn a new skill, expand into a niche market, or earn a designation.

Learn a New Skill

Is there a tool or technique that you’ve been wishing you had time to learn?  Perhaps you’d like to become proficient in PhotoShop, so that you can enhance the photos and illustrations on your website or in your marketing pieces.  You might wish that you could create short, effective videos about your services and your listings, for posting on YouTube.  Or, you could be ready to try building a comprehensive website, using a tool such as WordPress.  The links I’ve included take you to some free online tutorials, but you can undoubtedly find onsite, “hands-on” training in a neighborhood community college or adult school, if you prefer that format for technical training.

    Learn About a Niche Market

    An effective way to build your real estate business is to specialize in one or two small market segments, or niches.  Examples of niche markets include accessible housing, retirement communities, and vacation properties.  You may already be working in a niche market like that.  If you would like to strengthen your skills and knowledge in a new niche market, this is a good time to seek out the specialists who provide training and coaching in that area.

      Earn a Designation

      Real estate marketing methods have changed a lot, in the past decade, as has the housing market, itself.  National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and other providers, such as Social Media Marketing Institute (SMMI) and RealtyU, offer a variety of designations on such topics as “green” housing, effective Internet marketing, and working with sellers.  Take advantage of any lull in your business to differentiate yourself from the competition, and to increase your value to consumers, by earning a designation.

        Just as you create a formal business plan and marketing plan, so you should create a formal professional development plan.  A slower market offers you the opportunity to put that plan into action.  Do it now!

        Previous post: #3 Retool Your Presentations & Marketing Pieces

        Subsequent post#5 Build Local Vendor Partnerships

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        Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy: #2

        May 6, 2009 by  
        Filed under Robin's Ruminations

        #2 Enhance Your Online Presence (second in a series)

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        In today’s market, having a strong online presence is essential.  You probably already know that!  Unfortunately, many (most?) of us tend to set up our websites, then ignore them for weeks or even months at a time.

        An effective online presence requires continuous “care and feeding.”  Without that, your websites will stagnate, lose visitors, and eventually drop out of sight.

        So, during this slower economy, set aside a day or two, to burnish your online image and spruce up your websites.  Here are a few ideas that you might find helpful.

        Overall Impression

        Look at each wesite with a critical eye.  Is it neat, or cluttered?  Is it modern, or old fashioned?  Does it use too many colors?  Are your name and company’s name lost in the array of information?  Are you adhering to your company’s branding guidelines?  Using a fresh look / template for your website will attract more consumers.  Limiting the number of colors to 2 (in addition to black and white) will make the website easier to read.

        Organization

        How easy or difficult is it for consumers to locate information in your website?  Do you have tabs or a navigational sidebar?  How many sections are there?  Research shows that 7 ± 2 is an appropriate number of items for any kind of list.  You can help consumers locate information through the overall redesign, by renaming sections, by reordering sections, and by keeping the number of sections near 7.

        Biographical Information

        How stale is your biography / “about me” section?  When is the last time you updated it?  Have you accomplished anything at all, since you wrote the existing copy, that would make a good addition to your biography?  Does your biography truly reflect who you are, now, or is it dated?  If you were a consumer, would your biography instill confidence and trust in you?  This is one place where good friends may be of help.  Ask your friends why they think you’re a good real estate professional, and why they would recommend you to their acquaintances.  Then, weave their reasons into your biography.  Warning: You may find that you have to start “from scratch”!

        Images

        If you have used clip art on your website, remove it.  If you believe that the page must have an image, then use a high-quality photograph.  Photos of your marketplace are the best, but you can purchase photos, relatively inexpensively, from services like Dreamstime, iStockphoto, and others.

        Blogs

        You should be updating every blog at least once each week.  This is particularly critical for the blog on your main website.  That’s where consumers will look for your marketplace information.  Don’t neglect your independent blogs, either.  If well done, and updated regularly, they will drive consumers to your main website. If you don’t yet have a blog that is independent of your website, I would recommend using Blogger, which is hosted by Google.  It is a very easy-to-use platform, offers a variety of attractive templates, and facilitates including a number of useful widgets in your blog’s sidebar.  If you are more comfortable with technology and know some HTML, then WordPress provides an excellent blogging platform.  You can also apply to have your independent blogs listed on a local or industry aggregator website.

        Listings

        Do I really need to talk about listings on your website?  Well, yes, unfortunately.  You may not be guilty of this particular crime, but some real estate professionals do a terrible job presenting their listings online.  What do consumers want?  Information and pictures – lots of both.  So, every single listing you have should include as many good-quality, well-conceived images as you can fit into your template, a virtual tour, detailed information about the rooms and features of the property, a floorplan, a map showing the property’s location, and links to other information, such as nearby schools.

        Consumer Information

        If you’re like most real estate professionals, you include helpful information for consumers on your website.  You may include information about the buying and selling processes, financing a purchase, community resources, up-coming events, and vendors / service providers you recommend.  Information like this is valuable, but it can very quickly become obsolete – especially an events section.  Mentally “flag” this part of your website for a thorough review, at least once a month, to ensure that all of the links still work, and the information is current.

        Social Media

        After you have updated your primary real estate websites, apply the same analysis to each of your social media sites.  And, if you’re not participating in, at least, these social networking forums, sign up!

          • LinkedIn
          • Twitter
          • TwitPic
          • Facebook
          • Flickr
          • ActiveRain
          • BrokerAgentSocial.

          When you have completed these tasks, and are pleased with the look and functionality of your websites, do not just pat yourself on your back and walk away.  Before you break out the celebratory sparkling wine, create a plan to ensure that your online presence never again becomes stale.

          You can do a lot in just 15–30 minutes a day, by selecting one website or one type of task for special focus.  Make a list of website components that should be updated regularly (for example, listings, blogs, financial information, community information, images, and so on), and simply cycle through them, day by day.

          Now, you’re ready to celebrate!

          Previous post: #1 Become Reacquainted with Former Clients and Customers

          Subsequent post: #3 Retool Your Presentations & Marketing Pieces

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