“Know your customer:” This rule is more than just a requirement for financial institutions, it also simply makes good business sense. While banks are required to heed this old adage, there is benefit to be found from all business in taking this simple phrase of advice to heart, and it is certainly relevant to the modern-day real estate industry. Where your next client comes from may be the key to selling your land listing, and leaving it to chance that they might drive by your listing and see your yard sign, or possibly drop in during floor hours limits the scope of landing that next client. As the US becomes more digital in every faction, the start of 2019 is a great time to review your virtual footprint and evaluate the impact of your online marketing efforts. If you truly ‘know your customer’, you won’t have to wait to find them - they will find you.
In an effort to better understand your future clientele, it would be wise to first look at how they prefer to interact with the industry. In their 2018 report: “Real Estate in a Digital Age” the National Association of REALTORS® Research Group notes the following statistics:
- “In 1981, 22% of home buyers read newspaper ads to find a home...in 2018, 44% looked for properties online first.”
- “In 2018, buyers worked with an agent 87% of the time…”
- “The typical buyer used a mobile device to search for properties online. S/he looked at websites with photos, home listings, and information about the home buying process. S/he then contacted an agent…”
- 93% [of buyers] used an online website, 73% used mobile website or app, 53% attended an open house, and 46% were introduced via a yard sign
- 87% [of buyers] found photos very useful, 85% found detailed property info useful
- 56% of all generations of buyers listed ‘finding the right property’ as the most difficult step in home buying
So what do these statics mean in finding your next client? Thankfully, it is all good news for the REALTOR®, as buyers vastly still prefer to work with an agent to close the deal. However, it is important to note that whereas previous generations appeared to have starting working with an agent as the first step in the buying process, current buyers are trending more towards researching properties online first. This does not necessarily mean the buyer pool is failing to reach out to an agent. It does however imply that by the time they do reach out to you, the buyer may have already formulated a viewpoint as to the current condition of the market, and might have also made an opinion on the agents representing the market and which may best serve their needs as a potential buyer. What this should signal to all land agents is that online first impressions are key in attracting the largest pool of potential clients, and the clients that do filter through to you are more knowledgeable, better researched, and more tech-savvy than generations of buyers in the past.
A Modern Day Application
Luckily, taking advantage of these statistics to your benefit is simple, and should be a process in every agent’s yearly marketing effort review. Even though these statistics were quoted from the broader real estate industry, their lessons are still applicable to the specialty of land real estate markets throughout the country. Knowing that 9 out 10 of buyers used a website, with 7 out of 10 researching properties via a mobile device, any good agent should ensure their web presence matches these up-and-coming trends and they are maximizing the extent of their online influence with websites, aggregations tools, and social media. Greater than 8 in 10 buyers found photos and detailed property information the most important considerations in their research, meaning agents should focus on spending time and resources ensuring their property photos and online descriptions are high quality, impactful and thorough.
Finally, with over half of all buyers noting that ‘finding the right property’ was one of the most difficult steps in the real estate process, there is vast opportunity for any agent to capitalize on reaching these future clients. Focusing on creating a carefully curated and dedicated online presence of their own, an agent can ensure that future clients find the right property not on their own - but in collaboration with your knowledge, guidance and assistance from the start of the process, all the way through the closing.
Here are some quick, actionable how-to tips for agents looking to capitalize on their online influence review - ensuring you get the most benefit from the time and money you chose to invest:
- Find Yourself
Conduct a digital audit on your current listings from the buyer’s perspective. Pretend you are the ideal buyer for your property - try to search online for your listings and see how easy they are to find, navigate to, and engage with. Do the same for your name and area of real estate expertise. This will allow you to better understand and empathize with a prospective buyer’s experience in finding and engaging with you and your business.
2. Consider Social Media
It's time to hit social media and build your brand - Focus on Facebook and Instagram, but make sure you dedicate yourself to those platforms. It takes consistent content posts and updates to stay engaged with your audience. Also, don’t forget to respond in a timely manner. Many users choose to engage solely via social media, and if you allow for comments or posts on your accounts, your audience will be waiting for, and expecting, your response.
3. Competition Analysis
While conducting your digital audit on yourself and your business, look at what competitors are showing up in the search results ahead of you. Actively consider what you can do to increase your brand reach and recognition; from search engine optimization to listing aggregation management, to move yourself up on the search result list. If you can experience a buyer’s perspective in finding your competition, you might try to emulate that experience on your own business. Take a page from their playbook to put yourself in a more competitive position to win future clientele.
For information about building up your online influence, both the RLI and your local chapters have helpful information and toolkits available to their members.
Now that you have a better idea of who your customer is in 2019 and beyond, it’s time to get online, introduce yourself to the virtual buyer world, and get to know them better. Because if you’re doing it right - they already know all about you!
Cited Works: “Real Estate in a Digital Age”, National Association of Realtors®, 2018 https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/real-estate-in-a-digital-age
Author: Chris Noonan, RPL, MSc, is the President and Co-founder of White River Ranch Marketing LLC. An AAPL Registered Professional Landman, Chris is lending his decade plus of experience in land contracts, ranch buying, mapping and land use affairs to the farm and ranchland real estate industry via his startup, WRRM - designed to expand the virtual impact of land brokers and their listings throughout the US. Chris is an affiliate member of the REALTORS® Land Institute and his company has listed an exclusive offer a part of RLI’s Member Advantage Program (MAP).