5 Ways to Maximize Your Listings

This article was originally featured in the 2016 Summer Edition of the Institute’s Terra Firma Magazine.

I have seen a lot of amazing property listings under-perform or flat out fail from a lack of understanding how to best represent them online. Most of these tips apply to advertising property in any medium- digital or print, but will serve you particularly well online. In our increasingly digital world, there is a lot of noise that can drown out your listing, but with these easy steps, you can stand out and drive buyer interest and leads like never before. Here are my top five tips for how to maximize your online property listing.

  1. Completing Everything
    It should go without saying, but a complete listing and profile is essential. The property should be mapped accurately; titles and descriptions filled out completely; a generous number of photos uploaded; but also, pay attention to the smaller stuff. Things like categories and property types can have a big influence on who sees your property and where it shows up in searches. Often these modifiers work as filters, so if your farm isn’t tagged as a ‘farm’, it won’t show up in a ‘farm’ search. You could be missing out on a massive amount of property searches by leaving these blank.Same with property features like house size and bedrooms. Even if it isn’t the property focus, some buyers will be happy to know there is a habitable structure on the property. Water availability, utilities, property access, proximity to a town, etc. should be addressed if not obvious, and often even if it is. At a minimum, when there is a text box to fill out or drop down to select while creating your listing, you should be entering information into it.
  1. Picture it
    You want your listing to impress the pants off of people, no matter the property. The best way to get an initial response is through great photos. You generally see a two to three times greater response rate from listings with professional photos because they capture people. I’ve seen a weedy lot with a decrepit structure transformed into a landscape you would want to hang on your wall. You don’t want to deceive buyers, but you do want to represent it in the best possible way. If a professional photographer isn’t in your budget, read up on how to take better pictures. All photos should include a focal point such as a structure, fence, tree, lake, livestock, or even a flower. Look at your photos. If you don’t like your photo, neither will a buyer.The technology landscape is changing. Aerial photography and video is becoming more common thanks to drones. 3D tours and street-view technology has made its way into real estate. Mapping technology can orient you to the property terrain and features. All of these technologies are improving the way we tour a property remotely and adding some flash and excitement, but really it is about experiencing the property through a computer or mobile device as if we were physically there.
  1. Reading vs. Experiencing
    The title and description of a listing are nearly as important as photos because they frame the image of the property and fill in the gaps. Think of the photos and title as a hook, and the description as a line- you aren’t going to catch a fish without both.The title should be descriptive and evocative at the same time. The interested buyer isn’t physically at the property, so they need to experience it through your words and photos. What are the properties main features or resources? ‘Elk hunter’s paradise’, ‘mountainous’, ‘vistas’, ‘wilderness’, ‘fertile’. What does the property ‘feel’ like? Use descriptors like: ‘tranquil’, ‘remote’, ‘vast’, and ‘sweeping’. Be creative and come up with your own that fit the property. These words will help form an emotional connection with buyers beyond just seeing a piece of land. Use language and phrases that will resonate with your intended buyer to help them experience it from their computer.Similarly, the description should tell a story. Include all of the essential details–structures, acreage, crops or resources, and make these clear, but go beyond that. What is the history of the land? Who owns it now, and what is their story? What improvements have been done, and why? You want the buyer to care about this piece of land, and a story makes it special (even if it isn’t a very good one).
  1. Forming a Connection
    Not only do you want the buyer to care about the land, but you want them to care about you as well. Establishing trust and conveying confidence up front goes a long way to obtaining a lead, and ultimately securing a deal. You are your brand and vice-versa, so it should be treated and promoted like you would promote yourself. Your logo or photo should be everywhere you are; it shows people you are present in the region and an icon in the industry. The more they see it, the more they will feel you are an established and trustworthy business. Not unlike building a reputation within your community, your reputation and brand online are important to your business.A profile photo and bio can form a further connection. People will recognize you, and may even feel as if they already know you. You are no longer a faceless entity; you are a person, just like they are. If there isn’t a place for this on your listing, add it to the description.
  1. Get it Seen
    You have created a place for the information, now you need to drive people to see it. Post it on social media, add it to your website, print off some flyers and pass them out, pay for a featured ad, send some emails. Promoting the listing is the single biggest contributor to any listing’s success.It is also helpful to review your listing performance to get an idea how many people are seeing your property, and what actions are being taken. Give it thirty days, then take a look at listing views and lead count. These numbers can be helpful in telling you what the interest is like for your property. High listing views means that you are promoting it well, or it is popular in searches. If you are getting lots of leads, then you are doing well, but pay attention to the quality of those leads. Are they just kicking the tires, do they lose interest, are they responding to your attempts to contact them? These could be indicators that you are getting the wrong kind of traffic, appealing to the wrong audience, or potentially misrepresenting the property.

Take Away
To follow up, your property listing should have all of these qualities to reach maximum potential and performance:

  • Fully Completed Listing – Check all the boxes and enter all the information
  • Transport the potential buyer to the property with your words and photos
  • Convey an emotional connection, tell a story about the land
  • Establish trust and form a connection
  • Promote like crazy, and monitor listing performance

Online property advertising reaches a huge audience, and expands the buyer pool to include the entire country, or even world. When used correctly, it can be the most effective property selling tool in your arsenal. Implementing these tips will allow you to maximize your property listings, and lead to more deals closed in less time.

Jean Paul LaCountJean-Paul LaCount was the Head of Marketing for Lands of America and Land And Farm, and has been a digital marketer for the last 12 years.

Working with Efficiency on the Road

How much time do you spend in your vehicle during the work week? What about the average amount of time you spend in your vehicle during a growing season? Don’t forget the commute to and from work. If you tally it up, you might be shocked or perhaps a little horrified at the answer. Then comes the next level of questioning: What do you do with yourself during that time? Are you prepared for what might be waiting for you on a dusty dirt road?

These latter questions were posed during a recent ALC-to-ALC teleconference that I co-hosted with Jeramy Stephens, ALC, from National Land Reality out of Stuttgart, Arkansas. These questions lead us many different places but for me personally, it comes down to efficiency. I have a thirty-five minute drive to and from work on top of wherever my job takes me during the business day. I have been intentional about developing habits that allow me to be productive during this time. This seventy minute minimum of car time has become a valuable part of my work day. Here are some tips that might help you achieve greater efficiency:

  1. Get started on the go. If you have support staff, then I recommend a Dictaphone or other recording technology. I try to dictate at least 2-3 emails/letters every morning on my way to work. These communications can range from crop reports to land inquiries – you name it. Just this very morning I dictated a letter highlighting crop inputs that need reimbursed at an upcoming closing, contacted a neighbor about a property for sale and sent a “feeler” to an owner in Missouri who has underutilized land near a management account of ours in Greene County, Illinois. Each of these things needed to be done. Why not do them while I am sitting in the car?
  2. Plan calls accordingly. We all obviously spend a lot of time on the phone in order to do our jobs well. Some calls need to be made while sitting at the desk so we can access folders, spreadsheets and computers, but there are also calls that can be made anytime, anywhere. I categorize my calls. If I don’t need to reference something at my desk, I save it for when I am in transit going home, to a closing or checking on crops across West Central Illinois.
  3. Be prepared and communicate with your co-workers. If I am going to be scouting farms in Morgan, Scott and Greene counties, then I make sure I have all three of those plat books with me, either in paper or electronically. You never know when you might get a call to check something out while already on the road. If I am going to a county seat, I always ask my co-workers if they need anything while I am there. If I spent all morning near Carlinville, Illinois (1 hour away) it would be discouraging to get back to the office and hear Dad say, “Not sure when you’re going to Carlinville, but the next time you’re there I need something from the courthouse.” Kill multiple birds with one stone and help each other limit needless travel.
  4. De-Compress. This might sound contradictory to previous points, but we all reach a point on certain days where we are fried. We are tired and desperate to chill out a bit. I use the “Pocket Cast” app to download my preferred podcasts. It allows me to quickly filter and download podcasts that interest me. I can go from economics to sports to my own personal nerdy interests with the click of a button (nerdy interests shall go unnamed). As much as I love podcasts and music, I also find it reinvigorating from time to time to simply turn everything off and sit in the silence. Silence is hard to come by at work and I certainly don’t get it at home with sons ages one and six!

Jeramy did a great job on the ALC teleconference call highlighting certain technology he uses to stay plugged in and there is a wealth of articles out there on smartphone apps that help in all sorts of ways. He also mentioned his truck being a traveling convenience store full of emergency and convenient items. He spoke on it better than I can write so I highly recommend you take some time and listen to the recording which can be heard here.

The long story short is that we as professionals in the land industry are on the road a lot. We can’t afford to mindlessly hit seek on the radio over and over. Tweak your tasks that need done to fit your travel schedule. You can get more done and become more efficient in the process. Be prepared. Take the time to think through your day before jumping in the car or truck. Do the preparation that has you ready to tackle the day and adapt on the fly. Do it safely and do it efficiently.

Luke Worrell, ALCContributor Luke Worrell, ALC, Worrell Land Services
Luke Worrell, ALC, is a Broker and Accredited Farm Manager in Jacksonville, IL.  He specializes in agricultural real estate and land management in west central Illinois.  Luke enjoys all things sports and traveling.  He resides in Springfield, IL with his wife Allison and two sons Kale and Benson.

Optimize Your Find A Land Consultant Profile

If you are a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute, you have a member profile that is seen by possible clients every day. The RLI Find a Land Consultant Tool was recently updated to make finding land consultants easier and faster than ever before. This is great news for you as an RLI member because this is an additional opportunity to put your best foot forward for potential clients–but only if your profile is updated! So, here’s how to optimize your profile to bring in new clients.

The Complete Package

You already know that you are a potential client’s best option for buying/selling their land. Now, you need to make sure they do too! The first step to an effective profile page is making sure all profile information–including a professional head shot image–is filled out in its entirety. Not only does this give the readers more information to make their decision upon, but it also adds credibility. It shows you care about your image and that you are making an effort to put your best foot forward for them!

Think about when you are looking to make an important decision. What do you consider that influences your choice? For most people its goes something like: How easy is it to find the information? Is the information useful? Is the information credible? Is the information appealing? and so on…

Completing your profile also has the added benefit of making you easier to find. The more information available for clients to find you by, the more likely you’ll be found. It seems common sense but most agents don’t realize how important adding information like specialties, countries served, designations, etc. is to having an optimized profile. Also, never bypass the opportunity to add a profile image. Putting a face to a name makes you more credible, trustworthy, memorable and personable–all key aspects to gaining clients!

Regular Updates

Now that you have added all the information your potential clients need to find you and make an informed decision, make sure to keep it updated. There is nothing worse than searching for something and thinking you’ve found it only to realize it wasn’t accurate. In this industry, no one has time to waste so don’t frustrate potential clients from the start. Get a new cell number? Change companies? Have a more recent head shot image? Update your profile right away! One way to keep your profile updated is to set a calendar reminder for every six months to check and update information.

That’s it. Having a complete and current profile really is that easy and won’t take more than fifteen minutes to set up. The digital age is here, if information about you and your company can’t be found online, you’re missing out! RLI members can start optimizing their profiles at any time by logging in to the website and navigating to My Member Profile. Need assistance? Contact the Institute at 800-441-5263 or rli@realtors.org

A Transition from Military to Land Real Estate

On June 22nd, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. More commonly known as the GI Bill, this act provided millions of returning service members the opportunity to receive educational and financial benefits. These benefits included money for education and training, home loan guarantees, and even unemployment benefits. By the time the original bill ended in 1956, almost eight million World War II Veterans had participated in an educational or training program. The GI Bill has undergone two major revisions since its original adoption, but the core aim of the bill has remained constant– to provide educational benefits for Veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

In recent years, our country has seen a large number of men and women separating from the military services, and the transition to civilian life can be difficult. The services themselves, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, have many programs to help ease this transition. This helps service members get jobs, apply for college, or receive job-specific training.

The REALTORS® Land Institute has created its own program to assist transitioning service members. It was implemented in 2014 and is known as the Military Transition Program or MTP. The MTP provides enormous benefits for service members who are interested in the land or real estate industry. Anyone who has served in any US military service and has a service end date within the last five years is eligible. I have personally benefited a great deal from the MTP and would like to tell you all about it.

First, here is a short personal military history. I spent 9 years in the US Navy after receiving my commission thorough Auburn University’s ROTC program. I had dreamt of flying jets on and off aircraft carriers since I was very young. So…that’s what I did. After training to fly and receiving my Wings of Gold in Pensacola, FL, in 2005, I was assigned to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA, where I trained for nine months in a F/A-18 Super Hornet. I then spent three years stationed in Atsugi, Japan, and deployed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS George Washington in the Western Pacific Ocean. Following my operational tour, I was sent to Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA, where I served as a flight instructor in a F/A-18. After one year, I was assigned to serve as Flag Aide to the Commanding Admiral of the Joint Detention Center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Once complete there, I returned to Lemoore, CA, where I served an additional year as a flight instructor.

I left active duty in July of 2012 after 9 years of service. I transitioned to the Navy Reserve and continue to serve the standard “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” in Jacksonville, FL. After separation, my first task was to return to school–just like a veteran returning from WWII. I attended the University of Florida and received my Masters in Real Estate. I then joined Crosby & Associates, Inc. in Winter Haven, FL to start my new career in land real estate.

Thanks to the MTP, my transition was a smooth one. My first experience with the REALTORS® Land Institute was at the National Land Conference in Charleston, SC in March of 2014. I had only been in the land business a few weeks and was somewhat apprehensive about fitting in and networking with all the other land professionals in attendance. But my apprehension soon turned to excitement. At the opening session, I was introduced to the entire assembly. I also participated in an exclusive MTP session which included the Institute president, past president, and entire executive committee. This gave me the opportunity to meet others as I attended various sessions and networking events. It was easy to strike up a conversation–mainly due to having been introduced at the opening session. Each and every person I met went to great lengths to welcome me to the Institute and to offer help or advice whenever I needed it. I realized very quickly that the Institute was the perfect launching platform for my new career.

When you do the math, that’s over $1600 worth of benefits! Plus, the non-monetary benefits are even greater. When I first joined the Institute through the MTP, I was personally called by Ray Brownfield, ALC Advanced. Ray is also a veteran who spent several decades in the military in addition to the land business. He personally contacts every person who joins through the MTP. I must say, although I have joined many real estate related organizations since leaving the Navy, the REALTORS® Land Institute is the only one I have ever joined where someone called to welcome me to their group.

I also had the benefit of a conference call for MTP members with Bill Eshenbaugh, ALC, who donated several education scholarships to the MTP in honor of his brother, John Eshenbaugh. Bill is a very experienced land broker in Tampa, FL, who does an incredible job of networking and connecting various individuals. He did a great job of encouraging the MTP members in our new careers and gave us the opportunity to leverage his network to connect with others in the industry.

Opportunities like these are just a small sample of my experiences after having joined the Institute through the MTP. In general, the entire group of members has been well above average in terms of making a new guy feel welcome in a brand new community. I’ve had frequent instances of people saying “thank you for your service,” followed by an engaging conversation about the land business and an offer to help however they could. These encounters solidified my desire to be heavily involved in the Institute, and I have already seen lots of success networking and collaborating on deals with other members.

So, for everything that I have benefited from since the day I joined the organization, let me turn the tables and say to the REALTORS® Land Institute, “thank you for your service!” For more information about the benefits available through the MTP, please contact RLI at 800-441-5263.

mcdow, calebCaleb McDow, Institute Member, is a member of Crosby & Associates, Inc in Winter Haven, FL. Caleb is originally from Shelby County, AL, and attended college at Auburn University graduating in May of 2003. After graduation, Caleb spent 9 years in the US Navy flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet and was stationed in Japan, California, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He continues to serve in the US Navy Reserve. Caleb’s current specialty is with agricultural land in Florida, focusing primarily in the north and north central regions. Caleb has a Section 333 Exemption from the FAA to operate as a certified commercial drone pilot.

If you know of a service member who would benefit from MTP, please refer them. For more information about the Military Transition Program, contact the Institute at 800.441.5263 or rli@realtors.org.

Integrated Content Marketing (Made Easy) for Real Estate Professionals

Today, email remains the most effective way of digitally marketing your services. It still beats social media and direct mail by a longshot. In this article you’ll learn why email marketing is important as well as get an overview of the different types of content you should be using in your email marketing.

Why It’s Important?

Reduces Costs

Email marketing greatly reduces marketing costs. The cost to reach a potential customer is very low compared to direct mail, which requires materials, production and postage. Email marketing does require the use of an email service provider. There are many such providers including Constant Contact, MailChimp, Aweber, and many others. These service providers help you manage your list of email addresses, sending emails in bulk, provide templates that you can use, and most include other options as well including social media integration.

Ease of Use

What other method of marketing allows you to reach your entire customer base with the click of an email? Through the user of an email marketing provider like MailChimp or Constant Contact you can write your email once, schedule it, and have the service provider sent out the email to all your subscribers at once.

Email service providers make the job of email marketing easier by providing functionality such as a database for storing your contacts, web and mobile HTML templates for your email communications, sending of email to your entire list or a segment of your list, automated unsubscribe, and the ability to group or segment your list.

Customer Communication

Email allows you to quickly and easily communicate with your audience, drive traffic to your website, develop loyalty, increase brand awareness, and gain referrals.

 

6 Types of Email Content

 

Real estate professionals should constantly strive to add fresh, new content to email marketing campaigns. Many of us fall into a rut of sending out the same old boring content over and over. Not that there is anything wrong with letting your email subscribers know all about your current listings.

That certainly has a place in any email campaign, but your readers want and expect more from you. And I’m not talking about providing buyer and seller checklists, tips for selling your home, and other articles that we’ve all seen a million times. Guess who reads those? That’s right — no one. Don’t waste your time writing these, because no one is going to waste time reading them.

There are many different types of content that can be integrated into your overall email marketing strategy. You should not think of these content types in isolation but rather as individual components that are combined into an overall strategy. In this article we’ll give you a high level overview of the basic content types that can be used in real estate email marketing.

It’s really difficult to separate email marketing from your overall content marketing strategy including the obvious need for a website. And you shouldn’t separate them. You want to create an integrated content marketing strategy with email marketing playing a central role. Your email should be directing readers to your website so they can consume your great content, and in turn the great content on your website should attract many new readers (and potential clients). Ultimately you want the great content on your website to trigger a desire on the part of the reader to register for your email newsletter.

Here, then, are six basic content types that every real estate professional should be using in email marketing efforts. There are many email marketing providers but they should all be able to support all of these content types.

Blog Posts

Your blog posts will be the primary way that you generate content. Blog posts can contain many different types of content including articles about local events, restaurants, shopping, schools, and other local information. And yes, your property listings will play a big role as well. You should also include market reports and neighborhood tours as well as property tours. Tours are a great way to introduce video to your site. Other blog posts include curated content and graphic visualizations. Portions of these blog posts can be placed into your email newsletter along with links to the full article on your website. Again, you want to use the email to funnel readers to your website. The Your Berkeley site provides a great example of how to provide fresh content that can also be integrated into an email newsletter.

Video

Video is becoming more and more widespread and important. In real estate visualization is extremely important and video is the best way to visualize a property without actually being at the physical location. Video allows potential buyers to sort through potential properties without physically visiting each location. It is a more efficient way of searching for properties from a buyers point of view and saves you time as well. You should plan on using a video sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo to host your videos. Using a video sharing site increases the potential viewership of your videos so that search engines can organically display your videos in search results.

Also keep an eye on the drone (UAV) video space. As of the writing of this article we are still awaiting FAA guidelines on how drones can be used for real estate marketing. However, drones have the potential to revolutionize how video is used for marketing various properties. It has particular significance for high properties and large acreage properties.

There are also many apps that you can use to record high quality video. I recently wrote about the Hyperlapse application and its potential to add unique video capabilities for marketing properties.

Audio

Audio is sometimes neglected in content marketing efforts but don’t overlook this opportunity to provide great content. However, audio is not for everyone. Some people are not comfortable with this medium, don’t like to hear their own voice, or simply don’t know what to talk about. With a little practice though most people can become reasonably comfortable and effective with this content medium. Podcasting has become extremely popular and is a great way to attract attention to your website and social media channels. You could interview local or industry experts, talk about important topics or simply record question/answer sessions.

Graphic Visualization

Graphic visualization is a diverse and exploding content type. This can include many types of visualization including maps, infographics, charts and graphs, and photos. These provide unique, highly visual content that people really enjoy. These content types require specific software and expertise to create but are highly effective in generating traffic.

Reports

Buyers and sellers want information about their homes and the areas where they live. In particular, sellers want to know how much their house is worth and buyers want to the general trends in an area. Your reports should ideally be generated and shared on a monthly basis and should contain information such as active listings, recently sold properties as well as market trends.

Social Media

You shouldn’t consider email and social media to be isolated activities, but rather different channels that should be integrated into an overall plan. Today, email remains the most effective way to digitally market to your customers. While social media gets all the attention, it is not as effective as email. That doesn’t mean it isn’t useful, but you really need to combine the channels to take full advantage of everything they provide. The question is how? Most email marketing providers are fast becoming integrated solutions providing functionality that allows you to embed social media follow and share buttons into your emails as well as automatically send notifications to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other channels. The integration capabilities of providers will vary widely so you’ll need to do your research in this area.

 

In Conclusion

 

Today there is no excuse for not providing your email subscribers with fresh, compelling content. A wide variety of content types supported by easy to use technologies make it easy to attract and keep readers.

 

About the Author

 

Eric is an approved LANDU Instructor for RLI. He is the founder and owner of the GeoSpatial Training Services and has over 20 years experience teaching GIS solutions and other technology. You can learn more about this topic in his company’s upcoming Getting Started with Email Marketing for Real Estate Professionals Course offered by Location3x.