How do some industries embrace change and others fight it tooth and nail? Where I meet estate agents, there is this huge fight and backlash against online-only estate agents. And the alternative offering they bring. On The Market used as one if it’s main selling points the fact that they wouldn’t allow online-only estate agents to list on their site and this new property portal got great support from traditional estate agents, initially. Go onto online forums where estate agents converse and there is a usually overwhelming bias against online-only estate agents.
Claims range from offering terrible service (it’s not that High Street agents offer perfect service.) Or that the online-only agents are somehow cheating by having a lower cost base. The real reason is that these traditional estate agents are fearful of the loss of ANY potential business. They want to protect their business, and who can blame them? But I think that there is a better way to go about it. Some have started legal challenges to On The Market, claiming that their no to online-only agents is protectionist and discriminatory. And they’re probably right. But it’s not legal challenges or protecting your business by blocking others that will see a long-term change or success. It’s by embracing change and being the best at it. Or at least being better than those in your local area.
How do I achieve this?
In terms of the direct challenge from online-only estate agents there are a few ways of looking at this. And I don’t believe that any of these include trying to run the competition out of town. Just about every estate agent has an online presence – usually their own website. And this is a very good place to start. Ensuring that you presence is making it’s mark in cyberspace is the first step towards competing with online-only estate agents. And you the need to think like a potential customer. For example, say you are an estate agent in the fictional Yourtown. You need to assess how customers may look for your services. Do Google searches on terms that you think customers may try to find an estate agent-
- estate agent in Yourtown
- xyz estate agency in Yourtown
- estate agents in Yourtown
- sell my house in Yourtown
- help to sell my home in Yourtown
- home selling in Yourtown
And so on.
How did you do? Where did you come on the search pages?
Top 5 places is excellent, top 10 is very good, top page is good and most places after this just won’t cut the mustard. So if you’re not where you want to be in the searches you want to be found on, you need to do something about it. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be bought in. But you need to understand your market and what you want to achieve before you go about SEO. Either in- house or bought from a 3rd party. And this comes from research. As well as the search terms you think you should be found on, you want to know what others search for when looking for an estate agent in your town. You want to know who is ahead of you in the search rankings. And work out why they are ahead of you-
- Do they update their website more frequently?
- Are their metatags more relevant?
- Do they feature keywords more frequently and more prominently?
All of these can be factors in how your website is picked up by the search engines.
A social media presence will help you to create an online presence, to compete directly in the marketplace of the online-only estate agent. Social media doesn’t run to the same parameters as your website. The number of followers increases your visibility here. And from here, you will make links back to your website to attract traffic there. Again, look at the competition, their number of followers and how it looks like they attract followers. I believe that the future of property marketing will rely heavily on social media to quickly and efficiently “spread the word” about property for sale. And I’ve blogged about it before.
Can I achieve a lower cost base?
In terms of competing with online-only estate agents that have a lower cost base, you could compete by lowering your own cost base. Now this obviously is a different calculation for each business. And I wouldn’t attempt to even start looking at this in a forum as limited as a blog. The one thing I would say is that it is something you should do at least annually. And look at all of the costs to your business and how they measure up.