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Marketing your property business online

publication date: Oct 3, 2009
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As digital media advertising has come into its own, agents are faced with a plethora of ways to reach consumers: property portals, flash animation banners, html advertising and blogging to name but a few. So how can companies get the best return on their marketing spend and most efficiently reach their target audience via the internet?

ScreengrabGETTING A HIGHER RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT

Rightmove and Primelocation continue to top the property portal popularity stakes but general consensus puts portals in the firing line for being too costly, lacking opportunity for corporate branding and providing diluted coverage with limited scope to show multiple images and resources. That said, the new generation of property search engines are giving the big four a run for their money and all this competition brings with it innovation – and plenty of choice.

According to Hitwise, 75 per cent of prospective buyers start their property search online. Although backing the major portals remains a must for many agents, companies can create significant online brand awareness and property marketing by linking to property search engines that use ‘vertical search’ to directly match a user’s search criteria, bringing them directly into the agent’s own site, rather than their property being ‘hosted’ on the portal site. They need to run high profile advertising campaigns to ensure homesearchers log on in the first place. Globrix took the market by storm by providing clear product differentiation and heavy promotion in the Sunday Times – both are owned by News International.

Although Rightmove believes their own Danielle Simpson looks at the second generation property portals and reminds us that online marketing is no longer an alternative, it’s a necessity business will be rewarded with a substantial share of the industry’s marketing spend as the housing market recovers – and even with the recession their half year revenue to 30 June 09 was still £33.6m – companies now have plenty of choice.

Agents can easily feel overwhelmed by the volume of this choice; reviewing your online advertising strategy frequently is key. Next generation portals Propertyindex and Zoopla have challenged the subscription fee portal model by accepting a pay-per-lead model, believing this is key to its success in making the most of clients’ marketing spend.

“Our model based on £1 per buyer lead and £5 per vendor lead is a fraction of what estate agents are spending on other portals to get these leads,” says founder and CEO, Alex Chesterman. Similarly Globrix enables users to hop straight onto clients’ Net profitability own websites and is favoured for this reason by my clients and many others.

FindAPropertyWhichever portal the home-finders use they will find a wealth of properties to view so agents must consider whether a lack of online leads reflects their poor quality property visuals, leaving listings to be lost in a sea of superb-looking alternatives. Although it’s not always economically viable for agents to invest in professional photography across the board, digital cameras, wide angle lenses and illuminated rooms enable any would-be photographer to take a decent shot these days and basic training is crucial to agents’ core HR strategy. Logging on is the best form of market research possible and regular test runs will highlight any issues – both with the site and your own presence on it.

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUSE IS

According to Rawnet, a web design agency, around 75 per cent of British consumers have been put off a company by its website yet we all recognise that powerful online presence is fundamental to business growth. So what’s going wrong? Property marketing professionals understand every element of web development and recognise that results are not solely about optimisation – pushing your site up the Google search rankings – but also functionality and delivering covert marketing messages embedded in the site.

Brand leaders use this marketing knowledge to combine compelling content with fast bandwidth, intelligent programming and design to ensure they provide rapid information and communicate their USP from the outset. Flash animation banners play a key role in this strategy and are a low cost method of advertising multiple products, services and sales messages as the user navigates a site.

Of course, the navigation system of the site must also be flawless to retain users online and although property portals are slow to utilise ‘roll-over’ functionality (where pictures expand as a user moves the mouse over a selection of thumbnails), savvy agents are harnessing this technology to help translate hits into conversion rates.

Web advertising continues to come to the fore and generates valuable vendor leads for savvy agents. Not only does this medium generate significant cost savings but targeted advertisements can be delivered direct to clients’ email accounts providing an efficient and cost effective way of communicating core values.

ZooplaONLINE DIRECT MAILING

Client databases are owned by many agents and used well can really boost business. The industry is increasingly recognising the benefits of managing them to include this form of advertising. Agents who consistently remind clients of their existence are best placed to increase market share when the market moves. But as space and screen time are limited, agents should consider engaging professional marketing companies to effectively deliver brand messages. Some online marketing companies are taking this to another level of refinement matching up clients’ interests with messages and content appropriate to those interests. That way the list is used to greatest effect and the emails are more likely to be opened by the recipient.

The newsletter or marketing email can do several things. It can link back to the sending company’s own website or an area on that site; it could bring the recipient to a questionnaire to get more information, perhaps linked to an incentive competition; it could contain a response telephone number to a call centre.

ONLINE ADVERTISING

You may consider advertising on websites to attract home-finders, perhaps sites associated with local or regional newspapers’ property sections. There are other sites with articles and breaking news every day, such as our own www. propertydrum.com, targeted at the property professional. Although these sites are aimed at the property industry they’re also viewed by consumers looking for the real information behind the sensationalism.

The bottom line is that online marketing has to be a part of rounded marketing plan for almost any business today. If you are sticking with the conventional, you will get left behind – the world has moved on. The challenge is to make it work for you. So don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask. If you are spending money, there’ll always be a helpful voice at the other end!

Danielle Simpson is a property writer and Creative Director of thebrandeffect.com



BLUFFERS GUIDE TO ADVERTISING ONLINE

Advertising on a website is very straightforward – and effective. There are two functions of an online ad: brand awareness and response. The ad formats used on a website provide both. You can display your logo and brand message and each ad will have a weblink built in which takes a user to your site (or wherever on the web you want him to go) simply by clicking on it. The artwork can alternate between messages to convey more information.

The responses you get to your ad are recorded so you know exactly how effective your ad has been and whether the website is an effective place to put your ads. You can buy a space over a period of time - a ‘tenancy’ and by CPM, which means cost per thousand page views, i.e. how many times your ad has been displayed to users.

Bluffers guide