A Long(ish) Prologue (but it's worth it...trust me)
I've spent my whole career in and around data analysis. Almost twenty years of it, in fact, building data analysis systems to target bad guys on the web for the government and private sector. If it has to do with website traffic, content analysis, social media data or network data, I've pretty much been dealing with it my whole adult life.
For the most part, though, I always left my work at work and never really applied my data experience or interest in any real way to my personal life.
Then, almost 10 years ago while waiting for a checkup with my doctor, I picked up Tim Ferriss' book The 4-Hour Body and that set me off on a different course.
From then on, I started looking at my daily routine, my work, my exercise and more in a different way.
In Tim's book about health and weight loss, one of the key emphasis points is to take the guesswork out of trying to lose weight - or don't do it at all. In other words, if you can't measure what you're doing, you'll never really know yourself or whether or not you're wasting effort and drifting off-course from your goal.
Needing to lose a few pounds and intrigued by the prescribed, diligent and daily data collection and analysis, I decided to give it a try.
For 3 months, I used a spreadsheet to record my weight every day at the same time, wearing the same things. I recorded what I ate, how often and the caloric intake. I recorded my exercise volume and duration. And on and on.
At the 90-day mark, I had lost 20 pounds.
More importantly, I knew myself in a very different way than I thought I did. Subconscious and easy assumptions about how well or much I was eating or exercising were dispatched by the cold, hard facts the data thrust into the light.
Almost every assumption I had held was proven wrong.
Since then, I've applied this approach to almost everything I do, constantly challenging assumptions and myths by using simple data collection and analysis techniques to be more successful and less wasteful.
Trimming away the fat from your real estate lead generation and marketing diet
Almost on a whim at dinner one evening on a vacation, my wife asked me what I thought about the real estate market in the vacation town we were spending some time in. That led me to start digging into all sorts of data in my spare time.
Then a friend in the business asked me to help drive more leads his way via digital marketing and, well, a spark met tinder.
Three years later spent in the real estate marketing business and now my all consuming passion is HomePocket: my startup attempt to improve the state of buying and selling for consumers and Realtors alike over the next few years.
At any rate, after roughly three years and multiple real estate consulting gigs doing data-driven digital marketing, I've collected and listened to the data long enough now to debunk some long-held myths I hear over and over and over again each week as I try to help real estate agents get healthier in their digital marketing.
Every week, I hear the same things from Realtors who THINK they know how well their marketing or website or lead generation is doing, but don't have the data diligence to know what's really true:
- Digital marketing isn't worth it - it's all networking and reputation - The entire world now finds what it wants online. With search, usually. Real estate services are becoming a digital commodity. If you're not in the game - and in it well - you're in trouble for the future and just don't know it yet or are too obstinate to do anything about it. Just having a website doesn't count. I could write a book on this issue, but I'll leave you to get the point yourself with a bit of history. Take a look at who the Luddites were.
- The more ads I run the more leads I get the more business I do - Since I'm already doing a bit of a history lesson, why not English too? This is what they call "specious" reasoning. It sounds right, but it isn't. If all you want is digital leads, hand me $500 a month and I'll fill that really pricey CRM you use only about 1% of with lead after lead after lead. Paying each month for indiscriminate, unfocused digital ads is kinda like dropping 25K on a MacIntosh sound system for your office and playing Tiffany's "I think we're alone now" non-stop, 24/7 and turned up to 11. The sound and volume is incredible, but it will destroy you. Most realtors who pay for ads get charged for quick, easy digital display ads (cause it's something to show) and get less than a 1% conversion rate on all those leads. Services like Boomtown drive clicks to you, force 'em to sign in quickly, you get numbers and equate volume with value. Volume does not equal value. Ever.
- My website looks amazing so I am getting good leads from it - This is probably the most dangerous assumption in the real estate business today. Period. Weekly, I talk to Realtors who just dropped $15-20K on a website last year and...it.looks.amazing. And it does. Really. No lie. Except when I scan it for them with our set of tools, start collecting traffic and analyzing search visibility....no.one.is.coming. Ever. No consumer anywhere who searches for anything real estate related is EVER landing on the site. Based on my data collection over the last 3 years for real estate clients and at HomePocket, a Realtor with a solid marketable site can expect about .0015-.0018% of all page views from web searchers who end up on their site to become a lead. That means, if you're getting about 1000 page views from search per month, you can expect about 1.5 - 1.8% leads to come in. Well over 60% of realtors I talk to every week are getting search page view numbers like 12, 35, 100, 1 or, in many cases, 0 per month. Wondering why the firm across the street is doing so well? I'll give you a big, fat hint: good search traffic.
- I get lots of digital leads from paid lead gen but few of them ever pay off - Simply put, this is because you're working them wrong - or not at all. From the data I've collected over the last 3 years, most agents truly "work" less than 1% of all digital leads that come to them. An un-returned email, a call sent to voicemail and they're done. On average, it takes 8 distinct, "quality" communications with a lead to even get them to engage at all, much less become an opportunity to close. As well, most real estate brokerages are run and staffed by Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers who are not tech savvy and who don't know how technology now impacts marketing and working leads. If you can't get up to speed with concepts like inbound marketing and how to truly work digital leads AND you want to stay in business? Hire someone who really, really knows this stuff - and fast. Then, listen to them and let them do what they need to do even if it makes you uncomfy. Well, either that or go out of business over the next 5 years (or less). Working leads is hard work. Period.
- I'm on realtor.com, zillow.com and homes.com so my site is getting lots of traffic - Really? How do you know? What are your average page views per month? How many people search for real estate terms and land on your page? What are the terms? What's your bounce rate? How many times are users getting referred to your site from each of these sites? Which referrer keeps visitors on your site the longest? Which leads do you get come from which sites each month? Which leads end up becoming a deal from which sources? Is one better than another? You get the idea. I have yet to meet a broker, team lead or Realtor who can answer these questions regularly each month. It's not that they have to be able to, but someone in the organization should - and that person should be influencing your business strategy, marketing budget and more. Most brokerages, teams and agents are themselves small businesses. As such, they're all like mini-CEOs. That means they don't have to know everything, but they need to have people under them who know their jobs - and are accountable with data on success or failure.
- If I don't see immediate returns on digital marketing it's not working - This way of thinking is like a pandemic disease across the real estate industry. Somehow, Realtors think there's an infinite pool of buyers and sellers they can simply pay to convert. The truth is, in this day and age, it's very, very challenging to get anyone to find you, become attracted enough to convert to a lead and then worked to a close. Sometimes, there's even no one out there looking for a home in your area at a given moment. So what does that mean? It means the reason there's a thing called "sales and marketing" is because you have to work every day, in a dynamically changing world, to continue to interest and attract lead based on data you're tracking that tells you where the target is now and where it's headed. Services like Zillow have negatively affected Realtors in that they're like snake-oil salesmen peddling elixirs with cocaine in them. Drink a lot, feel great. Does it help? Nope - and it makes you an addict. These days? Real marketing means a long-term commitment to business health. Think of it like this: You go in for a checkup at middle-age, the doc tells you you're out of shape, over-weight and have a bad diet that puts your health at risk. Can you walk out and pay someone a few bucks to "just cure you" or does it take a long-term change in your way of living to prolong your life? No shortcuts folks. Make a change, stick with it or accept the (very likely) risks.
Kinda like pics of ghosts, bigfoot and those "Elvis is not dead!" photos, if you can't clearly measure and get a pic of how your business looks to your potential customers, your business will be grainy, out-of-focus and, soon, just a myth. Start looking at your business in a different light.
About the Author
Jason Polancich is founder and lead architect of HomePocket, a data-driven, residential real estate marketing and listing network. Polancich also founded SurfWatch Labs, a cyber data analytics firm founded in 2013 that provides highly accurate, timely and actionable information to businesses regarding the cybercrime threats they face. Polancich is a serial entrepreneur focused on solving complex internet security and cyber-defense problems. Novii Design, a company he co-founded in 2005 with Rebekah Lewis-Polancich, was based on his contributions to cloud architectures, distributed computing, data analysis and systems integration. The company assisted the U.S. Intelligence Community and Department of Defense in building some of the largest data warehouse and analysis systems ever put into operation within the government and defense contracting sectors. Novii Design was sold to Six3 Systems in 2010.Follow on Twitter More Content by Jason Polancich