Creating a Web Site that Works

Learn the five key elements every Web site must have to generate a steady flow of Internet business.

August 1, 2000

The first lesson everyone must learn about Internet marketing is a great Web site should be based on sound marketing principles. It's not cool or hip to talk about, but if you want your Web site to generate a steady flow of business, it must be based on the fundamental principles of marketing upon which all great marketing materials are built.

Dispel the myth

One of the great myths of the Internet is if you simply slap together a Web page, it's suddenly good marketing. Every successful Web site--from amazon.com to ivillage.com to disney.com--is firmly grounded in good marketing principles.

Remember the fundamentals of marketing from your college days? The only difference is the Internet is the marketing distribution system, and, in this area, everyone is pretty much equal. The lone exception is in owning a domain name that gives you a distribution advantage over your competition.

Keep it consistent

Secondly, a great Web site must be consistent with the rest of your marketing materials. When I visit your site, it must remind me of your direct mail advertising and all the image-based marketing you do.

Salespeople with great name recognition have a huge advantage on the Web. There are thousands of sites I can visit to buy a Mickey Mouse watch. But as a consumer, I feel better about buying one from disney.com. As a consumer, I trust the Disney name, and when I go to that site, I instantly feel at home. It has the look and feel of Disney. Similarly, salesperson Craig Frank of Phoenix has a consistent look and feel that runs throughout everything he does--from his personal brochure to his "Just Listed" and "Just Sold" cards, as well as his advertising and Web site. This approach has paid big dividends by making people feel comfortable interacting with Craig when visiting his Web site, craigfrank.com.

Local Focus

Third, your site must be focused on the needs of your local marketplace. According to the 1999 California Housing & Finance Survey, 26 percent of homesellers used the Internet to help them decide with whom they would list. Our research indicates that potential sellers want to go online to find information about what's happening in their neighborhoods and background information about the salespeople who have For Sale signs there.

The salespeople who provide this information to specific neighborhoods are starting to reap the benefits. Take, for example, Garland Thurman. He has generated a steady flow of new listings by using Agent-Access to e-mail full-color "Just Listeds and "Just Solds to his clients. (For a sample of Garland's Just Listeds and Just Solds, send an e-mail to greg.herder@hobbsherder.com with "E-mail Samples" in the subject line.)

Most salespeople are thinking, "How can I get buyers to my site?" When the real opportunities are to be found in control of the listing inventory through e-mail farming. If you haven't gone through the demo at Agent Access, do so. E-mail farming is the way you cash in on the Internet.

Don't lose interest

Fourth, your site must be compelling and interesting to read. It must involve the readers so they feel good about who you are as a salesperson.

Every salesperson to provide the same great service. It's impossible for you to make yourself stand out by simply promoting your benefits. Instead, tell an interesting and emotional story about who you are and what you stand for that draws the reader through your site.

Remember: your site isn't a listing presentation; it's a prospecting tool you must use to generate leads. This is so much more compelling than the standard claims of great service and professionalism most salespeople use online. To understand what I mean, check out these salespeople's sites: Jerry Jacques and Marlene Lily.

Self-promotion is key

Finally, you must promote your site. Everyone talks about being listed in all the search engines. And, yes, you do need to be listed in all of them. But the reality is that you must promote your site to your local marketplace.

If you don't have a domain name, buy one. Since all the great real estate domains were purchased long ago, we recommend you buy your own name as a domain name, such as PhilHerman.com, for example. Domain names make it easy for your clients to find your site.

Make sure your Web site address is listed on every piece of marketing materials you own--every ad, every flier, every postcard. And make it sound exciting to go there. The bottom line is that you simple can't afford not to be online with a high-quality, compelling site that draws people toward you and quality, full-color dynamic HTML e-mails for your follow-up. Anything less is costing you money.

Greg Herder is CEO of Hobbs/Herder Advertising, which specializes in residential real estate promotions. You can reach him at 800/999-6090.

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