Online Marketing: Doing the Right Thing

A Hawaiian brokerage makes Web marketing a priority.

December 1, 2005

There are a lot of shoulds in real estate. When it comes to the Internet, you already know most of the things you should be doing to improve your online marketing, but for one reason or another you’re just not doing them.

But if you want to be part of an Internet-savvy real estate company that backs up its online business goals with appropriate action, take a lesson from Clark Realty Corp. The largest independent brokerage in Hawaii is such a company.

By turning theory into action, the company has increased its number of online visitors by 33 percent over the last 18 months. More important, its conversion rate from online inquiries to closed transactions went from only 0.5 percent to 15 percent during the same time period.

It Takes a Leader

To see that kind of dramatic increase in a relatively short period of time, you need a driving force. For Clark Realty, that force is Penny Pagliaro. The vice president of marketing so fervently believes in the power of the Web that she relentlessly keeps the company focused on its online lead-generation goals.

She’s made the Web site the center of all marketing efforts, creating a company brand around the look and feel of the site that’s replicated in all of the company’s marketing vehicles. She shifted the Web site’s focus from talking about the company itself to instead highlighting the Hawaiian Islands, their beauty, and the Islanders’ way of life. To make the Web site as customer-centric as possible, she implemented a number of other changes over the past 18 months, including:

  • Adding staff to handle all inquiries and referrals from the Web so that online customers receive special hands-on attention and the same level of personal service as walk-in customers.
  • Humanizing the site by using more engaging copy and headlines, spotlighting different sales associates, and providing video tours of the Big Island.
  • Adding privacy assurances on every form and survey at the site.
  • Creating an online referral program run by dedicated staff that prioritizes inquiries so that site visitors receive timely service if they have only a short window in which to view properties or close a sale.
  • Making the site more visitor-friendly by offering a site map, search engine, and automatic updates of new properties.

The site gets 1,000 unique visitors a day, a 33 percent increase. Pagliaro says she’s happy with the Web traffic; her focus now is on better servicing the inquiries that come in from these online visitors.

“We’re more concerned with quality than numbers,” Pagliaro says. “Because of the system we’ve put in place, we’re getting more value out of those 1,000 visitors than we have in the past. Our corporate goals for the site have been to provide a broad range of information to our visitors and at the same time to brand our company’s persona as friendly, helpful, professional, and knowledgeable.”

Train Staff to Work With Online Consumers

Providing the best service to online customers requires everyone at the company to get on board, Pagliaro says. The company already has an online lead coordinator and about 30 sales associates who are trained to handle online leads, but Pagliaro’s goal over the coming months is to train all 170 sales associates and staff in the company’s six offices on the Big Island of Hawaii to better service online customers. For Pagliaro, excellent online service means understanding online consumers’ motivations and timetables, providing fast responses to online inquiries, and showing the same professional courtesy and consideration via e-mail that walk-in clients receive.

This approach classifies the company as a great example of what can be done when you make online marketing a priority and then provide everyone in the company with a clear vision.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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