Reprinted from Broker Agent Magazine, Columbus Ohio

Most real estate agents know they need some type of web presence but too many start at the wrong place and focus on the wrong issues. You should begin by defining what the goals of your site are and how it will be used as part of your business plan. You should first decide on the business aspects and strategy then look at the technology and how to get it done.  Otherwise you will have things in the wrong order, feel unsure about what you are trying to achieve and will most likely be wasting money.

You have two basic approaches for your web site.  Are you trying to find new business on the web or are you looking to support the business that you have? Let’s look at both of these options.

Finding more business.

If you want your site to be used for prospecting it must be designed with that idea in mind. ? Information should be easy to get, hassle free and focused on the consumer. If you have to register to get information and the site is all about you, the ability to capture prospects will be diminished. Learn what makes a site more appealing, useful and how to get prospects to leave information about themselves.

If you are capturing leads or are paying for them the next problem is getting them to respond.  Your chance of success depends on your ability to build a relationship via e-mail and how to market your services long term by e-mail marketing? When responding to an internet lead you have one goal in mind. To have a dialogue. Not to show a house, have a meeting or close a deal. Those are future steps. Do you know what kind of subject line to use so that they will actually open it? What kind of content can you send someone and how do you build that long term relationship?

A lot of agents have given up trying to be found on the net and instead are paying other companies to either drive traffic to their sites or are paying for leads. Proceed slowly down this path until you are properly trained on how to increase your chances of success so that you aren’t wasting money on leads that don’t turn into clients.

Supporting your business.

All agents should be using the internet to support their business and marketing activities.  This kind of site will be designed with more of an emphasis on you, your listings and how you work. You are using it to create your brand image. In addition you would have an e-mail marketing campaign to prospects and your sphere that drives traffic back to your web site. Your clients should also be using your web site during their transaction to view homes, set up showings, learn about real estate questions, change their utilities, etc.

The advice I give most agents is to start with a site that is designed to support your business, build your brand/image and to market your services to people that already know who you are. With this goal you will know how to approach the design of your site and spend your dollars wisely.  Then take your time to learn more about capturing new business and grow from there. Your ultimate goal could be to have more then one site. One designed with each of these goals in mind.