I have always taken a deep interest in Internet marketing since Al Gore invented the thing (it was Al, right?), and while my knowledge has matured, I don't make believe to be an expert in the subject, although I can assure you I have developed a deep appreciation for and understanding of its' value to our industry. I still am fascinated at some of the new applications I see, both for the consumer and the Realtor, by how it really works, and even more fascinated by how the net has matured and where it can and will take the industry. To me its much like the Edison's light bulb, or Bells telephone. There's no doubt it will be interwoven into and change some of the course of our business.
At the same time, it amazes me how so many brokers have no real web strategy, other than to build some kind of a site, get it on the net, and wait for the results. For those who are doing just that, pay attention to the activity you don't get, and start working on how to change that. For a web site to succeed, you need more than hits, you need more than leads, you need more than a lead tank, you need it all for it to work. The web isn't about rankings, it's not all about hits, and it's not about selling a house today, necessarily. It is about client or lead conversion, the science behind it, and the need to incubate leads properly.
When a site is offered, remember who is coming, the consumer, not Realtors. They arent coming to see your picture or your awards, they are coming to search for houses. Give the consumer what they want, and you've got a good beginning. Then, develop a strategy for driving APPROPRIATE traffic to your site, and monitor it to see what works and what isn't. And then monitor it again to see if what works still works, and so on.
Then, when you do that, make sure you have a mechanism that lets you get right back to the consumer. I recently heard a stunning statistic, that most Realtors take 54 hours to get back to their lead. If thats you, don't expect much. Find a way to make sure that at least 90% of the time, you or your agents get back to the seller within 4 hours, and you will convert on avg 30% of app 20-25% of your inquiries, or .6-.75 per 100. If you can do that, then find a way to get back to them in under an hour hours, and then, you should convert almost 50% of the 20-25%, leading to a 1% conversion to sales. if you can do that, find a way to get back to them within the twenty minutes, and you will convert 72% of app. 20-25% of your leads. Get the picture? the leads mean nothing if we do nothing with them, and the longer it takes to get to them, the less likely will will be able to ultimately convert them to sales, which is what its all about.
Another great stat to know....60% of all Internet leads will buy from the first person to get back to them on the net, provided that person stays in touch through the incubation and sales cycle.
So, if you are developing your Internet strategy make sure it includes a whole lot more pro-activity than some nice graphics and an idx platform. Track how many unique visitors you are getting a month, how many inquiries (aka internet leads) you are getting out of your unique visitors, contact leads who return to your site, and most importantly track your conversions to sales. If your conversion after 4-6 months is less than 1%, you need to fix what you are doing. The average internet buyer can take up to 18.6 months to buy, and there are those that will buy in month one. You won't know the difference until they give you the sign. In any event, track your numbers, think of how you can improve them, develop procedures, dialogues and relationships, and you will be on track to huge success.
An interesting fact - the average buyer age is 35, the average Realtor is 54. Bridge the gap with technology, and you won't become extinct someday.