It’s the wrong question whether or not to require registration and my reasons for saying so are endless, but my number one response to this question is very often a question in return- what is your capture strategy? If your capture strategy is only IDX search capture, then you might as well let consumers have it for nothing. In fact, you might as well not have MLS search at all when you consider your website as a spec in the image of this article- tantamount to a font choice being hyper critical to the demise of your business.
I say this because no matter how fancy the search component on your website is, if consumers simply wanted to search homes, there are bigger and better solutions out there that do not require consumers to register. You cannot compete, you simply are not big enough to play the big media players’ game- why not stop now while you’re ahead if you haven’t yet figured out that what the local searcher is looking for really isn’t a home at this stage- they’re looking for something unique.
Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com et al.
Now that you have a bare bones assessment of where you stand in comparison to big media players and the real choice consumers have, surely you have a bigger picture image of just how ridiculous the conversation is if you’re not responding to the real reasons consumers are on your piddly little local website in the first place. In the eyes of consumers, if you’re responding to them directly, you’re not so piddly after all- in fact, having offered them the local value they’re desperate for you’ve finally given them something big media sites can’t and they’ll give you more than an email address and fake phone number to get it, in fact they’ll pay you a commission and referrals for an opportunity to get more of it, in fact, nearly $100 million dollars between just two media companies has been spent just to exploit “IT.”
Untimately the answer to the wrong question of IDX registration is yes, you should require registration after a search or two, but again, this matters not if you haven’t framed your IDX with value. They’ll simply click away in search of anything that feels valuable and unique to them, and you already know your consumer, so you know better than I what matters most in your hometown.
Building a robust capture strategy
You most likely have a self-hosted blog by now, and if you don’t you soon will because the type of value building I’m talking about is through local content. Writing content that is recognizable to locals is important as it instantly illuminates your vicinity to their immediate needs in comparison to large media sites. Also, you’re less likely competing with local agents when on your local domain in comparison to the Realtor orgy Active Rain and others have become. Whether you like it or not, you are in competition with your beloved network.
The folks you want commenting on your material is not other agents, in fact, you’re better off having no comments at all when you consider that other agents are commenting to link bait your consumers to their own sites- what, you thought the value they’re attempting to add is for you?
Building your own conversation with locals is important because you’ll want to address your valuable news letter to them, not to your competition. Your commenter (subscriber) base on your blog is your audience, and you’ve captured their attention, and should absolutely follow up with them not only with a newsletter, but also a thank you…
Thank Me Later WordPress Plugin: this plugin will send a one time only custom email to your commenters, thanking them for their participation, will allow you to input a few kick ass reasons they should return to your website, as well as provide them essential contact information. It might also be a great place to drop a nice incentive to select your service if you’re paying for inspections or appraisals, or even advertising lower commissions.
MeeNews WordPress Newsletter Plugin: If you’re looking for a robust newsletter management solution this is about as great and simple as they come.
Again, you will need the ability to upload plugins to your wordpress blog.
Making your website multi-deminsional
Surely you’re pimping listings on Craigslist, you have listings, and you share them everywhere. You also utilize flyers and other products that do little to inspire action or set your listing apart from their next click or view.
I recommend implementing texting features such as Drivebuy into your flyers, Craigslist ads, and even the last image of your virtual tours that prompt an action. Make it a valuable action. In fact, rather than just offer your contact information, why not respond with special buyer or even seller incentives in each text ad- for example, text AG1 to 88000 (this really works, try it) for special offers on homes purchased through our brokerage or text AG1 to 88000 for special listing incentives on our services.
Text ads could be used throughout your website for multiple reasons around content consumers are looking at, and can be a real value added component as well as create an opportunity for you to get in front of your consumer whether a listing consumer or a buyer. Don’t forget to add text features to listing flyers, Craigslist, and anywhere else you can think to use it including featured listing posts on your blog- for about $8 bucks per text number you can expand your opportunity for conversions right now.
Give ‘em a shopping cart
Recently we tipped you off to a wicked new tool called Smarter Agent which gives you a mobile web application that works with just about any phone your consumer is using. Branded for your company, this application gives your consumer a mobile search they can use on the street while actually searching for homes and returns your contact information with each result they view- this is a great asset in your capture arsenal when you consider you just provided your consumer with a tangible product from your website to take with them to better their search experience with you at the checkout stand.
Whitepaper for different levels of buyers and sellers
Why not take some of your most compelling content around market conditions and other practical tips for buyers and sellers and create whitepaper? Value added content in your sidebar designed to entice information addicts that capture registration:
WP-Download Manager WordPress Plugin: Simply upload your pdf whitepaper and set it to capture registration. From this, you can learn what they’re downloading and follow up with an email response targeted exactly to this content, offering incentives and other reasons to return to your website or notify them of updates in the future. Add to your email the text feature mentioned above to get even closer to them.
Round robin customer service
I’ve written about this in the past and firmly believe that in this day and age that sales calls are frowned upon, BUT customer service calls are not. Round robin is basically a system of call routing that continues to ring as many numbers as you assign until someone picks up to make sure the call is answered regardless of the time of day.
As we all know, conversion rates increase when calls and text messages are returned and especially when a phone call from a consumer is answered, which is why if you’re not using a round robin mechanism for your incoming calls, you’re missing huge opportunities to convert.
If you’re on Twitter and attempting to look really important by only following 200 while 2000 are following you, you had better make sure those 200 are absolutely local to you. Why? Because if a buyer or seller is connected to you on Twitter and wants to privately message you to discuss their needs, they cannot. You must follow back your locals, and in fact you should use tools like Tweetdeck to manage these contacts under a category like “Locals.” This will help you continue to manage these warm opportunities and cultivate relationships in your local market. (click here to read more about connecting locally on twitter)
Facebook can be utilized in much the same way by creating lists of locals under your contact manager. This allows you to reach out specifically to your locals while excluding the hundreds of Realtors you’re probably networked with. So, when attending a meetup of some kind, or even hosting an open home, you can extend a local invitation to your local contacts especially for them.
Those extra seasoned domains you own
Surely if you’re like me you have a few domains you’ve picked up over the years and have little use for them other than pointing them to your main site. Why not utilize a free service like softRealty that provides free IDX search along with a built-in CRM to float organically in Google? It stands to reason if the domain ranks you should stick something of value on it that might generate opportunities.
These are just a few tips to get you looking at a larger opportunity for capture. If you’re working from a larger picture, you can see that driving consumers to MLS search is great and all, but it really isn’t enough to compete. What you need is a more robust plan of action- calls to value action that bring the consumer closer to you. If you’re implementing these simple methods, you eliminate the concern for do or die decisions such as registered or non-registered searches by creating warm reasons to touch the consumer… they are interested or they wouldn’t have taken an action.
The biggest misconception about Web2.0 as we heard it several years ago was that it wasn’t meant to disrupt your way of thinking or doing business. In many cases, none of the passive pull theories were yet proven good or bad, and still today we debate the merits, but one thing is certain- by framing your MLS search with value in the first place makes it irrelevant whether you force registration or not.