Without a solid system, the only thing you'll be generating is a lot of work and heartache. In fact, I would say it's better to avoid online leads all together unless you're willing to invest the time upfront to set up proper systems.
What exactly do I mean by a system? A proper lead follow up system consists of three parts:
1. Customer Service/ Follow Up at Internet Speed
Everything is faster on the internet. Think of the last time you shopped for anything online. Were you willing to wait even half an hour for an answer from an online store, or did you just move on until you found the answer immediately?
Online customer service is an entire article in itself, but here are the basics:
* Make it easy for them to contact you - post your phone # prominently and use an online form - just posting your email address is worthless.
* Respond within 5 minutes - after 30 minutes you may as well not even bother.
* ALWAYS provide something of value in every phone call/ email/ tweet/ note on rock thrown through their window, etc. This could be market news, useful links, answers, etc.
2. Use a CRM System (even if it's just an excel sheet).
37 signals, a hugely successful software company has a great saying: make half a product, not a half a**ed product. The same goes with leads: it's better to work half your leads well, than try to work all your leads and do a half-a**ed job of it.
To do it right, you'll need to track your leads. For no frills, make an excel sheet with their info, how/ why the found you, and what you've sent them so far. Don't forget the most critical part: prioritize your leads (I can't argue with the time-tested "A, B, C" system, but feel free to get creative if you need a little flair in your CRM).
My personal favorite for real estate CRM is Highrise, by the aforementioned 37 signals (just Google "highrise, they're #1). It's free up to 250 contacts, it's drop dead simple to use, and it plays nicely with your email.
3. Give The People What They Want.
Ask yourself why they contacted you in the first place: what do they want? Figure that out, then create or find those resources and put them all in a folder called "resources" on your computer. For example: buyer's guides, market statistical reports, recent neighborhood sales, advice articles about picking lenders, etc.
That way, every time you email a lead you can either attach something useful, or link to it in your email. It also gives you a great reason to call them, so you can ask permission before sending them an attachment.
In all honesty, there is simply no way to get the same success rates from online leads as you do from referrals and personal connections - that's simply the nature of the beast. Done properly, though, you can generate a solid amount of business without letting online lead follow up take over your life.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go research the pet weight restriction of a condo building for a random lead who just called... hey, I never said it was easy!
About the Author: Michael is an active real estate broker, and has both a California state salesperson's license and a California state broker's license. Michael is also the founder of My Single Property Websites. You can also read more marketing tips on Michael's real estate marketing blog.