Item #1 - An Effective Website
These days, a real estate agent without a website is an agent who will lose a lot of potential business. Aside from referrals (see item #5), most home buyers and sellers find their real estate agents online.
Maybe they do a Google search for agents in their area. Maybe they stumble across an online article that links back to the agent's site. Or maybe they "stumble across" the agent's website when researching the local real estate market. But for any of this to be possible, a real estate agent needs a solid website filled with useful content, tools and resources.
Here are some of the things you should build into your real estate website:
Listing data of some kind
Consumer education resources
Plenty of original, keyword-rich content
Lead generation systems
Regular updates, perhaps through a blog
Basic website usability and organization
Secret to Success: The number of real estate websites has exploded over the last few years. You need to work hard to make your website better than those of your competitors -- more organized, more informative, and better designed. It takes a lot of time, energy and money to get it right, but the rewards are ever lasting.
Item #2 - Internet Visibility / Web Presence
A few years ago, an agent could publish a 5-page website to generate business. People would eventually find the site, because there weren't many of them competiting for attention. Obviously, that has all changed. In order to be found online today, you need more than a basic real estate website -- you need a highly visible multi-part web presence. This might include the main site, search engine optimization (SEO), a blog, online articles and press releases, and other publishing strategies.
When you increase your online activity in this way, you are capitalizing on something that is already occurring. People are already going online by the thousands to conduct research into their local real estate markets. So when you improve your web presence, you are tapping into an online marketplace that already exists.
Secret to Success: Of course, all of the web traffic in the world won't do you any good unless you convert some of that traffic into leads and inquiries. So while your Internet visibility is certainly important, you also need to focus some of your energy on developing effective lead-generation systems for your website.
Item #3 - Direct Mail (When Used Properly)
A lot of real estate agents waste their time and money on postcard marketing, but only because they go about it all wrong. I know this for a fact because I've worked for more than one direct mail company. But with postcards, it's not the marketing medium that's broken -- it's the flawed technique that many agents use.
One of the primary benefits of this strategy is that you know where your direct mail pieces are going. You can choose certain neighborhoods, a zip code, or your entire city. You can get a list of people who live in apartments and send them a targeted message about moving up to homeownership. You are practically guaranteed that everyone who receives your postcard in the mail is going to at least glance at it (more than you can say for other forms of marketing).
Secret to Success: You need a really good reason to send a postcard out to a large audience. "I'm a new real estate agent in town" is not a good reason. Start with a big idea, an event, a unique product or service, and build your direct mail campaign around that.
Item #4 - The Yard Sign (An Oldie But a Goodie)
Aside from basic word-of-mouth marketing, I would say the real estate sign is the absolute oldest from of real estate marketing. As long as properties have been bought or sold, there have been people putting up signs to direct traffic toward the sale. Okay, so they're not as glamorous as a brand-spanking-new website or a glossy brochure. But they have been getting the job done for decades!
Secret to Success: Don't over-think the process of procuring real estate signs, and don't overspend when purchasing them. All you really need is a professional looking product with basic information on it. Don't waste valuable sign space with slogans or other useless items. Keep it simple.
Item #5 - Great Service Toward Clients
For many real estate agents, referrals still generate more business than any other real estate marketing technique. People are more willing to trust those they know. So when a friend or family member says good things about a real estate agent, it does more to persuade the person than anything the agent might say.
The key to getting referrals, of course, is to provide great service. By being proactive during the real estate transaction, and by keeping your client informed along the way, you will have a better chance of getting referrals later on down the road. Of course, it also helps if you can help them buy or sell a home effectively!
Secret to Success: Don't be afraid to follow up with clients after the sale either. This is a good way to stay in their minds, which can lead to even more referrals. There are many occasions where you can send a brief email or postcard to past clients -- on their birthdays, around holidays, on their one-year home buyer anniversary, etc.