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Q.        When it comes to advertising, should I be focusing on local papers, or the internet?
A.        A properly thought-out advertising strategy is an essential ingredient for success in any market; given the current conditions, the key component of your strategy should be to make sure you’re getting the very best return on your investment.  Simply monitoring the source of your enquiries will help you to determine the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.   If you’re spending 80% of your budget on print media, when 80% of your new business is coming from the Internet – it’s probably time to have a re-think!
In recent years, the massive growth of the Internet has sparked something of a ‘visual revolution’ in the industry. Not only does it deliver a limitless potential audience, usually at substantially lower cost than conventional local newspaper ads, but websites and portals can also be used to bring a property vividly to life in a way that is simply not possible with newspaper or magazine advertising. From interactive floor plans to 3D Walkthroughs, there is a whole range of sophisticated technologies available today that deliver a fresh new element to property marketing, without a hefty price tag.
So, if it really comes down to a straight choice between the Internet and the print media, then it’s likely to be the former. However, as stated above, you must monitor the response you are getting from the various marketing mediums you use - this will enable you to calculate the return on investment for each and should give you the answer you’re looking for!

Q.        Help! Once again, I thought I did a good job on a valuation, only to lose out purely on fees, and with the vendor justifying the decision by saying that all agents basically offer the same service.
A.        This one is easier to solve than you might think. Consider it from the vendor’s perspective. You’ve invited three local agencies around to offer a valuation. Each has a strong local presence (boards perhaps), a High Street location, a good web site and offers the best portal marketing. But, when each delivers their sales pitch, they all seem to say much the same on all fronts. What has the vendor actually seen that is different? Often nothing at all - and that’s the problem. Since everyone seems to be offering the same service, the obvious solution for the vendor is to go for the lowest fee available. Who wouldn’t?  
What you need is to be able offer vendors something that sets you apart from your competitors - something that gives your proposition exceptional value. This could be something as simple as the quality and impact of sales particulars incorporating coloured or 3D floor plans. A more sophisticated website experience, offering interactive floor plans, maps etc, would also help to differentiate your service. Better still, you could offer a combination of such elements, which together would help to make your service really stand out from the crowd.
Q.        How can I ensure that my properties attract the maximum amount of attention on portals?
A.        It’s generally accepted that properties with more visuals (images), marketed on the portals, receive more attention from viewers than the properties with fewer visuals. It therefore follows that you should be using the maximum number of marketing images with each property.
So, the first thing you need to do is invest in a good-quality camera, and ensure that you and your staff are capable of using it to the best effect. A short course in the basics of taking good pictures could really pay dividends.
Secondly, for added impact, you should be using the ever-widening choice of property visualisation tools that are available. These now range from conventional 2D floor plans, through full-colour interactive and 3D plans, right up to virtual tours or even computer-generated walkthroughs. Such tools can help bring a property dramatically to life onscreen – the next best thing to actually being there. You can’t get any more visual impact than that!
Q.         The quality of online visuals can vary enormously. Why is this?
A.        It’s no good filling your online advertising with photographs and other images if they are blurred and poorly-defined. Indeed, people conducting their home search online can easily be put off by poor imagery.
What causes such problems? Sometimes, it can be as simple as the fact that some agents are taking poor quality photos – a shot of a small room showing not very much isn’t going to inspire potential buyers to arrange a viewing (or vendors to sell through your agency). Others seem content to upload poorly-scanned PDFs that look for all the world like bad photocopies!
Another issue that arises is with floor plans that are too blurred or too small when viewed online to allow the viewer to see all the available detail.  This is often down to software incompatibility. It can be remedied by ensuring that you use a floor plan system that is fully compatible with both your own management software and your chosen portals. Don’t use a JPG floor plan image if your software has been built to use a GIF! Your software provider’s technical helpdesk will be able to advise you what works best with their system – then all you need to do is make sure that your floor plan provider can deliver it!
Q.         You do a really good job for some clients, who are absolutely delighted – then 5 years later, when it comes to making their next move, you find that they have instructed one of your competitors! Why? What has gone wrong?
A.        The short answer is: lack of after-sales service. People only move home every few years, so with the best will in the world they will probably forget what a good job you did for them last time – unless you remind them.
Here in the UK, agents have traditionally pocketed their commission cheque and walked away in search of the next sale, with barely a backward glance. In countries like the USA, Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, they place huge emphasis on building and maintaining longer-term relationships with their customers. Why? Because they know that gaining recommendations or repeat business from existing customers is far more cost-effective than trying to generate new listings from scratch.
They key to this kind of relationship-building is to regard the sale not as an end in itself, but merely as one step on a much longer journey. When you’ve made that leap, you can start to put together a real after sales strategy, built around regular contact. This can include everything from the greetings card sent on the anniversary of the transaction to regular market commentaries or information about special offers on switching utility suppliers. As long as the reasons for contact are legitimate, the possibilities are endless. The only real rule is, don’t overdo it. One contact every quarter is quite sufficient to ensure that, next time people come to move house, they will still remember you!

Courtesy of Brian Farrell at Metropix