The Evolution of Digital Strategy in Real Estate
There was a time, not so long ago, where a digital strategy was all about driving traffic to your website in the hopes that it would generate customers. This was true regardless of what type of business you had; traffic was king.
As “Best practices” evolved so too did the focus, shifting from driving traffic to driving conversion. After all, traffic has limited use if it doesn’t achieve its goal of generating new business and it was getting more and more expensive as everyone threw marketing budgets at getting as much traffic as they could.
In time, even conversion became only one of many concerns, as the traditional business tropes of “repeat business” and a customer’s “lifetime value” became staples in the online space as much as offline.
Therefore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the humble digital strategy has also evolved in scope, covering every aspect of the client journey for any new or potential client, and believe it or not, it starts long before anybody ever sees an ad.
The key is to start with your target audience, the people who your product or service solves a problem, and then understand that problem in detail. It’s this knowledge that we have built our entire digital strategy around at Market Buy.
It influences every aspect of what we do in the digital space and being that Market Buy is an Online Offer Management Platform almost everything happens, in some way, digitally.
Taking on the role of Chief Digital Strategist was initially a daunting task as the role doesn’t just require digital marketing activity, but rather the understanding, knowledge, and execution of every aspect of digital client interaction.
Where there were gaps in that interaction, we had to source tools to fill them and where there were no readily available tools, we’ve had to build them from scratch.
However, a digital strategy, like any strategy, is only ever an idea until it’s battle-tested. Enter COVID-19, the shift to working from home, movement restrictions, and the various lockdowns it brought with it. COVID-19 meant everything from client onboarding and training, to customer care and support had to transition almost entirely online almost entirely overnight.
Market Buy’s digital strategy held up, seeing a 218% increase in agent registrations and 111% increase in completed sales using the system.
While we’ve been working digitally from almost day one, there has always been one aspect of Market Buy that is significantly more personal than what the traditional online world provides – our client support. It is incredibly common for Market Buy’s founder, David Stewart, to give new clients his direct line and contact details so that he can work hand in hand with our BDMs guiding our clients through their first few sales.
It’s this next stage of our digital strategy that poses the most risk when considered in terms of scaling the business and it’s a similar challenge to what every real estate agency will face in this post COVID-19 world.
How do you maintain the same level of personalized client support and service, digitally?
Spoiler Alert: As yet we haven’t solved this problem, but we can tell you it’s a little more than an automated EDM follow-up trail with your client’s name automatically inserted after “Hi” by the system.
Whilst we haven’t landed on the perfect answer to this question we do know that it requires genuine human interaction at scale and that is no easy feat.
We’ve tried to automate human interaction as an industry through email follow-ups and of course, lately, chatbots. But even the most advanced chatbot, connected to knowledge-based articles and FAQs won’t provide that same level of client support and service that a human can.
Now before you get out your pitchforks, I am not anti-chatbot, quite the opposite, I love them immensely and use them in various projects. However, as with any tool, it’s vital to understand its strengths and weaknesses. Chatbots are incredible for solving common issues in an automated fashion, incredible at automating things like lead generation and starting marketing conversations for follow-up; but they’re not great at providing individual personalized support. I am a firm believer that chatbots should at most be used at the start of support interaction to help define the problem but should then hand ball to a human.
Job ticketing systems are a solid option, I’ve implemented and rolled out a few of them over the years for various projects. They’re efficient and more importantly, everyone understands how to use them, but once again they lack that true human connection that can only be established via obvious and timely human responses. In addition, and probably more important from a logistics perspective, they’re often not available on your client’s preferred platform. They can’t just send you a message on Facebook and create a job ticket from it, without some complex integration mechanisms and third-party software.
You could, of course, look at virtual PA’s, you may even already be connected to a company that can offer you super PA’s providing admin, marketing, and client support (hint hint nudge nudge).
But for Market Buy, a Virtual PA wasn’t going to answer this exam question as not only did we need to provide support for OUR clients, but we need to facilitate support for our client’s clients as well.
For us, this is still an evolving solution and it’s something we’re willing to build our own software to solve.
So for now, watch this space and watch Market Buy closely, because maintaining the same level of personalized client support and service digitally is important to us, and in the same way, we’ve tackled finding solutions for our previous problems; we will strive for excellence and ensure a solution.
In a digital world, it is our mandate to always be agent first.