Cards on the table: I worked in estate agency for a while and formed my own company in 2014 which was on the road to becoming a success with 13 property listings shortly after launch, but it lacked a long term financial commitment from myself and my business partner. It did get a key aspect right though – relationship marketing.
We established ourselves quickly with vendors in the local area not by a race to the bottom with fees, not by Rightmove Premium banners (we launched with Zoopla alone), but by focusing on relationship marketing.
We made it our mission to dispel any negative stereotypes about estate agency by being helpful, positive and genuine. It worked. We listed properties ahead of established high street rivals and online giants. People trusted Farrell Walton Estate Agency.
In many ways, I miss the company – longer term, it would have turned an operating profit and generated even more trust locally. We had a great website, active social media platforms and a reputation for being honest – because both Claire and myself had worked in education and estate agency. I’ve no doubt, now, two and half years since it was wrapped up as a business, it would be doing well.
There’s a message in here for any start-ups or established estate agencies.
See customers, see properties, in terms of relationship and not transactions.
Build the relationships, prove you’re helpful and trustworthy and listings will appear.
We managed to get on page one of Google for three key search terms: Gorleston estate agents (where we were based), estate agents Great Yarmouth and were hovering on page 2 for similar search terms for Lowestoft, a neighbouring town. We did that through active content marketing and social media marketing, and it got enquiries and even when other local estate agents disparaged us to home sellers for only being on Zoopla, we managed to secure valuations and listings.
Obviously, we didn’t sell all 13 we listed – and I read today that just 60% of housing stock sells, meaning 40% won’t sell, regardless of who is marketing it.
We knew that at the time and when a vendor changed their mind asking to take a property off the market, or switch agents, we didn’t wave contracts at them and say “You’re tied in for 18 weeks” like one local estate agency does, but mutually parted, knowing that the vendor would speak highly of our philosophy to others.
Proof of this is that one property we listed in 2015 generated few viewings and zero offers, up to our business closing, but, with four estate agents being employed since, in the past three years, it remains unsold today.
Apart from the business closing, we did well, I believe, looking back and I’d like to share with you what relationship marketing looked like to us back then, and were I to relaunch a new hybrid estate agency locally (which I’d love to do) what I’d do again.
- Content. Primarily I’m a content writer, having taught English for 27 years and run Get Pro Copy Ltd since Farrell Walton closed. Content became the epicentre of marketing – via a daily blog on our beautiful website, printed newsletters and email campaigns designed and populated on Campaign Monitor. Content got us valuations and listings. When I wrote and boosted posts about local villages Belton, Bradwell and Burgh Castle, we got three valuation requests and two listings there in a month.
- Portals. Other estate agents dissed us for not being on Rightmove as if portals were the holy grail of marketing. They’re not. We sold a stunning property locally with a For Sale board, an active social media strategy and placement on Zoopla for 1% commission. We were open about our rates. We told people what we did: accompanied viewings, give constant marketing feedback and we came across as people to trust. We got business from word of mouth referrals too.
- Social media. We grew our social media presence quickly by targeting demographics and areas across five vibrant social media platforms and again that generated followers, listings, sellers and buyers. We didn’t just let Facebook, Twitter and Instagram start off well and sink into a torpid coma. No. We fed social media daily, engaged with people online and at the end we had more social media followers than any estate agent in the three places we targeted. Shame it all went.
If I could time travel back, I’d obviously do some things differently, like making sure the business had a financially viable future with a committed partnership (we both developed lukewarm feet about the enterprise) but I don’t think I’d change that much.
If you’re an established (or a start up) estate agency looking to get more valuations and turn these into listings and sales, focus on relationships.
Be helpful and honest.
Give useful advice for free.
Build a beautiful online presence in terms of your website and social media channels.
Provide informative content.
Be people-centred not property-centred.
People buy from people they like.
No matter what your fees, your high street office looks like, your portal premium presence, if customers don’t like you, you have to change their minds about you in the way you conduct business.
Rest in Peace Farrell Walton Ltd.
Hopefully one day, the concepts we built the business on will be of use to other estate agents looking to become likeable, become established or win more business.
People first – remember that.
Relationship marketing is the top priority.