Get Online or Stay Behind
by Joe Ponce
It amazes me that here in the middle of 2007, how many business still do not have a website! I will give you a perfect example. Last year I moved to a new city. About two to three months before this, I began looking for a house.
Now I am admittedly a computer guy so I am a bit biased. However, I bounced the same question off of several of my friends and associates. The question was "If you were moving to a new city, where is the first place you would look to find a house?" Just about all of them said they would start their search on the Internet. Now I am no rocket scientist or brain surgeon but I am a reasonably intelligent guy.
So why is it that out of the 120+ real estate agencies in the city I was moving to, I could only find five of them with websites on the Internet? Guess what…these were the most successful agencies in town and one of them was ultimately the one I did business with. One agency had a great site with all sorts of features like the ability to look up schools for my kids, shopping areas, proximity to the airport and other "nice to know" things.
Setting up a website is easy these days and many services like www.RealtorPower.com can have you up and running (and I mean your whole agency) in less than an hour. Sign up for an individual, team or office package and for as little as 39 bucks you are off to the races. They even market the site for you with your own website or domain name!
After this experience, I began asking if businesses had a website when I spoke with them on the phone or visited them. At least 80% did not although many said they were "in the process of getting one up".
I found this really astounding! As I stated earlier I work in this field as the Chief Information Officer for a large medical center, do consulting work, and real estate investing in my off time. Some of the reasons people gave for not having a presence on the Internet were almost as if they have been living on another planet.
One business owner claimed he did not know much about computers as the reason for not having a website. He had a large ad in the Yellow Pages though. I was tempted to ask if he knew an enormous amount about phone book printing.
Another claimed he had "too much business" as it was and did not need to advertise any more. Really…too much business? How do you deal with a problem like that? Drive customers away to ease the burden on yourself? Maybe only stay open for two hours a day so you don't have to deal with all of those people trying to buy your stuff. I think that is crazy talk!
One store owner "thought" he had a website because he paid a kid a hundred bucks to set one up for him. Of course he didn't know the web address or where to find it. Business was slow for him and I spent some time doing some consulting/coaching about this in exchange for a service he provided to my car. He had a very specialized service business and the only way I found him was through word of mouth from some other places I called. He now has a website and I get the leather seats and interior of my car cleaned with a discount every time I visit him. I have three kids and he can get stains out of anything! We always take a look at the website and I will offer some suggestions or talk to his web programmer and help translate what he wants into "computer geek-speak". It is fun dealing with people when you can help each other out.
As real estate investors we cannot afford NOT to use the Internet as a source of marketing for our business…if we indeed think of it as a business. I have run this exact test in the last three cities I have lived in. I move a lot as the military makes sure you don't get too comfortable before uprooting you.
In Washington D.C., San Antonio, TX, and Fayetteville, NC I have run the same ad and put up a simple website. The newspaper ad refers people to my website where people can list a home for sale to get a quote or see if I have a home they may want to buy or rent. I use two different sites for this now after doing some experimenting. It works like gangbusters with many leads coming in each day. I use the www.Homes2Go.Com service to power the buying site and the selling site. It works great, is built exactly for real estate investors, and has a bunch of helpful material on it.
I prefer to "buy" not "build" in my business and now I am referring to my primary job as an information officer and a consultant. If you can think of it, it is likely that someone has already built it and all YOU have to do is FIND it. That can be a challenge in itself but once again reminds us that the power of web advertising is the new frontier.
I urge you to have a web presence or website (they are not the same thing) no matter what business you are in. I will tell you though that for those people who work as Realtors or real estate investors; this is really not an option to you. It is a tough business and every advertising medium should be used to its fullest within your budget. Let people know about you and what you do before they meet you. It makes the customer more comfortable and can make your job much easier when you deliver the right message. Best of all, it works for you 24 x 7, every day of the year. You will add credibility to your business and support the idea that you are a professional in your customers' eyes.
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