Have you ever purchased a computer, phone or some other gadget only to find that 4 months later your new toy is already out of date, has depreciated in value and has quickly fallen behind the technology curve? Don’t feel bad, this happens to just about everyone, present company included, and not only in the purchase of new gadgets and toys.
One of the fastest moving, quickest changing industries around is Internet Marketing. Fortunately this has been a good thing, it has actually been a great thing as it forces companies and real estate professionals alike to continuously innovate to find the most cost effective ways to market real estate.
Knowing how difficult it can be, especially for real estate professionals who ultimately should be spending their time helping clients buy and sell real estate and not sitting in front of their computer trying to learn something like Search Engine Optimization, we here at Real Estate Marketing Blog have compiled a list of the Top Online Marketing Tools for Real Estate.
The following list has been compiled based on the following two criteria:
- We have used it and have gotten results from it
- A loyal reader or client has used it and gotten results from it
PLEASE NOTE: Not one of the tools on the following list are there because a company sold us on including it or because we are getting some reciprocal value from featuring / advertising their product or service. Just as we have never had advertising on our blog, we have never taken payment for featuring companies, websites or professionals. That being said, you can rest assured that the following tools have actually produced results and have proven themselves useful and effective.
Top Real Estate Online Marketing Tools
Web Design and Development
It is no secret these days that you MUST have a website for your real estate business. A well designed, marketing oriented website with calls to action can literally help your real estate business jump from one level to another. Here are a couple of the top companies that we have come across that are helping thousands of real estate professionals, just like you, realize the true potential of an effective website:
Real Estate Webmasters
Based in Canada, Real Estate Webmasters has consistently been one of the top real estate web design and development companies around. Their knowledge and experience with not only web development, but also online marketing, has quietly placed them as one of the top 5 real estate web development companies around.
pros: Effective designs
Based in Los Angeles, CA, Agent Image is another quiet giant in the real estate web design and development world. With 10 years behind them, their real estate web designs are second to none. Specializing in uniquely designed websites, from pre-designs to full custom designs, Agent Image is consistently one of the most creative companies around for any real estate professional.
pros: Best designs in the industry, User friendly back office / content management system
One of the most necessary elements of an effective, lead generating website is a solid, easy to use MLS search. People searching for real estate spend the majority of their time searching through the MLS database so why not allow them to do this on your own website? Here are a couple companies that provide some of the most user friendly MLS search IDX solutions available on the market today:
Based in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, Diverse Solutions maintains its prevalence in the world of IDX solutions. With one of the most user friendly and nicely designed IDX solutions around, Diverse Solutions continues to be a great choice for an effective lead generating IDX solution for any real estate website.
pros: One of the best looking IDX solutions around
cons: MLS Coverage is very limited
Based in Berkeley, CA, iHomefinder remains as one of the top IDX solutions around for its wide MLS coverage, simple user interface, and ease of integration onto just about any and every type of website.
pros: Great MLS Coverage (one of the best)
cons: Not the leader in technology or innovation
Online Marketing Agencies
We cannot reiterate this enough, you can have the most beautiful website in the world, but if people cannot find your website online, then your website is just a pretty car sitting in a closed garage. Make your website as easy to find and as authoritative as possible with a solid and aggressive online marketing campaign. Here are a couple agencies that have helped many real estate professionals get the highest possible ROI on their marketing budgets:
Based in El Segundo, CA, imFORZA is a relatively new player in the industry, but has been consistently receiving rave reviews from many readers and clients of ours. imFORZA is a full service Internet marketing agency that has partnered with Agent Image (mentioned above) to help them make their beautiful websites effective in the search engines and with lead conversion. imFORZA also works with any other company, not just tied to Agent Image, to help real estate professionals market their website online.
pros: One of the most experienced teams of online marketing professionals, multiple top producer clients
Blackwater Consulting / Compass Internet Systems
Based in Newport Beach, CA, Blackwater Consulting / Compass Internet Systems is a smaller online marketing firm than most, but boasts some very impressive results for some of its clients. Their strength seems to lie in their in-depth knowledge of the real estate industry and how that can be applied to marketing their clients websites.
pros: Strong real estate knowledge
cons: Weaknesses in innovation and integration of online marketing with design
Email Marketing Services
One of the best things you can do to market your real estate business in the most cost effective and targeted way possible is to utilize a well planned email marketing campaign. Having an email marketing service in place to allow you to stay in front of your contacts and leads is a great way to create new business for yourself without resorting to expensive mailers or print ads that have no tracking whatsoever. Here are a couple fantastic services that are sure to help streamline your drip marketing campaigns:
Based in Durham, NC, iContact is hands down one of the best email marketing services around. With extremely affordable pricing, a simple user interface and high deliverability rates, iContact continues to make a name for itself as the premier email marketing service available today.
pros: Affordable, tons of useful features, easy to use
cons: None have been determined yet
Based in Atlanta, GA, MailChimp has quickly burst onto the scene over the past 2 years as one of the top email marketing service providers around. With one of the most robust platforms available, MailChimp has proven itself as an extremely useful and effective email marketing provider.
pros: Great analytics for tracking emails, open API for integration into other programs, many useful features
cons: Learning curve a little steeper than some more simple email marketing programs
In case you haven’t heard or realized it yet, video is the next BIG thing, especially for real estate. Considering that YouTube is one of the top 5 most visited websites on the Internet, videos have cemented their place in the arsenal of the some of the most effective online marketers. Mainly due to the fact that they are interactive, more interesting and can be stopped and started at a user’s will, videos have become one of the best ways to market your real estate services. Here are a couple of the best companies to help you create some really effective videos for your website and marketing campaigns:
Based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Agent Cast is another of those quiet companies making big waves in the industry. With some of the highest quality video production services along with some amazing content and templates for use for any real estate professional, Agent Cast is a great option for your real estate video needs.
pros: Real estate experience, facilities, production and equipment for quality videos
cons: Quality is not the best we have seen or gotten feedback on, Not very innovative videos
We prefer not to plug the same company more than once as every company has its main strength, but we have received high praise for Agent Image’s video services that we have yet to receive for any other company. AgentImage.tv seems to be a newer division for Agent Image, but from the looks of their work and numerous rave reviews from existing clients who follow our blog, AgentImage.tv just might be solution you are looking for if you need quality real estate videos at affordable prices.
pros: High quality, affordable, on location video services
cons: None have been determined yet
Mobile / Text Message Marketing
Mobile phones and personal computers are the future. We will say it again, mobile phones and personal computers ARE the future. If you have not thought about how you are going to reach the millions of people who use their mobile phones more than anything else they own, then you are already behind the game. As mobile phones become more advanced, as we have seen already with the iPhone 3G S, Google G1, and HTC Touch, mobile marketing will become that much more powerful and effective. Here are some of the top companies we have found that are already breaking barriers and setting trends in the mobile / text message marketing arena:
Based in Austin, TX, DriveBuy Technologies is one of the leaders in mobile interactive marketing for real estate. Their services include things like interactive sms/text property listings, lead tracking and instant routing of leads.
pros: Top Producer, Outlook and Twitter Integration, affordable prices
cons: Focused mainly on individual real estate agents
Based in Missoula, MT, GoomZee offers an array of mobile marketing products and services for just about any industry, with real estate being one of their main focuses. Their RealtyConnect product is made specifically for real estate professionals and offers just about every feature you could want or expect from a mobile marketing provider.
pros: Great lead integration, spam protection, virtual tour options, MMS / Push messaging
cons: None have been determined yet
Blogs have spread like wildfire over the past 3-4 years as more and more real estate marketing consultants and coaches are pushing their clients to get involved in the blogosphere, and for good reason. Blogs, when managed and maintained correctly, have proven to be one of the best ways to build your brand, increase your traffic and create additional opportunities for lead generation. This is the only section where we are going to recommend only 1 blogging platform due to our strong confidence in this recommendation:
Hands down the best blogging platform available (in our opinion). Real Estate Marketing Blog is built on WordPress as well as our sister blog, Business Marketing Blog. We recommend WordPress first and foremost to just about every reader that asks as we strongly feel that it is the superior blogging platform available. With so many different options for customization, optimization and tracking, WordPress is the full featured platform you will definitely find to be effective and easy to use. One thing to note, make sure you USE THE WordPress.org version and NOT WordPress.com as you want to own your content and not have a sub-domain of WordPress.
pros: Customizable, easy to add new features and modules (called plug-ins), easy to update and manage
cons: Learning curve compared to simple platforms like Blogger, some IT assistance recommended
Thought you were ahead of the game with your blogging efforts? Say hello to micro-blogging. Micro-blogging is simply another form of blogging, but only allows a certain amount of characters that keeps entries short and concise. Micro-blogging has taken the online world by storm as just about everyone and their mother has decided to test out the waters. Here are a couple micro-blogging platforms that we highly recommend you get involved in. You won’t find Twitter or Facebook as recommendations here as those have become staples for any social marketing campaign. The following two recommendations are a little less known right now, but are good to be aware if you wish to stay ahead of the curve:
FriendFeed is currently the ugly step-brother of Twitter, but we do not think that this will last for long. This micro-blogging platform is far more robust than any other platform available and has actually been the source of inspiration for the more popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The thing that sets FriendFeed apart from every other platform currently is that it can aggregate just about every other social networking content of yours into one simple place making it a one stop shop for all of your content and conversations.
pros: Far more robust in features and usability than other platforms, allows for true conversations
cons: Currently lacks the following and user base that Twitter and Facebook have
Ping.fm, like FriendFeed, is one of the lesser known micro-blogging platforms, but not for good reason. This service is extremely handy with its main advantage of allowing you to update all of your social networks in one simple place. If you are one of those over ambitious social marketers with multiple accounts, then Ping.fm is for you. Simplify your social marketing life with this great tool.
pros: Update multiple social networks and blogs in one place
cons: No content feed to share with people as it is for posting content, not aggregating it
Integrating the Top Real Estate Online Marketing Tools
8 core services and 15 recommended companies later and you now have something substantial to help you get ahead of the curve with your real estate business and online marketing efforts. We recommend choosing one from each category above and then plan out how you are going to seamlessly integrate all of them together. The best online marketing campaigns come from solid marketing strategies running on all cylinders and reaching just about every corner of where your prospective customers spend time online.
To integrate all of these services together, we have one simple piece of advice:
DRIVE EVERYONE BACK TO YOUR WEBSITE
Your videos, email marketing, blog articles, and micro-blogging efforts should all be working in one concerted effort to get as many qualified, relevant visitors back to your main website as possible. By using one of the web design companies mentioned above, or your own website (if it is converting), you should be able to generate more leads than you know what to do with. Just remember, your website should be working for you, not vice versa. If it is not then you need to reassess your website and marketing strategies.
As always, let us know if we can help in anyway. And please feel free to share your opinions about any of these companies on our blog as we believe that complete transparency and all opinions are necessary for the betterment of the online marketing industry for real estate.
NOTE: If you think your company should be included on this list or if your company is on this list and you feel that we may have missed something, then please let us know and we will be happy to consider your recommendations.