Starting a property firm can be challenging in these competitive and disruptive times. Yet with the right strategy and objectives and the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, you can still make yourself a unique player in the market. People will always need to buy and sell property – whether residential or commercial – there is always money to be made. Total Business below hears from Michael Anthony Estate Agents, estate agents operating in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire, on the top 10 tips to starting your own property firm.
Whether you are looking to set yourself up with an estate agency on the high street or whether you want to create an online property business, there are some tips to help you put a strategy into place and to encourage you to clarify and strengthen your vision.
Check out the competition
It is vital that you check out the competition – both on the high street and online. You need to find out how much local estate agents charge in fees. You also need to understand the size of the market in the area you are targeting and weigh it up against the number of estate agents already there.
You can use tools like Zoopla to find out how many properties were bought and sold in your target area over the last couple of years and how long properties are on the market before they sell.
Fully understand the costs
When you are starting up any business, you need to face all the costs in their entirety as well as accounting for any unpredictable costs.
A high street office will need to factor in rent and business rates, advertising in regional press and staffing.
This will lead to much more realistic financial projections.
Set personal financial goals
It is also beneficial in the long run to set some personal financial goals, before you set the financial goals for your property business.
People often start their own business due to personal goals – whether it is to work around their children and the school run, or whether it is to be able to afford a better lifestyle. Like any job, you need to think about when you want to retire and how much you need to save each month to afford that.
This will also serve as your drive and incentive to chase that lead, make that commission and increase profits.
Adjust your business plan to meet these goals
Make sure you constantly refer back to your personal financial plan when you are creating the business plan to make sure that it will meet your expectations and reason for starting up your own business. For example, factor in the office hours that you want to be working in the long-run.
Build a marketing plan
It is easy to relax after the referrals start rolling in, or people simply see your office on the high street. However, marketing is the one area of your property business that should never sleep.
You need to think strategically about your marketing. To start with, nail down your unique value proposition as this drives your marketing. Perhaps this is being ahead of the curve with the latest technology – using drones to photograph properties or virtual or augmented reality for house viewings. Or perhaps it is focusing on the power of good online reviews – once you have decided what sets you apart from the rest – communicate it.
The marketing strategy needs to leverage the individuality and strengths of your property business and this is fundamental to your success. You must tailor your strategy to your market – don’t just copy another competitor who you think is doing a great job.
Organise some focus groups. For example, you can ask groups of friends to come together to answer questions and debate on what they look for in an estate agent, what problems they have had and what they need. Look to solve these problems with your own business.
Nurture Customer Relationship Management
According to one survey, small UK business owners spend 120 days each year on administrative functions.
It is likely that you want to be a hands-on estate agent who likes to take control if you are starting up your own business. However, there is a danger that you will be trying to take on too much.
Spending money on a sharp marketing plan might get the customers through the door, but to retain them and nail a sale you need to create a seamless customer experience.
There are numerous customer relationship management (CRM) tools on the market. Make sure that the one you choose has automated reminders so that customers see that you are enthusiastic and engaged. Attentiveness will set you apart in today’s competitive market. Also make sure that it is device-agnostic so that everyone can use it, wherever they are or what device they are using.
Use video and vlogging
It is predicted that in a few years, video traffic will account for over 80% of all consumer traffic. Estate agents still use a lot of paper. While ads in local newspapers and direct mail still have their place in an estate agent campaign, if you include video you will make a longer lasting impression on prospects. This will make you stand out from the crowd.
Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.
You can include videos on your landing pages. Having a video on a landing page makes it 53% more likely to be at the top of search engine results.
You can also include video in your emails to increase click-through rate by 96%.
You can create infographics on home prices or mortgage rates to make the blog posts more memorable and shareable. You can also integrate videos where you can into the blogs.
Dodgy estate agent tactics have led to many people doubting the estate agent business as a whole and the line ‘trust me I’m an estate agent’ becoming a tongue-in-cheek phrase.
Using your staff in the videos will really engage with prospective customers, making your team more approachable, trustworthy and creating a ‘friendship’. Video blogging, or vlogging, is something that all the staff can do from the assistant staff to the CEO to increase authenticity.
Keep an eye on the cash
When starting your own property business cash really is the lifeblood. Cash flow is as important, if not more important, than profit.
Reduce the likelihood of late payments by using simple invoicing software to make sure you are on top of your cash flow. Make sure that clients can pay via Paypal and Stripe via their mobile phones.
Make sure your website is search engine optimised
The majority of people search for properties online. Website cost very little upfront. Make sure that your website is SEO focused and designed to engage online leads right back to your CRM. There is no point in having a website that never comes up in search results and is never seen.
All your blogs, vlogs, articles and social media posts should link right back to your website for increased SEO and conversion.
Value your prospects and your clients
As well as regular blogging, social media presence and search engine optimisation you also need to check out competitor’s websites. Sign up to other estate agency websites and leave your telephone number to see who calls you back and how long it takes them. Aim to be the agent that beats the herd. A follow-up system is vital to long-term lead conversion – it is all part of building a pipeline.
You also need to recognise the life-time value of your clients. If they have a good experience with you right from the very start of your business, then they will use your expertise again and again. As they climb the career ladder earning more to afford a bigger mortgage they will remain faithful to your company if you have always been their first port of call. They will feel part of your business as your business expands and their budget increases – gaining trust and authenticity can never be underestimated.