Advice and Opinion

E-marketing is highly effective – but it can de-personalise the estate agent/client relationship

Today almost all large estate agency groups use both printed and digital media to advertise their stock, services and to build their reputations with the general public – but this has greatly complicated the whole process of identifying where buyers are coming from, where they are most easily found and what they respond to best, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group.

“The online property portal services,” said Rawson, “now offer such good value that estate agencies have no option but to use a wide variety of these. However, there are question marks over which websites are the most effective and where the emphasis should be placed from now on. All we do know is that over 70% of buyers today genuinely do consult the internet in their search for a home. We also know that one serious misdemeanour publicised on the internet can at least temporarily have quite a severe dampening effect for an entire group, although it is remarkable how these groups manage to survive what many of us would regard as a shattering blow to their reputation.”

Before online marketing was as widely used as it is today, said Rawson, obtaining bond finance was sometimes very easy and this, in turn, led to a huge interest in property, a buying boom on an unprecedented scale and a new breed of aggressive property investors and speculators became evident from roughly 1990 to 2003.

Now that finance is not easy to come by, said Rawson, buyers are often totally without their former confidence and they are far slower about making up their minds. Quite often, too, after one or two bond applications have been rejected, they sit back and watch (now made much easier by online marketing) rather than participate in the market. Today’s market still, in Rawson’s view, offers buyers many excellent and good appreciation potential opportunities.

While it is undeniable that e-marketing has changed the face of the real estate sector, particularly the residential sector, forever, said Rawson, it has had one regrettable side effect: some estate agents have become far too reliant on it.

“Today’s estate agent,” said Rawson, “although often better qualified than his predecessors, tends to be weak on people skills: he or she has forgotten that customers are people who need to be looked after and kept in touch with by phone and face-to-face meetings. This is crucially important and most of the best estate agents still do this as a matter of course. However there are many others who have become so reliant on emailing and text messages that they can go for days and even weeks without actually talking to their clients and – let it be added – when the estate agent has no news and can report no progress, such reports are still essential.”

Asked if social media, which tends to reveal much about the leading personalities in business and sales teams, has not, in fact, personalised business to a degree never before seen, Rawson said that it has indeed done that, sometimes in his view to “almost a ridiculous and uncomfortable extent” — but this is absolutely no substitute for one-on-one verbal interchange between a good estate agent and his client.

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