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Growing your agency online. An interview with Christopher Watkin

Monday 10th December 2018
Growing your agency online. An interview with Christopher Watkin

Property Webmasters recently caught up with UK property marketing journalist Christopher Watkin. Having actively been in the property industry for 20+ years, Chris has seen the industry go through some dramatic changes, nowadays Chris is somewhat of a social media influencer and with his knowledge and wisdom he is helping agents online in their quest to grow their businesses.

We had a series of questions to ask Chris and this is what he said…

1 – Why do you think some independent estate and letting agents are still not convinced about adapting to technological trends online?

“Simple…. Rightmove

It is my opinion that estate agents should be using their website to show off their firm and their listings they have on the market, In reality their websites should be solely used to generate them more business in the future. If you think about it, rightmove has created a level playing field in the property industry whereby it doesn’t really matter which estate agents website is better than the other one, as they are both essentially getting the same exposure on rightmove.

Agents now feel by putting properties on their website and having fancy technology for that benefit can be seen as a waste of money, they believe rightmove to be a more suitable channel. However, with estate agencies, we are like sharks, we need to keep moving forward or we will cease to exist. If we sell the houses we have through rightmove then we have nothing to sell. Surely an estate agents sole job is to get; more free valuations, more listings which will then lead to more sales.”

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2 – What would you suggest are the best ways for an estate agency to grow online and become successful?

“In 2004 in the UK there were around 9,500 estate agents and today there are around 25,000 estate agents. Yet the number of properties sellings has dropped from around 1.8 million to around 1.1 million.

For me it is all about standing out from the opposition and being different, but don’t be different for different sake. You cannot sell anything in this world unless you have someone’s attention… This is where agents are going wrong. Once they get someone’s attention they go straight for the sale… they are not doing the hard work of getting engagement and gaining trust. It’s not rocket science, people do business with people they trust. The purpose of a good website is to first of all get people to it, essentially grabbing their attention. You then have to make sure the people are wanting to come back to the site time after time, this will help gain the trust. My intuition tells me that people do not like to be sold to, but this is what we do with our websites, constantly talking about how wonderful we are. In reality we should actually be talking about the potential homeowner, the landlord, the person selling their house. We need to give them value, be it educational, entertaining or even free advice, this will make them want to keep coming back to their website.

Estate agents could learn alot from the likes of Knight Frank or Savills. They are not having issues with Purplebricks and low fees at the moment. The difference between Knight Frank and Savills is that they are not telling everyone how wonderful they are. They create valuable and interesting content that is of interest to their target market.

Estate Agents should create content that people will miss if you stopped doing it.”

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3 – I recently read that when buying and selling a house people still prefer that human interaction as it builds trust. In order to survive do you think independent agents should utilise their online media to become more personal?

“My instinct tells me that people buy from people they don’t buy from brands. Of course there are huge conglomerate brands people buy from for example; Nike, Virgin and Apple. To my knowledge there are no UK estate agents at that level. Therefore, people buy from people. I think we as an industry in the UK are very good at hiding behind our brand. When in reality we should be pushing our people more so we can start building trust.

Social media is a fantastic way to communicate to engage with thousands of people in your town. There are only three ways you can communicate as a human. First is in the written sense, the second is audio through telephone and podcasts. The third is visual which is tv, video or even better…. face to face.

The power of social media is huge. Think about it… an estate agency, 100% of their customers live in the town they operate in because… they live in the house they own. So by creating interesting content in your local area it will help build trust. That is the power of social media.

For me Estate Agencies are ruining social media. They are continuously talking about how great they are instead of creating engaging content that their audience wants to read. As I previously stated, People do business with people they trust.”

4 – Lots of agents are continuously using social media as a means to post listings. What would you say the best strategies would be to increase engagement and generate leads from social media?

“Stop talking about yourselves, stop talking about your firm, stop talking about your services and start talking about things that are interesting, educational, intriguing to all the homeowners and landlords in your town.

The only people who care about how good your agency is will be you and your mum. Estate Agents need to ask themselves… Do they care about the local accountancy firm? Of course they don’t so why should people care about how good your agency has become.

Start talking about the punters and you will win”

5 – What would be the best ways for independent estate and letting agents to overcome the challenge of the online agent?

“I am of the opinion that high street estate agents over the 10 to 20 years have become lazy and have not been proactive enough. We have created a monster called Rightmove where all we have to do is upload our properties on there and they will sell. Therefore, the perception amongst house sellers is that all estate agents do is ‘wack it on rightmove, so why the hell should they pay the estate agent £4,000, when they only have to pay an online agent £900. They perceive it as the same job.

High street estate agents need to prove their worth. They need to create worth by demonstrating that it isn’t the case of just putting a house on rightmove. It is about once they find the right buyer it is then about negotiating the higher price of an online agent.

The best advice I can give agents, go through every single offer you have had in your office over the last 12 months, work out how much you have negotiated from the initial offer to the highest offer. Work out the average and feed it back to your audience by saying…. I get my owners an extra £12,000 on top, with the way in which I sell your house and negotiate.

You have to add value to your estate agency so potential customers can see the benefits of using you over the online agent.”

For more interesting insights into the property industry like this give Chris a follow via the channels below.

Linkedin – Christopher Watkin Official
YouTube – Christopher Watkin Channel
Website – Christopher Watkin Official Website

 

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