Like most modern professionals, real estate agents rely on online reviews to bring in business. While the number of people who read reviews to choose an agent is lower than the 84% average across all industries at 62%, this figure still represents more than half of an agent's potential clients.
Reviews can help with some of the intense marketing challenges realtors face.
Challenge #1: The plethora of competition
For example, 3,658 possibilities come up when you run a search for Dallas, TX realtors on Realtors.com. While the city is certainly big enough to offer a lot of opportunity for a lot of people, that means a Dallas realtor must find a way to stand out against 3,658 competitors.
Distinguishing yourself is only half the battle, of course. The other half is getting visible enough for it to matter, especially online, where it's all too easy to get lost in a sea of search results.
Challenge #2: The customer's perception of what realtors, particularly buyer's agents, actually do.
Many people believe "helping buyers find houses" is the only role of the buyer's agent. This role is completely obsolete in the Internet age, as customers can easily scan any number of sites to find all sorts of possibilities.
This means buyer's agents constantly must educate consumers on the parts of their role that have nothing to do with the home search, such as assisting with the thorny home buying and negotiation process.
Of course, the problem isn't restricted to buyer's agents. Though FSBO sales still account for less than 10% of real estate sales nationwide, there's been a sharp increase in the number of sellers making the attempt for the first time. The Internet lends many sellers a great deal of false confidence about their chances of successfully "going it alone."
Solution: A solid review management strategy
Reviews aren't a cure-all for these problems, but implementing a focused review strategy can still help real estate agents.
1. Having a large number of highly-specific reviews can makes it easier to stand out from the competition.
2. The SEO value of reviews is difficult to overstate when you're already fighting such an uphill battle in terms of visibility.
3. The right reviews offer satisfied clients the opportunity to educate potential clients about the value you've brought to the table, without you having to bang that drum quite so loud.
Fortunately, enacting a solid review strategy isn't difficult. You can automate large portions of the process.
The shape of the perfect review
The best real estate agent reviews help you solve the problems of differentiation and value communication by offering highly specific information about how you helped clients.
It's easy to see this agent is doing a heck of a lot more than listing a home for sale on the internet.
The review above is a great example. Note how the reviewer called out:
1. The realtor's expertise and knowledge of the policies, procedures, and processes of this seller's company relocation program.
2. Knowledge of laws and regulations. How this seller went the extra mile to help buyers find a new lender when the buyer's agent failed them.
3. Though it's not skill based, his ability to remain positive and transparent throughout the process certainly makes it clear this realtor is very pleasant and easy to work with.
Here's one for a buyer's agent:
Better than Agent Craigslist? Absolutely.
This one helps to communicate the value of the buyer's agent by:
1. Calling out this realtor's dedication to answering all the questions which the buyer had. She's an expert in a way an internet search can't replace.
2. The buyer had his "hand held" through the entire process, which helps to serve as a reminder that buying a house involves a lot more steps than pulling out a checkbook.
3. This buyer's agent did a good job of managing the client's emotions throughout a process notorious for the levels of stress it can cause.
Notice both of these reviews also stress what a great communicator the agent is. This is because a lack of communication is the biggest complaint customers have about real estate agents, hands down. If you want 5-star reviews you absolutely have to keep customers in the loop...even if you have to tell them news they'd rather not hear.
Zen and the art of getting more useful reviews
Right about now you may be thinking: okay, but I can't control my clients. I can't force them to write reviews. I can't force them to write reviews that help me.
But you can create the conditions which make both these actions a lot more likely.
Step 1: Ask for reviews as habitually as you ask for referrals, in person.
The closing is done. Your client is thrilled. They're riding the high of either accepting those keys or giving them away.
This might be the time you're already asking for a couple of referrals. You can also make your personal, verbal ask for a review at this time.
The way you word this will determine the type of review you get. You could say: "Do you mind leaving me a review online?"
But if you do, you're going to get something that's not too helpful, like this:
This review may have made the agent feel great, but it's really not that helpful.
Instead, ask: "If I've provided you with outstanding service, could you please leave a review on your favorite review site telling people about some of the ways I helped you buy/sell your house?"
Customers are usually happy to help, but you have to tell them how to help!
Step 2: Automate an email drip campaign for the follow up review request.
You don't need a long campaign. In fact, three emails will do it: one sent one day after closing, one sent three days after closing, and one sent 7 days after closing.
Just make sure you write the emails with the same principles in mind. Ask for the help you want. Here, you can even ask some longer questions like:
Of course, you might fear your clients aren't happy at all. If that's the case you have two choices:
1. Avoid asking for the review at all.
2. Ask for the feedback, but set up the campaign in a way that takes unhappy customers to a comment form where they can rant to you instead of the internet, giving you a chance to make it right.
Want to see what this might look like?
Step 3: Consider an SMS Campaign for your review request.
Chances are you've been doing a lot of communication with your clients via text already. You can leverage this.
Here are 40 SMS templates you can use to request reviews. Send one quick text a day or two after the closing. You don't want to spam your client's phone, but you do want to take advantage of the fact that text offers a higher response rate than just about any other medium.
The best realty industry review sites to build credibility and visibility
Realtors really need to focus their efforts on the following five sites.
Google is the most important for SEO purposes. Most customers who don't know much about the other sites will stop here. It also happens to be the site that seems to rack up the worst of the one-liner, unhelpful reviews. Fortunately, prompting your clients works as well for Google as it works for any other site.
Facebook reviews are now Facebook recommendations...which is nice for you. People are unlikely to leave a negative "recommendation." They're only going to "recommend" those they like! Just make sure you have a separate Facebook page set up for your realty business. You can't collect reviews on your personal page.
Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia dominate the marketplace and should receive the bulk of your review generation efforts. In part this is because clients are a lot more demanding about reviews on these sites. Customers tend to think any review on realtor-specific review sites that's more than a few months old isn't relevant. That means you're going to have to receive a steady stream of them over time to receive the benefits of being on each.
The big assumption
All of this advice operates on one big assumption: you actually are providing the high level of value required to generate 5-star reviews. You really are the agent who does a lot more for your clients than Agent Google, Agent Craigslist, or even Agent Zillow can.
You're communicative and responsive. You don't over-promise and underdeliver. You go above and beyond to protect your client's best interests.
If that's not you, none of this advice will help you. There's not a technique, a follow-up, or a trick on the planet that can.
If you're not getting very many reviews, or you're getting bad ones, look to the way you practice real estate, too. Make sure you're doing everything in your power to be the best agent you can be. Study successful agents who are getting those top-notch reviews. Seek them out for mentorship if you need to.
Clean house first.
Then? You can enact these techniques and grow your business as never before.