Blogs, wikis, and websites contain facts, figures, how tos, and everything you want to know about buying, selling, or investing in real estate. I heard Les Brown say, “If everyone had information then we would all be rich, skinny, and happy.” Overwhelmed consumers need some way of interpreting this data both online and from a live real person. Compensation equals interpretation, which is why I believe those who explain the process using innovative technology will prevail in years to come.
According to the 2007 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 57% of all buyers and 77% of first time home thought the benefit of the real estate agent during the purchase process was that the agent helped buyers understand the process.
REALTORS® must become educators, presenters, and fluent communicators in order to serve their buyer clientele. Buyer counseling sessions explain the process but are limited to one on one with the client. Home buyer seminars are better because they group like-minded consumers together to understand the process. Live events however consume more time, money, and require a physical location. Instead, deliver the same presentation online at a fraction of the cost.
There are several advantages of hosting a home buyer seminar online vs. live:
1. No printing costs. All documents, spreadsheets, sample contracts, and PowerPoint presentations can be uploaded to the web. Use http://Docs.Google.com to upload existing Microsoft documents (versions 97-2003). Share documents by hyperlink, or posting a widget to your website or blog.
2. No physical location. I have worked with hotels, community centers, and have had logistical nightmares coordinating audio/video and a time that would work best for my schedule. Online frees up time for travel for both your staff and for your attendees.
3. Anonymity of clients. Virtual events allow attendees to express themselves more openly and freely compared to a live setting.
4. Data collection. Online registration forms, surveys, loan applications, and buyer agency agreements can be filled out on the spot electronically and quickly organized into client folders for distribution and follow up.
Here are the steps:
1. Choosing right technology. Online events require robust technologies that will work together and work alike to streamline activities, execute the message, and allow for interaction among your audience. Create the following free accounts:
a. www.Box.net This site lets you upload files of any type to your profile which then can be shared by hyperlink, or posting a widget containing all of the files to your website or blog. Examples files can be sample contracts, loan application, buyer agency agreement and rent vs. own spreadsheets.
b. http://Docs.Google.com Upload existing Microsoft documents (versions 97-2003) to share more documents using hyperlinks. Use Google Docs for Microsoft documents can continue to change with each presentation. For example, PowerPoints, forms, surveys, and handouts may each be different depending on the type of home buyer seminar. Each document can be embedded into a website or posted as its own link. For example embed a PowerPoint presentation of the seminar into your website and create a registration form to capture attendees information for effective follow up.
c. www.Stickam.com To go live on the web with video with your home buyer seminar, Stickam will stream the entire session for free. All you need is a web cam or video camera that has a USB 2.0 or firewire connection. Also, encourage interaction by asking questions or post favorite links using the built in instant messenger. Stickam gives HTML source code to embed the TV like station into your own website.
d. www.FreeConferenceCall.com Create an audio recording of the online home buyer seminar for those who do not have a computer, speakers working on their computer or missed the session entirely. FreeConferenceCall.com is a free service which gives you access up to 96 people, your own number, and meeting ID #. A conference call requires at least two people.
2. Selecting location. The location of the online home buyer seminar should be on your website or blog in the form of a page. This page will reference your web page with several numbers or characters following the domain. To shorten the URL buy a separate domain name or URL with the suffix .TV and forward that domain URL to one of the pages you have created on the website or blog. This will create brand awareness and will be easier to remember a longer URL.
3. Registration. The following pertains to free home buyer seminar registration. Create an account at http://Docs.Google.com and select new – create a form. Enter a title and short welcome message. Types of questions can include fields, paragraph text, menu choices, radio buttons, and check boxes. Here is an example of a form http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=p5g3XfKPKBcRJuVI6m9vdYw The form can be its own website or embedding into a website. Answers will appear in spreadsheet form which can be download into a .csv format and easily imported into Microsoft Outlook or other contact management software.
4. Schedule seminar. The best time to hold a home buyer seminar is during off peak work hours. This includes after 5pm on weekdays and daylight hours on weekends. Since no physical location is mandatory it will be easier to change times and dates if registration is low. This workshop should be one hour maximum including time for questions answers.
5. Marketing. Successful online seminars require multiple distribution channels, aggressive email marketing, and high level of influence to be successful. Distribution channels may include: blog readership, connections/friends on online social networking sites, and relationships with local media contacts, vendors, and affiliates. Multiply your efforts by asking contacts to spread the word to their network using copy/paste templates (where you send the text and recipient pastes message into selected media).
6. Selecting sponsors. Choose sponsors that have the greatest level of influence online instead of how much money they will invest since there is no cost for online seminars. Ask the sponsor for distribution of marketing on their blog, website, email marketing or social media in return for publicity during the event or referrals for attendees. Make sponsor handouts available on your Box.net widget. Invite sponsors to say hello during the event as an extra bonus. Stickam allows for up to 6 people to stream live.
7. Agenda. Start the presentation by welcoming everyone to the seminar and address the agenda of how the entire hour will be spent. Attendees need framework for online education otherwise be confused, distracted, and not know what to expect next. Start with your best material first to gain interest and consistently add quality content that others cannot find by themselves alone. Allow for 15 minutes toward the end to answer questions. Mention that you will be giving away something of value at the end to keep people present until they have completed the survey.
8. Delivery. Explain how video, audio, instant messaging, downloadable documents, and survey will be integrated with one another to maximize the learning experience. Those who are on the teleconference using the phone will need to mute the speakers on their computer.
9. Takeaways. Resources shared online come in many different formats. Since prospects only have a limited amount of time with you during the online seminar it is important for them to be able to receive a variety of different takeaways in several different formats ie., according to learning style. Auditory learners will prefer the recorded session which can be posted to a website, blog, or downloaded from iTunes. Create the audio file using www.FreeConferenceCall.com, edit the file using http://audacity.sourceforge.net, and upload the file to www.HipCast.com to create web link and RSS feed to publish the audio file. Visual learners will prefer the downloadable handouts, PDFs, and PowerPoint presentations uploaded to www.Box.Net or http://Docs.Google.com. Interactive learners will enjoy downloading the documents ahead of time and reviewing the recommended websites, mortgage calculators and searches online themselves once they know where to go. Videos uploaded or posted to YouTube can be another great source of information for home buyers to learn the process.
10. Survey attendees. The best way to receive feedback from the presentation is to ask for feedback. Create a survey using Google Docs to ask questions to receive feedback from those who attended. This data is compiled automatically as surveys are being filled out.
11. Follow up. Questions that should appear on registration form or survey should be, “What is your preference method of communication”, and “how should I continue to follow up with you?” Determine motivation for when they are going to move and decide how you should follow up with them. Just because they asked more questions does not mean that they are more motivated than others.