The London Lite headline on 6 May 2008 stated that 150 estate agencies were closing each week.
The article explained that Movewithus predicted that about 4000 estate agents will shut by December. The NAEA were saying that banks need to free up mortgage applications and Spicerhaart have closed nine branches according to the report.
Can it really be 150 per week? I don’t think so, but it does emphasise the mood and also highlights the issues that the travel industry faced many years ago, namely, your customers are online (and mobile) and are moving away from the high street.
So, what can agents do? I have banged on about investing in a good basic website and embracing the Internet and I will continue to do so. When the industry has settled the agents who survive will the ones with a strong web presence and a forward thinking attitude to online marketing, it is as simple as that!
I am therefore dismayed to read in the May issue of the Negotiator a debate between Sean and Robert King who are behind none other than the above predictors of doom, the estate agency network, movewithus. Sean King may be playing devil's advocate but in a debate about whether estate agents should include social networking sites as part of their marketing strategies there are some alarming comments.
Here are a few choice comments (not taken out of context I hasten to add):
(a) 'Social networking sites users are typically teens and twenty somethings clearly not estate agent target audience'
(b) 'Making friends is hardly the same as winning new clients'
(c) 'Agents should forget about social networking sites and instead ensure they offer a personalised, high-quality ....'
Well, just taking these three statements in turn: (a) not only is this space made up of all age demographics, but twenty somethings are your future clients, students who use your site for lettings will go on to use you to buy, (b) Seth Godin makes the point that you are supposed to make friends and then turn friends into customers. The days of bullying customers into submission are gone, (c) 'a personalised service'! how much more personalised can you get that social networking?! I don't believe he has seen a social networking site.
Overall, these comments are akin to saying ignore traffic lights whilst driving.
As I say, he may just be playing up for the purpose of the debate, but I would say to all agents, ignore his comments.
Social networking may not be absolutely right for your business, but you should investigate. The chances are you can find something 'useful' to offer potential clients within this media. Offer users something they may need now or in the future and the chances are you will win future business, it really is just common sense (oh, and it is free!!!).
Anyway, I am off to work on our facebook page, which remains 'in development'.