Posts by Harley Wolfarth

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August
12

This time around, instead of offering some advice or action items related to running a real estate business (I'm hardly an expert in that regard, anyway), I wanted to explore some of what goes into developing new functionality in the DeltaNET®. Specifically, we run into hurdles when designing the functionality before any technical ones even come into play.  

We love to build out new functionality based on customer feedback and requests. After all, our customers are the ones actually using the platform and working in the industry it's meant to support, so they are the ones most likely to see its shortcomings or where the opportunities for growth lie. However, some challenges to this software development approach weren't immediately obvious to me as my role at Delta Media Group® changed from one related to support and training to one that is more deeply ingrained in the direction of the DeltaNET itself. Simply put, "you don't know what you don't know." 

My time in technical support has made me deeply familiar with the concept overall. If you really don't know anything about an issue or a process that's having a problem, you don't even know what questions to ask to troubleshoot it. It turns out that the same concept applies to designing new functionality. For example, if I wanted to design software that simulates the flight path of paper airplanes, but I knew nothing about paper airplane flight mechanics, I wouldn't know what the software should take into account when creating the simulation. This is where the research begins.  

If there is some existing software out there that does something similar to what I'm trying to do, I can start my research there. Not to make my own version of what they're doing (because what would be the point?) but to gain some insight into the context of the problem I want my software to solve. This isn't always an option, though. Sometimes, you are designing something completely novel, so there's nothing in existence with which you can compare. In that case, you move straight to the next step, and you consult an expert.  

Software developers are experts in developing software, not necessarily the industry where that software is meant to be used. Therefore, they need to rely on the expertise of people that work in that field to know what to build and how to build it. It sounds straightforward enough, but in practice, that's where some interesting issues come up. It turns out that, in addition to not knowing what you don't know, when you're an expert on some subject matter, you often don't know what you do know either.  

To stick with our paper airplane example (because who doesn't love a good paper airplane?), if you're out there designing and flying paper airplanes every day, much of what you do to make one fly well has become automatic to you. Suppose someone came to you and asked, what are the most important elements to consider when designing a new model? In that case, you might be able to point out the shape of the wing and the weight distribution from the folds in the paper immediately, but you've been folding in the tip of the airplane on every model for so long that it's become second nature. You then leave out that detail because it's just so obvious to you that it doesn't come to mind. This leads to version 1 of the software leaving it out, too, so nothing flies quite right. This is why it's so important to think through every element of a feature in as much detail as possible when designing something new. 

Try as you might, but you'll never think of everything the first time around. That's why it's important to create things with as much flexibility as possible. And even if you do manage to think of everything the first time around when designing new functionality, times change. Maybe a few years down the road, a new kind of paper will hit the market that turns the whole paper airplane-making convention right on its head (it's a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea). We need to be able to account for those kinds of changes. 

Even though many of our features and revisions come from customer feedback, unfortunately, not everything can make the cut. Keep in mind that something that sounds like a good idea on paper might either not work or not be particularly useful in practice. More commonly, ideas will come in that just lack insight into the bigger picture. It's a great idea by itself, but when it comes to implementing it into the larger platform, it either doesn't make sense or just doesn't make sense exactly as presented. In an ideal world, everyone would get exactly what they want, but when it comes down to it, leaving out some things will result in a more reliable and well-rounded system overall, to the benefit of everyone using it.  

We have to make this tradeoff to have the best overall platform. So just remember, if you're one of those customers sending us your feedback and good ideas, even if we don't implement your idea, that doesn't mean there isn't value in it. Elements of your idea influence the platform and how we think about what we add to it. Also, consider it an idea that might not be a good fit today but could still become one in the future. We may never find perfection, but we'll never stop striving for it, either. And every idea, suggestion, or bit of feedback gets us closer. So, keep them coming. 

June
6

In the past few months, you've probably noticed that listing inventory has been extremely low, at least in most of the country. As if it wasn't enough that current homeowners are less apt to sell during these uncertain times, labor shortages and supply chain issues have slowed new home builders down. When you're used to most of your real estate marketing being centered around new listings, it can be tough to keep the leads coming in with limited listings on the market.

But fear not, because I've laid out some tools you can use to keep marketing your brand so that when people are looking to sell again or for those that are still looking to buy now, you're the first name that comes to mind.

Use Ad Wizard to Post to Social Media

Even when you don't have any active listings, you can still market yourself and your website on social media. There's nothing wrong with a Facebook or Instagram ad that just features you and links prospects back to your website instead of features a listing. Even when inventory is low, plenty of buyers are still looking, and your website can still provide them with a lot of value, given that buyers must find and inquire about a new listing fast if they want to have any hope of getting it in today's market.

Suppose a customer comes to your Delta website and saves a search. In that case, they can be notified immediately via both email and push notification when a new listing that matches their search criteria comes on the market. That has always been useful, but with how fast listings are selling at the moment, having that kind of edge is more important than ever. Ad Wizard is a feature that can be found in DeltaNET® that allows you to create several different kinds of ads and post them to Facebook or Instagram. It includes simple branded ads to market yourself and get people coming to your website to save those searches or even just look around.

Set up "My Customer For Life"

The My Customer For Life (MCFL) system is another great feature of a Delta Media Group® website and CRM that can keep your customers engaged even when you don't have listings to show them. If you've read any of my articles before, then you know that the MCFL system is a common topic for me. What can I say? It works. We even have the data to back it up. Whether they're buying, selling or are happy right where they are, clients like these articles, and the open rates prove it. There's no better way to keep a customer engaged than sending them the information they actually want.

For those unfamiliar with the MCFL system, this system allows you to share informational articles related to buying, selling and homeownership via email, social media and your website. Even those past clients that are no longer in the market will find a lot of value in reading them. The best part is that, in addition to making them available to read on a page of your website, you can add your clients to a mailing list to have a few of these articles sent directly to their email each week. The system then keeps track of the articles they engage with so that it can send them more of those kinds of articles in the future. New articles are created in-house each week by our extremely talented content writers. Did I say they're talented? Well, they are.

Start Blogging

If you'd rather create your own content, Delta websites also include a blogging platform. Like the MCFL system, these articles can be shared in ways beyond just your website. You can subscribe past clients to your blog, or they can subscribe themselves on your website so that they're notified every time you write a new article. You can also share these articles on social media or, even better, configure the Social Connector system in the DeltaNET® to post them to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for you every time you write a new article.

Share Good Reviews

Next to listings, there's nothing that brings customers directly to you more effectively than good reviews. Not only can you store your customer reviews in the DeltaNET and display them on your website, but you can use the Email Campaign or Eblast system to solicit them from your past clients. You can even configure Social Connector to share them to your social media accounts automatically as they come in. This is a great way to market yourself and your website when there aren't a lot of listings, and like MCFL, it's almost entirely hands-off after a little configuration.

Make eCards and Flyers

Don't forget about ecards and flyers. Creative Studio, along with the legacy eCards & Flyers system found on the Marketing Center page, might be something that you're accustomed to using for sending out ecards for listings. However, there are numerous templates in both systems designed to help you market yourself too. Some are just branded marketing pieces, but there are a wide variety of designs for occasional greetings like holidays and birthdays as well. There are even designs meant to celebrate pet birthdays. Every time you send a "Happy Birthday," "Happy Easter" or "National Donut Day" ecard to a past client or prospect, it becomes that much more likely that you're the person they'll call when listings start coming back on the market.

This all goes to show that, even in times when there aren't many listings available, there are plenty of ways you can continue to market yourself. Real estate marketing isn't entirely about listings. Content related to homeownership and even things as simple as a holiday greeting card can help put your brand on top when the listings return and buying and selling ramps up again. It's coming, and your diligence will pay off when it does.

May
4

Lead routing is important. Let's face it: Getting lead opportunities to the right person to handle them is the best way to provide that customer with the kind of service you want to be known for. Not only are you going to get more closings from happier customers, but it's a great way to entice more agents to join your brokerage, and to keep the ones you have. Quality leads come from meeting an expectation of excellent service. Excellent service comes, in part, from getting the customer a prompt response from someone well equipped to help them. Unfortunately, when it comes to lead routing (and most things in life, really) there's no single solution here that is just "the way." There are too many factors to take into account from one brokerage to the next. Your market, agents, and business model all come into play, so I can't tell you exactly what's "best" for you. Also, what's "best" might even change as the market does. What I can do is give you some options. The more you know about what processes are available, the easier it will be for you to try some things and work out what's best for your business.

Backup Agent System for Website Leads

First, there's a good chance that you've heard the phrase, "Your listing, your lead." However, the listing agent isn't always the best person to handle a buyer lead. Even on their own listings, some listing agents don't want those incoming buyer leads at all. That doesn't necessarily mean they want to give them away to just anyone, though. It's this kind of scenario that lead to the creation of our Backup Agent System. When this system is enabled, it allows agents to define their own backup agents. If an agent has backup agents defined, the system will give them the first opportunity to respond to a new lead. If they don't respond within a preset amount of time, that lead will then become available to their backup agents so that they can respond instead. As far as the DeltaNET® is concerned, that lead still belongs to the listing agent to whom it was originally assigned. However, it's also accessible to the backup agent so that they can manage the correspondence with the potential buyer. This process benefits the brokerage in that the lead can be handled more quickly if the listing agent is otherwise engaged, while still benefitting the listing agent by getting the lead to them and allowing them to define who they're willing to work with on it.

So if the company website leads for company listings are handled with the Backup Agent System described above, that pretty much just leaves us with leads on IDX listings. There are numerous ways of handling these, but the methods below seem to be the most common and most successful. Keep in mind, though, the one that's going to be the most successful for you depends on a number of factors. The nice thing here is that you're not locked into any of these methods once you choose one. Nor are you limited to just these options exactly as I've laid them out. I'm only scratching the surface of the lead settings available to you in the DeltaNET; there are always settings that will allow you to really dial this in to fit your business. Don't be afraid to experiment.

Lead Broadcast

Your first option is the tried-and-true lead broadcast to agents. Whenever a new lead comes in on an IDX listing, the system picks up that listing's zip code and broadcasts the lead to a group of agents that cover that zip code. Broadcasting is the fastest way to get a lead straight to an agent so that the customer gets a response as quickly as possible. You can control the maximum number of agents who receive this broadcast at once, but the idea is that any lead that waits more than five minutes for a response has already gone elsewhere, so the more agents that get notified, the better. This also fosters some competition. The fastest person to accept the lead gets to keep it, so the most successful agents work hard to stay on top of their notifications. Often, the single broadcast based on zip code is enough. However, it can also be set to rebroadcast to a new set of agents automatically if the lead isn't picked up in a predefined amount of time. You can even have it broadcast to hundreds of agents at once (I think 250 is the most I've ever seen) to maximize the chances of someone picking it up within the first few minutes. Another common broadcast option is to have the leads go only to a subset of agents who have earned their right to receive them. If all of the agents in your brokerage cover the same service area, this can also be set to just include everyone without worrying about zip codes at all. 

Lead Incubation Team

This next option seems to be getting more and more common each year. That is to route all company leads to a lead incubation team. The added benefit here is that this covers those customers who are just saving listings and searches instead of only those making requests on listings. Not only can that team assess whether or not that lead is active and engaged enough to work with an agent, but if they're not, this team can work with them through things like drip email marketing to get them there. This is great for agents because, when the lead does get to them, it's fully qualified. If every agent knows that every company lead they get has a pretty high chance of closing, they'll really value those leads. It's not for everyone, though. The biggest barrier here is having the resources and lead volume necessary to build a team like this. Also, in many cases, the agents are fully capable (and willing) to incubate these leads themselves. In fact, agents are often doing this kind of lead incubation anyway. In those cases, they might be better off establishing their brand with the customer right from the beginning so it would be best to get the lead assigned to the agent (by broadcasting it to them, perhaps) immediately so that they can just add them into their own established lead incubation process if they're not yet ready to buy or sell.

Leads Administrator Assignment

Not every brokerage has their business set up in a way that supports the above options. Your brokerage may not yet be big enough to warrant the above options-and, especially when you're first getting established, you want to keep a close eye on every lead. In these cases, it's nice that the DeltaNET is built in a way that can grow with you. Initially, you can have every IDX lead assigned to you directly as the Leads Admin. You can even have all of the contact and request information included in the notification email so that, instead of forcing your agents to log into the system to go through the steps of marking the lead as processed, you can simply forward the notification to them and assign the lead later. This has the benefit of getting the customer a response quickly and, as long as you're following through with the assignment, you're getting the system set up in such a way that it will be ready for you when you have more agents and resources at your disposal and really want to get into what it can do. When you grow to the point at which you're getting enough leads that you can't route or handle them all yourself anymore, just change a few settings, and now they get broadcast to the other agents directly.

Whatever lead routing solution you go with, just remember that the key to success really amounts to good customer service. The faster the customer gets a response from a real person with the information they need, the better the chance they'll work with that person to buy their dream home. Or sell it, as the case may be. So don't underestimate the importance of pairing them with the right agent fast. Also know that this is only the tiniest fraction of what the DeltaNET lead routing system can do. So, if you have special cases where leads who match specific criteria should be routed in specific ways, there's a good chance the DeltaNET can do it!

December
6

I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell you that, at Delta Media Group®, we learned a lot this year. We learned that deer will go out of their way to climb onto an expressway and jump in front of your car even in broad daylight (maybe only I learned that). We learned that working remotely really does work, but it's not for everyone. We learned that when big hedge funds are involved, the stock market looks a lot like a casino. Lastly, and most importantly, as far as this article is concerned, we learned that simplicity is one of the most important elements when it comes to making something that people want to use.

I don't mean to make things simple at the cost of functionality. It's more about knowing how your clients will use whatever it is that you're building so that you can know what functionality to put right in front of them, and what can be tucked into the background. It's also about recognizing — and, in some cases, eliminating — any unnecessary steps in a process. There's little more frustrating than performing the same task repeatedly, being asked the same question as part of the process of completing that task, and answering it the same way every time. The easy remedy is to just use that answer automatically so that, in 99 out of 100 tries, it's already correct, and the user gets to skip a step. For that 1 out of 100 anomaly, there just needs to be some alternative way to change that answer in that single case.

This has all been pretty abstract so far, so let's look at some specific applications. In the DeltaNET®, it's possible for an admin to customize what buttons appear on the landing pages and Welcome page for their agents. If you can predict the most common actions, your agents take when logging in, you can add the necessary buttons to develop a workflow there that will take them where they need to go in the least amount of time. For example, let's say that the thing your agents do most when logging into the DeltaNET is add a customer and send them a "Happy to be Working With You" e-card. You can put an Add Customer button at the top of their Welcome page, so that's the first thing they see when they log in. They need only click it and enter their customer's information. You can put a Send e-card button right next to it that will take them straight into Creative StudioTM so that they just need to choose their template and click send. The button that links to Creative Studio could even take them to a page that's already filtering the templates to those in the category of e-cards they're most likely to want to use.

The same principle can be applied to every landing page in the DeltaNET. If users are usually looking to create or modify their custom pages when they click on the Website tab, why not give them a button right on top that takes them straight there? If they're generally interested in adding a blog article every time they click on Marketing, give them a shortcut there. You get the idea.

The other side of that coin is to avoid presenting a lot of extra buttons and options that the majority of users won't be interested in using. Of course, you still want those things to be available, but putting them right at the same level as "Add Customer" is going to add clutter, distraction, and sometimes even confusion. Fortunately, the DeltaNET allows you to make something called a Tile Collection. It basically allows you to put a button on the Welcome page that simply opens a modal that contains other tiles. With this, you can put your Add Customer, Send e-card, Send Email buttons on the Welcome page, then have a single, additional button labeled something like "Advanced Features" or simply "More...". Clicking on that would then pop up a window that contains tiles to the other equally valuable but lesser-used features. This allows you to cater to the power users while keeping it simple for everyone else. The easier you can make it, and the fewer distractions and extra options the user needs to read through to get to what they want, the more everyone will use it. This, in turn, leads to more agents sticking around for the tools that make it easier for them to run their business.

This really translates to the public website side of things as well. At Delta Media Group, we have ongoing projects to assess the usability of various features of the public websites that are shared throughout the system. However, especially when it comes to the individual sales associate websites, there's a lot you can do to make it a more friendly experience for clients that are coming to your website to search for properties. Nobody knows your clients and your market better than you do. As a real estate sales associate, you're the expert there. So why not use that expertise to drive your clients' experience on your website? Your quick search stays front and center for those users that know what, or where, they're looking and want to jump straight into the results. For those that might not be so sure, you could put links to common searches right on your homepage or in your top navigation. Maybe there are some popular school districts or subdivisions in your area. You could put obvious links to search results pages for those areas right on your homepage. You can even go a step further by creating dedicated landing pages for those areas. This has the added benefit of setting your website apart (for those clients and search engines) by adding some valuable, unique, market-specific content to it. You can put a search results section right on that page as well. That presents customers with a single page of dedicated listings in the area they want that gives them information and highlights about that area as well as a display of all of the available properties there.

Just how a well-structured and intuitive DeltaNET helps with agent adoption and retention, a user-friendly and intuitive website leads to better client adoption and retention. Your expertise in the markets you know gives you an edge over all the big portal sites by allowing you to make a website and real estate search experience that really caters to those interested in your market. If you can provide those clients with the superior experience, they'll keep coming to your site. They may even tell their friends, thereby driving more traffic and leads to you. It's all about providing the best and easiest experience.

Let's face it, the reason people are lined up around the block for the small, locally owned, one-room restaurant instead of heading to the nearest big chain restaurant is because that local place does it the best. The best food and the best experience. In real estate, you can't do much about the "food," but you can provide the best experience, and that's what's going to get them to come to you instead of the portal sites.

At Delta Media Group, we're taking these ideas to heart. It's good to be driven by the feedback of the vocal, power users that make up the minority of the user base. But while that feedback is very valuable, if that's all you look at, you can lose sight of keeping it simple in favor of adding the newest great idea. The key is in adding those features without distracting from the simplicity that the other 99% want and need to run their business every day. The DeltaNET needs to remain as robust and powerful as ever, and we will always endeavor for it to be your one-stop shop for all of the tools and resources you need to run your real estate business. However, right on the surface for day-to-day use, the things that you need most, and most often, will stay right in your face so that you don't need to go looking for them or go through a dozen clicks, pages, or windows to use them. This year, we learned about "easy," and that's a lesson we're going to keep with us from here on out. We hope you do the same.


To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the December 2021 issue, click here

September
24

You're working too hard. But then, I don't have to tell you that, do I? What you might appreciate me telling you is that you don't have to.

Automation is taking over the world. You can use smart home products to turn on your coffee maker in the morning and turn on your bedroom lights when your alarm goes off. You can use your phone to wait on hold for you and have it ring when the other party picks up. Complaining about your phone bill has never been easier. So why not use that technology to help you maintain relationships with your customers too? Of course, there will always be the need for your personal touch here and there, but when it comes to informing your customers of new listings when they come on the market, keeping them up to date on market stats, and just generally staying in touch with relevant information and articles, save yourself the time and let the machine do it for you.

If you're just diving into the world of automating some of your marketing and customer communications, there are several features I can suggest that make it easy to get started. First, go turn on the Market Watch Report automation. It basically amounts to flipping a switch. Once activated, every customer that asks for information or a showing on your website will automatically have a Market Watch Report created based on the listing they made the request on. The system will then send them an email once a month with data related to that market.

E-card automations are equally simple. You can turn them on independently for new listings, open houses, and listings that have just sold. When you list a new property, schedule an open house, or sell a property, respectively, an e-card will be sent to whatever group of customers you choose. That means you can focus on that actual property listing while the system handles telling your customer database that it's on the market.

In addition to sending e-cards automatically when something happens with one of your listings, you can trigger e-cards on holidays or even customer-specific dates as well. We all love getting birthday and Christmas cards, but not everybody loves sending them. Even if you do, time is our most precious commodity, so free up as much as you can by having the DeltaNET® remember those dates and send them for you. The DeltaNET will remember, and can work with, some less obvious dates, too, as long as you enter them into your customers' accounts. Purchase anniversary? Sure, that one's easy. How about a wedding anniversary? It can handle that. Pet birthday? Now that's the fun one. You can bet that I'm going to remember the name of any real estate agent that sends me an e-card on my dog's birthday. I don't even know what day that is, so I'm impressed if you do (actually, you could probably just make up a date, and I'd believe you). Just being the name that pops into a person's head when they think about real estate is most of the battle, after all.

Another easy one is social posting automation. You can now have the DeltaNET automatically post your new listings, blog articles, customer reviews, market watches, recently sold listings, and about a half dozen other things to your social media accounts on your behalf. We're not just talking about Facebook, either. It can now post to LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter too. It's not always easy to maintain a social media presence, so the more of your posting that happens automatically, the better.

Some of the less obvious but equally easy to set up automations are the Behavioral Alerts. When activated, these will send an email or SMS message to your customers when they perform certain actions on your website. For example, if they visit your website for the first time in a couple of weeks, it can welcome them back. If they view enough properties on your website in a day, it can ask them if they need help. If they view the same property more than once, it can ask them if they'd like to get a showing scheduled.

The My Customer For Life system is another one that essentially just needs to be turned on with very little additional configuration. Just switch it on, set it to work on all new and existing customers, and let it run. It will send emails to your customers as frequently as weekly, though it can be configured to go out much less often, and the best part is that you don't even have to write the content for the articles it sends. We take care of all of that. It's even smart enough to keep track of which articles your customers click on when they get the email so that it can send them more similar articles each time it emails them. The result over time is that every customer receiving messages from your MCFL system gets a message that is uniquely catered to them. Simply getting your name in front of them is beneficial, but then associating your name with content they're really interested in, that isn't purely informational, like a saved search email, is that much more powerful when it comes to customer retention.

Those are just the automations that can be turned on with little to no actual configuration. They only scratch the surface of the automation tools available. You can also save searches for your customers (or they can save them on your website themselves) so that they're automatically notified when new listings they might like come on the market. It takes a little configuration to define precisely what your customer is looking for, but what's a prospective buyer more likely to respond to than an email telling them their dream house just came on the market?

Campaigns are another powerful tool to stay in touch, not only through email but via text message as well. Our prebuilt campaigns are often all you need, but if you want to go down the road of creating custom campaigns, you can really tailor the messaging in a way that speaks to customers based on how they came to know you or what they're looking for. You can segment customers into groups based on the general area they're interested in buying in, then add them to a campaign populated with messaging specific to that area. You can have a campaign pick up on the fact that the customer came into your database from a request they made on Zillow (it's a dirty word, I know, I'm sorry) and send them messages that are sensitive to that fact. You can even have a campaign that automatically sends only to customers that were added to your database because they signed on using Open House Connector at an open house you were hosting. It's not quite the same as a personal message sent directly to a prospect, but it's pretty close and, once you complete the initial configuration, you don't have to spend any time on it.

If you haven't gathered it yet, we're all about automation around here. The most important thing you can do in the name of customer retention is to make sure those you've worked with in the past don't forget about you. Sometimes, however, that can occasionally create a bit of a roadblock for growth. If you spend all your time trying to stay in touch with past clients, when will you prospect new ones? When will you pick up new listings, let alone market those listing and get them sold so that the current clients remain happy clients? The answer is automation. Not just form letters either, but real, intelligent automation. Form letters drive people to the 'unsubscribe' button. Automations that provide valuable, relevant, and even just interesting information drive people to become repeat customers.

July
26

COVID is over! Well, maybe not completely over, but I went to the grocery store without wearing a mask the other day, so we must be getting close. At least close enough that it's time for us to start thinking about life after COVID and what that means for marketing our listings.

It's tempting to see all of this as "getting back to normal" and immediately go back to handling things the way you did in 2019 — as if the whole pandemic amounted to nothing more than a year and a half hiatus. Avoid that impulse. Because, despite all of the hardships, we really learned a lot too.

Speaking from a real estate marketing perspective, some of the technological solutions built out in response to the pandemic — like virtual showing request functionality and virtual open house presentations — continue to be valuable tools even when there aren't any mandates keeping us at home. It always made sense to adopt these kinds of solutions. The pandemic just acted as the catalyst to get them developed right away. Likewise, it was a catalyst for us to learn about new ways of using streaming video and remote conferencing technology to meet with clients we couldn't talk to in person.

There are still plenty of valid-use cases for being able to handle virtual showing requests. Keeping those options available post-pandemic allows you to provide remote personal showings for clients whose schedules may be too busy to accommodate an in-person showing. Especially in a market where homes are selling so quickly, you can hardly wait for schedules to align. There's also a use case for clients that are interested in relocating or buying a second home. For someone moving from Chicago to New York, for example, it might be much more convenient for both of you if you walk them through some properties using Zoom or FaceTime instead of them flying out to see it in person. It just makes sense to continue to allow them to request that you show them the property that way.

Virtual Open Houses still have a place as well. As it stands now, real estate agents can record themselves walking through and presenting one of their listings to the unseen guests on the other side of the camera. They can then define a date and time that that video will become available and present that information, and a link to the video, on the listing detail pages on their website. It may have been the pandemic that drove the need for us to add that functionality to the DeltaNET®, but the idea of creating a video like that and presenting it to prospective buyers on your

website was nothing new. Even though we can perform traditional, in-person open houses again, there can still be a lot of benefits to recording a video like this, setting up a time for it to premiere on Facebook or YouTube, then promoting that premiere on your website and through social media. Anyone unable to make it to a physical open house can still benefit from your walk-through video. Even if there's nobody there to watch the video when it goes live, you have one more piece of marketing material you can use to promote that listing. It doesn't hurt that viewers can sign up on your website to attend the virtual open house, either, allowing you to capture their contact information as a lead as well.

Another thing the pandemic got us used to was live-streaming and virtual conferencing. Those two things aren't really the same, but they more or less serve the same purpose when it comes to promoting a listing. It's all about a live presentation of the listing through a medium in which you can interact with your viewers in real-time. When the pandemic started, there were a number of agents out there already using this kind of technology with some real success. It's particularly nice when presenting listings for second homes or vacation homes, as those buyers tend not to be local, but there's a place for it when promoting any listing. For example, maybe I'm really interested in your listing, so I'd like to attend an open house and ask you some questions about it before thinking about a personal showing, but I'm not able to attend an open house in person. If you're live-streaming a virtual open house of that property, I can "attend" it on your website, ask my questions, and get live answers in real-time. It's just another way to extend your reach to those that might not have otherwise been able to be present and extend that listing to as many potential buyers as possible.

Live streaming and pre-recorded videos can also have the added benefit of building out content on a YouTube channel. That's just another social media channel for you to build a presence to ultimately build your brand and your business. Besides, what better way to find out if your true calling is that of a YouTube content creator? You could be internet famous before you know it. Even if that doesn't work out, at least you're driving more traffic to your website and your listings in the meantime.

This last piece of technology didn't seem to get as much of a push during the pandemic as I would have expected, but I still feel like it deserves an honorable mention. That would be 360 photos and video. It came to the forefront for some because a potential buyer with a VR headset could use it to view one of these photos or videos as if they're actually standing in the property and looking around. Even those without a VR headset can still use their phone or tablet to "look around" within one of these photos or videos. This is the closest thing we have now to actually putting a potential buyer in a property when they can't physically be there. What's more, as the adoption of VR continues to grow, this will only get more and more important. So the more you can learn about using it now, the better.

COVID has taught us a lot. We learned that it's nearly impossible to wear a surgical mask for any significant length of time without your glasses fogging up. We learned that we don't wash our hands often enough, or for long enough. We learned interesting and unexpected things about the availability of toilet paper in a crisis. More importantly, we learned how to run a Zoom meeting, host a Facebook Live video, and present a property to a potential buyer via FaceTime. Now, let's try not to forget.

May
24

If you don't know anything about website and email domains, getting one set up can seem like a daunting task. However, the benefit of having one far outweighs the drawbacks, both in terms of the actual cost of the domain (usually) and the effort required to get it purchased and configured. I promise that it's not as difficult as it seems, and hopefully, this article will steer you in the right direction to get you started.

Before we get into the basics of how to buy and configure a domain, let's take a closer look at some of the benefits of owning and using one. First, ask yourself what's easiest to share with potential customers, and what's going to be easier for them to remember when they want to sit down and start searching for properties. Is it bobsmith.brokeragedomain.com or bobsmithrealestate.com? Not only is bobsmithrealestate.com going to be easier for most customers to remember, but since you can choose just about whatever you want for your domain (as long as nobody else chose it first), you can match it up to your brand to make it that much more memorable. Bob Smith, from our example, could double down on something like "Realtor Bob," have his website at realtorbob.com, and have his email as bob@ realtorbob.com. There might be some stipulations around using "realtor," but you get the idea.

The domain is the perfect way for you to solidify your brand while making yourself that much easier to reach.

That takes us to the next big benefit of having your own domain—hosted email. There's no debating the convenience of using Gmail or Yahoo for your email needs. However, as a matter of further cementing your brand and conveying the professionalism of your business, using an email account through your domain goes a long way. When communicating with someone about a transaction that is potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, wouldn't you feel more comfortable sending emails to bob@bobsmithrealestate.com instead of bobtherealtor@gmail.com?

Depending on the email host you go with, your hosted email account may include a myriad of other features and functionality as well. Office 365, for example, can come with the online version of the Microsoft Office suite. Google can provide hosted email as part of their Google Workspace product that includes numerous collaboration and calendar functionality along with the email account.

There's something to be said for the potential SEO benefit as well. Having a dedicated domain name pointed to your website ensures that all of your website's content is credited to it. This improves the strength of your domain and your brand and can even improve your website's search engine ranking. By itself, just having a domain name attached to your site isn't going to be enough to get you to the top of the search results, but it's a step in the right direction.

Many of the benefits of having a domain aren't just about having one, though. What domain you choose is also very important. Remember that this is about having something easy to remember, easy to type, and something that demonstrates your brand. It's not about trying to predict what customers in your market will search for and buying a domain to match. For example, if you have Bob Smith Realty on your website, logo, and signage, a good domain would be bobsmithrealty.com. If Bob Smith primarily works in the Roslyn, New York market, he might be tempted to buy domains like roslynpropertiesforsale.com and roslynnewyorkrealestate.com. Not only are those too general to be associated with him, but domains aren't search engines. A customer would need to remember that domain and type it in exactly to get to Bob's website. Just searching Google for "Roslyn properties for sale" likely won't have a greater chance of returning Bob's website simply because he has those domains attached to it. Also, since something so general is actually harder for a customer to remember, domains like this will often have the opposite effect from what you were hoping for when you bought it.

When it comes to getting your own domain and attaching it to your website, we make it easy to do through the DeltaNETTM. You'll find a "Purchase / Manage Domains" button on the domain settings page. If you just click that button and follow the instructions to search for and ultimately purchase a domain, the system will do all of the configurations for you. Once you've completed the steps, your new domain will already be set up with an HTTPS security certificate attached and be going to your website.

As far as adding hosted email to that domain or purchasing a domain through a third-party registrar and attaching it to your website, every registrar and email host has an interface that's a little different. This prevents me from being able to give you clear, step by step, instructions. However, I'll lay out the basics.

Both Delta Media Group's® support (assuming you're a Delta client) and the support available through the third-party domain registrar or email host of your choosing will be able to help you with the specifics. The basics of buying a domain come down to going to the registrar of your choice (GoDaddy is currently the most popular, but NameCheap and Network Solutions are others), searching for the domain you want, then following their instructions to purchase it. You can then add it to our system by clicking the "Setup a Domain I Own" button on the domain settings page in the DeltaNET and following the instructions. It will have you add a verification record to your domain, thereby proving to our system that you do own the domain in question, and then have you change your domain's name servers so that we can direct it to your website.

I realize that all sounds very intimidating, but when it really comes down to it, our system will tell you what to do with the domain, and you can then contact your registrar with those instructions. They'll either walk you through the changes or make them for you.

Adding hosted email is a very similar process. You start by choosing the hosted email provider that you want to go with. There are a lot of different hosts out there that offer email accounts at different pricing and with different features, so go with whatever fits you best. A few suggestions would be Google Workspace, Office 365, or Rackspace.

Once you've set up your account at the email host of your choosing, by following their instructions, they will provide you with some DNS records. Assuming your domain is already all set up in our system as per the general directions above, you'll just need to go back to that domain settings page in the DeltaNET, click on the Manage DNS button for the domain you're adding email to, then enter the records that your email host provided. Not everyone is comfortable manipulating DNS records, so that is exactly why our support team is available to help you with any trouble or if you're just worried about breaking something.

The best part of the whole process is that it generally just works once it's done. As long as your billing information stays up to date so that the domain and email hosting accounts can auto-renew, you'll likely never have to touch it again. At that point, your business will have all of the benefits of its own domain: practical benefits like search ranking and marketing, as well as some intangible benefits through the increased professionalism of having your own domain and domain-hosted email. Because there's just something about getting an email at myaccount@ myowndomain.com that makes a business feel more official.

March
24

Growth is a good thing. The platform you want to be running your business on is the one that is regularly growing and evolving better to suit the market and the needs of its users. After all, real estate is a competitive game, so it's important to have the best tools to give you a leg up on the competition.

Growth isn't always easy, though. With new functionality comes new things to learn, and we all have limited time. I don't have any big secrets that will take away all the challenges out of staying up to date on a platform that is always growing, but I do have a few suggestions that I hope will make your life a little easier when it comes to running your business on one.

Just like your old high school basketball coach used to say, focus on the fundamentals. Ok, I've never had a basketball coach, but you get the idea. There are certain fundamentals that need to remain the same for a feature or function to be what it is. For example, an email campaign system is built around creating a series of emails, setting a date for those emails to go out, and then defining the customers to which those emails will be sent. Whatever else it does, it will always do those things. If it didn't, it would be something entirely different. Therefore, when learning or training on the Campaigns and Action Plans system in the DeltaNET™, make that your focus. Then, regardless of what else is added to it, you'll always be able to use it for its core function.

Also, as we add things, you'll only be learning how those things relate to that core function. You don't need to relearn the whole thing from scratch simply because you can now use it to send a text message instead of an email. You just need to learn that a single deviation in the process you were already familiar with will result in a text message being sent instead of an email. This same concept works for just about everything in the DeltaNET™.

Our Social Connector functionality would be another excellent example of this. We're constantly making improvements to that system. Trust me, I'm the one remaking the training videos each time. However, every change has just been built onto the core functionality of that system. Fundamentally, you connect this system to your social media account; it watches for some event to take place, then it creates a post on your social media page about that event. For example, if you link up your Facebook page and turn the "new listing" posts on, the system will post it to your Facebook page every time you get a new listing. Every other part of it is some extension of that — either posting to different social media platforms or settings related to how often it posts, what the post looks like, what kind of events will trigger it. As long as you keep the fundamentals in mind, every addition becomes much easier to follow.

Next, keep in mind that not every update is something that requires new training. When we update existing functionality in the DeltaNET™, we're always doing our best to add it in a way that makes the system easier to use, not harder. For example, adding a new customer to the system used to involve a "wizard" that required around eight steps to complete. We changed that to make it a single, intuitive step that was kicked off by the same Add Customer button. There was no training required there. It was as if we changed it to be what it always should have been, and, in doing so, we saw that users took to it without any new instruction whatsoever.

Another thing that I find makes it easier to work with a growing platform is staying up to date with the changes. This is especially important for new functionality. You can work through and adopt updates to the existing functionality with the concepts we've been over, but when it comes to new stuff, the best thing you can do is stay on top of it. It's easy to get a notification on some new features and file it away for later, but you don't want to let them build up on you. Usually, it only takes a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the new functionality because, as I mentioned earlier, we do our best to make it easy to use.

Nevertheless, if you let a dozen new features build up on you and then try to learn them all at once, it's a much more daunting task. The biggest problem here is that you either find yourself frustrated by all you need to learn or find yourself not using the new functionality. You certainly don't want to be left in the dark on some functionality that can simplify running your business. It might seem like more work upfront to go over each new thing as it's released, but you'll thank yourself in the long run.

In my typical fashion, I've left the most important advice for last. You need to do your best not to get frustrated. In general, technology seems to have this unique way of frustrating people like nothing else I've ever seen. I don't know if it's because the machine really does seem to have a mind of its own (I promise that it doesn't. At least not yet.), or that we know, deep down, it's generally our fault that it's not doing what we expect it to, but the fact remains. Computers drive people crazy. When the machine isn't cooperating, whether it be the DeltaNET™, your new iPhone, or your car stereo, take a moment to take a deep breath and remind yourself that the machine doesn't hate you. Even if it is a little temperamental. Also, at least at far as the DeltaNET™ is concerned, remember that we're here to help you. I'm not sure we can help you with your car stereo, though. You might need to check with the dealer on that one. 

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