The Ultimate Guide to Real Estate Lead Generation
By Matthew Bushery
About Inbound Marketing
How do you generate your real estate leads? Are you still knocking on doors or have you embraced modern technology?
Traditionally, real estate agents favored getting out into their neighborhood, knocking on doors, and introducing themselves to potential customers. Or buying lists of contacts, picking up the phone, and cold calling.
While there’s nothing wrong with traditional outbound marketing methods, there are plenty more ways to get leads in the digital age.
In this article, you’ll discover 19 ways to generate leads for your business and bring more customers through the door.
What is Lead Generation for Real Estate?
Lead generation is a marketing term that describes the process of attracting and converting a prospect into someone who’s interested in your products or services. For a real estate business, that would be someone who’s interested in using your services to rent, buy or sell their house.
Key Pillars of a Real Estate Lead Generation System
There are two categories for generating leads: inbound and outbound.
Inbound marketing is a way of attracting people to your business through the creation and promotion of related content and incentives. It’s the modern, digital way of marketing. Typical inbound activities include content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and advertising.
As you can see in the diagram below, generating leads comes right in the middle of the inbound marketing methodology:
Outbound marketing starts with some basic knowledge of your target audience. It’s what some may refer to as traditional marketing. Typical outbound activities include direct mail, telemarketing, email marketing, and event marketing.
A survey by Databox found that cold emailing was the most effective outbound marketing tactic:
A successful lead generation system uses both inbound and outbound marketing to attract prospects and convert them into leads before they become customers.
No matter which way you’re generating leads, It’s important to tailor your activities to each prospect as they progress through the three main stages of their customer journey:
- The Awareness Stage (Top of Funnel) – is when the prospect knows they have a problem, but don’t know how to solve it.
- The Evaluation Stage (Middle of Funnel) – is when the prospect is aware that you exist and you have a solution to their problem, but are considering their options.
- The Conversion Stage (Bottom of Funnel) – is when the prospect is almost ready to buy your solution, but may have a few final questions.
Depending on your marketing activity, you’ll capture leads in a variety of ways. For instance, people could be filling out printed forms at events like open houses, or they might complete an online form to request further information about your services or a specific property.
Whatever the situation, it’s important to consolidate all those leads into one system where you can track progress. Use a real estate Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to manage and follow up with leads in one place.
19 Ways to Get Free and Paid Real Estate Leads
Referrals are a powerful and reliable source for new leads. The 2018 survey of home buyers and sellers by the NAR found that:
- 41% of buyers used an agent that was referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or relative and 12% used an agent that they had worked with before to buy or sell a home.
- 63% of sellers found their agent through a referral from a friend, neighbor, or relative or used an agent they had worked with before to buy or sell a home.
The best part is that referrals are free. All you have to do is maintain a good relationship with your contacts so that you’re first in mind when they have a friend or colleague who wants to sell their property.
If you’re just starting your real estate business, then build your contacts through friends and family until your client list grows.
#2. Local SEO
Today, 44% of real estate buyers start their home search online, and 95% use the internet at some point in the buying process.
Specifically, optimizing your website and Google My Business page to show up highly in Google Maps when people are searching for your target keywords:
Ranking highly in the map pack will help generate more foot traffic, phone calls and website visits for your business.
Check out this detailed real estate SEO guide to learn more about ranking your agency or brokerage highly in Google’s local map listings.
#3. Landing Pages
Realtors have a hard time turning clicks into conversions. In fact, real estate businesses only convert 2.47 percent of Google PPC traffic.
This is a shame, especially when you consider the investment (time and money) that goes into getting qualified traffic to your website.
The problem is that most real estate professionals send traffic to pages on their website that are not optimized to capture emails and generate phone calls. I.e. they don’t use custom landing pages to convert readers into leads.
HubSpot found that companies with 10 to 15 landing pages increase leads by 55%:
Realtors and brokers can use many different types of landing pages to capture leads. Here are some examples:
- Book an appointment landing pages
- Home valuation landing pages
- Community landing pages (below)
- Buyer guide landing pages
- Luxury listing landing pages
If you’d like to see examples of different real estate landing pages and learn how to increase your conversions, check out this comprehensive guide.
#4. Reverse Engineer the Competition
One of the fastest ways to generate more leads for your business is to find out where your top performing competitors are getting their online leads, and replicate the strategy.
This eliminates a lot of the guesswork, especially if you’re just starting out within an agency or brokerage.
You can use a tool like SimilarWeb to view the channels driving the most online traffic to the competition:
For example, I can see that Max Real Estate Exposure is getting most of it’s traffic from search engines like Google. This would tell me that SEO is a huge potential source of new leads.
You can also see that the business is getting some traffic from referral and social media sites. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to drill in and identify the specific sources:
You can pick the referral and social media sites driving the most traffic, and start investing some budget in promoting your business across those sources.
BuiltWith is another useful tool to look at. Enter any website and find out which technology they are using to run and advertise their website. This can give you valuable insights into the specific channels they are spending money on to generate traffic and leads:
When it comes to marketing and lead generation, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Find out what top performers are doing, and model your strategy around that. It’s the quickest way to get started with a proven roadmap.
#5. Open Houses
Running an open house is another excellent way to generate free leads. Even if the open house property doesn’t sell, you can still get a list of potential buyers.
The key is to have a system:
- Attract visitors
The first step is to make potential buyers aware of the open house event. You can use door hangers, flyers, and postcards in the neighborhood, promote on social media, and highlight your listings:
On the day of the event, use signposts on neighboring streets to direct people to the open house.
- Capture names
Once you have visitors coming to the open house, make sure you capture their contact details. You could use a formal sign-in sheet as people enter the open house. Or you could engage in conversation and ask for their details informally. Either way, follow up with a call or an email to your leads after the event.
#6. Community Pages
When a house buyer is moving into a new area, they’ll likely carry out extensive research about the whole community as well as the real estate market. That’s where community pages come in.
By creating community pages on your website, you can become the go-to resource for your area. Community pages can include topics like:
- Local businesses
- Schools and colleges
- Leisure amenities
- Medical facilities
For example, Deb Hess & Company feature neighborhood details for areas of Chicago like Lincoln Park:
Include links to your real estate business alongside the community information so that visitors associate one with another. And remember to optimize your web pages for the different keywords, so they show up in Google search results.
#7. Virtual Tours
Traditional real estate marketing consists of photos and written copy. But there’s a smarter modern way to attract potential buyers and investors. Instead of inviting prospects to inspect a property, you can offer them a virtual tour from the comfort of their home.
A professional 360-degree virtual tour is a super way to showcase homes on websites, social media, and Google Maps so that your listings stand out from the crowd. And for potential buyers outside your location, this is an excellent time-saver as they can narrow their search before traveling to inspect the property.
#8. Google Ads
It’s not easy to claim the top spot in Google’s search results page. If you want to speed up the process, then it makes sense to use paid search. Google Ads is one of the best PPC platforms to help you find qualified real estate leads in your local area.
Using relevant keywords in your ads increases your chances of a top listing on the search results page. Choose words that are relevant to your content or listings to reach users searching those same terms.
For example, you could use the keywords “Boston” and “Condos for sale” to target people searching for “Boston condos for sale”:
Clicking on the link in the ad takes people straight to your condo listings:
Another option might be to target your company name and location as some people will search for your brand directly.
According to Search Engine Journal:
“Shoppers searching for your specific brand name are more than likely also your hottest leads.”
If you don’t use your brand name, it’s likely that a competitor will use it and appear above your branded organic listing. (See more below).
Retargeting website visitors
You can generate leads by remarketing to people who’ve already visited your website to check out listings and content.
For example, if someone visits your webpage about your selling process, then you could retarget them with an ad about properties you recently sold. Or if someone visits a specific listing, you could retarget them with an ad that offers the floorplan in exchange for their email address.
Retargeting people who’ve already shown an interest in your content increases your chances of getting more quality leads.
Bidding on competitor name and brand keywords
As mentioned above, there’s no rule to prevent you from bidding on your competitors’ brand keywords. As long as you don’t include their brand name or trademark in your ad copy.
There are three good reasons to bid on your competitors’ brand keywords:
- Cheap traffic – Brand name keywords are relatively cheap clicks compared to generic keywords in Google Ads because the demand is low.
- High-quality traffic – Visitors are interested in the same thing your competitors are offering – real estate – so they’re more likely to convert into a lead.
- Brand exposure – Advertising on your competitors’ brand keywords puts you in a strong position to make potential customers aware of your brand.
For sale by owner (FSBO) listings are properties that are listed for sale by their owners rather than by a real estate agent. Consequently, they’re classed as warm leads to target because you already know the owners want to sell.
You can find potential FSBO leads in:
- Craigslist – check your local market real estate listings
- Zillow – check the “make me move” or FSBO listings
Once you’ve found a lead, it’s up to you to convince them they have a better chance of selling for a higher price when they use your services rather than going alone.
People love visuals, especially in real estate searches. While having a ton of great infographics and SlideShares on your website is one way to attract attention and keep visitors perusing your pages, it’s really video that’s the essential marketing technique that’s generating significant leads for agents and brokers across the country these days.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 36% of people using video as an informative source during the home search.
While the value of video is clear, the challenge is creating and publishing your own.
#11. Strategic Blogging
If you want blogging to generate leads for your business, then you have to include it in your overall inbound marketing strategy. Publishing the odd blog post here and there won’t work. Instead, you need to have a long-term plan.
Use your blog to provide valuable information to visitors so that it positions you as a trusted and credible resource. Buyers and sellers are not only searching for properties, but they’re also looking for supporting information.
For example, take a look at the Windermere Real Estate Blog that offers tips and advice on a variety of home-related topics including:
- Buying – The Risks and Rewards of Purchasing a Bank-Owned Home
- Selling – 5 Home Improvements That Will Boost Your Property Value
- Market News – 2019 Economic and Housing Forecast
- Community – Helping Students Realize Their Dreams Through Scholarship Programs
- Architecture – Avoiding the Pitfalls of Home Addition Construction
#12. Facebook Ads
Facebook is ideally suited to real estate marketing as it’s a visual platform. It’s still the largest social media network with over 2 billion monthly users:
And as people spend time there on a daily basis, you have a captive audience.
Advertising on Facebook is effective as long as you take advantage of the granular targeting options to ensure your ad reaches your ideal audience:
- Targeting – choose from interests, behaviors, and demographics. For example, you can target by zip code, age ranges, income, home ownership, and people “likely to move.”
- Objective – select from different campaign objectives including Lead Generation, Brand Awareness, Engagement, Reach, Conversions, etc.
- Ad Type – choose from different options including Canvas Ads, Carousel Ads, Video Ads, Collection Ads, Slideshow Ads, and Photo Ads.
Armed with this data you can create, target, and track the success of your laser-focused ads.
Here are two types of campaign to consider:
Advertising new listings to your chosen target audience on Facebook is a great way to attract new leads.
The key is to make the advert visually stunning, whether you choose photos or video. Use the best professional images for each property to make it stand out as people scroll their Facebook feed.
Showcasing properties you’ve already sold is a great way to promote your brand and attract leads who are looking to rent, buy, or sell within your location. When you run a Facebook ad featuring the sold property that’s targeted to an audience within the same area, you can:
- Attract leads that are ready to act now, and
- Promote your credentials to those planning to move in the future.
#13. Optimize Your Facebook Page
While advertising is a premier opportunity for you on Facebook, don’t forget you can still secure leads without spending a dime too. With some savvy optimization techniques, consistent engagement, and regular status updates featuring photos and videos of your listings, market, and clients, you can generate more interest in your brand.
Renee Hillman makes a product use of its facebook page:
Several dozen reviews, 5-star average rating, a stellar cover photo that doubles as social proof, countless status updates, new and sold listings, and a lot of community make broker Renee Hillman’s Facebook Business Page a great business asset.
Any online locale where you plant your flag and build upon your digital foundation — whether it’s your site, Facebook, another social network, or a separate blog — requires equal amounts of effort. Hillman clearly understands this mindset, as she treats her Facebook presence just like she does her Placester real estate website.
#14. Local Partnerships
You’re not the only business in your area. So why not join forces with other business owners where you can help one another. Join your local chamber of commerce where you can network and make connections with fellow business men and women.
For example, many divorce settlements force marital homes to be sold. Consider partnering with a local divorce attorney you would be happy to recommend your services in such situations.
#15. Get Referrals from other Realtors
When you attend conferences, you have an excellent opportunity to network with other real estate agents from outside your area. Take the time to build professional relationships with national and state realtors that can serve you in the future.
For example, when people have to relocate to your area, those national realtors can refer their clients to you.
#16. Live Chat
Visitors to your website don’t always want to fill out forms or call you. But they might be happy to engage in a live chat to get their questions answered instantly.
There are plenty of Live Chat apps available including FreshChat, Intercom, and Drift, plus you can use Facebook’s Messenger App on your website, too. Most apps include the option to auto-respond to website visitors and then determine if a human response is required.
#17. Automated Text Messages
Real estate text message marketing lets you engage potential buyers with information about suitable properties. And you can take this one step further with automated text messages.
For example, people interested in your Boston condos could text ‘CONDO’ to your designated shortcode (e.g. 29786), and your system would send information about listings in that area.
According to a Gallup survey, texting is far faster and better received compared to calls and emails:
- 90% of sales leads said they’d prefer to be texted, compared to 10% who preferred to be called.
- 99% of texts are read and have an average response time of 90 seconds.
#18. Pitch Local Investors
If you’re working in an area that has a lot of investment potential, then why not pitch local investors directly? You could save time marketing and advertising properties if you have investors lined-up already.
An investor is going to be more savvy than your typical first-time buyer, so you’ll need to play smart and professional to make a good impression and strike quick deals.
#19. Email Segmentation
Most of the people who receive your newsletters, digests, and other promotional emails are already leads you track and organize in your lead management software.
What some agents don’t realize, though, is not every lead is created equal. There’s the obvious buyer vs. seller dynamic. However, there are plenty of other lead characteristics that distinguish each lead from another.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it (hint: You’ll want to accept it) is to bucket your prospects into distinct lists so you can send different types of email to them.
It’s through this segmentation you’ll maximize the ROI of your email campaigns (not to mention prevent you from blasting emails to leads who have long been cold and are no longer worth pursuing).
Here is an example from Smith & Berg:
Working in the high-end California real estate market, the Smith & Berg team at Partners Trust sends appropriate emails newsletters to its contact database.
Sure, a number of these contacts are likely already leads, but what sending consistent, strong emails like this does is help them distinguish weak leads from strong leads.
In the marketing sphere, these strong leads are classed as sales-qualified leads (SQLs), meaning they’re more likely to be converted into customers and, thus, deserve more attention with one’s real estate marketing strategy.
Qualify Your Real Estate Leads
Generating leads is the first step in the process of acquiring a new customer.
Next, you’ll need to decide which leads are most likely to convert quicker. To do that, you score each lead based on a set of criteria. Lead scoring helps you determine which prospects need to be fast-tracked and which need nurturing.
Image: managing and scoring leads inside the Placester CRM.
For instance, you may score someone higher if their demographic information matches your target audience. For example, they live locally and want to move to a larger home in the next few months because the family is growing.
On the other hand, a couple looking to downsize when they retire next year is less likely to convert immediately and would, therefore, score lower.
There are two recognized marketing industry scores:
- SQL – a sales-qualified lead (SQL) is almost ready to become a customer. They may need specific questions answered to get across the line. Your job is to remain attentive and responsive to keep them on track.
- MQL – a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) is more likely to become a customer than other leads but is not ready to become a customer right now. They’ll need nurturing over the coming months with regular follow-ups to keep them interested in your service.
At first, you may need to experiment with your lead scoring criteria. But once it’s working, you’ll be on your way from lead generation to customer acquisition.
Before we wrap up, it’s important to remember that you can’t use all of these lead generation methods all of the time. In fact, you’d have little time left for anything else like generating revenue.
What’s more important is to be consistent. Select the methods that best suit you and your business, and refine them until they run like a well-oiled machine.
Published on August 20, 2019
Written by Matthew Bushery
I'm the Sr. Content Creator for Placester, where I educate real estate professionals about modern marketing and, in turn, help agents and brokers make the most of their online presence, earn more traffic, and generate more leads and business.