Generate More Leads with Text Messaging
By Dylan Schleppe
Whether you buy, sell, or rent properties (or all three), you know the problems associated with flyer boxes: the flyers get stolen or taken out of the box and scattered all over the street; the flyer box lid is left open, it rains, and now your costly full-color flyers are ruined; or, the perfect prospect stops by to view the property and the flyer box is empty. Then you spend days playing telephone tag with each other via voice mail. Argh!
And, the majority of your buyers are looking at your properties when you're not around or drive by your properties at odd times of the day or night - the least likely times you want to talk to them when they call.
Wouldn't it be great if you could send a short message to interested prospects at the very instant they ask for it? That's the idea behind SMS technology.
Although adoption rates are still low when compared to cell phone or email usage, SMS (which stands for Short Message Service) or "texting," is growing rapidly. Wireless-Watch.com reported in 2007 that 63.7% of all American mobile phone subscribers are active users of text messaging - up from 41% the year before and 25% in 2005. In fact, SMS is available on 98% of all phones in the U.S. market. And, according to CTIA (The International Association for Wireless Communications), over 28 billion text messages alone were sent in June 2007.
Television shows, such as American Idol, which includes at-home audience participation via text messaging, have accelerated SMS adoption rates - as has heavy usage by Gen Y. I often hear stories from 40- and 50-something parents who use text messaging because their kids do. In fact, grandparents are now using it because it's one way for them to keep up with their active grandkids!
"Yes, yes, yes," you're thinking. "These new technologies are great and all, but I sell to older buyers. They won't use text messaging. How will this help my real estate business?"
How SMS for real estate works
Integrating SMS into your existing marketing program is relatively easy: property sellers add a special text messaging code to their real estate signage. A typical sign might read, "For instant property info, send a text message to 23333. In the message body type, DBT12." (This is an actual working demo - try it to see how it works!)
The prospective buyer sends the message and receives an instant text message in reply that lists information about the property, such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, asking price, and a link to the listing information online. When the prospective buyer sends you the text message, you get the person's cell phone number, city and state. This information goes to both your cell phone and your e-mail inbox.
If you're a busy real estate agent or investor, you've probably lost leads because people won't leave a message, the return phone number in the voice mail was garbled, or the phone number itself was blocked. The benefit of SMS is that it gives buyers the information they want - instantly - while allowing you to capture the lead.
SMS is not only convenient for prospective buyers. According to our data, SMS messages come in at all hours of the day and night. With SMS, you can return calls at your convenience with the knowledge your prospect has basic information.
Typically, our clients see aggregate rates of .6 - .75 leads per day per property with SMS (data based on densely populated urban areas in the Austin, TX area).
SMS isn't just for Gen Y
When we first started offering SMS to the real estate industry, we assumed young people looking for starter homes in the $150K to $250K range would be the prime users.
We were wrong. We routinely see higher utilization rates of older buyers who want homes in the $250K to $850K range. This is because older and more wealthy buyers can afford technology, such as smart phones and BlackBerries, and because they use them every day in their jobs.
They also value their privacy, as evidenced by a test one of our clients ran where she compared response rates for SMS versus an 800 number call capture system. The test showed that SMS generated 50% more leads. Why? People don't want to call a phone number for fear they'll have to talk to someone nor do they like listening to pre-recorded messages pitching a real estate agent or company.
As you know, when people are out driving looking at properties, they want information instantly. If the flyer box is empty and the listing agent is busy on another call or not available, they'll either move on or get the information another way - perhaps via another agent.
With SMS, they get the information they want without having to wait, and you don't lose the lead.
SMS also works with rental properties
If you rent properties, you know that over half the calls you get either deal with silly questions or are from people who can't afford the rent. With SMS, you can send a text message about the rental property, including number of bedrooms, first and last month deposit, and the monthly rent or lease while reducing call volume.
SMS saves you time, because you're not interrupted with calls, and it helps generate leads because those who are interested in the rental will respond to the text option.
Dos and don'ts of SMS for real estate How well an SMS system works depends on the same factors as any real estate transaction. A few dos and don'ts you'll want to consider include:
Location, location, location - The closer the property is to an urban environment, the better SMS works. (We don't recommend it for the wilds of Maine, for example.)
Not everyone uses SMS - One of our clients wanted to remove the phone number from his signage and rely on SMS only. To see if this would work, we ran a test using one of our rental properties - a duplex two miles north of the University of Texas campus in Austin. The sign read, "For lease. Please do not disturb tenants" and included the text messaging code but no phone number.
During the month the sign was up, we received 76 text hits - we ended up leasing the property to the 8th person who called. What we did find interesting, however, is that the people who didn't use SMS ended up disturbing the tenants in order to get property info.
So we don't recommend leaving a phone number off your signage.
Test variables - SMS is still relatively new but more people are getting pulled in as a result of work, kids, and other factors. Don't assume that because SMS didn't work for one property, it won't work for another. Test variables, such as signage wording, property locations, property types, and listing prices. Keep track of how many SMS hits you get versus calls - and at what times of the day and night they come in. You'll quickly see what works best for your particular situation.
Depending on your market and real estate focus, SMS can be a low-cost way method of capturing the names of interested buyers.
Dylan Schleppe is the President of DriveBuy Technologies, an Austin, Texas-based company offering SMS for real estate. To learn more, visit the company's website at http://www.drivebuytech.com or call Dylan directly at 877-848-4045.