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Real Estate Technology and Inbound MarketingAny kind of financially-intensive, data driven industry puts a real premium on IT investments as competitive weapons. The case of real estate technology is no different. 

The real estate business is defined by Wikipedia and the Oxford English Dictionary as “the profession of buying, selling, or renting land, buildings or housing.”   

At the most basic level, the real estate industry has a residential side and a commercial side. 

Market research leader IBISWorld sees the global commercial real estate industry as highly fragmented, with no companies with a dominant market share, and employment of nearly 18 million. 

According to The Real Estate Roundtable, a policy-centric trade association, the U.S. real estate industry creates or supports about 9 million jobs.

So regardless of whether you consider the global employment or trickle-down impact in the U.S. there are a lot of potential users for any kind of real estate technology! 

Main Pain Points Addressed by Real Estate Technology

Mobile devices have been a huge game changer for real estate technology. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Center for Realtor Technology (CRT):

  • 93% of those under 40 use a smartphone to “conduct real estate business”

  • 86% over 40 use a smartphone to “conduct real estate business” 

Beyond the native features in the smartphones, the NAR found social media apps to be the most popular category of apps. And the NAR found the top three motivators for acquiring a smartphone were (in descending order of votes):

  • Best device for e-mail

  • Ease of use

  • Keyboard usage 

Now bear in mind, as convincing as these findings sound, the responses would be even more decisive today as the NAR last released this survey data several years ago in 2010 -- when dominant Apple iPhones were the 3G and 3GS models -- and Android smartphones were barely a blip on the radar screen. 

The NAR also did a survey that same year (2010) on data security -- “to determine the importance of data security in the workplace.” At the time, both agents and brokers had four hesitations about participating in an NAR sponsored data security program:

  • Lack of data security understanding

  • Feeling that their IT staff was adequate (to protect against data security risks)

  • No time

  • No personal information being collected 

Of those that stated they had experienced a computer security breach, nearly all of these breaches (97%) occurred because of malware.

When asked how to prevent computer security breaches, responses included (in descending order of votes):

  • Changing passwords often

  • Contracting with a third party IT expert

  • Changing the system 

A little while back, the NAR CTR did a more general realtor technology survey, which found that real estate agents and brokers got the most value out of IT tools that “allow them to conduct business quickly and conveniently, wherever they need to.” 

94% of respondents report using a mobile device for client communications. The most popular smartphones among respondents were:

  • Apple iPhones: 45% (use has doubled during past two years)

  • Android smartphones: 37% (share holding steady)

  • BlackBerry smartphones: 5% (use dropped from 18%)

Interestingly, agents found more value in IT from their MLS listings than from IT supplied by their brokers -- as you might expect from MLS having deeper pockets for IT investments than most brokers.

Quite surprisingly, agents and brokers would rather access MLS websites from desktop computers, as opposed to from tablets or smartphones. This may perhaps indicate that MLS needs to invest in mobile app development -- rather than relying on their websites to carry the load.

Agents and brokers put a premium on tools that

  • Allow for conducting business, regardless of location

  • Make them look IT-savvy to their clients

Hot Demand Areas for Real Estate Technology Providers

IT solution providers that specialize in real estate technology should note the following hot demand platforms, products, and services:

  • CRM software

  • Forms software

  • Mobile apps

  • Property databases and listing websites

  • Property management software

  • Social media

  • Tablets (The NAR CTR found that the Apple iPad is the most popular tool.)

  • Technology support

  • Website

The NAR CTR survey found overwhelming OS concentration:

  • 83% use the Microsoft Windows OS

  • 11% use the Apple Mac OS X

According to TechCrunch, venture funding of real estate technology startups peaked in the fourth quarter of 2014, with 32 companies raising nearly $300 million. In total, funds invested $605 million in RETech in 2014 versus $241 million the year before, year-over-year growth of more than 250 percent.

Why the Marketing of Real Estate Technology Has Changed Drastically

As recently as five years ago, marketing real estate technology was a lot more straightforward and might include:

  • Exhibiting at and speaking at local and regional real estate conferences

  • Advertising in real estate trade publications

  • Making cold calls to broker owners and high-producing agents

  • Sending out direct mail to brokers and agents

But then mobile devices and social media came along and changed everything -- by empowering people to revolt against “old school” interruption marketing.

Think about:

  • When was the last time you made any major purchase -- let alone a purchase as major as real estate -- without first making numerous queries on your favorite search engine and social media sites?

  • When was the last time you made any major purchase solely based on what you were told by a piece of direct mail? Or solely based on the advice of a salesperson?

  • How many conferences have you attended during the past 12 months? And how many online conferences or webinars have you attended during the past 12 months?

  • How many paper-based newspapers or magazines do you still subscribe to? Or do you get all of this information via the equivalent mobile websites or apps that deliver a better version of this same information in real time?

  • When was the last time you answered your phone without first glancing down at caller ID?

  • How often do you wake up and wish that more salespeople would call you in the middle of the day to interrupt you?

  • Speaking of interruption, when you watch a TV show you recorded on your DVR, how often do you choose to watch the commercials?

  • And how many people do you know that have completely opted out of listening to radio commercials by subscribing to a satellite radio service, streaming media service, or relevant podcasts?

The way the world makes purchase decisions has changed drastically.

So the method in which you market real estate technology to brokers and agents needs to adapt.

Did you know that 57% of the typical B2B sales cycle is over before a potential client contacts any vendor? (Source: CEB on “Why Solution Selling No Longer Works”)

So, if your company isn’t in that consideration set, your company is either:

(a) not considered at all, or

(b) only contacted at the last minute for a time-wasting “bid” -- because your company is merely seen as an easily interchangeable commodity broker

How Inbound Marketing Can Get Your Real Estate Technology in Front of the Right Decision Makers at the Right Moment

The survey from the NAR CTR asked where agents and brokers learn about real estate technology. The top responses (in descending order of votes) were:

  • Colleagues

  • Real estate news websites

  • NAR

  • Friends 

What does this mean? If you’re trying to create awareness of your company’s real estate technology products and services, you need to:

  • Invest aggressively in social media to build a significant and engaged following -- to reach those colleagues and friends

  • Invest aggressively in thought leadership content creation -- to basically position your blog as a real estate news website that covers anything and everything that relates to real estate technology

The message is simple: Your company needs a strong, authoritative, presence in that 57% of the typical B2B sales cycle happens before decision makers contact any vendors. And inbound marketing is the best way for your company to be found and engage with potential clients at the right time.

With almost 60% of the typical B2B sales cycle over before a potential client even reaches out to any vendor’s sales department, your firm has to reach leads for real estate technology much earlier on in the sales process.

To do this most effectively, inbound marketing is the way to go, so your firm can:

  • Attract the right visitors to its website

  • Convert visitors to leads

  • Close sales with new clients

  • Delight clients for long-term retention

Learn more about how your real estate technology company can use proven inbound marketing services to find clients, retain clients, and grow.

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