Investor tracking programs zero in on potential buyers
Unlike in the past, today's tech-savvy commercial real estate clients expect online strategies to be part of their brokers' overall marketing plans. In fact, most clients realize that static Web sites and e-mailed listings no longer are enough to gain potential investors' attention. Instead, many clients favor brokers who utilize state-of-the-art online tools to identify and follow prospective buyers for their properties. Investor lead tracking, a process that incorporates Web and database technologies, allows brokers to offer this kind of cutting-edge service.
Investor Lead Tracking Defined
To effectively find and track prospective leads, brokers first must invest in a professionally designed Web site that is equipped with all of the property information that buyers seek, including the nitty-gritty financials, historical performance trends, and current market conditions. The site may be a stand-alone, single property site or part of a larger company Web site.
During the past 18 months, many brokers have switched from running their company's general Web site and property/listing site separately to integrating the two sites. However, property owners often like to see custom-designed property Web sites that highlight their listings, complete with custom URLs using the property name as an address.
Once a unique property marketing Web site is established, the lead tracking can begin. The site must be set to require first-time visitors to enter their contact information in order to view listing details. Cookie-based login technology then can recall users on subsequent visits without requiring them to register or login again.
Once investors are registered, they are assigned unique identifiers that allow the Web site to recognize them and track their future visits. Listing brokers can use this information to pinpoint investors who genuinely are interested in the property by monitoring their number of visits to the site, which listing details they view, and which information they download. Therefore, without even speaking to potential investors, brokers can focus their efforts on contacting prospective buyers whose online patterns indicate a strong interest in the property.
In addition, real-time tracking reports make the data collection process efficient. For instance, the reports can identify all visitors and sort them according to when and how often they have visited the site. The information also can be grouped to identify visitors' various activities, such as repeated visits to a listing's financial information.
Apartment Realty Advisors, a multifamily brokerage company based in Denver, regularly uses online lead tracking to facilitate transactions. “Marketing properties through professionally designed Web sites ensures a property is being exposed to the greatest number of potential investors. By doing this, it increases the competition between buyers, which in turn results in a higher selling price,” says Jeff Hawks, an ARA principal. “Investor tracking technology allows us to take it one step further because it gives us the level of insight needed about the buyer's motivations to entice them to take action.”
Listing brokers also can use investor lead tracking in conjunction with national Web-based property listing services that allow links to custom property sites, such as CCIMNet and LoopNet. For example, brokers can post their listings to the national site with very general information and include a link back to their own Web site for more details. The interested party then must register on the broker's site, thereby allowing the site to capture the prospective investor's contact information.
The system also allows brokers to show their clients a record of traffic to their listing, thus reinforcing the depth of the broker's marketing efforts to the client. In addition, brokers can control the type of information that is available on the site, possibly allowing potential buyers to see some private documents, such as the offering memorandum or financial information. Or, if a potential buyer decides to make an offer, brokers can use the site to provide a confidentiality agreement that, once electronically signed or signed and returned by fax, gives the client access to a password-protected due diligence area.
Online lead tracking also allows brokers to gain feedback from potential buyers about their properties' listing prices. For example, brokers can gauge whether or not the property is priced appropriately as indicated by the number of visits to the site. These figures can give brokers a significant advantage during the negotiation process because the broker has the investor's download and traffic patterns on hand. Without investor tracking, the only feedback available is what a potential buyer decides to share with the broker.
In addition, the data collected as a result of lead tracking assists brokers in identifying pricing and buying trends. Therefore, brokers can market and sell properties more effectively and efficiently in the future.
Once a sale has been made, any sensitive information can be removed from the site, and a large “sold” banner can be added. Many brokers like to keep sites of sold properties up and running for a few months as additional marketing collateral.
Calculating the Costs
The costs associated with developing a property Web site equipped with investor lead tracking can be significantly less than the printing, delivery, and administrative fees associated with traditional marketing methods. In fact, for around $500 — a little more than the cost of a basic Web site — brokers can get a property site equipped with investor lead tracking.
While technology never will replace the need for a personal touch in commercial real estate, online tools such as property Web sites that contain lead tracking systems can provide valuable benefits. Not only do clients value brokers who use the latest Web tools to market their properties, but brokers can realize cost savings as well.