Sr. Content Marketing Manager
The traditional “sales funnel” as we have known it in the past is ideally more of a lifelong relationship than it is a “funnel.”
Sure, to over simplify it, you attract a lead, nurture them into a prospect, show them enough value that they decide to buy, and hopefully put them right back at the top of the funnel to make another purchase.
Editor's note: This is a refreshed version of an article that was originally published in 2019.
The thing is, that process doesn't exactly apply to the real estate world.
When someone buys property, they're not likely to turn around and buy more right away. But you can expect them to sell and buy again sometime in their lifetime — and those decisions are unique to every homeowner. This somewhat unpredictable formula means that real estate agents can't rely on repeat customers to immediately increase sales in the same way other industries can.
With the right amount of customer nurturing, it's possible to create lasting real estate customers who recommend you to friends and family — and come back to you as their lives evolve. After all, people move, people sell, people downsize, families upgrade, so on and so forth.
But let's get real – your real estate funnel also has to stay full of new people who need property today.
Other industries' customers might exit the funnel and climb a ladder right back to the top ... however, there's no ladder back to the top of a real estate sales funnel.
We like to think of the real estate "sales funnel" more like a leisurely lifelong stroll through all of the "big" changes. With the right personalization — and really meeting customers where they're at — you can help the couple who bought the starter home a few years ago accommodate their growing family, or help the family who thought they wanted to live in the suburbs make the move back to the city.
But how do you keep your real estate funnel full of quality inbound leads while you wait for your loyal customers to need you again?
Real estate agents have the tough job of finding new leads while simultaneously keeping their list of properties organized and up-to-date.
It's an overwhelming process––especially without an established real estate funnel system in place.
As a real estate agent, the secret is to have a system laid out that helps you transform leads into clients. With the right sales funnel, you can attract more leads, get them interested in your properties, and ultimately, convince them to purchase a home – while still having time to cater to your lifetime clients.
Let's break down exactly how you can create your real estate funnel from scratch.
1. Get your online presence in check.
The internet is usually the first place anyone looks when they're ready to make a purchase—including a home.
While a client certainly isn't going to buy a house online, they're probably going to jump to Google or Zillow to see what kind of property they can afford in their area. In fact, 93% of home shoppers shop online for homes (98% of millennials). You want your properties to come up in this initial research.
If you don't already have an established online presence, creating one is priority #1.
When someone is ready to buy, they're not going to want to work with just anyone. Purchasing a home can be an incredibly intimate experience. After all, a home buyer is making a choice about where they're going to live––and usually applying for a mortgage, which means disclosing a lot of personal information.
Buyers want to work with an agent they're familiar and comfortable with. Having a strong online presence is one way to build some professionalism and familiarity with clients you haven't even met yet.
If potential buyers can learn a bit about you before picking up the phone or sending an email, they might feel more comfortable reaching out.
This includes creating a professional, user-friendly website and getting active on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, etc.).
Real estate agent Dusty Baker's Instagram is a great example. He does a wonderful job posting properties and sharing his life and family, so home buyers get to know him a little before they're ready to buy.
This realtor uses Instagram to build his presence by providing useful advice for homebuyers. (And sellers!)
You'll also want to create an email newsletter and ensure your pages are properly optimized for search engines. You might consider taking advantage of ads and investing in content marketing, too (but we'll touch more on this later).
Building your online presence should be an ongoing task, not something you create once and let sit. Develop a content plan to keep your website, social media and newsletter properly updated.
Pro-tip: Look into tools like CRMs to help make your real estate funnel as efficient as possible. See how Reali stays on top of its pipeline of clients:
2. Post on third-party real estate websites.
The first place a prospective buyer goes to look for a new home likely isn't a specific real estate website. To get an idea of their options, they'll usually jump on a third-party site like Zillow.
These third-party pages allow buyers to see exactly what is in their area in their price range. It not only gives them a feel for what they can afford, but it also familiarizes them with different realtors or real estate companies in the area.
If you're not present on sites like these, you could be missing a serious number of leads for the top of your real estate sales funnel.
Listing your properties on third-party real estate websites can create a second lead-generation source for you––without needing to do any extra marketing. You simply upload images, descriptions, and details, and the website takes care of the rest.
These pages also pull outside information to share with visitors, like schools in the area and facts about the neighborhood, so buyers get a better idea of what to expect.
Zillow showcases facts about home prices and values in the neighborhoods buyers are interested in.
This kind of information is excellent for educating buyers before they come to you. By the time they reach out to tour a home, they'll already understand how the house they're looking at compares to the area, which means you get to focus less on educating and more on building a lasting customer relationship.
When creating a third-party real estate page, you want to be thorough and completely fill out all the details. Include a complete agent profile, with links back to your website, but don't assume the visitor will click on your website.
Instead, be proactive, and treat your third-party pages as if they're the only content a prospective buyer might engage with before connecting.
3. Create a landing page – not a property page.
When a prospective buyer comes to your website, they're going to want to see the properties you have available. Most real estate agents showcase this by creating property pages.
Creating a unique page for each location is a great start. However, a simple web page probably isn't enough to win over customers' hearts. If it isn't easy for an interested buyer to get in touch, they may never reach out.
Instead, turn your property pages into fully optimized landing pages.
A landing page should go beyond just pictures of the property and a description of the home's features. It should encourage the prospective buyer to take action and connect.
Redfin uses an on-page scheduler so house hunters can set up a tour right away!
Redfin uses an on-page scheduler to allow visitors to set up a tour right from the property landing page.
One of the easiest things to add is a contact form for home buyers looking for more information. Putting the contact form right on the page makes it simple for the visitor to engage. You can also add click-to-call buttons or an option to schedule a showing right from the landing page.
Your landing page is likely the first connection a lead will have with you. It should be professional, but also warm and inviting. Don't go overboard with overly formal language.
4. Add opt-ins throughout your website.
A landing page is a great way to collect information about a lead interested in a specific property. Not every visitor to your website will be ready to schedule a showing––but that doesn't mean they're not valuable future customers.
To collect their contact information, add different opt-ins throughout your website. One of the best ways to do this is through a popup.
A popup opt-in form typically appears on the home screen, a blog post or another page of your website after a specific amount of time or when the visitor performs a certain task, such as clicking a particular area or scrolling to a certain part of the page. Other types of opt-ins you may choose to use include inline boxes, floating bars or sidebar forms.
Regardless of what kind of opt-in you choose, sometimes you need to provide something in exchange for their information. Even if someone's interested in buying a home in the near future, they may be protective of their personal info because they don't want to be bombarded with sales messages or calls.
Offer tips, updates of new listings or even create a lead magnet––something that entices your visitor to give their contact information––such as an ebook or a checklist for purchasing a home. Take a look at this example from LeadsBridge:
LeadsBridge uses a popup opt-in form to encourage visitors to download their free report.
Get creative about what you choose to offer with your opt-ins to really encourage visitors to become leads.
5. Develop segmented email campaigns.
Each lead you collect is going to be unique. They will be at different stages of the home buyer's journey and have varying needs and budgets––especially if you're operating in more than one city or area.
If you're sending them all the same messages, you're likely to hear crickets from your emails.
To ensure you're properly connecting with each lead, create segmented campaigns that speak to different needs or expectations. These more personalized messages put the right information in front of the right lead, pushing them further down the sales funnel.
There are a few different ways you can divide up your email list.
One of the most obvious is by location. When a lead fills out your opt-in form, they should have the option to add their city or zip code. You can then use this information to send them updates about available homes in their area. Even if you only operate in one city, you can still segment by neighborhood, like condos.ca.
Condos.ca is focused on only one city (Toronto) but still asks leads to narrow down their location further into regions. Now that’s segmenting.
You can also segment your list by house size or cost. If a lead asks for more information about a four-bedroom home from one of your landing pages, you can send them a targeted email campaign about other four-bedroom homes you have available.
In addition to segmented lists, you'll want to maintain a comprehensive list for larger updates, such as newsletters, purchasing tips or company info.
When using email campaigns, you should always consider automation tools, like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Automating your emails guarantees each individual is getting the content they need without adding an additional task to your to-do list.
But also remember to keep your emails personalized and friendly. Start each email with the lead's name and use welcoming language. Even if the lead knows you're not sending a unique email just to them, it should still feel like you are.
6. Use retargeting ads on Facebook and Google.
Purchasing a home––or even choosing to look at a home––is a serious investment. A lead isn't likely to convert on their first visit to your website.
But that doesn't mean they don't want your help!
Make sure to drive them back to your website so they can keep checking out that house they loved.
A retargeting campaign can help you do this.
Retargeting campaigns put your ads in front of people who have visited your website but didn't convert.
You can retarget website visitors through both Facebook and Google. On either platform, you can choose to show your ads to specific audience members who visited your site but didn’t take action.
These reminders, which appear online while they're going about their normal online browsing, nudge them toward revisiting your site. You can also create a specific landing page for visitors who have been there before. (Pro tip: Don't tell them you know they've been to your site before because that can feel a little #creepy.)
Simple ads like this one from realtor.com are perfect reminders that home buyers should go back to your website!
For example, if you were a realtor based in Austin, you can target people who checked out listings in Austin on your site but never converted with an ad like this to keep you top of mind.
A landing page for recurring visitors can help create some urgency for the prospect. By removing certain calls-to-action and adding text about a spike in activity on a certain home or neighborhood, you might be able to help drive buyers to act.
The real estate sales funnel is complex – but it doesn’t have to be.
It can take years for a real estate lead to make their way to the end of the sales funnel. It's a slow process that often requires lots of care and nurturing.
But with the right sales funnel (and the right funnel management strategy) in place, the process is so much easier. Let's recap the five steps for creating a real estate funnel:
- Establish (and continuously grow) your online presence.
- Focus on landing pages––not property pages.
- Strategically place opt-ins throughout your website.
- Use segmentation to send more personalized emails.
- Reconnect with past visitors through retargeting ads on Facebook and Google.
These steps will help you get started using a real estate funnel system. Make sure to pay close attention to your leads and clients and make adjustments according to their needs.
Once you do land a lead, be sure to take care of them and follow up, so you can build a long-term relationship – not just a one-time transaction.