Appraiser Marketing Tips

March 23rd, 2010 12:45 PM

When you want someone to engage with you on a website, they're going to have to read and understand the text on the page, especially if it's a description.

Anything you do to your text or font that hinders readability of your website is yet another hurdle a site visitor must navigate in order to get to the call-to-action (call, e-mail, order, etc.) Your goal should be to remove as many of these barriers as you can.

Each day this week I'll post something to NOT do with the text or font on your website.

Here's today's phrase to remember: sans-serif. Certain font styles are know as serif, and their letters are more ornate than those of sans-serif (sans being Latin for "without"). While serif fonts may look prettier in some cases, when readability is a main concern (like for articles, books, websites, etc.), publishers will almost always choose a sans-serif font. So should you. Sans-serif text is more easily read, is read faster, and - not surprisingly - more likely to be understood by the reader. 

When it comes to your fonts, don't go for "pretty" at the expense of functional. Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma are good choices. Avoid Times New Roman.


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Posted by Joel Baker on March 23rd, 2010 12:45 PMLeave a Comment

November 4th, 2009 12:37 PM

In a post from last week, I recommended that you talk to your clients about themselves, rather than talking at them about you and how great you are.

So...what's the best way to talk to your clients?

Talk about their problems. Really.

When someone visits your website, especially if they have just come from a search engine, they have some sort of need. They may need an FHA appraisal, a divorce appraisal, a tax challenge or PMI removal appraisal, or they may need an appraisal very quickly. Let's look at the latter as our example.

A site visitor (likely lender) needs an appraisal by tomorrow - and they've made it to your site. Marketing people use the term "pain point" to describe this.

Basically, you want them to:

  • Recognize that you understand their problem or fear. Do this by stating their problem clearly. This could be in the form of a question. (this is the pain point)
  • Recognize that you're the one who's going to solve their problem (you're the "doctor" to cure their pain), and
  • Recognize what their very next step(s) need to be.

Here's an example. 

Need an appraisal by tomorrow? Take advantage of our 24-hour, next day turnaround service - only $380 for a complete appraisal. Read More

Most of the time when appraisers offer 24-hour service, they talk about it in terms of themselves: "We offer a next-day service."

At first it may seem like semantics, but from a psychological standpoint you want more "oomph" to your message - and talking about your clients and their needs is really the best and quickest way to increase the chance the'll call.


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Posted by Joel Baker on November 4th, 2009 12:37 PMLeave a Comment

October 29th, 2009 4:22 PM

A call-to-action is a marketing term used to describe a specific action that a site visitor is asked to take. These can take the form of a coupon, a "click here to read more" link, a simple "e-mail me for a quote" at the top of the page, to a host of others, both direct and subtle.

It's a specific action, usually in exchenge for something of value. "Click here" takes them to a page with more detailed info on a subject,

Basically, you need to make the decision for them.

A common mistake that appraisers make on their websites is to put several contact options somewhere on some page and hope that the potential client will choose something.  It's great that you can be contacted by a home phone, an office phone, a cell phone, a fax line, 2 e-mail address, Instant Message, Twitter and Facebook. For a call-to-action, however, the goal is to simplify and guide the actions of a site visitor, and funnel them from whatever they're doing into some sort of contact with you.

Within three seconds of visiting your homepage, any site visitor should be able to tell exactly what their next step will be. Check out every good ad or major website - there are tons things to do. For a couple of examples, visit www.vcappraisals.com, my training site. I have examples of coupons, lead capture forms, and "text me" buttons on the homepage.


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Posted by Joel Baker on October 29th, 2009 4:22 PMLeave a Comment

October 26th, 2009 1:58 PM

You’ve got a choice: build your website around yourself, or build your website around your customers.

Cheerleading about yourself is good, but only up to a point. Time and again, I see appraisers who talk endlessly on their home page about how great they are and how qualified they are and how ethical they are. There are “Order now!” options all over the place, and the site visitor is left to themselves to determine how (or if) the appraiser is going to solve their problem.

You should talk "to" your site visitors about themselves, not "at them" about you.

Rethink the way you word the text on your page. It may just seem like semantics to you right now, but there’s a big psychological difference between “We have a 24-hour turnaround” and asking “Do you need an appraisal by tomorrow?”

You could use audience-based organization in your menu, utilizing fly-outs for buttons like “For Lenders,” "For Attorneys,” & "For Homeowners.”

This makes solving your site visitors’ “pain points” much easier, which will be the subject of my post later this week.


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Posted by Joel Baker on October 26th, 2009 1:58 PMLeave a Comment

October 15th, 2009 12:08 PM

Before you start working on your next piece of marketing, ask yourself: “What is my goal?”

Numbers are going to be your friend when choosing a goal; they’re verifiable.

A good goal isn’t something qualitative, like “I want more orders.” A good goal is something that you can quantify - something that anyone will be able to look back on in a few days and judge in seconds whether you achieved it. As always, be specific. Take “I want more orders” and ask some specific questions like, “how many?” “over what period?” “what type?”, etc. Drill down until you get to something like “I’d like to get 2 new FHA clients in the next 3 months.” This will help you focus your campaign and message when you go to write your e-mails.

Also, don’t overreach, and don’t shoot too low. Setting goals that are overreaching are likely to end with you frustrated and unhappy, even if your actual results were good. “20% read rate” or “4 new orders on these 200 e-mails” are examples that are well outside the bounds of reality for most appraisers, so don’t set them as goals.

Set goals that are realistic, like “one new order from this campaign of 6 e-mails sent to 200 people,” or “ a 4% read-rate.” Incidentally, read-rate is governed by two things: subject line and market perception, but that’s for another post.

For now, though, just concentrate on setting a specific, verifiable goal – then write it down.


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Posted by Joel Baker on October 15th, 2009 12:08 PMLeave a Comment

September 30th, 2009 3:15 PM

Anyone remember the movie “Amadeus”? The Emperor told Mozart his opera had “too many notes,” and thus began the funniest gag of the movie – all based on the assumption that the audience would agree that Mozart, the musical genius, could never have too many notes!

Well….you’re not Mozart. And though it pains me to admit it, I’m not Beethoven, either.

I do, however, recognize websites that are flush with entirely too much text. It is quite possible to have too much of a good thing.

When I talk to appraisers or inspectors about their XSites, the ones least responsive are the ones that have put in hours and hours and hours of customization work on their site. On a lot of them, I see a TON of good info, but there’s way too much of it. I see XSites all the time that have 30 minutes' worth or reading on them.

Here’s the hint for today: don’t have more than 2 minutes of reading on any given page. Any more than that, and you’re likely to intimidate a site visitor.

If you’ve got good content, section it out on appropriate pages and don’t forget to use nested navigation. You don’t want 60+ buttons down the side, either.


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Posted by Joel Baker on September 30th, 2009 3:15 PMLeave a Comment

August 17th, 2009 1:16 PM

Content is King, and specificity counts.

If you want to be found in Google searches based on particular keywords, it's vitally important that that word or phrase (called keywords) actually be spelled out in the content. The trick is to pick a specific-enough search phrase, then put that phrase, intact, in the page.

Here's an example of a poorly-written set of keywords:

"Serving Caddo, Canadian, Osage, Grant and Harper counties."

In the above sentence, "Harper Counties" is a search phrase, not "Harper County." The sentence reads well to humans, but not to search engines. Instead, list the full, proper name:

"Serving Caddo County, Canadian County, Osage County, and Harper County."

Again, bullet points would be better than sentence format, but we'll get to that.


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Posted by Joel Baker on August 17th, 2009 1:16 PMLeave a Comment

August 10th, 2009 10:47 AM

When a user is browsing the internet, a certain level of anonymity is expected. People value their privacy. Also, they're usually in "search" mode, which from a psychological standpoint is a one-way type of communication - this is usually why pop-up chats and surveys are so annoying to internet users. They usually break your train of thought.

If you're asking for someone's contact information on your website, you're asking for a LOT. Again, they have to WANT to break that privacy barrier, and they have to WANT to switch (psychologically speaking) to an "active" mode of interaction.

The best way to accomplish this in your visitors is to provide something with actual, tangible value in return for their contact info; a quid pro quo, if you will. This is why the "Got a question?" form rarely gets used.

I recommend you set up a Lead Capture form on your XSite that hits a pain point, and asks for minimal contact info in exchange for something. For example, create a lead capture form about PMI removal (like our "Paying to much in taxes?" form, but instead promise a PDF explaining things about PMI. Then, put a link to that PDF in the auto-responder e-mail for that Lead Cap form.

Here's another example of quid pro quo: Later this week, I'll go into more detail on the custom forms and explain how contact grouping works, so sign up for my blog to get that update!  (get it?)


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Posted by Joel Baker on August 10th, 2009 10:47 AMLeave a Comment

August 3rd, 2009 2:42 PM

The official word from Google is that it doesn't exist.

Right.

I've heard stories from too many people, read too much about it, and have even experienced its effects myself.

"The Sandbox," for the uninitiated, is the term given to a new (or badly-behaving website) that gets unreasonably low ranking. For instance, a website with a newly registered domain or a website where the owner has participated in "keyword stuffing" will both suffer vastly lower ranking in Google. Waiting it out a few months tends to allow enough time for Google to decide you no longer need to be in the penalty box.

So, for those of you with a brand-spanking new domain, be prepared. My advice? Set up your Google sitemap in your XSite (free, but annoying to get through), and set up good content, with inbound AND outbound links.

For those of you who have been naughty and have tried to trick Google in some way (like keyword stuffing), fix your site, and set up your Google sitemap if you haven't yet done so.

In both instances, the reasons for a Sandbox are quite simple. Google is protecting their users from fly-by-night sites (in the case of new domains), as well as from tricky webmasters trying to use good keywords to bring visitors to bad (or useless) content.

I'll say it before, and I'll say it again: Give Google what they want. Your life will be so much easier!


Posted in:General
Posted by Joel Baker on August 3rd, 2009 2:42 PMLeave a Comment

When a customer is browsing the internet looking for an appraisal, they generally want to know two things right up front, before anything else:

  • Can this appraiser do the type of appraisal that I'm looking for, and
  • Can they do it in the area that I want

If these two questions cannot be satisfied within the first fifteen seconds or so, they're gone - off to some other site or back to their Google search.

People are lazy. People don't like to read. How many times have you been listening to a cranky underwriter blather on about a completed report you just did, and you're thinking to yourself, "Did they even read my report?"

My recommendation is always to spoonfeed the important things to your site visitors, and telling them exactly what to read, or what to click on. This is really important for your calls-to-action, but also should dictate your placement of important things on a given page.

For these two things, list your main types of appraisals and main service areas in bullet point lists, and put them near the top - don't make someone scroll down a page to find it. Also, don't put important lists in paragraph format, either. I see appraisers all the time who bury their service area in the middle of a paragraph, guaranteeing that it won't be read by most visitors. For an example, check out www.vcappraisals.com/goodhome - I'll bet your eyes are drawn to the bullet points immediately.


Posted in:General
Posted by Joel Baker on July 31st, 2009 10:28 AMLeave a Comment

July 30th, 2009 12:44 PM

One of the most important concepts surrounding SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is that you should strive to be as specific as possible when creating your webpages or marketing content. For appraisers, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to shy away from being general, and it's absolutely critical to even be found in Google by even some of your most important keywords.

Here's an example: your "service area" information on your homepage. All too often I see an appraiser who has put "The greater Chicagoland area" or "Serving the entire Bay area" or "...for the tri-state area."

Even worse is when I see "...and surrounding counties" or the equally heinous "Noth Central Texas."

Google doesn't have a clue what the heck "North Central Texas" means, and so the only real keyword here is "Texas." Anyone want to venture a guess as to how many websites are vying for the top-ten Google ranking for the word "Texas?" Probably not going to happen for you.

Instead, get more specific. Zoom in. Try some city names, county names, etc. Bullet points are good for this, too, but more on that later.


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Posted by Joel Baker on July 30th, 2009 12:44 PMLeave a Comment

July 27th, 2009 4:45 PM

I am committing a social media experiment with this XSite and accompanying blog.

I'd like to know if there are appraisers out there who would subscribe to a regular blog giving you tips, tricks and advice about websites and how to market to all sorts of clients.

I'll also chime in with the occasional WinTOTAL tip, but that should be pretty rare.

So, if you're willing to stretch yourself and your comfort zone for 30 seconds twice a week, subscribe yourself to my blog, and ask any questions you'd like to ask.


Posted in:General
Posted by Joel Baker on July 27th, 2009 4:45 PMLeave a Comment