What agents can learn from Zillow (and should copy)
If you want to get a visceral reaction from the real estate industry just mention the Z word. Most recently, they did a 180 and announced they would indeed start hiring agents and become a brokerage. This coming after years of saying they never would. So the reaction from agents is completely understandable.
But the truth is you do not become a company worth more than $20,000,000,000 (that is twenty billion with a b) without doing a lot of things extremely well. You don’t have to like Zillow to admire their growth and the brand they have built. Whether agents love them or not the reality is that consumers do. And there are very specific reasons why that is the case.
So with that in mind, I thought it would be useful to point out a handful of the things that Zillow does better than you. All of which you could also be doing. The point is don’t be bitter about Zillow, just get better at what you do. And don’t be afraid to take a few pages out of their proven playbook.
1. Zillow Caters to Homeowners and Sellers, Not Just Buyers
I have looked at thousands of real estate agent websites and most of them are way too buyer centric. There is home search and not much else. If you are a homeowner or someone thinking about selling your home there isn’t much content for you. Sure, we all know that Zillow has the Zestimate. But they also send a useful market report every single month. Plus, they have a robust and useful Seller’s Guide where they break down things like the best time of the year to sell your home.
Action Item: Spend some time creating content and pages on your website that would speak directly to and educate a seller. Our client The Coley Group has a great example of a seller focused page, with videos, that is on par with providing the options and information Zillow has.
Another Curaytor client, The Parrett Group, actually uses their homepage to speak directly to sellers. Plus, they have a wonderful page that goes super deep and showcases exactly how they market homes to sell them for top dollar. If you want more seller leads and come list me calls this is how it’s done.
And as for the Zestimate there is no denying that it is popular, and often inaccurate. So if you do have a home value page on your website make it great. I love this home value page on our client Alex and Joe Team’s website. With copywriting like, “Instead of a robot and an algorithm, we use our experience and up-to-date MLS data” and “Your report will be prepared by a human being, and due to that, it won't be "instant", but it will be accurate.” they aren’t just offering an alternative to the Zestimate they are selling you on why you should want one from them.
2. Zillow Is All In On Reviews
We won’t buy a book or eat at a restaurant nowadays without reading reviews first so the idea that we would hire a real estate agent without seeing what other people had to say about them is pretty crazy. What Zillow does so well is they surface reviews in an easy to find way and make them one of the main attractions across their entire website. If you look at the Agent Finder page there are reviews everywhere. If you look at a listing and click contact agent they show you reviews. And if you look at an agent’s profile they prominently display their reviews front and center.
Action Item: Whether your reviews are on Zillow, Facebook, Yelp or Google (best case scenario you have them in all four places) where they need to also be in a major way is on your website. Our client The Oyler Group does a great job of showcasing their reviews on their homepage but they also took it a step further. They have created dedicated pages to showcase specific clients they have worked with and get them to go deep on what the experience was like. These pages also include professional photography of the client and I must say are very compelling. Here is another excellent example of a customer success series from our client Carlson Residential.
Taking the time to spotlight and invest in reviews and customer success stories will help you generate transaction ready sellers and buyers who are ready to work with you from the moment they reach out.
3. Zillow’s Blog Is A+
I’m guessing you have heard that content is king. Zillow agrees and puts a ton of work into their blog. The articles are educational, interesting and timely. They also do a good job with their categories and break down their content into the following buckets: Market Trends, Home Improvement, First Person, Unique Homes and Tips and Advice. I’m guessing they obsess about data and have really narrowed this list down over the years to include what really resonates with their readers and to what gets the most traffic and page views.
If you need to know how blogging can and will impact your bottom line consider these stats. Businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than businesses that don't. (source: HubSpot) Marketers who prioritized blogging received 13X more ROI than companies that did not. (source: HubSpot) Companies with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don't blog. (source DemandMetric)
Action Item: Take your blog seriously. The reality is that about 95% of the people you know are not going to buy or sell a home this year. So, by having a blog that is focused on the area and the community you give people a reason to visit your website, and send you referrals, even if they aren’t transacting soon. Our client Jay Marks does an excellent job with his blog by covering local events as well as restaurants and home improvement tips. Another client, Charles Cherney, has a solid mix of neighborhood information, real estate advice and market reports.
4. Zillow Cares Deeply About Building Their Brand
When Zillow launched their co-founders had big goals. They wanted to become synonymous with real estate. Their mission was accomplished in 2016 when the searches for the keyword “Zillow” actually outnumbered the searches for the keywords “real estate”. Apple, Amazon, Nike and now Zillow have become household names. How did they do it? They purposefully invested in building their brand. At Starbucks, you don’t get a large coffee you get a Venti. At Zillow you don’t check your home’s value you get a Zestimate. Language matters. Logos matter. Slogans matter. Zillow is obsessed about their brand and it shows.
Action Item: Invest in your brand as an agent. And you can’t always obsess about the ROI of what you do as you build your brand. Our client Rhiannon Ferrari probably can’t tell you what the return on her investment was of getting all of these professional photos done of her clients and sphere of influence taken on their front porch while they were sheltering in place.
Another client, Lisa Archer, surely can’t calculate the GCI from having an amazing logo and brand name like Live Love Homes. And our buddy Bob Tompkins likely can’t figure out how many leads and deals he got from filming this hilarious Old Town Road parody video. But in all three cases what is happening is these agents are building a brand that people will remember. And the ROI of being the first agent people think of when they need to buy or sell or refer someone is incalculable (in a good way).
5. Zillow Does Marketing That Elicits An Emotional Response
The best marketing makes you feel something and Zillow has done an excellent job over the years of doing just that. This TV commercial about a wife searching for a home with her husband while he was deployed in the military (and his surprise return) both showcased how people use Zillow and more importantly how people are people. Another stellar commercial showed a widower looking for a home closer to his child’s grandparents and likely elicited a few tears from those who viewed it. More recently, Zillow made it clear after George Floyd was killed on camera by a police officer that “Racism has no home here.”
Action Item: Don’t just create content. Create content that creates a connection. Our client Stephanie Lanier has one of the best bio videos I have ever seen. In it she shares her story of why she got into real estate and how it was largely to give her son who suffers from a rare genetic disease a better life. I also love this listing video from Sage Real Estate that has great music, stars a very cute dog and makes you want to live in the property. To quote the one and only Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Whether you love or hate Zillow I think we can agree that they do a lot of things very well. And now you can too. Just don’t let the moves they make that bother you blind you from some of the genius ideas they regularly deploy.