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Reputation Management for Real Estate, Architecture, and Interior Design Professionals

Reputation Management for Real Estate, Architecture, and Interior Design Professionals

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Before the internet, how did real estate agents, architects, and others in the real estate business get clients?

It’s not out of school, we think, to say that a ton of business came from referrals and word of mouth. One client, satisfied with the work you did for them, told their friends, family, and colleagues, and, sure enough, some of them would give your business a call when the time came.

And the reality is that plenty of home professionals – that’s real estate brokers, interior designers, architects, contractors, and decorators – still solicit the bulk of their business from personal referrals. After all, people are never going to stop talking to each other face to face, no matter how much time we spend on our smartphones.

But the thing is? Today, people aren’t only chatting with each other over coffee or at dinner parties. Instead, they’re taking their referrals and recommendations online.

And there’s a way that you can guide the conversation around your brand for the better, helping make sure that reviews, rankings, and testimonials all work in your favor, helping you gain new leads on the backs of your existing, satisfied clients. We call this strategy reputation management, and it’s a must-have for any business in any industry, from sales to design.

Generally, we break down successful reputation management into three interrelated parts, each of which has a major role to play in making your business stand out – for the right reasons – on the internet. Whether you work in real estate, interior design, architecture, or construction, here’s what you need to know about online reputation management for your business:

Step One: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO

According to a report from Zillow, a full 87% of homebuyers use “online resources” to begin the search for their home, and a quarter of all buyers find the agent that they end up working with online.

And among “online resources,” search engines such as Google and Bing will always be a solid launching point for consumers looking for help and guidance when it comes to their home. Is your business reaching this massive audience of eager searchers, ready to do business?

In order to dominate the conversation on Google search ranking pages, you’ll need a solid, local SEO strategy in place. Like any great dish, successful SEO requires a few different ingredients working in harmony, including:

That last point, in particular, is worth noting. Today, more users are using smartphones than ever before; 56% of those looking for a home use their smartphone to research and contact home professionals, for instance. If your site isn’t attractive, responsive, and functional on mobile devices –  and some research shows that up to 91% of business’s websites aren’t – your potential clients won’t hesitate to move on to the home pro who makes a better first impression.

Step Two: Reviews and Testimonials

As you may have observed in your own everyday searching, Google no longer just presents a list of website rankings and calls it a day; instead, results pages now also come with a “Knowledge Graph” card in the right hand corner, offering location information, reviews, photos, and everything else Google knows about the business. Facebook, too, now emphasizes reviews and testimonials on business profile pages.

And this is to say nothing of the industry-specific spaces that aggregate reviews and rankings about you and your competitors, including Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Houzz, and Angie’s List, among others. Today, in fact, many people start their search for a designer, architect, or service provider by going straight to one of these listing sites. What’s more, your potential clients really do base their purchasing decisions around sites like these; in fact, 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 72% say that a positive review can improve their opinion of a local brand, according to SearchEngineLand.

With that in mind, it’s important that you position your brand highly within these online spaces, where reviews, testimonials, and client feedback can make or break your next sale.

The best way to put your best foot forward on these review sites – the end-all, be-all gate for many searchers – is to make sure that they work in your favor by deliberately currying positive reviews. How can you do that?

Well, here at Geek Chicago, for instance, we partner with a national reputation management service to offer our clients access to a review management tool with a proven track of success. Essentially, we’ll set up a workflow that lets you automatically reach out to your clients via text or email after you’ve completed your business, encouraging them to rate and review your place on a variety of sites.

Establishing this line of communication early will help you encourage your happiest clients to post glowing reviews. At the same time, reaching out like this allows you to “park” negative reviews; to that end, just giving less-satisfied clients a chance to vent privately to you over email could well prevent them from ever posting a negative public review in the first place.

The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to leave the word of mouth about your business up to chance! Instead, our tool will help you steer the conversation in the right direction. Even better, once you’ve accrued customer reviews, stories, and testimonials, you can always repurpose them as user-generated content, perfect for…

Step Three: Social Media and Email Marketing

So far, we’ve talked about reputation management in terms of what it takes – and what it can do – to get new customers to your brand for the first time. But what about those who you can turn into lifelong friends and partners, ready to turn to you for the next project, the next home, the next consultation?

Can reputation management and digital marketing actually help keep your clients coming back? Yes! There are a ton of things your local business can do to encourage loyalty and retention – and it’s important that you do, since a loyal customer is worth up to 10x as much as the value of their first purchase! Most of these strategies take place over two main digital channels: social media and email.

When it comes to social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s important that you remain active on your pages and profiles and really foster a sense of community between your brand and your existing and former clients; remember, after all, that it takes a village, not just one house.

To that end, take care to respond to positive and negative feedback and answer any customer queries; pose questions and polls; offer up interesting blog posts and fresh visual content; and don’t be afraid to give your dedicated fans a “peek behind the curtain” with behind-the-scenes stories or insights.

You can also use social media, particularly Facebook, as a paid advertising channel; the platform’s sophisticated targeting tools make it easy to identify and appeal to a narrow audience, including users who’ve already searched for or otherwise showed an interest in your brand, a process that we call “remarketing.”

Email marketing is also a powerful tool for retention and reputation management; hitting up your past clients in their inbox with compelling deals, blog content, or community-focused event invitations can be a great way to make sure that you’re top of mind the next time they need help with their home.

Curious about what it would take to execute this three-part reputation management plan for your design, architecture, building, or brokerage business? Drop us a line with any or all of your digital marketing concerns! We’re here and always ready to help you set up your internet “forever home.”  

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).