Developing your website
You have one chance to make a big impression online, here are six tips to make the most of your website.
Developing your website
Commerce is now digital; a big statement, but it is the reality. If your clients are online, then why aren’t you? Your digital presence does not have to be a full ‘bells-and-whistles’ website, your site could simply show your contact details, or be a fuller representation of your work.
You have one chance to make a big impression online, here are six tips to make the most of your website.
1. Know your audience
Convoluted language is a huge turn off. Keep sentences short, do not use jargon and avoid abbreviations. Use active verbs and sentences to keep your copy trim and your message clear to convey a sense of ownership and responsibility to your clients. You want to come across as approachable and authoritative; use ‘we’ and ‘you’ to help overcome the ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide. Using plain English allows the information to be more easily understood by the reader and gives a more friendly tone than bureaucratic language.
2. Stay in touch
Make sure your contact information is clearly visible and accessible from all your pages. The biggest source of user complaint on any website is the difficulty in contacting companies. Not having upfront information creates frustration, distrust and annoyance among your clients.
Consider setting up an auto-response from your email that acknowledges the client’s communication, sets a time-frame for a response and details your office hours. Then deliver on the promise you made.
3. Bring personality to the mix
The internet is an impersonal and often desolate place, so putting a face to your business will immediately establish a relationship with your clients. Remember you want to appear authoritative and approachable – plain, instructional language addresses the former, a picture and small biography the latter. When clients are deciding which organisation to approach, the chances are they are going to choose one with a face and personality.
You should add this personality to the services you offer. We have all seen staff recommendations in bookshops and off-licences; the same principle can be applied to the surveying market.
4. Say it with pictures
Photographs are your greatest asset when promoting your practice and selling your products. The camera on your smartphone can be as powerful as a digital camera.
Make sure you use high quality pictures taken in a good light. Photos taken in lighter surroundings will produce better results. Stand with the light source behind you and avoid taking photos into direct light as this will put your subject into silhouette. Take multiple pictures of the same subject, as you may find one turns out better than the others. Do not delete images until you review them on a computer. You may be happier with the results on a larger screen.
5. Blow your own trumpet
Successes encourage potential clients to come to you for business and if they can see a range of positive outcomes from you they are going to have confidence that you will work the same magic for them. Getting customer testimonials to highlight how good you are really does work and adds value to your work.
6. Don’t forget!
The RICS logo is a quick and effective way to promote confidence through its professional standards to your clients. Regulated firms can display the logo on their websites. If you are a member, but your company is not regulated by RICS, you can display the logo on your profile page on your company website. Full guidance and logos are available at www.rics.org/logo
Quick tips for small businesses
1. Keep it simple and clearly communicate what you offer
You know what you do but does your target market? If they don’t, make it easy for them to find out by providing them with the information in a way that is easy to digest. Use strong mission statements and straplines.
2. Keep the wording short and concise
Most people simply skim read a web page so make sure your key words stand out. Easy ways to achieve this are:
- Bullet points
- Use sub-headings and bold key words to make your most important messages stand out but don’t bold everything otherwise nothing will stand out
- Space out the copy. No more than 2 sentences per paragraph
Rule of thumb is that most people view a webpage as an ‘F’. They read the top heading then scroll their eyes down the left side of the screen until something catches their attention. So keep your most important information at the top and make good use of sub-headings.
3. Show off your service
Use visual imagery, promote the locality you cover and put your contact details on each page. Make sure you keep content up to date.
4. Personalise it
Set out your background and experience. Emphasise your professional status (e.g. RICS-regulated) and target your audience (e.g. B2B, B2C).
5. Share successes and customer testimonials
Always ask your clients if they are happy to make a comment. For best results:
- Don’t leave it too late – mention it as part of your customer service follow up call
- You might have to get the ball rolling by writing it yourself and asking them to amend/approve it. If you ask them to do it from scratch, most customers won’t do it as it’s not a high priority for them
- If a customer does not want to give their name, anonymise it but keep it descriptive such as “Homebuyer report customer, [location name]”
- Keep it short and sweet, 1-2 sentences max.
6. Maximise use of the RICS brand and RICS resources
- Help clients find your services by promoting them on Find a Surveyor. Contact the team on 020 7880 6221 today.
- Use our consumer guides to provide your potential customers with advice. These free, impartial guides cover areas such as buying and selling a house, dilapidations, subsidence and party walls.
- Demonstrate the importance of your services:
- The importance of getting a home survey
Use our short film to explain to your clients why a valuation is not a survey, and the benefits of getting a survey.
- Choosing the right survey
Use our short video to show your customers which home surveys are available.
Share our flyer: A Valuation is Not a Survey
This flyer explains to potential clients which RICS survey they might need, in plain English. Share it on your website or by email, or print off copies to share in person.
- Promote the importance of using an RICS qualified professional to your customers:
- Why use an RICS professional?
Use our short video on your website to explains why your customers should choose an RICS qualified sales or letting agent to handle their property transaction.
Making the most of social media
Social media is considered a great platform for marketing - find out how to make the most out of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Making the most of social media
Social media is considered a great platform for marketing, allowing you to not only engage in conversations with customers, prospects and key stakeholders but allowing you to listen and gather feedback and sentiment.
Making the most out of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a business-oriented social media channel. From its roots as a platform which encouraged networking between professionals, it has grown into a space where businesses and brands promote their products and services, spread their latest news and engage in discussions with customers. People join LinkedIn groups to discuss, debate and air their views on a specific topic.
Ten tips to improve your personal profile:
1. It sounds obvious, but make sure to include your full name in your profile. This will make you easier to find in searches.
2. Make your page headline your current job title. This will ensure that your skills are clear to anyone viewing your profile.
3. Include your location and an industry which is relevant to your role and skills.
4. Upload a head-and-shoulders image which is suitable for a professional network. You can use JPG, GIF or PNG files no larger than 4MB. The ideal pixel size is between 200 x 200 and 500 x 500 pixels.
5. Include a short summary of your skills and experience. What qualities do you bring to your role? Make sure your RICS status is prominent.
6. Add your current role to your list of experience. Click ‘Add a position’ if you are creating a role or ‘Edit’ if you are amending an existing one. You may also wish to add your other career experience.
7. To further enhance your profile, add details of your skills, education and projects you have worked on. If you wish, you can even add personal contact details.
8. Grow your network - make connections with any current or former colleagues. Find them by name using the search bar at the top of the page and ask that they leave 'recommendations'.
9. Follow Company Pages including the RICS Company Page for regular updates from RICS.
10. Join and contribute to discussions in groups.
Join the RICS LinkedIn Group
Making the most out of Facebook
Facebook company pages are a great way to promote your services, along with relevant news and advice to those with an interest in your work. Post multimedia including photos and videos – the key word here is variety.
Make sure your Facebook page incorporates your branding with appropriate ‘About’ information, profile image and cover image.
How best to post
- It’s important to include images in your posts as this will raise engagement levels. Only upload images if they’re well-composed and of reasonable size.
- Less is more when it comes to Facebook pages. Shorter posts with a clear call-to-action receive higher levels of engagement than long posts.
- Shorten long URLs before adding them to your posts. Use Bitly to do this.
- Link to a variety of sources, not only your content. Is there interesting content on another website you can refer users to?
- Ask questions and encourage sharing. Do your page followers have thoughts on your services?
- Post to the page no more than twice a day - any more than this can have a negative impact upon engagement levels.
- As with Twitter, Facebook users can include hashtags (#) in their posts. Using hashtags makes your posts easier to find for users who may not already ‘like’ your page.
- Make use of the scheduling function to post an update at some point in the future. Double-check your text, image and short link before selecting a time and date. This is great for ensuring continuity of content.
Managing your page
- Download the Facebook smartphone app which allows you manage the page on the go.
- Reply to private messages posted to your page and respond to constructive comments made by users. Get back to them in a timely manner, and, if necessary, signpost through to any relevant information.
- Make use of Facebook Insights to discover how well your posts are performing. Look back at past posts; how can you learn from their performance?
- ‘Like’ other Facebook pages and share their posts. Use the search function within Facebook to find other pages, hashtag streams and people.
- If you have available budget, you may wish to boost your posts to reach more people.
'Like' the RICS Facebook page
Making the most out of Twitter
Twitter is one of the most popular social media channels in the world. With an ever-increasing user base, it's a powerful tool for communicating news and information about your products and services.
A Twitter account should be used to deliver relevant and timely information in bite-sized pieces. These snippets need to be delivered in 140 characters (preferably less), and normally provide a link/photo. The content shared here is a mix of the professional side seen on LinkedIn and the fun side seen on Facebook, with the keywords being relevant and informative.
If you're just starting out, Twitter can be a little confusing. Read this A-Z for hints and tips on effective use.
Take time to consider your Twitter account name. This can be a company account name for example @RICSNews. If you need to change your Twitter @name, you can do so at any time via the 'settings' option on the main taskbar.
Make sure you fill out the 'Bio' section of your Twitter profile. Use this space to explain a bit about your company and your services. Make sure you add details of your website to the ‘Website' field.
Tweets can be a maximum of 140 characters long. However, it's best to keep them shorter if possible. Tweets under 60 characters have been shown to generate 1/3 of the engagement of longer tweets. Find the happy medium between these and stick to it.
Add a disclaimer to your Twitter 'Bio'. If using a personal twitter account to promote your business, add a sentence reading: "These view are my own". Even after you have added this, be mindful of the content you're tweeting so that your brand’s reputation remains intact.
Reply to people's tweets with constructive comments and click 'favourite' on those which you feel are worthy of it. Building up a good level of engagement with others will make it easier for you to attract new followers. Be patient though - it takes time!
Follow Twitter accounts which interest you. Make sure you're following @RICSnews for regular tweets from our central, global account.
Searching for interesting content to tweet can be time-consuming. Set up Google Alerts for topics which interest you professionally and personally. For example, creating an alert for the term ‘chartered surveyors’ will generate regular emails which are sent to your inbox.
The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. For example, people tag tweets about housing with #Housing so that it shows up in Twitter searches. Best practice suggests using no more than two hashtags in a tweet. Any more than this and your tweets will look cluttered.
Add profile and header images to your Twitter page. Your profile image should be no larger than 400 x 400 pixels. Your header image should be no larger than 1,500 x 1,500 pixels[HH1] . For company Twitter accounts make sure you utilise this space with your branding.
Starting from scratch? Join Twitter at www.twitter.com. Before setting up your account, ask yourself what you want to get out of joining. Do you have the time to devote to it?
Keep your password safe
Use a mixture of numbers and characters in upper and lower cases. It’s advisable to change your password periodically so your account remains secure. If you already have an account, you can change your password at any time via the ‘settings’ area.
A list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of tweets from only the users on that list.
Twitter is available both on desktop computers and mobile devices. If you wish, you can download the Twitter app and use it on the go. This is especially useful if you’re at an event and wish to tweet quotes and good quality images in real time.
No portrait pictures!
If you’re tweeting pictures, make sure they’re landscape, not portrait. Twitter automatically crops images to leave only the centre of the image immediately visible.
Are you responsible for running your company Twitter account? All accounts should be on-brand, with correct logos and images.
Producing a social media policy
If you have a few people managing your social media channels think about implementing a social media policy which outlines best practice use and most importantly, the consequences of misuse.
Use questions to engage in conversation with other users and followers – keep the dialogue flowing and remember to include peoples’ twitter names when asking direct questions i.e. @RICSNews
A retweet is a re-posting of someone else’s tweet. Retweet content you find interesting and thank other users for following you or retweeting your tweets.
Long URLs are often too large to include in your 140 characters. Use a URL shortener such as Bitly to make your long URL shorter. Copy and paste the short link into your tweet and add descriptive text.
Think about the best time to engage with people – is it at lunchtime or during travelling hours?
Use your head before tweeting
Is Twitter the right social network to be using for your message? Would it work better on LinkedIn or Facebook instead?
Tweet content from a variety of sources, not just your website to make your content more engaging and help attract new followers. For example, if you find interesting content on the website of another organisation, tweet a link through to it. Try to find out if the organisation has a Twitter @name so they know that you are mentioning them.
Work and personal balance
Strike a good balance between work and personal content. If you’re tweeting about company news and services via your personal account, make sure the rest of the content of your account is appropriate and doesn’t damage the reputation of your company by association.
A tenuous link here - examine how effective your tweets are. Free tools such as TweetReach can help you analyse how engaging your tweets have been. Another clever trick is to add ‘+’ at the end of your Bitly links in your browser to see how many people have clicked them. Eg. bitly.com/1m5oekb+
Your mistakes could damage your engagement
Before clicking ‘post’, double-check your tweets to ensure that there aren’t spelling mistakes and that the @names and #s are correct. Accuracy and consistency breed engagement.
Z – You read all the way down to Z and the end of our list - congratulations
Follow @RICSNews on twitter
Digital marketing options for small businesses
An overview of the various digital media channels that can be used to market your business
Digital marketing options
There are various digital media channels that can be used to market your business:
It is pretty much the norm now for customers to just Google search something, so having a presence of the web is vital. There are 3 options:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
This is a very easy way to increase your chance of your website being picked up on a Google search. The idea is to increase your website’s ‘attractiveness’ on Google’s algorithms to increase the chance of it being found when a customer searches for related search terms.
The key is to make sure that the key words that a customer might search for and those which are relevant to your business offering are present on your website. incorporate key search words into your headings and sub-headings as these have more weighting than if the key words are just in normal copy.
Common words that someone would search for could be:
- name of a town/city/location
- specialism such as home survey, subsidence
e.g. ‘surveyor in Leeds or ‘residential surveyor in London’.
Depending on your budget, you could pay to have Google PPC adverts - these are the adverts that appear at the top (and to the side) of Google search result pages and will ensure your business is one of the first to be listed in results.
PPC can be expensive and there will be a lot of competition but this varies depending on the keyword’s popularity.
The cost of PPC is usually much lower than traditional forms of advertising as budgets can be set to limit costs per day. Click throughs decrease dramatically if you are not on the first page so you do need to commit yourself financially for this to be effective and it needs to be monitored regularly to ensure that you are not just wasting money. If in doubt, don’t do it.
RICS Find a Surveyor has an excellent online presence already and you will be benefiting from the strong pull factor that the RICS brand would generate. All RICS members get a free basic listing but you can pay to get your services listed which will increase your presence and likelihood of generating leads. Visit www.ricsfirms.com for more information and to check that your free listing details are correct.
This can be seen as the online equivalent of a direct mailing. Email marketing can build relationships with customers in a cost effective way, ensuring an excellent ROI, and can be used to deliver a variety of personalised content to encourage certain behaviour, using incentives, e-coupons and loyalty schemes to motivate customers.
To carry out email marketing you will first need to build an email list – you could include an ‘opt-in’ tool on your website.
Display advertising is a type of advertising that is located on websites. It is represented by a wide range of different formats and contains items such as text, images, flash, video, and audio.
The main purpose of display advertising is to deliver general advertisements and brand messages to site visitors. Social media platforms offer the ability to pay for display advertising. For example LinkedIn allows you to target specific job titles, industries or even groups with specific adverts. This can be expensive but if managed correctly can offer an effective way to target specific audiences.