Communication in times of COVID-19 - procedures for real estate agencies in 2020

23 April 2020

Knowing how to adapt to the current situation

Today, we are living in a situation that resembles a sci-fi movie. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has forced the world to apply the brakes, for everybody’s sake, confining people to their homes.

With only some exceptions, the majority of businesses have been affected. Real estate agencies, which are dependent on face to face contact, visits to houses, the buying and selling and all that is implied, were forced to put on hold most of those necessary actions.

Although we should maintain an optimistic spirit in the face of adversity, the truth is that nobody knows for sure what the future holds. However, we should focus on measures within our reach which we can control - this being the motto for this article: it is possible for a real estate agency to reinvent itself and adapt to this unexpected change. For this, it is essential to use all the digital tools available within your reach.

It is important to continue to communicate

The importance of working on communication in times of crisis is imperative. Consider that, first and foremost, real estate agents should initially focus on their client, with whom they have a relationship.

To protect their financial structure in the light of the insecure climate, many areas of activity, including the Real Estate sector, have either decided or been led to leave their marketing and communication actions aside. However, this measure does not bring any benefit.

If you stop communicating, this is akin to giving up. Furthermore, when the crisis is over, the journey will be longer and more demanding than if you had continued communicating. All communication must be adapted to the current situation we are experiencing.

Excessive media exploitation of the situation should not be created. Instead, we should contribute in a relevant and important way, finding creative and inspiring solutions, in order to minimize the difficulties we all face.

It is necessary to adapt the message and the communication channels, as well as to evolve, so that alternative solutions can be found. Brands will find it easier to win people’s trust if they adapt quickly to change, are genuine and show empathy. The important thing is to communicate, motivate and encourage proactive action under the present circumstances.

Avoid Alarmisms

It is equally essential to avoid sharing negative content and “fake news”. Many of the questions that have arisen over the past few weeks remain unclear and the veracity of some indications and guidelines is unproven.

Feeding our customers' concerns will not solve anything in this fragile situation. Therefore, making a careful selection of the information we share will make all the difference to those who receive it.

However, in order to answer sensitive questions, one must take into account all the credible information that has been collected and analyse it. Only then are we ready to provide answers that are as clear and objective as possible without making projections or speculations.

Teleworking - work safely

The greatest impact of COVID-19 is undeniably human. This critical situation will define the evolution of how you work and live. 

Adapting to this phase also involves discovering and perfecting work techniques, using online tools that will enable you to achieve goals with great professionalism. 

This adaptation also involves establishing new protocols and means of communication. There is a need to simplify decision-making processes to ensure faster responses and as such, business continuity. 

Bet on your training and the training of your team. Several offers have been communicated on social networks, many of these quite appealing.

Simplify and take advantage of this moment to reorganize your client and property portfolios. Update your database and search for solutions that may be applicable to your reality.

Never has a phone call been so important and meaningful. Call your customers and your professional colleagues. Always make a difference safely.

Keep in touch with customers

At this point, you should keep in touch with customers, potential customers, or people who have simply shown an interest in buying or selling a property. Keep this essential human contact, as it is important to continue to invest in the relationship with the customer. Moreover, it is important to show that the company continues active and working, despite the circumstances.

There are several ways to do this: make a phone call or bet on video calls. Or, depending on the relationship, why not exchange some messages? The idea is that you can keep a good relationship with clients. However, it is important to understand how the client prefers to be contacted. A video call may be too intrusive. The best way to know is to ask beforehand.  

Here are some examples of tools you can use to streamline procedures or maintain connections:

  • Whatsapp for business - you will be able to exchange text messages with you clients and present services or products;
  • Skype - useful for video conference calls and texts as well;
  • Google Hangouts - lets you have video conference calls with one or more people simultaneously;
  • Zoom - also a video conferencing platform.

When addressing issues related to the sale or purchase of properties, keep a calm and confident attitude. If you have to give advice, rely on hard data. Stay alert when it comes to the market. 

One tool you can use is Google Trends. Here you can access the most searched topics worldwide, with information about the area. Another interesting tool is Google Alerts, where you can create alerts about specific areas in which you are interested. Use these tools to your advantage and stay up to date on the real estate industry.

Bet on Content Marketing

One of the ways to maintain contact and trust with clients whilst generating traffic is through content marketing. Now that you have more free time, why not write articles that can help your clients? Those articles should be useful and provide relevant information to the target audience.

There are numerous themes you can base your articles on. If you choose a topic related to the real estate market, always base your information on reliable data. Avoid speculation and forecasts with no reasoning behind them. The client should feel that the real estate agent has knowledge of the subject and that they are sharing important information which will help them make decisions.

Avoid sharing information that doesn't add any value to your client or that can cause alarmism. The shared information should be relevant and of quality. However, content marketing should not be directed at selling, it should be used to inform and advise clients. Most importantly, content share should serve to establish a relationship with the client. Be consistent and only share quality information.

After developing the content, share it on the different channels you have available: blog, social networks and newsletters. If the article is SEO-optimised (search engine optimisation) you can benefit from good organic traffic on search engines.

Real Estate Marketing - use the available tools

Do not stop relying on online marketing. Now that the offline actions are restrained, it’s important to keep utilising the digital channels you have available. Don’t disappear and then come back when everything is back to normal. It’s important that you keep working on your brand equity and your relationships with your clients. So keep in mind that this is a time to establish relationships, not sell products or services.

Keep betting on social media to maintain a close relationship with your clients. Share useful information, for example, blog articles that you’ve developed.

This is also a great time to make optimisations on your website’s SEO. That could be altering any outdated information or bad quality images. Make sure that your property pages are working properly. Furthermore, peek at your Google Analytics and access important information: what are the most visited pages, or the least visited pages. What can you do to make them get more traffic? The data can show you some interesting information.

You can even think of and prepare content and actions that you will be able to share when stability is resumed. This way you can save time in the long-term.

Virtual tours

Right now there are a lot of risks associated with physical open houses and that is why virtual tours have become more relevant since the pandemic outbreak occurred. This is something that has emerged, in these times of quarantine, to promote the real estate experience digitally. So it has become an important subject to communicate. 

Real Estate agents can record walk-throughs using their phone to show the property, speak to customers and make them feel like they are physically there. Then the videos should be edited and shared across all social media accounts. 

It is also possible to produce 3D and 360º videos or virtual tours, so that people can see the properties in the most realistic way without leaving their home. Virtual tours are therefore a good option to generate interest in the audience at this time. Schedule an appointment with the potential buyer and make the house tour in real time. One way to smooth out the process is by having a landing-page with an application form to help count the number of remote visits and meetings.

When restrictive measures are removed, it may take some time for things to return to normal. Therefore, it is important to maintain security measures, especially with regard to face-to-face visits to properties. To this end, agents must ensure that properties are appropriately cleaned, surfaces disinfected and that contact is kept to a minimum.

These actions can be publicised through photos and videos of the houses being cleaned, communicating what is being done, thus reassuring potential buyers. This will show that all security measures are being taken and that the properties are ready for a new visit.

Think about which actions to take after the pandemic

Even though uncertainty floats in the real estate market, it is important to think about which actions to take after the pandemic. 

Despite the uncertainty over when this situation of social confinement will end, we can assume that when it comes to the search for information, the trend towards digital options will continue. This could also be the case for virtual visits to properties.

In this way, this situation can potentiate a digital revolution in the process of buying and selling properties, so continued investment in digital tools that allow you to communicate and work remotely will be important.

Important conclusions

Right now, digital channels enable most companies to maintain their activities. However, it is important to understand that using these channels should not be a one-off thing, nor should it be a considered secondary act. Although these digital channels may have some constraints, it is through them that many companies are able to keep working.

One of the issues the pandemic has raised is the fact that many companies are still deeply connected to conventional processes, like traditional marketing. As a result, those were the ones who faced the biggest challenges when it came to adapting to the demands of this situation: maintaining communication with the audience.

The companies that better adapt to situations which require change and evolution, mainly through remote working and communication, will be the ones that are able to maintain competitiveness.

One of the benefits of digital channels is that the fall of organic visits and conversions is fairly easy to measure. Currently, many sectors suffer breaks in terms of organic searches on search engines. In the real estate sector it could mean a fall of 14% in organic searches and 30% in conversions.

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