June, 2015

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Breaking the Mould – Writing for Estate Agents

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As we rapidly head towards our second anniversary, I grabbed Andrea for a quick chat to find out more about writing for estate agents.  Where did her passion come from, how did Citrus Content start and what challenges and key trends do we face.

How did Citrus start? 

I have always had a passion for property and interiors, but writing?  My career took me down a different path until 4 years ago when I joined twitter.  Here I shared my love for property and started to attract a following, this led to my first blog post.  I was asked to write a guest post on my passion, incredibly it was for Rightmove.  Over the next couple of years I was asked to write more and more, and realised two things; firstly, I loved it and more importantly, the industry wanted more.  So two years ago, I grabbed my pen and paper and started to write as a profession.

Why?

Let’s face it, estate agents historically don’t have the best reputation and are renowned for being stuck in their traditional roots.  I admit some agents are grasping onto their past with both hands but many are embracing the future and breaking the mould to emerge as a new breed of estate agents.

What are the challenges?

Estate agents are not marketers, designers or creative professionals but the business community and our technological society is asking them to be.  They often find it hard to translate their knowledge and personality into content that emotes the reader.  But being able to be the solution to this challenge is so rewarding.

Are there any key trends?

Like similar industries, traditionally estate agency content has been cold and corporate.  This has changed, whether it’s down to social media or customer needs, the industry leaders seek warm and engaging content that speaks directly to their clients.  We work hard to establish a tone of voice for each agency to highlight their individuality.  I have created, what we fondly call, our Voice Document.  This document is the foundation of everything we write and also means we can write numerous articles on the same subject and you can clearly identify which agent it was written for.  Storytelling for estate agents is now very client centric, we focus on using words such as ‘you’ and ‘your’ rather than ‘we’ and ‘our’.

Estate agents are also fusing this new trend with traditional values.  They want to be seen as not just based within the community but also part of it.  There is a growing demand for editorial content which features local businesses and events.  Blog posts, newsletters, and magazines featuring a community touch are a trend that again is growing.  No matter whether we feature a local store, artisan, or product, we have to find a way of relating it to the agent or buying, selling, renting or letting a property.

We are required to be all things not just writers.  Working with estate agents is fantastically creative; we are often required to be marketers, coming up with inventive ways to promote their business.  Some clients require even more, we have written press releases, organized events and so much more.

How have things changed?

Every day I see a change in the industry and a growing acceptance that engaging content is a necessity not a luxury item.  There is still a long way to go, as this acceptance is still very much a minority.  This is not to criticize those that have not adapted the new trends, as a culture change in an industry never happens over night.

Looking to the future

There is definitely a change in customer perception, and an estate agent is no longer the most hated profession.  I often say ‘There is nothing more powerful than words.’  Words are breaking down stereotypes, strengthening the client and agent relationship, aiding an agency to financial success and most importantly, changing how the industry operates.

I’m proud to be part of this incredible change and look forward to breaking many more moulds in the future.  Writing for estate agents is anything but dull, it is often said when buying a house you think with your heart and your head.  Passion, industry knowledge, and adaptability are key to our success at Citrus Content.

My Biggest Frustration

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Contact Details

If you have a business website or an online store, I expect that you want clients, but how easy are you making it for them to contact you?  One of my biggest frustrations is contact details, let me explain.  We come in contact with a multitude of businesses every week of all sizes I bet you do too!  But I frequently find that trying to contact these businesses is often not that easy.  You see many of the websites I go on, I play the game of – hunt the contact details.  Although this may sound entertaining, I can assure you that it looses its fun after about 5 minutes.  Now I am wanting to contact them on a professional level, but what if I was a client?  Would I stay and patiently search for your details?  Or go and find another company with a similar service or product?

Visitors to your website have made the first move but it’s down to you to invite them to connect with you, after all every visitor is a potential client.  The importance of contact details is often overlooked but did you know that a “contact us” page is the second most important page on your company’s website?  Here’s why.

  • Listing your full contact details including your postal address and email address shows each visitor that you are trustworthy and adds legitimacy to your business.
  • Visitors are unlikely to search for these details, if you choose to leave out this link on your main page they may choose to leave your site altogether.
  • Including different options of how a visitor can contact you gives them no excuse not to get in touch via a platform that they are happy with i.e. Telephone, Email, Postal or even Web Chat.
  • With an increase in smartphones, users are able to save your number from your website to store in their contacts, making it easier to reach you when needed.

Being transparent and open to your customers seems such simple advice yet being accessible to each visitor can really make a difference to your business.

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Social Media Links

Following from my previous rant I can’t ignore the annoyance of hidden social media links on many websites.  Believe it or not I have even come across websites that have no links at all, does this mean they have no social media channels?  Who knows!  If you have experimented with social media for your brand you’ll know the hard work that it takes to develop a successful social media presence, so why hide these links and buttons where no one can see them?  However well-known your brand is it’s important to showcase your social media profiles on your website.  We recommend to our clients that they should display their social media profiles and a link to their blog on the front page of their site.  After-all social media accounts are free so why wouldn’t you use them to your full advantage for your business?

When you are searching for the social media links where do you look first?  If your answer is the top right of the page then you are part of the majority of people who took part in the latest eye-tracking studies.  Heat maps show that most visitors’ eyes move to the upper right corner more than other part of a webpage, so use this space to show your social presence and even your phone number.  Here are a few other pointers to consider when it comes to promoting your social media pages.

  • Social media sharing buttons will lead your visitors to promote content from your website onto their personal profiles.
  • Always place your links somewhere towards the top half of the page, or “above the fold”, meaning the part of the page a visitor can see without having to scroll down.
  • Unnecessarily large buttons will clutter up your webpages whilst taking away from the main content.

Through buttons, links and content invite your visitors to share, follow and like your business and be sure to engage with as many people as possible to further promote your brand.

Take a few minutes today to look at your website through the eyes of a customer.  Have you made their experience stress free?  These small additions and adjustments might just be what your website has been missing.

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