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October 26, 2014

You Can Make a Better Site Than Your Brokerage Can

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You Can Make a Better Site Than Your Brokerage Can

The run-of-the-mill agent sites that brokerages provide don’t always let agents shine. Sonny Cox broke from the mold and created his own site to stand out.

Most brokerages can set new agents up with a company-branded website complete with a bio, head shot, and contact information. What it won’t provide is any personality.

Take a look at the agent profile pages of any major real estate company. You’ll notice that many look and sound the same, with varying degrees of personal information for each agent. If you were a consumer looking for the right agent, how on earth would you choose one? What would make any one of them stand out?

That’s exactly what was on Sonny Cox’s mind when he decided to supplement his agent profile page with Tarbell, REALTORS®, with his own flashier website. Cox is based in the Corona, Calif., office of Tarbell, California’s largest family-owned real estate company with hundreds of agents spread across offices throughout the southern half of the state.

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Cox says the vast majority of Tarbell agents use the same company-branded website, which can make it difficult for one agent to stand out over another because their websites look so similar. The company recommends its agents to third-party website hosting companies, which charge $30 a month or higher for site maintenance of Tarbell-branded sites. While he says he loves working for Tarbell and appreciates the tools the company offers its agents, he thought he would get a better return on his investment if he attempted to have more of an individual presence on the Web.

So Cox decided to create his own website to stand out from other agents in his company — and at a much lower cost at that. He bought a domain through GoDaddy.com and used its website builder to create his site. The cost: $13 a year.

GoDaddy’s website builder has several website templates to choose from, and its easy-to-use applications allow users to pick font styles and color schemes, upload photos, and add widgets, Cox says. “It’s very user-friendly and easy to use — even a monkey could do it,” he adds. “I had my site up and published in three to four hours.”

Cox made sure to incorporate the colors of the Tarbell brand — red and white — to maintain some cohesiveness with the company. But what creating his own site allowed him to do was to have more control over the phrasing of his advertising and what kinds of elements he wanted to have on his site. Maintenance is also at a minimum: He says he spends three to five hours a week working on his website, mostly when he wants to change something.

Though the third-party sites that many Tarbell agents use do offer more features, such as mortgage calculators, school-zone comparisons, and other subcategories, Cox says he’s happy that his site lets him express his individuality as an agent.

“The biggest thing is that people understand that this site is from me, not a word generator,” Cox said. “I want something particular to me and what I’m about — not saying what someone else says. My site is a place where people can get to know me a little bit before contacting me. They’ll see that I’m involved in my community; I’ve written about my involvement in Little League, for example.”

His branch manager at Tarbell loved the site he created, he says, because it’s a different avenue toward agent branding. Cox and another agent in his office have begun coaching other Tarbell agents through the process of creating their own sites.

“We talk about it at our weekly meetings, and we’ve even helped a couple switch to their own sites,” Cox says. “I’m trying to show the agents who have been in the business a long time that there are alternative ways of doing things than to just fall into doing whatever other agents do. You can make your own site for cheap, and it’ll still do what you need it to do. You can still have as much presence as possible.”

Cox’s site has been up and running for about four months now. So far, he’s landed six leasing deals from leads coming to his site.

“My site accounts for about 5 percent to 15 percent of my business now,” he says. “But I expect that in the future, it could be upwards of 50 percent. It’s going to let me generate more leads, and I’ve just added a widget to track visitors to my site.

“I hope this shows other agents that they shouldn’t fear technology.”

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