Marketing Messaging: 6 Strategies to Turbo-Charge Your Website
Posted By susanne On January 8, 2012 @ 1:05 pm In Best Practices,Business Development,Coaching,Marketing,Real Estate Technology,Real Estate Training
With the arrival of a new year, now’s a great time to look closely at your website and evaluate what worked well in terms of bringing you the results you wanted as well as what didn’t work throughout the last 12 months. Here are six strategies that you should incorporate into your website to hit the ground running in 2012.
1. Make sure you have a strong MLS search tool on the front page of your site. Having an interactive search tool where the visitor can choose a specific town, price range and even property type can be a powerful way to compel them to want to click-through and access listings. Having an IDX-integrated search on the home page eliminates the need for buyers or sellers to click-through three or four levels just to view homes.
2. Double check that you are the point of contact on every listing when the visitor searches the MLS. If you are driving people to the MLS search, don’t forget that the name of the game is lead generation. Make sure they can ask for more information easily, schedule a showing or even share the listing with a friend in a matter of seconds, all while positioning yourself as the point of contact and keeping an eye on the activity.
3. Have specialized buttons right on the front page so that visitors to your site can get information for what they are specifically interested in. For example, take a look at http://hollimccray.com and you’ll see buttons dedicated to one-level living and for properties close to the downtown area of Knoxville.
4. Have a built-in blog within your site. Notice that I didn’t say HAVE a blog as your website like http://markspain.com/atlanta_real_estate_blog. Instead, take the time to create a blog that can be integrated within your site. This way your website has components for lead capture through search engines and your blog is working to add content and build relevance for the search engines. Make sure your visitors have the ability to retweet your information as well as share it on Facebook and other social media channels.
5. Have social media-share features on every single page in your website. People want to see information and then they want to “like” it or share it on their Facebook wall or on their Twitter account.
6. Have built-in email campaigns so that you can easily send specific emails to targeted groups. For example, let’s say you come across a great foreclosure deal and you want to let your foreclosure buyer pipeline know about it. Have the tools so that you can email the entire group within moments to let them know about the new listing.
Tricia Andreassen is the CEO/founder of Pro Step Marketing.
Entrepreneur Jane Stout briefly tried to obtain financing from a bank to start her grocery business in Port Chester, an unusual retail venture for Westchester County. Instead of that conventional lending route, she found what she needed through a nonprofit agency that works with small-business owners in the region, many of whom have been turned down for loans by banks.
Stout operates That Discount Place, a 3,500-square-foot grocery in former warehouse space at 155 Irving Ave. that sells foods in damaged packaging or past their stamped expiration dates. The goods typically are priced at 30 percent to 60 percent below those at conventional grocery stores.
“It’s basically the first market in this part of the country,” she said. Discount groceries are popular in the South and Midwest. In her youth, Stout worked at her family’s three discount groceries in Indiana.
Formerly the chief operating officer at a Manhattan marketing and production company, Stout saw her position eliminated following a company merger. “I had a forced opportunity to do something that I had been really wanting to do for a long time” as a discount-grocery pioneer, she said.
Stout was referred by a New York State Small Business Development Center adviser to Community Capital Resources in Hawthorne, the U.S. Small Business Administration microlender for Westchester and five other Hudson Valley counties and the largest nonprofit lender in the region. “I just basically needed to get my hands on $50,000 and they were able to accommodate me.” She opened her business in late October.
Community Capital could not have made a loan in that amount until about 18 months ago, when the SBA raised its program loan cap from $25,000 to $50,000 as part of the federal economic-recovery stimulus package.
“This is a very expensive part of the country to be opening a business in,” said Tamara Underwood, director of small business lending and support at Community Capital, which also has offices at the Orange County Business Accelerator in New Windsor and at the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce in Poughkeepsie. Previous SBA loan limits were too low for Westchester, she said.
Even with the loan-cap increase, “We see businesses that need more than $50,000,” she said.
Since the recession and the credit crisis that began in 2008, “We saw a big increase in demand for our loans,” Underwood said. Some businesses in 2009 had their lines of credit closed out by banks and severe cash flow problems. “The banks had kind of packed up and shut down” their lending, she said. Community Capital began to see more mature companies and businesses with higher revenues as clients.
The agency’s average small-business term loan has more than doubled since the recession, from $11,000 to $12,000 prior to 2008 to $24,000 to $26,000 in 2011. Community Capital, though, still has only one client with annual revenue of more than $1 million, Underwood said.
One year ago, the agency launched a lending partnership with the city of Yonkers and the state’s Empire State Development Corp. Tapping Empire State Development’s small business revolving loan fund, Community Capital matches dollar-for-dollar the amount of a commercial loan made by Yonkers from its Community Development Block Grant fund. The partnership provides small loans of $25,000 or less and larger loans that range from $25,000 to $250,000. Only businesses that have been operating for two years or more are eligible for the larger loans.
Five Yonkers businesses received loans of $25,000 or less in the partnership’s inaugural year. Three companies have received larger loans and another business is about to close on a $100,00 loan, Underwood said.
From his Yonkers home, Marvin Vasquez operates Multi Marketing USA, an Internet and social-media marketing and website development business he launched in 2010. When he decided to take his startup “to the next level” last year, Vasquez knew from his brother, a Webster Bank employee, that banks would not approve the loan he sought for working capital and to invest in hardware and software equipment.
“I think financial institutions haven’t grasped how lucrative this (web) business can be,” he said. “That was one of the challenges that we had to overcome.”
Referred to Community Capital Resources by his brother, Vasquez obtained the financing he needed. His business location in Yonkers, where the lending partnership operates, “gave me an extra push,” he said. He has hired a graphic designer to join him and his wife in the business.
“It was a very interesting process,” said Vasquez. “It’s not as easy as people think to get funded.”
Between October 2010 and September 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration backed more than $30 billion in loans nationally and $1.4 billion in New England alone.
While those numbers are unlikely to repeat themselves, there has been a continued strong demand for SBA-backed loans by businesses across Fairfield County and across the state three months into the organization’s 2012 fiscal year.
The robust demand is likely the result of several relatively new measures, including an increase in the maximum loan amount from $2 million to $5 million and a simplification of the CAPLines program, which is designed to help businesses meet short-term working capital needs.
Through the first quarter of the SBA’s 2012 fiscal calendar, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 31, the Connecticut office has backed 137 loans worth a total of $44.4 million compared with roughly 200 loans that were approved with SBA backing in the previous year.
“It looks as though we are ahead of schedule,” said Bernard M. Sweeney, district director of the Connecticut SBA office. “We’ve certainly done more minority loans in the first quarter than we did in all of last year, and that to me says an awful lot.”
Sweeney attributed the perceived annual drop in the number of loans to a huge surge in SBA lending activity that took place at the end of 2010, when a job stimulus bill temporarily increased the guarantee level on SBA-backed loans to 90 percent and waived a number of fees for loans made between September and December of that year.
Currently, the SBA guarantees 80 percent of sponsored loans that are for less than $150,000 and 75 percent of sponsored loans that are for more than $150,000.
The SBA’s two signature loan programs are its 7a Loan Guaranty Program and its Certified Development Company/504 Loan Program that targets businesses looking to construct, buy or renovate fixed assets, such as land, buildings and machinery and equipment.
While business and consumer confidence has risen over the past several months on steadily improving employment numbers and improving retail sales, Sweeney said banks are still lending conservatively and that as a result, there has been a consistent demand for loans with SBA backing.
“The banks are still looking for the enhancement on their loan and of course the SBA guarantee provides the greatest such enhancement,” Sweeney said.
Robert Polito, director of government-guaranteed lending for Webster Bank in Waterbury, said there is generally a higher awareness among Fairfield County business owners, leading to a higher demand for the various SBA loan programs.
“My sense is there’s a sophistication level here that might not be seen in such concentration levels as in other areas,” Polito said. “Because of that, the demand is going to be there for this type of lending.”
Webster Bank divides its clients into a small-business portfolio and a commercial banking portfolio. Among the small-business portfolio, SBA-backed loans represented roughly 14 percent of the total loans approved by the bank last year, Polito said.
“We would like that number to grow significantly for 2012. It would be wonderful to reach that 25 percent level for the portfolio,” he said.
During the SBA’s 2011 fiscal year, Webster Bank was the state’s top backer of SBA 7a and 504 loans and was the seventh-ranked SBA lender among New England financial institutions.
Polito said three areas that will drive SBA lending in 2012 include the organization’s budget flexibility, banks’ response to the October 2010 measure that increased the maximum SBA-backed loan value from $2 million to $5 million, and banks’ and businesses’ response to the simplification of the CAPLines program.
It has taken some time for lenders to get comfortable with the $5 million loan maximum, Polito said, but with 2012 may come a greater application of higher SBA-backed loans.
Additionally, Polito predicted that changes to the CAPLines program would result in a significant uptick in the number of businesses that take advantage of SBA backing of working capital lines of credit.
“In prior years the product was not even remotely used by SBA lenders because of the complexities,” he said. “What the SBA did was to drastically decrease the hoops you have to jump through to get one approved.”
Access to working capital lines are essential for local businesses, Polito said, predicting that SBA-backed loans under its CAPLines program would “significantly increase in volume for fiscal year 2012.”
BY: John Jordan
WHITE PLAINS -- For the commercial office market, adaptive reuse of some tired office properties in 2012 could cut into the county’s bloated office vacancy rate, especially along the I-287 corridor. Meanwhile, the impact of the Ridge Hill shopping center in Yonkers will be felt across the county, but particularly along the prime Central Avenue corridor this year.
Those prognostications were just some of the forward-thinking observations made during a broker’s roundtable program presented by the Westchester Putnam Association of Realters’ Commercial Investment Division on December 15 at Graziella’s Restaurant in White Plains.
The CID Broker Roundtable featured: William Cuddy, executive vice president, CB Richard Ellis; Glenn Walsh, senior director at Cushman & Wakefield; Paul Adler, vice president, Rand Commercial Services; William Hesse, president, Aries, Deitch & Endelson; John Barrett, vice president of sales, Admiral Real Estate Services; and the moderator was Edward Kulikowski, owner, Benchmark Real Estate.
Hesse related that the retail market has seen the “resurgence of Mom and Pop stores deals” throughout Westchester County. He said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for the retail sector in the region in 2012.
“2011 was I think a pretty good year for us and for retailing,” Hesse said. “Notwithstanding the terrible economy, but in this county we saw more of a resurgence of small retailers coming back to the marketand the Mom and Pops, which are the bread and butter of our industry, which had totally disappeared until the beginning of this year. So that was very helpful and I am much more bullish (on the prospects for 2012) based on that.”
Hesse said that in 2011 the retail market has seen a continued absorption of vacant space, especially in prime markets such as Central Avenue.
“If you go down Central Avenue now, you will notice the vacancies that are left are really more tuned to problems of a particular center or particular building than to the fact that we are going through a recession,” he added.
Hesse said that part of the increased demand was due to the fact that rents in Westchester County have dropped 20%-25% in the past three years. “There comes a point where supply is meeting demand and we reached that point this year,” he noted. Hesse believes that retail rents will stabilize in 2012.
A relatively new player in the retail market in 2011 was the 1.25-millionsquare- foot Ridge Hill Shopping Center in Yonkers.
“I think it (Ridge Hill) is going to be a game-changer and will wake up a lot of landlords that will have to compete against it.”
Office Market Will Continue to Struggle
Cuddy and Walsh were brokers in two of the largest deals in Westchester County in 2011, which both closed during the month of December – the Histogenics purchase of 104 Corporate Park Drive in White Plains (Cuddy) and the law firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP’s a 15-year, 125,000-square-foot lease at RPW Group’s 1133 Westchester Avenue (Walsh).
Both brokers said that a good portion of the county’s office market has become old and antiquated. Cuddy related that the sector has “underperformed” the past few years and has suffered negative absorption for the past four years. He related that of the 33 million square feet of office space in the county, 75% was built between 1970 to 1990.
“What we are really dealing with is in that pool of 33 million square feet of space, a good chunk of it is now and over the next few years, will be rolling as obsolete, dysfunctional real estate,” Cuddy said.
Walsh noted that irrespective of the Histogenics and Wilson Elser deals, he described the market as “shuffling the deck chairs around,” noting that there are very few new companies or relocations coming into Westchester.
Cuddy related that the county’s estimated 1.2 million square feet of leasing velocity in 2011 is about 50% of the 10-year leasing velocity average pre-2008.
An exciting trend for the office market has been some adaptive reuse or repurposing of some office properties along I-287, the most recent being the planned redevelopment of the Journal News property at 1 Gannett Drive in Harrison by Life- Time Fitness.
Adler shared that Rand Commercial recently brokered the $3.9-million sale of an 80,000-square-foot former warehouse building on Elm Street in Ardsley that will be repurposed into a recreational/leisure complex.
He described the 2011 office market as “a real new reality” for brokers with “back to basics” investment deals and a “cathartic” period that saw “a great many pretenders in the industry leave the industry because it really came down to not putting a for-sale sign out in front. You really needed to know what you were doing and you needed to know how to attract the investors.”
Adler added that in 2011 pricing was huge and he expects that will continue in 2012.
Walsh said that 2012 will mirror 2011 in many ways with some repurposing of office properties as well as some New York City tenants “putting their toes in the water” studying the Westchester office market for possible relocation deals. Both Cuddy and Walsh believe the market will improve but has a long way to go before it is fully recovered.
Barrett said that in the investment sales market, the multifamily sector remains the strongest sector, along with well-located retail properties near train stations.
He added that he expects sales velocity to increase in 2012 as more banks put more properties on the market. He said cap rates will move with interest rates with top well-located properties fetching cap rates in the 6% to 7% range.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Christopher P. St. Lawrence
Telephone: 845-357-5100 Ext. 201
Town of Ramapo Hosts 85th Annual Daily News Golden GlovesSaturday, January 21, 2012 WHO:
Patrick J. Withers
Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence and Councilmembers: Yitzchok Ullman, Patrick J. Withers, Daniel Friedman, Brendel Logan; Brian Adams, N.Y. Daily News Golden Gloves; BHG Rand Realty and Ireland’s 32WHAT:
Annual Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament, the oldest and
most well-known Amateur Boxing Tourney in the World. Bouts are to
be held in memory of Patrick Faherty, the late Suffern High School Principal.WHERE:
The Joseph T. St. Lawrence Community, Health & Sports Center
115 Torne Valley Road, Hillburn, New York 10931 WHEN:
Saturday, January 21, 2012 – Doors open at 2:15 PM – First Bout begins at 3 PM SPONSORED BY:
BHG Rand Realty, Ireland’s 32, Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC, The Tisi Family, New York Daily News & Town of Ramapo ALL PROCEEDS TO:
Daily News Charities & Vietnam Veterans of Rockland County TICKETS:
Adults – $20.00, 14 & under - $10.00, Senior Citizens (60+) - $10.00 (cash only)
Tickets available at the door and pre-sale at Ramapo Town Hall in Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence’s Office FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Phil Tisi at Town of Ramapo (845) 357-5100 or Brian Adams, NY Daily News Coordinator of Golden Gloves (212) 210-1932
The Ridge Hill mega-shopping center will cast a long shadow over Westchester’s retail landlords in 2012 and the adaptation of the county’s aged and obsolete office properties for diverse new uses will continue this year, according to commercial brokers here.
They made their forecasts at a December panel discussion hosted by the Commercial Investment Division of the Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors.
William Hesse, president of Aries Deitch and Endelson Inc., said 2011 brought a small resurgence of “moms and pops” in the county’s retail leasing market. “The moms and pops had totally disappeared,” he said.
In 2012, though, Westchester’s Ridge Hill, the 1.25-million-square-foot retail and entertainment complex developed by Forest City Ratner Cos., will be the giant that dominates the retail market here, Hesse said.
At the end of 2011, the not yet fully opened complex was 75 percent to 80 percent leased. National retailers formerly drawn to Central Avenue, the county’s long-time retail artery, are opting to lease instead at Ridge Hill, Hesse said.
“It’s going to be a game-changer and it’s going to wake up a lot of landlords who are going to have to compete with it,” he said.
“Ridge Hill is a phenomenon that definitely has an effect on all of Westchester County.”
Hesse predicted retail rental rates will stabilize in 2012 after plummeting in recent years, though he does not expect them to rise.
A push to repurpose properties
In the county’s underperforming office market, “repurposing” is a rallying cry and cause for hope among brokers who agree the office stock is obsolete or near-obsolete and unattractive to businesses looking to expand or relocate and attract young professionals.
Glenn Walsh, senior director at Cushman & Wakefield Inc., said he doesn’t expect to see youth-led technology companies such as Facebook and Google enter the county. “Young people don’t want to live here,” he said. “You can’t make us something we’re not.”
In 2012, “I think you’re going to see a lot (of) what you just saw in 2011, which was a lot better than what we saw in 2010,” said Walsh. “Basically what we’re doing is shuffling deck chairs around” with office tenants moving within the county. “It’s been tough.” Westchester has had four years of negative absorption of available office space, he noted.
Repurposing properties is “the only way” to get rid of Westchester’s aging office inventory, said Paul Adler, executive vice president at Rand Commercial Services.
Adler in 2011 was co-broker on a $3.9-million deal for a vacant 80,000-square-foot office-warehouse in Ardsley whose new owners plan to redevelop the building as a sports center. That deal follows the purchase of the 22-acre 1 Gannett Drive property in Harrison by Life Time Fitness Inc., which plans to raze the 232,000-square-foot Journal News plant and replace it with a 209,000-square-foot family recreational and fitness center in an approximately $45-million project.
“Now we’re looking at inventories, repurposed ones, that are going to dramatically change the market,” Adler said.
‘A more attractive market’
William V. Cuddy Jr., executive vice president at CB Richard Ellis Inc., said the amount of square footage leased in Westchester in 2011 was about one-half of the leasing velocity in a healthy market here before 2000. If the repurposing of class-A properties continues and if “B-grade” and “C-grade” office buildings are removed from the market, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re looking at a much healthier statistic at this time next year,” he said.
With office-space conversions to medical, recreational, retail and residential uses, “The net result is a healthier office market and a more attractive market” that will help draw corporate tenants from Manhattan, Cuddy said.
Cuddy in a separate recent interview with the Business Journal said 2012 will bring “some decent activity” for medium-sized office spaces of 25,000 to 30,000 square feet. Ten to 12 companies in that range are exploring the Westchester market, he said.
“We used to measure everything in square footage,” Cuddy said. “That’s an important metric, but I think we really should be focusing on this diversity within our commercial stock.”
The market for multifamily buildings
John Barrett, head of the investment sales division at Admiral Real Estate Services Corp., said multifamily buildings near train stations “will do well” in the investment sales market in 2012. With continued low interest rates, good properties will be purchased at capitalization rates of 6 percent to 7 percent, he said.
Barrett said he expects to see more deals for bank-held multifamily buildings as loans made in 2007 and 2008 mature in 2012 and borrowers are unable to refinance. Already, “On a month-by-month basis, we see more properties coming on the market from banks,” he said.