Google Analytics and how it can help your business

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Google Analytics should be on your website – and if it’s not, sort it out please, so I can sleep easily.

It’s not a difficult process to set up and it’s made even easier to track when you download the App from the App Store (or if you’re poor, Google Play). The App is actually genius and works better on smartphone and tablet I believe than on a desktop browser.

HOW TO SET UP GOOGLE ANALYTICS

But there’s a few steps to do before you get that far.

Google can obviously explain it better than I can – so here’s the link.

ADD THE TRACKING CODE

The tricky part comes when you’re faced with adding the code to your website – this is not as straightforward as you’d expect, given that Google Home and Google WiFi are beacons of simplicity.

You end up with what looks like some form of Sanskrit over 7 or 8 lines and Google tells you to add this to the Header of your website.

Come again?

The header above the body?

That’s clear – but it’s not to people facing what may be an unfamiliar WordPress dashboard. I can do it of course as it comes as standard with the websites I build. I’ll create a Gmail account and sort out the Search Console, the UA key and the gtags, giving you access on desktop or the rather fine App once built, and this is where the magic starts.

If you’re into geeky data magic, that is – which I am.

WHAT GOOGLE ANALYTICS DOES

The Analytics shows you Real Time views, shows you which Content is being viewed and the Bounce Rate (how long someone stays on your site before they click close or navigate away). It tells you whether people are on tablet, desktop or mobile, which country they’re from and pinpoints areas.

Here’s my geographical breakdown;

  1. UK
  2. France
  3. USA
  4. India
  5. Peru

Now Peru and France surprise me a little bit. I’d expect India and USA as I’ve worked with clients from both, but never anyone from Peru or France.

If I look further though, France is centred around Paris (how bijou is Get Pro Copy Ltd?) and 53% of UK visitors are based in London or Bristol, oddly.

Apart from me lying awake wondering why Bristolians find my website so fascinating, Analytics provides better information and it’s this. It shows where my traffic is coming from – Direct, Search, Organic or Social – and tots up the numbers.

THOSE PESKY NUMBERS

At the beginning of May, I went properly solo and backed out of a business partnership. I decided to revamp Get Pro Copy, begin offering web design in Norwich, and anywhere else that would have me, and focus solely on the business I set up three years ago, instead of butterflying round various projects.

Here’s April’s figures, when Get Pro Copy was on its 2015 design:

Here’s the transition month of May when I began a major redesign – website was down for a week too during the redesign. So just a slight increase.

But this month has exploded. I built 11 websites in May and rebuilt mine and have 5 on the go this month, but the number of sessions leaped by 170% and users by 162% – because of the redesign and the concerted blogging campaign. Bounce rate has actually increased though, which is odd.

 

INEVITABLE CALL TO ACTION ON GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Now you might say “Well done Statto” and think “sad get” but my points are these:

  1. Have you set up Google Analytics on your website?

  2. Do you want more eyes on your website?

  3. Would you like to know how to achieve both?

Contact me if you do and here’s an internal link to hopefully keep that sesh data healthy.

 

 

SaveSave

“Lorem Ipsum” be gone – use a proper copywriter

%name Lorem Ipsum

Ah Lorem Ipsum, or Lorem Ipsum Dolor (I think) if I’m feeling expansive – the beige text place filler that says put text here and a sight that many web designers and clients sigh over when they see it.

Lorem Ipsum needs replacing you see. And that causes navel gazing and head scratching, because trust me, as a seasoned writer (no salt though as it induces strokes) that is the biggest part of any web project. Well that and the bloody images.

You can find copyright-free images on Pexel, Pixabay and Unsplash and download to your heart’s content, but you can’t find the equivalent for words – because the equal of VAR (topical World Cup reference – tick), Google, will penalise you.

So if you’re faced with this as a web designer or client, how do you react?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

To my mind, you’ve several options when you’re faced with Lorem Ipsum:

  1. Die slowly inside.
  2. Play client-designer ping pong. Designer asks client for content, client bats it back to designer, ad infinitum.
  3. Outsource it.

3 is where I come in.

I’m a Lorem Ipsum warrior, a word hero without the cape, and increasingly, designers and clients are dropping table tennis rackets, looking at me, esconsed in my foxy office and asking “Stuart, fancy being our Lorem Ipsum surrogate?”

The answer is invariably yes – particularly if you can provide me with a staging or development site or an outline of what’s needed where.

My words

I do it quickly, efficiently and creatively too, a man on a mission if you like to write copy that answers web visitors questions, speaks to them like a human and gets a fist bump from Google.

As a client wanting a website, you could try doing it yourself with inferior results – that’s not me being cocky, but I’ve had years of destroying Lorem Ipsum – or ask the web designer to pay me or head directly to me and say “Stuart, don’t launch into a WordPress sales pitch, we’ve already got someone doing that, but the copy is beige, vanilla and Latin and needs some pizazz.”

I’ll do it.

I quickly assess the word count and quote you a fixed price for optimised, human copy that will have Lorem Ipsum disappearing, embarrassed.

There’s conditions of course – I don’t have scope stretch – by that I mean I quote for 2000 words and you ask me to add a blog or improve 3 you’ve drafted. No way, Jose. You pay upfront too as I hate spending days working and waiting for a month to dine out on it.

Web Designers have it easy

But I’ll tell you this now as someone who has learned a little bit about WordPress web design (I’m on page 14 of Google you know), I could train a 4 year old to ADD NEW – PAGE / POST – CUSTOMISE – APPEARANCE – MENUS – ADD PAGE TO MENU (I hope it goes like that) but said 4 year old, 40 year old client, 50 year old web designer couldn’t craft content as well as a skilled website copywriter, like moi or t’others.

Enough.

I’ve Lorem Ipsum to banish on three websites alone this week – you want me to banish yours?

Drop me a line (no, not that type of line) to stuart@getprocopy.com or connect with me on LinkedIn (don’t worry, I don’t bore on there) and watch Lorem Ipsum disappear, whilst website traffic and sales increase.  

Bog off with your silly WordPress web design prices

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I had a superb May as a newbie to this website design malarkey and you can see the 11 I built on my About page, and feedback has been universally good.

June has maintained the momentum and I’m working now on North of Winter – a tattoo studio site for a leading Manchester tattoo artist, Sam Barber, based in Mossley.

I’ve just launched a website for Matthew Clarke Photography and he was pretty chuffed too with it, saying this:

I wanted a clean, simple & easy to navigate web page that showcases my photography work & with the help of Stuart Walton at Get Pro Copy Ltd I now have that…& one I am very pleased with.

Stuart has been very accommodating to my requirements in terms of my vision of what I wanted from my website. He has been brilliant in making slight tweaks at the drop of a hat & open to the suggestion of different ideas of the look of the overall website. His own creative input has been welcomed with some additions to my website that I wouldn’t have thought of. He has helped me set up emails, given great advice on my web presence & tips on how to get the best out of my social media accounts & activity. My website will always be a work in progress in terms of updating new images, writing blogs (another area Stuart has helped me with), adding new testimonials & introducing new elements to the website over time that will come naturally but I know with Stuart helping me I can’t go wrong. Stuart really is a one stop shop in terms of copy writing, web building & social media, all of which I believe are major components in what make a great website.

I would highly recommend Stuart & Get Pro Copy Ltd for website building. Another string he can add to his already impressive bow 😉

Next up is a drone website: Eagle Eye Camera Systems for Scott and I think he’s likewise impressed with my service, copywriting and design skills.

Then after that, I’m ditching the manly drone talk and going full on with a beauty website for Katie called Hair and Holistics. 

I think what’s happening is that many people are seeing that’s there a good living to be made from running a freelance business, as I and others are proving.

You need a good business idea, some money, a website with social media channels and a shedload of motivation and you can do whatever you want.

I’m proof of that.

There’s times when I work til midnight, work all weekend and all week, but there’s other times when I do little.
I don’t commute, I don’t have bosses and if clients try to own me, I bin the client, and focus on people who aren’t micro-managers.

WHAT I DO

I create optimised content for you.

I design your website.

I coach you on social media marketing best practices.

And people are buying into all three.

Now I don’t exploit clients at all – my prices are ultra-competitive and that perhaps explains why I’ve built 15 in two months.

But there’s another reason too. I do more, much more for clients.

I coach people on best social media practices, give advice on SEO strategies (and I seek advice from others, like Danny Andrews); I set up company email accounts; I back up and update websites; I host the websites free. I set up Google analytics. I optimise the content for search and what’s more, because I’m utterly motivated to succeed (because I love what I do) I build websites quickly.

SPEED

A domain name is purchased, I put it on Coming Soon mode as soon as the nameservers have propagated and once the 50% invoice payment has been received, I’m up with the larks and in bed with the owls (metaphorically of course) building your website.

What’s more, if you refer someone to me and they commit to a website redesign or a brand new build, you get paid £50 for the referral – no questions asked.

YOUR STEPS

  1. Domain name – buy one from Tsohost for speed of propagation. Do not buy hosting.
  2. Tell me what you want, what you really really want in terms of layout, functionality, pages, sub pages etc.
  3. I quote; you accept with open mouth and I invoice you.
  4. You pay 50% upfront.
  5. I set up hosting for your website – see point 1.
  6. We communicate via FaceTime, Whats App, email, Skype and I send you screenshots of the build and you tell me what to change.
  7. I launch the website when you’re happy with it and you pay me the other 50% within 7 days. Or I cry.

Like with haircuts, places to buy food, hand car washes, solicitors, copywriters, plumbers, you’re spoilt for choice in this search engine world.

But think of me as delivering a Waitrose experience (if you can stomach conversations about sun-dried tomatoes and cries of “Tarquin, put those olives back”) without the Waitrose prices.

Need a WordPress website?

Fancy going freelance?

Want to tell your boss to do one?

Get in touch. 

I might even let you have a free coffee – if you have a My GetProCopy card too.  

 

How much do I charge for web design in Norwich?

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How much do you charge for web design in Norwich is a question sometimes posed to me by prospective clients and I used to estimate hours needed and charge accordingly.

But I read an article today on LinkedIn that really resonated with me as someone is looking to climb ranks and make a name for web design in Norwich.

The argument, in a nutshell, was that freelancers shouldn’t have an hourly rate but be paid on the value they offer a business or customer.

I like the concept.

Here’s why.

When someone asks me what I charge per hour for copywriting, social media marketing or web design, I blithely give a figure.

But.

Here’s the point.

And I’m not giving it the Big I Am at all, but for me to research a topic, create a unique article that is optimised for search, is actually quite a quick process.

What do others charge?

Where other copywriters – and I know this from a conversation this week – would take twice as long and charge twice as much.

Think of the plumber or the hairdresser.

You pay a plumber £50 with no questions asked for half an hour’s work, because you know that it could take you 4 hours and you’d probably cock it up. Same with a barber or hairdresser – £12 for 15 minutes work but it’s not something you could probably do yourself without making a mess.

What I can do for web design in Norwich and elsewhere?

I write quickly, I design websites quickly, I manage social media creatively and effectively – not because I Am Legend, but because they’re my core niche skills.

Ask me to build a shed, lay a patio or wallpaper a room, and I’d make a right pig’s ear of all three.

So instead of asking me in future what my hourly rate is for web design in Norwich, copywriting in Newcastle or social media management in Manchester, ask what I can add to your business and think of me as that plumber, electrician, hairdresser, who can do the job much faster and much better than you can.

Does that make sense?

 

What does an ideal exam schedule look like?

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The death of controlled assessments and GCSE grades led to increased pressure on schools, their leadership, departments and students to pull out all the stops in a terminal examination – in English, four of them!

The days of dishing out past papers a few weeks before Year 11 leave or once in Year 10 at Christmas are over.

Relieving staff of coursework moderation has been replaced by the heavy burden of exam marking three to six times a year.

Many schools have seen the light and are outsourcing marking and have gone so far to publish exam schedules on websites, newsletters and social media channels.

I did lead English across three federated schools in Suffolk for 3 years from 2009 to 2012 and have led English departments since 1996 until becoming freelance in 2015.

I still mark exams for four exam boards and numerous schools though – so I’ve definitely walked the walk, so to speak.

So if a cruel fairy waved a wand and plonked me back in a school of 800 with a department of five tasked with raising attainment, this is what I’d do in terms of assessment calendar.

Year 10

November (just after half term): full set of exams, set in lessons in controlled conditions split into one hour chunks. September onwards would see students being taught about the exam contents and coached in sections.

March (just after half term again, as pupils and staff are exhausted): full set of exams, on a timetabled fortnight with the hall being used.

June: see March.

Year 11

November or December: full schedule of internal exams, in a mock month.

March: see above.

Now this blog post will hardly win the Booker Prize for originality, I know, but it does give some decent guidance (I think) from a classroom veteran and one who doubled results over 5 years in a school in North Lincolnshire.

There is a cost to your school if you go the whole hog and outsource the lot – or you can have a pick n mix approach with your English department.

Outsource English papers only and mark Lit internally, as some do.

What you will have though is consistent, objective marking with a list of useful bullet points for staff, students and school leaders to use.

Better still, that department will smile from being unburdened and your exam results will rise.

Want to know more for the next academic year?

Get in touch today.

Before I’m fully booked up!

Who is best to sell your property?

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Let me start with a truism – the best estate agent to sell your home is the one who achieves the highest price.

Now who will achieve that largely depends on who you trust most – I’ve sold with hybrid, traditional and an online estate agent.

So should you use an online estate agent?

Depends.

If your property is valued between £280,000 to £310,000, the agency fee is largely moot.

Let me explain why.

That estate agency who charges 1% to 1.5% plus VAT with nothing to pay upfront will collect commission of £3600 to £5400 if the property sells for £300,000.

An online estate agent may charge around £1000 upfront or deferred and may or may not achieve £300,000.

I realise I’m playing devil’s advocate having bought and sold properties through all three routes.

But I would argue that, usually, a traditional high street agent may be considered to have greater motivation to see a sale through to exchange and completion – because if they don’t, they collect zero commission.

This is an argument used by the so-called traditional agents to explain that they are more motivated.

There’s some problems though, in my experience, with this approach. I’ve experienced frustration with high street estate agents overvaluing and under-delivering repeatedly and I can’t say I felt a greater sense of urgency from the traditional estate agents I’ve used in the past (with one exception – in Leek, Staffordshire) to the online estate agent we used recently.

Similarly, having sold our property in 2016, through a purely online model (not the Watchdog attendees), I can’t say that this was a smash and grab exercise by this well-known company.

Okay, they left the writing of property particulars to me, and outsourced photography, but they delivered online, on the portals and on active social media channels and we achieved a selling price higher than the valuation offered by two local estate agents.

Our property brochure was, to put it bluntly, in a different league to other houses being marketed in the area – so much so that our neighbour switched to the same online estate agents and sold quickly too at a higher price than expected, I believe.

Some may argue that as long as your property is on Rightmove and Zoopla, it will sell.

Again, something of a fallacy.

43% of property sales stem from portals.

Leaving 57% sold elsewhere.

How?

Having worked now for the best part of three years with content marketing and social media marketing for traditional, hybrid and purely online estate agents and letting agents across the country, I’d argue that it’s a combination of factors.

  1. The obvious silver bullet of selling is price. Get the asking price right and a property should sell. You have to get it right too at the outset as the first two weeks can make or break a sale.
  2. Estate agency ability. Like any walk of life, like any job, some estate agents are excellent – whether purely as an online estate agent, or on the high street or in a commercial unit – some aren’t. The ones I work for now are people I’d happily market my home with, even though the nearest is 50 miles away!
  3. The silent sentry of the For Sale board. We sold with a board going up – to people three doors away. A post and For Sale sign alerts people to the fact that you’re looking to move and directs them to make enquiries – whether that’s to the local agent or one based 200 miles distant.
  4. Presentation of particulars. The photographer who did our photos and floorplan was a professional freelance photographer – not someone armed with a bridge camera or smartphone. I wrote the description admittedly, which I obviously enjoyed doing, and I proofread the neighbour when he switched (for no fee too!)
  5. Being in a state of constant alert. By this, I don’t mean watching Twitter for Donald Trump meltdowns but ready for viewings. It was a Forth Road Bridge operation for a few months for us – keeping the house prepared for a hypothetical hour’s notice from the agent. It worked too. We sold, having had three separate viewers – and the house was showhome condition across the seven occasions of second, third and fourth visits. Estate agents shouldn’t have to tell you to clean up? We didn’t need telling. It’s common sense?

There’s other factors too beyond this – the speed with which agents respond to queries, how viewings are conducted, location, the use of social media and email campaigns, but I’d say price and presentation overarch everything.

Get the price right, the brochure spot on and buyers will materialise – regardless of whether you’re selling with a local agent on the high street, a hybrid with local experts, or a purely online model.

Move to Berlin if you want affordable city living

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The suburbs of towns and cities used to be the desirable, in-demand places for families and young professionals.

City centres were where you went to work or shop or pursue leisure but always to venture out of at night.

Time have changed though and urban living is now in vogue and becoming an expensive lifestyle choice.

I know because I write constantly for property developers, estate agents, SMEs about various city centres from Leeds to Liverpool, Bournemouth to Bradford, Reading to Rotherham.

City centre prices now eclipse those of many suburbs – take Leeds, for example. I studied there in 1986 and like many students lived in Headingley and ventured into the city for shopping and cinema.

Back then, Leeds wasn’t renowned for city centre living but now the average sold price for a city centre property sits just shy of £200,000.

Venture over the Pennines to Manchester and Salford and an urban lifestyle costs even more.

Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Norwich, Nottingham, Milton Keynes, Exeter (places I’ve recently ghostwritten about) are suddenly cool places to live and work.

There’s a lot to recommend city living too.

We recently returned from Berlin and experienced capital city living, albeit for just four days, and I must admit that, as a family of four, we enjoyed having everything to hand: restaurants, public transport, museums, art galleries, shopping and cultural history. There was something edifying and liberating about jettisoning the car and relying on a slick and affordable S Bahn, U Bahn and buses and trams.

Berlin has affordable city centre property too, as I found out on return: much, much lower than cities like Oxford, London or Cambridge.

A studio flat could be bought for around £100,000 which compared with London is cheap, I believe.

But is city centre living in Britain as cheap?

Yes.

If you pick the right city.

There’s one northern city where brand new urban apartments can be bought for under £100,000. This city isn’t an ugly duckling either – it is a swan, a beautiful place with UNESCO World Heritage Status and regeneration projects on every corner.

It’s got city, coast, countryside and the National Parks of Snowdonia and the Lake District within easy driving.

The city?

The place you should look to invest in or move to?

Liverpool.

Liverpool, I reckon, is the next big UK property hotspot.

Mark my words.

Where’s best to invest in property?

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If anyone were asked to hazard a guess as to the U.K. city with the highest combined property values, few would offer any other place than London.

 

Fairly obvious, isn’t it?

Astronomical property prices combined with a huge urban population and inward commuting, along with the paucity of building space, would make the capital number one on Top Trumps for Property Values.

London is worth £1.5 trillion.

I’m certain though that if property Top Trumps was ever released, you could easily grab that card from an opposing player with something like a category of Best Air Quality or Lowest Cost of a Glass of Prosecco.

London property prices seem to rise inexorably year on year, with little sign of decreasing.

But it is in fact one of the slowest rising cities in Britain – recording increases of 2.37% overall in the past year.

Some parts of London are worth more in property value terms too than entire cities: SW1 alone is worth £55 billion in that postcode, just £4 billion shy of the entire property value of Leeds.

But what is the next highest city after London?

I won’t delay but list the top 10 now, with data taken from Zoopla in January 2018:

1 London £1.5tn
2 Bristol £115bn
3 Glasgow £90bn
4 Birmingham £81bn
5 Manchester £80bn
6 Edinburgh £68bn
7 Nottingham £66bn
8 Reading £60bn
9 Leeds £59bn
10 Sheffield £55bn

There’s few surprises for me here, apart from Glasgow having a higher total value than Manchester (and Edinburgh).

But if you, as a HNWI, an investor or property developer, were looking to maximise capital investment, data says there’s just one city from this list of ten you should invest in as its total value grew by 5.63% from January 2016 to January 2017.

Anyone care to guess?

Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to offer an answer or comment below.

And my top investment city is not in the top 10 – but do look at Liverpool.

18 reasons why your business needs a website

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#1 We’ve come a long way from 1991.

That’s the year when the first website went live – 27 years ago. Things have moved on greatly since then. John Major was the UK Prime Minister and Bryan Adams broke all music records with 16 weeks at the top of the charts. Some things haven’t changed though – the Ford Fiesta was the best selling car in 1991, and remains so, now.

#2 Street cred

Your business will have credibility with a website. You may be doing well on social media and selling well on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn, but you want those bios on there and Twitter and Pinterest to have a link to a website. Your website. Professionally designed. Responsive on desktop, mobile and tablet to make you look the part. I revamped this one because it lacked street cred in my new passion to design websites. It’s sick now, I reckon.

#3 Saves money

If you’re serious about saving money and time, you need to invest in a website. They cost very little to create and maintain. Some web designers charge eye-watering amounts, others don’t. There’s skills involved in web design and it takes up a lot of time, trust me, but when you’ve commissioned and paid for a website, hosting it costs very little and with a web designer making back ups and updates, it should last 5 years or more. 5 years of you being able to showcase your products and services on iMacs, iPhones and iPads – or if you’re Applephobic, any other inferior devices! You can then dump the Fiesta for a Golf R with the money you’ve saved? Phwooar.

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#4 Influence people

Let’s face it. We’re all glued to devices daily. And if you’re not, you’re in a minority. You’re not going to influence people to use your services, buy your products and trust your judgements if you’re without a website. In 1991 to 2011, you may have managed without a website, but with every consumer aged 11 upwards glued to the internet, not having a website in business is a bit like admitting you’re not bothered by missing out a daily global audience of 2.4 billion users. Ridiculous to not have one – agree?

#5 Show off your knowledge

No one apparently likes a show off but if you’re not prepared to show off your knowledge online you’re in danger of becoming a dinosaur. Call it what you will – B2B or B2C or P2P (People to People), your website needs to connect and engage. How many times before a major purchase or sale do you head online to check credentials out. I buy my whips (street cred again) from a car dealer 60 miles away when there’s ones closer. They inform me regularly of news via email, social content and blog posts on their websites. If they hadn’t, I’m certain I’d pick someone nearer. Same with meals. I look at reviews. With Google WiFi I read product reviews on various websites before I purchased and decided where to buy from. Before I book hotels and holidays, I look on Trip Advisor. You get the idea. Websites show off your knowledge. You should have one.

#6 The 24 hour a day shop

Your website doesn’t close at night, on Bank Holidays and your customers expect instant information and purchases. John Lewis stores physically close at Christmas but their briskest trade takes place annually I read on their website and app on Boxing Day. It doesn’t mean you have to sit there, surrounded by sprouts, sherry and the Queen’s Speech, running your website. Orders can be placed any time and you choose when to respond to these – but without a website, like the turkey, you’re potentially stuffed.

#7 Tell your boss to swivel

Probably should be number 1, because this for me and others is the biggest and best reason to have a website. That company you’re working for, commuting to, those colleagues you’re just about tolerating and those bosses. Yuk. I had my fill of them in education and estate agency but when you have your own business, your own website, your own workspace, bye bye office politics, petty gossip, stifling hierarchies and working to make someone else rich. By all means, have the security of a job, but use it to build an escape tunnel. A website, a freelance business, doing what you love for yourself and your family, is priceless. I feared the huge step for years but regret not telling school leaders to swivel for the past two decades and creating my own business.

REPEAT AFTER ME: “NOT FOR MUCH LONGER.”

 

#8 Find your real voice

Going self-employed with a business idea and a nice little website is like being let out of a cage. We’re all caged – but the door is wide open. You can find the real you, your authentic voice when self-employed. Add a blog to your website and you’re armed with a platform to air your views, show off your knowledge, inform, entertain and persuade.

#9 You own the website

Don’t forget this either – any web design company you choose should let you own the website. You register the domain, pay someone to host it and keep it backed up and updated but it’s not a hire car, a library book. It’s yours. You own it. Not the company, you. You own the property and pay rent to host it. Think of it like that. You can build your social media links on there, and showcase what you do, safe in the knowledge that the website belongs to you. I own this company name, the website and pay for hosting. No partners. No stakeholders. It’s brand Stuart Walton, Get Pro Copy Ltd and I won’t be owned ever again. Watch and learn, kids.

#10 A website makes you money

If you’ve a skill, a passion and mine is writing, you need a website because to be bluntly capitalistic, it will make you money. I live handsomely on the earnings from social media contracts, web design and copywriting. I had a big gross salary as Head of English and Assistant Headteacher in a local high school, but that made me increasingly miserable. This website never makes me groan or sigh, when a writing contract materialises, I don’t prevaricate and employ work avoidance strategies. This website, along with its active social media channels, makes me money. A website will make you money too whether you spend £200 or £3000 on a smart digital presence. I’m proof of it. Trust me: a website makes you money and if you work at it, lots of money.

#11 Get found on search engines

Okay, rephrase that: Google unless you go on Bing to search, you have to be found on Google, ideally near the top for search terms you’re targetting. It’s a long haul though, think of it as getting to Australia but on foot. I get found on Google for various search terms and make many sales from being found. But. There’s 3 years of digital networking, social media whoring and over 2000 blog posts that have made me appear online. Google is not an overnight fix, or over year. Getting found takes time, strategy and persistence. It’s worth it though when you can walk a dog daily, work when you want and think about those bosses who you wanted to tell to swivel still in miserable workplaces.

 

#12 Contactable

A website gets you found – my home address, landline, mobile number is public for all the world to see, but what makes it a bit better is it has a dedicated professional company email address – no getprocopy@gmail for me but info@getprocopy.com, meaning I can be contacted whenever people need to. Without a website, where would I be found? On a card in One Stop, a local rag or in some doctor’s surgery screen? I’m online and can be found online 24/7 and emailed or phoned. You can even have live chat added to your website with manned outsourced agents or intelligent chatbots. Social media done well makes you digitally available too – see point 14.

 

#13 Cheap

Not as cheap as chips, one of my fave foods, but cheap nonetheless and if you’re quoted huge prices, keep looking. A website can be had for less than a weekend in Center Parcs and its impact will live longer and be more cost effective than that hole in your wallet from the Sports Bar and Parc Market. It’s quite a straightforward process too I’ve realised, but because many web designers wrap it in some Masonic mystique, and Joe Public is uncomfortable with buying a domain and installing WordPress and themes, adding content and design elements, they accept exorbitant pricing. A simple website is quick to build and launch and don’t let anyone kid you otherwise. It should be cheep and if that word appals you, call it affordable or cost-effective.

#14 Sociable

Your website and social media platforms can have a cosy, symbiotic relationship. Your website links out to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram and those repay the compliment by linking back in their bios. Your social media channels show off your website content and drives visitors to it. Your website converts visitors into social followers. 54% of my website traffic comes from LinkedIn according to Google Analytics, which your website should have incorporated. That tells me to focus on there and spend less time on Twitter. It’s no coincidence that most of my earnings stem from LinkedIn. Sometimes Facebook, often organic search but LinkedIn is a big lead generator, as well as my favourite social media hangout. Check out my LinkedIn feed and connect. 

#15 Serious about business

A website to me and others indicates to the world that you’re serious about business because you’ve invested money in designing one and time in making it work. That street cred again. My website, its content, its functionality shows this is a business, not a hobby or pastime. You can succeed with an eBay shop, an Instagram feed, don’t get me wrong, but a website says “Look I’m serious.” That’s not me below by the way. I’m much older looking but deadly serious about this business.

 

#16 Blogs rock

Video apparently killed the radio star but have blogs killed books? No. Has the Kindle killed book sales? Yes.

We’re in a 300 MBPS information rich world where we can ask Alexa to play James on Spotify, ask Google Home to turn the heating up and learn about celebrity deaths online 3 seconds after they’ve drawn a last breath. Blogs are easy to read and find on any topics you want and search engines, like Google, bloody love fresh content. Every algorithm change featured on SEO Roundtable (how nerdy am I?) mentions the importance of fresh content. Not 300 word little posts that unshared get 5 views – and 3 of them are from people you Whats Apped it to. A website with a news page, a blog page will be caressed by Google and customers and get you found online and your content shared. This blog post is intentionally weighty as I long for the day when a post of mine goes viral or some media company rings me and says “Stuart you’re the main man – write for us and we’ll pay you handsomely.” I know detailed content in a blog like this will have more impact than 4 of 5oo words. It’s like skimming a few stones across a lake, making little ripples that disappear or carrying a massive rock and chucking that in to make a real splash and impact. This is long form content. This is using the Skyscraper technique and I will be genuinely gutted if it gets 50 views and not 1000 in the next few weeks. Blogs show your authority, keep website visitors returning to read more and are loved by Google. You can blog on Medium and Tumblr of course, as well as others, but you’re piggybacking when you need to be striding proudly with boulders, to stretch that rock metaphor to its final extreme. I hope I’m making sense?

#17 Stand still and you go backwards

Okay, vinyl records may be back in vogue and you could say the Compact Disc and streaming should have killed the LP, but it’s unusual. If you’re adamant you’re managing okay without a website, you’re stationary. A website is not a luxury in 2018. Anyone can afford one but by standing still you’re actually slipping into reverse gear long term. The internet is not going anywhere. 5G is on the horizon, 83% of web browsing is carried out on mobile devices: smartphones and tablets and if you’re thinking the world will slump into some nostalgic longing for advertising in newspapers, Yellow Pages and the BT Phonebook, give your head a wobble and get in the 21st Century.

Any business needs a website and if you become one of my many clients from Manchester – you can tell your boss not to swivel, but to “do one” as you walk out with a Gallagher swagger, to become your own boss with your own business.

#18 Have I convinced you?

If so, get in touch and free yourself like I have.

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How a regular property blog can win you business

%name property blog

I’ve run Get Pro Copy Ltd since 2015, constantly adding blog posts, as I knew this would lead to success. It has. I then realised that much of the property industry is beginning to recognise that a regular property blog post increases web traffic and leads to sales, longer term, so this venture was born.

Get Pro Copy has provided ghostwritten services for social media marketing, copywriting and proofreading across a range of industries, but Property Blogs aims to be a niche content marketing platform for the wider property industry.

It’s not simply aimed at estate and letting agents, but the full gamut of property developers, construction companies, removal firms, small, medium, large housebuilders, conveyancing solicitors, architects and the like.

So how can a property blog strategy help companies win business?

Simple.

Your website, your social media platforms can quickly become static – if you don’t work on them.

Providing a daily, weekly, monthly property blog for your followers leads to them seeing you as a thought leader and when that decision is made to buy products or services, the information you have provided daily, weekly or monthly means that you’re increasing the chances of being picked.

A property blog will do that.

It’s not a short term gain, but a longer term goal to make readers consciously or sub-consciously pick you.

There’s more to be gained too: Google rewards fresh content.

So when a property blog is posted by you as an architect, conveyancing solicitor or candlestick maker, that post can be submitted to Google Webmaster Tools and “crawled” and indexed so that your website climbs page rankings.

It’s organic climbing too, and not a short-term steroid fix of Pay Per Click.

A property blog will get you website visits, will build a tribe of followers if that content is interesting, engaging and provides answers – and, it will win you business.

Take a look at Hogan’s Fast Sale’s property blogs here – all written by me, in liaison with Stephen, Peter, Ian, Adam, Nicole of that Leeds team and count up how many total reads those twice a month blogs posts have had.

Has it won them business?

Yes.

A property blog will do the same for you.

I promise it will.

Making money out of property development

%name taxi cab

20 years ago, we were all encouraged to become property developers on tv programmes by the likes of Sarah Beeny and Martin Roberts on “Property Ladder” and “Homes under the Hammer”, which always seemed to be set in Stoke?

Since then, I think the high yields of property developing have evaporated.

As Farrell Walton estate agents, we sold an original 1920s bungalow with sunken bath three  years ago for £240,ooo locally and a year later it was back on the market, after an extensive makeover, for twice the amount. It didn’t sell though.

I’m connected on LinkedIn with professionals who make a living from sourcing properties and selling them on, and with developers who renovate wrecks and turn a tidy profit.

It seems though that it’s becoming more difficult according to reports I’ve read, because:

  • Capital for deposits is harder to raise with stricter lending criteria
  • Land has become expensive
  • Developers are sometimes seen as unethical – aiming to make as much money as possible for as little outlay (isn’t that what we all want to do though in life, providing there’s job satisfaction?)

There is though an attempt to change the perception of property developers in New York, of all places, where a Masters degree is being offered with the focus on making property developers more focused on the community, which seems appropriate given that the President made his wealth from property development.

You can read more here.

American property developers are also heading to Croydon, but the teachings about community seem to be being roundly ignored according to this report. Housing is turned into a commodity, not a home, within this model, with housing stock developed not for ownership but for buy to let landlords. This is perhaps inevitable given that capital and land is difficult to source – but it does seem to negate the aim of that Masters degree.

What do you think of property development in the UK?

Given that renters outweigh homeowners, should Greystarand the Blackstone group be welcomed to Croydon and elsewhere to assuage the housing crisis?

The 5 things I’d like to see on new developments in 2018

%name green homes

The diesel engine may soon enter the footnotes of history as car manufacturers cease production, but will property follow suit?

Brighton elected a Green MP, Caroline Lucas, and I’m pretty sure she won’t be representing the party alone in future elections as the world wakes up to global warming and environmental damage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of planet carnage myself with two cars and an addiction to plastic bottles of water, which I do aim to curtail in 2018 (the water, that is), but I can see from living in a new-build home how far construction has come, how energy-efficient new homes are but how much further, home developers and their buyers could go.

Solar panels are conspicuous by their absence on this estate, yet 9 years ago, new estates locally seemed to have them as standard – why have they disappeared?

Persimmon don’t fit an outside tap, or include power in garages but I think that has less to do with being green and more to do with saving money for them.

How soon before developers include charging points for electric cars outside homes?

Given that cycling is so planet-friendly, why aren’t builders considering communal cycle storage areas, with lighting, shelter and smartphone controlled locks.

Norwich, not the most cutting edge city, has embraced bicycles that you can use around the city at the flick of an app?

The new road flanking this Bluebell Meadow estate has cycle paths running along it – but why don’t residents, like myself and neighbours, use this carbon-neutral transport?

It’s because using the car is too easy, in my opinion.

So this is my wishlist for Bovis, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Persimmon for 2018 and beyond:

  1. Solar panels – give buyers the option of this on first fit.
  2. Cycling – make the car peripheral to the development – no one bats an eyelid at Center Parcs when the car is emptied and left away from living accommodation for a few days or a week, and cycling (or walking) becomes king.
  3. Incorporate EV charging points. Let’s face it – if you or I bought a new home with one outside, we’d all be looking at Teslas and the like longingly.
  4. Ask buyers for what they want. Any business looking to grow has to ask consumers for their opinions and their choices.
  5. Consider pre-fabricated options to bring down the unaffordable costs of most new developments, even with Help to Buy. A 2 bedroomed turnkey home can be bought from around £50,000 from many companies – now that’s starter housing not the £189,000 entry price here.

Would you add anything else to my wishlist?

Please comment below or via social media links.

Is a home office a worthwhile investment?

%name home office

A garden home office appeals hugely to me.

I think it harks back to caveman times when man could colonise rock fissures and perhaps now modern man needs a man shed, a man den or a pod. Not just males either – women too.

There’s been an inexorable rise in self-employment and freelance work and the internet has made us all would-be “entrepreneurs” and with technology shrinking: like the advent of high speed broadband and laptops that are uber powerful, we can all nestle in gardens and make money.

I would like one, even though the box bedroom of our new-build is a perfect space.

I think what appeals is the separation. I could commute down the garden path, unlock the pod, boot up the iMac, fire up the Sonos and work. Then at night, I could lock up and hopefully switch off given the physical separation between house and office.

In expansive moments, I visualise a path meandering to the end of the garden (a tiny garden) with a curved pod waiting at the end, with a nice tub armchair, a panel heater, a compact desk, printer, iMac and a bookcase for those Instagram live parades.

A home office is much cheaper than an extension too and arguably more practical than a conservatory – which are generally ovens or freezers for most of the year.

It would cost only £10,000 maximum for a small space, resting on new foundations and with electricity, broadband and decent levels of insulation.

But that is what deters me: the costs of running a garden office.

If bedroom 5 is a perfect space that doesn’t cost an extra penny to run as it’s in an efficient new build, why would I want the costs of heating a home office for 6 months a year?

And in summer, would the glorified garden shed be too warm to sit in?

It’s one I’ll keep thinking about – any advice would be welcomed too.

Why do developers insist on building garages?

%name garages

I’ll hold my hand up now and say I used to have an obsessive habit of wanting to put my cars to bed in garages. I think my mind was programmed to behave this way because I’d lived in Oldham in the late 80s and 90s when car theft or vandalism was a weekly event on the road I lived on in Shaw.

With immobilisers and alarms, deadlocks and rising car ownership, vehicle theft seems to be on the wane yet developers insist on building garages.

The house we bought in Bradwell, Great Yarmouth, has a triple garage block, and we own two of these. It’s detached and to the rear and has a handy double drive, but the garage is not used for cars but for storage and seems to me to be utterly pointless.

Integral garages are a cost cutting measure I know, and there is something handy about being able to access one internally but, in my experience, they create cold spots which rather defeats the whole point of new builds – warmth and low energy consumption.

When I look at this Bluebell Meadow development and others in Norwich, garages seem to be the modern equivalent of a class system. The terraced starter homes have just parking and no garage at all, with the indignity of wheelie bins on front drives, the smaller semi-detacheds have a single garage and single drive, the detached homes a double drive with integral or separate garage and the five bedroomed homes, a cavernous double garage to store even more junk in.

I feel like king of the hill knowing I have double the capacity for storage of junk.

I think developers and builders though need to allow buyers to customise more. Surely someone with an integral garage on plans would happily pay £5,000 more to make it an additional reception room. I know I would.

My double garage could be split in half, forming a garden study with French doors back into the garden.

Again I’d have paid extra for that.

Please Bovis, Taylor Wimpey, Charles Church, Avant Homes, Persimmon, Barratt, think outside of the box, the garage, and accept that a glorified shed is low down the list of priorities for most modern homeowners.

What do you think?

Design Access Statements – help for architects

%name design access statements

Bestriding Thorpe Cloud in Derbyshire last year, fending off a nose bleed after hitting heights unheard of in coastal Norfolk, I took a call.

Out of breath, I chatted social media and content with an architect.

The long and short of it was that I was asked to optimise and improve the content of his new website and write an evaluative report on the site and its social media accounts. Bank details were handed over and before I’d taken off my boots at the hillside car park, it was credited.

Now this meant the heat was on to check a website and social media whilst marooned in a Premier Inn in Leek (how the other half live eh?) with wife and children in tow.

I did it of course on iPad and iPhone over the next few days, and, as these things tend to develop, I was asked to write Design Access Statements some 10 months later.

The architect is an excellent bloke, who coached me patiently on the Design Access Statements, set me up with a company email and access to Asana.

The rest is history as they say.

I’m not an architect, obviously, but I am a property writer for the wider property industry and, from that initial phone call to checking flood risks, I enjoy writing those Design Access Statements.

Now if you’re a time-pushed architect with  12 page Design Access Statements that need improving or completing, to the highest level of accuracy with no factual inaccuracies, get in touch with me.

I’m becoming an expert on nearest schools, London stock brick, parapets, density of housing etc, and I can write these for you, whilst you’re acquiring and completing architectural projects.

I will save you time and money.

Trust me.

Drop me an email or call me today.

I’ll even call them DAS to show how clued up I am.

Would you choose timber-framed or brick and block for new homes?

%name building

Brick and block or timber-framed? I pose this question as today, out walking, this very question was debated between myself and a neighbour.

I’d not realised as we’d bought a home that had been first-fitted that ours (and the rest of Persimmon Phase One) was timber-framed and the new builds leaping from muddy foundations opposite in Phase 2 are brick and block.

This got me thinking about why one method would be chosen over another and what are the pros and cons of each.

I realised that timber-framed houses are quicker to erect than block, and tradesmen (electricians and plumbers) can start internal and external work much faster as a typical timber framed house is ready in around 10 days.

There’s less internal drying out too, which speeds up the process by 2 to 3 weeks.

A timber framed house is also warmer – which doesn’t surprise me as the insulation levels in our own home make the place feel tropical in summer. Brick and block houses take longer to heat up, though one advantage they have is better noise insulation, which could be a factor if you’re building near a busy road, railway, hospital etc.

You’d think that the cost of timber framed building would easily exceed brick and block construction but again this is true but not by much.

So why did Persimmon make Phase One timber and Phase Two brick and block?

Is this typical of large developments or unique to this one?

Any answers appreciated!

Are micro-homes the answer to the housing crisis?

%name micro-home

A micro-home is defined as having a living space of below 37 square metres – or the size of a tube carriage.

To be honest, I could live in a home that size.

I think the key with a micro-home, as with caravans, is design.

Having been the proud owner of a touring caravan for 3 years, I think 37 square metres would seem palatial compared with 13 square metres, which we holidayed in frequently.

In our Sterling Eccles Sport 586 (a grand name for a tin snail), there were all sorts of ingenious design cues. The front wraparound sofa converted into a huge double bed, with the dining table forming the “divan” and the cushions seamlessly fitting the space. Worktops folded down. A wardrobe contained the TV aerial and the dining table / divan when not in use. The shower and toilet were minuscule but perfectly adequate for our family of four. At the back, a mini diner could form a bunk bed and the fixed beds on the other side could become three, with some shuffling. A slider split the accommodation in half and I can’t remember once in 3 years thinking that the proportions were irritating.

So what should developers put in a micro-home?

37 square metres requires some design ingenuity and I believe that the assumption would be that a single person, or a couple, would live in that sort of space.

What would I include if I was buying (unlikely) or designing (even more unlikely) a micro-home?

  1. A distinct bedroom with doors and walls. I say this, being fully aware of the layout of studio flats, but I think a micro home, for comfort, should have a separate living quarter, for quietness and privacy.
  2. A small ensuite shower room, with sink and toilet. I’d like an external window in here – more so than the bedroom – but I wouldn’t insist on a door to close between bedroom and ensuite.
  3. A living kitchen. Nothing expansive, but a place to eat, dine and lounge. Big enough for a two seater sofa, a breakfast bar and a couple of stools.
  4. A dishwasher, fridge-freezeer, washer-dryer.
  5. Fibre optic broadband.

If a bedroom was 3m x 4m, the kitchen 4m x 5m, that still leaves a footprint of 5 square metres for ensuite, storage etc.

Given the UK’s housing crisis, I could live easily in such a space – couldn’t you?

If four of us could enjoy a month in the Loire in 13 square metres, I don’t think a 37 metre micro-home would feel claustrophobic – do you agree?

Area guides for estate agents – prove you know your stuff

%name Great Yarmouth

Area guides for estate agents – prove you know your stuff

As leading Great Yarmouth estate agents, we know this part of east Norfolk well and what surprises many visitors in the spring and summer months is just how affordable the area is.

The most expensive part of the borough lies 4 miles inland: Burgh Castle, pronounced Borough, named after its Roman fort perched loftily above the Norfolk Broads, in splendid scenery, yet with the town only a 10 minute drive away (traffic permitting). Burgh Castle does lack amenities though like schools, but many families living there choose to send their children to Hillside Primary in Bradwell, which sits very close to the village border. There’s a choice of three high schools too: Ormiston Venture and Cliff Park Ormiston Academy in Gorleston (about four miles away) or Lynn Grove Academy in Bradwell.

Bradwell is another popular area for families, as it is not as remote as Burgh Castle, and does have shops, a petrol station and supermarkets as well as a range of schools. It straddles the Beccles Road, the A143, with its oldest part being near Green Lane and Sun Lane, but largely characterised by 1930s homes on Claydon Grove and Lynn Grove (the road leading to the high school) and ending with brand new Persimmon builds, at the Belton end of the settlement, called Bluebell Meadow.

Belton is another popular suburb of Great Yarmouth and it has a size somewhere between Burgh Castle and Bradwell, with its own range of small businesses and some prized addresses of its own, like Sandy Lane and Station Road North.

Heading north of Great Yarmouth, there is Ormesby (St Margaret and St Michael), Rollesby, Martham and Filby. Each has its own property microclimate and these villages are a little bit more accessible for commuting to Norwich.

Acle makes the perfect halfway point between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, but property there is not cheap and it climbs even more as you travel along the A47, passing hotspots like Blofield, Blofield Heath and salubrious Brundall and Strumpshaw, which are not part of Great Yarmouth.

Great Yarmouth is a typical seaside resort. It has a fantastic seaside and property prices here are amongst the lowest in the east of England. Regeneration work is underway for the town and it may become like its near neighbour, across the river, Gorleston, which has seen rejuvenation and property price growth.

Gorleston has one of the best beaches in Norfolk, with golden sand that stretches to Lowestoft. Its town centre has one of the busiest high streets in Britain and has seen a new cinema open as well as restaurants open. Gorleston has property prices ranging from £100,000 to above £1 million, with its most expensive areas clustered on or around Marine Parade, known locally as the Cliffs area, as well as Warren Road and Yallop Avenue at its southern extremities.

Great Yarmouth, as a borough, has lots to recommend it.

In summer, it is thronged with holidaymakers and day visitors, but in winter, it can be equally as alluring, with those cloudless skies and empty beaches.

If you need any more advice on buying or selling in Great Yarmouth, contact us today.

Will Alexa replace humans in the property industry?

%name Alexa

I’ve switched gas and electricity suppliers in the past month in our new build from British Gas to EDF, mainly, sadly, to witness a Smart Home meter from Netatmo (supplied and fitted free) along with a free Amazon Echo.

They’re both impressive pieces of kit, and I think if I’d forked out £250 for them, they would still please.

“Alexa, what’s the weather like today?”

“Alexa, turn the heating up to 23.”

“Alexa play The Lumineers from Spotify.”

have become daily utterances, along with its question of the day and bad jokes.

I can see though a use for Alexa or Google Home or Siri in the wider property industry.

A house for sale by an estate agent could have its accompanied viewings replaced by a smart speaker, answering questions like “Alexa how long has this house been on the market? Alexa what is the likely rental yield of this home? Alexa why do estate agents drive Minis?”

Obviously there’d be the risk of theft of said devices and perhaps Alexa would need some software tweaks to allow them to use estate agent speak (similar to politicians) with some selling spin, but it could work?

Voice control has already impacted on our family of four at home so the next steps surely will impact further on the wider industry of home selling and home building?

Alexa could replace the high street estate agencies too? Passers by could ask to be emailed properties that are listed in a locale by voice command? The industry behemoths of Rightmove and Zoopla who are charging a king’s ransom monthly to estate and letting agents or access to monopolised portals could be killed by Alexa?

Those branded BMW Minis could become electric, driverless and voice-activated?

Access to properties for sale and let could become smart controlled like some hotels and many smartphones now have.

Fantastical thinking on my part?

Maybe.

But I reckon this week, with the closures of Maplins and Toys R Us (two companies, along with BHS, Blockbuster, et al) that sadly failed to move with the times, property developers and estate agents need to futureproof their businesses.

Alexa may not be ready any day soon to replace the human service but it will happen, I believe, in some form, and in the not too distant future.

I’ve just asked: “Alexa how much are Countrywide shares worth?” and that should be a warning to all.

People sell property with people they like

%name tic tac toe

I work alongside a fair few estate agents and having been in the industry myself for a couple of years, I totally understand the holy grail of trying to acquire listings.

If you operate a no sale no fee model, you have to get vendors selling homes and then hoping that they pick you and not a cheaper online rival or the 8 other agents clustered in close proximity.

You can’t turn around to your office staff, or email Rightmove, Zoopla and Metropix, and say “Look I know this is inconvenient but we have had four valuation requests this past month and just one went with us, which should net us £2500 in 12 weeks all being well. Are you all ok with me not paying you?”

No.

You can’t and wouldn’t want to, because if and when the market improves, you’ll need those portals and your team to cope with the upturn in demand.

I explain this to estate agents I blog for: offering me a free EPC, a £250 selling fee or no sale, no fee at 1% won’t remotely tempt me into allowing your silent sentry of the For Sale board on to my meagre front lawn, because at this moment in time, I don’t want to move.

Same with your leaflets.

Your social media sponsored posts.

If I don’t want to move, others won’t either.

And this means inertia and empty pockets for estate agents up and down the country.

People used to move every 7 years on average, and 4 on new estates, but I’ve noticed on the development we bought on that there’s been no property up for sale in 2 years – properties to let yes, for sale, no.

Norfolk is not atypical either.

The only movement in the market it seems to me from discussions and my own daily portal perusals is with new builds.

First time buyers have almost disappeared and with that, there is no consequent upward demand from those FTBs who would want to upsize in 4 or 7 years.

Starter homes are being pocketed by investors with a 25 year strategy of holding on to their investment.

If that £100,000 two bedroomed terraced home is being bagged by landlords, not young buyers, then the demand for £150,000 homes reduces and we’ve ended up in a state of stasis.

No matter what agents may say, the market to me seems deader than a dodo.

I remember in 2010, the election uncertainty was blamed and for the past two years, Brexit, but I think the market has been declining for many years and these are just factors to peg a slowdown on.

I might be wrong, of course.

But I’d argue that what you need to do is continue to work at clever marketing. That doesn’t mean offering to sell homes for peanuts – if an estate agent rocked up in a Mini and said to me “Stuart, we’ll sell this house for free, pay your conveyancing fees and removal costs,” I’d smile and say “Thanks, but I don’t want to move.”

I will eventually but not now.

When I do decide to move, I won’t pick because of price, discounts, high street location, I’ll choose on emotions – who I like and how they have made me feel.

It’s the same with any major purchase – why do I drive 57 miles to a car dealer to get the same deal and car as the one I could have got 23 miles away? It’s the people, the relationship marketing, the fact that they all connect with me on social media and engage with me.

House selling is no different.

I’ll choose based on the people, the relationship marketing, and the fact that they all connect with me on social media and constantly engage with me on LinkedIn.

People buy from people they like, and people sell with people they like.

Instead of throwing money at portals, premium listings, new office furniture, wrapped Minis and sharp suits, work instead on connecting at a human level.

Make yourself loveable – and, if that’s too difficult, at least likeable.

I can show you ways to do that too. 

Let’s talk.

 

“Room” – not a Room with a View, except a skylight

%name room

Last night, I streamed the film “Room” on Amazon Prime. I’d intended to watch this at the cinema a few years ago but never got round to it.

The basic premise is that Joy, the lead character was kidnapped at 17 and held captive in a “room” in a garden for 7 years, with her being raped by the captor, “Old Nick” and having a son Jack whose only life experience is this 8 foot by 10 foot garden shed.

As a property writer (and former English teacher) like all good novels and films, this one made me think.

About lack of freedom – how did Joy and Jack cope daily in such a confined space without going mad? 

About what we need to live – mum and son had food, water, and a skylight but no access to people or outdoors.

About microspaces– is it possible to live in small spaces?

In 2012, we bought a new touring caravan, on a bit of whim (and sold it 3 years later) and that was an absolute genius of design of how to cram everything into a small space.

The comfortable front couches converted into a huge double bed with a dining table forming the base. The kitchen had flip-up worktops, an oven, a fridge, a microwave, a sink cover to use as preparing space.  There was a slimline shower cubicle, cassette toilet and sink and to the rear a mini diner and bunk area which could be adapted to 4 additional beds, with a concertina door separating the two areas.

I loved it and having spent a month in it in France in 2014 I never got bored with its mini dimensions – although we obviously didn’t sit in it daily and nightly, 24/7, like Joy and Jack did in their space.

I think the main difference though was the abundance of light.

Huge windows, three roof lights and a large glass sunroof meant it was awash with sunshine and permanently warm, even in snow, when we toured in winter.

I think that developers, house builders, architects could learn a lot from caravan and static home design.

Firstly, include lots of glass – our current home has expansive light in the kitchen due to French doors and two separate windows. The bedrooms are light too with generous glazing. Our old home, an Edwardian villa, had vast original sash windows and was awash with light (and draughts) and I think natural light is key in a home.

Secondly think logically in design.

En suite shower rooms should be standard in new builds and is a bath in a family bathroom necessary? Maybe with young families in mind, possibly, but we didn’t need access to a bath with a 5 year old daughter in a caravan in 2012.

Get rid of garages.

I can’t think of a bigger waste of space in 2018 than the inclusion of single, integral or double garages on new developments, I’ve blogged about this before,and met with some resistance, but Persimmon, Bovis et al would do well to say to homebuyers I believe – garages are not included though drives and gardens will be bigger and we can install garden officesor sheds at a small extra cost.

As the government commits to 300,000 new homes a year, will any property developers out there grasp the nettle and create new developments that are different?

What do you think?

 

Local property expert – do you want to become one?

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The term Local Property Expert or LPEs have become synonymous with online estate agencies in recent years, mainly due to the fact that they’re local and have some insights into the property market locally, we’re all led to believe. It’s a curious term, because the traditional high street estate agents with MNAE and RICs behind their titles don’t resort to using any of the three words. Presumably, because they own a chunk of high street real estate, people assume they have knowledge and expertise in what they do.

Instead of arguing over semantics though, estate agents, to compete, would be better off not racing to the bottom with fees to match the online agents who don’t have so many running costs, but with providing content that showcases their expertise.

An example of a Local Property Expert

I’m going to look now at an unnamed small town (not city) which I’ve researched and see if there’s a correlation between number of listings and their content marketing strategy – bear with me, it shouldn’t be as dull as it sounds.

Let’s call the town, Cressley (the fictional setting of Stan Barstow’s “Joby” which I used to love teaching, back in the day).

Cressley has just nine estate agents.

The first page of Google search has the usual AdWord suspects but ignoring those estate agents who’ve chosen steroid PPC and not organic growth who is top?

  1. A big well-known franchise, which appears in most towns and cities and, unsurprisingly perhaps, has a corporate blog tab but one that is only updated once a month. It’s very generalised and has no relevance to Cressley. But it’s number one and it has a Google Plus review strategy which is very positive about this corporate giant. It has Live Chat too.
  2. A local independent estate agency with four regional branches, dotted around Cressley. Blogging is focused on the property market locally, breaking news and great information for buyers, sellers and landlords. It’s a minnow of an agency compared with others on Google page one, but it is getting regular listings for sale and rent – when there’s better known estate agencies and the online gang surrounding it locally and online.
  3. Another independent in third place and a newbie, only recently launched, but they have a top notch social media strategy, a beautiful website and, you guessed, a fortnightly blog post. It has plenty of let and sold properties showcased – highlighting a key facet of traditional – the motivation to see a sale through to exchange and completion.
  4. Fourth is another independent estate agency, with a blog and social media strategy in place, but both are comatose. I bet they used to be top of page one but have taken their eye of the ball, allowing the newcomer, local franchise and newbie to leapfrog them.
  5. Fifth is On the Market, various portals and other firms – I kid you not and sitting on page 2 are the other five estate agencies. All are without social media, a decent website or a blogging strategy. One estate agency even has a one page website built on Wix, with adverts popping up constantly. Would I choose them to market my home? No.

My point then is this.

If you want people to find you on Google and make a decision to ring or email you – you must be found on the top pages, your website must be user-friendly and content rich, social media should be active and fun, and you should have a news tab which makes people like you. Your website, blog posts and social media should show you are the leading local property expert.

Now I can design websites as I did for two leading estate agents: Perry Power and Stephen Thorpe. I even blog and write property narratives for Power Bespoke and Hogan’s making you the local property expert.

I can breathe life into your website, social media pages and blogs.

I can get you seen online and picked to sell your property as the real local property expert– in Cressley, Carlisle, Chester or Chelmsford.

Call me now to find out more on 07462923476. 

 

 

From Poundworld to House of Fraser, retail is in meltdown

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I’m not a business analyst and would never claim to be though I do read the news and follow events on social media, and so couldn’t miss the announcements that Poundworld and House of Fraser are in financial trouble and are doing a Jessops / HMV / Game and going on a financial diet with store closures.

What this tells me is that the top end and bottom end of retail is struggling, along with those in between, and I think to survive economic downturn, you have to offer something new – and that does not mean cheaper necessarily.

It’s the same with the service industry – banks are closing because footfall is low and consumer behaviour patterns have changed; estate agents are liquidating because the costs of running that business are too high on the main road through town and returns are diminishing because online agents sell houses not for a percentage fee but for a fixed fee, but the race to the bottom from high street agents has put another nail in their coffin.

To differentiate yourself, you have to offer something more than simply a product or service that you can pick anywhere online – you’ve got to offer a better service and make sure you charge accordingly.

Example: hand car washes.

Great Yarmouth and Norwich are dotted with car washes on every corner with prices varying at each one.

I can get my whip washed (pretending I’m some hip-hop distant relative of Drake’s) at any one and pay either £1.99 or £17 depending on where I pull up and what level of valet I have.

You’d think that the £17 one would struggle and the sub £2 one have queues round the block but they don’t.

These two are the most popular ones locally and the ones, that always seem to be empty, pitch themselves somewhere in between – like the ones charging £12 for a full interior and exterior clean.

Poundworld and House of Fraser car wash businesses are doing best.

This is why.

The £2 one does a basic job on your car through a machine that used to leave me in paroxysms of fear when car aerials protruded from wings and roofs. There’s no human interaction here but always a steady queue. £2 is handed over, you drive in and are waved on to the moving rail and you are dragged through the canopied machinery.

Your car drips at the end, is smeared and the inside remains untouched but it will do, you think, this week.

The £17 one takes your shopping trolley back for you, gives you a dangly air freshener and here’s their USP – they use Autoglym products inside and out to valet your car in 15 minutes. £17 does seem steep until you watch and realise 6 people are cleaning your car expertly whilst you collect half frozen salad leaves on a meander round Tesco.

The car is smear free, smells wonderful inside and looks like new after you part with the dosh.

This is what I think they do right – they differentiate themselves not by price but by quality of service and quality of cleaning products. You pay more, but you get more for your money. They are helpful too and customer focused.

So if you’re reading this and thinking physical business is dying, by all means go online and improve your digital presence, but be customer-centric, set yourself apart from rivals by charging more but doing more for them in return.

I used to think, naively, when I first became self-employed that helping others was noble, but helping rival copywriters and web designers would be like shooting myself in the foot.

It’s not.

People like helpers and just as that car wash will continue to get my £17 per month as I drive past the £12 ones, you have got to set yourself apart from others by offering more, doing more and being helpful.

Here endeth the sermon.

 

 

This property copywriter can add zing to make listings sing!

%name property copywriter

Property copywriter, me, going back to basics.

I’ve just started a new sideline: interviewing property vendors for two leading estate agencies and adding their stories to the property listing as a property copywriter.

I could pretend this was my idea but I’d be lying – I was approached to do it by a leading independent estate agent, Perry Power of Power Bespoke, who I’ve worked with previously on website design. Perry is a thoroughly decent fellow and a top estate agent, so it was a no brainer for me to accept the role.

I’m waiting for Perry to post the name badge: Power Copywriter too!

It’s going very well I reckon – the triangulated narrative between estate agent, vendor and copywriter is proving to be a success. 

So much so, that another top estate agency has approached me to do the same.

What’s good from your point of view is that you can mark it out as a USP – “we have a property writer who will interview you and sell your property with words” rather than spend time haggling about fees or dissuading them from the thousand pound coin toss of using the mauve cult.

Here’s the process:

  1. I’m emailed the photos and vendor details by you – or currently by Jen at Power Bespoke.
  2. I contact the vendor and explain I’d like 10 to 15 minutes of their time where they talk to me about their property. I find out things like how far a walk it is to Caterham, or Guildford, how long they’ve lived there, favourite aspects and because I know my way round property descriptions and have a good rapport with people from 27 years of pleasing teenagers in the classroom, the interviews all go swimmingly well.
  3. I make notes as I’m chatting and looking at photos and I craft a neat property description of between 300 to 400 words and send it to the estate agent promptly – without spelling errors, grammatical mistakes or property detail inaccuracies.
  4. I send an invoice for that week on 7 day terms and carry on with others.
  5. The estate agent has me on a Pay as you Go contract not a retainer – if they don’t want me to write many, or just a few, or for every listing – that’s fine. I’m cool with that.

There’s pluses for me: I find it very enjoyable; I like people and property and I like finding out about owners’ lifestyles, future plans and property history.

Each story takes me around 35 minutes to craft – from emailed photos to phone call to sending the property interview to you.

What does it cost, you may ask?

My hourly rate, split in 2.

Now don’t be expecting Fiverr prices or the charges of a solicitor or barrister.

Expect reasonable charges for a service I’m dedicating time to and spinning unique content about.

Ask me and I’ll tell you!

I’m not about to retire to Monaco (or even Surrey) on the earnings, but I love doing it and being paid for a service as a property copywriter I think I do well.

Proof of the pudding and all that so here’s one this property copywriter made earlier:

Despite the absence of water near this property, this property’s name is remarkably apt: The Moorings. The owner James is an expert boatsman who bought this cottage over 20 years ago. The property became his anchor, his safe haven, having decided impulsively after a first viewing to make an offer, which was accepted:

“The Moorings appealed in so many ways to me; firstly the location is splendid and the seller made coffee and fresh bread, which along with the open fires, proved irresistible. I went to the pub and decided there and then to buy it.”

But what about the property itself?

It’s a 2 bedroomed cottage that could easily be extended, subject to the usual planning permissions. It dates from 1830 and is steeped in history as a home and location.

Stagecoaches used to stop at the property as it was halfway between London and the south coast – in fact, the meadows adjoining the rear garden were where the horses rested. 

Down the road are stunning views of Box Hill, of Jane Austen fame, with many visitors comparing the vista to that of the white cliffs of Dover. France is not visible but there are vineyards nearby to match those across the Channel.

The nautical theme of cliffs and boats continues both inside and outside the property. The bathroom contains a bell from The Titanic; there’s a live water well in the garden as well as a modern irrigation system. Viewers of this quintessentially English property may spot other features too that mark it out as nautical – the anchors of the secret garden and the English Springer Spaniel, Mr Boatswain, who unfortunately does not come as part of the fixtures and fittings! 

It’s a practical home too: multi-fuel stove in the dining room, complemented by an open fire in the sitting room, as well as a sunbaked terrace that is perfectly private to the rear. 

Now the question we ask at Power Bespoke is this: will you be as impulsive as James was 20 years ago when he first saw The Moorings?

We think the answer is a resounding yes. 

Want to know more? Contact us on …

Now obviously with two leading independent estate agents on board, this one man band can’t open up property interviews to the whole estate agency market – but I always have capacity to add a few more estate agents in the mix. 

Want to know more about my property writing services?

Contact me today.

Are you looking at page 14 for web design in Norwich?

%name Norwich

We all want to be found on page one of Google, don’t we, for our services and products?

We all want that moment when someone searches for removal firms in Sheffield that you come up on page one.

Assuming of course you’re a removal company.

And in Sheffield.

Companies invest big money in SEO because it reaps dividends for them – if they can be found prominently online and what they offer answers questions to solutions a customer is looking for, boom.

I’ll come clean now and say I only look at the first few pages on Google search, ignoring the PPC ads in the main.

But I’m a man on a mission to get this company, ostensibly a copywriting and social media marketing enterprise, up on Google rankings.

I’m on page 14 in private browsing mode of Google for this search term:

Web Design in Norwich.

Now rather than be despondent, I see this as a positive.

In April, this year, I was part of a web design company and had been for a year and made a decision to go solo.

My copywriting and social media management business was being found on Google frequently by clients after 3 years of constant work at promoting it and I knew adding web design in Norwich to my services would take a long time to be seen in organic searches.

But it’s taken a month.

One month of optimising and blogging and social media sharing to get to page 14 from Search Engine Obscurity.

It’s a start, a good start and I know that by constantly refining what I offer, using the one third two third rule in marketing and creating backlinks, the business Get Pro Copy Ltd will rise in the ranks.

I’m not naive enough to think that I’ll be on page 5 next month, but I do have a clear progression strategy and if I’m on page 13 by July and page 10 by October, I’ll high five myself.

Society has changed you know that – just today House of Fraser announced shop closures, hot on the heels of Toys R U, Maplins et al.

Products and services are now largely bought online  and if you’re serious about surviving and thriving, you have to be found digitally and compel people to buy into and from you.

People hark back to the past as if life was better before the internet – it really wasn’t was it?

We played out all day in the 70s because there was nothing to hold us in the house – no Netflix, no apps, no daytime tv, so digging for worms or den building or hanging around shops or phone boxes was better than being indoors.

Don’t get me wrong – I love going out, getting Vitamin D and meeting people daily, but if someone asked me, which did you prefer – the past or the present, I’d have no hesitation in replying “Present.”

There’s key aspects to be found online then if you’re in Norwich or Nantwich, Newcastle or Newport and here’s a few:

  1. A responsive website
  2. A social media presence
  3. A commitment to communication
  4. Optimised content
  5. An ability to think longer term

I think as a business I embody all five key principles.

I talk the talk and walk the walk, as that cliché goes.

If you’d like to know more about how I can make your start up develop or breathe life into a dated, unresponsive website, drop me an email now: stuart@getprocopy.com and I’d be glad to advise you.

East Norfolk property prices are soaring – and it worries me

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Many industry professionals see rising house prices as a good thing and to be honest equity has been a nice little earner for me over the years. £13,000 profit pocketed on moves in the 80s and much much more in recent years, but I do think property prices are now out of control and brinking on the obscene.

Now I’m not looking back nostalgically to the 80s – the house prices were attractive, but mullets and the glam rock look – no thanks.

The reason I’m concerned is that I’d like to move, to move locally, to something more rural, so I can fling open doors, see open countryside, hear birds chirping, rabbits cavorting and England flags on farmsteads waving their insular casual racism for all to see on large holdings.

The problem is that the countryside, around here in east Norfolk, is bloody expensive.

Burgh Castle, home to a Roman river fort, appeals, but the prices are too high.

Haddiscoe, Ormesby, Lound, Browston are all areas I’d move to in a heartbeat with my dog, family and Google WiFi boxes but alas I’d never get a mortgage, self employed at 53, with those prices.

When we first moved here, you could get a country bolt-hole for £200,000 but now you’re looking at £450,000 for the same property in rural east Norfolk.

Head to north Norfolk or nearer Norwich and east Norfolk property prices are made to look like you’re in the north.

That’s my first world problem I’m ruminating on today. I like the new build we moved into two years ago. Its running costs and thermal efficiency are trememdous. It’s quiet, reasonably close to bridlepaths, but it’s not my forever home, though I’ve accepted Norfolk may be for life, given the climate and fineness of Norwich city centre.

So if anyone can suggest a sub £200,000 property in rural east Norfolk, where I can smell parochial Brexit attitudes, with 3 bedrooms and walks from the back gate, drop me a line (an email, not cocaine).

 

 

How Google WiFi is the pinnacle of functionality and design

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My fibre optic broadband that we pay handsomely for each month has been getting me down. It won’t allow rendering of images on various websites, takes an age to load LinkedIn (though that may be a good thing given the number of vainglorious egos on there) and is slow to update and back up websites I’ve designed locally near Norwich and further afield.

Admittedly it’s not quite 2G or back to the days when you attached a telephone cable to a laptop and perched on the stairs but you know it’s bad when you consider website design from a pew in McDonald’s. Wi-Fries and all that.

SLOW BROADBAND FOR BIG MONEY

Despite my screenshooting of speeds and emails and calls to the monopoly provider on this Persimmon estate, speeds seemed to be reducing daily.

Yesterday a neighbour kindly tested the wired speed and revealed all is hunky dory in the attached broadband world, but given that I don’t want to recreate 1999 with an iMac wobbling on my knees on the second stair step, I needed to take action.

Like in Scooby Doo, the culprit was quickly unveiled – the pesky router selling for £5 on eBay and supplied free on moving in.

Now you’d think all routers would be created equal but, like me, you’d be naive to make that judgement. They are not. Not equal at all.

I knew I needed to upgrade and the neighbour offered options but when I realised I had to wait til Tuesday to end the 2G, dial up hell I was marooned in, I took action.

IT WAS AMAZON WHAT DID IT

We’ve all been spoiled by Amazon Prime. I need Illy coffee, it’s here next day, I want to stream Blade Runner 2049, boom it’s on.

So the wait for me was unbearable – so I did what any consumer does: head online, turning WiFi off obviously, to research and read router reviews. Exciting life eh?

I knew though of a real life expert whose video on LinkedIn a few months ago struck a chord: a certain Kyle Heath from the West Midlands, who demonstrated Google WiFi, whilst I watched with a quickening pulse. Sad I know.

I messaged Kyle and he told me what to get, a twin pack Google WiFi and I added it to my basket on Amazon. I couldn’t wait til Sunday though once the decision had been made, so I looked for physical stock locally.

Now this used to be easy, but alas, Amazon and its loyal customers, killed Rumbelows, Comet, Tesco Direct so my only options were Currys / PC World and that antiquated half pen catalogue empire, Argos.

I chose Currys because I’m registered there as a business, they had stock and I know their returns policy is sound, unlike Argos, where you have to build a pyre of pens and set fire to them to get within a sniff of a manager for a return.

I got £1 discount for the business purchase (I think) which cost me as it took three times as long to buy and I could have been crafting copy for clients at home in that time. An ex pupil served me, who remembered me as his History teacher, oddly.

WHAT’S GOOGLE WIFI LIKE?

Sick.

Which means great. If you’re 15. Which I am mentally.

Set up was a doddle with Kyle Heath online assisting and I have one unit in the hall (attached to the ONS)  for recreating days of 1999 and one in my foxy office acting as a “mesh”, sitting next to my Amazon Echo, which quietly glares at me for not proceeding to checkout with the basket.

And the speeds?

Bear in mind, I pay for 100 MBS and was getting 28 wirelessly.

To go all 15 again, it’s lit – meaning on fire.

Speeds, I kid you not, of 250 MBS are being recorded in the Google WiFi app, which, I kid you not again, is a masterpiece of user simplicity.

I can set a guest wifi point up, and control the password, which I can see great use of with businesses and hotels. I can control the kids’ devices and pause and stop their broadband access at set times or whenever I feel like being a bastard.

It monitors channels for me so I don’t have that ball ache of finding out the IP address and deciding whether to go Channel 3, 8 or Auto, and I can prioritise devices.

During the day, when everyone is out, and I’m uploading images to WordPress media libraries, working on Photoshop or backing up and migrating websites, I can set the bulk of the WiFi to point at my office iMac via the App and watch as steam rises from its rear orifice.

You can’t just read this though and think “nice ramble Stuart” you want a sales pitch.

A CALL TO ACTION.

Here’s mine.

My router worth £5 was shockingly bad. I upgraded it for something costing 50 times as much and my broadband now functions brilliantly.

Your website, your digital presence may work and function well – but isn’t it nigh on time you brought the content and design and functionality and user-friendliness up to speed?

Think of me as your human Google WiFi boxes.

I can speed up and optimise your website, your marketing materials, your social media, so your digital presence doesn’t look a bit 1999, whether you’re after new web design Norwich or Northwich.

Contact me today. 

 

15 topics I’d like property developers to write about

Many major property developers have embraced the art of blogging on their websites and produce articles that are interesting, informative and engaging. I’ve read a hefty amount of material that does this ever so well, but there’s a few glaring omissions from some major players.

As a devotee of new-builds and a serial homebuyer, I don’t think I’m untypical of many buyers.

I look for new developments online, visit their microsite, examine site plans, house types and availability. If the area is unfamiliar, I’d check out Google maps, proximity and reputation of local schools, access to town and country.

On the company website, or even development microsite, there’s at least 15 topics that I’d find useful and I’m convinced others may.

Here goes:

  1. Location. Not just the marketing speak but really good location information like how close is the nearest primary school or high school, whether there’s shops to hand, or walking and cycling from the doorstep. Persimmon do this well. Others don’t. It’s useful. All developers should do it.
  2. Running costs. We all take car manufacturers’ mpg figures with a bucket of salt – but a new build’s energy costs aren’t measured in a vacuum like those VWs. Give the average monthly cost of gas, electricity and water – I can tell you for this Hadleigh home precisely – £80 per month for all three.
  3. Construction methods. Timber framed or brick and block? Types and styles of windows – hardwood or uPVC. Colour of roof. You get the idea?
  4. Schools. New developments attract families as a rule of thumb – I’d like to know distances and reputations of schools close to the development.
  5. Play areas. Are there going to be any? Or will there be any public open spaces?
  6. Public transport. Bus routes and train information for example.
  7. Testimonials. Now I know many big housebuilders sometimes get bad press – but they don’t highlight the positive feedback they get. Some positive reviews should be on websites.
  8. Floorplans. I remember fondly when new builds showed radiators, power points, telephone sockets, washing machine and dishwasher points on floorplans but they seem to have disappeared – I think developers should include detailed plans for would-be buyers.
  9. Broadband options. A page alone could be dedicated to this on developers’ websites, talking about modems, routers, fibre-optic cabling, download speeds and consumer choice.
  10. Customisable options. I’m sure before the first fit phase buyers would like clearly costed options so they can choose a double oven not a single, go for better flooring than the cheap free stuff, choose to have an integral garage made into another room etc. Local builders who can add a garden home office etc.
  11. Area guides. Where is the nearest town? What amenities does it offer? Bluebell Meadow (where we live) mentions it is under 30 miles to Norwich – but that fine city could occupy 10 blog posts on its own merits. 23 miles or 40 minutes’ travel time to Norwich would make this development even more appealing.
  12. Leisure facilities nearby. I’ve been writing Design Access Statements and many of the criteria named there – like railway stations, schools – could offer a blueprint for content marketing. Why don’t developers mention the nearest David Lloyd, Nuffield or Bannatynes? The closest cinemas and theatres? The nearest public swimming pools?
  13. Landscape and walks. I’ve only recently unearthed great walks from the doorstep – why don’t developers name walking routes, describe the local landscape, rather than relying on estate agent speak like “a stone’s throw away from … a beach, woods, a river?”
  14. Financial and legal advice. Just some generalised advice on the types of mortgages available, how conveyancing works, what is the difference between exchange and completion, Help to Buy etc.
  15. Snagging. New homes all develop faults – some major, others minor, so an outline of what to do in the event of a toilet blocking, a path subsiding, brickwork cracking, doors sticking, walls cracking etc – plus some general advice on how to hang blinds and poles on those walls – would be welcomed.

If you’re a property developer at a national or local level and are thinking “this sounds like a good content strategy” drop me an email or ring me directly on 07462923476 to see how this property blogger and web designer can answer questions your buyers will have – and enhance your marketing strategy.

To win property listings, focus on relationship marketing

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Cards on the table: I worked in estate agency for a while and formed my own company in 2014 which was on the road to becoming a success with 13 property listings shortly after launch, but it lacked a long term financial commitment from myself and my business partner. It did get a key aspect right though – relationship marketing.

We established ourselves quickly with vendors in the local area not by a race to the bottom with fees, not by Rightmove Premium banners (we launched with Zoopla alone), but by focusing on relationship marketing.

We made it our mission to dispel any negative stereotypes about estate agency by being helpful, positive and genuine. It worked. We listed properties ahead of established high street rivals and online giants. People trusted Farrell Walton Estate Agency.

In many ways, I miss the company – longer term, it would have turned an operating profit and generated even more trust locally. We had a great website, active social media platforms and a reputation for being honest – because both Claire and myself had worked in education and estate agency. I’ve no doubt, now, two and half years since it was wrapped up as a business, it would be doing well.

There’s a message in here for any start-ups or established estate agencies.

See customers, see properties, in terms of relationship and not transactions.

Build the relationships, prove you’re helpful and trustworthy and listings will appear.

We managed to get on page one of Google for three key search terms: Gorleston estate agents (where we were based), estate agents Great Yarmouth and were hovering on page 2 for similar search terms for Lowestoft, a neighbouring town. We did that through active content marketing and social media marketing, and it got enquiries and even when other local estate agents disparaged us to home sellers for only being on Zoopla, we managed to secure valuations and listings.

Obviously, we didn’t sell all 13 we listed – and I read today that just 60% of housing stock sells, meaning 40% won’t sell, regardless of who is marketing it.

We knew that at the time and when a vendor changed their mind asking to take a property off the market, or switch agents, we didn’t wave contracts at them and say “You’re tied in for 18 weeks” like one local estate agency does, but mutually parted, knowing that the vendor would speak highly of our philosophy to others.

Proof of this is that one property we listed in 2015 generated few viewings and zero offers, up to our business closing, but, with four estate agents being employed since, in the past three years, it remains unsold today.

Apart from the business closing, we did well, I believe, looking back and I’d like to share with you what relationship marketing looked like to us back then, and were I to relaunch a new hybrid estate agency locally (which I’d love to do) what I’d do again.

  1. Content. Primarily I’m a content writer, having taught English for 27 years and run Get Pro Copy Ltd since Farrell Walton closed. Content became the epicentre of marketing – via a daily blog on our beautiful website, printed newsletters and email campaigns designed and populated on Campaign Monitor. Content got us valuations and listings. When I wrote and boosted posts about local villages Belton, Bradwell and Burgh Castle, we got three valuation requests and two listings there in a month.
  2. Portals. Other estate agents dissed us for not being on Rightmove as if portals were the holy grail of marketing. They’re not. We sold a stunning property locally with a For Sale board, an active social media strategy and placement on Zoopla for 1% commission. We were open about our rates. We told people what we did: accompanied viewings, gave constant marketing feedback and we came across as people to trust. We got business from word of mouth referrals too.
  3. Social media. We grew our social media presence quickly by targeting demographics and areas across five vibrant social media platforms and again that generated followers, listings, sellers and buyers. We didn’t just let Facebook, Twitter and Instagram start off well and sink into a torpid coma. No. We fed social media daily, engaged with people online and at the end we had more social media followers than any estate agent in the three places we targeted. Shame it all went.

If I could time travel back, I’d obviously do some things differently, like making sure the business had a financially viable future with a committed partnership (we both developed lukewarm feet about the enterprise) but I don’t think I’d change that much.

If you’re an established (or a start up) estate agency looking to get more valuations and turn these into listings and sales, focus on relationships.

Be helpful and honest.

Give useful advice for free.

Build a beautiful online presence in terms of your website and social media channels.

Provide informative content.

Be people-centred not property-centred.

People buy from people they like.

No matter what your fees, your high street office looks like, your portal premium presence, if customers don’t like you, you have to change their minds about you in the way you conduct business.

Rest in Peace Farrell Walton Ltd.

Hopefully one day, the concepts we built the business on will be of use to other estate agents looking to become likeable, become established or win more business.

People first – remember that.

Relationship marketing is the top priority.