BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) It’s a mistake to imply that you will answer a question in full and then only provide a limited answer. In today’s web, when we discover that type of misdirection we feel cheated and abused. The website visitor’s response to you will be to leave angry and distrustful. You’ve lost what may be the only opportunity you’ll ever have with them.
I visited the new Coldwell Banker website today after Chris Brogan tweeted about it. I know a bit about real estate because my wife is currently a realtor and she spent a few years at Coldwell Banker. I want to say now that I think they are a fine company and I don’t have any problem with them at all. Coldwell does a lot of things right, and like all big companies they do a few things wrong. I don’t want to discuss their company, or policies. I do want to discuss their website…
I like the new website, it’s beautiful, very modern in look and feel. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube buttons are prominently placed on every page and easy to find. All in all, I think it’s a great new design.
Here’s the problem, I have a home for sale and the first thing I did was go search for it. It’s not listed through Coldwell Banker, but rather with my wife’s current company. I couldn’t find it on the Coldwell Banker site. I fiddled with search criteria, changed the settings and still couldn’t find it. Then I realized that it wasn’t listed because the Coldwell Banker site only searches for homes that are listed with Coldwell Banker realtors.
Now at first blush that seems to be completely reasonable. You don’t want to advertise your competitor’s on your website do you? But in Real Estate, anyone can go to any of dozens of home search sites (Realtor.com homefinder.com zillow.com trulia.com, etc.) and find every available home in almost any market. And very few people are going to buy a house without doing a lot of research, it’s a big deal for most of us.
So what happens to the home buyer who is searching on the Coldwell Banker site? Here’s my guess:
1. Arrive at the new Coldwell Banker site. Marvel at the beauty and simplicity.
2. Run a quick search to find a house you might like.
3. Find a couple of listings.
a. If you’re just starting out, you may not realize they are a subset of the available market.
b. If you’ve been looking for a while you will quickly realize it’s not all of the homes on the market.
4. Run a few other searches to check and see why it’s so out of whack.
5. Check the screen, does something there say it’s only searching Coldwell Banker’s listings?
6. You’re now confused. You decide the search is useless.
7. You’ll leave the site disgusted and distrustful.
A Negative Experience with the Brand.
In my opinion the visitor to the site will leave Coldwell Banker’s new website with a negative feeling about the brand. They will feel they were misled into thinking they were searching the internet, when they only searching one company. There are lots of different websites that do this type of thing, plumbing supplies, hand tools, arts and crafts, etc. And they all leave us feeling like we’ve wasted our time on them. When it’s simple for the user to jump over to Google and find another site with a more comprehensive search it’s counterproductive for your site to do anything else.
What’s the Right Way to Do It?
Do the real search for everything, but highlight your products with added appeal. Provide more information, better descriptions, bigger pictures, etc. Give your site visitor the info they need even if you can’t provide the sale this time. Provide all of the information, maybe in a better format, that’s easier to read. In real estate you can provide your own agents as contacts for all of the properties instead of the listing agent. There are lots of ways for you to provide competitive information yet still keep the customer. Sell them something else, an alternative product that does the same job. In the end, if they really really want only the product you don’t supply, you’ll not change their minds. But you can be in their minds for the next time they need something like it.
It’s much better to be a Trust Agent than a banker out in the cold by the well (sorry couldn’t help that one.)
Give me 1 Good Reason why you would spend any time on a product search that’s incomplete?