By – RAYHAN RAFIQ OMAR – Property Industry Eye

Well over 200 agents attended Friday’s inaugural Sales and Marketing LIVE event, organised by the Property Academy.

The event featured presentations from Guy Levine, founder of the business Return on Digital; Tony Morris of the Sales Doctors; and Malcolm Smith who is an expert on negotiation.

There was also a candid interview with Beth Hilson, marketing director of London estate agent Marsh and Parsons.

Levene provided some interesting insights into digital marketing.

He asked: “Are your property descriptions written for your customers?

“If they shop in Waitrose, but your brand looks like Aldi, there is a mismatch.”

He went on: “Fish where the fish are: they’re online.”

On agents’ websites, he told the story of an airport where the gents’ toilet floor was horrible: “Someone had the brainwave to paint an image of a fly in the urinal. Not a drop was wasted on the floor as men played ‘kill the fly’ with their stream.

“Some of you have thousands of people visiting your website: Are they doing what you want them to do?”

Mentioning that agents needed to “survive” thanks to “competitors nibbling at your heels”, Levine advised agents: “Own the customers – an email list can protect from disruption.”

Regular emails could, he said, answer people’s questions, give factual advice – for example about Stamp Duty – and feature information from interesting external sources, such as Debt Map UK.

Malcolm Smith said the best negotiators conveyed to purchasers that they were going to live in a particular home.

He said: “If you believe this is the home for me, I’ll believe it. I’m going to live here. Photos and measurements aren’t it.

“Engage with me emotionally.

“Don’t hide behind computer screens, like those people who don’t get it. You know, the ones we have special names for: employees.”

He also wondered out loud why “estate agents’ offices are so dull”.

Sales doctor Tony Morris reinforced this message by highlighting the difference between excellent negotiators and world-class sales people who not only serve the client in front of them but get the next customer.

As one example, he said agents could try asking tenants who were looking for new accommodation: “As the rental market moves so fast, I’d like to help you by quickly checking you’ve been a good tenant. Can I grab your landlord’s details?”

During one of the breaks, EYE spoke to Angela Ellis, head of marketing at Imagine Group, who passed on her own tip: “We recently had a ‘Draw your Home’ competition in the paper.

“It was amazing how many parents handed in their children’s work. We now regularly have an activity page for kids.

“It gives the paper longevity and helps people remember our brand.”

During the programme, Nicky Stevenson gave out nuggets of useful market information, drawn from the Home Moving Trends Survey 2015, which surveyed 5,420 people who were selling a property.

More than eight in ten said that being on Rightmove was their most important choice of marketing, way ahead of both Zoopla and OnTheMarket.

A total of 85% of sellers cited Rightmove as their top choice, with only 11% opting for Zoopla and 5% going for  OnTheMarket.

The most interesting results were that 55% of people visited an agent’s website before inviting them for a valuation, with only 32% visiting the agent’s office.

A staggering 82% of respondents did not choose the agent with the lowest fee.

After the event, I spoke to Nicky Stevenson.

She said: “Our mission is to inspire people to meet their unfulfilled potential. We often hear that the Property Academy is the best kept secret in the industry.”

Asked about the future of the industry, she said: “There’s definite change with technology.

“However, we think the right approach is ’embrace not replace’.

“Tech can help people remember you, but it’s not the thing they remember.

“It’s important to understand that an agent’s role is more than the transaction. We help our members get the basics right and understand the importance of passion and conversation.

“Email is not the same.

“Agents should aim to be the local trusted adviser, even when people aren’t moving. It’s important to not be seen as offering a commodity service.”

Members of the Property Academy pay £87 plus VAT per month to benefit from £2,916 worth of events, seminars and coaching through the year, including EA Live, ­ the event that precedes the Sunday Times and The Times Estate Agency of the Year Awards.