Rocky Bartolotto is the recently appointed Head of Product Sales at new listings portal Homely.com.au. Samantha McLean caught up with Rocky to find a bit more about his new role, Homely’s goals for the next 12 months, where portals are heading in the future and some top tips for making your listings really stand out.
Rocky, you’ve been in the industry for quite a while now, when and where did you start?
I’ve worked in the Real Estate industry since 1997, during this time I’ve made many great relationships with hundreds of agents not only on a business level but also a personal level; a few of those people have become personal mentors to me. At the age of 22, I was given the opportunity to work with one of the largest franchisee corporate offices in Sydney which has been invaluable from an experience point of view as my career continues to grow.
When I was high school I remember skipping days from school when debates were on or when I had to present to my fellow class mates; I was so afraid of public speaking. Now I am an auctioneer, I do it all the time auctioning property across Sydney with the team my company “Auction Services”. It allows me great insight when speaking with agents during the week how each of the different regions are performing.
With the contacts I’ve made in the industry over the last 17 years, I hear many things that come and go however one has remained, a constant demand for change with advertising options across the ever changing online world, which is an exciting place to be.
What attracted you to joining Homely?
After a meeting late last year with Co-CEO’s, Jason Spencer and Adam Spencer, it didn’t take me long to realise that Homely presented the perfect opportunity for me to add the skill set, knowledge and experience I have received over the last 17 years. I am very excited to be a part of the Homely team and working alongside Jason and Adam and growing the sales team nationally to work with the 3,000 offices who have shown their support since launching in December 2013 by submitting listings to the website. Each week we are adding hundreds of new offices to the site and the continued support we are receiving is overwhelming. We are thrilled to be working with each and every new office we receive who are committed to a new exciting platform being offered and change across online platforms.
It was personally important to me that if I was going to continue in the portal space that it be with a new competitor that would emerge in the market place. A company that has vision and strategy with clear goals. Homely offered all these and are 100% dedicated in adapting with the constant changing media landscape of online marketing. We are dedicated in offering a user experience that is above and beyond what is currently available to not only agents but also consumers as well. Another factor that attracted me to Homely was the success of other websites globally that are owned by the same company. With this experience we believe we have all the right platforms in place to rival some of the best property portals across the world.
As we are independently owned, we listen and make changes based on the feedback we receive from our agents. Plus, we have a detailed understanding of what our consumers want due to the community based websites managed over the years, (for example StreetAdvisor). We have a strong audience currently viewing Homely.com.au to search for property globally in Australia and an audience that continues to come back to our sites day in day out as it allows them to ask question, share their opinions and assist others in their search for a property. The upside to this as an agent is that this approach will allow you to build better relationship with your future clientele well before speaking with them or meeting with them.
The industry has told us that they want to see a national portal that’s different from the current options available to agents. Something fresh, new and exciting which allows agent to build better relationships.
What is Homely’s real point of difference, and what what would you say are the main benefits to real estate agents?
Well, Homely.com.au has been in the making for some time as you can imagine! The addition of the content from Streetadvisor, which has over 500,000 ratings and reviews means that adding listings was just a natural progression. Where we differ from the larger sites is that we really focus on just two parties, consumers and agents. By providing agents a clear platform to advertise, and not cluttering their listings with third party advertisements, we can ensure they display their properties in the best light possible, by doing this, we also offer the best experience for the consumer.
When we originally planned the launch of Homely, it was imperative that we focused on user experience, and we think this is truly a big point of difference for us from the larger portals out there. Nowhere else can you see ratings, reviews, and listings in a clean and banner free environment. The smaller portals have followed the larger method of advertising in which the market leaders instituted, so with our offering we are truly hoping to offer a new and innovative way for listings to be displayed.
What are your top three goals for Homely in the next 12 months?
It’s really hard to set goals as things change so rapidly and we don’t want to limit ourselves as to what we can do. We do hope that by a certain date this year we can have 100% market coverage. We do have a date in mind, it’s written up on our wall but we will be keeping that a secret for now. (Smiles.) Secondly, the first 12 months it is all about learning, from both agents and consumers. We want to learn from them how we can make both their listing and search experience even better. We understand by removing banner ads that was one step forward, however we are ruthless in our goals to innovate and be a market leader in the property portal space. Finally in 2014, we will commence our consumer marketing which is exceptionally exciting, we have the goal to be the number 1 property destination for consumers when they go to search property. We know this is ambitious but we believe we can do it.
If you could stare into a crystal ball of the future, what do you see as far as portals are concerned in the year 2020?
We believe there is going to be a drastic shift in the portal space. It’s so hard to tell where we will all be in five to six year’s time. But we do believe that with the innovation are bringing to the industry that many more features will be revealed in the short to medium term.
By 2020, property searching will truly be seen as a fully engaged experience, a place to search, connect with agents, read reviews, and the power will be held by two parties, consumers and agents. There will be a move away from ad generated revenue on sites and engagement will be the most important function, as it should be.
Any office can submit their listings via http://agent.homely.com.au/submit-your-listings. This is free to list with no monthly costs.
Rocky Bartolotto’s top tips for making your listings stand out:
Bartolotto says, “Online marketing for real estate listings should be considered one of, if not the most important marketing strategy for agents when bringing their properties to market. Ensuring that their listings are well positioned and structured is essential to ensure coverage of the market”. Here are his tips on how to market effectively online.
- Understand cross-channel requirements: Marketing effectively online requires you to look at all channels. Do you go direct, do you go broad and which tools should you use? It is important to first analyse your market, where are they and how will they consume your content. If they are an older demographic, marketing to them on tools such as twitter may not be effective.
- Consider engagement: Just because you have a listing online, and you plaster it on facebook it isn’t going to guarantee a sale. The fundamental requirement for online marketing should be to develop engagement, using online videos and generating conversations about the listing are going to be much more valuable than doing ‘everything’ you can online. Focus on your market and how you can engage, as ten engaged consumers is better than fifty disengaged viewers.
- Use tools out there that will assist the listing: Whilst you can undertake the standard online marketing techniques to get listings displayed you may need assistance from other tools. Look at tools such as an integrated mortgage calculator and integration to the agent profile that is listing the property will help immensely.
- Focus on developing your personal brand: The online marketplace can be one where people showcase items and forget to attach their personal guarantee to it. A key to selling online is that consumers will buy from people they trust. Therefore developing your agent profile on platforms like Homely.com.au and showcasing your engagement with other consumers will help you demonstrate your knowledge on local areas. By doing this, you drive engagement and ensure you are seen as a reputable agent.