For virtual tour photographers frustrated with the slow progress breaking into your local Residential Real Estate market — DON’T GIVE UP!!! IT’S WORTH IT IN THE END!!
When we started our virtual tour business, we assumed that the majority of our business would be residential real estate virtual tours. We quickly became frustrated as we made calls because we assumed that the Realtors we were talking to would immediately see the value in our product and service and line up to schedule real estate virtual tours. We found it at first difficult to open the doors in the real estate market and refocused our virtual tour business elsewhere and quickly became experts in the commercial virtual tour arena.
In 2011, Real Estate was only 5% of our virtual tour business but it will be much bigger now that we have figured out how important a market stream it is. We now have a real “hometown” and have found a way to focus our efforts consistently on building our hotel photography business without sacrificing the time I spend marketing nationally to healthcare and hospitality virtual tours. We started small — I met a Realtor at an open house and shot two virtual tours for her the same day. She loved the 360 tours and got us an invitation to do a presentation at her office’s sales meeting. My presentation consisted of her bragging about our work and telling her peers that they would be crazy NOT to use us. That day, we booked 7 real estate virtual tours for another Realtor and shot several of them that very day. A week later, we got a call from another, and now we work regularly with most of the Realtors in that office and get referrals from them for other Realtors who see the virtual tour work we’ve done for them.
The hours I spend on booking a big job vs. the phone ringing on a consistent basis with REORDERS from this handful of Realtors was enough to convince me that the Real Estate market is worth the effort. Trust me, we used to say we hated working with realtors but now we love it and it provides us with a base income that allows me to focus on the bigger jobs without having to worry about mortgage and car payment money. While cultivating an initial relationship with Realtors may be a lot of work, they are the ONE very consistent, and ongoing stream of income that we can count on without having to do additional outbound marketing. With commercial virtual tours, we shoot it once and hope for referrals but once you have a loyal and SATISFIED realtor, you don’t have to resell them over and over.
We even hired a local photographer so that we don’t lose that Illinois virtual tour business when we are traveling. Realtors are the only line of business we have where we GET calls every week instead of me sitting down to make calls every day. We have great relationships, they love our virtual tours and they tell other Realtors about us all the time. It didn’t happen overnight but slowly but surely we are converting many of the Visual Tour users over when they see the difference that professional photography and a kick ass tour delivery system makes. All it cost us was a few doughnuts and a lot of persistence – not a bad return.