It was my second year in real estate photography. I was averaging about 30 – 50K a year in gross sales. There were other photographers here in my market that were starting to copy me right from my pricing to my packages. It was time to do something, but what? I knew I needed something to differentiate myself and help me stand out but I could not put my finger on exactly what that was. There were all kinds of gimmicks out there. Some guys had drones and others walked through homes with thousands of dollars in video equipment making home video walk throughs. At the end of the day, I took terrific still photos and needed something to highlight them as well as streamline my business. I was not about to change everything up and get into spinning panoramas, creating floor plans or flying drones through homes to be memorable. What I stumbled upon in late 2018 would change my life forever.
It was late one night and I was up processing photos when an ad for RTV or Real Tour Vision came across my Facebook newsfeed. It said something about standing out, looking unique and making a lasting impression to my customers. It got me. Moments later I was reading about how I could take my regular still photos and make them work for me in a way that I had never imagined. RTV touted that their company which began in 1999 helped to ignite the independent photographer movement and helped photographers harness their word of mouth marketing with the use of virtual tours, property websites, weekly seller’s reports and additional marketing tools. I typically don’t sign up for these things but being that the timing was right and there were just too many copycats in my area it was time to spin the wheel and see what happened. I put in my information and set up a test account with RTV.
When I got inside of the account it was very confusing. There was stuff everywhere and was pretty overwhelming. I reviewed a couple of videos in the learning center/knowledge base,fumbled my way through everything, and after a half-hour or so I had made my first production with my images. Having no idea as to where to go from there, I put everything away and closed up shop for the night. The next day I would receive a phone call that would change how I see real estate photography forever!
The call came in while I was traveling from one shoot to the next, so RTV’s timing was perfect. The salesperson that I spoke with asked me what my goal was for 2019. I said that I wanted to grow my business and offer tools and services that the other photographers in the area were not offering. I also said that I did not want to break the bank or have to charge a lot more since realtors are very price sensitive and the smallest change can make or break things in this field. I was told over and over by the salesperson that I should fully integrate the system into my business workflow and should not offer photography only shoots. No photo shoot left behind kind of thing. Each photo shoot put into the RTV system was $12 bucks so it would take a very good reason for me to put every job I do through the system and increase my cost of each job by$12. When I asked the reason for this (fair question I thought right?) I was simply told that my$12 for each shoot would come back to me tenfold in new customers and business. I did not believe how this could work until I agreed to actually try it out on my next 60 photography shoots. RTV matched my purchase of 30 tour credits and I ended up with sixty. Hopefully they still do this when you read this because it was a very inexpensive way to start up and got me going. I should have bought more! I had to promise however to take just a little time as I introduced the new system to my customers and teach them how to post the tours on their website, the MLS and their social sites. What followed was out of this world amazing!
After I had about thirty tours under my belt and climbing, I started getting a couple calls a week and people were clearly calling me because they saw my tours on someone’s Facebook or twitter feed. I tried to ask but after a while, it became pretty clear that the tours I was creating were tiny ads showcasing my killer photos all over the web to the most relevant audience possible – home shoppers and other realtors! I’m not going to say this was an overnight success but I’m writing this in February of 2020; I’m 16 months in with RTV, and I’ve more than doubled my real estate photography business. In 2019 alone I photographed over 900 homes. I was recently out shopping (I use the small reusable shopping bags with my logo on them) and I literally had a woman come up to me and say, “Hey you’re that Stoney photographer guy! My husband and I told our realtor to use you and the photos came out great! Thank you!”
To date, I still don’t offer photography only shoots and I put every home shoot that I do through the RTV system. The way I see it, if I don’t, I’m losing advertising revenue. I will say this, and it’s VERY important, when you get set up with RTV you must make sure that you take the time and private label the system to your domain, set up all of your API keys, and set yourself up as an advertiser in the system. When you are your own advertiser on the system you can put your logo on all of your property sites and virtual tours. This logo becomes a clickable link back to your website and it will send you a TON of agents and home shoppers. When I was getting setup I was told I would get 20-30 new visitors to my website each month just by doing this as long as I followed the recommended steps. To date my logo has received 348 clicks to my website and a whopping 258,000+ impressions. That’s a ton of visibility for my brand and I’m averaging nearly 22 visitors/clicks to my website a month just off my past productions. If you don’t follow the steps above and if you don’t let RTV properly train you or if you don’t make sure each of your customers understands the importance of posting the tours and sharing the weekly seller’s report the process won’t fully work. I will say this, the word of mouth and boost marketing system that RTV has developed over the years works excellent and is genuinely bar none the best! Feel free to stop on by my website and check out some of my recent virtual tour productions here – https://tours.stoneysphotography.net/