Part 1: Forced Registration is a False Sense of “Permission Marketing”

By
Real Estate Services with softRealty.com

We published our first of several upcoming eBooks regarding “Forced Registration” and blogged about it here on ActiveRain: http://activerain.com/blogsview/1147742/7-reasons-why-forced-registrations-will-ultimately-hurt-your-business

Dan Quinn commented making a correlation between our message about “Why Forced Registration is Bad” to Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing.”  For those who want a brief summary of "Permission Marketing," check out this short blog post from Seth Godin: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/01/permission-mark.html.

As I started my reply to Dan, my comment quickly evolved into another blog post.  So, thanks Dan for starting the next conversation.

“Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers”
– from the cover of Permission Marketing

The essence of "Permission Marketing" is about establishing trust and the terms of a relationship between how a consumer and business engage with each other.  It's about giving the consumer the opportunity to determine when they are ready to take the relationship to the next level and for the company to respect that process. 

Forced Registration is a false sense of “Permission Marketing.”  Some would argue that at least the consumer has given you “permission” to engage by filling out a registration form.  However, this request for that permission is made before the consumer knows what exactly the goods or quality of service are.  Forced Registration has been heavily criticized by consumers and real estate professionals alike for this reason. When asked the question, “Would you fill out your own IDX registration form to continue searching properties?” every broker and agent I’ve talked to admitted they would not.  They would leave the site or provide fake information.  I have yet to meet a consumer who admitted they would complete the form if forced.

Regardless, some agents still maintain that only serious buyers fill out the registration forms and anyone else would not be worth their time.  This position has always baffled me.  What exactly is the harm to have a visitor return to an agent’s site to search without registering?  Do agents pay extra for excessive use of the search tool? Do they just want to make it difficult for the visitor?  I hope neither is the case. So, what’s the harm?  The upside of allowing visitors continued access to searching on your site is you may eventually win the visitor’s business at some point in the future.  This can only happen if visitors are not chased away from your site. 

I still question the position held by many agents that only serious buyers register.  Excluding referrals and people you already know, how many registered visitors became real clients?  More importantly, how many visitors that left could have become real clients? Even those “new leads” that identify themselves aren’t necessarily ready to buy now.  It only proves they are willing to give their information.  You may not be as special as you think because these visitors probably give every website they visit their information.  These guys are no more “qualified” than the visitors that left your site.  On that same token, those who left may actually be "ready and able" buyers today. However, they don’t know the “man hiding behind the curtain” well enough to reveal their identity just yet.

Most agents will assert the majority of their clients are referrals, past clients, or people they already know or have met.  Very few will credit the internet as a source of new clients.  Yet, statistics show more than 85% of home buyers start searching on the internet before contacting an agent.  Something is wrong if agents aren’t connecting with this 85%.  What’s up with that?  Maybe this concept of “Forced Registration” is not working because strangers aren’t becoming friends.

What's your experience with Forced Registration? I would love to learn more from the community.

David Carroll, Founder Dude (a.k.a. CEO)
softRealty.com Corporation

 

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  1. Nancy Golliday 10/10/2009 09:26 PM
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Topic:
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Tags:
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Ambassador
883,219
Lane Bailey
Realtor & Car Guy
Century 21 Results Realty

I'm kind of ducking it... I won't force registration for my IDX, because there are options eslewhere.  But, I WILL require registration for other information which isn't available elsewhere.

July 12, 2009 11:18 PM
Rainer
127,314
Dan Quinn
Dan Quinn
Prudential PenFed Realty

David, Your welcome!  I really enjoy reading your posts and I hope to inspire you again on your next post!  I've got to go now, I'm going to check out your site...

August 19, 2009 07:33 PM
Anonymous #10
Anonymous
Eric Bramlett

The bottom line is that required registration produces far more leads and far more closings than open registraion (at least right now.)  Whe my site went live in 2005, I started off w/ open registration, assuming that the required reg sites were chasing away all their traffic.  When my friends convinced me (with data) in 2007 to turn on required reg, the # of registrations increased by ~1000%.  I had assumed that the "good" leads - those people calling in or filling out property info/contact requests - would go way down.  I was wrong.  The number of "good leads" actually increases over time, as those visitors that you "forced" registration on develop loyalty to your site, because you're drip marketing to them.

I run with a group of guys that do a good amount of business revolving around internet and referral marketing.  We've tested required vs. open registration in 2008 & 2009.  Nothing has changed - the gap between the two methods hasn't even shrunk.

It's fun to speculate about what the consumer will like the best, or philosophize over where the internet is going (it will eventually go to open registration, IMO) but we're selling properties today.  I'm closing deals today.  I operate based on what works today.

August 28, 2009 09:59 AM
Anonymous #11
Anonymous
Matt Barker

This is one of the hottest debates going right now.  We are currently testing forced vs. unforced registration on two of our real estate websites.  They look similiar but have different content.  One forces registration, one doesn't.  After one weeks data, the forced registration website is producing twice as many leads as the unforced.  We will be continuing to test the two websites and the results will be posted at http://www.barkerhedges.com/blog/real-estate-technology/   

I would encourage anybody that hasn't tested both concepts to do so. 

October 11, 2009 12:10 PM
Rainer
11,203
David Carroll
softRealty.com

Eric and Matt - Thanks for chiming in and sharing your experiences. I completely agree that forced registration will capture more lead information than open registration. It's the reason forced registration is still heavily used today. I also appreciate the arguments for forced registration.  However, the options shouldn't be limited to just Forced Registration or Open Registration. If it were possible, would you want to identify those anonymous visitors that were most actively searching for properties on your site and then reach out to them?  Check out this new video to better understand how this concept works within our Lead Capture Redefined application: http://www.softrealty.com/Video/LeadCaptureRedefined/.

To better understand the full effectiveness of Forced Registration, would you mind sharing additional information from your experiences?

Regarding Registered Visitors

 - What percentage of your unique visitors registered on your website?  

 - What percentage of registered visitors did you know before they registered? 

The following applies only to registered visitors you did not already know before they registered:

 - What percentage of registered visitors provided real contact information?

 - What percentage of registered visitors became clients?

 - Do you personally email or call all your registered visitors? What percentage of those contacted were fine with you reaching out?

We've done this exercise in the past and found that many agents will respond based on recollection or gut feel.  After reviewing the data, their findings have proven to be much different from what they thought.  Since you guys are actively collecting data anyway, it would be interesting to see what your findings are based on the data.

October 11, 2009 05:05 PM
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David Carroll

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Additional Information

As a software company that specializes in help real estate agents and brokers, we're outsiders looking in and want to help in a huge way. Participating in the Active Rain Community is one great way for us to engage in conversations to learn from the people that matter to us and share fresh perspectives on real estate. softRealty.com is a software company breaking rules and redefining standards with our FREE IDX Property Search Engine and Lead Capture Redefined. To learn more about what we do, please check us out at www.softRealty.com.