To Force Registration or Not: My Decision

Posted by: Eric Blackwell on November 16th, 2008

Let me start by saying that for the longest time, I was TOTALLY against “forced registration” (requiring visitors to provide their contact information before viewing the MLS). I not only did not force registration on our brokerage website, but I also wrote about why others should not do it either. In short, I was firmly planted in the “that’s a bad thing to do” camp.

Over time, I softened my position somewhat, when people would tell me that they were having success with it. I still would never do it, but I could not argue with their success.

First, Morgan Carey at told me that I needed to at least try it. Great. Nope. I still would not budge. In my heart, I thought that asking folks for their information

a) was unfriendly

b) it would drive traffic to competitor sites

c) would lower the quality of the lead

d) would result in more obscene emails from unhappy visitors

e) and any increase in # of registrations would be offset with an overall net loss in closings…well, you get the idea (grin).

As more and more people started reporting to me their successes (an example was Wayne Long, who was kind enough to share exactly what was happening on his site with me), I finally decided to TRY it. The folks that I visited with at the REW conference were helpful as well. Almost all of them had already made the transition.

How did it go?

Here are the results:

Did it drive traffic away from our site? Well, we did see 10% less traffic after the change, so yes, there was a slight loss of traffic.

Did it lower the quality of the leads? Statistically? Nope. They actually improved. Before the change, around 40% of the people asking for more info would leave their phone number. After? 60% left the correct number, even thought they were not required.

Did it result in more obscene emails from mad customers? Nope. Those folks appear to have been part of the 10% that left when they found out that we asked them to register. We only received 2 obscene emails in the first month …along with over 1250 registration leads!

The net of it? 10 times as many leads. That’s right. 10 times.  Even in the last month, which has been tough on the real estate market, we actually hauled in 10 times as many leads (and with better quality overall), by using forced registration than not.

So, if you have not gone to forced registration, why not? I was one of the chief opponents of forced registration and now I too, cannot deny the benefits.

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13 Comments on “To Force Registration or Not: My Decision”

Louis Cammarosano

I think the issue is not so much what you ask from customers on the front end, but rather how you treat them after you get their information.

By asking for information up front you are prescreening your visitors, which you have a right to do. Once you have their contact information, if you treat them respectfully and send them the information promised and don’t spam them, you have a great chance of creating a profitable relationship.

Kelley Koehler

Eric – You know I struggle with the same decision. Thanks for walking us through your reasoning! We’ll have to chat.

Brian Kinkade

Nice post and I completely agree. I think forced registration is often misconstrued. The sharing of quality information for mutual benefit is the way I see it. If the web visitor is not asked to share their information undoubtedly will not and if they do it will be few and far between.

Missy Caulk

Eric, thanks for coming to the bright side. LOL
I get triple times more leads, they come back because the site is sticky. More leads, more sales simple math.

Eric Blackwell

@Kelley- Happy to share numbers anytime. I was one of the people in the room who was able to FEEL what you were talking about. (Nice presentation.) It was a tough decision for me. It was made worse because I had to explain my reasoning to 110 agents (BEFORE pulling the trigger). Ain’t no net underneath that high wire act! (grin)

If their potential customers had launched a bunch of hatemail and been upset with it, I would have had to go back, and quick.

@Louis- I DO think the care that you handle people with afterwards is huge in the overall conversion numbers. No doubt about it IMO.I am still working on those.

I would add, though, that I think there is an overall shift in consumer behavior on the net as well. I think no matter how careful the follow up, the initial “turn off factor” or “ewwwww” factor was MUCH higher three years ago than now.

@Brian- yeah..I think the consumer is moving more in that direction. I think it is IMPORTANT that we are good stewards of that relationship and not abuse it. (back @ Louis’ point) If we handle them with care and concern,it tends to work better. My hypothesis: They get less interested in anonymity as we let them stay in control of the relationship…but first we need to know the basic info about them to help keep the conversation going. Up to us not to be a dweeb and get to second base (so to speak-grin).

Joseph Ferrara.sellsius

Thanks for sharing your experience, Eric. As with any Web 2.0 theory, it needs to be field tested.

Eric Blackwell

@Joseph- and like any “field tested” theory (grin), your mileage may vary. Happy to share.

Louis Cammarosano

and past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance

Timothy Crose

Having coached a number of real estate agents and brokerage on their registration strategies, I wouldn’t even argue that forced registration is the right way to go… but I would mention that HOW and WHEN you ask for the information is a key to success. Do you ask before they start their search? Do you ask after showing the consumer their search results? Do you let them view a limited number of listings before hitting them with the “register now to gain complete access” line?

From my experience I’ve seen that the best balance is a “Hybrid” or “Teaser” setup – which is designed to whet the appetite and build trust with the consumer.

Mitch Ribak

We have field tested forced registrations for almost 7 years now and I can’t see why anyone would do anything different. To me, as a business owner, it’s all about numbers. I know that if I spend X amount on traffic, I will receive Y amount of leads which will result in Z amount of sales.

Real Numbers as of June 2008 (with Agents who are with me for at least 1 year) – 3989 leads with 161 transactions which = 1 out of 24.78 leads is a transaction. Our numbers will be even higher at the end of the year as our sales have stayed the same but our lead flow is different. Last time I checked, we were doing right around 1 sale out of 22 leads. I’ll be posting the numbers after the new year.

With that said, I think the numbers are plain to see. If we didn’t have forced registration there is no way we would have that many leads or near that many sales.

I’m always available to discuss how this works as most of you know…cause many of you call me!

Eric Blackwell

@Timothy- Yes. Our registrations pop up AFTER someone searches and gets results but registering allows them to see the full details page. I neglected to mention that and it is an important point.
@Mitch- yep. and I would be one of those many when it comes to conversion! (grin)

Scott Patterson-Aventura Realtor

That is an interesting point you made; I myself have been against the “register to see my site” types of registering. However, from what you described it does sound like it wouldn’t drive too many leads away if you show them search results and then ask for lead information before they get the full house details.

Shane O’Sullivan

At first when I was looking at the MLS on sites, I didn’t like having to fill out all of my info. But the more I got into investing, I don’t mind. You never know when they might get something that you could use. It never hurts to have as many contacts that you could get. You never know when one might pay off.

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