If there’s one thing that Ben Rubenstein has noticed about how real estate professionals handle their online leads, it’s that they take way too long to respond to the online inquiries. “If you can get to prospective customers before they leave their computers, put down their phones, or get distracted by something else,” says Ben Rubenstein, founder and CEO at Opcity, “you’ll have a much higher probability of closing.”

Before founding Opcity, Rubenstein started and ran online marketing company Yodle. He grew Yodle into a 1,500-employee firm before selling it to Web.com for $342 million. Needing to scratch his entrepreneurial itch, Rubenstein discovered a brokerage in Texas that was using a viable model for converting online leads into actual sales. “By connecting the right lead to the right agent and at the right time,” he says, “this company was converting leads at a rate two to four times higher than the industry average.”

Knowing that agents get frustrated when they pay for leads that offer low return on investment—and citing one franchise leader’s claim that his average agent reaps a

-32% ROI online—Rubenstein offers these three realities that all agents should know about online leads:

  1. There’s no such thing as responding too quickly. In the online world, speed is everything and people have very short attention spans. “Leads are a depreciating asset that lose value incredibly quickly,” says Rubenstein. “In fact, the value of calling someone within 60 seconds versus 10 minutes is infinite.” Knowing that agents don’t work 24/7, Rubenstein says the best approach is to respond as soon as humanly possible, knowing that the next competitor is just a click away online.
  1. Leads are never as precise as providers would have you believe. Even if you’re buying online leads by zip codes, there are still major variances within every U.S. zip code (i.e., demographics, buyer/seller motivations, property price points, etc.). So rather than trying to drill down to precise buyer or seller demographics, Rubenstein advises agents to cast a wider net, cull through the good and the bad leads, and squeeze as much value as possible from the qualified leads that come out of that exercise. “If you try to be too precise,” he says, “you’re going to not get the volume [of leads] that you need.”
  1. The price-per-lead approach is meaningless. “All lead sources aren’t created equal, so don’t focus too closely on the price per lead,” says Rubenstein. For example, an agent might feel that a specific lead source is excellent because the leads themselves are just $5 or $10 each. A better approach is to look at the ROI that those leads produce. In other words, look at how much work it took to get the deal itself (i.e., what was the quality of the lead?). “Take all of the pieces together and focus on the overall ROI associated with that particular lead source,” says Rubenstein, “not the other way around.”