How to Really Reach Today’s Real Estate Consumer
Since the inception of the industry, real estate practitioners have relied and built their business on a collection of marketing techniques that focused on one-to-one relationship building. Some of these techniques included phone blitzing, canvassing an area and knocking on doors, direct mail, and print advertising most of which are defined as mass marketing, which means one message broadcasted to a large often untargeted group of people.
I am not here to tell you those strategies should not be used any more, but I am definitely going to preach that if you have not done so already, that you need to start implementing some “new school” techniques. In fact, any marketing expert will tell you that to succeed in today’s real estate world you need a mixture of old-school and new-school techniques. But the scary fact is, despite the fact that numerous studies each year show that 92% of consumers use the Internet in their research process, 89% of leads in real estate involve the Internet, and so on, many REALTORS continue to not have a website or use the Internet to try and promote/build their business.
So when it comes to the “New School” marketing, there are many options. I always say it is best to pick the marketing option that aligns with your personal marketing goals. So let’s take a stroll through technology lane so you can decide which ones suit you best:
- Your Website = Home Base
Most marketing experts subscribe to what is called the Hub & Spoke strategy. This means that at any time you might have several different forms of marketing going on, but you should choose one to be your Hub or Home Base that all of your other marketing vehicles link or tie back to. And your website makes the most sense to be that hub as it is a pretty inexpensive way to promote yourself, your own listing inventory, the local IDX property search, educational content & tools, and much more. Plus your website URL is easy to insert into any form of marketing or communication.
- Brand Equity or Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) = Banner Advertising
If your challenge is that you are new and no one knows your name or maybe your company is currently #6 in the market and you would like to try to get to #4, then Banner Ads (animated graphic ads) are your best option. They are very similar to buying a billboard, just on the Internet. And while many people find them annoying at the time, they are remembered positively after the fact. But the key is you have to do banner ads on a site people go to every day for a long period of time like a local news or community-oriented site (don’t ever do banner ads on real estate sites as people don’t typically go to them often enough to be effective). A newer spin on banner advertising is called Re-Targeting where a cookie (the file that allows a website to track your activities once you leave their site) is dropped on a user’s computer and then that user is shown your banner ad on multiple other websites they go to from that point on. So essentially your ad follows them around the Internet and gives them the impression that you are a big player and are everywhere.
- Lead Generation = Real Estate Portal Sites
If your goal is to get more leads (phone calls or e-mails) then your best option is to purchase some of the upgrade options on the major Real Estate Network Sites (Zillow/Yahoo Real Estate, Trulia, Realtor.com, Homes.com). With over 70% of the total real estate traffic going to these top 5 sites, so they have the traffic & demand to drive leads your way. Some of the options they offer include:
- Featured Property – your listings are highlighted and displayed prominently on any searches done in your purchased zip codes
- Featured REALTOR – you are displayed as the featured realtor if someone searches either for a REALTOR or for property in your desired market area
- Listing Display Enhancement – Upgrade the display of your listings with additional photos, virtual tours, contact info, etc. both in the search results and in the listing detail display that makes your listings stand out from the competition and allows consumers to directly contact you if they are interested in your properties.
- Unclaimed Leads – You can pay to receive any leads that are intended to go to other agents in your area that didn’t do the listing display enhancement upgrade.
- Mobile – all of those features are sold separately for mobile devices because the big 5 sites have realized that people using their sites on mobile devices are much more likely to act than users on traditional computers.
- Traffic = Pay Per Click (PPC) Ads on Search Engines or Social Media
If you have a good website and your goal is to drive traffic to it then you need to explore Pay Per Click (PPC) ads on search engines like Google or Bing. This can be a highly effective method because it is the only form of advertising in which the advertiser has complete control of all aspects of your ad campaign. For example, you can pick the exact keyword phrases you want your ad to show up on. You then can determine the cost of your overall ad campaign budget and bid how much you are willing to pay for every transaction or cost per click (CPC) of your ad. So in other words you don’t pay every time your ad shows up in the search results, only for the clicks or traffic to your site from the ad. There are no projections or guesswork; pay per click is the only form of advertising where you know your results before it even starts. And you can even add demographic, geographic, device & time settings to it. For example, not only could you buy Milwaukee, WI Homes for Sale, you can have it only served to females over the age of 50 within a 300-mile radius of Milwaukee and only have it served to mobile devices, Monday thru Friday 8 AM to 5 PM. It is by far the most precise form of advertising available. The key is to be sure to do some research and pick smart cost-effective keywords (ones with good traffic & low CPC) and that your website has good related content and leads capture. If you do that it can be highly effective. Another avenue to explore with Pay Per Click is on social media sites, specifically Facebook advertising. While it has many of the principles of traditional pay per click, one of its differentiation is the fact that they not only know a lot about your personal likes and interests but also your friends. So you can apply this data to your ad campaign and an invaluable bit of information that they track, especially for real estate is someone’s relationship status. In the real estate world if you know someone was in a relationship and is now engaged, or was married and is now changing their status to single you know that they could be preparing for real estate transactions. Similarly, if someone announces they are about to have a baby, it could mean they need to upsize their property and so on.
- Relationship Building / Long term client acquisition = Social Media
If you are looking for a new way to network, build relationships that will lead to potential clients, don’t ever forget the value of social media. It is free, and if done right easy to do and not time-consuming. Just realize each site has its own demographic/personality and pick the site that is right for you, your personality, and the client you are trying to reach.
- Education = Video/YouTube
YouTube is not only the #1 video website on earth but also the #2 search engine behind Google. So it’s not just a bunch of videos of cats playing pianos, there are millions of people looking to learn things through YouTube and real estate is a business that requires a lot of education. So if you have a lot of knowledge in a certain area, create videos on them, post them to YouTube for free. And if you are thinking about posting videos of properties, you definitely should because a recent study from Postling showed that 73% of homeowners expect their REALTOR to shoot video of their property and only 12% are doing it. Another study showed that 86% of buyers watched a community video before moving to that area. Shooting video is easier than ever to do and posting it online is simple because anything that deals with video these days has uploaded to YouTube built into it.
- Retention/Repeat Business = CRM System Follow Up (Email, Phone Calls, etc.)
Another area to consider how can you retain or get future business out of your past clients in your database. A recent study showed that 82% of consumers forget their REALTORS name within 2-years. Additional studies have shown that content-based drip e-mail campaigns have also become increasingly less effective. So the trend is how can you personalize the marketing and have a more meaningful touch to your client base.
- Niche Targeting for Farming = Direct Mail
Direct mail has always been a great way to farm a local area but has struggled from a tracking standpoint. Well, now there are a few vendors who are combining data, predictive analysis, direct mail, and online tracking to be much more effective than traditional postcards blanketing a neighborhood.
As you can see there are many ways to promote yourself in the digital world, you just need to figure out which one matches up with your marketing needs. But the key is, if you haven’t done so yet, take the plunge and start shifting some of your marketing dollars to online and you will be happy you did as the waters are full of your potential clients!