Not All Agents will Survive What’s Coming
This is a hot topic in Real Estate Marketing. For those of us with any experience, we realize how much we took for granted the simplicity of marketing before the Internet – heck, before Facebook.
The way Real Estate Agents market has forever changed. So have buyers, sellers, technology, and communication. Everything has changed, forever. Unless you’re brand new to Real Estate and don’t know any better, adaptation must occur, and quickly.
Does this sound like you: You’re plugged into some of the social platforms, you’ve got a few websites, you put up repurchased content about 7 Tips for This or That, or you try to make something yourself. When you do it yourself, it always takes longer than it should, and it’s never as great as you had envisioned. Maybe you have this content going up on a blog, or in a drip email marketing system. You wonder if it ever gets stale and boring. You wonder how many people actually read it, watch it, or listen to it. You wonder if your tracking is working right because the results are abysmal.
You know you need to be “expertizing” yourself – it’s what all the big Agents do – and you know how important Content is for SEO. But good, local, unique content (if you can find a writer) is expensive, and making it yourself is time consuming. You may have tried to have your staff to coordinate everything with consistent, fresh, engaging content, but that’s a tall order. And, supposing you do produce good content, figuring out how to effectively deploy it across so many channels is overwhelming. So bits go out here and there, and it doesn’t all work together very well. Your intentions are good, but your efforts are disjointed. And because the lead gen is nonexistent, there’s no motivation to do better.
Here’s the problem: Simply put, the crux of the problem is the time and money it takes to produce and deploy content that will effectively speak to Boomers, Gen Xers, and now even Millenials.
The solution is to integrate “systematized content delivery” (across the most effective online and offline channels for reaching your market) with automated Lead Capture and Nurture programs.
This is the basis of most marketing programs and software, however in most cases (though not at Discover) you will have to produce the content yourself. And you can’t get away with purely Digital in such a crowded space. Did you know that a business Facebook post is 1/3 as likely to reach someone as it was 2 years ago? (Hubspot) That’s because it’s saturated. Direct Mail is an infinitely important component – in fact, a foundational element – of your Real Estate content marketing strategy. When properly executed, it’s like magic.
- Businesses who blog get 67% more leads. That’s “real” blogging, not using recycled content (Hubspot)
- 78% of consumers prefer getting to know a company from articles rather than ads (Contentplus)
- When direct mail is integrated into a marketing campaign, it boosts ROI by an average of 20% (RMG)
- 80% of people open their mail right away, including marketing mail (DMA)
- 70% of consumers believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them (CMA)
These are great stats, and our clients who do this report anywhere from 150-400%+ ROI. But there’s another problem. Because an effective marketing program includes a lot of Digital Intelligence (to create it, track it, understand people’s engagement with it, and decide how to “funnel” people based on their engagement) it’s, well, scary to some. Let’s talk about DI (a better way to say AI), because we don’t think it should be feared.
DI is here and growing daily: in the back room of a hospital helping a doctor read X-rays better than the human eye, helping a lawyer analyze evidence better than the lawyer, flying commercial airplanes (human pilot in control for only about 7 minutes), in the background of Amazon and Netflix making suggestions for you. The best chess player in the world is no longer IBM’s Deep Blue – it’s Deep Blue and a person. No offense, but your calculator is way smarter than you in arithmetic!
The spectacular innovations brought about by DI are better than we humans at lots and lots of things. You drive a car and think about your next appointment, make a few calls on your hands-free, change the radio station to catch up on the news. The DI Bot-car just “thinks” about one thing: driving safely and legally.
Digital Intelligence (DI) is truly the Second Industrial Revolution.
The First Industrial Revolution came from inventing Artificial Power (AP) and connecting it to machines, vehicles, appliances, and tools, to make things work way beyond their manual power. Soon anyone could add Artificial Power by plugging stuff into the Grid or pouring gasoline into a tank. Now DI makes those things “Smart.” Everything that is artificially powered will now become “cognified” with DI to make it work many times better, faster, and more efficiently. See, there’s nothing to freak out about!
The Secret Formula of the Second Industrial Revolution is Human+DI = Success. The Team rules!
Robots embody an important part of DI, but only a part. A job is a series of tasks that DI performs efficiently without distractions. And the way to knock it out of the part is to learn how to work with DI, using creativity, strategy, and emotion. Many organizations in every industry are learning this. At Discover, we’ve adapted this same philosophy – not just internally, but as a Marketing company for Real Estate Agents. This article is by no means a commercial – and we don’t do everything that it takes to build an excellent Real Estate business. We’re sharing what we’ve learned about marketing in the new age. There are a myriad of ways to accomplish this goal. For our clients, we are the “Human+DI” producing custom content (Human), deploying it strategically across the most appropriate channels (Human+DI), then using automation to capture leads, nurture, track, and produce alerts (DI). From our 25 years of experience in Real Estate Marketing, and our deep affiliations in the Content Marketing sphere, here are our suggestions for lifting yourself out of feeling “stuck” about your marketing.
- Channel 1, “Dominance” Direct Mail Marketing. This is your “Expertizing” cornerstone, to drive awareness – as well as leads. Saturate thousands of homes every single month. Choose a vendor who gives you territory exclusivity so another agent isn’t mailing the same sort of thing to the same home.
- Create a non-threatening, non-promotional, “Oh, that’s nice!” piece; a publication, newsletter, or something similar.
- Publish local articles. Write articles about the market or spotlight a neighborhood. Include a calendar of community events, or interview a new local business. Include an “Ask the Agent” article, a Featured Home, and interesting articles that will appeal to your demographic. These are the core pieces we provide to our clients. In fact, we have a team of copywriters across the country, and assign a local writer to each client to write custom articles.
- Be sure your info is displayed prominently on the front, and treat the back like a big ad for you. Also put calls to action for you throughout the publication.
- To offset copywriting, postage, and printing, you might consider selling ads to your industry partners.
- Direct mail is expensive. If you can’t do a piece like that monthly, do it quarterly at a minimum, and send postcards to the same homes on the “off” months. Brand the postcard to your publication. At Discover (no, this is NOT a commercial, but it’s useful to know), postcards are automatically sent in your “off-publication” months.
- Add a tracking number, and integrate callers into your CRM. When a new Direct Mail lead calls, they become a tracked “lead,” automatically, in your Digital ecosystem. There are many providers. If you are a Discover client, free tracking numbers are provided and automatically placed in your publication and patched to any number you choose – you can even record the calls, if you have a sales team you want to monitor.
- Channel 2, Blog. If you are correctly using Channel #1, you’ve got content. You are purchasing it from a freelancer, writing it, or you’ve chosen to work with Discover, where custom content is included. Create a special blog for your community (or, if you’re with Discover, connect your Discover custom blog to your website).
- Schedule at least 4 articles, features, or even a digital version of your newsletter or publication each month. If you are a Discover client, this is handled for you once you approve the posts.
- Having a regularly uploaded blog, refreshed continually with hyper-local, custom content, will boost your SEO big time. Recycled, generic content being used by tons of other Agents does little for your SEO. Google is looking for unique, relevant content.
- Few people will land directly on your blog from an internet search. That’s where your next two channels come into play.
- Channel 2, Social Media. Leverage your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can also use Google+, Snapchat, Instagram, and others – the more, the merrier.
- Regularly post your new listings, testimonials, and recent Solds.
- Schedule monthly “content” posts by grabbing the URL of your blog posts, and popping them into the comment bar.
- If you have a social media marketing company, they will do this for you if you provide “Publisher” permission. At Discover, we have clients click through an email to provide permission, then we handle their social media content posts just like the blogs.
- Twice a month, or more often, post a “Lead Capture,” or promotional post. You can have an e-book to give away, or a restaurant guide, in exchange for their email. Be creative! For example, at Discover we create a fun survey for our clients’ “Lead Capture,” and give homeowner respondents a $5 coffee card as an incentive to fill it out. We also post our clients’ “Free Home Value” tool for lead capture.
- When leads fill out your Lead Capture forms, be sure to add them to your email list. Like most companies who offer Lead Capture, Discover makes sure of this. If you are working with a company and know how the leads who fill out your Lead Cap forms don’t dump into your database, talk to your provider. They no doubt have a way to help you with that important integration.
- Channel 3, email campaigns. Start with a solid list of clean emails. You are almost certainly doing some form of email marketing, so you may just need to make some tweaks to integrate it into a powerful multichannel system like what we are suggesting.
- Segment your list:
- (1) Farm residents – including past Buyer clients and even Listing clients who didn’t move out of your territory, and another subset for farm residents who have not yet worked with you. This subset is your strongest prospect base, and the previous is your best group for repeat business and referrals
- (2) Community Partners – your lender, title, inspection, and other partners who enjoy your referrals
- (3) Centers of Influence – business owners and community leaders, who you many not have a relationship with, but who serve area homeowners and potential homeowners
- (4) Past clients, friends, and family not living in your territory – this is a great list for referrals, but they may not have much interest in your local content, so keep that in mind.
- Send 3-4 “Content” emails per month. Send your community content to your entire sphere. Use the content from your blogs. Like with Social Media, in your email, after summarizing or introducing the content, include a link to read more. Don’t put the whole piece in the email, or you will lose the ability to track which pieces or types of content people are consuming the most. Many systems will schedule emails – you can do this through Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and others. And yes, Discover creates and schedules your emails, saving you from having to build a good HTML / mobile friendly email, maintain CANSPAM compliance, and attach the URLs and links.
- Attach a “Beacon” to your website (it goes by many names) to enable your contacts to get a “cookie” when they click through an email or fill out a Lead Capture or Web form. Once “cookied,” you will know when they visit your website, and what pages. If you use any quality Marketing Automation software, or sign up for a Discover marketing package, this will be a part of the system you’re using.
- Set up Lead Scoring. At Discover, we call it the “Discover Score,” and most Marketing Automation programs enable you to set this up. At Discover, we have it pre-coded. If you are setting up your own lead scoring, decide what behavior is “worth” higher point values. For example, a lead might get 10 points for filling out at Lead Capture form, and 3 for opening an email.
- Have a “Nurture” email ready to go. Using Marketing Automation, decide what constitutes a lead going from “Neutral” to “Warm.” And then, have a pre-programmed Nurture email which is triggered to send when the time is right. For example, a story about a successful home sale (a more promotional piece about you) would be appropriate for a lead who read your last 2 content emails and visited your “Tips for Sellers” page.
- Know when to act. In our opinion, marketing is all about generating and warming up leads. Once leads go from “Warm” to “Hot,” it’s time to call and set up a listing appointment. But how will you know when they’re “Hot?” Lead scoring, and setting up alerts and rules for getting alerted. For example, at Discover, when a Lead hits a score of 40, we call them Hot and our client gets an email alert. But, regardless of score, if they read a seller-specific piece of content, the Agent is alerted – that could be a missed opportunity if we wait until they hit a high score.
- Ask for referrals to build out your list. Of course you’re asking for buyer and seller referrals. But what about just asking for an email contact to recommend your local content to a fellow homeowner? We recommend, once every quarter, to send a friendly email asking your email list to forward an opt-in form to homeowners they know. You can steal our method: we send out an email asking contacts to take a survey about the content they’re receiving. Those who say that they love it are set up to be “Opt-in Referrers.” They get a response that says “Great! Could you please invite 4 homeowners you know in Johnstown to join my network, so they can enjoy it too?” They forward it to their friends, we thank them with a $5 coffee card (up to 50 are given out free depending on your marketing package, and the packages aren’t that expensive), and your list of prospects grows.
- Track results. Keep an eye on what content is most popular, and let that guide the content you produce in future months.
- Segment your list:
- Channel 4, Video. Record 2 videos a month on subject matter that is relevant to your prospects. Warning: do not use canned, recycled, put-your-logo-on-it content. That content is cheap, and you get what you pay for. This is not something we offer at Discover, and there are great video-only marketing companies that do a bang-up job.
- Our favorite is Vyral Marketing. In fact, a slew of our clients use Vyral and they all report great results. Bombbomb.com is another great video company working with scores of Agents. They don’t create videos for you, but give you a super-easy platform for shooting simple videos to send via email, such as “thank-you” videos.
- Vyral records 2 videos a month for each client via screen-share; they don’t take much time to produce, and they hand you a script. Just like how Discover makes you look like you produced a bunch of great content, they do the same thing. It’s fresh, interesting, and unique.
- Post your videos on YouTube, and share them with your followers. If you work with Vyral, they will handle this for you, as well as upload it to a custom blog, post it to your social media, and email it to your contacts.
- Post your YouTube videos on Social Media
- If you are using marketing automation and lead scoring, we suggest you send your Video emails through your automation platform, rather than directly through your video vendor. It’s an extra step, but keeps your email marketing nicely integrated, and lets you know when your Video leads wander over to your website.
- Channel 5, Impeccable Online Presence. This is a given, but it’s often overlooked. Your website itself is like a storefront. No one is going to walk in if you don’t market. A website is not really a marketing channel, it’s a Hub or “home-base” for your Lead’s experience with you. So are your online profiles managed by other sites, such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Yahoo.
- Put a lot of thought, and investment, into your site. Think about every word your write, every image, and every button.
- Include multiple Lead Capture forms on your website. “Contact Us,” “Free Home Valuation,” “Newsletter,” and “Free Home Search” are popular lead capture forms that pull reasonably well.
- If you are blogging properly, your SEO will improve. You can also boost your SEO by examining your most important keywords, making sure they are on your site, and by running a few Google AdWords campaigns. Google rewards paying advertisers with an organic SEO kick, and going through the AdWords process will help you learn how search ranking works.
- There are millions of AdWords companies, and the going rate is anywhere from $350-$750/month, plus the cost of the ads. At Discover, we’ll help our clients for $250/month, it’s a service we provide at cost for an Agent we’re already working with. We don’t offer it a la carte, but many, many companies do.
- You’ll want a solid IDX integration to pull listings for your “Free Home Search.”
- Pay attention to your Online Profiles through Google, Bing, Yelp, and so on. Make sure your location, contact info, and business name are correct. If you don’t know how accurate your profiles are, we can run a free test for you at Discover. For our clients, we run through 70 some third-party sites each month to make sure their info is correct and update them with testimonials and promotions. We also push their satisfied sellers/buyers to write first party reviews, which helps rankings drastically. If you aren’t with us, be sure to routinely go through each and every online profile and make sure you are being presented in the best possible light.
- Channel 6: Public Relations. Get out there! It is extremely important to host at least one community event per month. The event itself draws area homeowners, but the promotion of it gets you more contacts for your email list – which could potentially become leads. If you do it correctly, people who register for your events should also be your ideal buyer or seller prospects.
- Alternate family events, charity fundraisers, and homeownership seminars. Whenever you plan an event, think: would homeowners in my farm attend this event? If not, would they be higher-earning, credit-qualified people who might be looking to buy soon? You will waste a lot of money and energy if you forget to ask that question.
- Once you have an event planned, promote it! Create a landing page and an online registration form. Create a press release, too. Send the press release to your local media and news sources, and the landing page to your “Community Centers of Influence and Partners” in your email list. Ask them to email the event (with the registration form) to their network, and tell them you will pass out information about their business at the event, and will place an ad in your next publication to say “Thank You.”
- Email the event to your contact list, of course
- Promote the event multiple times on social media – across all of your accounts
- Your registration forms double as “Lead Capture” forms. When people register, they become part of your marketing funnel. Not “Leads,” per se, but lukewarm potential leads. Although they are probably not ready to buy or sell yet, you are setting yourself up to be the only Agent that ever comes to mind. And with solid marketing automation, you’ll know they are ready to sell. Your software will alert you based on their behavior – for example, if they suddenly appear on your “seller tips” page, you’d get an email alert.
Putting it all together
This is no time to fret about the relentless tsunami of competition, new technologies, or new methods that grow geometrically. Just begin where you can. If it’s in your budget, you can set up a system that does it for you – such as Discover’s – or you can hire a Marketing Directer to orchestrate the pieces. Get organized, get your messages flowing, and remember: just when you’ve got it down, it’s going to change again. You must be continually adapting, or you will be passed up by an Agent just a little more agile than you.
For more information on Discover’s easy, affordable marketing program (which includes custom content, direct mail service, lead capture, and more), contact us or call 877-872-3080.