How Real Estate Agents are Showing Value and Generating Leads in a Changing Market

Big Picture Marketing for the Coming Year

content farmingIndeed, every housing market is different – and every analysts and real estate professional’s insights differ as well. With this in mind, we’re taking a look at the over-arching national trends in the real estate market to help folks find the best marketing mix to maximize results in 2020.

The fourth quarter of 2018 saw a climb in inventory, and we are now seeing inventory levels (nationally) taper off again. New housing starts are down, and new homes available for sale are down slightly over this same period last year. This is likely due to reduced interest rates (and slower gains in home prices) re-engaging many of the buyers that held off last year, once again tightening the supply/demand balance.

Home values are also still going up nationally, though this is happening at a much slower pace than in years past. According to Zillow, “The median home value in the United States is $229,000. United States home values have gone up 5.2% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 2.2% within the next year.”

All around, we are seeing the beginnings of a shift from a seller’s market to a more balanced housing market. In some cities, agents are even seeing conditions that resemble a buyers market (decreasing sale prices and increasing Days on Market). In a nutshell, the outlook for 2020 is mixed at best, and homeowners in many markets should plan for longer sales cycles, fewer offers, and less outstanding prices.

Are all of these trends a positive thing?

For real estate agents who know what’s happening at the local level, whether conditions point to ongoing tight inventory or a shift toward buyers, the answer can be “yes.” Enterprising agents can leverage the best aspects of their particular market to generate more listings and find more opportunities for 2020 and beyond.

For this reason, many top agents are turning to content farming. This simply means they are marketing to every home in a targeted geography, using content about the market and community rather than sales pitches about themselves. Although content farming has recently become “trendier,” it’s actually a decades-old strategy that has truly withstood the test of time. And as consumer behavior continues to shift toward content and away from advertisement, content farming will continue to stand the test of time.

4 Ways Content Farming Will Stand the Test of Time

Consumer behavior is changing now. In 2019-2020 we will continue to see a significant shift in the response from homeowners when it comes to generic lead generation marketing. As it is likely well known, homeowners are so often bombarded with postcards, letters, emails, and Facebook posts from multiple real estate agents – agents with boring messages that prospects don’t want to see. Most of these adverts are rather similar and repetitive.

Real estate agents are beginning to realize that they must break through the noise – and that they must show home owners how much they can help rather than tell them. To achieve this, many agents are turning to content-driven farming. Here’s why this is among the safest gambles a real estate agent can make.

1. Sellers need to understand your value

In this era of online brokers, iBuyers, and self-serve real estate technology, real estate agents can no longer compete simply by listing homes on the MLS and putting up a sign. Sellers are tuned into this, and are starting to calculate their options more carefully.

content farmingIn order to win business from this new generation of home sellers, it’s critical that your prospects know what you will do for them which they cannot do on their own or with a less experienced agent. This presents a real opportunity for agents who take care of their clients. Homeowners are more discerning than ever before, which means they will pay attention if you present an alluring value proposition.

Because sellers need to understand your value as an agent, farming with content is a great way to show them. By consistently sending information to your prospects about the specific benefits they will receive by working with you, you will earn a leg up over the competition.

Be sure to temper this with content about the market and community; if you farm with a publication, for example, it should be about 80% community-related and 20% or less about you. The part about you should show the tangible results you get – here at Discover we call those “Success Stats” – such as the average list-to-sale price or Days on Market you get compared to the community average.

You should also advertise the services you provide (professional photos, moving trucks, etc), as well as the extent of your marketing program. Show them how they will get more money than what they will pay in commission.

2. Engaging Content Generates Leads

Whether your preferred medium is digital, direct mail, or both, the message of your marketing is essential to the results you expect to get. Agents who can effectively “make friends” with their farm community before “selling to” it will get more phone calls, appointments, and a higher conversion ratio at listing presentations.

Content is the best way to do this.

Effective content-driven direct mail (and digital content marketing) doesn’t aim to hit someone over the head with a sales’ey approach – and doesn’t attempt to generate a lead with a single touch-point. These are fatal approaches in real estate marketing. It takes time and on-point messaging to build trust. Real estate agents are not selling cookies; if they market as though they are, they will fail.

Provide your prospects with articles about the housing market, statistics, and even updates about local events around town. Do this at least every 60 days to every home in your farm, and eventually you will become recognized as a leader and expert in the local real estate community. Then, when homeowners are ready to sell, your hard-core prospecting efforts will not be in vain.

3. Good Direct Mail Won’t get Ignored

If direct mail is part of your content strategy, you’ll be comforted by all the data that supports its effectiveness. The USPS and the Data & Marketing Institute recently released surveys from both recipients of and businesses using direct mail and content marketing. Overall, direct mail enjoys 7 times the ROI and response rates as all other forms of marketing combined. Add content to that, and the results are even better.

Yes, like with all direct mail, even your well-crafted real estate publications will often end up in the recycle bin. The benefit of content-driven mailers compared to postcards is that once in a while, your cover story or your market statistics will jump out and grab a homeowner’s attention.

Of course, new tools and technologies can improve insights, guide prospecting activities, and garner better engagement with your marketing. These resources should never be ignored, but it’s important not to risk an all-out change in strategy using tools that have not been time tested.

Experienced agents know that to maximize marketing ROI, it’s important to use a consistent medium that stands out from the clutter, and shows the agent as an expert rather than a salesperson. Custom publications are a great example of this philosophy in action.

4. Strong and Steady Wins the Race

Whatever the content marketing tools are that work best for you in your market, make a commitment to see them through. Alter your message when the market changes, not your method.

For example, top agent Russel Shaw continued farming with 12-page publications throughout the Great Recession. Instead of scaling back, he ramped up and hosted seminars on foreclosure and short sales, and published invitations to these events in his paper.

He also published articles about how the market was performing, keeping homeowners informed and engaged. When the market bounced back, his business increased dramatically due to the leadership reputation he had created in the downturn.

Truly effective brand building takes time to bring in the fullness of its return – more than just a few months. If inventory rises and prices level off in 2020, it’s not enough to erratically market one way or another for a mere month or two, and then switch tracks when an immediate payoff is not received.

Market Smart and Stay the Course

Every time a shift occurs in the national housing market, there are those agents who react by completely altering (or even discontinuing) their marketing. Then there are those who keep steady, tweak their messaging or their approach, and know that consistency will always bear fruit in the long run.

Depending on the outlook for your specific community, the degree of opportunity to pick up market-share, help more sellers, or get higher prices for homes will vary. Still it is not enough just to see and grasp at opportunity.

To earn a predictable, lasting payoff in this phase in the housing market, real estate agents need to be committed to strong, steady and smart marketing efforts.

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