But it Doesn’t Have to be so Difficult
Top agents in the real estate business know that for marketing to be effective, it needs to be different.
To be effective, real estate marketing needs to physically look different than all the other messages homeowners receive – whether online or in the mailbox. It needs to cut through the noise and clutter, and send a strong message of expertise. It needs to be designed to cultivate brand awareness and trust over time. It needs to be content-driven, community-oriented, and most importantly, consistent. This kind of marketing is very different from what the average agent puts out, because it requires forethought and strategy.
The Problem (and Opportunity) with Being Different
Real estate agents who make a commitment to market differently quickly learn how challenging “cut-through-the-clutter” creativity is to maintain month after month.
Let’s take a look at the problem most agents face when trying to stand out, and why top agents view the problem as an opportunity to dominate the market.
Problem: It’s too easy to be basic, and too hard to be different
If it were easy to market differently, it wouldn’t be so effective – because every agent would be doing it. It’s not easy. It’s hard.
Because it’s takes so much time and effort to market in new and creative ways, even the smartest and most savvy agents end up resorting to whatever form of marketing is easiest. In the frenzy of their day-to-day they fail to look for something better, or even to pay attention to what their run-of-the-mill marketing yields.
As time goes on, organic growth can give an agent the impression that social media, email, and postcard campaigns give them a competitive edge. We call these tools the “basics;” they are important – critical even – but not differentiating. Regardless of an agent’s hunches about how great their basic marketing is, the sad fact is that the basics cannot build market domination all by themselves.
The simple and essential tools most agents use (websites, social media, email, prospecting, door hangers, etc) – the basics – are unfortunately necessary despite their lackluster results. Indeed, they are a critical means of communicating a hardworking agent’s outstanding value. Serious agents need to do a good mix of them just to keep pace with other serious agents. And the reason most agents don’t dominate the market is because they won’t (or can’t) go above and beyond basic marketing. They may try to, but find it very difficult to sustain a strategy that’s unique.
Top agents don’t quit using the basics – in fact, they’re often super-users of these important tools – but they also do things that are radically different.
Opportunity: the competition isn’t marketing differently
Rather than keeping pace with the competition, top agents look for ways to shoot past it. When they realize that being different isn’t easy, that fact fuels their desire to push ahead. “No other agent could handle this! That means I really will be the only one doing it,” they think.
And they are right. When the going gets rough – at least, when it comes to marketing – many agents throw in the towel and return to easier methods. Top agents view the difficulty of marketing differently as an opportunity to stand out in a crowded industry.
Persistence is perhaps the number one trait that separates the men from the boys (or the women from the girls) in the real estate industry. Ambition only takes an agent so far – it’s when things get hairy that the most successful players emerge. Top agents are encouraged by the initial difficulty of being different, because they know most of their competitors would not persist through it.
Top agents find easy ways to market differently
Top agents recognize that being different in a stand-out way is indeed very difficult to maintain, but they know it won’t be hard forever. They ask themselves, “how can I make this easier?”
At first, it does take a lot of time and patience. But as each challenge arises in building unique and effective campaigns, top agents adjust and re-adjust their process until they can make it work.
For example, if a top agent wants to put out a print newsletter, they might write all the articles in the first edition, sort and address each piece at the office, and hand-deliver it to the post office. After realizing how exhausting the whole process is, instead of saying “screw it,” they research full-service newsletter publishers or hire a few service providers to take it over.
Through trial and error, an agent determined to be different (and determined not to let the endeavor consume them ad infinitum) begins to leverage services, employees, and tools to take the work off their plate. They develop procedures for their marketing to make it simpler, they figure out who will have accountability, and they eventually get realistic about the volume and frequency their office can handle. Below, we’ll talk about some of the strategies they use.
Persistent top agents who are laser focused on market domination are the kind of real estate agents we serve here at Discover. Agents who want all the power of an impactful, hyper-local marketing campaign, but don’t even have time to mail a postcard.
For them, we create 12-page custom real estate publications, and we do all the work (including writing articles in their name). To ensure it remains different from the other pieces in the mailbox, we lock up their territory so no other agent can publish the same thing to the same homes.
Different used to be Digital
When the digital revolution first exploded, there were amazing and highly effective new ways to market for listings. Things like email, social media, and digital ads. Why did it work so well? It was different from marketing that was “standard” at that time (think flyers, postcards, TV and radio ads, perhaps billboards and benches), and it was actually getting noticed by prospects.
But what happened? Why have so many digital tools become ineffective as lead generators and more like the “necessary evils” of brand awareness? Couple reasons.
First, most of the digital marketing options out there are no longer different; they are routine, and heavily over-done. Second, because salesy emails and flipper ads went from different to obnoxious, technology emerged to block them (ad blockers, spam filters, CANSPAM, privacy settings, etc).
The third – and perhaps biggest – reason digital marketing has become increasingly ineffective for real estate agents is that online messages are fleeting (often earning no more than a split second of attention), and they whiz by in an environment already crowded with similar messages. Growing percentages of digital campaigns – even direct digital marketing like geotargeting and email – go unviewed.
For example, a “good” open rate on an email campaign is 20%. It’s probable that most of the un-opened 80% goes straight to the spam folder, so even the subject line doesn’t get a glance. And for certain online advertisements that can’t be blocked, such as an “organic” Facebook ad or a Google paid search ad, by their sheer volume they become drops of water in a rainstorm.
As mentioned before, many online tools are so widely used that agents should absolutely participate in them. But the mindset about digital marketing should be shifting from “marketing” to “maintaining visibility.” Agents should not expect abundant lead flow from these methods, but they shouldn’t quit doing them either. To stop updating your Facebook page these days is equivalent to driving a car on the grass instead of the highway.
What it means to market differently, today
As we enter 2020, it’s counterintuitive but true that old-fashioned, hyper-personal, and tactile marketing tools are getting the most attention. Remember ten years ago, when so many agents abandoned direct mail, telemarketing, and door-to-door farming for digital marketing? Now, agents are returning to these more personable methods in droves.
But the problem – and opportunity – with agents returning to traditional methods is the same: they aren’t doing these things in unique, relevant, and different ways. When it comes to direct mail, one reason for this is that the investment is eye-poppingly expensive compared to digital. So most agents look for the cheapest possible option: postcards, postcard-size folded newsletters, recipe cards, or bulk letters. They aren’t different, so they while they help a lot with branding, they won’t catapult an agent to a top ranking in the market.
In 2020, the most effective real estate marketing needs to be tactile and long-lasting rather than digital and fleeting. And to truly stand out, to help an agent dominate their farm, it needs to be hyper-relevant to homeowners. We call this kind of marketing “hyper-local;” for example, an article about the housing market delivered on a large-form mailer.
Here are some examples of how top agents are marketing in different, effective ways:
- Passing out pumpkins, pies, Christmas cookies, St. Patrick cupcakes, or Valentine hearts on holidays. They pick a reasonably sized area on each holiday (containing the homes they want to cultivate as listing prospects), and rotate them so they can hit a large area once or twice every year. Agents can leave these items on doorsteps, or market to have neighbors come to the office to pick the goodies up.
- Hosting seminars and workshops. They schedule the event a month or so in advance, and market it in all the usual ways (including on their direct mail newspapers or newsletters). Many successful agents host seminars once per quarter. Topics can be about first time homebuying, selling a home in a particular market condition, or about the market in general. During the 2008 recession, one of our clients hosted monthly workshops about foreclosure and short sales.
- Publishing hyper-local real estate newspapers. This is where we come in here at Discover. Many top agents use our turn-key 12-page farming publication, which we write and design for them and mail directly to the homes in their farm. Direct mail is great, but it’s even better when it looks like a community publication rather than a blatant advertisement, and when homeowners can relate to the content.
- Giving back to the community. When an agent talks about how they help others (rather than how great they are), people are more inclined to read it. It builds trust. Top agents do things like hand deliver hats and gloves to a food pantry, organize a fun run for a special benefit, or participate in a Habitat for Humanity build. But it’s even better if the good work is unique: for example, one of our clients gives a portion of every closing to a local school of their client’s choosing, and another client has her own mission to help poor children in South America.
- Getting on TV. Yes, TV! It’s easier than you think. Savvy agents simply write up a press release every time they do a seminar, pumpkin giveaway, or charitable endeavor, and send the releases to every news outlet in town. Often the press releases do not receive a response, but once in a while (on a slow news day, probably), a local TV channel will pick up a story. PR marketing can create real celebrity around an agent’s brand.
An Easy and Effective way to Market Differently
While we can’t help you with every form of unique and different marketing you do, here at Discover Publications we can handle item number 3 on the list above: a hyper-local real estate newspaper. It’s a very different kind of direct mail that really stands out, and it’s also the perfect vehicle to advertise all the other different things you may be doing.
Discover’s custom publication is a 12-page real estate paper printed on real newsprint, in full color. It contains articles and features designed to get engagement from families, boost brand awareness, and generate listings. Each publication is mailed “farming style” to all the homes in the entire geography an agent wants to dominate – excluding apartments and mobile homes (unless an agent chooses to include these properties).
From writing and design, to mail list prep, to dealing with advertisers and collecting their payments, to sorting and delivery, every aspect of the marketing process is handled by Discover. And the cost is not much higher than a jumbo postcard campaign, so for many top agents looking to do something different, it’s a no brainer.
Discover provides ghost-written custom content, syndicated homeowner-focused articles, and custom features like Market Stats and Featured Homes. All of the content is high quality and geared toward listing prospects. Sometimes agents will bring articles they want featured in their paper, but they don’t have to. Readers can’t tell the difference between a ghost-written local story and one written by an agent, so most agents opt to let Discover do all the work for them.
A big reason so many agents start doing newsletters and then stop is because of the time commitment. We make the process of publishing a 12-page local paper as simple as a postcard mailing, so that it can be a sustainable farming strategy for busy agents.
For more information on how Discover can publish a paper for you – or for more ideas on how to stand out – contact us here or check if your territory is available below.
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