By Michele Lerner
What works best for marketing: Facebook, a blog, a website or Twitter? The answer: all of the above and more. Savvy REALTORS® know that their marketing techniques must evolve with new technology, a changing housing market, and the needs of their customers, but sometimes a tried-and-true approach, such as a print ad or a column in the local newspaper, can also help you make your mark.
“Every REALTOR® needs to figure out who their target audience is and then find the medium that reaches that audience,” says Heather Logrippo, publisher of Distinctive Homes Magazine and owner of Expose Yourself Public Relations in Shrewsbury. “You need to put together a marketing budget and a plan so you aren’t just trying things on a hit-ormiss basis.”
Logrippo says one way REALTORS® today can differentiate themselves from the crowd is to purchase print ads as part of the media mix. “For awhile it seemed like print ads could be a detriment to your marketing, but now there’s a big competitive advantage to be able to show your sellers that you are marketing their home in a variety of ways,” says Logrippo. “This is particularly true of high-end properties that need a lot of exposure.”
Optimizing your Social Media
Logrippo recommends choosing a specialization for marketing purposes, then using a multipronged approach, including a variety of social media, perhaps a column in a local newspaper and print ads. Joe Schutt, a REALTOR® with the Bushari Group Real Estate in Boston, uses social media to interact with other REALTORS® as well as with potential clients.
“I like to chat with other agents about tech tips,” says Schutt. “For instance, I put all my listings on FourSquare with a photo and a link to the URL I create for every listing. This works as sort of under-the-radar marketing, because then, every time I show the listing or hold it open, I check in on FourSquare with the location and the listing information gets shared on Twitter and Facebook.”
Darlene Sodano, broker of Sodano Real Estate in Townsend, says she constantly checks in with FourSquare to show people how entrenched she is in her community.
“It’s important to recognize that each type of social media has a different audience, so you need to send the right information on the right avenue,” says Sodano. “I use Facebook to be in front of friends and family, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with my peers and my blog for educating consumers.”
Logrippo recommends paying for Facebook ads to drive traffic to a website and to put a Facebook URL on all marketing materials.
Schutt says he mixes traditional media with online marketing, such as making sure that every postcard sends recipients to a specific landing page so he can analyze his results.
“Agents who are less tech-savvy can hire a virtual assistant or partner with another agent, but they need to be able to talk about online marketing in a listing presentation,” says Schutt. “At first you may want to offer a referral fee to another agent who can explain the online part of your marketing strategy until you learn enough to do it yourself.”
Schutt recommends that agents purchase the domain name for their cell phone number (i.e. Joe@phonenumber.com) so that prospective clients will have your website as well as your phone number in their cell phone.
Radio, TV, and Billboards
Some Realtors® use other mediums such as radio and television and link their presence in these media outlets to their online brand. Jim Lowenstern, CEO of Castles Unlimited in Newton and host of The Jim Lowenstern Radio Show, says his radio program offers a mix of programming geared to others in the real estate industry and to consumers.
“In any networking situation, whether it is with buyers, sellers, or real estate brokers, the radio show gives me an added degree of authority,” says Lowenstern.
The show can be heard on the radio, streamed live, or as a podcast on Lowenstern’s website.
“You need to do it all: networking in person, by email, direct mail, on the phone, and over the radio,” says Lowenstern. “I do print ads in Distinctive Homes Magazine plus I have my own magazine, Castles Unlimited.”
A guest on Lowenstern’s radio show, a broker from Virginia, credits her success to a full-size color cut-out that she attaches to the sign posts at many of her listings. Lowenstern says not only do people stop to look at the cut-outs when they drive by, but she has been featured in several local media outlets because of the novelty factor.
Hans Brings, a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Waltham, has two billboards that feature his slogan, the Coldwell Banker logo, and occasionally changing messages.
“The billboards are a supplement to my signs, which you see all over town,” says Brings. “A friend came up with my slogan ‘Hans Brings Results’ a few years ago, so now whenever a listing goes under contract I put up a sign with the slogan.”
Brings says the one constant in all his marketing materials, including occasional mailings and print ads in regional magazines, is his slogan. He blogs about real estate for his local Patch.com site.
Lesley Lambert, a REALTOR® with Park Square Realty in Westfield, blogs about her local market and hosts “The Real Estate Wrap-Up”, a television program seen on local access stations and online. “The television programs are short tenminute shows just talking about the local market,” says Lambert. “I tie everything I do together by blogging about whatever the TV program is about, too.”
Lambert is careful to not automatically send every blog post to all of her platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, because she says many of the same people follow her in multiple places.
“People will tune out if they think you have everything on auto-pilot because it feels impersonal,” says Lambert. “Even if I repost something, I add a different headline or send it on a different day to make it more interesting.”
Lambert uses an automatic email marketing service known as “Happy Grasshopper” to reach out to her database every three weeks. Happy Grasshopper’s emails are clever, with a catchy headline, but are never about real estate.
“I’ve had lots of people write back responding to the email itself or to thank me for getting in touch and to update me on their situation,” says Lambert. “Sometimes I get notes asking if my email has been hacked, but even that gets people to communicate with me!”
Lambert used a group coupon for a discount for Happy Grasshopper. Group deals can also be used by REALTORS® and brokers to market their services to potential buyers and sellers.
HouseTipper.com offers a free opportunity for real estate brokers to offer commission rebates, gift cards to a home improvement store, a home warranty, or cleaning services as part of the deal. For example, a buyer or seller could pay $50 for the coupon and get six months of free cleaning services paid for by the broker, contingent on buying or selling a house with that brokerage.
Tigue Bonneval, co-founder of HouseTipper.com and a REALTOR® in Baton Rouge, La., says, “We typically suggest they run the deal for one month at the most because that creates a sense of urgency for buyers while giving them time to call the broker and perhaps do some research.”
Bonneval says brokers can be as creative as they want with their offers and must make sure the offers are legal within their market. Some states do not allow commission rebates, for example. He says HouseTipper.com offers the option of exclusivity for their deals to brokers in local markets if they agree to run group deals on a semi-regular basis and market them.
Working Website Magic
Sodano cross-markets across many websites. “You don’t just build a website, you need to transform it often and make sure you are visible on as many search sites as possible,” says Sodano. “My listings go to 36 different websites and I have a business profile on all the top search sites. I keep a checklist of all the places I’m listed so I can update my information at least once per year with new activities.
”Sodano went to REBar camp to learn search engine optimization techniques and creates videos of appropriate properties.
Lambert optimizes every listing with a separate webpage, based on the address of the property and information, so that her page will show up first when someone searches by the address.
Sodano uses Google Analytics to track hits to her site. “I keep a spreadsheet for every phone call and every email I receive so I know how someone found me, what they want and where they come from,” says Sodano.
John Merse, marketing manager for Union Street Media, says REALTORS® should determine what makes them different and the best way to showcase their knowledge and their personality.
“REALTORS® should spend one hour every day updating their website and social media,” says Merse.
He says REALTORS® need to stay up-to-date with the tools on their website that their customers need.
“Just last year we started adding interactive map search functions so that buyers can look at specific neighborhoods,” says Merse. “Customers can use their fingers on an iPad or iPhone and draw a circle around an area to see what’s there and click around a website in a similar way.”
Merse says tracking the data that comes through the website is the simplest way for REALTORS® to track what works and what doesn’t.
“Your website is what completes the cycle from online to offline to online interactions,” says Merse. “REALTORS® still buy ads and signs and send postcards as well as interact online through social media, but the website is the link to every part of the media mix.”