By Mark Pullinger
Every gathering of real estate marketers these days seems to start with the same question: “Are you guys still doing print?” Statistics from the National Association of Realtors tell us that when it comes to finding a home, consumers are voting with their mouse in favor of the Web.
In reality, consumer behavior is not hard to understand. Simply think about how you live your life from day to day and suddenly the clues as to how and why technology is revolutionizing our lives become immediately apparent.
Consumers search with Google and in around a nanosecond, get all the information they need about a neighborhood, including homes for sale and agents who successfully sell in that area. The information is largely accurate and is often updated in real time, and agents can retrieve everything without getting out of their pajamas.
So does this mean that an agent who just figured out how to attach a file to an e-mail is destined to become roadkill on the information super highway? Not necessarily, but to survive in this new environment agents have to adapt.
First, agents have to remember that real estate is about selling, and the basic principles of selling have not changed. Agents should start by getting to know the people in the area in which they are trying to do business. In the not so distant past, this meant handing out business cards at community events, joining local organizations, sending out postcards, advertising in the newspaper, holding open houses and making phone calls. All of these methods are still relevant; however, in addition to these strategies, agents now have new, more effective tools that can successfully place them in front of potential clients quickly.
E-mail marketing is a well-established and effective way to reach buyers and sellers. A number of companies offer professional-looking e-postcards as a service to agents. It’s time to retrieve your contacts’ e-mail addresses off of the dinner napkins and envelopes at the bottom of your kitchen junk drawer and enter them into an Excel spreadsheet. This is assuming you have collected your contacts’ e-mail addresses. Of course, if you have not, you need to do so right away. When prospecting or sitting at an open house, it is critical you ask for e-mail addresses.
Though they are quick and effective, like postcard mailings, e-mail postcards have many downsides. With spam becoming an ever-growing problem, response rates are on the decline. In order to be meaningful, the person receiving the message should know you, or the message should at least offer an added value or service. People always like to know what is happening in their neighborhood market, so a simple list of recently sold homes can be effective.
Creating and maintaining a personalized Web site is another useful marketing technique and it’s becoming very easy to do. Many firms, including Rubloff, offer agents simple Web site solutions. Having a successful Web site, however, is not that easy.
Success is all about SEO, or search engine optimization. If your Web site is optimized, which means that it comes up frequently in queries on Web search engines. How does one optimize? By having content — lots of it, which takes work.
Sheldon Salnick, an agent at Rubloff Residential Properties, has maintained a Web site for three years. When visiting SheldonChicago.com, you’ll instantly notice that Salnick’s home page is rich with information. He has invested time into optimizing his site and reports that 75 percent of his business is generated via the Web.
Blogging is another way to reach your target market. Blogs facilitate an interactive conversation via written dialogue on the Web. Eric Rojas, another Rubloff agent, swears by this technique. His blog, ChicagoRealEstateLocal.blogspot.com, has a hometown appeal that would be easy to mistake for nothing more than some guy who writes about everyday life. Most of Rojas’ leads come from his blog and he is now a rising star in Rubloff’s Lincoln Park office.
How can that possibly work, you ask? The simple answer is Google. The posts on Rojas’ blog constitute a veritable library of Chicago real estate information. When someone searches for real estate on the Web, Rojas’ blog is likely to come up in the results. It has an informal feel and the information is valuable because it’s credible. Instead of the old sales approach with a big-hair photo and an “I’m great” headline, Rojas’ blog takes a simple, understated and honest approach. It establishes him as someone consumers can trust.
On the same note, Rojas advises that his approach will not work for everyone. Find an approach that matches your style of selling. Rojas is so confident about his approach that when I asked him for a business card, he at first struggled to find one, and then finally said, “Just Google me.” So I did.
Like Mark Twain, whose early demise was wrongly printed in a newspaper, it may be premature to count print advertising out. People still read newspapers and magazines. It is an important element of a mix of advertising techniques, partly because sellers expect to see properties in print advertisements. And remember, print advertisements can drive traffic to your blog or Web site. Just don’t forget to include the Web address!
Mark Pullinger is vice president of marketing for Rubloff Residential Properties in Chicago. With nearly two decades of experience in resale real estate and development marketing, Pullinger creates and successfully executes an integrated marketing program offering both agents and consumers an innovative mix of tools and services unique to Rubloff. To contact Pullinger, visit Rubloff.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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