Some marketing challenges are universal. How do I attract new clients? How do I differentiate my firm from the competition? But as you dig down into the unique challenges of a specific market, the answers become less obvious.
Here’s the list of the greatest challenges real estate agents face today.
Challenge No. 1: Marketing for agents vs. marketing for listings
This is a common challenge among real estate agents and other professional service providers. Clearly, it’s important to market yourself as a real estate agent who buyers want to work with, but at the end of the day, the perfect property is every buyer’s goal.
“My biggest marketing challenge is to juggle marketing myself vs. marketing my listings,” says Frances Dawson of The Lake Norman Group. “The best places to market my listings to available buyers are not where new clients usually look to find a Realtor to work with. The best place to market myself for new clients generally is not the best outlet for showcasing my listings to an available buyer.”
Solution: Your Website
Your website is an asset, and should be utilized and leveraged to its full potential. One solution is to create a website that showcases both your professional skillset and your listings. Make sure this website is linked from every listing site you use.
External listing sites play a large role in getting the proper exposure for a given property; however, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t promote yourself in that same setting. Remember, buyers are not just buying a house or office; they’re buying into the experience you offer them. Your properties should be an extension of your personality, sales strategy and service as a real estate agent.
Challenge No. 2: How do I stand out from the crowd?
With so much competition online and offline, it can be hard to differentiate your business from your competitors.
“There are those who recommend networking and building up a broad base of those who know me, both within our industry and among the general public,” says Phil Elmes, president at Urban Rehabber. “All well and good: go to lots of business meetings and workshops, be smart, and at the same time gracious, pass out my cards…then what?”
Solution: Build Relationships
“I set up a schedule and a budget for expanding my contact list, and I committed to it,” Elmes explains. “Then, every time I met someone who in any way related to my business, whether prospective buyer, lender or real estate-related professional, I declared my interest in keeping in touch with them and asked their permission to email them from time to time. Then, every week or 10 days, I’ll send them a ‘personal’ email, where I’d tell them about a new listing, an ‘interesting’ showing, a sale or comment on a recent event in the market. The purpose, of course, is to build familiarity – with me as a person as well as a professional – and, in time, establish trust. The tool I use is an email auto-responder that maintains my list and personalizes my emails.”
It works. In fact, that is an internal sales strategy that many marketing agencies use themselves. Relationships lead to results.
“I now have a list of more than 400 individuals (and growing still), and more than 25 percent of them open every email I send. I’m sure most have long since lost my business card. Yet each of my recipients is reminded regularly that I am ‘in the real estate business’ and available,” Elmes says.
Challenge No. 3: What kind of marketing is most effective for real estate agents?
From social media and mobile to networking and SEO, there are endless ways to advertise your services today. What’s the best channel for real estate agents? How do you know where to put your money and what will actually work?
Jolie Williams of Diva Homes says, “There are so many different directions to take when it comes to marketing. I must receive half a dozen phone calls a day regarding online advertising from the real estate websites to SEO stating that they are going to put me on the top search results of Google or Bing. You also have direct mail and media outlets trying to sell you their products. In the end you’re broke, or too confused to determine which marketing strategy will yield the best return on investment.”
Then you have the lengthy contracts and confusing tech talk.
“As a sole proprietor,” Dawson continues, “it is easy to spend thousands of dollars a month on all the media options available – many requiring a multi-use contract. The challenge is to find the best use of my marketing funds and satisfy myriad of needs.”
Solution: Find a holistic marketing program you can trust
As a marketing expert, I believe that real estate firms and agents need a holistic digital marketing strategy to stay competitive. It’s essential to have a marketing agency that will test different outlets and explain which tactics work and why. The more customized your strategy, the better. It may seem easier said than done, but you can find marketing companies you can trust.
“To decide where/how to spend marketing dollars, I speak to colleagues and trusted advisors,” Dawson says. “In this ever-changing landscape, the real key is to stay on top of social media options and all other new sources of marketing.”
Smaller agencies usually offer more tailored, personalized services and customer service. Research and vet several agencies before making your decision. Pay attention to their mission statements and how you feel after hearing their pitches. Do they listen to your concerns? Do they understand your goals? Are you excited to work with this organization? If you can answer “yes” to all three of those questions, the agency is a probably a good fit.
Challenge No. 4: Tracking
Strategy means nothing without tracking. How do you know if your marketing efforts are working? You could be spending thousands of dollars on a marketing technique that shows no return on investment. Whether you handle your own marketing or use an agency, tracking is one of the hardest and most important challenges to conquer.
Solution: Testing and Tagging
Every marketing agency worth its salt will have tracking down to a science.
Chris Melfi of REfindly says, “We test everything. We tailor Web pages (landing pages) by channel to ensure we know where our leads come from. We run campaigns to specific pages that allow us to know how much was spent to acquire the potential client. These tags then reflect in our reporting, so we know where it came from, giving us an in-depth look at how our ad dollars are spent.”
All in all, my advice to real estate agents is to invest their marketing time and money online. Make your firm ridiculously easy to find online. Cater your online experience to your clients’ needs, and use technology to make the real estate process as pleasant, convenient and impressive as possible.
I’ll leave you with a little sales inspiration from Roosevelt.
“Real estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for in full and managed with reasonable care, it is about the safest investment in the world.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
Are you facing other real estate marketing challenges? Please feel free to comment and join the conversation! For more online marketing tips, follow me on Twitter @Alyssa_Chicago.