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The ‘secret sauce’ of allocating a marketing budget

by Scott Klocksin

Regardless of how big or shiny, a marketing tactic is only as good as the strategy it fits into, according to managing brokers who we asked about advising agents on how to allocate their marketing budgets. There’s more than one way to look at marketing, and three managing brokers shared their favored approaches with us.

At Chicago Agent magazine’s Accelerate Summit in March, panelist Barbara O’Connor of Dream Town pulled no punches when she discussed how she frequently urges top agents in her office to be quicker to break out their checkbooks for marketing purposes.

“Agents are cheap,” she said. Her advice? “Don’t be afraid to spend money. … Those people who can make that $30-million mark, I tell them: ‘Quit being cheap.’ People hold themselves back by being fearful.”

It’s understandable; as every experienced agent can attest from being at the closing table with their clients, spending large amounts of money all at once can be scary. But according to Kevin Van Eck of @properties, the fear factor can be eased if your marketing eggs aren’t confined to one proverbial basket, and if you’re willing to deploy thoughtful strategies and have some patience.

“A lot of brokers look at marketing as an expense and not as an investment in their business,” he said. Van Eck said agents need to spend real dollars keeping the relationship warm once potential clients know, like and trust them. That means reminding folks, in more than just one or a couple of ways, that you’re still here and still in the business. “A single-pronged campaign with people we don’t know is futile.”

A combination of marketing tactics — which could include bus stop ads, mailers, emailing and other means — consciously placed where those who already know your name are most likely to see them will tend to do a lot for an agent than any one “big slash” marketing effort, Van Eck said. He added that even then, the payoff is unlikely to be immediate.

Drussy Hernandez of Compass, who also spoke on the managing brokers panel at Chicago Agent magazine’s event, said the effectiveness of a marketing campaign often isn’t even about the money spent.

“The market has changed. I’ve been around since the time when agents had all the information and clients had to come to us for everything,” she said in a recent interview. “Now, buyers have a lot more resources at their fingertips, which means agents have to keep themselves relevant to them in their marketing.”

But how? There’s no one way, Hernandez said, but creativity should be at the heart of the process. “Come up with a concept that has shelf life,” she said. “Let’s say I plan out my marketing so that every month I send out information about concerts, or gardening ideas in May or winterization ideas in November. These are the kinds of ideas that make you relevant to people and they can be reused each year.”

While the impulse for self-promotion is understandable, Hernandez cautioned against marketing materials being narrowly focused on recent listings and recently closed sales.
“The recipients of your materials usually don’t care what you’ve done, and they couldn’t care less that you just sold another house down the street. It doesn’t have to cost much, and it could even cost nothing, to make yourself useful to them in ways that can eventually lead to business.”

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