Strategic Advertising for Real Estate Agents

“99% of advertising doesn’t sell a thing.”

Sounds like something a local real estate agent might say after paying for yet another ad that didn’t produce, right?

You might be surprised to learn that the quote actually belongs to David Ogilvy, legendary founder of one of the world’s largest and most successful advertising agencies.

Yikes – if a man regarded as a giant in the ad industry is so negative about advertising’s success rate, how should you feel?

The Bad News is the Good News…

There is an upside here. If so much of the advertising in your local market is ineffective, you can gain a significant edge on your competition by having a better local advertising strategy than other agents.

Advertising vs. Advertising Strategy

Notice that I said a better advertising STRATEGY, not simply better advertising. There’s a big difference.

A better ad might get you a few more leads in the short term. A better advertising strategy can help you to have a consistent, meaningful message in your advertising, and will position you to get more business from your local market on an ongoing basis.

With that in mind, here are three tips to help you define your advertising strategy, and put it into action:

1) Have a Strategic Objective In Mind BEFORE you Advertise

Advertising for the sake of “building awareness” is probably the fastest way to flush your advertising dollars away.

Before you even think about buying an ad, you must have a strategic objective in mind – after all, why should you pay for any type of ad unless it helps you to reach your objective.

Here are just a few questions that you might ask yourself before placing an ad to help define what you want your advertising strategy to do for you:

- If I could be known for just one thing in my local market, what would it be?

- Which part of the local real estate market is not currently well serviced by other agents? Is there potential in this neighborhood/age group/demographic profile?

- Which part of the local market is emerging and might be a driving force for sales in future years?

- What’s changing in my market right now – immigration, aging population, young families moving in, etc – and how do I capitalize on the change more effectively than my competitors?

If you can answer even some of these questions, you will probably be on your way to identifying the basis for an advertising strategy.

For example, you may determine that based on trends and current prices, your market will become increasingly popular with first time homebuyers. As a result, your strategic objective may be to use your advertising to become recognized as the local expert in serving first time homebuyers.

2) Have a Specific Objective for Each Ad you Place within your Strategy

With a clear objective as part of your advertising strategy, you can now think about investing in ads that support your objective.

Here’s a tip – you can create advertising that generates an immediate response while also serving to build your brand in a particular market.

Continuing with the above example, if you ran a series of ads in the local newspaper offering a free “First-Time Homebuyers Report” available from your website, you would actually be running a direct response ad (aimed at getting people to download the report) that also delivered a brand building message (the message being that you are the agent for first time homebuyers to call because you are the expert in that field).

You can measure the success of the ad by looking at the number of downloads from your site while the ad was running – since generating downloads was the specific objective of the ad. If the ads don’t generate enough downloads to justify the cost, pull them or change them. Ads are only valuable if they get you closer to achieving your strategic objective.

3) Be Consistent

All of your advertising (online, print, directory, flyers, etc) should be similar in both style and substance within your advertising strategy.

Yes, a consistent look and style for your ads is important to help you get recognized in a competitive market.

But even more important is being consistent when it comes to the messages in your ads. You can’t buy a Yellow Pages ad that promotes you as the leader in client service, and then advertise your “low low price” in the local newspaper, and then distribute flyers that try to promote you as the family real estate expert.

Your messages can’t conflict! Again, here’s where an advertising strategy comes in. With a strategic objective in mind for your advertising, you will be able to focus your advertising dollars on communicating a single, clear message to potential clients about why they should call you.

An Advertising Strategy is Critical to your Success

If Mr. Ogilvy was right, then most of the advertisers out there in your real estate market are getting it wrong. This creates a huge opportunity for you to use an advertising strategy to drive business and outdo your competitors.

- Have a Strategic Objective for all of your Advertising – Know what you want to say about your business, and who you want to say it to within your local market.

- Have an Objective for Each Ad – Measure each ad’s results against the strategic objective you are trying to achieve – if you don’t, how will you know if the ads were successful or not?

- Be Consistent – Make sure all of your ads are focused on helping you reach your strategic objective by communicating a clear message to the market.

Advertising can be a tough game, but so can real estate. And in both cases, those with a well thought out strategy will almost always succeed over those that don’t have a plan.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Advertising

Sin No. 1

And in many ways this is the biggest sin of them all!
The total lack of genuine accountability and effectiveness. More and more evidence is emerging that there is ample justification for questioning a major advertising pretension that it does, indeed, work at all!

The repetitious cry and certain belief that “creativity” is the answer to all marketing problems – it isn’t and frankly never really has been.

It’s a given that all human knowledge is provisional but it is also incremental, the sum of what we know to day is far greater than thirty years ago – with, possibly, the sole exception of marketing/advertising. Nothing new has been added to the armory of advertising…no debate is taking place as to where to go next! Perhaps that is because there is no place else to go!

However to day it is still an article of faith among advertising people that advertising will not change because “it works”!

Facing the painful truth is the first essential step in devising a sensible strategy for the perpetuation of advertising. And the painful truth is “Advertising no longer works”!

Sin No 2.

Is it because that, for financial reasons, you do not want to address the problem of clutter…because it is a huge and growing problem which contributes to the declining effectiveness of all advertising.
The poor old customer, or in advertising speak, Consumer, does not want to take delivery of even more messages, after all they do not appear to be taking much notice of the messages that exist already!
The advertising world has dehumanised and depersonalised the process of communication and very little evidence of consideration of the consumer exists.

Sin No.3

You just don’t listen, whenever some well meaning person dares to question the “Advertising Works” article of faith, down comes a torrent of abuse, and the fact is it can only be a torrent of abuse because you do not have a solid fact to support your spurious claims. Listen to your Clients:
As one large Client recently explained: “In to day’s marketing landscape, building a brand is about a whole lot more than advertising. An advertising agency alone cannot deliver everything we need – even though agencies may claim to deliver this, it’s a myth”.
Or even listen to people closer to home:
Derek Morris, Chairman and chief executive of ZenithOptimedia attended “Media 360 Conference” in Wales. In a long letter in MediaWeek, he said, among other things, “But what are the lessons to bring home from South Wales? What should we actually do? And there, in the final session, reality caught up when the Client told us to “Change before you are dead”.

Sin No.4

If you don’t want to listen then for Heavens sake forget the glorious past.
Your current model of advertising was developed in the Sixties when product choice was much more limited and people were easier to stereotype into categories like income, sex and class. It was much easier for advertisers to target people and bombard them with sales messages.

Today’s marketplace is different and all the old certainties are gone. To be effective in your communications it is sound advice to start with the premise that you know nothing about the people that you believe your product is aimed at.

You all have become too parochial, too introspective, too convinced by your on hyperbole.

Sin No.5

Stop this insane rush onto Web 2.0 it is not a medium intended for mass advertising, and, as has been recently established, “Users became more or less desensitised to the Advertising”

That was recently said of advertising on social networking sites.

Clients are experiencing fast diminishing returns on their social networking ad investments.

Clients are expressing disillusionment.

Web marketers, ranging from Google at the apex of the ad triangle to the mass of small companies are showering social-networking sites with ad dollars without getting their hoped-for returns.

The question is not “Has the advertising model broken”? The question now is “What are we going to replace it with”?

The complacency of the IPA is overwhelming, they appear not to be doing anything to answer the increasingly strident complaints.

Complaints such as, clutter, and here the irony is that advertising agencies appear to think that placing more advertisements is the way to solve clutter!

Complaints such as lack of accountability, to day, and after fifty years of extensive advertising, there are no reliable figures available on audience measurements.

And most certainly there are no effective studies as to the effectiveness of advertising…on sales…. As a return on ROI…and much more.

To day it is more important that a close investigation as to the suitability of advertising on Web 2.0 be undertaken instead of rushing onto the Net and ignoring all the signs. These are that it is a highly unsuitable medium for advertising.

After all it is “The Wild West” where anything goes!

Sin No.6

Your inability to move very rapidly into the post-advertising mindset is caused by you being unable to recognise Sins 1 through 5 above.

Astonishingly, a sizeable percentage of marketers and marketing-service leaders seem mired in the advertising mind-set.

The Cannes Lions Festival still celebrates ads-a position, one suspects, roughly equivalent to the Cannes Film Festival honouring silents. The One Show held two concurrent programmes this year-one for conventional ads, another for online. (One wonders who in this mix felt like a second-class citizen).

In a transparent world, the power of an “ad campaign” to change minds is strictly limited, and getting more so every day. It’s way past time for the industry’s leaders to get naked and reinvent advertising…it they can!

Sin No.7

Your complete and utter lack of understanding of the word “communication” together with a lack of appreciation as to what can, and does, stifle effective communication.

All advertising is a form of learning whereby the advertiser is asking people to change their behaviour after learning the benefits of the products or services on offer. However, we all tend to filter out information, which we do not want to hear. This clearly alters the effectiveness of conventional advertising in quite a dramatic way.

The final purchase decision is invariably a compromise and this leads to a certain amount of anxiety; the worry that perhaps the decision was not the best or the right one. In order to minimise this anxiety the purchaser seeks to reinforce their choice and begins to take more notice of their chosen product’s marketing communications.

Due to a lack of understanding of the communication process we have created a media society during the past 40 or 50 years, where the whole process has been de-humanised.

There is now an extraordinary reduction in interaction because conventional advertising and marketing have become a one-way practice whereby information is disseminated in a passive form.

Internet Advertising

We are all familiar with newspapers, magazines, coupons, and billboards. Let us examine how the trend of direct mail and print advertising is taking an ever-increasing back seat to online advertising.

In order to reach a specific customer, you would select a particular type of print mail advertising. For example, if you wanted to target someone driving home everyday, you would pay for an expensive billboard campaign. This is a costly type of advertising, but how many customers does it reach? Do you survey customers when they walk into your business and see if they got off the exit based on the billboard ad? If you did not ask the customer how they found you, then how do you know if you should continue to pay for that pricey billboard investment?

Everyone knows the coupon clipper. So where would you advertise to get their attention? Of course, the Sunday paper, and perhaps you might even consider the back of grocery store receipts. Coupon clippers are everywhere, and there are many direct print advertising companies who can provide you with various services. Have you ever purchased something from a Val Pak coupon, or a coupon from a post card you received in the mail? Most likely, yes.

Then we have magazines. If you are looking to reach customers who might be interested in workout machines, the possibilities for your print and direct mail advertising is endless. Do you have a local, national, or global customer audience for which you would like to sell your products?

Your choices would be the local newspaper in the health and fitness section, or large ads in the proper placement in certain sections of the newspaper. You could also advertise in national magazines to reach customers in the United States, or even a global magazine, to reach customers all over the world. You could place classified, banner, or article ads in Muscle and Fitness, or even Maxim.

What does offline advertising have to do with online advertising? Everything.

The mentality for the majority of business owners is still stuck in the print mail era. More and more business owners are losing customers locally, nationally, and globally, because they believe their potential customers find them through direct mail, offline advertising methods. They spend more and more on these efforts, and eventually go out of business. They will forever be puzzled as to why all of their efforts did not prove to be financially fruitful.

In the year 2007, over 70% of the United States alone uses the Internet to find local, national, and global products or services. If you try explaining this to local business owners, they look at you like you are actually lying and only trying to make a buck from them!

This is no joke. I have a local web site and spent $75,000 building and marketing it just for our community. Business owners are losing customers, so I walked door-to-door in over 105 degree heat to let them know their customers are actually looking for them online and almost every business owner completely blew me off!

I offered the most inexpensive web site advertising with an amazing, highly targeted customer audience, and practically no one wanted to advertise online. Honestly, I was disgusted with these business owners, because my efforts and financial investment were enormous. I cannot get that time back, but my education was invaluable. I am very happy this venture took place.

One thing I have learned over the years in working with clients and potential business clients is that as soon as I hear they are waffling about paying for Internet web sites, SEO, AdWords, and hundreds of hours of my valuable time and expert marketing efforts, I let them go–quite easily.

There is no hard selling anything. After I explain the facts to business owners, they either get it, or they do not. And you move on to an owner who gets it, and is willing to pay you for your expensive education, time, hard work, and honest, ethical marketing skill sets put into their online advertising.

So what are your online advertising options? I am glad you asked.

Let us look at some of the many ways you can advertise online, and then let us look at whether or not these ways are actually paying off for business owners.

Without looking at the YES, NO, or POSSIBLY categories toward the bottom, see how well you would fair in using online advertising to get more customers.

Which would you choose?

- Web Site (basic, no SEO)

- web site (flash with moving images, pictures, and AdSense, no SEO)

- web site (with proper title; header tags; related meta name description; limited, relevant key words; includes proper on page SEO build, but no online, content related and keyword rich articles with the proper density)

- web site (with proper title; header tags; related meta name description; limited, relevant key words; includes proper on page SEO build, includes content related and keyword rich articles with the proper density)

- web site (with proper title; header tags; related meta name description; limited, relevant key words; includes proper on page SEO build, includes content related and keyword rich articles with the proper density, and AdSense advertising)

- video advertising throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- banner advertising throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- image advertising throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- text ads throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- link exchange directories

- FFA (free for all) directory submissions

- article writing content submitted to relevant categories on reputable directories

- search engine submission of your web site to thousands of directories

- coupon web sites

- putting your web site link on a friends’ site, or anyone else you ask who will put a link to your web site on theirs

As you can see, the list above is not all-inclusive, but it gives you the major online advertising venues in which you may or may not be able to get traffic for your business.

I will break this list down with a summary of which you should use, should not use, or might use (if you use them correctly)

Yes – Definitely!

- web site (with proper title; header tags; related meta name description; limited, relevant key words; includes proper on page SEO build, includes content related and keyword rich articles with the proper density)

- web site (with proper title; header tags; related meta name description; limited, relevant key words; includes proper on page SEO build, includes content related and keyword rich articles with the proper density, and AdSense advertising)

- article writing content submitted to relevant categories on reputable directories (but be very careful here!)

No – Absolutely Not!

- Web Site (basic, no SEO whatsoever)

- web site (flash with moving images, pictures, and AdSense, no SEO whatsoever)

- FFA (free for all) directory submissions

- putting your web site link on a friends’ site, or anyone else you ask who will put a link to your web site on theirs (no, no, no!)

- search engine submission of your web site to thousands of directories (new technology and algorithm changes, know what you are doing before you submit anywhere!) This is in the NO and POSSIBLY category because you can hurt your efforts if you do this wrong.

Possibly – Using these correctly could be rewarding, but using them incorrectly could cost you every penny you have and still not get you any customers

- web site (with proper title; header tages; related meta name description; limited, relevant key words; includes proper on page SEO build, but no online, content related and keyword rich articles with the proper density)

- video advertising throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- banner advertising throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- image advertising throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- text ads throughout the Internet on the major search engines (pay per click services, or membership site)

- search engine submission of your web site to thousands of directories (new technology and algorithm changes, know what you are doing before you submit anywhere!) This is in the NO and POSSIBLY category because you can hurt your efforts if you do this wrong.

- coupon web sites

How did you do? Which type of online advertising would you have chosen?

As you can see, the choices are mind boggling, and all of your options have not been listed. These are your meat and potato, primary online advertising choices.

Building a web site takes knowledge, education, and experience. SEO (search engine optimization) is critical to your business, just as print advertising once was 10 years ago.

Using Google AdWords pay per click services are an increasingly effective way to get targeted traffic to your web site within 15 minutes after your ad goes live. But beware of companies and individuals who set you up with a campaign that will bleed you dry financially. Get a PPC Expert who can show you their client’s successful results and compare their prices and offer to other pay per click services.