The Real Estate Marketing Funnel Is Dead: What's Next?
7 minute read

The real estate agent selection journey demands a new model.

In the last decade, the internet and social media have rewritten almost everything you knew about sales and marketing.

Your sales teams no longer just cold calls prospects or past open home lists. Your marketing team is focused on inbound tactics as well, to get your sales team noticed online and hopefully get the phone to ring the other way too.

There have been countless marketing gurus who have sold email sequence style marketing programs or the idea of Click Funnels to real estate businesses over the years and the reality is this style of marketing – taking people down a ‘funnel’ – doesn’t work very effectively in real estate. Why? Because marketing and sales is not a linear path in real estate.

Sending a series of emails to nudge a prospect closer to a lead over time – triggering prospect pain points or showcasing data – has been mildly successful in selling online courses over the years. But in real estate, circumstances can change in people’s lives in an instant that control when they want to (or need to) sell their home or investment property.

It’s time to retire the marketing and sales funnel

In the late 19th century, the idea that you needed a team to sell products and services to people was still new. Sales pioneers needed to explain why people bought some products and services but not others. Then they needed tools to help them guide those buying processes.

One of those tools for understanding buyer behaviour was the marketing funnel. Prospective customers entered at the top of the “funnel.” They then moved through additional stages, before emerging as a newly minted customer.

The funnel shape also demonstrated that not every lead would move through all stages. Of 100 leads, only some would advance all the way to becoming customers.

For decades, this shape fit the buyer’s journey through the sales process. It’s sometimes called the AIDA model. The buyer moves through four stages:

  • “A” represents attention or awareness, and your ability to attract the attention of vendors, buyers, landlords or tenants.
  • “I” stands for interest and points to your ability to raise their interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits they would gain from what you are selling – whether it’s your services or a property.
  • “D” represents desire and points to your ability to convince them that they want and desire the property, or your services, because it will satisfy their needs.
  • “A” is for action, which leads that client or prospect toward taking action by employing you as their agent, referring business to you or enquiring about a property.

The AIDA model gives your sales team a large role to play in the customer’s journey from prospect to customer. They’re responsible for creating awareness, interest and desire for the passive customer.

To achieve this, salespeople could use a number of techniques and sales tactics. Most of these were aimed at convincing the customer they wanted or needed to have what you were selling.

The consumer is now in control

The AIDA model gives your salespeople a large amount of control. They’re the ones deciding on techniques and tactics to use with a customer. The sales funnel assumes the only reason people haven’t selected you to sell their property is because they haven’t heard about you. In this model, agents tell vendors what they want.

You might have already guessed today’s customer doesn’t want to be told what they want. The rise of the internet and information has shifted the balance, and your customers are more in control and armed with more information than ever before.

It’s hard to pinpoint a single factor in the shift in customer attitudes, but the fact is things have changed. Some of the reasons include:

  • The internet and a change in access to information
  • Increasing awareness of marketing techniques
  • Customer demand for choice and customisation

You can look at the numbers to see this in action. Today, customers are skeptical of brands. They’re able to identify marketing techniques, and they prefer to verify your claims. With the internet at their fingertips, they can most definitely fact-check your statistics.

Customers are also more independent when it comes to learning about new products and services. Buyers are often nearly 60% of the way through their journey before they contact a salesperson.

The rise of agent comparison websites

We all know that the perception of our industry professionals has never been all that great. We consistently rank at the bottom of the list for trusted professions and in this year’s Image of Trusted Professions survey by Roy Morgan, real estate agents ranked 3rd last – worse than politicians!

Our industry’s perception problem has given rise to agent comparison websites with deep pockets to attract those who are considering selling their property. If consumers don’t trust an industry, comparison websites make a lot of sense.

But these websites point to a much bigger problem for real estate agents – cutting through with a marketing message is hard to do when the public doesn’t trust you.

A new marketing model

The post-settlement relationship is, and always has been, the most under-resourced marketing opportunity in real estate businesses. There are concierge services, property maintenance services, property styling services and so on… all adding value before and during a campaign. But it all stops there.

Some agents are great at the post-settlement relationship – they keep in touch and some even become close friends. But generally speaking, our industry is not great at adding value to people’s lives post-settlement, underpinned by CoreLogic’s Perception of Real Estate Agents Report which found only 36% of vendors said they’d definitely stay in touch with their agent.

Our industry’s focus on the traditional marketing and sales funnels – the idea of filling the top with as many people as possible to squeeze out sales on the other end – is becoming more and more expensive as advertising costs increase and digital reach reduces.

It can cost five times more to attract a new client, than it does to retain an existing one but in a market that is red hot, like the one we’re in right now, who really cares!? Well, if you’ve been around for a while, you know it won’t last. And if you are like many agents who hit the slower times unprepared, you’ll be competing with far more agents for far fewer leads. The time to prepare is now.

If you’ve never heard of it, the Flywheel Model was brought up as the anti-thesis to the sales and marketing funnels.

Unlike the funnel that puts customers as an afterthought in a marketing and sales strategy, the Flywheel Model puts them at the heart keeping customers happy, allowing them to drive referrals and helping the company make more (and more repeat) sales.

In a flywheel, growth and customers are the center of every other process. Everything literally revolves around customer experience. Loyal customers are the energy that fuels all growth. Customers never fall out of the loop. They are not lost energy.

‘Keep in touch’ calls are a common post-settlement tactic for staying front of mind with past vendors and they’re surely important. But to be effective, they require a lot of your (or your team’s) time and energy and you better have something of value to talk about or it can potentially work against you.

There are literally hundreds of post-settlement strategies you could implement to add value to your past clients but you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to achieve front-of-mind-awareness – often on autopilot.

Here are just a few easy to implement real-world examples: 

While none of these examples are difficult to implement, they all provide a regular connection to your past clients beyond just your capacity to call everyone on your database to ‘keep in touch’.

Becoming a resource, a utility if you will, post settlement is a mindset shift that many agents will never make and THAT is your opportunity.

Summary:

When you consider client acquisition for your business, think about this question for a moment: how many sales come from repeat business versus first-time clients? Now contrast that against how much money you spend against each segment. If you are embarrassed by the huge disconnect, you’re not alone. But what if you did something about it? What if you turned everything upside down and instead of ending at settlement day, you began with it?

What if you focused the lion’s share of your marketing efforts, energy and budget on keeping clients versus attracting them? What if you could correct this imbalance and, in doing so, not only get your clients to keep coming back for more, but tell others to do so as well?

Author: Josh Cobb

Phone Number: 0427 184 183

Email Address: [email protected]

Stepps was founded by Josh Cobb in 2014. Josh has advised more than 100 brands since starting the company and hundreds of agents who have attended his workshops. He is the host of the popular Real Estate Pros podcast, oversees digital strategy for top performing real estate agents and teams, and travels the globe with several international speaking engagements each year.

Josh was named as a finalist in the REB Awards for Industry Thought Leader of The Year in 2017, 2018 and the winner of  Brisbane Young Entrepreneur of The Year 2017 – Marketing, PR & Events and a finalist for the same award in 2020.

In addition to web development and digital strategy consulting, the company also runs Stepps Media, a fast-growing education company that produces an iTunes top-ranked podcasttraining events, email and webinars.