On a sunny Saturday morning back in March, I took my 4-year-old son to his first-ever auction just a few doors up from our home. He wondered what all the “flappy-flags” were for and why so many people were in our street. So coffee and babycino in hand, we waltzed up to check it out, along with a few other sticky-beaking locals and genuine buyers.
While the agents were busy getting everyone’s details, the auctioneer was pacing the halls getting ready for the big dance. The smell of scented candles, takeaway coffees and freshly laid carpet filled the air while the local sticky-beaks and genuine buyers alike inspected the home.
After the standard preamble by the auctioneer, it was off to a quick start. And after just 15 minutes of back and forth, fierce bidding, the property was sold under the hammer to a young couple with two children. These were our new neighbours.
Walking back to our home, my 4-year-old son excitedly uttered the words “that was fun dad!”. And I couldn’t have agreed more. There is something about auctions on a Saturday morning that is quintessentially Australian.
But just three days later, due to COVID-19, the government announced…
“Real estate auctions and open house inspections … that cannot continue,” our Prime Minister said.
I remember watching that press conference live while remembering the experience we’d had just a few days before and feeling somewhat deflated that a big part of Aussie culture, the Saturday morning auction, was banned until further notice.
As the restrictions on real estate came into force, it has been motivating to watch our industry adapt to change in a very short space of time. Online auctions and virtual tours, just to name a couple of elements that have become more popular than ever.
On a more personal level, it has been heartbreaking to watch millions of hard-working Australian’s lose their job for no fault of their own.
Even though some restrictions are now starting to be relaxed including those surrounding on-site auctions and open homes, we must not forget the human element of this crisis. The RBA is predicting unemployment to reach 10% and suicide rates are also predicted to increase among certain demographics.
We are still a long way from returning to a new “normal” in real estate and life in general.
The long-game in real estate just got longer
In 2019, Corelogic published data that showed homeowners are holding onto their property for much longer than they were 10 to 15 years ago and now some experts believe that the length of home ownership in Australia may increase even further due to the economic impact and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
With fewer people ‘in the market’ to buy or sell, but with the same amount of real estate agents competing for attention at the same time, the marketing landscape is more saturated than ever. “Just Sold” and “Just Listed” campaigns, letterbox drops and other ‘short term, big bang’ marketing tactics no longer break through like they used to.
This is especially true right now where consumers are looking for authentic brands with real value to offer, not just the same old noise.
Turning marketing upside down
In his book “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype“, NY Times Best Selling author and my pal Jay Baer explains that throughout history, we’ve embraced three categories of marketing.
The first is top-of-mind awareness. It’s the idea that you need to have a sustained level of marketing so when a homeowner is ready to sell, they think of you first. Achieving and maintaining top-of-mind awareness requires substantial ongoing advertising spending.
The second type of marketing is frame-0f-mind awareness and it is based on the strategy of reaching potential clients when they are in an active ‘selling’ or ‘buying’ mode. The intention is that stepping in front of home sellers or buyers during their discovery phase at precisely the moment they need an agent will lead to commission cheques all day long.
The third marketing method, brought on by consumers’ access to unlimited information and options, is friend-of-mine awareness and it’s predicated on the reality that real estate companies today are competing for attention against the things in people’s lives i.e. family, friends, sports teams, charities. Jump onto your social media newsfeed right now and take a look – it’s a mix of advertising and personal contacts, all competing for your attention.
To succeed, Baer says, your prospective customers must consider you a friend. And, if like their friends, you provide them with real value, if you practise ‘helping’ rather than simply tossing out free market appraisals like ninja stars, your community will reward your company with loyalty and advocacy, the same ways we reward our friends.
Real estate agents have to compete on the very same turf as our family and friends, using the very same tools and technologies and media and messaging as consumers.
Lindy Harris and the power of hyper-local content
After years of success with traditional marketing and prospecting strategies, more and more competition and companies with larger marketing budgets started to impact on Lindy’s brand awareness. So instead of trying to compete on the same playing field with the same message, Lindy turned to content marketing to have a different conversation with the community.
Starting in July 2019, with the help of a copywriter, Lindy started creating stories about the people, businesses and local history, and then publishing these stories on her website at the same time every week.
Once on her website, a series of promotions put the article into the ‘digital letterboxes’ of people in the local community.
Asked what impact this weekly article has had on her business, Lindy first makes the point “I am constantly stopped in the street by locals who tell me how much they loved a particular article about someone I’ve profiled on my website”.
On the topic of brand awareness online, Lindy’s website traffic has skyrocketed and remains consistent each and every week:
When those people who are reading Lindy’s content and stopping her in the street are thinking of selling, or they know someone who is, who do you think they’re going to think of first? Lindy Harris.
Jason Boon’s Content Marketing Approach
In a real estate market that is the focus of Australian, and indeed worldwide attention, Jason Boon‘s results in the Sydney scene make him a highly significant figure within the industry.
A long-term specialist in the Potts Point and inner eastern suburbs area, Jason has achieved major sales success in his more than two decades in the industry, his professionalism and acumen meaning he has attained over $1.6 billion in residential sales over his career.
Jason’s website (jasonboon.com.au) features an original weekly article showcasing local stories, suburb profiles, development activity and local history. Each Friday morning, Jason’s article is distributed to his email subscribers, Facebook and Linkedin followers, as well as a targeted Facebook Ad to local homeowners.
Is a weekly article too much? Not at all. Provided your content doesn’t suck, people will start to look forward to getting it every week. Just check out some of these messages that Jason receives every week (plus a message Jason sends me personally each time he lands a new listing).
Take for example Jason’s 18,000+ email subscribers and the open/click-through rates his weekly article receives. That’s more than 18,000 local homeowners that Jason and his team are (essentially) in front of every Friday morning at 7:30 am.
But if your content is all about you, your listings, your results or articles that someone else has written, then a weekly cycle is going to turn more people away than it will attract.
Measuring success with content marketing
We see this all the time – a real estate agent or business starts blogging because they heard from someone once that it’s a good idea. They do it for a while and then stop. Why? Because they’re looking at the wrong metrics.
If you’re expecting leads tomorrow, content marketing is not for you. But if you’re looking to build trust capital that can be redeemed down the road on a much larger scale than any other type of marketing, then it’s time to jump in baby!
By making helpful, inspiring and educational marketing a never-ending part of your company’s DNA, you are enabling your community to engage with you on a much deeper level. It is not a shortcut to leads, but it’s certainly a shortcut to trust – which ultimately provides opportunity down the road. Much more opportunity.
Greatness comes from perseverance, which takes time.
Is your marketing so useful that people are stopping you in the street to tell you about it? I certainly hope that it is, or that it will.