11 minute read

I’ve spent the better part of the last five years telling any real estate business owner or agent who would listen that marketing isn’t really that complicated.

We’re very fortunate to, publicly and privately, work with some of Australia’s leading agents and agencies, and what I’ve discovered is that there are three main consistent challenges that real estate businesses and agents have when it comes to marketing online today:

  1. There are so many digital/social channels that businesses can use to market their services and they believe they have to be on all of them (which is 110% not true by the way), and they’re not sure the best way to approach either one
  2. Prices on the major portals are only ever going up and social media is getting more expensive to reach followers as well
  3. There is a growing concern among real estate professionals about the number of services being introduced by the major portals and third-party websites (i.e. lead generation, online reviews, loans etc) that are putting further pressure on agent/agency commissions

What’s most complicated and frustrating about digital marketing in real estate is how principals, marketing managers and salespeople think about it.

Marketing should be a system and, operated as such, it isn’t any different from many of the other systems needed to run a business. A system creates control, a system guides priorities, a system creates process, a system generates accountability and a way to measure and beat the competition. But most refreshingly, a marketing system provides clarity.

Real Estate Digital Marketing System

We’ve built a digital marketing system that gives relief to frustrated principals, marketing managers and agents and while digital platforms will continue to come and go, this system keeps delivering results for those who follow it.

Below is an overview of the elements of an effective digital marketing system for real estate businesses and individual agents.

1. Attracting prospective clients

You need website traffic before anything happens. It’s not the very first step, but it is the first main portion of a successful digital marketing system. Notice I did not say “campaign”, I said “system”. A “campaign” is a component of the “system”.

Sure, getting people to view your profile on Facebook, realestate.com.au or LinkedIn is nice, and you should absolutely be using these platforms to boost your visibility, but those platforms are full of distractions. And they’re expensive.

On the major property portals, you’re competing for attention against every other agent in the country, and their listings. Not to mention the ever-increasing costs to get noticed on those sites or that they now offer lead generation services for a cut of your commission.

On social media, you’re competing for attention against funny cat videos, the Kardashian’s and peoples’ family and friends. And I’m sure you know that you can’t reach most of your social media followers anymore without paying for the privilege. Heck, keeping up to date with the constant changes to the Facebook ‘algorithm’ is not easy when you’re busy listing and selling real estate.

The best platform for your business, by far, to attract prospective clients and buyers to on the internet is… your website.

Use all the digital platforms that your prospective clients and buyers are using and attract them back to your website – it’s the only platform on the internet free of competition.

When someone is on your website, you’re no longer competing for attention. Your prospects are looking at you and you alone. You get their full and undivided attention – something you will not get from prospective clients or buyers on any other platform that exists today.

If you get nothing else from this article, please understand this:

The portals and social media platforms are businesses just like yours. They will continue to put their prices up and deliver services that eat further into the profits of a real estate transaction. If you’re not driving prospects to your website now, your business will be more reliant on third-party websites for lead generation in the future. That is guaranteed and it should worry every business owner – and their accountant.

What you’ll need:

  • Educational/informative blog articles
  • Videos (i.e. market updates)
  • Ebooks/Reports
  • Interviews
  • Opinion pieces
  • Sponsorships/charity work
  • Your listings on your website

Promotion channels:

Use these channels to amplify all of the content above with the goal to bring them to your website:

* There are tonnes of other channels on the internet – these are the best for achieving the following objectives based on our own research and client case studies over the past 5 years. But you might like to try other digital/social channels to see how effective they are at achieving one of the following…

What to measure and improve:

  • Website traffic
  • Time-on-site (How much time are people spending on the pages you’re sending them to?)
  • New downloads or subscribers

Important notes:

At this stage, your goal is to establish trust. Not to generate a lead. These people are not ready to be sold to… yet. Get them onto your website with content that informs and entertains, and establishes you as a trusted source in real estate.

Just by creating great content and expecting people to find it is not smart marketing. You should spend 20% of your efforts creating the content and 80% promoting it.

Also, don’t be too concerned about your website’s ‘bounce rate’ (how many people are visiting one page of your site and then leave). If someone is not thinking of selling yet, but they land on a page of your website that makes them smarter about real estate, you’ve planted a seed in their mind. If they leave your website without visiting any other pages, that’s ok! They’re not thinking of selling yet. But the more you bring them back to your site, the more likely they’ll think of you when they are. Be patient.

2. Nurturing prospects

Fact: Over 80% of home owners who are consuming real estate related content on the internet are in a ‘research phase’. Meaning, they’re not ready to engage an agent – also known as the ‘consideration phase’. The majority of home owners in your local market sit in this category.

So it doesn’t help by bulk emailing these people just about your listings and results. I’m sorry to tell you, these people just don’t care… yet.

Keep your buyer and vendor email lists, and the content you send to them, separate. If people subscribe to both, then that’s ok. But don’t pollute your prospective vendor email list by sending them listings if they haven’t asked for them. You’ll burn more contacts then you’ll earn.

This probably goes against everything you’ve been taught in real estate but, especially in digital marketing, you need to stop thinking of every home owner as a lead. Instead, think of them as an audience and you’re a musician. Is your music worth listening to? Or are people tuning out a.k.a unsubscribing from your spammy emails and texts?

This case study, one of many for this agent, proves how important it is to get the balance right between education and sales focused content, and why ‘helping not selling’ is the goal at this stage of our digital marketing system.

What you’ll need:

  • Educational/informative blog articles
  • Videos (i.e. market updates)
  • Ebooks/Reports
  • Interviews
  • Opinion pieces
  • Testimonials
  • Client case studies
  • Sponsorships/charity work
  • Media coverage

Promotion channels:

Use these channels to amplify the content above with the goal to bring them to your website:

  • Boosted social media posts to just your fans and followers for all of the above
  • A regular email newsletter with just your latest article or video – no listings! (here’s an example)

What to measure and improve:

  • Social media engagement
  • Email open/click rates

Important notes:

At this stage, your goal is to keep your prospects informed and entertained on the market while starting to introduce your brand a little more with the use of testimonials and client case studies without being “salesy”.

It’s impossible, at least in 2019, to know when every single person in your database is thinking of selling. But when they do, this stage of our digital marketing system, if done right, gives you the very best chance of being front-of-mind. It also happens to be the most cost-effective brand building strategy over paid advertising on third-party websites to ‘win attention’. This strategy is all about ‘earning attention’.

3. Converting prospects

We’ve seen hundreds of businesses who execute the prior steps above well. They drive lots of website traffic. They have highly engaged email lists. But then they discover that one of their subscribers, or someone on their database, has listed with another agent.

It’s critical that your website has calls-to-action in the right places for those prospects visiting your site (here’s a great case study) and your website has been designed with your business in mind.

If your website is tired, slow, not mobile optimised or not configured properly, you’re going to lose a lot of opportunities at this point. If you’re serious about generating leads on your own website, it’s time to get a website that’s been strategically designed to generate leads – not just an off-the-shelf website template that ‘looks nice’.

We’ve seen a 30-40% increase in conversions when all calls-to-action exist on a website rather than the body of an email or on social media. Think of your social media posts and emails as the ‘cheese’ – your website is the ‘mousetrap’.

Remember, your website is the only place on the web where you’re not competing for attention. You’ll increase your chances of conversion by getting them out of an email or off social media and back onto your website.

Social media and emails are the ‘cheese’. Your website is the ‘mousetrap’.

This step is just as much about generating buyer leads as it is about seller leads. In fact, it can sometimes achieve the both – as we all know buyers can be sellers and sellers can be buyers.

Instead of relying solely on the major property portals to deliver buyer leads, you should be trying to reach buyers before they go looking on the portals – using targeted Facebook Ads and email to reach out to potential buyers. One of our clients has sold $142,000,000 worth of property this way in 2018.

What you’ll need:

Promotion channels:

What to measure and improve:

  • Website form submissions and inbound phone calls
  • Buyer enquiries
  • New listings!

Important notes:

Think of your website as a bucket. Traffic is the water – filling your bucket. You may be driving a tonne of traffic to your website, but if you’re not asking for the business everywhere it makes sense to do so or your website is not optimised specifically for your business, it is likely a very leaky (and expensive!) bucket.

4. Nurturing clients

(People who love you and want to refer you to their family and friends)

You’ve probably heard the saying “it’s much cheaper to keep a customer than it is to get a new one.” It’s a popular saying in business because it’s true.

Your clients, the people you’ve just represented in the sale of their largest asset, have selected you because they like and trust you. Which means they trust your advice and they like your content.

So take them right back to step 2 in this system after the sale of their property. Keep them informed. Stay front of mind.

On a personal note, the agent who sold us our home back in 2013 sends us the same text message at Christmas every year saying “Merry Christmas”. That’s the full extent of their contact with our family throughout the year.

When it comes time to sell our home, do you think we’ll call them in? Or will we call the other local agents who have been sending us the latest information, weekly for the last 12 months, on current and upcoming infrastructure activity and the impact this is having on property prices in our local area?

What you’ll need:

  • Ensure your clients are subscribed to your regular e-newsletters (see step 2)
  • Educational/informative blog articles
  • Videos (i.e. market updates)
  • Ebooks/Reports
  • Interviews
  • Opinion pieces
  • Sponsorships/charity work
  • Media coverage

Promotion channels:

  • Email
  • A telephone (Heck, pick up the phone and call them once and a while!)

What to measure and improve:

  • Client referrals

Conclusion

If you’ve made it all the way to this part of the article, firstly thank you for reading. And congratulations! You’re the future of the real estate industry.

A future where real estate businesses are less reliant on third-party websites and the major portals. A future where you’re in control of your data and your brand. A future where real estate businesses who direct their digital marketing efforts toward their website will win, while other businesses will have to spend far more of their own money on advertising to try and keep up.

Are you ready to get started? Let’s get to work.

PS. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a colleague or sharing it on LinkedIn or Facebook. Thank you!

Author: Josh Cobb

Phone Number: 0427 184 183

Email Address: josh@stepps.com.au

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.

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

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.