12 minute read

Marketing online is harder (and more expensive) than it’s ever been.

Advertising costs are only going up, reach is constantly declining and the competition for attention has reached a point where real estate agents are resorting to all sorts of clever tactics to get noticed across the web.

Whether you’re new the real estate industry and trying to hit the ground running or you’re a longtime veteran looking to beat your competitors to the next listing opportunity, you’re all working to keep up with the latest and greatest trends in digital marketing.

The problem is there’s a lot of misleading advice out there. Advice that’s well-meaning, but just … way off. But, it’s one of the “you-don’t-know-until-you-know” situations and unfortunately, we can be very easily sold to in real estate with promises of the new ‘bright and shiny’ tech or marketing tactic.

So, how are you supposed to distil the good stuff from the deluge of crap advice?

To give you a sense of some of the ill-advised guidance shared with real estate agents over the years, we compiled some of the worst advice we’ve heard and explained why it’s bad.

Read on — have you heard any of these “words of wisdom” before?

1. Social media is all about engagement

Social media is really fun from a personal perspective. When someone likes, shares or comments on your posts, it makes you feel really good. But here’s the reality… you can’t deposit your likes at the bank.

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with using social media to generate engagement. But if that’s all it’s doing for you, I would argue it’s a very poor investment of your marketing dollars, not to mention your time.

For many agents, social media is too much about engagement – more likes, more shares, more comments and more video views etc. I’ve heard some of our most prominent sales coaches tell agents they ought to look for agents who are getting lots of engagement on their posts and emulate their approach. The problem is, that the overwhelming majority of the engagement on many “popular” agent profiles is from other agents – patting them on the back for a job well done. Engagement isn’t bad, it just has to be the right engagement.

Some agents, on the other hand, use social media solely for its advertising capabilities and post very little to their profiles. And this is absolutely fine too. Why? Because it’s generating a tonne of business outcomes for them – enquiries, leads, subscribers.

Social media platforms show engagement publicly. You can easily see what your competitors are generating when it comes to likes, shares, comments etc (except for Instagram right now…). But something these platforms will never show you is how many website clicks someone has generated, how many enquiries they’ve received, how many vendors have messaged them about selling their home, how many new subscribers they’ve added to their database and so on.

As Seth Godin puts it:

“Social media has allowed an enormous amount of fake networking to take place because it’s so easy to be seduced by it. There’s a scoreboard showing ‘look how popular I am’, and it’s nonsense.”

There is a big difference between business metrics and vanity metrics. Both are important but don’t be fooled by the social media gurus who tell you that engagement is the only key to social media success. Facebook is the most powerful advertising platform on the planet and knowing how to use it properly can generate far more business outcomes, far more quickly, than focusing all your efforts on beating your competitors in the race to more likes or video views.

If you can honestly say (and prove) that your engagement on social media is directly related to business opportunities that have come your way, great. Keep doing what you’re doing.

But be aware that some of Australia’s top agents, and fastest rising young talent, strategically use social media purely as an advertising platform (targeted ads, not boosted posts) for their listings, retargeting and content. They couldn’t care less about engagement because they’re generating a tonne of new business – quietly. You won’t know who they are because they don’t get a tonne of engagement. And they like it that way. It keeps their competitors guessing and what better competitive advantage can you ask for.

2. Email is dead

Recent research revealed that 47% of consumers prefer email for brand communications, compared to 17% who prefer display ads, 14% who prefer text messages, and 12% who prefer mobile app notifications. Social media? It came in dead last at just 10%.

“47% of consumers prefer email for brand communications, compared to social media at 10%.”

Emails can be far more personalised than a social media post. But — and this is a big but — your email subscribers expect those emails to provide value. The people telling you that ‘email is dead’ are likely providing zero value. Just because they’re email is dead, doesn’t mean yours has to be.

Importing your email lists into your social accounts to create retargeting campaigns is one of the most effective (and cheapest) ways to generate return traffic to your website and ultimately drive conversion. Keeping your custom audiences on Facebook synced with your CRM is a great way to engage with your clients and prospects across multiple channels at a very low cost.

Facebook can also help you build an audience that shares similar interests and habits as the people in your CRM – providing you with the ability to target your advertising to people who ‘look like’ your current and prospective clients. These strategies are merely just a few of the ways we help our clients leverage their own data.

So, you see, email is far from dead. In fact, it’s more powerful today than it’s ever been.

3. You don’t even need a website today

If your website is all about listings, your profiles and reviews, then yes – you do not need a website. This information already exists on the portals and social platforms where people are actually going and chances are when someone types your name into a Google search, your profiles on those other platforms appear above your own website.

But here’s the reality… you don’t own your presence on those platforms. They can change the rules whenever they like which can impact your ability to stand out in a big way. They can put up their prices and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Your website is the only platform on the internet you own. It’s the only one where you are not competing for attention and it should be at the centre of everything you do online. Still use other platforms but rather than letting your presence just live on those other platforms, ensure they are part of a multi-channel approach, centred around your website.

Companies and individual agents who have invested in this approach rely far less on third-party platforms today for new business opportunities.

Why? Because…

  1. They attract new business opportunities by appearing above the major portals on a Google search for “real estate agents <insert_suburb>”.
  2. They are not competing for attention against other agents or social media newsfeeds when those visitors are on their website.
  3. They are retargeting people who have been to their website with highly personalised advertising across the web, bringing them back into their website (nb: you can’t retarget people who have been to websites you don’t own!).
  4. They are running targeted pre-market (or pre-portal) ads or email campaigns to potential buyers for properties that exist only on their website, before sending the properties up to the portals. And in many documented cases, are selling a tonne of properties with zero portal advertising.

Many real estate agency websites look pretty but underperform when it comes to generating more leads, sales and ideal clients.

There are a lot of real estate website developers who can put graphics and nice images online or re-skin a website template but it takes a strategic approach and great marketing to transform your website into an automated lead generation system that funnels potential vendors and landlords into your real estate business.

Most web designers understand the technology behind building real estate websites but they have little to no experience when it comes to effective digital marketing and selling. Their expertise is in graphic design, not making your website make money. If you want a trusted team that will give you sound advice, with a track record of results for some of Australia’s leading real estate brands, contact us to get your new website project underway.

4. Pixels – you need a pixel. You absolutely need a pixel!

This isn’t necessarily bad advice, but there’s a lot of hype and poor advice on how to actually use pixels properly.

What the so-called gurus tend to leave out here is that you can only install a pixel on websites you own which means you can only retarget traffic from your website. Traffic being the operative word.

If your website is driving little to no traffic or if your advertising is not directly related to the actions people have taken on your website, then a pixel is not going to set your digital marketing world on fire. In fact, it could have the complete opposite effect and drain your advertising budget if you don’t correctly implement a remarketing strategy.

What is a pixel?

(A simple explanation)

It’s a piece of code that sits on your website, typically provided by Google or Facebook, that tracks what pages people visit on your website and for how long etc, and then sends that data back to Google or Facebook – telling them what those people did on your site. You can then target personalised advertising to these people based on what they’re behaviour on your website.

Most businesses will install a pixel and start running the same ads to everyone who’s been to their website. This approach is a sure way to waste your advertising dollars.

A smarter approach is to create multiple ads that directly relate to what people did on your website.

For example, let’s take people who visit your listings on your website.

You could create ads for other similar listings to the ones they’ve looked at, or, you could target these people with an ad that says something like “Do you need to sell before you buy?”. Rather than using the listing pages of your website for generating buyer leads, this approach assumes that potential buyers also have a property to sell – and it works extremely well.

This is just one of the countless ways to create effective remarketing campaigns using a pixel, rather than wasting time and money on ads that target everybody and don’t work.

If you think this approach is a little creepy, then digital advertising is probably not for you and you should probably stick to dropping DL cards in people’s letterboxes.

Create and install a Facebook pixel

Pixels are extremely powerful. BUT… only if your website is generating traffic AND your advertising is personalised to the actions that people have taken on your website.

5. Marketing automation will solve all of your problems

More than 1,500 agents, marketers, principals and sales PA’s attend our digital marketing training each year. More recently, we’ve been inundated (and that’s not an exaggeration) with a situation whereby an agency is receiving negative reviews online because of the marketing systems or software they’ve put in place.

Consumers are being asked to be removed from bulk email or SMS software and when it doesn’t happen, they’re taking to Google, Facebook, Productreview.com.au and various other platforms to vent their frustration. Marketing managers inside real estate businesses have told us of their own frustration with the desire of some agents in their business to keep up the ‘batch and blast’ or ‘churn and burn’ email marketing approach. They’re concerned this is hurting their digital footprint – and they’re right.

Marketing automation is high in its promise but very low in its effectiveness for many businesses because most don’t take the time to strategically implement the technology. They just ‘plug and play’.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is making it easier for businesses and agents to leverage their own data for more personalised communications and instead of taking a machine gun approach, it’s more akin to a sniper rifle – building relationships and opportunities with the people that matter instead of burning them to get to the people who finally take the bait of a bulk email campaign.

Don’t get me wrong, automation is incredible. We use automation across our business in so many areas from marketing, sales, accounting, event registrations, ticketing, project management and more. But when it comes to marketing, automation is not, and should not be viewed as an ‘out of the box’ product.

You need to take the time to strategically implement marketing automation and think about it from a consumer’s perspective – “Would this piss me off?”

In conclusion

As someone who has worked in real estate businesses for most of my working life and now leads a team of digital marketing advisors to the industry, it’s quite clear to me why many real estate businesses are jaded or disheartened by the whole digital marketing thing.

Principals and agents are (or should be) busy listing and selling. They don’t have time to stay across all of the latest trends or tech. They trust that what suppliers are saying about their product or service is true and that it will help take their business to next level, or, they rely on what other agents are saying about the latest digital and tech trends before handing over their credit card.

But over time, it turns out they’ve been sold something that either doesn’t live up to their expectations or, worse, it takes their business backwards.

It’s exciting to see a growing number of businesses today with internal staff dedicated to reviewing software, consultants and platforms before deploying them across their companies. These businesses go through a rigorous vetting and evaluation process before implementing anything across their network or office. These businesses attract top talent because of their technology platforms and, from a business valuation standpoint, they are building valuable assets well beyond just their rent roll.

You don’t have to be a big business to do this. The lesson here is to stay curious and be informed. Speak to trusted leaders, and by this I mean trusted principals within real estate businesses. Ask them what tools and consultants they trust.

Your business will thank you for it later.

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.