In the past, you (or your company) only had a few channels on which to market your services. These included direct mail, phone, direct fax, TV, radio and newspapers. Back then, you only had to compete for attention against other real estate agents.
Today, the media landscape is fragmented into thousands of different channels and with the rise of social media, you’re not just competing for attention against other real estate agents. You’re also competing for attention in the same newsfeed as people’s friends, family and the causes they support. This has led many brands to explore a “new” approach to marketing. Well, new in the sense that it’s been around for hundreds of years, but only now is it more relevant than ever.
On this episode of Real Estate Pros, we’re going back in time to discuss how marketing was done in the ‘olden days’, why things changed when TV came along and why so many brands today are marketing like it’s 1885.
I’ve shared the story many times before about the tyre company Michelin and how Ándre and Édouard, the two Michelin brothers and founders of the company, started the business in the early 1900’s in the south of France. They started a tyre company at a time when very few people owned a car. They believed, that by starting a magazine (known as the Michelin Guide) with interesting places to travel, restaurants to visit and maps of the countryside, that people who did own a car would think of Michelin and Michelin alone when the time came to purchase their next set of tyres.
As fine dining became popular in the 1920’s, Michelin sent food critics to review restaurants. These reviews became articles in the Michelin Guide and eventually this became so popular that the Michelin Star was born – the most coveted rating system for fine dining restaurants in the world.
What has fine dining got to do with selling tyres? Well, everything.
Instead of spamming people with product messages and advertising, Michelin (the company) believed that by creating helpful, entertaining and informative content, people who consumed that content would think of Michelin when the time came to buy tyres.
The results speak for themselves. Today, Michelin is the largest tyre manufacturer in the world today with hundreds of thousands of employees and over $1.5b profit each year.
Michelin is not alone. John Deere, arguably the largest agricultural machinery company in the world, started in a similar fashion.492
John Deere (himself) started a magazine in 1884 called The Furrow, whereby he shared helpful tips to be a better farmer. The magazine is still going to this day and is delivered to 1.5 million farmers, in 14 languages, across 40 countries. And in 132 years, John Deere products have been mentioned a mere five times in The Furrow magazine.
Why so few? Because John Deere (the company) believes, still to this day, that by adding valuable information rather than advertising and product messages, their audience will reward them eventually.
This is how marketing was largely done in the ‘olden days’ – deliver valuable information, consistently over time, and your customers will buy from you, and you alone, when they are ready.
Fast forward to the 1950’s (The rise of mass media and television – AKA “The Mad Men Era”)
Brands could suddenly put their product messages in front of thousands, possibly millions, of people at once. TV promised a whole new way for marketing and advertising. Rather than spending time creating helpful content, like John Deere and Michelin all those years ago, all you needed was a catchy tag line and it was off to the races. And it worked.
But fast forward to 2007-2017 (The rise of social media and digital influencers)
The media landscape today is fragmented into thousands of different channels.
With the rise of social media, you are no longer just competing for attention against other real estate agents. You are now competing for attention in the same newsfeed as people’s friends, family and the causes they support. Cutting-through is harder than ever, especially for our beloved real estate industry which has always grappled with a public perception problem.
You are no longer just competing for attention against other real estate agents. You are now competing for attention against everything.
Add to this the reality that 88% of consumers research online before speaking to a salesperson, and it begs the question…
What’s the solution?
Many marketers believe the answers lie in the past.
Taking inspiration from the likes of Michelin and John Deere, many marketers today are prioritising entertainment and information over products and services, as a means of earning trust with consumers.
A modern example is Red Bull.
While they are known for selling energy drinks, Red Bull are also known for their extreme sports videos and events like cliff diving, plane racing, motocross and water sports. And who can forget Felix Baumgartner skydiving from the edge of space in 2012? This was a Red Bull led initiative too.
Michelin, John Deere and Red Bull are arguably the most expensive, and most trusted, companies in their respective industries. Their approach to marketing is commonly known today as content marketing – the art of communicating with your clients and prospects without selling – and the ultimate payoff (if done right), is that your consumers will buy more from you, refer you more often, and pay more for what you sell.
Content marketing is about creating content that people actually want to consume, instead of what we typically do in real estate which is create advertising that people tolerate.
We’ve shared a number of case studies on previous episodes of this podcast, and in our workshops, of real estate agents and agencies who are dominating their competitors with content marketing. It’s an approach that’s been around for hundreds of years, but only now is it far more relevant than ever.
Content marketing, if done right, completely changes the conversation from you saying to consumers “please buy my stuff”, to your audience saying “please sell me something.”
When we talk about disruption in real estate, this is a business approach that I believe will keep great agents and agencies relevant well into the future. While others, the ones who continue to spam people with marketing messages that add minimal (if any) value, will become irrelevant in a very short space of time.
“The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters make all the difference in business today.” – Jay Baer, New York Times Best-Selling Author.