Recent studies have shown that 80% of real estate sales are made by just 20% of the currently licensed/active real estate agents. What are those remaining agents with such low sales numbers doing wrong? The simple answer is that many of them aren’t aware of – or aren’t utilizing – the marketing strategies that would best benefit their businesses. I hope that you do not fall into that 80% category, as many of those agents end up giving up and moving on to other careers, or continuing to struggle in the real estate industry when they could be much more successful within it. But if you are unhappy with your current sales, or are new to the industry and want to start out on the right foot, this guide will provide you with current and time-tested strategies that will help you to grow your brand and your business.
Working in real estate is not as easy as some might think. It’s time consuming and takes a lot of hard work. You’re running your own business, one in which you are essentially responsible for everything. Your success is dependent upon YOU. One of the biggest challenges for real estate agents is finding a way to stand out among the crowd – finding the best tools for self-promotion. So this guide focuses on marketing strategies that will help you to do just that for your business.
You most certainly already know about a lot of the typical strategies used by many agents -- concepts like utilising your personal network of connections (friends and family, etc.), so I will not be addressing such methods here. As for traditional and more costly marketing plans that involve the use of TV or radio advertising, these won’t be featured in this guide either. We all know that such methods often work, but they come with a hefty price tag. If you have a budget that accommodates such strategies you have likely also incorporated them. I’ve geared this resource toward agents with tighter budgets who are looking to find that edge that can take their business to a higher level, but every agent can benefit from some of the suggestions that can be found in the following.
Let’s quickly discuss some OUTDATED marketing strategies that you should not be directing your valuable time or money towards.
SUCCESSFULL REAL ESTATE AGENTS AREN’T...
Distributing postcards and door hangers
This technique is extremely expensive and provides very little return. Most of these will be thrown away without being read, as homeowners view them to be ‘junk mail’.
The design, printing and distribution of such materials also comes with a price tag of thousands of dollars. I don’t recommend this strategy for any agent.
Door to door marketing
To be honest, there are agents who employ this strategy because they have a limited knowledge of marketing techniques and because they have absolutely no budget to promote their business. It may be that these agents see door to door marketing as the only ‘free’ option they have at their disposal.
But they couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Not only does this ‘personal touch’ come off as looking rather desperate to the potential customer, it is not free at all! It’s actually taxing the most valuable resource that every real estate agent has and needs...their time!
And there are other means of reaching your clientele that are both free and don’t require a knock on their door.
Posting free classified ads
Serious real estate buyers and sellers do not spend time on these types of sites – they’re really much more useful for those looking to rent properties.
As well, you are not just spending your time to create the original post, you also need to allot valuable time to the post’s upkeep. In order for your ad to remain current/visible (in the top five pages of your category on the site), you will need to re-post it constantly (in some cases, every half hour or so). Your time is much more wisely used in other areas.
Now that you are aware of the methods that should not be sucking up your valuable time and money, let’s move on to the marketing strategies that every real estate agent should be employing in order to expand their client base and bring in more sales.
A professional website
Most often, your website is the first impression that you provide online. When marketing your business, most tools and strategies you use are designed to lead potential clients to your site, and this is where you will be showcasing everything you have to offer, and defining what sets you apart from the competition. So your site needs to be both professional and amazing! Many agents are worried about the potential costs involved with setting up a website – they worry that this can be an expense that demands thousands of dollars. But there are a wide variety of tools and products now available on the market – some services are less than $40 a month.
Your site will look more professional – and be more easily found and remembered – if you have your own domain name. Again it benefits your personal brand for your domain name to reflect your name. For example, if your name is John Smith, your domain should be www.johnsmith.com. If this domain is not available, add a realtor title to your name, such as www.johnsmithrealtor.com
We recommend going to www.godaddy.com to obtain your domain. They are the largest domain provider on the market, and they provide very reliable services. A dot com domain with GoDaddy can cost as little as $10.99.
A smart phone
This will be one of the most essential tools of your trade. Customers want real-time information and they expect immediate responses. Speedy response and turnaround times are often the key to securing – and retaining – your customer base. Aside from its value as a tool of immediate communication, smart phones can be an invaluable resource for on-the-go online research. Make sure to take advantage of some of the many apps that have been catered specifically to real estate agent services. I’ve listed just a few of these helpful tools and programs below.
Zillow allows you to search properties for sale (in the US), including ‘coming soon’ listings, foreclosures and rentals.
Quickly search Canada's most comprehensive collection of property listings.
An easy-to-use tool that helps you understand the repayment requirements a mortgage will require.
Real estate agents regularly deal with many factors that may require conversion depending on their location: size, weight, volume, length, and sometimes even currency.
This app enables you to scan documents directly from your mobile device.
A simple way to store documents in the cloud and access them from anywhere.
Provides online software that handles real estate transactions from offer to close. You can upload documents and pre-assign those spaces that need a signature from your client.
A reasonable marketing budget
Without any sort of marketing budget at all, you are headed in the direction of that 80% of agents I mentioned in the beginning of this guide. You don’t need to set aside a massive amount, but you should find a way to allocate at least a few hundred dollars each month that is specifically earmarked for marketing purposes. $300-400 should be enough to get you started. If used properly, that small budget is going to help you reap larger benefits in the long run.
These are an essential staple for your work, and you’re going to be handing your business card out to many people that you interact with, whether they eventually become clients or not, so your card should represent your image in the same way that all your marketing tools should -- professionally. You don’t have to spend a lot of money in this area, just go for a design that is clean and simple. There are a myriad of graphic designers online who can easily set you up with a card that best represents both you and your business.
A clear understanding of this business, and the right mindset to succeed within it
Being a real estate agent is all about understanding the business and possessing the right mindset.
Don't expect instant success.
Failure can be the norm in this business (and failures happen in any business). How you handle it defines whether or not you will succeed.
Be consistent with the way you run your business and treat your clientele.
Understand that it will always be time consuming, and work on ways to use your time more efficiently.
You need to be able to motivate yourself and those around you, even in the tough times.
It’s just as important to address some of the typical misconceptions about having a career in real estate.
#1 – It’s an easy job
Consider just a few of an agent’s (often daily) challenges:
Continual (and fresh) promotion and marketing
The stress of living off of a commission-based income, rather than a guaranteed paycheque
The need to cater to many prospects that may not be truly serious customers
Many people view the career of a real estate agent as an incredibly easy job. They tend to think that agents just show houses and condos, and forget (or are not aware of) all of the work that goes into helping a property change hands. The industry can be very fickle as well.
#2 – Many real estate agents make a lot of money
All real estate agents drive around in flashy cars, live in mansions, and are up to their eyeballs in million-dollar deals, right?
Wealthy agents definitely exist, but 7-figure incomes are far from the norm in the real estate biz. The average gross income for agents putting in 40-59 hours a week was under $50,000 in 2014.
That’s a solid income, but not enough to support a warehouse full of Ferraris or a palatial vacation home.
Most agents quickly learn that a comfortable income is certainly within reach, but that real estate isn’t a quick and easy road to riches.
#3 – Agents have very flexible schedules
Most real estate agents aren’t held to the “Monday to Friday, 9 to 5” routine. It’s true that agents have some flexibility to work at the times and in the locations that they see fit.
But that doesn’t mean that agents can abandon the office for days on end or take a vacation at a moment’s notice. Clients have demands and busy lives as well, and many expect agents to cater to their schedules. Buyers may want an immediate showing of a new listing the moment they hear about it, and sellers expect listing agents to constantly monitor leads.
At the end of the day, agents can decide how flexible and responsive they want to be. But as success follows hard work, so too must agents meet their client’s expectations.
The reality is...
Real estate work is a tough job! It’s not for everyone, and you really want to take the time to make sure it’s right for you. Possessing the ‘must haves’ mentioned above, not buying into the misconceptions and bringing a healthy attitude/mindset to the table will bring you the best chances of succeeding in this business.
MARKETING TECHNIQUES AND METHODS
It’s time to dive into the ways that we can help you market your business.
Real estate agents rely on social media now more than ever in this day and age. Social media is all about networking, and networking is one of the most essential parts of becoming a successful real estate agent.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be focusing on three main strands of social media sites - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Many people consider Facebook to be one of the most influential tools for both personal and professional communication, but are you aware of its value as a tool to market your business?
It’s important to keep in mind the unwritten 80-20 rule when it comes to marketing on Facebook. As your page is also likely used for your personal interactions (with friends, family, etc.), it’s not in your best interest to create only posts to do with your business. Your personal contacts are much less likely to like or share your posts with others if everything you put up seems to be an advertisement. We recommend that about 80% of your posts are personal – your daily interactions, etc., and that only 20% are specific to your real estate business.
What sort of information would your friends and family be most likely to share with their other Facebook contacts?
For sale and rental listings. Keep it simple – provide several photos that most strongly showcase the property, as well as a general description.
Real estate content that might be useful to most readers at any time. Investment trends, tips for first time buyers or sellers, or suggestions as to how to increase a home’s value.
Announcements regarding upcoming activities (e.g., an open house you will be hosting on an upcoming weekend).
Offerings of free services you may provide, like an appraisal.
Often friends are more than willing to share these types of posts within their circles, provided that they do not feel inundated by any over-posting.
Whether you think you need to be on this site or not, it’s impossible to argue with the fact that millions of people use Twitter daily as a regular form of communication, as well as to access news, information and entertainment.
What are some essential strategies and relevant choices that you should be making in order for Twitter to help you establish your voice and capture a new audience?
Select a relevant username. If your name, company name or other related names are taken, then try to make your username a relevant key phrase (i.e. /AnyCity_YourName_Realtor)
Find your friends and colleagues on Twitter and make sure to follow them in order to begin building your referral network.
Optimize your profile. One of the most overlooked features on Twitter is the ability to optimize your profile so that your tweets can be indexed in online search engines. This is particularly important because search engines continue to push forward with real-time search results as well as social search results.
Update your Twitter regularly. Make sure to be regularly tweeting out useful content – newly acquired listings, ones you’ve recently sold, real estate tips and so on. Make sure to engage with other Twitter users. Retweet interesting / useful posts from other users, and use the @ reply function to take part in conversations or let other users know you appreciate something they’ve shared. You can also favorite tweets in order to let others on Twitter know that you both saw and liked or agreed with their tweet.
Everyone loves to look at pictures. There is no better platform to capture and share your real estate listing images on than Instagram. Follow people, interact, and take a moment and show off some beautiful photos. As with Twitter and Facebook, keep the 80-20 rule in mind.
It’s common knowledge that the majority of people searching for a realtor are looking for that information online. So it’s to your benefit to make every effort to improve your website’s ranking on major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Raising your website ranking is not an easy task, but there are many services available that can help you achieve this goal. This process is known as search engine optimization (SEO). In order to improve your ranking it is helpful to begin with the strategies below:
Focus on those who will be searching for you locally. (E.g.: “Chicago Real Estate Agent”)
Build links slowly in order to avoid being penalized by Google
Optimize your website
Place some Ads
We highly recommend setting aside a portion of your monthly advertising budget in order to place ads on Facebook and Google (Agents with lower budgets would be best to focus their advertising on these two platforms). Both allow you to make your advertising choices based upon a daily set budget. For example, you might want to set aside $5 a day each for Facebook and Google. Your monthly advertising fees would total only $300, which is very reasonable for the return it will likely provide.
To get started, simply find the advertising page on Facebook once you are logged into your account. Search ‘Adwords’ on Google to learn more about their advertising services.
You should have a YouTube account to host all of your business related videos. It’s free, and also easy to use/manage. If you record the videos with your smart phone, you can upload them directly from your device.
If potential buyers can't make it to the open house, bring the open house to them.
Not all agents choose to take advantage of today’s technology when it comes to growing their business. In order to help yourself to stand out from the pack, take the time to record more videos related to your properties.
Recording video and publishing to the web is actually much easier than you might think. Set up a YouTube account, and use the video camera on your cell phone or tablet to record a virtual tour of any new listing you are looking to promote. You can upload the video to your YouTube channel directly from your phone. Virtual tours don’t need to be particularly fancy. Just provide a simple walk through accompanied by appropriate narration. Make sure to provide a smooth recording, with no camera jumps or quick movements.
A weekly email newsletter is a simple and valuable way to engage with your existing clients, friends or relatives. It not only reminds them that you are still in business, but also provides them with up to date listings and services offered. Make sure to send only useful/relevant information or updates, like the new listings for the week, or open house invitations. In order to avoid the feeling of spamming your contact list, there may be times when you prefer to opt for just a monthly update of real estate sales in and around your area.
Many services can be found online that will provide beautiful email templates, management of your contacts and can set up automated emailing for your company. This can free up your time to focus on the most important part of the mail – the content.
Some might think that sponsorship can be expensive, but with some careful research, it can be easy to get a great bargain that falls within your budget. A great example might be choosing to sponsor a sports team from a local league in your area. Sponsoring a team from, say, your church’s local soccer league might run you around $1000-1500 for an entire season, and you will at a minimum have your company’s business information and logo on every team member’s jersey. You may wish to look into providing/printing other team items that may contain your business info as well. If the team has a website, you/your company can be listed there as a sponsor too.
Car Stickers/Window Decals
A reasonably inexpensive strategy that you can ‘take on the road with you’ is to have some decals listing your social media contact information designed and printed so that they can be displayed in the back window of your car. Other than the initial output for the decals, you now have a (moving!) and free source of mobile advertising that can be seen wherever you are driving in your town or city. Twitter and Instagram handles are a great choice for such stickers as they are short and easy for viewers to remember.
Tips and Reminders
Don't be afraid to be unique! For some that means taking the time to have larger than average open house signs created, for others that may mean looking for ways to ‘go viral’ online.
Form a team
Form a team if possible. Sharing marketing costs and workload can only benefit both you and your partner. This sort of upfront decision to share work as well as profits can often lead to larger gains for your long term business.
Think outside the box
Find unique ways to stand out and be remembered. For example, create a name for yourself like CondoKelly or ThePropertyBrothers It's all about standing out from the crowd.
Automate (and potentially delegate) as much of your repetitive work as possible. If you’re going to grow a business, you’ve got to start letting go of the things that could be done by someone else. Start by automating all of the tasks you can with the skillful use of some of the valuable new tools currently on the market.
References and links
In order to begin implementing the marketing techniques and methods referred to within this guide, you're going to need the right tools! We've collected them all in a handy reference below.