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Evolution of a California Realtor’s custom signs – now using QR codes

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Can you be critical of QR codes and use them anyway? Yes.

We have long opined that QR codes are a passing trend, and despite the lack of long term viability, many agents are using them for various marketing efforts, including yard signs.

In July, Ted Mackel of HomeBuysBlog.com wrote in a similarly cynical tone about QR codes, citing their weaknesses as mobile friendliness, tracking, regurgigation and understanding, ultimately noting that a QR code won’t sell a house. “Will the QR code sell your house? No, #1 the Price, Condition and Location are the biggest factor in the ability to get your home sold. No amount of advertising can sell an overpriced home. Ultimately, the goal is to get as many eyes on the property as possible and be competitive with the surrounding homes.”

To get those eyes, Mackel has been highly leveraged in social networking, web video and blogging for years and began using custom yard signs in 2008 which was the equivalent of a giant flyer in a yard with photos and details. “The custom yard sign is just another piece of that plan to reach the goal.”

Custom signs with QR codes, 2011 style

Fast forward to 2011 and Mackel has a different custom sign for his listing clients. He says the purpose behind them follow three main ideas:

  1. When potential buyers are driving neighborhoods, the pictures of the backyard and an interior shot give the buyers a teaser preview of the property to generate more interest in the property.
  2. The website and QR code are directly linked to a mobile compliant website with tons of information (including community video) on the home that the potential buyers can view right in their car on a smart phone or iPad. My use of the mobile website and QR code gives me direct feedback on how many people are accessing the site for more information.
  3. The typical real estate signs here in Southern California, are hung on large 4×4 wood posts. My sign is the same size (30×24), orientated vertically, but with a different installation method and custom design. This sign gets buyers to stop the car.

Regardless of trendiness or usefulness, Mackel is using QR codes on his yard signs as pictured above, in an effort to get more eyes on a listing and the industry will see a rise in QR codes in signage in the future. The challenge we see besides adoption rates of the technology that could easily be supplanted by a better version of modern augmented reality is that most agents are using QR codes on signs that are too small and cannot be scanned from a vehicle (which is possible, just ask companies with QR codes on billboards), rather than require a consumer to hop out in the rain or be an awkward creeper in someone’s yard with a smartphone in their hand pointing every which way. In conjunction with custom signs like Mackel’s and use of much, much larger QR codes that don’t require scanning from twelve inches away, QR codes can be useful until augmented reality finally becomes mainstream.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Search Impact

    August 25, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I think it's great to use tech to find out the value of yard signs for properties, i.e. traditional marketing tactics. I wonder if Ted would share his conversion rate of QR visits and Mobile visits vs contacts gained

    • Ted Mackel

      August 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

      I make sure all my QRs can be tracked. I am pretty skeptical myself that they will really get used, but let's say the QR code on the sign draws attention and they type the URL in instead of scanning – Mission accomplished.

      Here in Southern California we have good stable weather all year round people will get out of cars to grab flyers, they might get out to scan the code. This one is very close to the curb. The bigger Scanning problem is in the "sunscreen – lipstick syndrome" The camera lens on most cell phones is dirtier than a public restroom and the camera resolutions will play in to this big time. You can't scan a 5 foot by 5 foot QR if your camera lens is full of lipstick or sunscreen 😉

      In the long run my tracking is going to provide some good statistics and be a help on a listing appointment when some other agent tries to throw the shiny object out to win the listing.

      I have been putting a QR code to a Google map on my open house signs that says "scan for map" No scans yet …. hum

  2. Jeremy Rivera

    August 25, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I typically am skeptical at the use of QR codes in magazines or print ads…but this is something that connects people who are truly thirsty for info to mobile resources…neat!

  3. Stephanie Crawford, @AgentSteph

    August 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I think Kris Berg does a similar type of custom sign.

    • Kris Berg

      August 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

      I do indeed. All of our agents use them.

  4. Jill Wente

    August 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    We have been placing QR codes on the front of our brochure boxes. QR codes will catch on with the help of large corporations integrating them into their marketing materials.

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Business Marketing

What we can learn & apply about branding from trendy startups

(MARKETING) What are the branding secrets of these new trendy startups and how can they be applied to your large enterprises?

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A set of wine from Craft Hugo, showing off pleasing branding in labels.

Think of your favorite brand. Is it the product they offer or the branding that you love? Exactly – brand ethos reigns supreme, especially with those trendy, aesthetically-pleasing startups (I never thought Glossier had good makeup, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t visit their website once or twice a month).

So let’s break it down.

Co-founder of Red Antler – a company that assists startups in creating successful branding – Emily Heyward believes in a few branding truths.

Firstly, you have to make sure not to market your brand as a single product or experience. Doing so, she says, will pigeonhole you and thus truncate your ability to expand and offer new products and services (she gives MailChimp, known almost exclusively for email marketing, as an example).

What Heyward does say to do is instead market an idea. For example, the brand Casper (one of Antler’s clients) markets itself as a sleep company instead of a mattress company. By doing this, they kept the door open to eventually offer other products, like pillows and bedding.

Heyward states that this “power of focus” is a way to survive – with countless other startups offering the same product or service, you have to position your company as offering something beyond the product. Provide a problem your customer didn’t know they had and offer an innovative solution through your product.

Ever used Slack, the app-based messenger? There were other messengers out there, so focus of Slack’s branding is that regular messaging is boring and that their app makes it more fun. And customers eat it up.

How can this logic apply to mid-to-large enterprises? How can you focus on one specific thing?

Again, placing emphasis on brand over products is essential – what is it about what you offer that makes your customers’ lives better? It’s more cerebral than material. You’re selling a better life.

Another thing to remember is that customers are intrigued by the idea of new experiences, even if the product or service being offered is itself not new. Try not to use dated language that’s colored by a customers’ preexisting feelings. Instead, find an exciting alternative – chat solutions are desperately trying move away from the word “chat”, which can bring to mind an annoying, tedious process, even though that is in fact what they offer.

Broadening the idea of focused brand ethos to a large company can be difficult. By following these tips and tricks from startups, your company can develop a successful brand ethos that extends beyond your best product or service.

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Business Marketing

7 low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses to grow their reach

(MARKETING) Marketing ideas are often expensive or ultra time consuming, but let’s talk about some proven tactics that won’t break the bank.

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Man leaning against wall on phone representing marketing.

The following marketing ideas are provided to you buy Threadsy:

No matter the size of your business, marketing matters! It’s important for small and big businesses alike to attract new customers, establish brand awareness, and to create buzz around products and services. But we know that not every business owner has tons of funds to devote to their marketing strategy. The good news? There are some highly effective marketing tactics that are also budget-friendly!

Here are seven low-budget marketing strategies for small business owners and side hustlers to grow their reach:

1. Sponsor Local Events

One of the best ways to get to know potential customers? Actually meet and talk to them! When you sponsor local events, you can be on-site to help people put a face with your business’s name. Sponsoring events is also a fantastic way to offer branded merchandise that can help you get your name and your logo out there.

Besides branded materials like signs, banners, or fliers, think about offering some fun items like wine bags to give away to attendees. Goody bags also make fantastic take-home options for local events. A branded canvas tote can be repurposed as an environmentally-friendly grocery bag, lunch bag for work, or a carry-all accessory for conventions and tradeshows. Print your logo on the outside and fill your goody bags with customized items like water bottles, notebooks, pens, and towels.

2. Let Your Colors Fly

Make some cool t-shirts featuring your logo! Wear them to the sponsored events mentioned above, out in the community, or anywhere you may encounter potential customers and can strike up a conversation. You can also offer t-shirts at a discount in-store or online, and turn your loyal customers into advertisers.

Quick tip: Purchase wholesale shirts to reduce manufacturing costs.

3. Social Media

If you’re not already leveraging social media to promote your business, it’s time to start! Think your customers aren’t using social networks? While certain demographics use various platforms more than others, according to fundera, 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions. Plus, 96% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy.

So use your social media channels to level the playing field. To maximize your time and effort, determine where your audience members spend their time. Which platforms are they using? If you have a dedicated social media strategist on staff, they can perform audience research to tailor your approach to your existing and potential customers. If you’re running your own social strategy, spend some time digging into the demographics to determine which platforms make the most sense for your brand. From there, you’ll need to decide on the types of content you want to post, how to interact with your customers online, and create a social media calendar to plan your strategy.

4. Host a Giveaway

Once you’ve got your social media strategy up and running, why not host an online giveaway/sweepstakes to build some buzz, boost engagement, and attract followers? Pick a social media platform where you already engage with your customers. You’ll want to offer an item as the prize. This can be anything from a free product, a discount on an expensive product or service, or inexpensive swag like hats to help you promote your brand.

Once you’ve chosen the prize(s), decide on the terms for your giveaway. For example, an Instagram sweepstakes might look like this:

  • Create posts about the giveaway and explain the rules (multiple stories and 1 or 2 posts depending on the length of the contest)
  • These posts should specify the terms, for example:
    – In order to enter, potential winners must follow you
    – Encourage your followers to tag other people who may be interested. Each “tag” gets them another entry into the contest
    – You can also specify that contest applicants must share your post on their own profile
  • Once the contest has ended, pick a winner. Tag them in a post and story announcing what they’ve won and ask them to also share these posts to their own profile

Quick tip: You can also offer smaller or less-expensive items as consolation prizes. People love free swag and it’s an easy way to get your name out there!

5. Referral Discounts

Offering friends and family discounts on your products or services can help you establish loyalty and promote exclusivity. Offer discount codes or create a refer-a-friend program. You can also offer small incentives for customers who share about your brand on social media. Referral discounts are a great marketing strategy whether you use them in-store, online, or both.

6. Create or Update Your Blog

If you already have a website, you can put it to use to help build brand awareness and attract high-funnel customers. Blogging is a low-cost way to generate organic traffic (website visitors via Google or other search engines). If you don’t already have a blog, there are a number of free and inexpensive blog platforms you can use including Wix and WordPress.

You’ll want to write about topics that are related to your product or service and are of interest to your customers. For example, if you offer graphic design, you might want to create content about how to find an effective graphic designer online, or which projects you can do with an online platform like Canva vs. more complex projects where you should hire a professional designer.

Your website and blog are also great places to post “about us” content to offer website visitors an opportunity to learn more about you, your business, and your mission and values.

7. Update Your Google My Business Profile

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to share important information about your business like your address, hours of operation, and contact information. When your listing is optimized with this information, it’s displayed in Google Search and will also appear in Google Maps, which can help you attract local customers.

To get started, you need to create a GMB profile and verify your business information. This is a relatively simple but important step to ensure customers are able to find your business or service online. Make sure to keep your listing updated if you change any information like your website URL, address, or hours.

The takeaway:

When creating your marketing strategy, remember to stay true to your brand. Not every tactic will be the most effective for every business. Choose the tactics that make sense for your brand or product offering. Another way to prioritize is to consider the perceived impact and effort of each marketing strategy. Use the strategies that require the lowest effort but will potentially drive the highest return.

Once you have those in place, decide which of the other strategies make sense for your customers and your business goals. Also, make sure to keep track of all of your marketing expenditures and the sales from these tactics so you can assess which ones were successful and which ones you may need to re-evaluate or alter.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, it’s an ever-evolving system. Trust the process and try to have some fun with your marketing strategy!

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Business Marketing

No-reply emails don’t help customers, they’ve run their course

(MARKETING) No-reply emails may serve a company well, but the customers can become frustrated with the loss of a quick and easy way to get help.

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no-reply mail boxes

Let me tell you a modern-day horror story.

You finally decide to purchase the item that’s been sitting in your cart all week, but when you receive your confirmation email you realize there’s a mistake on the order. Maybe you ordered the wrong size item, maybe your old address is listed as the shipping location, or maybe you just have buyer’s remorse. Either way, you’ve got to contact customer service.

Your next mission is to find contact information or a support line where you can get the issue resolved. You scroll to the bottom of the email and look around for a place to contact the company, but all you find is some copyright junk and an unsubscribe option. Tempting, but it won’t solve your problem. Your last hope is to reply to the confirmation email, so you hit that trusty reply arrow and…nothing. It’s a no-reply email. Cue the high-pitched screams.

Customers should not have to sort through your website and emails with a microscope to find contact information or a customer service line. With high customer expectations and fierce ecommerce competition, business owners can’t afford to use no-reply emails anymore.

Intended or not, no-reply emails send your customer the message that you really don’t want to hear from them. In an age when you can DM major airlines on Twitter and expect a response, this is just not going to fly anymore.

Fixing this issue doesn’t need to be a huge burden on your company. A simple solution is to create a persona for your email marketing or customer service emails, it could be member of your team or even a company mascot. Rather than using noreply@company.com you can use john@company.com and make that email a place where your email list can respond to questions and communicate concerns. Remember, the whole point of email marketing is to create a conversation with your customers.

Another great strategy for avoiding a million customer service emails where you don’t want them? Include customer service contact info in your emails. Place a thoughtful message near the bottom of your template letting people know where they can go if they’re having an issue with the product or service. This simple change will save you, your customers, and your team so much time in the long-run.

Your goal as a business owner is to build a trusting relationship between you and your customers, so leave the no reply emails behind. They’re annoying and they might even get you marked as spam.

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