Recently Jonathan Dalton wrote an article here giving his opinion of some of the traditional marketing strategies agents use to “promote.” We all agree on this one point; marketing materials are by their very nature designed to promote. The question becomes, “Promote what (or whom)?”
His post was entitled something about “Obfuscation,” and I knew I would be compelled to respond in some fashion – as soon as I figured out what “obfuscation” meant. Thanks to the power of Google, I am now armed with a new word of the day and in a position to share my counterpoint.
You Know Men!
You know I love you, Jonathan, but your argument is clearly one that was written by a man. It is full of logic, rational thought, detachment and value engineering. Those things are all good – if you are buying a furnace filter. But, most buyers still respond to emotional triggers, and this is where I have to respectfully take exception to at least a few of your points.
Reexamining the Selling Process
I’ll start with where we agree. Real estate is in fact local. And, based on my local experience in my San Diego market, I will also agree that most buyers come to the transaction tethered to their own, cooperating agents. Of course price is important, and the MLS remains the mother of all marketing tools because of its shear reach. However, the power of the MLS is no longer only or even primarily about reaching other agents, but about speaking directly to the consumer through thousands of pay-it-forward IDX sites. My husband and I are currently working with enough trigger-shy buyers to fill a small concert venue, and the vast majority of these are doing their own searches and feeding us their short-lists by choice. Therefore, the MLS copy and photos really must be designed with the buyers in mind, not the subscribing agents. Agents are clinical; buyers often are not.
Photography as the Double-edge Sword
I agree that photos can actually be what “chases the buyer away.” So, now that I have done nothing but agree, you are probably wondering when my promised counterpoints will be debuting. Let’s start here. Fewer photos may be a safer bet if your only goal is critical mass in the spacious kitchen, but I believe and promote to our selling clients that photos that drive away also serve as a valuable cleansing process. If a buyer can’t live a day without cherry stained cabinetry or with Kelly green Corian counter tops, what value is there in having them parade through at great inconvenience and expense to the owner? Unless, of course, I am obfuscating my true intent – to demonstrate to my client all of the warm bodies I can produce or to snag a few extra sign calls. You want glass block? I have popcorn ceilings. There is nothing to see here.
Maybe the Traditional Trappings are Traditional for a Reason
I will stand by my insanely expensive, high-gloss, bi-fold brochures until I encounter that first buyer at close of escrow who doesn’t ask me for all of my left-overs. Yes, the sellers love the brochures and, sure, the neighbors are impressed and inclined to call me when it is their time to sell, but buyers respond. After an afternoon of home tours, when the buyers are huddled around their print booty from the day, an MLS printout will never elicit the same emotional response that will a professional, compelling presentation. And, even in our web-enabled world, there are still trollers. That brochure is a call to action. A grainy photo of the coat closet and a bullet pointed features list (“reverse osmosis!”) is not awe-inspiring. A twilight photo of the roaring fire pit and descriptive text gives them something to chew on. I want my listings to stick in their brain like the Gilligan’s Island theme song. They may not buy this home, but they won’t forget it. It gives me an edge.
You can keep the candy bars and magnets; those do nothing to further the marketing cause. But, property books can be one more indelible imprint on the buyer psyche, one more tug on the emotional heartstring. I don’t use the standard Title Company stuff, because there is nothing personal about school statistics or a list of area restaurants and dry cleaners. Instead, I use the coffee table book, basically a bound form of the brochure. Buyers notice, and if my presentation doesn’t suggest that my listing is a step above, fewer buyers will come to that conclusion on their own.
Don’t Dis the Open House
Given the choice of sitting an open house and cleaning my own bathrooms, I will opt for the elective surgery every time. I hate open houses. Having said that, we still do them. The last time I sat at a kitchen table and told a seller that open houses never work, they pointed out that they had purchased this particular home, a home for which they weren’t even in the market, after stumbling across it on their way home from the park. That is one example, but I find the real value is in making our listings accessible to the throngs of unrepresented, uncommitted, listing agent-shopping, limited service agent-affiliated customers who now threaten to dominate the buyer population. Make no mistake; the open house is admittedly a low-percentage play. I tell our clients this, all of this. I tell them that it is most valuable as an element of their coming out party, that first week of market time; I tell them that open houses are strictly optional, and I tell them that only an agent with their first loyalty to them will ever host one. It is an ethics thing, and the first time I find one of our agents using our open house primarily for a farming festival, I will thump them on the head, just before I give them the number to Big Brick and Mortar Brokerage. Open houses rarely work, but they can work, and to say an open house will never produce a buyer is simply inaccurate.
Marketing is like a big bowl of noodles. It is a combination of low-percentage plays, and when you throw it all against the wall for any given listing, you never know which piece will stick. Purchasing a home is largely emotional, and even our most tenacious value-seeking clients are moved by those things that speak to them on an emotional level. That good deal today is still going to be their home tomorrow. Good marketing will help to mentally put them in that place.