Take a Critical Look
When was the last time you have taken a critical look at your marketing plan? Not in terms of completeness or variety or creativity but rather in terms of effectiveness. And not effectiveness in terms of whether the house sold or not, but whether the sale took place because of your marketing or by dint of having buyers’ agents with access to the MLS.
Have you ever really done so? If not, and if you’re spending any amount of money at all on your marketing, then why not? Are you afraid to learn the true return on your investment? Or do you fear what answers might come with such transparency? Might you learn that little of what you promise to do has any impact on whether your listing sells? What do you do then?
Starting With a Disclaimer
All real estate is local. What might work in your market might not work in every market. Any of the observations here are based on what can be seen in the Phoenix real estate market and may not apply to what happens in your backyard.
Examining the Selling Process
Take a look at your sales statistics or even that for your market. In what percentage of your (or your real estate market’s) sales was a second agent involved? Put another way, how often did the sale of your listing come as a result of another agent bringing a buyer to the property?
Again, it may vary by market but my guess is the bulk of the sales involved a second agent. And so the question becomes, what marketing attracted that agent and/or that agent’s buyer to the house?
1) The MLS. This essentially is a given. As David Knox often has said of getting listings, you don’t need to be good, you just need to be there. Being in the MLS, you’re there.
2) Photography. The photos may be a little less important to an agent sending listings directly to a buyer, but they’re absolutely essential for buyers looking online either through an IDX feed or some sort of listing portal established by their agent.
Incidentally, photography also can be what chases a buyer away. And this isn’t about the quality of the photos but is based in what Bill Lublin rightly described last week as a buyers’ tendency to search for homes to eliminate as much or more as the homes that they really want. But that’s another post for another day.
3) Pricing. Pricing as marketing? Absolutely! It’s the banner headline for everything else that you do. Pricing actually is the most important marketing step an agent takes – working with his or her seller to put a competitive price on a property. All of the marketing genius in the world will not make up for a list price that’s above market value without justification.
Property Marketing or Seller Appeasement?
When I’m working with a buyer, those are the factors that are going to decide whether we walk in the front door of the house. What we find once we walk in the door, at least from a marketing perspective, is all but irrelevant. If the floor plan doesn’t work, or there isn’t enough room for the credenza or the home backs onto the interstate, everything else a listing agent has done means nothing:
1) Color flyers. If I’m standing there, my client already has a copy of the listing sheet and doesn’t need the glossy property flyer to tell them a fraction of the information that I’ve provided. Besides, there’s a decent chance the buyer has brought their own camera and doesn’t need your pictures on the flyer at this point.
2) Property books. This mostly pertains to the books provided by your local title company, but really can apply to almost type of publication waiting inside the house. There’s little information in these books that a buyers’ agent can’t readily provide – comps, schools, utilities. Never have I had a buyer see one of these books on the counter and exclaim, “Thank God this was here! All my questions are answered! I’ll take it!”
3) CDs, magnets, candy bars. All of these sound really great at a listing presentation but have nothing to do with actually selling a house. What you’re seeing is agent branding disguised as attempted marketing.
There are agents who will argue these and other marketing techniques will help “differentiate” you from the rest. And I don’t necessarily disagree. But I will ask, does that differentiation alter the sales process for the house or only further your own self promotion? In the grand scheme of things, maybe that answer doesn’t matter in the slightest. But in terms of bringing transparency to the process, it makes all the difference in the world.
And finally …
The best example of something that looks like marketing but really falls into seller appeasement and agent branding is the open house. Many agents who routinely sit open house will tell you the odds are against finding a buyer with a couple of directional signs, some balloons and some cookies. Which will cause those of us who don’t sit open house to wonder why the open houses are held at all.
Think back to your first days in the business. What was the advice given to you by your broker? Most likely, it involved sitting open houses for other agents in the office. Why? So you could pick up some buyers and start building a client base. We’ve even seen articles here on Agent Genius that say as much.
Being the listing agent doesn’t change that dynamic. At the end of the day, one of the biggest benefits of an open house is not selling the house being held open but the opportunity to pick up new clients. As my former broker used to say, if open houses worked then the seller wouldn’t need me. Put the sign in the yard and wait for someone to walk in with a contract.
Put aside the defense of this aspect of your marketing plan and ask yourself the honest question: is the house being held open to sell the house or to appease the sellers by making it look like you’re working hard?
If the answer is the latter, even in part, then here’s the follow up (and this applies to any of the above aspects of your marketing that serve more to appease sellers than sell the home) … in this age of supposed real estate transparency, what is the more prudent path? Appeasement or education of what really causes a home to sell.
You know that answer. I know you do.
This article was originally published November 17, 2008.