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Three Marketing Principles that Changed the Real Estate Business

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Five years ago, fresh from a change in brokerage scenery, we were faced with a daunting question: Do we join an established firm and leverage their systems, branding and marketing, or do we set up our own little stand? The decision came down to picking adventure over a perceived sense of security, flexibility over rigidity and most importantly freedom over structure in our marketing. How did it work out? In these past sixty months we’ve had our share of successes and failures, surprises and disasters, protruded chests and sore butts. But in this amazing ride, we’ve learned three marketing principles that have forever changed the way we do business.

Cantrushpatience

Our giddy excitement, rambunctious energy and creative juices were furiously flowing downstream the first weeks of setting up our own little shop. Watch out Houston Realtors, we’re coming for your market share with this great marketing campaign we put together in a weekend. The way it seemed, we would rule the world by that Friday. But to our (and yours) surprise, that didn’t happen. In our business, you can’t rush patience. Certain things need to run their natural course and you need to let them. The fact is, you cannot learn 20 years of experience in 20 days regardless of how stoked you are about the prospect of it. You cannot become the foremost expert of a neighborhood five days after you first heard about it, no matter how much you read or drive around. And finally you cannot dominate your market with your first marketing campaign. You can put yourself on a purposeful pace to these goals and allow yourself sufficient time to reach them. The alternative is jumping from project to project en route to getting burned out.

nosilverbullet

Take a trip down the real estate peninsula at Barnes and Noble in any given day and you will find some real estate newbie sifting through a tall stack of books looking for the secret recipe. The Silver Bullet to slay the mighty dragon standing between the warrior and the rich valley of overflowing commissions. I was that guy once. And then, I read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins (if you haven’t read it, you are missing out). In it, he examines a number of companies in a study to determine what caused good companies to make the leap to the Great level. Among other mind blowing findings, Collins reveals that none of the great companies attributed their leap to a single hit product, or marketing campaign or rockstar executive. In real estate, there are no silver bullets. Stop trying to hit that 500 yard homer. The truth is, your business will come from a collection of quality hits: x deals from your blog, x deals from referrals, x deals from direct mail, x deals from your IDX and so forth. Fight the temptation to believe that this new IDX or that proven SEO, or the other cutting edge CRM software is gonna be the goose that lays the golden egg for you.  Focus on what works, measure your results and try to improve them. Make it more efficient and have it do more with less.

adaptnewtools

We were by no means pioneers of Blogging and Social Media but they have been $Good to us. In May 2007, I started walking in the Active Rain (ok, maybe crawling) and by the end of the year we had made tens of thousands of Washingtons directly from blogging leads. Same story with Facebook and Twitter, albeit the smaller (and different) ROI. Earlier this year, I started doing video market reports and videoblogging on my local blog with some surprisingly encouraging results. But I always have to remember (and my wife won’t let me forget) that at the end of the day, these are and must be treated as tools. If  your blog has become the favorite moping hangout for you and your Realtor friends, UHAUL yourself to a better audience. If you spend your days making snowmen out of your Facebook friends or poking your fellow men … (do I need to finish that sentence?)

Those were three marketing principles that have changed our business so far. I’d love to hear about the ones that have changed yours in the comments.

Photo Credits: 365bunnies , Photos8 , Emily Barney

Houston Real Estate Rainmaker and Uberproud Father/Husband (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not skinning cats or changing diapers you can find me on Twitter or Facebook. I blog about marketing, social media and real estate. I might not always be in agreement, but you can rest assured I'll be honest. Oh, and I can cook a mean breakfast...

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Nelia

    July 9, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Great post Erion, its true, we do everything we can “old” and “new” to keep ourselves up to date in this business. We keep looking and analizing the markets, learning from other peoples and always always keeping our ears open. As always good job.

  2. Lani Rosales

    July 9, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    @erionhouston it’s amazing how similarly you and @bennrosales think. Here are a few things I’ve learned from watching Benn:

    1. Like you said, they’re just tools. Benn taught me a long time ago to be a reader and a studier of tools.

    2. Watching Benn, I see that he’s never satisfied which means he’s always manicuring his company and his marketing efforts and never settles, especially for a “solution in a box.”

    3. Benn has always focused on what he’s good at and about 8 years ago told me that it’s dangerous to be all things to all people because you end up being a hack.

  3. Ken Brand

    July 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    @ErionHouston – My Man, this freaking post is dripping with rich golden honey and is as real and relevant as oxygen. Well done, well said. I guess my quest for Silver Bullets is a bust. Thanks for diatomic molecule. I’m reminded of this quote, “I don’t need drugs…I am a drug.”

  4. Genuine Chirs Johnson

    July 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    @erionhouston this is a kickass post. There is, however, a silver bullet. it’s called hustle. When you hustle, like nobody else, you get what nobody else gets. Not pseudo work, real work. Not getting ready to work, real ass kicking.

  5. Erion Shehaj

    July 9, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    @NeliaHouston I love it when I get unbiased comments 😉

    @LaniAR Even the resemblance of a comparison with Benn is flattering and I’m humbled by it. “Never Settle” and “Focus on what you’re good at” are top notch principles to live by.

    @KenBrand You know I wanna be like you when I grow up, right? 🙂

  6. Ben Goheen

    July 10, 2009 at 12:07 am

    @ErionHouston – for awhile, every time I’d redesign my website, add a cool new widget or switch IDX providers I would think to myself “this is it! Now we’ll get a ton of traffic and make a fortune.” Not quite how it works – slow and steady (blog posts) wins the race.

  7. Susie Blackmon

    July 10, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Slow, steady and deliberate, with a deaf ear extended to the ‘cubicle’ naysayers. Follow your passion (even (especially?) if it is not RE, per se).

  8. Missy Caulk

    July 10, 2009 at 8:55 am

    All three are great principals, there is no silver bullet, hard work, patience.

  9. Benn Rosales

    July 10, 2009 at 10:56 am

    @erionhouston it’s really affirming when I read people that I identify with, people that ask why. Since I was a kid, it makes no difference how many case studies or numbers you have, I have to touch it, examine it, try it, live it, in order to verify it- I take nothing at face value, I can do it myself and better, I’m passionate about the next level, and my way. Beautiful article for the soul, Erion.

  10. Erion Shehaj

    July 12, 2009 at 9:53 am

    @genuinechris Hustle is magic but by no means a simple, corner-cutting silver bullet most marketers make their “systems” to be.

    @bengoheen I have those same exact feelings when adopting new technology (IDX being the latest) but always have to check myself before I wreck myself

    @bennrosales Keep Going, Sir…

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Business Marketing

Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.

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Open business sign being held by business owner for marketing purposes.

The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.

As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?

Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020

When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.

How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.

Think Brick And Mortar

As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.

Reach Customers With PPC

Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.

While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.

It’s All About The Platforms

When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.

One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.

The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.

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Business Marketing

Advertising overload: Let’s break it down

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.

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Advertising spread across many billboards in a city square.

If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.

Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.

In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.

“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.

This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.

It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.

Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.

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Business Marketing

7 simple tips to boost your customer loyalty online

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Without a brick-and-mortar store, building rapport and customer loyalty can be a challenge, but you can still build customer loyalty online.

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Man and woman at kitchen table online shopping on laptop together, boosting customer loyalty.

With many businesses – both big and small – operating online, there are less opportunities for building those face-to-face relationships that exist in brick and mortar stores. According to smallbizgenius, 65% of the company’s revenue comes from existing customers.

It’s important to keep in mind the different tactics at your disposal for increasing customer loyalty. Noupe recently released a list of actionable tips for increasing this loyalty. Let’s examine these ideas and expand on the best.

  1. Keep your promises – Stay true to what you’ve agreed to, obviously contractually, but stay true to your company values as well. Even if you feel you’ve built a good loyalty where there is room to take a step back, don’t rest on your laurels and be sure to remain consistent. If you’ve provided a good experience, keep that going. The only change that should happen is in it getting better.
  2. Stay in communication – In addition to the ever-so-vital social media platforms, consider creating an email newsletter to stay in touch with your customers. Finding ways to have them keep you in mind should be at the front of your mind. By reaching out and being friendly, this will help retain their business.
  3. Be flexible with payments – No, don’t sell yourself short, but consider installment plans for pricier items or services. This will help customers feel more at ease when their wallet’s health is at stake.
  4. Reward programs – Consider allowing customers to accrue loyalty points in exchange for a freebie. The old punch card method is still an incredibly popular concept, and is a great way to keep people coming back. The cost associated with giving something away for free will be minimal in comparison to loyalty you receive in order for the customer to get to that point. Make sure that what a customer is putting in is about equal to what they’re getting out of it (i.e. don’t have a customer spend $100 in order to get $1 off their next purchase). If all of this proves successful, this can eventually be expanded by creating VIP levels.
  5. Prioritize customer service – A first impression is everything. By prioritizing customer service, you can help shape the narrative of the customer and how they view your business. This splinters off into them giving good word of mouth recommendations to friends and family. Be sure to keep positive customer service as the forefront of your mind, as giving a bad review is just as easy – or even easier – as giving a good review.
  6. Value feedback – Allow customers a space to provide their feedback, either on your website or on social media. Find out what brought them to you and gage how their experience was. Be sure to thank them for their feedback and take it into consideration. Feedback – both good and bad – can be vital in helping shape a business.
  7. Avoid laziness – Stay sharp at all times. Don’t treat all customers as nothing but currency. Include personalized touches wherever you can. This will make all of the difference.

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