(originally published in REM Magazine)
Every real estate professional wants the biggest bang for their marketing bucks. But how do you make that happen? It depends largely on your marketing budget. An approach for top producers and teams is different than a single agent because you’re playing in different arenas. Marketing budgets for high-volume agents and teams typically need to be done case-by-case (varying with the size of budget, goals, existing branding and ideal lead volume) but for the average agent it’s easier to access.
Property Spark published a great article on how agents should spend their marketing dollars, based on their overall marketing budget. This article’s section on “small” marketing budgets (less than $10,000 annual spend) focuses on digital spend, and specifically on digital advertising. For smaller marketing budgets, digital marketing and advertising offers the measurable return on investment that print marketing doesn’t. For example, if you’re running a Facebook lead-gen ad campaign and your average cost per lead is $7 and you convert roughly one in 50 leads into clients, your client acquisition cost would be $350. You can also determine ROI on a website by looking at the amount you’re spending on the website and traffic, then dividing that by how many clients you’re getting per month from those efforts – and that’s your client acquisition cost for that marketing venue.
Let’s look at a few different ways to spend your digital marketing dollars:
Your website is important. It should help establish that you’re a professional (because what professional wouldn’t have a website these days?) and hopefully tells people who you are and what you’re about. It also helps convert your website visitors into leads.
Websites can be powerful tools. However, the days of simply setting up a website and getting leads from it are long over, and you now need to direct traffic to your website (via efforts through things like paid advertising, branding and social media marketing) to generate leads from it. Essentially, your website can’t squeeze blood from a stone…no website visitors means no leads.
So, if you’re investing your dollars into a website, you need to assess your goals and how it will get you there. If you’re looking for a website to offer branding that assists your other marketing efforts, that’s one strategy. If you’re looking for your website investment to churn out leads, then you’ll need to chat with your provider (or short list of potential providers) about how you can increase the leads that come from the website via lead optimization strategies and traffic acquisition strategies.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing is organically (not paid) promoting yourself on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. For most agents this means creating a page, building a following, engaging that following and then turning them into leads and brand ambassadors.
This concept works in theory, but it can be harder said than done. To grow beyond your existing followers takes time promoting yourself in the community or through paid ads. Then engagement takes time and concerted effort (concerted effort meaning valuable posts done with intention that your audience resonates with, appreciates and responds to through some sort of action). It isn’t accomplished by buying a package from a company that posts the same thing on your profile as they do across North America. Organic social media marketing is about reflecting your community, highlighting extraordinary businesses and community members, offering people value, connecting with people on a local level and genuinely interacting with them.
This approach can work quite well, but you do need to find a way to get beyond your existing network. One great way to establish an online presence is via local Facebook community groups. These can be groups based on the hyper-local area you’re farming (and if one doesn’t exist, create one!), one based on your city, based on a niche of your community (for example mom’s groups in your area). When joining groups, however, be mindful to contribute more than you promote. People like people who contribute regularly (without promoting themselves) and add to the community. Genuinely care and people will care back.
Paid Facebook advertising
Facebook ads offer a unique medium for real estate professionals, because you not only can create an ad, but you can create an ad unique to specific demographic and geographic groups. Many sales reps still use the typical ad concepts like home evaluation (“Hi, I sell real estate, call me!”), listings and open houses. But there are ways to break beyond the typical ads to really reel in the leads and begin having great conversations with people.
Instead of making the ads about you, make your Facebook ads about them. Target your ads to a specific demographic and then address a pain point of that demographic, aimed at helping them genuinely solve a problem.
For example, let’s take the upsizer demographic. This demographic is people who likely bought their first home in the last three to five years – doing what we all do and buying what they could afford at the time. They now have 2.5 kids, and/or a changing lifestyle and their first home doesn’t suit them. They have outgrown their home, and that is their “pain point” and your problem to solve. If you create an ad around this with one of Facebook’s lead generation ads, you can get a name and phone number (and email) to call. But you also have a talking point, a bonding point, targeted and intelligent questions to ask and a genuine problem to solve for agents who authentically like helping people achieve their goals and improve their lifestyle.
Facebook lead-gen ads can, over time, give you the client acquisition cost mentioned above. This lead and client acquisition formula can help you build your pipeline. “If I spend roughly $350 on ads and then follow up with the leads, I’ll get a client…so if I want three new clients a month I need to spend just over $1,000.”
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to be found on search engines like Google. It’s a great concept, but it’s a long-term strategy that takes sustained effort/money over time. Unfortunately, there are many companies describing their websites as “SEO ready” or “SEO-optimized” …but Google doesn’t put you to the top of Google by simply flipping a switch (for a few dollars). It’s a hard game to play. BUT, if you can get to the top of Google and stay there, it can be a fantastic source of leads for you.
Before embarking on an SEO journey though, consider the competition in your area…those that put in the most effort/time/money will get the best results. Are you in it for the long haul? Can you compete with the larger agents in your area (who might be spending hundreds to thousands per month)?
If you’re looking at doing SEO, ask the company you’re considering working with for client examples that are highly ranked on Google and then ask them for a live referral to ensure that they did get that client there, and for the rate they are quoting you.
SEO can work insanely well, but it’s not as easy as many website or SEO companies make it sound (and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, truly and sincerely – but I want every real estate professionals to go into paid services with their eyes wide open).
So, where do I invest my marketing dollars?
If you’re an “average” level agent spending less than $15,000 a year in a marketing budget, investing that money online can return better and more measurable ROI when done correctly. If you have a very limited budget, consider Facebook ads focused on lead gen that come with a phone number – and then call, call, call (and it’s an easier dial than you think!).
But a website is important as well, and make sure it lets people know who you are, so they can feel a connection with you and then connect with you. Social media marketing works well when it’s an authentic strategy that combines hyper-local posts, valuable content to your user and is combined with a strategy to grow your followers through group or paid advertising.
There’s no one way to spend your marketing dollars, but hopefully the above can point you in the right direction. If you’re still lost, consider joining my Facebook group for more advice and tips.