Strategic Advertising for Real Estate Agents

“99% of advertising doesn’t sell a thing.”

Sounds like something a local real estate agent might say after paying for yet another ad that didn’t produce, right?

You might be surprised to learn that the quote actually belongs to David Ogilvy, legendary founder of one of the world’s largest and most successful advertising agencies.

Yikes – if a man regarded as a giant in the ad industry is so negative about advertising’s success rate, how should you feel?

The Bad News is the Good News…

There is an upside here. If so much of the advertising in your local market is ineffective, you can gain a significant edge on your competition by having a better local advertising strategy than other agents.

Advertising vs. Advertising Strategy

Notice that I said a better advertising STRATEGY, not simply better advertising. There’s a big difference.

A better ad might get you a few more leads in the short term. A better advertising strategy can help you to have a consistent, meaningful message in your advertising, and will position you to get more business from your local market on an ongoing basis.

With that in mind, here are three tips to help you define your advertising strategy, and put it into action:

1) Have a Strategic Objective In Mind BEFORE you Advertise

Advertising for the sake of “building awareness” is probably the fastest way to flush your advertising dollars away.

Before you even think about buying an ad, you must have a strategic objective in mind – after all, why should you pay for any type of ad unless it helps you to reach your objective.

Here are just a few questions that you might ask yourself before placing an ad to help define what you want your advertising strategy to do for you:

- If I could be known for just one thing in my local market, what would it be?

- Which part of the local real estate market is not currently well serviced by other agents? Is there potential in this neighborhood/age group/demographic profile?

- Which part of the local market is emerging and might be a driving force for sales in future years?

- What’s changing in my market right now – immigration, aging population, young families moving in, etc – and how do I capitalize on the change more effectively than my competitors?

If you can answer even some of these questions, you will probably be on your way to identifying the basis for an advertising strategy.

For example, you may determine that based on trends and current prices, your market will become increasingly popular with first time homebuyers. As a result, your strategic objective may be to use your advertising to become recognized as the local expert in serving first time homebuyers.

2) Have a Specific Objective for Each Ad you Place within your Strategy

With a clear objective as part of your advertising strategy, you can now think about investing in ads that support your objective.

Here’s a tip – you can create advertising that generates an immediate response while also serving to build your brand in a particular market.

Continuing with the above example, if you ran a series of ads in the local newspaper offering a free “First-Time Homebuyers Report” available from your website, you would actually be running a direct response ad (aimed at getting people to download the report) that also delivered a brand building message (the message being that you are the agent for first time homebuyers to call because you are the expert in that field).

You can measure the success of the ad by looking at the number of downloads from your site while the ad was running – since generating downloads was the specific objective of the ad. If the ads don’t generate enough downloads to justify the cost, pull them or change them. Ads are only valuable if they get you closer to achieving your strategic objective.

3) Be Consistent

All of your advertising (online, print, directory, flyers, etc) should be similar in both style and substance within your advertising strategy.

Yes, a consistent look and style for your ads is important to help you get recognized in a competitive market.

But even more important is being consistent when it comes to the messages in your ads. You can’t buy a Yellow Pages ad that promotes you as the leader in client service, and then advertise your “low low price” in the local newspaper, and then distribute flyers that try to promote you as the family real estate expert.

Your messages can’t conflict! Again, here’s where an advertising strategy comes in. With a strategic objective in mind for your advertising, you will be able to focus your advertising dollars on communicating a single, clear message to potential clients about why they should call you.

An Advertising Strategy is Critical to your Success

If Mr. Ogilvy was right, then most of the advertisers out there in your real estate market are getting it wrong. This creates a huge opportunity for you to use an advertising strategy to drive business and outdo your competitors.

- Have a Strategic Objective for all of your Advertising – Know what you want to say about your business, and who you want to say it to within your local market.

- Have an Objective for Each Ad – Measure each ad’s results against the strategic objective you are trying to achieve – if you don’t, how will you know if the ads were successful or not?

- Be Consistent – Make sure all of your ads are focused on helping you reach your strategic objective by communicating a clear message to the market.

Advertising can be a tough game, but so can real estate. And in both cases, those with a well thought out strategy will almost always succeed over those that don’t have a plan.

New Advertising for Local Business Owners

If you run a business, you already know that advertising is key to getting the word out about your company. As a local business, there are many advertising mediums that may be cost effective for your current needs. You might have advertised on radio, television, newspapers, phone books, and even sponsored small events. Are you still struggling by though, and need new effective ways to advertise? Or do you just want to see a steady increase in the customer store visits that already have? Then read on and learn of a new little known, inexpensive method that can drastically increase your in store revenues.

Let’s first look at some of the advertising sources you probably go through now for new local clientèle.

Newspapers: Newspapers are good for getting the word out it may seem for the most part. You can place a small display ad for about $500.00 a day. While the the expensiveness of this method can be a debatable subject, we all know not everyone can afford this price on a daily basis. It’s just too expensive for he smaller mom and pop store to advertise to the consumer. Your ad isn’t guaranteed to be read in a newspaper either, and there is a good chance you won’t have much success without at least one month of solid ad exposure.

Radio: I hate to say this about radio, but with the addition of newer medias this is a dying method of advertising. Aside from technology, putting entertainment more and more into the hands of listeners and less into the hands of the stations, there’s the cost. Costs can run you about the same as a newspaper display ad but unlike with newspapers, it can be a lot more hard to be guaranteed any listeners for your advertising campaign. Radio stations can only guarantee a population radius of reception.

Television: While television costs are indeed going down for advertising, there is a reason for this. The real estate is thinning out with the explosion of many diverse channel networks not to mention cable on demand services. Production of a cheesy looking commercial can cost you somewhere in the thousands, and running your advertising campaign daily can cost you far more than your production to ensure your message gets across to your audience. Many commercials are muted these days by viewers lets not forget. Many people watch television for entertainment and find commercials mostly as another daily nuisance in their hectic lives.

Phone Directories: Costs for a basic listing can run in the hundreds not to mention the cost of display advertising or incentive coupons. Phone directories though are not a bad option at all. In a directory you are listed under your local industry and people that are actively seeking and ready to spend money on such services/products can find you. There is not much bad to say about a phone directory really with the exception of pricing.

For now that is all I will talk about in terms of traditional advertising mediums, I know, there are more, and yes I didn’t mention online advertising opportunities either, which there are many great opportunities for a local business, but there are other articles that can be used to focus on that particular subject later. What I really want to do now is open your eyes to a new untouched advertising source that will ultimately benefit your local business and it’s overall advertising dollar value grabbing your customers and better yet, at the point of the purchasing or visit decision.

Yes, a new advertising service is available that gives you local recognition while giving you measurable insight on the effectiveness of your advertising campaign with no additional tools required. What if I told you that each time someone looked in the Yellow pages of a phone directory that you could be the first business they saw? No other business, just yours? Well, what if I also told you that the same person looking for your type of business actually was handed a phone with your business number already dialed and ringing? Would you want to purchase that type of advertisement? I bet you would, but you probably wouldn’t be able to afford it, or at least that’s what your thinking right now as I mention this. First off I’ll say advertising this effective is possible and does indeed exists. Affordable though? Answer is again, yes.

The advertising service I speak of is probably from a company you have already heard of. A company that as we speak, Google is trying to replicate. The company is 1-800-FREE 411 and this company has compiled a database of every local business in the US and has them listed in every category of industry for the American consumer to find from their phones for free.

When a caller calls the information service for a phone number they are fed a quick advertisement of a paid advertiser (competitor) and given the option to connect to the other business free of charge. The business that receives the call pays for the potential customer a one flat fee for the connection. What the business pays can be very little, as little as $3.00, but what is even better is what your paying for. Your paying for a highly motivated customer, who is ready to buy or visit your store or place of business. What would you rate that out of 1 and 10 for advertising value?

I think you can see what this service can mean for you and your business. Increased consumer awareness, greater brand recognition, and faster sales conversion just to name a few, right? Well this service exists for business owners and with over 20 million free 411 calls a month, you can be sure someone is calling information for one of your competitors right now or in the very near future.

As far as affordable, they currently (as of 2007) require a minimum deposit of $100.00 which also includes a free voice commercial read from your own written 250 word script. With no production fees or contracts, you can obviously see the overall value and cost effectiveness of this form of advertising. It might be wise to test drive the service for the minimum deposit and see for yourself how effective this advertising really can be for your own local business, your competition will be soon I’m sure.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Advertising

Sin No. 1

And in many ways this is the biggest sin of them all!
The total lack of genuine accountability and effectiveness. More and more evidence is emerging that there is ample justification for questioning a major advertising pretension that it does, indeed, work at all!

The repetitious cry and certain belief that “creativity” is the answer to all marketing problems – it isn’t and frankly never really has been.

It’s a given that all human knowledge is provisional but it is also incremental, the sum of what we know to day is far greater than thirty years ago – with, possibly, the sole exception of marketing/advertising. Nothing new has been added to the armory of advertising…no debate is taking place as to where to go next! Perhaps that is because there is no place else to go!

However to day it is still an article of faith among advertising people that advertising will not change because “it works”!

Facing the painful truth is the first essential step in devising a sensible strategy for the perpetuation of advertising. And the painful truth is “Advertising no longer works”!

Sin No 2.

Is it because that, for financial reasons, you do not want to address the problem of clutter…because it is a huge and growing problem which contributes to the declining effectiveness of all advertising.
The poor old customer, or in advertising speak, Consumer, does not want to take delivery of even more messages, after all they do not appear to be taking much notice of the messages that exist already!
The advertising world has dehumanised and depersonalised the process of communication and very little evidence of consideration of the consumer exists.

Sin No.3

You just don’t listen, whenever some well meaning person dares to question the “Advertising Works” article of faith, down comes a torrent of abuse, and the fact is it can only be a torrent of abuse because you do not have a solid fact to support your spurious claims. Listen to your Clients:
As one large Client recently explained: “In to day’s marketing landscape, building a brand is about a whole lot more than advertising. An advertising agency alone cannot deliver everything we need – even though agencies may claim to deliver this, it’s a myth”.
Or even listen to people closer to home:
Derek Morris, Chairman and chief executive of ZenithOptimedia attended “Media 360 Conference” in Wales. In a long letter in MediaWeek, he said, among other things, “But what are the lessons to bring home from South Wales? What should we actually do? And there, in the final session, reality caught up when the Client told us to “Change before you are dead”.

Sin No.4

If you don’t want to listen then for Heavens sake forget the glorious past.
Your current model of advertising was developed in the Sixties when product choice was much more limited and people were easier to stereotype into categories like income, sex and class. It was much easier for advertisers to target people and bombard them with sales messages.

Today’s marketplace is different and all the old certainties are gone. To be effective in your communications it is sound advice to start with the premise that you know nothing about the people that you believe your product is aimed at.

You all have become too parochial, too introspective, too convinced by your on hyperbole.

Sin No.5

Stop this insane rush onto Web 2.0 it is not a medium intended for mass advertising, and, as has been recently established, “Users became more or less desensitised to the Advertising”

That was recently said of advertising on social networking sites.

Clients are experiencing fast diminishing returns on their social networking ad investments.

Clients are expressing disillusionment.

Web marketers, ranging from Google at the apex of the ad triangle to the mass of small companies are showering social-networking sites with ad dollars without getting their hoped-for returns.

The question is not “Has the advertising model broken”? The question now is “What are we going to replace it with”?

The complacency of the IPA is overwhelming, they appear not to be doing anything to answer the increasingly strident complaints.

Complaints such as, clutter, and here the irony is that advertising agencies appear to think that placing more advertisements is the way to solve clutter!

Complaints such as lack of accountability, to day, and after fifty years of extensive advertising, there are no reliable figures available on audience measurements.

And most certainly there are no effective studies as to the effectiveness of advertising…on sales…. As a return on ROI…and much more.

To day it is more important that a close investigation as to the suitability of advertising on Web 2.0 be undertaken instead of rushing onto the Net and ignoring all the signs. These are that it is a highly unsuitable medium for advertising.

After all it is “The Wild West” where anything goes!

Sin No.6

Your inability to move very rapidly into the post-advertising mindset is caused by you being unable to recognise Sins 1 through 5 above.

Astonishingly, a sizeable percentage of marketers and marketing-service leaders seem mired in the advertising mind-set.

The Cannes Lions Festival still celebrates ads-a position, one suspects, roughly equivalent to the Cannes Film Festival honouring silents. The One Show held two concurrent programmes this year-one for conventional ads, another for online. (One wonders who in this mix felt like a second-class citizen).

In a transparent world, the power of an “ad campaign” to change minds is strictly limited, and getting more so every day. It’s way past time for the industry’s leaders to get naked and reinvent advertising…it they can!

Sin No.7

Your complete and utter lack of understanding of the word “communication” together with a lack of appreciation as to what can, and does, stifle effective communication.

All advertising is a form of learning whereby the advertiser is asking people to change their behaviour after learning the benefits of the products or services on offer. However, we all tend to filter out information, which we do not want to hear. This clearly alters the effectiveness of conventional advertising in quite a dramatic way.

The final purchase decision is invariably a compromise and this leads to a certain amount of anxiety; the worry that perhaps the decision was not the best or the right one. In order to minimise this anxiety the purchaser seeks to reinforce their choice and begins to take more notice of their chosen product’s marketing communications.

Due to a lack of understanding of the communication process we have created a media society during the past 40 or 50 years, where the whole process has been de-humanised.

There is now an extraordinary reduction in interaction because conventional advertising and marketing have become a one-way practice whereby information is disseminated in a passive form.