Session on marketing mobile first

© Brant Bender/National Association of REALTORS®

The best way to be more successful today? Don’t be just a real estate professional. This seemingly contrary marketing advice was the overarching lesson shared in two technology sessions at the 2021 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego on Friday.

In his “Dominate Digital Marketing” session, Kevin Tengan, vice president of marketing with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty, reminded the audience that there are two types of marketing:

  1. Marketing to sell, when you advertise your products or services.
  2. Marketing to brand, when you share how your services or products can make people feel.
2021 REALTORS Conference & Expo logo

Real estate professionals tend to focus on, and excel at, marketing to sell. There are dozens of companies and services that help practitioners advertise their listings, purchase branded swag, and mail Just Sold flyers. The more difficult task of brand marketing, however, cannot usually be delegated to a third party. It’s a personal message that must typically be developed and delivered by the practitioner themselves.

In her session, “Designing a Mobile-First Business Profile to Scale Your Real Estate Business,” Jordan Cain, vice president of customer experience at Adwerx, put it another way. “You can automate marketing that says ‘I just listed this’ or ‘I just sold this.’” But if you want to share a story or tell who you are, Cain said, that will require a more strategic and thoughtful content strategy.

In their sessions, Tengan and Cain offered ideas for agents to master both types of marketing.

Marketing to Sell: Go Back to Basics

Deploy face-forward marketing. Humans are evolutionarily designed to pay attention to another face, said Cain. That’s why, even in the midst of a cluttered landscape on social media, advertisements with faces tend to pay off. Cain said ads with a face and contact information are 11 times more effective than those without.

Tengan agreed, saying that his brokerage “receives at least half a dozen leads a day” from Google’s Local Services ads, which appear in the results after someone searches for a real estate professional in their market area. The ads include the agent’s head shot and a direct way to contact their business.

One important caveat: “Put your ‘today face’ in advertising,” said Cain, referencing the well-known trend for real estate professionals to use decades-old head shots. By using a face that will be recognizable to your target audience when they meet you in person, you can begin building trust at the first meeting.

Market to your own network. “Think about how much business you generate with a once-a-year gift or regular mailers” to your sphere of influence, said Cain. “Now, think about what it would look like if they saw you 1,000 times a year” due to targeted digital advertising campaigns. Cain said that customer relationship advertising can lead to a 15% increase in production for agents. Importantly, that boost won’t come from repeat business, but from referrals. “Advertising won’t make anyone sell faster,” said Cain. The increase in production occurs because your contacts are more likely to remember you and refer you when they are consistently reminded of your profession and success.

Show up on mobile. More than 50% of global web traffic is now on mobile devices, and the average adult spends about 7 hours a day on them, said Cain. This means that agents can’t afford to overlook the mobile experience for their prospects and clients. Whether they focus on creating a mobile-optimized brand website or advertising on mobile-first apps like Facebook, the investment will pay off.

Marketing to Brand: Go Deeper and Get More Personal

Limit buttons and forms. One key to building more trust in your brand is to prioritize a connection over data collection. This is especially critical on mobile, where a form can take up the entire screen. “Think about how you behave on a phone,” said Cain. “Do any of you want to fill out a form the moment you arrive on a page? No, you don’t.” Instead, “Make sure your brand ... your humanity, some form of connection” are prioritized above a form or another call to action.

Make stronger online connections. While part of marketing to brand is putting out thoughtful and meaningful content, another important component is to live up to your reputation. One way to do that, said Tengan, is to go beyond “likes'' to truly engage with others online. By regularly commenting on posts, answering questions, and showing support, you’ll create stronger bonds and the trust you need to grow your business reputation.

Be the digital mayor. The overall goal of marketing to brand, said Tengan, is to “become the digital mayor of the community you represent.” Share information that will be relevant to your community, including local events, small business highlights, school supply drives, park updates, and more. By acting as the information hub, said Tengan, you’ll not just be selling homes, but a lifestyle, too.

Mastering Both Kinds of Marketing

“As practitioners, we need to both market to sell and market to brand,” said Tengan. By doing so, pros show that they care more about consumer experiences and outcomes than they do about transaction volume and commissions. “We’re not just in the real estate selling business. We’re in the relationship business.”