Marketing has changed dramatically over the past few decades. The sheer number of options available to businesses of all sizes can be overwhelming for anyone looking for ways to successfully promote themselves. Most of these changes have been the result of digital disruption. In fact, digital marketing has become so commonplace in real estate that some professionals may consider abandoning traditional marketing strategies completely.
It's hard to deny the efficiency and return on investment of a successful pay-per-click campaign, for instance. So why not allocate all your resources to online lead generation? If your website is particularly successful in converting leads from search engines, do you really need a billboard or print ad to be successful?
Make no mistake: Successful digital marketing strategies are often the backbone of a successful business. But to throw out the baby—in this case, traditional marketing methods—with the bathwater can limit the reach and success of your marketing efforts. The key is integrating traditional marketing tactics and digital marketing strategies to achieve higher levels of reach.
Audience Share for Traditional Marketing? Still Impressive
Traditional marketing still works for real estate because it still reaches large numbers of people. Newspapers, while losing a significant portion of its audience in the digital era, still reach 69% of the population, with 81% of those reading a traditional print edition. Traditional radio remains a powerful force, reaching 93% of adults weekly. Television, despite the increasing presence of cord cutters, still has significant reach in the U.S. On top of all this, many real estate professionals find success with “low-tech” marketing options such as direct mail and billboards.
Even though these traditional platforms are not as strong as they once were, they remain a powerful force. They command audiences that can help you take your business to the next level. Not only is traditional media still viable but it can be skillfully used to target your desired audience.
Budgeting for advertising is a tricky thing for all kinds of businesses. According to Real Trends, average marketing and advertising expenses range from 5% to 8% of gross margins (with outliers reaching around 20%). For newer real estate pros, it can be easy for advertising expenses to get out of hand. It may be easier to start out small and see what can be scaled most effectively over time.
My real estate company has spent well into six figures for advertising, and a good chunk of that goes into both traditional and digital marketing efforts. How this is all divided up ultimately depends on performance and, perhaps, a little bit of intuition. There is certainly a balance that needs to be struck between not canceling campaigns too early and not getting stuck in old patterns because “it’s what we’ve always done.”
Using unique URLs and phone numbers tied to specific traditional advertising campaigns can help you track where traffic is coming from. By taking costs, leads, and closings into account, you can focus your efforts on media that works for you and see what changes can be made to underperforming campaigns. There is an inherent risk to increasing business expenses, but, as they say, you have to spend money to make money. Here are tips for using various traditional marketing mediums effectively.
Billboards. I’m a big fan of using billboards to build brand recognition and drive traffic to my site—so much so that a local decided to parody one of my billboards with his own billboard! Billboards are a terrific way to brand a real estate business and build name recognition.
- Purchase billboard space near large employers or in neighborhoods of particular interest.
- High-traffic roads and areas will reach the largest populations and will be in high demand because of this.
- Keep messages simple and easy to read.
- Use straightforward fonts.
Here are some examples of these principles in action. Effective ads aren’t necessarily going to win creative awards, but there’s certainly a lot to be gained by coming up with something unique. Those just starting out may want to stick with tried-and-true methods before branching out into more “out there” concepts.
Direct mail. Tried, tested, and proven, direct mail is still effective in real estate, especially for targeting specific neighborhoods. With homeowners receiving less traditional mail than they used to, a direct mail campaign can have a bigger impact.
- Direct mail is less about converting every single prospect with the first piece of mail and more about establishing your presence and expertise to those who can benefit from your services in the near or distant future.
- Share recent home sales and market data to keep residents updated on their market while promoting your name and services.
- Testing is crucial with direct mail. The type of mail, size, and content that is most effective can vary from market to market. Some regions or even neighborhoods may respond differently to a more casual greeting versus a technical market analysis.
- Postcards and “handwritten” letters (printed letters with a font that emulates handwriting) in envelopes are very popular for this type of marketing. The former is colorful, sturdy, and doesn’t need to be opened, while the latter can feel a lot more personal.
Newspaper and other print. Once crowded with listings and home photographs, newspapers have lost much of their luster for real estate professionals. But not everyone who’s looking to buy or sell a home has abandoned print. With advertising space more available in newspapers, traditional print can make a bigger impact than in the past. Like billboards, a newspaper ad can help you build your brand and encourage residents to search for you when they start their online home search.
- Focus ad copy on what readers wants to achieve: either the sale of a home or the lifestyle your market offers.
- Use a professional designer to ensure the ad is consistent with your online branding.
- In this business, we are very attuned to marketing ourselves. But what people want to see is real estate. How about combining the two: a photo of you handing buyers their keys in front of one of your sold listings?
Radio. Particularly in smaller markets, broadcast radio can be a viable and accessible option. It’s generally inexpensive when compared with other forms of media, and if a broker becomes a large enough advertiser, radio stations are often willing to negotiate bonuses, discounts, or promotions to increase visibility.
- Define the audience you’re trying to reach. Chances are, there are one or two stations best positioned to reach that demographic.
- Radio advertising is sold in day-parts: You’ll pay more for morning and evening drive times, but that’s when you’ll reach the biggest audience.
- Whether you hire a copywriter or let the ad station write your radio spots, make sure they deliver a powerful message about your service, give readers a call to action, and clearly state your web address.
Television. While broadcast television commercials in large markets may be prohibitively expensive, many communities offer less expensive cable channel packages. This allows brokers and agents to choose particular channels or even specific programs that relate to homeownership. With digital production capabilities, the costs to produce a television commercial has become much more affordable.
Don't forget about smaller marketing channels such as business cards, pamphlets, fliers, and taking part in community events. All these branding opportunities work together to let your neighborhood know you mean business.
Multichannel Marketing: A Better Way to Reach People
Marketing and advertising campaigns don’t run in a vacuum. A potential client may receive a direct-mail postcard and see your billboard before coming across your pay-per-click ad online. If your branding is consistent and people recognize your name and message, they may be that much more likely to click on your ad over another because they’re familiar with you.
Integrating all of your marketing efforts, both traditional and digital, gives you the best chance of being in the right place at the right time. Images, slogans, and offerings should be the same, or similar, across all media. Every placement should give viewers ways to get in contact with your business. Print ads and direct mail can direct readers to your website, social media, and phone number, while billboards and broadcast spots should offer a simple, single point of contact.
Many real estate professionals make the mistake of using only advertising vehicles they’re personally exposed to. Limiting your reach in this way will cause you to miss out on numerous opportunities and relationships.
That’s not to say every marketing option under the sun will work for every agent or brokerage. You still need to keep a critical eye on every expense and the results to determine which mix of media yields the best results for you. The keyword here is mix. A diverse arsenal of marketing platforms combined with consistent, strategic messages can pay major long-term dividends. The sum of these parts may be greater than the whole in the end.The bottom line: Your customers are people, and people don’t all think and act alike. Don’t miss out on an opportunity just because of preconceived notions or biases about “old” marketing tactics being ineffective. Just because you don't use something doesn't mean others won't. And just because two things are vastly different doesn't mean they can’t work together toward one goal: your success.