Can Marketers Learn from Old School Real Estate Agents?
There are certain industries that change their practices at a snail’s pace. The real estate sector is certainly one of them. Only recently have real estate agents turned to content marketing in order to augment (READ: not replace) their current marketing practices.
Traditionally, real estate marketing relied on three general marketing techniques: literature drops, door knocking, and cold calling. Sure, there are others, but those are the big three and, well, you can’t really argue with results. Frankly, if these approaches didn’t work, the industry would have stopped using them long ago.
I know what you’re thinking; I’m a content marketer myself. My first thought is, “Yeah, like I’m going to start dropping blog posts off in people’s mailboxes”. That’s not what I’m suggesting.
What I am suggesting is that we look at those marketing practices and see what lies beneath them. I’m sure you’ll find that their approach mimics yours, although their success lies in a strict adherence to the principals, whereas sometimes in content marketing, we lose sight.
Let’s talk about how a real estate agent does a literature drop. An agent general cycles neighborhoods, dropping literature in a different one each week because that’s their target market. They could – and I’m sure they’ve thought about it – drop thousands of fliers from a plane and hope for the best…but they don’t. They use a highly systematic, targeted approach to drumming up business. So, the first thing we can learn is to truly focus on our target markets – as small as they may be – and stop worrying about getting our message to the masses (if sales are really your endgame).
Scheduling Touch Points
The second thing they do – and they do it well – is schedule touches.
It’s common real estate folklore that in order to get a conversion, a homeowner needs a minimum of six touches in a relativity short amount of time (let’s say over 6 months). They might not sell their house right away, but the agent has built name recognition. When the homeowner is ready to sell, who do you think they think of?
So, lesson number two is to increase the number of touches you have with your target market (and to schedule said touches ahead of time). Most of us, hopefully, already do this through data capture and email marketing. Try increasing the number of times you contact them, measure your analytics, and see what kind of impact this has on overall sales.
Door knocking, another favorite tactic of the real estate industry, is cumbersome for both the realtor and the homeowner – but it’s hard to ignore. The homeowner really only has a couple of options when the agent comes a knockin’. Either they answer the door or they hide in their basement until they hear the faint sound of footsteps down their walkway. Most people opt for the first approach (I opt for the second, usually).
This approach is used for two reasons. The first is to put a face to the name and build a personal relationship. The second is to become sticky. By interacting directly with the consumer, the consumer is more likely to recall them when they need a service. Makes sense, right? So, why do some of us avoid direct contact with our markets?
Scott Stratten, author of “Unmarketing” makes an interesting point: if you want to control the way people talk about you, you’ve got to be part of the conversation. It’s like door knocking. You’ve segmented down to the individual level and you’re making a connection while also becoming sticky. Check your last ten blog posts. How many of them have unanswered comments? That is a major missed opportunity to “door knock.”
Finally, we’ve got the cold call. Hold on to your seat, folks. This one is going to shake you to your very core and buck conventional content marketing wisdom.
Sometimes, on occasion, you’ve got to take a random approach to content marketing. When a real estate agent cold calls – and we’re talking completely cold leads – they’ll open up the phone book and start dialing with no rhyme or reason to their method.
What we can learn here is to be humble in our approach. We have to remember that sometimes we don’t know who we should be reaching out to with our content and by strictly adhering to our targeting plan, we may miss out on major opportunities. Sometimes, you’ve got to throw something at the wall and see what sticks. It’s a perfectly valid approach and I think we sometimes avoid it because it isn’t as scientific as our usual way of doing things.
So, perhaps the real estate industry is a bit behind the times. But, they know a thing or two about marketing and sales. Their specific approaches have gone the way of the dodo bird, but that doesn’t mean the foundation that they’re built on has become irrelevant.
Build a highly-segmented market and target it with extreme focus. Increase the number of touches with those in your market and do it in a consistent and scheduled manner. Build one-on-one relationships to become sticky and memorable. And remember that sometimes it’s OK to veer away from your plan to take a chance on an unexpected, unrelated idea.