Real Estate Marketing 101 for Aspiring Agents: What Works Today

Just over a decade ago, being a real estate agent was a dream job for many. If you worked in real estate at that time, you probably remember how it felt. It was you who had complete control over the market. When someone wanted to buy a home, the only way to do this was to contact you, as a broker who held all property listings in the neighborhood.

There were no such things as online, MLS, and IDX, and public access to listings was something unheard of. You held the Big Book of listings and it was your exclusive advantage as well as your career goldmine. You also couldn’t get any online real estate license in Tennessee, or in any other state.

In that wonderful landscape, your marketing activities were quite straightforward. Every day, you cold called a list of prospects, made a listing presentation and organized a few showings. Occasionally, you placed your ads in a local newspaper and sent a direct mail with your pitches.

Then one day in the early 2000s things had changed drastically. Agents lost the power they once wielded literally overnight. IDX allowed them to display MLS data on their own sites which meant it became visible to the public eye.

It would be an understatement to say that the Internet and IDX turned the real estate industry upside down, revved it up or changed. The online availability of real estate listings simply knocked the industry down. The exclusive advantage agents had before the rise of the Internet was gone and is never coming back.

The only way out is for agents to grasp all the new opportunities that popped up all of a sudden. But the question is what actually works today? Which new activities deserve your time of day, and which aren’t worth bringing to your planning table?

We couldn’t have left this topic unexploited and outlined the main things agents can safely focus on. Without these tools, you’ll sink to the bottom of the lake and never be seen again – that’s just how today’s marketing landscape is shaped.

The following real estate marketing strategies and tools are remarkable, precisely because they help you build your agency as a healthy, scalable and profitable business whose value is growing the more it works on the market.

How to reach home buyers today?

The truth is it’s not just the technology that is different. The people you’re marketing to are different. They are independent and knowledgeable and don’t want to be bombarded with dozens of annoying sales pitches with homes they’ll never buy.

98 per cent of people start their home search online. Moreover, 96 per cent of first-time home buyers start their search online. These people use their computers – and, increasingly, mobile phones – to do everything except for actually calling their real estate agent. They browse the Internet, listen to music and update their social profiles but they will not remember returning a call about whatever new condo you’re trying to offer them.

And so it’s no use to draw parallels with what worked two decades ago. It’s high time to figure out a strategy of getting in front of this new generation of customers in a much more meaningful way.

In a nutshell, you want to control the local market, successfully cut through the noise and consistently get that first contact with a customer which is later translated into a deal – and do that for a fraction of the traditional marketing expense. To succeed in this, you’ll need a combination of the following tools.

A New Generation of Sales Tools: A Real Estate CRM

As a real estate agent, you know all too well that real estate is all about building relationships. It relies on personal connections and referrals more heavily than any other industry. Because people you’re trying to reach demand a whole new level of communication and engagement, you need to leverage new tools in order to live up to people’s expectations.

Amongst these tools, the most effective is a real estate CRM, of course. Active Rain, the biggest real estate online community, tried to find out what differentiates a successful real estate agent from an under-performing one. Here’s what they learned: “richer” agents were eager to spend 6x more on technology and twice more likely to use customer relationship management (CRM).

It sounds incredible, but did you know that 80 percent of leads is either lost, not having proper documentation created for them, or simply never followed up (Source: Yankee Group)? For every agent, this is a terrifying number. What’s the point of working so hard to find a lead, only to let it drift away afterward?

On the contrary, having a CRM system put in place increases sales by up to 29% (Source: Salesforce). Moreover, the average ROI for CRM is $8.71 for every dollar spent! (Source: Baseline)

In today’s industry, working your way into valuable personal connections with your leads is the only way to succeed. When you think about all the changes in real estate marketing, a CRM is the only viable alternative to hectic follow-ups and occasionally updated Excel spreadsheets. The numbers speak for themselves: per salesperson, a CRM can increase revenue by 41%.

A CRM is also irreplaceable when it comes to customer retention. Your odds of selling to a new prospect are only between 5 – 20%, while the probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60 – 70%. Also, CRM’s are known to improve customer retention by as much as 27%, which is simply an opportunity not to be missed.

An average real estate professional, however, is totally overwhelmed with current prospects, commissions, referrals, portal leads, past clients, finances and contracts. They have neither time nor energy to learn endless new tools (without even knowing if they’re going to work out) and add them to their plate.

And so we observed that one of the most important qualities a good CRM must have is simplicity and ease of use. The following stats confirm this pretty well: 72% of users would give up all the extra features just to get a CRM that’s easier to use. (Source: Salesloft)

That’s why it’s always an idea to have a good think before implementing any system and make sure to find a solution tailored to your team. It’s the system that needs to adjust to your needs, not the other way around.

Getting found in the modern marketing landscape

Google searches related to real estate have grown 253% over the last 4 years – National Association of Realtors (US)

How can a real estate agency selling properties in a specific local area successfully compete with nationwide and international property portals and consistently outrank them on Google? There’s only one way to do this: to make Google see you as an influencer in your particular local area. In other words, you have to fully focus on earning high local rankings.

A simple house listing isn’t going to do this for you. It’s going to take more and it’s going to be sophisticated.

Today, 4 out 5 consumers use search engines to find local information (Source: Google Research). Buy they only care about a website which has the information they need. They only care if it answers their questions about this local area and how to buy or rent properties here in a faithful, knowledgeable and simple manner.

Home buyers are also curious about the local community. Well, that makes sense, since they’re trying to figure out why it’s better to relocate here instead of elsewhere, right? More specifically, people search for lifestyle information, info about the best schools and sports facilities, recent market trends and prices, cultural life and job opportunities.

But it’s not that people only search for this info. Having found it, they act! Local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches. 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on a computer/tablet did the same. (Source: Google Research)

A modern SEO strategy means so much more than just getting listed in a few business directories. This is more like an artificial link building and Google needs some other signals that you’re providing a quality service and deserve to be ranked high.

The most important real estate SEO things to focus on are on-page and off-page optimization, long-tail optimization, consistent NAP everywhere on the web, neighborhood landing pages, blog, social media, mobile website and local customer reviews. Taken together, these techniques have a powerful effect on your SEO.

The key takeaway is that today’s tech-savvy home buyers don’t want to deal with a brochure-like website that has nothing but listings published, and bringing little value in highlighting the core things: what it’s like to live in this area and how the market is doing. Unfortunately, without a blog and neighborhood pages filled with this info and optimized for locally relevant keywords, that’s exactly what your website can appear to them.

For more info on how you can get up and running with the real estate marketing techniques that actually work today, take a look at these resources:

Leveraging the Power of Social Media for Real Estate Marketing

Social media, and especially Facebook, is at the forefront of every real estate agent’s mind. 95% of people use Facebook to get themselves familiar with an agent’s services. In a social media race, Facebook confidently outperforms any other media and the majority of agents prefer using it as their main social networking platform – 79% of agents.

Of course, other social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Line, WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube deserve attention, too. After all, it depends on which of them your audience likes most, but Facebook with its global reach and tremendous popularity is the first one to focus on in most cases.

But speaking of Facebook, it’s incredibly important to be present here in a much more meaningful way than everyone else. 93% of social media traffic comes from Facebook. However, simply having a Facebook business page and making the most of it makes a very big difference.

One of the most powerful lead generation tools to use with Facebook marketing are Facebook apps which help you build a whole new level of engagement with people: run competitions, promote your listings and blog, cross-promote other of your social media, grow your email list and much more. These apps add more functionality to your Facebook page and you can overcome the limitations Facebook has (there are only 4 default apps: Photos, Events, Likes, and Videos). The effort is worth taking: 45% of clients have walked through a home found on social media.

Take a look at the following resource to get a better idea of how Facebook apps actually work for your business:

Maximizing Your Reach via Mobile

By their very nature, real estate agents are mobile. But same goes for your customers. Mobile traffic now accounts for 30% of the total traffic to real estate sites.

Previously in 2015, at Inman Connect San Francisco, Google shared its research on mobile usage. It turned out that mobile significantly outperforms desktop. This is especially true for local search: 88 percent of customers look for local information via their smartphones.

These stats aren’t surprising. It’s typical for us to grab the phone in a supermarket, or when spotting this new house for sale and trying to check out the agent. Moreover, people often prefer to use their phone to search for something while sitting in front of their laptops or TV’s. Google calls these multiple logins “mobile moments”.

For real estate agents, a mobile strategy isn’t an uncommon question to struggle with. Everyone knows these days you need to have a mobile-friendly website that shows up fine across different mobile devices to get your portion of mobile traffic.

What not everyone knows is that 85 percent of mobile usage is apps, not browsers.

Moreover, mobile web gets the majority of mobile users (as high as 70 percent) but a small fraction of engagement (as low as 5 percent) (Source: Rich Barton, Zillow’s Executive Chairman).

This means all engagement – downloads, referrals, calls, emails, social messages – comes from apps.

Another great advantage of mobile apps over mobile sites is that apps are designed for simplicity. Because mobile apps are installed directly on a phone or tablet, people can access it with a single tap. On the contrary, few people are patient enough to type all that in their mobile browsers.

Add to this smartphone features that home-buying apps use, like camera, GPS, etc., and interactive maps, and you’ll have an excellent lead generation tool. 74% of clients will give you a referral if you stay in touch, and mobile apps are a perfect way to do just that.

So the next essential part of your strategy should be making it easy for your customers to catch up with you at any time and from everywhere.

What’s next?

Traditional real estate marketing techniques usually land on deaf ears these days. The digital age offers powerful opportunities for finding relevant home-buying information. This makes people essentially much more knowledgeable and no one is going to solely rely on their agents’ opinions. People do their own research – and this totally changes your role as an agent.

This also means you need to come up with something new. You need to come up with new ways of finding leads, engaging with them, knowing what to say and when, lowering your expenses per lead, retaining existing leads, getting more referrals and, of course, growing your sales reach. That seems like quite a list, right?

The spirit of this change, however, lets you fully capitalize on all new opportunities. At AgentDrive, we believe that the right technology is the anchor of a successful real estate agency. Today’s real estate marketing is no respecter of old blueprints – and leveraging new technologies is one of those skills you can only get better at.