Analog marketing: She had me at hello

When my husband and I bought our first home two years ago, the most compelling piece of marketing we came across was a typed letter from the owner.

In this letter, she described the vibe of the neighborhood in great detail, highlighting specific annual events, festivals, neighborhood block sales and activities. She talked about the city of Oakland in general and what it has meant to her to live here, and to have a son here.

It’s something I’ve saved as a reference.

This a well-written snapshot of life on our block, but also I remember how it felt to read this note. I want to pass that along to the next buyer, in my own words, if and when we ever decide to sell.

She had me at hello.

It was a particularly tough market for sellers at the time – even with the national home buyer tax credit dangling above buyers’ heads. The house had great marketing in addition to the note: a beautiful website, ample wide-angle photos, tasteful staging.

The agent didn’t show us the letter until we asked to see the disclosure papers. Despite having sat on the market for a good six months, the tone of the note didn’t come across as desperate.

It was honest and descriptive.

What’s a bit ironic about this amazing piece of analog marketing is that the seller is a prominent tech journalist. She’s been reviewing gadgets and reporting from the top technology conferences and expos for a top news publication for well over a decade. And what pushed her house from “interested” to “sold” was a simple note full of written facts and details.

Sometimes you can’t beat the basics.

Single-property websites, amazing photography, virtual tours, videos, blogs. They’re all fantastic tools that certainly help to push real estate marketing to a deeper level. But without the basics, they’re just tools. There’s a human element that’s overlooked, and potentially powerful.

Homeowners are a great marketing resource. They know things about the neighborhood that even the most embedded of agents might not know. They speak the language.

Every house has a story. Every community has a vibe. Nailing it could be as simple as asking the homeowner to think about it and write it down.

No hyperbole or empty marketing catchphrases. Just honest, how-it-feels-to-live-here commentary.

It makes sense for a listing agent to solicit this sort of thing from sellers whenever possible and incorporate it into marketing on the website and even printouts at showings. This is a case where the power of the written word is a much better fit, too, than a video of the sellers talking about their neighborhood, which would be a tad too personal.

Often it pays to mix it up a little.