The case for less real estate marketing

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker 

Pin this quote to your computer.

The time has come to stop viewing real estate marketing like an assembly line making donuts.

In today’s attention-starved world, marketing has to stand out to be effective. The goal is to gain trust and get people to buy your products or services. But if you never get their attention in the first place, your efforts die young.

Given that much of real estate’s marketing is powered by marketing-in-a-box products that pump out cookie cutter automated drip email, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t work. In fact, I would argue that this approach actually does more harm than good and loses you business in the end.

The phrase itself – “drip campaign” – is painful. The connotations are cold. Impersonal. Generic.

It’s built completely outside the dome of what marketers are doing with success outside of real estate.

If, as Drucker points out, marketing is all about knowing what will move the consumer, the real estate marketer must stop and understand that people need context and connections. No one is yearning to be captured and put into an automated drip email campaign.

The latest fad of “conversational” marketing products to hit real estate is no different. These products promote the use of odd facts and tidbits that have nothing to do with real estate to “lure” consumers into a relationship, mocking the very foundation of good marketing.

Drucker turns in his grave.

Slow down

Real estate people have long believed in the spray-and-pray mindset. Market more and something will eventually work.

Send. Post. Tweet. Snap. Pin. Never mind quality. Get in their face. Often.

This was the popular approach by nearly every brand in the past and may have worked at one time, but not today. According to a 2012 report from Upstream, “Digital Advertising Attitudes,” the digital bombardment of brand messaging has caused a malady coined marketing fatigue among consumers.

The report concludes with strong advice to slow down, get more personal, get more targeted and create more value if you want your marketing to be seen.

It’s difficult to do these things if you’re sending every new prospect and past client down a conveyor belt of packaged, random drip messaging for the next seven years. All it takes is one irrelevant email for the recipient to consider you spam from that point forward.

Even more reason to slow down and carefully target is Gmail’s recent addition of category tabs that now filter brand marketing into a Promotional tab, which serves as a sort of basement for email – that room where you store stuff you never use.


You may be thinking: but wait a second, I thought email is proven to be effective. In fact open rates have reached their highest levels in years. What’s happening here?

Simple: marketers outside of real estate have changed their approach. To get above the noise, they create each message to appeal to the recipient’s desires, needs, wants and interests.

I’d like to bring that mindset inside real estate.

It’s time to slow down. Stop the email factory engines and rethink the entire approach.

The marketing dome of common sense

What, then, is the answer?

Consider the accountant, a service professional most of us engage with only once a year. Like the Realtor, their place in the consumer mind is precarious.

My first accountant was Ruth Berger, whom I used for 20 years right up until she retired. Ruth would pop into my consciousness once a year with a letter (or eventually email) reminding me tax time was near. Her letter included a few new laws and an assurance not to worry.

One touch. Targeted to my needs.

When I saw a letter or email from Ruth, I knew it was worth opening. I knew that it had something to do with me.

Why should it be any different for you?

If all your marketing were boiled down to one simple, targeted email that satisfied your recipient’s needs and desires, you’d increase your conversion rate a thousand times. I’m sure of it.

If you dispensed with the seasonal time change reminders and turned off all your drip campaigns and long-form newsletters brimming with content, you’d find your messages have more meaning to the person on the other end.

Great marketing isn’t about getting in people’s faces for whatever reason you can find. It’s about creating and sending messages people actually want to receive.

What is that message for real estate?

There are a few, few sure. But the one that has always worked on me is the tried-and-true Just Listed, Just Sold postcard.

If you did nothing but this one thing, I guarantee you’d increase your results.

But even this you cannot do in an assembly fashion. Take the time to create a beautiful design and craft thoughtful words, like the example below.

If you’re looking for one thing you can do in 2014 to improve your marketing this is it.