Marketing from the hip

A real estate brokerage in Washington recently became the focus of Internet outrage over an ad that depicted a disheveled, part-time, working mom agent next to a couple of buttoned-up, full-time male agents.

The ad’s headline: “Part-time agent vs. full-time professionals: Who would you rather represent you?”

You can see where this is going.

The blowback was fast and furious. Facebook comments were in this vein: “This is an obvious attack on working moms.” “I’ll never use this brokerage to sell my house.” And on and on.

The brokerage made a public apology, and all was right in the real estate brokerage business once again.

Except it wasn’t.

Real estate as a whole has long suffered from image problems. Somewhere along the way, part-time agents became the scapegoat for unprofessionalism.

There may be some truth to this, but maybe not. My agent, for example, technically was part-time when she helped us buy our home. And she was professional, savvy, smart and on top of everything.

The broad problem here lies in lumping people into categories and stereotypes; the specific marketing problem with this ad was its reliance on generalities as an instrument of differentiation.

A more effective approach for the folks in Washington would’ve been to reach for specifics that show us how their agents are more experienced and professional. To tell us how many collective years of real estate experience their agents have. To substantiate the benefits these facts confer to buyers and sellers.

Beyond the surface. Beyond generalities.

The sweat lodge

The other thing that jumps out here is how easy it is to publish something with a huge blindspot in it. It’s surprising that no one at this brokerage stopped for a second to think how this ad might offend agents, buyers and sellers.

Good marketing – good work in general – requires us to slow down.

It begins with scrutinizing every piece of copy you write, every photo you use, every fact you cite. It’s deliberate rather than a shot in the dark.

At 1000WATT, we call this sweat-lodging. It is worth the time investment.

That extra set of eyes. That challenge or reaction. It’s what will take your marketing from aimless and potentially destructive to more deliberate and effective.

Had the folks in Washington run their ad by one of their agents who’s a full-time working mom, they likely would’ve avoided their marketing fail.

The takeaway here is to slow it down. Invest in a sweat lodge.

Shooting from the hip with your marketing is not only embarrassing, it’s bad business.