Online real estate marketing made simple

Brian first published this blog on October 1, 2007. Every word of it rings true today some 14 months later. 

A while back I gave a speech at a real estate franchise convention on the topic of online marketing. 200 weary brokers filled the room. They expected to hear about new technologies and cutting edge tactics.

I let them down. I decided, instead, to tell them this:

The first thing to do when thinking about online marketing is to forget about technology completely. A carnival of blinking tools and barking vendors has clouded your thinking. I want you to go back 15 years to a time when your marketing was guided by an understanding of business fundamentals.

Now — in 1992 — where do you start in thinking about how to market your business?

Right here: Understand your customer.

Then what? Meet their wants and needs.

It is then reasonable to say that your marketing effort should be about telling and showing prospective customers you have what they want.

Let’s fast forward back to today and apply this formula to your business and the Internet.

What are your customers’ wants and needs? There are some things unique to your market, but a decade of research from NAR, CAR and others has pretty well established what consumers want and need most when they go online for real estate:

#1 Listings
#2 Home value information
#3 Community information

Now, let’s meet their wants and needs.

First off, put a full IDX feed directly on your home page, front and center. No “featured homes”, just quick access to a full feed of listings for your market and prominent promotion of the “homes by email” feature that comes with your IDX system.

Next, dedicate a full section of the site to detailed, up-to-the-minute information on home values in your market: Recent sales, list to sales price ratios, days on market and your own analysis of what it all means. Put this on a blog, email it in a newsletter and make it easily printable. Get it out there!

Lastly, leverage the local knowledge within your company by placing detailed neighborhood information on the site. Focus on the small stuff no one else covers. This may be done via a blog or blogs, or, if you don’t have skilled writers in your company, at least hire a local freelancer to craft some core neighborhood guides.

You can forget about everything else about until you master these things.

How, then, do you tell and show prospective customers you have what they want?

First, eliminate almost everything that does not make a connection between what you know your prospective customers want and what you now have to offer them. Employ the electronic marketing platform you’ve been using to send e-cards and cookie recipes to distribute all that neighborhood and market knowledge you know have on your site. Switch out all those newspaper and bus bench ads touting your brand to simple calls to action along the lines of “Search every home for sale in _________ at” or “Sign up for weekly home sales prices in your neighborhood at”.

If you look at online marketing through this lens, things will become much clearer. You’ll also have a framework for judging what online applications are important for your business and which are not. You’ll find a new focus that will move you beyond the clamor of the carnival.

Brian Boero