The Top Real Estate Marketing Tools

As part of my series on real estate marketing best practices for real estate agents, I’ve put together a list of my favorite real estate marketing tools and solutions.  These tools and solutions will save you time and money, and most importantly you don’t need to be a technical wizard to use them!

Website

I’m a huge believer that every real estate agent needs their own domain name and a website.  As a real estate agent, you’re an independent contractor. In effect, you’re building your own business – and your website (and the information – like your client contact information) is an asset of that business.

Fortunately, thanks to “modern technology”, getting and launching a website is VERY easy.  Remember, if you’re just starting out as a real estate agent, you don’t need a fancy website.  You only need a website that is professional, represents your brand, and is flexible enough to grow as your real estate business grows.  

First, you’ll need a domain name (for example: www.BeautifulMalibu.com).  A domain name is what a person types in a web browser to get to your website.  Technically, you don’t own a domain name, but rather you rent it on an annual basis from a registrar like GoDaddy (www.GoDaddy.com).  They usually cost less than $20 a year – and you can get a custom email address attached to the domain name (for example: scott@beautifulmalibu.com) if you like (I HIGHLY recommend this!).

Once you have your website domain name, you’ll need a website and find a place to host it.  You can hire someone to do this for you, but if you’re just starting out I recommend that you choose a do it yourself service which allows you to easily make and host your website.  Inevitably you’ll make a lot of changes in the first few years of being an agent, and if you hire a professional website builder you’re likely to spend a lot of time and money making countless changes.  

I think that Wix (www.wix.com) offers a good “all-in-one” service for website building and hosting.  They have countless templates (some free, some at a nominal cost) which offer enough variety so that your website doesn’t look like every other agent’s website.  

Wix is easy enough for someone with a working knowledge of Microsoft Word to use, and their support is excellent.  So unless you have money to burn, or you cannot use Microsoft Word, I’d choose Wix over hiring a professional for your first site.

Email Marketing

Within your website you’re going to want to build a sales funnel where you capture the contact information of potential clients … with their permission of course.  Typically you’ll entice someone to provide their contact information by providing valuable information (like a local market report) or simply offering to follow up.  

And at some point, you’ll want to follow up with those contacts via email.  Perhaps you’ll want to send them an invitation to an open house. Or wish them “Happy Holidays”.   You could send them each emails individually. Or you could use a email marketing system. (Hint: I recommend that latter!).

MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com) and Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) are email marketing systems which offer easy to use interfaces which allow you to build forms to collect the information from the client, and then send them beautiful custom emails.  They are very easy to use, and have features that allow you to set up your process once then forget it. For example, you can send a personalized email to each person the first time they sign up – automatically.   Or pre-create emails that will be scheduled to be sent months in advance.

Marketing

Unfortunately, just having a website and email marketing doesn’t cut it anymore.  We’re a multi-channel society now, and you’ll need to reach clients across numerous channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Direct Mail, etc.   If you’re starting to think that this could be a full time job, well, it could be. (Read my article entitled “The Content Engine for Real Estate Agents” for tips on how to make this whole process manageable).  But fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.  There are numerous tools and solutions that can make the process of creating content and communicating with your clients easier.  

  • Customized Hand Written Notes
    In a word of digital overload, small touches like hand written cards stand out.  But hand writing cards is extremely time consuming. With Postable (www.postable.com) you can automate the process of sending personalized follow up direct mail letters and cards.  The best part is that Postable will grow as your marketing efforts become more sophisticated.

  • Programmatic Direct Mail
    The magic of programmatic direct mail allows you to send personalized direct mail pieces based upon the what the visitor views on your website – even if you don’t have their address!  Pebble Post (www.pebblepost.com) identifies anonymous visitors to your website based upon the visitor having previously registered at another website, watches where they go on your website, and automatically sends them a preconfigured postcard based upon the pages of the website they visit.  So if they visit your web page showing condo listings, they’ll get a follow up postcard about condos. Quick note: Pebble Post works best for agents with significant traffic coming to their website.

  • Lead Capture
    Almost everyone wants to know how much their home is worth.  If you’re trying to attract home sellers, Corefact Home Estimate (www.corefact.com) is a clever tool.   The homeowner receives a direct mail piece which leads them to a website where they can get an instant listing price estimate.   And you capture their contact information, which can be fed into a marketing drip campaign!

  • CRM System
    Keeping track of your current and prospective clients can be challenging.  Contractually (www.contractually) is a full CRM (customer relationship management) solution suite which streamlines how you communicate with current and prospective clients.

    Note: Even though Contractually was recently acquired by Compass, all of your data is kept private and separate from Compass.  If you’re concerned about this, you might consider MoxiWorks (www.moxiworks.com).  

  • Stock Imagery
    Content is key in real estate marketing, especially imagery.  Let’s face it, it’s tough to sell the dream when your images are beautiful.  Social Curator (www.socialcurator.com) helps makes this process easy.  You’ll get access to high quality gender neutral content, and insightful keyword research to help increase the reach of your marketing efforts.

  • Content Capture
    As your content gets more sophisticated, you’ll likely want to include how-to videos.   Loom (www.useloom.com) is a free web browser plug-in which allows you to capture screenshots and video (with voice overlays).  
  • Social Media Management
    Buffer (www.buffer.com) and Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) are easy to use social media management tool, which streamlines your marketing efforts.  Create a post once then distribute it to numerous channels (Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.).  You can even schedule them for future delivery.

    RIPL (www.ripl.com) allows you to edit video, including adding effects.  

    Hootsuite offers a free version with limited capabilities.

Content Creation

And as for creating professional video content, I have two “must have” recommendations.  

  • Smooth 4
    There’s nothing worse than “bumpy” video as you’re doing a walk through of a home.  Creating professional looking walk-through videos from your cell phone is easy with Smooth.

  • Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone
    Make sure that the audio in your walk-through videos is perfect.  This simple lavalier (a fancy name for a small microphone you clip to your shirt) captures clear audio and can attach directly to your phone.

I hope that you find these tips helpful!  If you haven’t done it already, make sure that you sign up for my email newsletter – where I’ll be offering more information and special offers.  Just a sneak peek, I’ll be offering a no-cost marketing consultation to a few lucky readers soon. Keep an eye on the emails!

Starting A Successful Real Estate Career

As many of you know, I’m passionate about sales and marketing. And I love real estate. So I decided to combine my interests into a short series on effective marketing for Real Estate Agents. This is the first article in the series. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran real estate agent, or just starting out, you’ll find this information valuable.

Being a real estate agent is an amazing career which offers the ability to have a flexible schedule while making a lot of money.  But the “dirty little secret” they don’t tell you is that not everyone is successful.

In 2014 the National Association of Realtors noted that 87% of all real estate agents fail in the first five years.  That’s quite a daunting statistic for anyone aspiring to be a real estate agent.

Let’s face it – anyone reading that only 13% of real estate agents are successful might rethink becoming a real estate agent.   

But thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help insure that you’ll like being a real estate agent and, more importantly, that you’ll be successful … before you take even your first real estate course or exam.

Identify Your Focus

This is a critical decision that you must make early in your real estate career.  You must decide on the type of real estate you want to focus on and where. There are many categories and subcategories from which to choose: Single family residential, high-rise, multi-family, commercial, luxury, etc.   You may decide to combine them into one: for example: Luxury High-Rise. You’ll just need to choose one.

This decision can be harder than it seems.  But don’t worry, you can pivot and choose a different focus later in your career.  It’s just important to make a single decision and focus on it for the first year or more.   By initially focusing on a single specialty, you’ll make it easier to build a network, as well as systems and processes that will save you time and money.

How do you make this decision?  I’d suggest that you start with location.  Where would you like to work? Where is convenient for you?  Where is the greatest opportunity? Then identify the types of real estate that are growing in that area (hint:  it’s usually what developers are building). Eliminate anything that doesn’t interests you. If you’re not passionate about it, then don’t do it.  Then validate your assumptions by asking current agents in that field. If they’re all too busy servicing clients to take your call, it may be a sign that business is booming!

Remember , your revenue is a function of commissions and volume !  If you don’t choose an area and a specialty that has client demand, you’ll be setting yourself up for a difficult road ahead.

Research Your Future Competition

There are a lot of real estate agents out there.  Do your research and find out who the most successful agents are in your area.  You can do this by simply asking some agents and brokers in the area. Or use Google to look for recent press releases promoting agency successes.  

When you’ve figured out who the top agents are, you’ll need to find out how they are marketing themselves and their businesses.  Do you see them at industry events? Do they advertise in locally? Are they active on social media (Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.)?  If so, follow them. Dig deep – their tactics will be a future playbook for your marketing efforts.

Once you’ve done all of your research (and NOT BEFORE!), you may even consider calling them.  Tell them that you’re thinking of becoming an agent (and why), let them know that you’ve studied their career, and ask them a few questions like : “what makes the difference between agents who succeed and those who fail?” or “why did you decide to focus on [insert their speciality here]?”.  

Now here’s the most important part.  If you really believe in the agent, and their market focus, offer to work for them for free.  Yes, you read that right. Before you spend time and money working to just pass the real estate exam, you’d be wise to make sure that you like the job.  You don’t have to donate 40 hours a week. But you should spend at least one day a week over the course of few months living the life of a real estate agent.  You’ll likely learn more during this time than you will in your first year of being an agent. Worried about giving up your weekends? Newsflash – if you become an agent, you’ll most likely be working weekends anyway.  

Build Systems and Processes

Once you get your license, you’re going to want to hit the ground running.  So now is the time to set up the foundation for your new business. And as you identify the actions that you’ll need to take to be successful, think about how you can automate them.  

You may need to do some soul searching.  Think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses.  I like to evaluate each task and ask myself “is this easy or hard for me?”.  Notice that I don’t ask if I can do the task. I’m a driven person capable of most anything that I put my mind to.  I ask if it comes easily to me. If it doesn’t, I find a way to streamline it, then either automate it or outsource it.  

This is a skill that does come easily.  For inspiration, you may want to read the books (or listen to them, if that is easier for you!)  Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. These two are experts at building a mindset which focuses on systems and processes.

Start Networking

A big part of real estate is networking.  It’s central to building your client list, and the list of vendors who will help you quickly get your clients through escrow.  

Identify the key networking events in your focus area and start attending them.  They can be both events for real estate professionals and for non-professionals (like community events, charities, church gatherings, professional networking events like YPO, etc.).  

Use your networking to start building a permission based target list.  Friendly reminder: It is so important to get the person’s permission for marketing to them directly before sending them a marketing email.  Not only is it polite, but in some places it is the law.

Don’t Stop

Most importantly, don’t stop.  You’re about to embark on a challenging career.  I know firsthand from my own research that the top agents put in the work.  Top agents never quit. They do the work, and sweat the details. And they reap the rewards from that hard work.

Once you have these steps completed, and assuming you still want (hopefully more than ever) to be a real estate agent, you’ll want to establish your marketing.  This is a topic we’ll cover in a future article.

Ideation: Self Authenticating Smart Sprinklers

I recently made the ultimate jump into the 22nd century, and purchased a Rachio home sprinkler controller. This technology not only allows me to control my sprinklers from my phone (because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t have the frequent need to water their lawn remotely) but it also monitors the weather and turns off my sprinklers when it’s raining. Living in a desert, this is an important feature.

As a part of its water conservation plan, the Southern Nevada Water Authority offered a 50% rebate against my purchase of the smart home sprinkler controller. The only problem – they had to come to my house to inspect it, and have me answer a short survey.

After three attempts over four months, they finally made it to my house to inspect the unit, ensuring that it was installed and operational and ask me a handful of questions related to the survey. It was at that time I shared with them my idea: do the validation remotely.

With my permission they can easily pull data from Rachio showing that my unit was installed and operational. The unit is connected to my home internet, which pulls an IP address which can be traced back to my location. Additionally, the IP address of the home unit can be associated to the IP address pulled from the mobile app, and the mobile app can allow (for a limited time) lat/long location data to be pulled – ensuring that the Rachio is installed at my home.

And the Rachio pulls activity data, showing that it is active and working.

The survey can be completed online, and the entire process automated – negating any need for an in person visit.

The magic of technology!

Net Neutrality – Why Should You Care?

What is Net Neutrality? 

In short, it’s the FCCs rules which require companies, in particular Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Cox, etc. , to treat all content equally.  These rules (note that they are rules, not laws) prohibit ISPs from blocking or discriminating against lawful Internet content.

In a world where ISPs are playing multiple roles (content creator and content distributor, to name a few), the Net Neutrality rules are designed to protect the consumer.  For example, Verizon (who now owns AOL and Yahoo) cannot slow down content from Facebook and Google.  Cox Communciations cannot slow down content from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu (or even worse, block Netflix altogether), in an effort to curb the trend of cord cutting.  ISPs cannot “throttle down” startups developing competing online services.  Nor can these ISPs charge more for content from one company versus another.

In short, Net Neutrality recognizes that unique position that ISPs have in delivering what is arguably a public service built initially with public funding, and imposes rules to ensure that they maintain a level playing field for all Internet providers.

Why Is Everyone Talking About Net Neutrality?

Consumer protections under Net Neutrality changed yesterday.  Claiming that Net Neutrality rules are not necessary in the protection of consumer choice and freedom of speak, the FCC voted 3-2 to eliminate the key consumer protections afforded in Net Neutrality.  This means that ISPs are no longer limited in how they prioritize content delivery via the Internet.

What’s Being Done Now To Protect Net Neutrality?

Several state Attorney Generals have moved challenge the FCC ruling.  Others are using existing state subsidies as a carrot to force ISPs to maintain Net Neutrality rules.  In either case, we’ve moved from a unified nationwide system to a state by state system … which hardly seems efficient.

What Can You Do?

At this point, the best thing you can do is contact your legislators.  Congress can enact a law that would offer the same protections as the FCC rules.  This is a topic that impacts Internet companies and consumers alike.

 

Newsweek Drops Its Paywall, Sort of…

Following in the footsteps of The Sun, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Financial Times, Newsweek has decided to remove its paywall.  It will still offer digital subscriptions, giving paid subscribers access to premium digital content and early access to monthly issues before non-subscribers.

This move is not entirely surprising.  With topical news content freely available through numerous media channels, paywalls represent a significant barrier to entry.  Digital publishers struggle with the delicate balance between driving traffic with free content, versus monetizing premium subscriber-only content.  If they make it too difficult to access content that can easily be found elsewhere, overall revenue (whether through subscription or ad revenue) will fall.

Newsweek is looking to take at least one page out of Netflix’s playbook.  Netflix creates its own custom content, designed to keep subscribers coming back month after month.  Netflix is betting that just a few “favorite” shows could be enough to justify a sub ten dollar subscription fee, every month. While topical news isn’t as unique as entertainment content, Newsweek’s ability to sustain subscription revenues rest heavily on their ability to deliver unique content worth paying for.

Another option would be to increase revenues from non-subscriber traffic.  Offering programmatic segments, reselling behavioral data segments, or optimizing free content in real time based upon advertiser demand are just a few options to increase advertising supply revenues.

In any case, Time (or Newsweek) will tell.

Source: AdAge

Facebook Offers Businesses Insights On Nearby Shoppers

A feature launched on Facebook last November is starting to get the attention of small businesses.  Facebook now allows businesses to gain important insights into the people who frequent the area around them.  These summarized insights are updated daily, and provide several “look back” window options.

This tool has broad implications beyond simply advertising on Facebook.  Marketers and commercial realtors can use this data to better determine where to open retail locations.  Pop-up stores and mobile retailers (think: food trucks) can use this data to determine the optimal time and place to “set up shop”.  Combined with other partners (think: Uber, ClearChannel, Lamar) this data could help identify demand for future services, or target out of home advertising , in a manner which respects the privacy of the consumer.

Source: AdAge

Location Based Advertising Hits Home

Last February Vibes launched Mobile Wallet, a clever solution which leverages the location power of Apple Wallet / Google Pay to remind consumers of a brand based upon the consumer’s location.

Consumers are given the option to save a mobile ad to their mobile device.  When the customer find themselves in proximity of the advertiser’s brick n’ mortar retail location, they are “reminded” of the ad … using the same technology airlines use to surface your boarding pass to your phone’s home screen as you enter the airport.

The coupon like nature of the Mobile Wallet Ad also provides for advanced post campaign analytics.  With Apple exiting the advertising business, Vibes should have little concern about this becoming a built in advertising functionality for the iPhone.

Source:  AdExchanger

Advertising Analytics 2.0 … We’re Still Not There

In March 2013, the Harvard Business Review published this article on the ‘next generation” of Advertising Analytics.  It discusses the challenges “Advertising Analytics 1.0”, which relies heavily on last click attribution (which gives credit to the sale to the last action that the consumer took, and discredits / undervalues higher funnel channels that lead to consumer awareness) and lauds the coming of Advertising Analytics 2.0.

Yet while marketers now have access to more data than ever, enabling them to perform more sophisticated measurement and analytics, relatively few are taking full advantage of this data.   Even fewer truly understand how the data powers the results.  Ubiquitous tools have made the task of performing true multi-channel analysis easier, but they still require knowledgable data scientists to understand, validate, and translate the results.  I stress validation because simply blindly accepting the results from a third party solution, that may or may not take into account the nuances of a marketers business, is common and to be blunt simply lazy.  Results must be challenged and tested against future campaigns.  This “wash-rinse-repeat” process of always challenging the results of advertising analysis is arduous, but necessary to ensure that the data is interpreted accurately.

Fortunately, the data assets necessary to perform these sophisticated analysis continue to become more readily available – allowing marketers armed with the proper knowledge and tools to get closer to answering the holy grail question : “which 50% of my marketing is really driving sales”.

2015’s AdTech Consolidation Forecasts Further Changes

Revisiting 2015 and The Year Ahead

Those paying attention in 2015 saw a continuation of the acquisitions and consolidations of major ad tech players, though at a much more tempered pace.

The long term impact of this activity is that advertisers now have fewer choices which offer arguably more complete end-to-end marketing solution encompassing the full cycle of cross channel marketing (planning / modeling / targeting-execution / measurement-attribution).

As advertisers continue to move towards building customized in-house ad tech stacks, their ability to support these built-in-house solutions with services provided in part by third party service provider solutions is diminishing.   Where an advertiser used to be able to “plug and play” numerous solutions into their in-house solution, those choices are now limited.

On the flip side, for advertisers without the means nor desire to build their own solutions, this shift offers a less confusing landscape with single source providers addressing all of their advertising needs.

Agencies face a different challenge, as the growth of options and commoditization of services puts pressure on their role as gatekeepers to media execution.

None of these changes will result in a binary switch from one methodology to another.  They rather point towards a continued slow evolution of the industry in the coming year, as we continue to “figure it out”.

Source: AdExchanger

FTC Issue Guidelines for Native Advertising

Well, the FTC has (finally) issued its guidelines on Native Advertising. The FTC defines Native Advertising as “content that bears a similarity to the news, feature articles, product reviews, entertainment, and other material that surrounds it online.”  The popularity of Native Advertising has exploded amongst publishers, in response to plummeting click through rates with traditional advertising (think banner ads).  At least for now, Native Advertising offers publishers a way to recover lost ad revenue.

Though this additional revenue doesn’t come at a price;  the FTC has expressed concern that some Native Advertising is confusing to consumers.

The IAB has also published guidelines for publishers – a playbook of sorts.  Publishers would be wise to read both the FTC’s and the IAB’s guidelines, as they differ in some cases.