Best Practices in PR & Marketing for Realtors
By Rodger Roeser, CEO, The Eisen Agency
Most good realtors are born marketers. They have the gifts of socialization, negotiation and association and find ways to bring what appears to sometimes be the disparate of matches to a perfect and mutually beneficial close for buyer and seller. I grew up in the industry. My mother was (and remains to this day) an independent broker/realtor near Cleveland, Ohio – and has been for nearly 40 years. I was the former corporate PR muckety muck for a large real estate franchisor in the late 1990s and during my agency life, have successfully represented the largest of real estate companies and some of the smallest independent real estate firms.
Successful realtors are masters of time management and endeavor to master the tools that will help them to most efficiently do their jobs successfully. Gain inventory, move inventory. This takes hustle, drive and connections – creating a massive referral network and building upon your personal reputation and brand, and the brand of the real estate firm you represent.
The large franchisors have all the nifty whiz bang tools available to their firms to use and capitalize upon, and the smaller independent ones have the opportunity to perhaps do more with less. But, there are a few major pitfalls I often see in the PR and marketing in real estate that happens to both large and small firms, and it’s costing you listings, time and money.
#1 Failing to Use Existing Tools
The franchisors are great at churning out literally any manner of marketing tool to help out the local group. Some pieces, admittedly, are better than others. But, these items give the larger organizations a tremendous name recognition advantage over their smaller counterparts. These pieces are created for a reason – use them. I’ve seen very well recognized real estate brands in colors and combinations that should never appear. Business cards designed by goodness knows, and ads that truly make you want to gouge out your eyes (let alone some amazing poor copywriting).
These pieces are done for the simple reasons of saving you time and effort, but also in keeping a consistent brand and brand message. I understand (since I do it for a living) marketing communications can appear to be a “sexy” profession, but it’s hard work, it’s science and research, and it’s skill and experience. While there are always nuanced ways of doing business, most pieces are able to be somewhat customized to allow for some level of individuality. Understand how your business fits within that brand and use those pieces and that messaging, because spending too much time and effort on this is simply not a good use of time. Find ways to link to and coincide with these, rather than creating your own from scratch.
For example, if corporate sponsors tennis – sponsor local tennis.
The lesson for the smaller counterparts is understanding that while the larger organizations are fitting within a brand, you have the opportunity to truly create a your own personal and differentiated brand. Use cows in your marketing, have a dog a spokesperson. Look at your competition and develop your unique look and feel – then for goodness sakes, work with a professional that can hone that look and make sure that while it’s unique, it’s still professional.
Then use these tools to your advantage and keep them consistent throughout the whole of your communications and pieces. You should review all of your collateral and items you put out each year (I recommend December) and identify anything that is out of synch with your brand and your message.
Part 2: Networking is a Part of, not THE Solution: How to Best Leverage Networking
Perhaps THE lifeblood of good realtor marketing and public relations is the genuine acts of relating to the public – and that means networking. Getting out and finding groups of folks to meet with, share your card and a story or two in the hopes that when that magical time comes to buy or sell, they think of you. Networking is indeed important and you have to do it purposefully.
One or two non realtor events a month is usually enough, but should be such niched that it’s not 10 realtors for every non realtor in the room – so think outside the local chamber of commerce box. Pass out your card, get cards and understand that likely everyone you’re meeting already knows or has worked with a realtor – and you can’t win ‘em all. But you can share what you specialize in and how you may be able to be of service professionally and in the buying and selling of the home.
For example, could another group they belong to use a speaker on a topic you know very well? Find areas that are mutually beneficial, after all, likely they’re not networking to meet a realtor. Once you’ve met, that’s step one in a much longer game, so how you leverage that relationship is key. Immediately send them a letter or email letting them know you enjoyed meeting them. Ask them if they’d like to get your monthly email newsletter, and if so, put them in it (what, you don’t have a monthly eNewsletter – we need to talk – CRM is a major tool you must have and work). Try to maintain some ability to stay in communication, for example, connecting on LinkedIn.
Leverage this by regularly posting relevant articles or topics to maintain that brand recognition, and level of social competence and expertise sharing. While they won’t all turn into clients, you’ll be amazed how leveraging your networking through social media and CRM is of great value.
#3 Your Time is Money
Between organizing open houses, doing trade shows and events, schlepping folks around hither and nigh for houses, hanging signs, taking down signs and the 10 dozen other things that occupy your day, marketing can be just one more hassle that you have to deal with. You need to get those pictures of the house, you need to get your listings online – all to market your inventory.
But what about making time to market yourself and your business? Back to item #1, use what you have readily available. It will save you time, and more than most professions, your time is truly your money – and you need to do it smart. If you have the dollars to invest in a marketing person to assist you, do so. Typically, they will charge you $50 – $100/hour depending on the exact nature of the work. A very typical retainer for a given city for a given realtor is about $2K/month – if you can afford it, do it. The right professional is an investment in your time – time you can use to make more dollars. But, if you must do it yourself, in my opinion here’s three of the fastest, easiest and most efficient things you need to do in your proactive marketing efforts. 1). Unless corporate won’t allow it, get extremely memorable and unique business cards that specifically drive traffic to the same branded website, and pass them out liberally. 2). Update your website daily if you can, with tips, strategies, new listings, ideas, anything about owning, buying, selling, maintaining, staging or whatever else a house – AND – your community. 3). CRM. Nothing massive or longwinded, just share a fresh tip, a house or two available, a house or two sold (with testimonial of course) and contact info. Send monthly.
Of course, there are literally thousands of things you “can” do, and keep in mind, those folks that have the “next best marketing opportunity” are also salespeople with a job to do – sell that thing, not necessarily grow your business. So, if you’re bombarded by opportunities, or have paralysis by analysis because of the myriad of things you can do, call in a pro for at least a consultation and perhaps to set up a modest marketing plan that you can manage.
#4 Standing Out in the Right Way
Remember Glamor Shots? All the rage, and it seemed every women (or tandem mother daughter team) had them done and put on their business cards. Looking back, pretty cringe-worthy, and yes, if you’re still using those – um, please read further (but first, throw those away). You want to stand out in a crowded arena of realtors, no question about it. But standing out doesn’t mean making a spectacle of yourself or looking goofy, like so many of the locally produced ads for law firms or used cars seem to be these days.
Real estate is an important profession and folks need to have a level of pretty significant trust in their realtor – after all, this is a big deal for almost everyone. Most realtors need to be certain to be branding themselves and hard working, trustworthy and highly knowledgeable – and thus should look the part in every aspect.
That means from what you wear to the collateral items you share. In how you answer the phone, to the website you’re directing folks to. If you drive folks around in your car, or your language (and body language) – all are on display and you need to be purposeful and professional about the management of each. Be unique, but be professional – and know that your version of unique may be just what your clients want or no clients want, so pay attention.
#5 Existing Free Things
They say there is no such thing as a free lunch, and while that’s true, if you have the time, take advantage of a few things that are free to help out your brand and your PR efforts throughout your community. Put your business card on every free bulletin board in town. Volunteer at as many events and programs that you feel comfortable with and have time to give of yourself. Offer to speak at local schools, churches and community organizations. Write articles and op-eds (non political, keep it to house issues) for the local paper.
Start a blog (again, home related). Take advantage of social media opportunities, and keep your Facebook and LinkedIn pages up to date, and don’t forget to comment on other postings and share – after all, social media is about engagement, not a one way discussion. There are dozens of things you can do that require maybe just a little time and effort, so think of ways you can be engaged and involved.
#6 Reputation Management
And lastly, your reputation is about all you have in this world. As my daddy used to say, “I gave you last name. Don’t screw it up.” Typical dad speak, but hey, it makes a good point. In real estate, as with most other professional services businesses, it’s much more about the “professional” than it is the “service” offered. Translation: lots of folks can sell houses, but there’s only one “you.” And this goes back to the whole of your reputation, so truly the best marketing and PR is to simply be known as that hard working and trustworthy agent that I knew I could count on (or not fear referring my grandmother too).
Now, there will always be “that” client, and we all get that. But, if you have a specific group that you know you’re the best option for, working for a specific type of client and niche can almost always be best in that you most understand their needs and how to meet their requirements – do you specialize in empty nesters, first time home buyers, farms, etc., etc. Find three things that you really want to be known for. Write them down. Then act each day and each transaction that fits those three “brand pillars” as we call them. It will make your life easier and marketing more effective.
In closing, these are just a few of many ideas and options to consider. If you’re not guilty of any of these, consider this just a validation of you great efforts. But, if this is an area you can improve upon, don’t forget to send me a thank you card.
About the Author
Rodger Roeser is the CEO of The Eisen Agency, one of the country’s top marketing and public relations consultancies for franchises and professional services businesses. Roeser has earned numerous national awards for excellence in marketing and public relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.