AREC 2018 will be highly informative, like all before it. A host of guest speakers will again speak of the evolving world of real estate sales; many will remind the audience just how critical their digital presence is to their growing success and long-term survival.
Of course, everyone knows this already; but inspirational speakers have a way of reinforcing and inspiring their audiences with a will to change for the better. Unfortunately most of us will go back home and, frankly, change nothing. So my question to you is this: If you agree that it’s a digital world nowadays, why don’t you embrace it now?
It’s time to take digital seriously, and fortunately this year there are some fabulous solutions that make digital as easy as any other form of marketing you do.
If you’re ready to jump on the digital bandwagon, or if you’ve started experimenting but want to take it up a level or ten, there are solutions now that are virtually effortless for you and your agency, and that have proven highly effective. Unless you want to do it all yourself, none of this is much harder than making a decision to press the Go button.
Whilst it’s very true that everyone has had a form of digital marketing for years via the listings portals, it is not true that this is a holistic digital strategy. We think that a true digital strategy is about leveraging the power of multiple digital channels to project your sales, your brand and, of course, snare buyers and sellers. Digital is evolving faster than drug-resistant bacteria, so rather than predict the future let’s talk about what we think is important now for digital marketing and real estate.
Enter Facebook and Google, and yes, of course, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. The first two are arguably the most important, because they are the most pervasive. This is where people spend their time nowadays, a staggering 20-plus hours per week per person in our region. Seems like there is no better place to connect with buyers and sellers; but how you do this, and to a great extent why, is going to help you choose the best approach.
Notwithstanding the recent data breach issues at Facebook, it is certainly not going away and should be a key component of your digital strategy.
Firstly, don’t confuse content posts with ads; they are very different beasts and we think you need both.
Whilst it’s easy to do ‘amateur hour’ yourself on Facebook, some think there are far better things for you to do with your time, and of course it’s very hard to compete with tech-enabled professional solutions for effectiveness.
Google is the planet’s advertising powerhouse, a superbly effective channel to project your listings, brand and agents while people surf the net. Absolutely Google should be in your mix. A truly flexible solution that allows for both Google and Facebook should deliver results beyond any solution using just one channel.
WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM DIGITAL?
To begin with, ask yourself what you want get get from digital. In truth, there are really two schools of thought here:
- Box tickers, who just want to be able to tell vendors they will also show their listings on Facebook and/or Google.
- Strategists, who will not only use these mediums for finding buyers and sellers, but also to strategically build data, intelligence and brand at-scale digitally.
If you are the former, you have more choices of suppliers for solutions, from the portals to your local ad agencies. If you are the latter, the field narrows and it is worth considering the points below before making any decision on a provider.
HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUR BRAND IMAGE ONLINE?
Brand being critical in the success of all top agencies, it makes sense to have a perfectly delivered and polished execution of your brand online. A great digital solution will allow brand-perfect templates for Google and Facebook ads, and won’t clutter up the limited ad space with other companies’ logos or links that are not yours. Given your ads may well be shown in their millions, it’s arguable that digital ads are even more visible than other marketing elements like signboards – so perhaps they should be 100 per cent your brand.
DO YOU WANT TO GROW YOUR OWN DATA?
Many offerings will direct ad clicks to websites you don’t own, meaning they get the benefit of the retargeting data, audience building and clicks.
What you get is an ad, but you don’t get any of the benefit of the data accumulated. In these instances clicks on your ads may even be used to trigger your competitors’ ads later. A few solutions direct ad clicks to your own websites, which builds your own traffic and, critically, builds your own exclusive retargeting and audience data. This data can be a powerful tool for subsequent listings, whilst also helping to close vendor sign-ups.
Imagine telling your next vendor you already have an audience, in the thousands, that is a close match for interest on their listing – and that you can show those people ads on Google and/or Facebook if they sign up. Remember, an audience can be built on both Facebook and Google, together in some instances. Audience data is just as powerful as your email list, and the two even work together.
PRICE AND PERFORMANCE
There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of digital marketing. From the highest level, a major consideration would be the number of ads and clicks you can expect. Some provide surprisingly low numbers of ads and clicks per dollar compared to others, so ask what you are getting and use this to compare value if shopping around. Targeting is important, too; the best solutions will use big data to find passive and active buyers beyond the portals, whilst adding in relevant retargeting and local brand building.
WHO WILL SEE YOUR ADS?
There are many ways to target your ads and it’s easy to waste money on inappropriately or ineffectively targeted ads, so ask how they are being targeted. For example, if ads are likely to be shown to people 10km away from the property, they are much less likely to be buyers; solutions that understand suburb geography as well as demographics would be our pick.
CONTENT POSTS AND ADS WORKING TOGETHER
Facebook ads definitely outperform posts for effectiveness in finding the right people. This is because the ad targeting is so much more specific than a broad post-boost. Notwithstanding, your Facebook page is your online CV for many, so consider a solution that will do companion posts on your pages or profiles that make you look like a Facebook superstar, but with zero effort. Content is a key pillar of your digital strategy, and although you may want to supplement your property-based posts with other content, people actually expect and want property content on agencies’ and agents’ pages!
REAL ESTATE-SPECIFIC OR GENERAL SOLUTIONS
Property marketing has some very specific requirements, from generation of ads that look on-brand and also work for real estate, through to the ad targeting and retargeting. General purpose solutions can post ads, but how can they compete with purpose-built real estate solutions for effectiveness?
New-age digital marketing will have a profound impact on the industry and represents an opportunity to reclaim the high ground on brand-based marketing. As the pace of change quickens, it’s worth hitching your wagon to an evolving solution that won’t leave you behind. Presenting Google and Facebook ads to a vendor is helping agents close listings over agents who lack these solutions.
But perhaps consider doing it right, rather than just a tick-a-box approach. Agents and agencies who get that will own their digital future, rather than have it own them. So this year, don’t just listen; how about doing something instead?
It’s your bright shiny future – go and seize it.