5 Tips For More Innovative Online Real Estate Marketing

by Mark Macdonald

Woman with laptop.Let’s face it, these days both buyers and sellers start their real estate journeys online.

Whether it’s searching for listings or answers to real estate related questions, people head to the internet first and to an agent second.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to integrate digital marketing into your real estate business in order make sure it’s your website and your listings people are finding online.

Here are a five ways you can start improving your real estate marketing to get more clients.

1. Social Media: Don’t be A Digital Sharecropper

Everyone knows Twitter and Facebook offer great opportunities for interaction and promotion. But your online marketing strategy shouldn’t rely solely on your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

You also need to make sure you develop an online asset that you own and control. Am I saying don’t invest time cultivating relationships on Twitter and Facebook? No. Just treat them as outposts that play a supporting role in gently pointing people back to your website where you can start a deeper relationship with the content you deliver there (which we we’ll talk about in a second).

But promoting your own content should only make up a very small portion of your activity on social networks. And you don’t need to tweet about real estate all time either, because lets face it, most people care about real estate only when they’re thinking about buying or selling.

Instead use your social media accounts to curate and link to valuable information, deals and resources for your city or neighborhood, real estate related or not. That gives people a reason to follow you even when they don’t need your services at the moment. Plus, you create goodwill and come across as a local authority.

2. Turn Your Website into a Content Marketing Hub

When people go online for real estate related content they want valuable information and answers to their questions – not immediate sales pitches. And that’s what content marketing is all about. It’s about freely sharing tutorial-style information that’s worthwhile on it’s own and lacks a sales pitch, in order to sell something related later.

The benefit to you is that creating valuable content demonstrates your abilities and sells your services in an under the radar way. Not to mention helping you rank in search engines.

It also happens to be the smartest strategy for becoming a ‘likeable authority’ in the eyes of your prospective clients and industry colleagues.

In other words, when it comes to marketing yourself online, your content is your advertising. It’s the attraction strategy for the part of your business that makes you money (helping people buy and sell properties).

And I’m not talking about posting the canned articles your brokerage sends you. That’s not compelling, that’s boring.

Compelling content is the result of combining valuable information with your own take and personality.

What tools do you need?

So what tools does a smart content marketing strategy require? Well for starters you need a blog (even if you don’t call it a blog) so you can start delivering regular content in an organized way.

I recommend WordPress because once your web designer gets you up and running, adding and editing content is as easy as using Microsoft Word. Plus it can power your entire website allowing you to have a static homepage and have your blog in another area of your site.

Another important tool is email marketing software from a company like Aweber or Mailchimp. One of the main goals of content marketing is to get email opt-ins so you can follow up with people over time. These services make it easy for you to create email lists and place sign up forms on your website so people can join your list.

What Kind of Content Should You Produce?

For buyers, a portfolio of well priced listings in popular neighbourhoods is a good start. Listings are natural lead generating assets but it’s important to start thinking of each one as an opportunity to post a valuable piece of free content to your blog. Don’t just link to MLS, put all the pictures and descriptions on your own website as well.

But when it come to content marketing and real estate, you need to go beyond just your listings.


First, it’s a good idea to put together some compelling cornerstone content for buyers and sellers on your website. Get the basic homebuying and selling 101 covered with a resource that you created and that’s interesting to read (or watch).

Create area guides for people looking to relocate like “The Top 10 Things to Consider When Moving to Toronto”. Create a free report for sellers detailing what homes in the area have been selling for in the last six months.

Carry a Flip Video Camera on you at all times and record short video tips based on the situations and questions you encounter throughout the day. Take every specific question a client asks you, generalize the answer, and turn it into a blog post for your larger audience. Notice a misstep at another open house? Warn your prospective sellers against it on your blog. The content opportunities are endless.

Own the search results for a neighbourhood by creating content about it.

Be the hyper-local online newspaper. Realize that you’re in the media business and become the “beat reporter” for your area making your website the place where all the info resides. New restaurant opening? Post about on your blog.

Be the go-to curator of resources for residents in your area. Find out what municipal services people frequently contact City Hall about and create links and guides for them on your site. Tell people about a great Groupon deal a local business is having.

Is everyone you attract with this content also going to need a realtor? No, but you will create exposure, goodwill and authority for yourself which will lead to more clients down the road when these people do need an agent and remember you.

The challenge is finding the time to do it. If you’re tight for time, I suggest getting comfortable in front of the camera and going the video route. It’s what Ian Watt does and he’s ranked in the top 1% of members in the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. You can record short clips and quickly upload them to YouTube and your blog (or hire an assistant to do it for you). Aim for one piece of content a week if you’re just starting out.

3. Incorporate Content Marketing Into Your Offline Advertising

Is your current offline advertising trying to consummate the marriage without having a first date? Most real estate advertising I see tries to skip the courtship phase and go straight to the honeymoon with a headshot and a phone number – and it just doesn’t work that way.

Instead, you need to either incorporate valuable content into your advertising, or advertise your content itself. That could mean a print ad that outlines the top five open house pitfalls sellers make that also positions you as a knowledgable and trusted expert and therefore a smart choice to represent the prospect.

Or it could be a bus stop ad or postcard promoting a free ‘sold prices’ report for home sellers. In the ad you would advertise a link to a landing page on your website where people can enter their email and download the report.

The advantage to this approach is that you get to start a one to one relationship. And from a ROI and measurement standpoint you can track the success of the campaign by how many people visit the page, and how many people opt-in. This allows you to test and tweak different headlines and calls to action to make your ad more effective over time.

Here’s a postcard I got in the mail from Sage Real Estate in Toronto that does a pretty good job with this approach:

Sage Real Estate Postcard

Notice they’re advertising content (a report detailing February 2011 Sold Prices), not they’re services or agents. When you go to the URL on the postcard you hit their landing page with their email opt-in form. You get your report and they get permission to follow up with you and deliver future content in the hopes that when you’re ready to sell, you’ll think of them.

If you were going to model this campaign I would try adjusting the headline to say “FREE February 2011 Sold Prices Report. Go to yourwebsite.com to download it now.” Ideally you would want to split test a couple different headlines and calls to action on the postcard and landing page.

4. Open House Opt-Ins

Your showings are fantastic opportunities to create one to one relationships with new prospects and clients if you approach them with a permission marketing mindset.

And that doesn’t mean pulling out the clipboard and making people “sign in”. When you do that people know you just want their contact information for your own agenda and there’s no value in it for them. It’s pushy and it can turn people off.

In fact, I’ve written down fake information every time I’ve been made to sign in at an open house. You might think that’s rude but it’s the reality that exists so you need to accept it and find a better way to do things before your competition does.

Instead, try using your open house as an opportunity to offer an ‘ethical bribe’ in exchange for people’s email addresses. In other words, offer them something valuable so they want to give you permission to contact them.

You could have a laptop or an iPad on the table with a sign next to it that says, “Thanks for visiting 123 Main Street. Enter your name and email to get additional photos and the full feature sheet from this listing sent straight to your inbox. As a bonus, you’ll also get a comprehensive list of amenities in the area and a reminder when we are accepting offers.”

You’re still asking for people to part with some information but now you’re offering something of value in return. That’s a lot more compelling than saying “Hi, please sign in in the kitchen”. Try and keep the contact information you request to just name and email. The less you ask for, the more sign-ups you’ll get.

Mailchimp has a great service for laptops and the iPad designed to specifically accommodate in-person email sign ups. Check out the iPad app:

And if you really want to impress your visitors, you can use Mailchimp’s autoresponder feature to have your pictures and information ready in an email ahead of time so people get the info while they are still at your open house.

5. Become your own Groupon

Groupon has exploded in popularity in the last year. Even though they’re a huge site, their underlying business model is actually quite simple and old school. All they do combine email marketing with scarcity.

Scarcity is the sales tactic at play when they offer a limited deal to the first x number of people who sign up. It works because limiting something is one of the most powerful psychological sales tactics you can employ. It’s the fear of missing out that gets people to take action.

So how do you become your own Groupon?

Once a year you can announce to your email list that you’re running a promotion for a short period of time offering to cut your commission for home sellers who list with you. The idea being that the money you loose cutting your commission is made up by signing up more new clients than you otherwise would have, and hopefully increasing your word of mouth in the process.

I hope these strategies give you some ideas about how you can start integrating online marketing more deeply into your real estate business.

Are you a realtor who has creatively integrated digital marketing into your business? Share your experiences in the comments.

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