Real Estate Marketing Plan

Are you looking to hone or develop your real estate marketing plan?

For those looking for marketing tools for realtors (R) and real estate agents, the “best practices” of multi-million dollar agents includes several “pillars”, or sources of leads, and refinement to the three key points of client contact. These three key points of client contact are initial real estate lead production, point of sale (listing presentations and buyer representation processing), and post-sale referral generation.

One common mistake agents make is choosing either a “consumer direct marketing” approach, or a “referral only” approach. This is a mistake simply because to achieve top performance, you’ll need both. Fortunately, when done well, this does not need to be expensive. A referral-only real estate marketing plan is based around actively cultivating (farming) a group (farm) of referral sources. For most systems, this is based around systems of consistent contact to ensure presence of mind and respect by potential referrers, usually via handwritten low-tech stamped notes, monthly phone calls to people who have agreed to refer you when they hear of people who want to buy or sell, occasional client parties, and occasional pop-by’s to see someone in person a few times per year. These systems are carefully designed to look casual, but when combined with real estate newsletters and tools, will cause your farm to both like you personally and respect you professionally. Imagine getting 2-3 referrals per month from a financial planner, another 2-3 from a tax professional, another 1-2 from your grandmother, etc. and you really have a solid base of business. Closing ratios on referrals are always much higher from referral marketing, and the cost-per-lead is lower.

So why not use just that?

Because you may not have 1,800 people who like you and will refer you, and even if you did, there are surely some people buying or selling in your area who would like to work with you.

But they don’t know you.

It’s up to your consumer direct marketing to change that. While bus stop ads can help neighborhood visibility, who honestly calls a realtor because they saw a bus stop ad? Print ads and bus stop ads these days should be used only after you have completely dominated the real estate internet marketing in your area.

How do you dominate an area? Message and delivery. These days, delivery happens via internet for over 90% of buyers, and virtually all sellers who research agents online before selecting which agent to sign with. While the internet is a large space, you can dominate page 1 of Google using our free report on search engine optimization (SEO), and dominate other areas through pay-per-click (PPC), social media marketing (facebook, myspace, twitter, etc.) and trafficked verticals like craigslist. Our company focuses on creation of incredible, compelling offers so you don’t have to, though you can certainly create your own.

Here are a few suggested pillars to consider:

- Expired Listings & Withdrawn Listings. These are the easiest “cold leads” you’ll find. If you decide not to purchase ours, you can certainly create your own. The #1 mistake people make in expired listing marketing is expecting immediate conversion. Usually sellers get flooded with offers immediately, but relisting activity peaks at 6 to 8 weeks after expiration or withdrawal. Pair up with a mortgage lender to reduce the cost, as this can produce refinances and loan modifications.

- FSBO’s. A strong FSBO pillar alone can get you 1-3 listings per month in an average area. For this you’ll need a real estate postcard marketing system or fsbo postcard system. Click through to our site below for some free templates and help on this.

- Homebuyers. The #1 most common mistake in real estate marketing for homebuyers is offering a home-buyer’s seminar. Try “fishing upstream” by instead offering a “credit seminar” or at least adding that to your marketing. We have an online system for this, that if you choose not to buy you can certainly model on. Be sure to “market to the unaware”, i.e. people who haven’t yet decided to buy a house, because chances are if they know for sure they want to buy a house, they probably know an agent. Be the agent (or broker) to plant this seed and most likely you’ll get the business, instead of their “dog’s former owner’s cousin who practices real estate on the side”.

- Investors. A lot of agents ignore this market, but a single good investor client can get you numerous deals per year, both buying and selling. If you’re just out of real estate school starting out, don’t start here – they’ll eat you for lunch and suck up your time, but if you have the other pillars down cold, this can put you into the big leagues, with millions of dollars in commissions.

- Relocation. This can be a tough market to crack, but that barrier to entry can work for you once you do. This is not for the rookies, but for experienced agents with top-notch customer service and the first pillars down, this should be on your real estate marketing plan. Maximize your real estate internet marketing to start working on this business, and use a lot of online video such (again, see our site for examples to model on or purchase).

- HR Benefits. Human Resources real estate marketing for Realtors and lenders can be an excellent source of business. This is a perfect agenda for a mid-career agent.

If all of this sounds good, first, see what you can swipe and implement. Don’t re-invent the wheel, because everything you need for all of the above pillars have been produced. Focus your time and budget, and setup the systems starting with the pillars above. As you get them stabilized, within a month, you should not spend any time whatsoever on production of these leads. Just setup the system, then leave your pay-per-click budget alone and just keep an eye on profitability, and hire offshore e-assistants for other tasks like craigslist marketing. Roll the pillars out, and within six months, there is absolutely no reason why you won’t be the #1 agent in your area, with the #1 paycheck. The tools are built and ready to work for you.

Niche Marketing in Real Estate Marketing Online

What is a niche?

A niche is a target audience or target market or an area of specialization where you can provide your services in the best manner because you are more knowledgeable in that market.

A niche can be geographical. You may choose to provide your real estate expertise in one city or if you are a real estate agent in a large city, your niche may be a certain geographical boundary in that city. Some agents specialize in farm properties. Some agents specialize in second homes and investment properties. Some agents focus on 1031 tax deferred exchanges. Real estate agents who speak other languages may find themselves providing services to buyers and sellers who speak those languages. Whatever type of niche you have, it is extremely important to focus your attention on your target audience when in comes to real estate marketing online.

Niche marketing does not mean you have to limit your marketing efforts in just one local area. It is also important to combine national with regional and local exposure. For instance, if you are specializing in the second home market, it is important to combine local and regional marketing with national marketing when it comes to real estate marketing online. If your niche is in the second home market, the buyer or seller for a second home may come from any city in the country.

Many buyers and sellers of second homes consider different cities in different states before they decide where next to purchase a second home or investment property. They like to search online to conduct their research to find out about the different cities they are considering. They also look for real estate agents online who can provide them with additional information on the cities of their interest.

If you market your real estate business online outside of your local area of service, you are already several notches ahead of your competition because you will reach your target audiences right in their spots before they even start looking for a real estate agent else where. Their perception of your professional practice will also improve because you are giving them a glimpse of the kind of approach you have when it comes to conducting your business.

The biggest drawback in utilizing real estate marketing online nationally is the issue of budget. If you are an independent contractor (and most real estate agents are), chances are that you will pay for the marketing of your own profession, and most online publications will charge a handsome fee to include your real estate business online nationally. However, if you do your research, you will find some online publications that will charge decent rates to include your real estate business online nationally.

Understanding that it is not necessarily the amount of any online traffic that is important but getting the online traffic from your target audience is what really counts. You will get less general online traffic when you direct your focus to a targeted audience, but you are reaching the audience that will listen to your message. This is the audience that is more likely to respond to your message. Of course, just like any other type of marketing, real estate marketing online is still a numbers’ game, and you are more likely to experience a higher success rate when you reach your target audience online.

How do you reach your target audience with real estate marketing online?

Advertise your real estate business in specialized online publications. If you would like to reach the audience for the second home market, advertise online on a second home Internet directory or second home Internet magazine. If you would like to reach the market online for 1031 tax deferred exchanges, advertise in an online or Internet magazine that specializes in real estate investing and 1031 tax deferred exchanges.

Know the function of the search engines in real estate marketing online. A huge majority of online searches are done through search engines. Using search engines is really a wonderful way to reach your target audience because your target market is the one coming to you instead of you going to them. For instance if they put “buying a second home directory” as their search parameter, they are very specific about finding a directory that specializes in the second home market.

Advertise in an online publication that ranks in the top 10 of Google, MSN, and Yahoo when using the key words of the search parameters that your target audience is most likely going to use because these major search engines are the tools that your target audience will most likely utilize to conduct searches online in order to reach you. The real estate online or Internet publications that display in the top 10 of the search results in major search engines in a defined niche are the ones which are most likely to be visited by the people who are looking for that specific business or service and that is the online publication where you would like your business to be seen.

Real Estate Marketing in a Luxury Market

As the real estate market in the U.S. slowly continues to regain its footing, many agents are looking at this time as a chance to redefine their market. With so many agents abandoning-or at least significantly cutting back-their marketing systems to save money, others are jumping in to take advantage of the marketing void. In other words, they are taking an offensive approach in order to put themselves in prime position when the market starts to upswing.

In most parts of Canada, on the other hand, the market continues to stay hot and agents are looking for the best way to grow their business. They are looking to expand the reach of their marketing and maximize income opportunities. Whether it be in the U.S. or Canada, a number of agents we are talking to believe that now is the time to make the transition into the ultra high-end market.

Traditionally, luxury real estate is one of the hardest market segments to try and break into. Why? There are a few common reasons. It might be the presence of a dominant agent already ensconced in the community or the fact that everyone already has a peer in the real estate business. It may be because the agents themselves don’t have the patience to work in a generally slower-paced market (less transactions to go around, tougher competition and slower sales process). It could be that they are simply not prepared for the unique challenges a high-end market poses.

In my experience, it’s usually a combination of these reasons that prevents most agents from becoming successful in luxury real estate. There are many things you need to know before you make the quantum leap into the next price range. We’ve put together a list of five factors that will help you decide if a move to luxury real estate is right for you.

#1. Know What You Are Getting Into

Agents often make a blind leap into luxury real estate because they think that’s “where the money is.” Of course, it’s simple math. If you get the same split, it pays to list homes with higher selling prices. In theory, you can make more money by doing fewer transactions. On one hand, that’s true, but if you go into luxury real estate with this mentality, you are probably destined to fail.

Yes, your income per transaction goes up significantly. That’s great, but there is often a new set of challenges introduced when working a high-end market: the competitive stakes are much higher, social circles are much more closed, politics are different, and there are many other factors which I will detail throughout this article. In addition, marketing and servicing costs are generally more when dealing with luxury homes and clients. Both buyers and sellers expect more and demand more and the properties themselves need even more attention (marketing, staging, photography, etc.) to appeal to a more sophisticated crowd.

Carol Barkin of Toronto, Ontario has been a successful Sales Representative for 20 years, but it took her some time to build her business in her high-end markets (both in the city and in a lakefront recreational market about an hour outside Toronto). “For me, the biggest challenge was making that first connection,” she says. “They already have tight social connections and know how to get what they want, so building relationships is a matter of trust. It’s important to relate to clients as a friend and a helpful peer, not just present yourself as a service provider.”

#2. Patience, Patience, Patience

It’s clear that high-end real estate is a different animal than traditional residential markets. It tends to move much slower. Generally, there are fewer homes on the market at any given time and there are fewer buyers out there with the means to purchase such expensive properties. The stakes are higher for everyone involved. So on average, it takes significantly longer to sell one of these homes. In addition, there is a lot of competition out there for a limited number of properties, so it often requires more patience to break into the market and build a strong client base.

This is truly a case where the end usually justifies the means if you have the right understanding and commitment going in. Though listings are harder to come by and it takes longer for them to sell, the large check at the end of the transaction is worthwhile. But not all agents have the stomach to wait longer in between commission checks. Oftentimes, this is the hurdle that stops them in their tracks.

“In my experience in high-end real estate, six months on the market is nothing. On average, it’s more like nine for a listing to sell,” says Robin. “Also, if they are not truly motivated to sell, you will waste a lot of time and money on marketing. In some cases, I will adjust my commission rate so that the marketing costs are covered by the seller. It helps to offset the time it takes to sell. You also shouldn’t go into luxury real estate without money in the bank. It’s a long-term process to build your business and if you are not prepared, it can break you quickly.”

#3. Know It. Live It. Keep It Exclusive.

Another reason that some agents struggle to find their footing in an ultra high-end market is that they cannot relate to the clients or communicate effectively. You’re dealing with a much savvier and usually more demanding crowd who know what they want and are used to getting what they desire. Now, you don’t necessarily have to live in the luxury community you are targeting, but you have to present yourself like you do. The way you dress, your ability to network within their circles, the way you communicate with these sophisticated individuals, the quality of your marketing materials-you have to be able to make a personal connection and develop a strong professional image. If they don’t buy into you as a luxury home expert who’s tapped into their community, they aren’t as likely to do business with you.

Jack Jeffcoat III is an agent who is in the process of transitioning his market focus from high-end golf communities in Central Florida to ultra high-end waterfront properties along Florida’s Space Coast. From his marketing presence to his personal presentation to his servicing strategies, everything he does is to support his image as a luxury real estate specialist. He’s often bold and unwavering in his approach because he never wants to lose credibility.

Think of it like any high-end product that is in demand because of its scarcity and exclusivity. So as a real estate agent specializing in high-end properties, you, your marketing image, and the service experience itself need to reflect the utmost quality. If you look and act like the best agent around, people will aspire to work with you.

“When I take a listing presentation, I conduct an interview with the seller to make sure they are willing to follow my recommendations,” Jack says. “At every opportunity, I want to remind them why they are hiring me. They know I am a luxury real estate expert that only works with an exclusive group of clients. From the beginning, they are instilled with the belief that if they want to have a successful sale, they need to follow my lead. It gives me the upper hand and keeps me positioned as the market specialist.”

Also, keep in mind that high-end real estate isn’t necessarily going to be the same from region to region. A waterfront community in Florida will have a different set of challenges than a mountain resort community in Colorado or a downtown high-rise in Toronto. In some places, “high-end” may be $400,000 and up. In others, prices could be in the multi-millions. So when it comes to your personal presentation and the way you market yourself, be sure to properly present your niche and look impressive.

“Always look bigger than you are,” says Robin Milonakis. “You have to have exceptional marketing materials. They have to make people feel good about hiring you. It feeds their ego knowing they are working with the best.”

#4. Image is Everything, Especially in Marketing

When it comes to your marketing materials, quality is key. You can’t position yourself as a high-end agent if your materials look unsophisticated. A first-rate personal brochure and dynamic website are absolutely essential. Your personal brochure should take the place of your business card whenever you meet a potential client. It needs to look sharp and feel impressive at the very first glance (exceptional photography, nice glossy paper, sophisticated writing, clean design). It needs to reflect your personality, but also relate to the luxury market you are targeting. In a way, you are a representative of this lifestyle and your marketing should convey that. It shows your unique expertise and highlights the service/knowledge benefits that make you a specialist in this distinctive market.

It’s very important that you don’t skimp here or it will show. You simply can’t fake high-end quality. You must be committed to investing the money to do the marketing right or people will see through it.

Put simply, the brochure and all other marketing materials need to be of the utmost quality. This includes your house advertising. You should at least have a tabloid-size glossy flyer/brochure that you use to promote each property. The staging must be great. The photography must be very professional. Of course, you should keep the property marketing pieces branded clearly with your personal image (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) so you don’t lose your own identity.

“My brochure is quality and people associate the piece with its sender,” Carol Barkin says. “I send it out prior to meeting someone to warm them up. It gives me more credibilty and shows my knowledge of the market they are concerned about.”

The same is especially true when it comes to your website. It needs to reflect the quality of your brochure and other print materials. It needs to look sharp and feel representative of your luxury market. Two of the agents I spoke with-Jack Jeffcoat and Robin Milonakis-are both actually in the process of revamping their compaigns to better target their high-end clientele. Even though both of them have been highly successful with their current campaigns, they know it’s worth the investment to take their marketing to the next level to promote an exclusive luxury niche.

One bold strategy Jack uses is to feature only properties above a certain price on his website. Does he take listings at lower prices? Yes, when the situation calls for it. But his image is that of a luxury real estate expert and his website is one more way to show that. “If one of my high-end prospects goes to my website and sees a bunch of low-priced listings, then it’s not really helping my cause,” Jack says. “Like a doctor, specialists make more money and earn more credibility, so I want to be known as a high-end listing specialist in every aspect of my marketing.”

When it comes to online marketing, you also need to make sure you are very active on your web site. You cannot just put up a site-no matter how nice it looks-and expect it to generate business over the long run. You have to actively post information-links, articles, blogs, calendar events, community information etc.- to make it a resource that people want to return to on a regular basis. Your active engagement on the site will enable you to better communicate with your target market. And of course, it also boosts your SEO (search engine optimization) to help you generate more leads through all the major search engines.

#5. Be Prepared to Back It Up

In addition to making sure your marketing campaign and personal presentation are representative of your market, you must also make sure you are fully in-tune with the market itself. If you don’t know everything that’s happening around you, you will never be able to establish yourself as a luxury specialist. This is one area where you will not be able to fake your way through a transaction with minimal knowledge or experience. Clients will expect more and demand more from you, so you have to be able to back up your claims as an expert-in terms of both your knowledge and your service experience.

“Expectations from clients are different and, in general, they are more demanding. They want you to be available to provide answers and information,” Carol Barkin says when referring to the clients she works with. “In the end, they need to make their own decisions. They are gathering advice and professional recommendations from me so they can come to their own conclusions.”

That said, never underestimate the clients’ need for up-to-date information. Be proactive in giving them regular updates (at least one call per week) on market activity. Always stay current with everything that is happening in the market. Word travels fast in luxury real estate, so make sure you know what’s going on-what listings have sold, for how much, how long they were on the market, and so on. If you are not all over the market, your clients will be all over you. How and what you communicate will make them feel better about the experience

“No matter what, I personally call every one of my clients on Monday with a detailed market update,” Jack Jeffcoat says. “I make it a point to always know what’s going on in the market. If any home sells, I need to be aware of it and discuss it with each client so they know what’s happening.”

Then, make sure your service experience reflects your marketing image. You have to be able to deliver on your claims by making the client feel special throughout the process. Think of it as the difference between the Ritz-Carlton and the Marriott. It’s a completely different experience from the moment you walk through the doors of either hotel, and it’s why you pay substantially more to stay at the Ritz. Imagine your real estate service as a luxury experience. That will make you a valuable commodity in the market.

Is the Luxury Market Right for You?

Ultimately, that’s for you to decide. You must be prepared for the unique challenges and tough competition found in the world of high-end real estate. You have to make sure you are patient enough to handle a slow-moving market. You need to be willing to invest the time and money it takes to not only brand yourself as a luxury specialist, but to back it up with higher standards of service and expertise. If you are ready for what the high-end market has in store, it can be a very lucrative place to do business over the long-run. And whether you are in a slow market or a hot market, right now may be the time to take the big leap!

Greg Herder, MBA, is the founder of Hobbs/Herder Advertising and a recognized leader in marketing and lead generation for real estate professionals. He has presented a the National Association of RealtorsĀ® national convention and regularly speaks to sold out audiences across the U.S. and Canada on his favorite topic of achieving greater success in real estate sales. For more information, visit his website on real estate marketing.