Digital Marketing Agency Tips: 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Real Estate Advertising

I originally wrote this article for Impakt

Most digital marketing agencies hit the ball out of the park when it comes to developing creative advertising campaigns for their real estate clients. However, there are times when the campaign absolutely makes no sense or doesn’t attain a high level of ROI for the client. It may sound a little amateur, but some campaigns I have seen come off single-sided with no longevity plans built into the campaign. These campaigns are typically designed in two weeks or less, which are highly ineffective.

When I was working as the director of marketing for a car dealership, I was constantly requested to develop an advertising campaign for an event that was 2-3 weeks down the road. The amount of stress I would go through to hit a home run with the little resources I had was embarrassing. Deep down, I knew the return on investment would be very little, but I stuck to my simple outlines of what to do and not to do when faced with creating a big campaign over a month’s time.

I learned from my experience at the dealership and was able to develop a simple foundation of making some great campaigns. So, here are my 10 do’s and don’ts of advertising specifically for real estate advertising agencies.

Do!

1. Define a brand image
Get out your creative brief template and start writing out what makes the client unique. You want to make sure you are able to latch on to something that can make them look like a super hero. Sometimes the client thinks they know it, but in reality they have a false sense because everyone else is selling on the same idea, while they really have strength somewhere else that stands out from the noisy crowd.
2. Know the territory and target audience
This one comes straight from the creative brief too. Identify where the client operates and exactly who their primary and secondary customers are. You want to be as detailed as possible with enough information to paint a picture so vivid that you can almost see the customer. Sometimes, you will end up discovering a new niche target market that will help in the next step.

3. Have a big idea campaign
I find this as the most important piece of the puzzle. You must come up with something that has immediate stopping power and isn’t vampiric. This big idea will be developed from the creative brief and should be easy to adapt across multiple media. There are several methods to come up with a big idea, but I like to just spitball ideas until it comes to me in an “aha!” moment.

4. Keep it simple
Try to make sure that you are not overloading the consumer with too much flashy information. The last thing you want to do is give the campaign too many elements that no one remembers what it is for. The more layers of media outlets that are involved, the more complex the campaign can be, which can overwhelm the customer from reaching their desired destination.

5. Create a touchpoint
This seems to be forgotten quite frequently when it comes to marketing in any sense. The place where the consumer interacts with the product, service, and/or advertisement needs to have some kind of memorable experience. These touchpoints should have a good balance of physical and digital interaction with the consumer. This can be in the form of a pleasant setting for the front end of customer interactions or even simply making a blog.

6. Search Engine Optimization
In today’s world, it is imperative that websites have a strong SEO. With all of the changes lately with Google’s algorithms, SEO has been completely turned upside down. A great way to boost a client’s ranking is to have them produce quality content through blogging. Some realtors may say they don’t have the time, but in reality it is the easiest shameless promotion one can do to prove their expertise in the real estate industry.

7. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertisements
More often than enough, a simple investment in pay-per-click advertisements on search engines can help direct traffic to a client’s website. In the situation of realtors, you want to be very specific on keywords that are related to the target markets. The keywords can range from something as narrow as “(City) Real Estate” to “Two Bedroom Rancher.” The nice part of Google is that it recognizes customers’ locations; therefore, buying keywords will inherently show up in localized searches.

8. Social media listening tools
As more people become connected with social media, companies will need to have a presence on it. Now, simply just starting a social media Page and adding content here or there is not the best technique. There needs to be well-planned out themes for each month/week/day to grab attention. Once you grab enough attention for a following, I highly suggest having the realtor use tools like HootSuite to remain engaged with followers. The more they are engaged, the bigger their brand image becomes.

9. Have result-tracking tools
If a realtor is investing a large sum of money in to your agency, you must provide great insight in the return on investment. For every campaign, be sure to have some kind of tool used to track when and where the potential customer came from. Being able to identify inbound cash cows and dogs is the key to the success for the realtor.

10. Keep the frequency!
I once heard from a realtor that one of their biggest mistakes was not having a constant advertising campaign. She explained to me that she “shot herself in the foot” when pulling her advertising campaign because she was overwhelmed by too many new customers. The result? When the market started to slow down for seasonal fluctuation she had almost no clients. Real estate advertising needs to be constant to remain top-of-mind for the times it can be slow. A year later when she kept with a full-time advertising campaign, she didn’t have any problems finding customers in the slow season.

Don’t!

1. Skip on making a creative brief!
As much as it can be painful to write out this 1 to 2 page report, do not skip out on doing one of these. So much useful information is provided to guide constructing a strong campaign. This is especially important for real estate, as each realtor has their own specific strong selling points that will help them stand out from the noise of competition.
2. Have flashy graphics
OOOH LOOK FLASHY PICTURES! As much Creatives take pride in making amazing products for their clients, sometimes their egos can get in the way. The overload of too much information and flashy designs can annoy the person being subjected to the advertisement campaign.

3. Just do social media
If you are going to launch a campaign only on social media, you might be in for a rude awakening. The way to direct people to the social media outlet has to be big and in their faces for customers to want to connect on social media. That means offline tactics or big budgets for only social media will be needed to succeed when doing just social media advertising. You also have to make sure that social media is highly accessible for the target market. In some real estate areas, the clients’ target market could be near retirement. In that case, social media isn’t a method to reach out to them.

4. Set it and forget it!
Ugh, I dread seeing this one happen. I remember hearing from a director that once the campaign is over that nothing needs to be done. The funny thing is that this is the best time to grab people’s attention. Show off to the public the results of the success of your campaign by creating positive PR. This brings the side-line watchers closer to considering actually being involved with the next campaign up your sleeve.

5. Forget about statistical forecasting
All too often, a campaign can fall flat on its face by not digging up the deep details of statistics. I’ve been there, thrown in to a situation where I was asked to “make something up in a couple of days.” I had range of emotions and was able to produce only a rough strategy. I gave the proposal on condition that I would be able to gain access to all of the statistical records to aid in the campaign. After digging deep for a few days and making lots of excel spreadsheets, I was able to make a confident forecasting. It was successful, but it was partly due to really getting to know the statistics behind the target market. Be sure to ask the realtor for anything that can help statistical forecasting.

6. Be a “yes” person
Clients can be difficult to win them over at times, especially when it comes to big corporations. But that doesn’t mean your agency has to be a “yes” man to satisfy the needs of the realtor. The realtor could come in with a great idea of what they want, but you want to make sure you can blow their socks off with an even better idea that speaks directly to their target market.

7. Make campaigns quickly
A common mistake that all too often weakens the penetration of an advertisement is making a campaign up in less than two weeks. It has been proven time after time that quick patch work to make up an advertisement campaign quickly is highly ineffective. For realtors, the focus of the market needs to be several months in advance of potential trends and opportunities that can be connected with the campaign. I like having at least three to four weeks to build a campaign before it starts.

8. Game popularity
This has become a bit of a no-no lately. Gaming the system to make it appear your client is more popular than what they really are can lead to backlash. Creating bunch of fake back links, buying followers, and/or making up fake reviews are all damaging. Not only does it seem unethical, search engines like Google are starting to spot the activity and will penalize any website pursuing such tactics.

9. E-Mail list blast
Making an E-Mail campaign can be successful, as long as it speaks directly to different target segment groups from organic developed database of e-mail addresses. Buying lists just doesn’t work anymore and it can get you into trouble quickly if you are not in compliance with anti-spam mail laws in different regions. I once had a director become fixated on getting e-mail addresses from other companies. He thought the more e-mail addresses, the better chance of success. Want to know what happened? The desired tactic ended up causing red flags and ended up black listing the company’s domain address, marking it as spam. The campaign failed and it made future e-mail campaigns more difficult.

10. Use QR codes and augmented reality
I hear it all the time, “QR this, QR that, QR is the future.” You know what? Forget QR for now! Think about it for a second. With the power that QR codes harness, why isn’t it on every phone as a default application? The only brand that I know that does this is BlackBerry and they are sinking quickly. The issue for me is the reliability of long-term addresses and the convenience on the side of the customer to adopt it. If it was a native application when a consumer gets their phone, I would be jumping all over this. The same goes for augmented reality. I think AR has a better chance than QR codes, but it is going to take a long time to adapt. However, I can see in the future where QR and AR can work together on a house advertisement sign for a realtor. It would allow for a digital tour of the home without needing the realtor. Until a time where the cost of developing the technology drastically drops and the adoption rate becomes easier, I would advise to steer away from either technology for now.

So there we have it, my guide on what can make or break advertising for real estate for your agency.


free seo tools

Canadian Broadcast Companies Are Afraid of Death

Last week a consortium of Canadian broadcasting companies launched a unique advertising campaign on television. If you have not seen the commercial yet, the viewer is talked to by a character that is conveniently located sitting in front or beside a television that is broadcasting top television shows that identify each broadcasting network that is funding the initiative. The spoke person informs the viewer that if they download the free mobile application the viewer can record a short Vine-like selfie of what they like about television. Once uploaded, the video could be picked to be on television on February 6 at 8:58PM Eastern Standard Time.

This campaign is a very well thought up and simplistic. The broadcasting companies are trying to develop evidence that the traditional methods of broadcasting on television is very much still viable and strong. The integration of this campaign and the mining of statistics is mind blowing of how this information can be interpreted and used as spin. Each time there is an airing of the advertisement the very simple call to action to download the app and to visit the website Tunedin.ca helps provide statistics that there was penetration with the advertisement. The simple enticement of getting on television is enough to encourage a call to action.

However, there is a far deeper story to be looked at for this advertisement campaign being run by the Canadian broadcast companies. In a world where there are far more threats facing traditional media systems with the likes of Netflix encroaching on the revenues of the broadcasting companies, why are these companies spending millions of dollars to prove that consuming video entertainment is best done on a television?

The Stages

My thought? It is because these companies are afraid of death. Maybe I sound a little off my rocker, but try to look at the psychology angle. There are several stages that one progresses through when their realization of their life ending is within a relative shortened time. The stages are first denial, then anger, then bargaining, then depression, then eventually acceptance.

Denial

The Canadian broadcasting companies are currently in denial and have been for a long time. The way they are refusing to listen to the outside cues that there can be something more to invest in is by commissioning such an advertising campaign.

The brainchild behind this campaign is the Television Bureau of Canada. If you have not heard, back in the fall of 2013 the TVB developed a very compelling advertising campaign that informed viewers the power of broccoli. The results? Increased sales in broccoli over that period of time!

This tactic is nothing new either. Back in the early 1990’s an Israeli advertising company, Fogel Levine, drummed up an ingenious campaign to prove the effectiveness of bus advertising. They created a FAKE soda called Limonana. After weeks of the advertisement there were thousands of people asking stores and restaurants for the beverage. These companies were baffled as to where they could receive supplies of the product, so people started to make their own cocktail drink and sold it as Limonana.

By making up evidence to help skew the statistics and contradict any recently published reports, the Canadian broadcasting companies are clearly in denial of listening to consumers true desires.

Anger

Right now the broadcasters are angry that their advertising and subscriber revenues are starting to drop, while they are beginning to bargain with the public to prove their usefulness that television is still relevant. The famous psychology researcher Erik Erikson mentioned that facing death with dignity and openness helps people complete the life cycle with a sense of life’s meaningfulness and a sense of ones existence worthwhile.

Bargaining

So where does this leave the future of advertising? Well with the Super Bowl coming up next weekend, advertisers are already exploring using multiple levels of advertisement methods to drive home their Super Bowl advertisements. For example, Pepsi has started a hype up campaign leading to the big halftime show that they are funding. This is something that the broadcasting companies could take a lesson from, diversification! They will need to start bargaining with the viewer and conduct some active social listening to discover other forms of potential revenues for advertising.

There definitely can be future opportunities for the broadcasting companies to bargain with other video entertainment systems. How about offering 24/7 streaming versions online? The very best example can be seen is BloomBerg TV of how they provide their channel 24/7 for free on their website. While cable companies want to charge $10 a month to have access to the BloomBerg channel.

Acceptance

The broadcasting companies definitely need to continue to listen to the cues from the public about their desires in change of content delivery methods. This is where the music industry failed terribly in the early 2000’s. Today in 2014, the cable broadcasters need to adapt and offer multiple platforms of content delivery with multiple layers of advertisement methods to maintain the ability to earn revenues for original content.

Television advertisement might be relevant today, but there are many more methods to tap in to the early adopters of online streaming video entertainment. On demand content with short preload clips has become socially acceptable from the experiences with YouTube. This is a noble evolutionary method that has the potential to become the future of video entertainment advertising.

Depression

This is the last stage that the broadcast companies will be entering. Yes this sounds a little bit morbid of a topic to discuss, but the ongoing cycle of life is evolution. We see it everyday with babies being born as the improved perfection of their parents DNA. The same goes with technology that we see released every year, the technology gets a little bit better. This is where we will see the transition of video entertainment advertising away from primarily on cable television and towards other online mediums. The companies will have a hard time facing this last stage, especially with so many traditional board of directors lamenting of the days when television was so powerful.

These different methods of manipulating the public to believe fictitious advertisement campaigns help advertisers define their value and strength to cut through the noise to get consumer to answer the call to action. It goes to prove that with enough time and creativity advertising can change the public’s perception.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the traditional television delivery model is on the verge of death or even evolution?

Professor Internets Web Blog – Augmented Reality

This week Professor Internet is talking about the use of Augmented Reality

Volkswagen XL1 Gets an Augmented Reality Service App
http://mashable.com/2013/10/05/volkswagen-augmented-reality/

OpenGlass gives Google Glass real-time augmented reality
http://www.engadget.com/2013/08/21/openglass-google-glass-real-time-augmented-reality/

Aurasma
http://www.aurasma.com/

Layar
http://www.layar.com/

Professor Internets Web Blog – Email Marketing

This week Professor Internet is talking about how to cook up the perfect Email marketing campaign.

SpamHaus
http://www.spamhaus.org/faq/section/Marketing%2520FAQs

Hub Spot – The Ultimate List of Email SPAM Trigger Words
http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30684/The-Ultimate-List-of-Email-SPAM-Trigger-Words.aspx

Email Spam Test
http://www.emailspamtest.com

MX Tool Box – Email Blacklist Verification
http://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx

Canada Spam Act – Business Compliance Guide
http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

Melissa Data – 10 Key Elements in Email Campaign Strategy & Design
http://accessimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/email-campaign-stategy-whitepaper.pdf

Professor Internets Web Blog – Viral Marketing

This week Professor Internet is talking about the power of Viral Marketing and how the elements that were used to help make the Movember movement grow so rapidly.

Remember, grow your mo to help change the face of men’s health.

The founding member, Adam Garone, speaks at Ted xToronto about Movember

5 marketing tactics that made Movember an unexpected global success
http://www.themarketingstudent.com/5-marketing-tactics-movember-global-success/

Cause Marketing Meets the Moustache: How Brands Get Noticed With Movember
http://sparksheet.com/cause-marketing-meets-the-moustache-how-brands-get-noticed-with-movember/

Google Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself!

So you’ve done it, you started a website and it has lots of content that you think would attract visitors. But, as the weeks go by there seems to be something amiss. Traffic, it’s only dripping in and it’s not coming from sources you expected such as a search engine. You probably begin to think that since you’re not on social media websites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc that you aren’t getting hits. This is the scenario many companies and individuals face every day of how they can receive more unique visitors from search engines and referral websites. It has become such an issue that a whole industry has developed around it, coining the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

In the early years of world wide web, when I was running websites back in 1994, I had to be creative in trying to advertise my website. I would find random public computers at events with access to the internet and just leave my website up, I would network in chat rooms, I would connect within communities of newsgroups and message boards to attract users, heck I even had my website briefly on TV, and I tried out many other routes to create inbound links and interest. Then the game started to change later in the 90’s when search engines started to become popular.

SEO

Today, websites are needing to be optimized to standout to the search engine algorithms that would help make a website a top ranker for specific keywords relating to the website. Now the trick is how can you prepare your website that would get it to the top of the rankings? There are several techniques that can be done, but I won’t bore you with more than three techniques to improve your ranking. These simple tricks consist of working on developing content with keywords and phrases, managing inbound and outbound text link referrals, and reputation through authorship.

Content, it is the number one reason why people are coming to your website. Therefore you need to reinforce a common theme of keywords and catch phrases throughout your content to improve the relevance of the website ranking. This can be done by including keywords in the page title, using the meta description and keyword tags, and alt texts for graphics. To discover popular ranking keywords, you can use many different keyword generators or Google’s Trends tool. The next way is managing your links inbound and outbound. Having excellent referring links from other sites helps boost your ranking because the algorithm recognizes that the keyword used to link to your page helps to improve your creditability. The same goes for outbound links to other websites or your own pages within. And lastly, the power of reputation helps move you up in the rankings. The more connections you have with other popular communities that have high rankings will help boost your ranking. The good reviews from users can significantly improve the likelihood of Google recommending you too.

Since the release of Google’s new search engine algorithm, Hummingbird, last month the game has changed again for SEO. Therefore to be able to maintain a strong presence on search engines it is highly recommended to stay updated with the ever changing world of websites. So there you have it, a few simple ways to start working on improving your websites rankings on search engines.

I recommend frequently visiting Search Engine Watch, My SEO Community, and Search Engine Journal for the most up to date information on the 100’s of techniques to maximize your websites search engine optimization.