One of the things we consistently find when speaking with clients is that they like the idea of digital marketing, but they aren’t really sure what it means. For the most part, clients equate digital marketing campaigns to a Google AdWords campaign or some other form of PPC (pay per click) advertising. Although these are both forms of digital advertising, they are just small parts of a more integrated digital marketing ecosystem.
The goal of this Blueprint article is to provide a concise guide to the different types of digital marketing campaigns and strategies that are available for new build real estate, as well as highlight their overall effectiveness in the graphics below.
The team at Blueprint Effects is always amazed at how much email marketing outperforms every other digital or traditional marketing strategy. A prerequisite for this strategy to be effective is having a well maintained CRM system. Until your organization has such a system, this strategy will likely not be an effective tool. In addition to having a functioning CRM system, sales staff need to be actively entering new leads into your lead management system and following up with these contacts in a clearly defined timeframe and manner. In our experience, it seems that unless there is an experienced marketing person (likely an employee as opposed to a 3rd party agent) involved with managing the project marketing process, most of these leads are never fully pursued by project marketing staff. In order to get started, there are a number of integrated real estate CRM products on the market, including our own Blueprint Effects CRM which is tailored for real estate project marketing. No matter which lead management system you choose, be sure to not let this hard earned customer information go to waste.
There are a lot of differing viewpoints on the importance of social media. So before we continue, let’s clarify what social media is and what it isn’t:
Social Media is: An important channel to deepen your engagement with you existing audience as well as attract new people and companies to your brand and its message.
Social Media is not: A place where you are likely to generate a substantial amount of new business leads that are not already on your radar or in your sales pipeline.
We’ve written at length on effective use of social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but regardless of the social media networks you focus on, your goal should be to create an Online Community for your brand. Social media networks are simply platforms for people to consume your content. Building and maintaining these communities however takes time and effort, and thus are not the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to the real estate industry.
Developing great digital collateral is imperative if it’s going to make your project stick out. This collateral, if developed correctly, will be used across your sales and marketing channels. Although this material will be used in your sales center and other offline stakeholder interactions, the reality is for every one person who walks into your sales center, 100 people will visit your website. At a minimum, this visual collateral should include an inviting website purveying your building’s brand message, high quality renderings, and some sort of walkthrough or interactive piece of marketing collateral that allows consumers to become interested enough to register their information and eventually actually visit your sales center.
If it’s not obvious by now, Google (otherwise known as the big G), is a very important channel that every real estate company and person should be taking very seriously. Before we get started, let’s be sure that everyone understands the difference between organic search results and paid advertising on Google.
We've written plenty of previous posts on how to best position your web properties to rank higher organically through Google search results (see: Neighborhood Keyword Targeting, URL Optimization, Real Estate Link Building). I won’t discuss this in too much length here but I will make two important observations. First, I think there is value to having a developer’s entire project portfolio on the same root domain. Optically this may be a distraction, but I think the long term benefits of establishing the builder or developer as a high domain authority site for relevant keywords is hard to ignore. Secondly, about half the real estate sites we look at could double there Google domain authority with around 5-10 hours’ worth of programming and content optimization. This is low hanging fruit, and truly a missed opportunity.
Let me first say that Google AdWords is not for everybody. Our data shows us that this strategy is far more important to single family builders than to multi-family developers. With that being said, AdWords campaigns do not have to target the most common keywords and could rather focus on a few niche keyword sets relevant to your project that will provide a better cost per lead payback. For example, "San Francisco Condos" would probably provide pretty low returns as a buyer searching these terms is focusing on a broad competitive market as opposed to something that is unique to your project. I guarantee a properly executed AdWords campaign (proper landing page and meta-description) around phrases attracting buyers further down the sales funnel like “Palo Alto Ocean View Real Estate” or “San Francisco Chinatown Condos” would provide much better results. Experiment with it cautiously until you find the right campaign for your project and then double your spend.
Depending on your market, there may be other search engines and advertising mediums that you think are highly frequented by your target consumer. Possible reasons for this may include linguistic, niche property type, or demographic reasons. With that being said, unless your project falls into one of these three categories, it seems unlikely that you will see significant results with non-Google online PPC advertising.
Given the fact that a significant amount of new build property does not appear on local MLS portals, many portals have arisen catering to different niches in this market. Generally speaking, we determine if portals should comprise a portion of the digital marketing budget as follows:
1) Portal is a major source of confirmable real estate search traffic and the cost of listing is minimal compared to the majority of digital and traditional advertising spends. Diagnosis – Proceed.
2) There is a portal that targets a niche set of buyers (ex: international, retirees, Generation Y) which you believe are a key buyer group for your project. Diagnosis – Proceed with caution.
3) The portal makes a lot of claims but it is evident from the user experience (U/X), low Google page authority, and lack of analytics provided to advertisers that not much should be expected. Diagnosis – Do not proceed unless it is free to list.
There tends to be three approaches that real estate developers take when interacting with 3rd party agents. They either embrace them from the outset, do not use them at all, or use them only when things get tough. Although it’s our view that utilizing agents is an advisable strategy, finding ways to market and engage with agents once you’ve decided to work with them is equally important as they can be a critical component of your project’s selling strategy. From a digital marketing standpoint, many of the strategies mentioned above apply equally well to reaching out to agents. Email marketing and agent management can be a tremendous asset for developers as it is likely that agents who brought previous buyers to your projects will do so again. On social media, it's likely your most loyal followers will be other people in the real estate industry, including agents, as opposed to your end buyer. Forming a favorable image with these key customer gatekeepers will only benefit your project’s sales figures in the future. Finally, in numerous geographies there are password protected new build property portals that specifically target agents. Being sure your project is available on these portals is imperative to ensure you’re maximizing the total potential reach of your project in the brokerage community.
I know this can all seem overwhelming and feel like information overload. Remember, if it were easy to do everyone would do it. The real estate marketing game has changed and if you don’t adapt you will sell your projects slower and at lower prices than your competitors. Simply put, you will have a lower volume of buyers looking at your project and your sales metrics will suffer. Be proactive. Begin preparing for the future today.