Balancing a Client-first Strategy in an Always-on Digital World
Most real estate professionals are not marketers by trade. Most agents love and thrive on social interaction, finding joy in the relationships they build with prospective homebuyers and their communities. Unfortunately, the never-ending lead generation and management cycle often has agents grasping for the hottest new engagement tool in a virtual marketing arms race, leaving them stressed, unsatisfied and with unmet goals.
The 21st century methods of digital marketing are fundamentally at odds with the nature of real estate. The former now comes at the expense of the latter, as the insurmountable list of digital tactics has convinced many realtors that they need to pay more attention to their desktops—poring over list merges, multiple CRMs and unconquerable SEO algorithms—than their in-person appointments or interactions. This pressure is exacerbated by the millions of “quick fixes” claiming to solve the real estate industry’s marketing woes and wasting precious time that could be better spent face-to-face with clients and closing deals.
A simple Google search of “marketing tactics for real estate agents,” yields 36 million results, while a search of “get more clients real estate” yields more than 504 million. The majority of these tactics require months of preparation, ample finances, creative ideas and a doctorate in graphic design. The average, and even above-average, real estate agent simply doesn’t have the time or budget to implement each tactic in a way that achieves their business objectives.
We all know agents who could easily enter a room and engage with each person in their line of sight. But when it comes to a virtual follow-up, say with a Facebook connection or an e-mail notification, they freeze. It’s clear that agents have been thrown into the unfamiliar world of digital relationship management without the knowledge or comfort that virtual relationship-building can lead to similar or even better results as in-person interactions. Why can’t a digital touchpoint reflect your personality and brand?
Building a distinctive voice in a digital channel is not so different from the voice and brand agents spend years building on the ground in their communities. But how can an agent digitally humanize their business without exhausting their marketing spend or time?
First, open the door.
To have a conversation with your customers, rather than a one-sided pontification, you have to provide them with entry points for engagement. You must open the door frequently and invite them to participate in the conversation, both digitally and in person.
Push informative and helpful content out at an expected cadence your prospects can count on. It’s normal to see a friend, coworker or even a client multiple times a week. The same principle applies to digital relationship management. However, keep in mind that you would never arrive uninvited to your client’s space. I've seen tools that offer personalized videos for realtors to connect with their clients. The videos are an unsolicited intrusion and rarely yield results despite their goal to convey a warm and inviting message to prospects.
Give your customers a taste of your expertise.
Create distinctive, original content that displays new knowledge, articulates market differentiation and establishes a unique voice. Personality shouldn’t be exclusive to in-person interactions. When you’re dealing with a competitive industry like real estate, finding something to make you stand out is important.
Take Cyndi Alvarez, for example. She has built a personal and recognizable brand as the “Pay it Forward” real estate agent due to her generosity to teachers, military, government employees, first responders and seniors purchasing homes. She brings that brand identity to life through her website, her regular emails and social media to distinguish her offering from her competition.
Close with a mobile-enabled strategy.
Effectively marketing to your customers requires flexibility. Your practice cannot suffer due to poor or predetermined lead gen and marketing initiatives that aren’t working on your behalf while you are in the field. Do you have access to your marketing capabilities or the ability to follow up with clients on the go? Making mobile a priority in your marketing strategy will enable you to do your best face-to-face work while simultaneously carrying your digital presence in your pocket, resulting in a more efficient use of your time.
If you feel like you’re drowning in listicles full of tips for “staying relevant in the digital age,” you’re not alone. Luckily, real estate professionals excel at making connections. Letting go of your digital fear and injecting your unique personality into your digital marketing strategy will exponentially increase your brand’s reach in your sphere of influence.
Note: Author Marc Pickren, CEO of OutboundEngine, has been both a bootstrapped entrepreneur and a leader in large organizations. A 20-year veteran of leading companies through sweeping digital change and customer-focused product evolution, Marc has also held senior leadership positions at Monster.com and J. Walter Thompson among others.