Passing the real estate exam and receiving your license is an exciting first step for any real estate agent.
Unfortunately, the pre-license course, and most of the continuing education courses I’ve seen, focuses on the technical side of the business – the legal aspects, finance and terminology.
They offer little or nothing about how to build a business – or how to market your services.
If you are going to make it as a real estate agent, there is one undeniable fact you must accept very early in your career; you must master marketing.
Very simply, the better you are at consistently communicating how you are different in a way that matters to the people you hope to do business with, so that those people see why they should hire you over your competition, the more success you will see.
Most agents, however, don’t come from a marketing background and lack the knowledge to create a viable marketing strategy. As a result, these agents are paralyzed by the “bright shiny object” syndrome. They focus more on the latest tips, tricks and “hot” marketing tactics, such as Facebook ads, video, email marketing, without understanding the “big picture” of what they want to accomplish.
They engage in what I call “random acts of marketing”.
These are knee-jerk reactions that occur when an agent realizes they don’t have any listings or their pipeline of leads is empty. So they try a little of this and a little of that in an effort to generate new business.
When they don’t see the leads come in, it leads to frustration and confusion about what works best and where they should focus their time, money and energy for the best results.
What you really need is both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Your plan will then determine which tactics you use.
But many people don’t fully realize the difference between those terms.
How your real estate marketing strategy, plan and tactics are different
Effective marketing starts with a marketing strategy. It represents the vision you have for your business, and provides direction for your marketing plan, or how you want to be perceived in the market and your positioning that enables you to differentiate your services from the competition.
It’s the big picture.
Imagine that you wanted to build a custom home. Owning a new home, in a particular location, with certain features is your overall vision, just as a marketing strategy is the vision for your business.
Then you hire an architect to design a plan that reflects your vision. Just like your marketing plan, your house plans provide the blueprint for transforming your vision into reality.
The plans enable you, and your builder, to see how your vision will take shape. Your house plans identify the dimensions and materials that will be used, just as your marketing plan will identify how many homeowners you need to reach and the tools you will use to market your services.
The pouring of the foundation, the framing of the walls and all of the other tasks that enable your home to be built are the tactics that are used to transform your plan into your finished vision – a newly built home. The tactics define how the tools are used to achieve the desired results.
Tactics, therefore, are the individual actions you take as a part of the execution of your plan. While they all need to work together to be successful, tactics without a guiding vision are unlikely to produce desirable long-term results.
Imagine if workers showed up and started laying bricks and sawing lumber without any idea what the finished house was supposed to look like. That’s exactly what happens when real estate agents focus on tactics without having a plan that is designed to implement a strategy.
Do you see the difference between a strategy, a plan and the tactics?
Strategy is why you do something, a plan is what you’ll do and tactics are how you’ll accomplish each step.
How to develop a real estate marketing strategy
To create an effective marketing strategy, start with your ultimate objective in mind and work backwards to create your plan and identify the tactics you will use.
Your ultimate objective, in most cases, is to sell the required amount of real estate to reach your production and income goals.
Before you can sell the required real estate, you must get a consistent supply of leads from your target audience.
Before you can get the leads you need, you must communicate regularly with as many homeowners in your target audience as possible, letting them know how you, and your services, are the best solution to help them achieve their real estate goals.
Before you can communicate how your services are the best solution, you must first understand the unique wants and needs of your target audience.
Before you can communicate your message to your target audience, you must identify your niche market – who it is you want to serve and where they live.
As you can see, we start with our ultimate objective and work backwards through the steps. At each step we will identify the tactics we will use. Keep in mind, some tactics will work and others won’t. That’s to be expected. But only the tactics will change, not your strategy.
A real world example
When I got into the real estate business, I wanted to earn at least a million dollars per year while avoiding the long hours associated with being an agent. I also wanted to avoid having a team. That was my ultimate objective, or vision.
This objective was an extension of my overall business strategy and would guide my marketing plan and influence the tactics I would use.
And while such a lofty objective may sound pretty overwhelming, once you have defined your objective, you can begin to identify ways to accomplish your goals.
I started by identifying a niche market, or geographic farm area, that I would pursue. To fulfill my strategy, I had to focus on high-end homes, given that the average commission would be sufficient to reach my income goal without having to complete dozens of transactions per month, which would, in most cases, require a team to manage.
Unfortunately, this niche market was dominated by a handful of very established agents, some of whom had sold over a billion dollars in their careers and were household names.
I couldn’t just go in and say, “hire me” without giving homeowner’s a great reason to choose me over the more established agents.
One of the tactics I chose was to survey homeowners in the market to identify what they wanted from an agent that they weren’t currently getting.
The results of the survey indicated, very clearly, that homeowners were interested in results. A quick check of our MLS confirmed this as only 30% of listings sold successfully in the first listing period. A full 70% had to be re-listed before selling.
Homes were also selling at an average discount of 20% from the original list price.
I could see why homeowners were frustrated!
My marketing plan, therefore, was to become the premier agent in terms of having the best track record of delivering market-beating results to sellers in my chosen niche.
This plan would enable me to position my services in such a way that they reflected what homeowners desired and enabled me to compete effectively so that I could accomplish my objective of earning one million dollars per year.
This provided a focus that not only guided all of my marketing, but also the operations of my real estate business. Everything I chose to do, from identifying what services to provide to homeowners, to the tactics I would use to market my business, were all driven by my marketing plan – to become the premier provider of superior results.
Having this level of focus in your business enables you to eliminate, or ignore, the bright shiny objects in your life. If a particular tool, or tactic, doesn’t help you in implementing your plan, you simply ignore it.
The implementation of my marketing plan required that I build awareness of how my unique services could help homeowners achieve market-beating results when selling their home.
This is where selecting the right tactics came into play.
The first tactic I used was to flip the order most agents take of trying to get an appointment so they can give their listing presentation. I chose, instead, to get my pre-listing presentation into the hands of as many homeowners as possible, and do it as often as possible, so that when they were ready to sell, they would call me.
But I knew they wouldn’t just ask for a copy of my pre-listing presentation.
I had to first offer them something they wanted and use the delivery of that item as a way to put my pre-listing presentation in front of them.
The initial tactic I used was direct mail to offer a monthly market report. I chose direct mail because it was the only channel that enabled me to reach every homeowner in my chosen niche.
Another tactic I used was a landing page where the homeowner would go to register for the monthly market report by providing their email address.
Knowing that direct mail is one of the costliest forms of marketing, my plan was to migrate as many homeowners from my direct mail list onto my email list so that as the list grew, my direct mail costs went down.
The last tactic I employed was to use an automated follow-up email campaign that provided helpful tips on interpreting the reports and how to achieve superior results when selling your home.
This enabled me to maintain regular communication while always promoting my pre-listing presentation and building my credibility with the homeowners.
Through continuous testing and improvement, I was able to put my pre-listing presentation in front of more than 1,600 homeowners every two weeks. This generated more than enough leads for me to reach my overall strategy.
By focusing first on your marketing strategy – your ultimate objective or vision – you are able to create a marketing plan that will enable you to identify the specific tactics you should use to implement your plan and achieve your overall strategy.
So instead of trying every new tactic you hear about on Facebook, or in your office, take the time to think about what you’re really trying to accomplish and how those tactics fit into your plan. Do they help – or are they just a distraction?