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8 Real Estate Communities Sold Out, 6 In Process - Here's What I've Learned

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BizyDad

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Over the last several years I’ve been fortunate enough to become a “go to” marketer for builders with real estate projects coming out of the ground in the Phoenix area. I’ve helped 7 communities sell out, 2 more are on the verge, and I am currently marketing 5 other projects, including my first two new build for rent communities.

It is an interesting niche because when we're successful and the project gets sold out, often clients will be get out of the business. They move onto other enterprises or go on hiatus to start searching for the next project.

My core service is search engine marketing. For most of these projects I’m the lead digital marketer, and I’m usually part of a team. There's usually a Facebook/social person and maybe a PR person, and the lead salesperson on the team.

I’m usually the one watching the analytics/stats closest, so I see the effects of all the marketing channels. For a couple of projects, I was the sole digital marketer.

For the sake of context, I’ve done a high rise condo project downtown, a couple luxury condos projects, and an affordable condo project, also downtown. I’ve done golf course homes, affordable homes, luxury homes. I’ve done 1 bedroom condos and 5 bedroom floors plans. The smallest community was 20 homes. The condos are mostly in the central parts of the Valley, the home projects tend to be to the outskirts.

I think many of these lessons apply to other businesses, so hopefully this helps you.


People Do Business With People


Maybe in other cities things are different, but I doubt it. Real estate keeps pushing for higher tech solutions, but ultimately these "solutions" should be viewed as communication tools. Their purpose should be to connect people with people.

I want to stress, people are not data points.

If you are building communities, your sales will come through your agent(s). As a marketer my job is to keep those people fed with leads. The good ones build and nurture the lead into a relationship and then a sale. If your salespeople suck, your sales will suck.

I know this isn’t some big insight, but people get hired for all kinds of reasons and sometimes the decision makers don’t realize that a salesperson is a problem. Because I pay close attention to marketing results, I'm usually the one who figures it out.

I could probably write a separate post of all the mistakes I’ve heard a sales agents make on the phone, but here are the top 3:

  1. Not collecting name and contact info
  2. Politician speak… where someone asks a question and the agent wants to avoid answering it. So they say a lot about another topic then act like the question has been answered. Often this happens because someone is covering for the fact that they don’t know the answer and are embarrassed to admit it. Occasionally this happens because the agent is “covering up” some fact they feel is embarrassing. Either way, it is a teaching opportunity.
  3. Not asking enough qualifying questions. When are you looking to move? What is your budget range? How many people will live in the home? That kind of thing. There are books written on the subject, I won’t go in depth here.

I uncover these training opportunities because I actually listen to many of the calls our marketing efforts generate. Which brings me to...


Track As Much As Possible


Nobody has an unlimited budget. Nobody wants to waste money. It is imperative to stretch every dollar of the budget as much as possible. But you won’t know what is working if you don’t track it, right?

So we use callrail.com for our call tracking and call recording, integrated with Google Analytics. (We report first time callers to Analytics to best reflect actual results generated)

We’ll also use a call tracking number for our TV ads, TV spots, Postcards/Direct Mail pieces, Billboards, Street signs, Digital ads when possible. Pretty much everywhere except a directory or a Google/Bing/Apple/Mapquest map listing.

We’ll also use tracking domains to track our offline effort. We forward them to URL’s with UTM parameters. Sorry for the tech babble, let me see if I can explain it simply.

Let's say we've got a billboard to promote the forum. So we set up something like www.fastlanefreedom.com and set it to redirect to www.thefastlaneforum.com/community/?utm_source=billboard&utm_medium=offline&utm_campaign=3rdAve

In this case, a billboard on 3rd Ave will say visit fastlanefreedom.com and when they type that in they’ll come to this forum, but analytics will track that they saw the 3rd Ave Billboard.

You can use the same tactic for your street signs, your postcards, etc. We use this free Google tool to set up those UTM values - Campaign URL Builder — Google Analytics Demos & Tools

We also use appropriate tracking pixels for social ads, programmatic ads, etc. And to track the effects of press or other difficult to track marketing mediums, I will dig into the search volume to see what kind of lift we received in the days that follow a new marketing article. We promote our actual domain in press, for SEO reasons.

Lastly, we trained staff to ask clients how they heard about us. Some of that data is reliable "I drove by" or "so and so told me" and some is not "I saw you online".

The truth is, there is no perfect tracking solution. There is always stuff that will slip through the cracks. In the end, we do the best we can and this kind of set up gives us more than enough data to make educated choices about our marketing efforts.


Time Your Budget


Most business have a fairly level monthly marketing budget. Some might adjust for seasonality. Builders are a little different. There are a few moments in a building's lifespan that deserve additional resources.

First, at groundbreaking you have a little PR push. Then, once you have an actual model to show, you should increase the spend. It takes some skill to close sales pre-model because you are basically selling a dream. Once you have a model, things become "easier".

Then at the end, there needs to be a final push because closing out a building is probably the hardest part of the process. At the end, the last thing you want to do is drop the price of the final units or homes because that sets the value for the people who bought in early. There is a very interesting dance that takes place there where you will pay full price, but you'll probably be able to negotiate some nice upgrades if you see a final unit(s) lingering on the market.


Cheap, Effective, Often Overlooked Marketing


“Everybody” wants to go digital. And I'm glad, because it means I get work. But you know what is the cheapest and probably the best form of advertising for a new build community?

A sign in front of your project.

It’s so simple, but especially when you haven’t even built a model home yet, it is necessary to have info out there letting people know how to get in touch with you. It's so basic yet it is occasionally overlooked by a builder. Most people moving to the neighborhood drive around the neighborhood. Give those eyeballs something to see. Direct them where to go to get more info.

Many times I'll see a phone call come in from Google Organic and I'll hope its a result of the SEO, but I'll listen to the call and they were just driving by...

And on that note, a lot of people like getting fancy automated phone systems. Automated phone systems that I've seen often lower overall conversion rates. People just hang up. So to be effective, have someone ready to answer the phone when a call comes in. Remember point #1.


Effective Marketing, Honorable Mention


Email follow up. Staying top of mind and showing you want their business without being annoying is an art and I don't want to share any secrets here. The money is in the list. The list you develop and grow. The only reason I can't call this the best form of marketing is because it costs money to build the list. I will say you should segment your email list. For example you don't send the same info to buyers as you do to real estate agents.


My Favorite Marketing Channel


Press. It boosts SEO rankings like nothing else. It increases brand searches. It generates higher conversion rates (granted over a brief period of time) then the other channels. And putting the "As seen in" logos on a site boosts the effectiveness of almost every other marketing channel.

According to my data, press isn't dead. And yes, people actually still read.


Least Effective Marketing Channel


Print ads. Earned press is great. Print ads are almost useless. Factor in the cost, and they are so many better ways to spend a marketing dollar.


Second Least Effective Marketing Channel


Programmatic advertising. This has been everybody's favorite darling for a few years now. There are many versions of this, Geo fencing is a popular one. I could rant, because clients love the new shiny toy and this one always sounds to good to be true, but since it's tech, they assume it is true. But if you actually listen to the calls that this marketing channel generates, it is rarely an interested buyer. Plus I suspect the clicks are often faked. I have yet to see an effective programmatic marketing campaign.

Again, there are better ways to spend a marketing dollar.


Social Or Search? Which Is Better?


Both. Neither. It depends...

They work together. One reinforces the other. Social creates brand awareness and can at times create demand for your product, while search harvests existing demand. Know your market and use them appropriately.


On Websites, The More Conversion Points, The Better


This is generally true, but there is such a thing as too much. But let's back up. What's a conversion point? Different marketers define this differently. I track interactions with a potential customer.

So, a phone call is the highest value. Place your phone number in logical places. Don't make someone hunt for it. Have it in your header, have it in your footer, and place it in the body text next to a call to action.

Next have a form on every page. For the people who don't want to call or can't call, don't make them hunt for your contact us page. Because they won't. I'll typically put the form just above the footer of a website, but that isn't always the best solution.


The Double Power Of A Chat


Above is the bare minimum for conversion points. But if we have the manpower, I always push for a chat on the site. And I set the chat up to auto greet every visitor. Why?

I have found that 97% of visitors close that chat. Clients often think it is pointless, or worse, annoying.

But in my experience, that 97% of people is 30% more likely to convert to a call or fill out the form. It is the same reason you get greeted when you enter a store. Studies show you are now likely to buy.

Plus, the other 3% of people who actually do chat are often leads. Often these are people who would not have reached out just then, so chat has two increasing effects on conversion rates. Again, remember point 1. If you have a skilled agent in the chat, it is a gold mine.

In case you are wondering, I have yet to see a chat bot come anywhere close to bring worthwhile. The auto greet is the only bit of automation we use.


There Is No Magic Bullet. There Are No Absolute Rules. Test Everything.


If you are looking for me to tell you how to position your project, I can't. Yet. Every marketing plan starts with researched assumptions, but we let the data guide us to improved effectiveness.

For example, I can tell you Twitter sucks. Except for when it doesn't. Like reaching out to media members. But that's not the only way it helps. And you won't know when or how to use it until you test it out.

And just so we're clear, even though I am usually dealing with decent sized marketing budgets, I often run $5 or $10/day campaigns to test various ideas.

I already mentioned the best placement of a form varies across sites. It is usually best in the footer, but not always. Test it in a sidebar. Test it just under the header. Find out what works best for your customers.

Here's another fun thing I've learned from testing. Don't use exclamation points when marketing to affluent people. I have theories why tests turn out the way they do, but it's just an opinion. At the end of the day, the data has shown me several times that people with money are averse to !

When I've weighed the benefit of sliders or videos or virtual tour compared to just having a page load fast with simple text and nice images, the fast site usually wins. But not always, so test it.

Here's a fun test I do sometimes. Instead of paying to sponsor a site or do direct banner ads, if the site runs AdSense, use a Google display campaign on just that site. You'll find it is often much cheaper than what the site wants for a banner ad campaign. Run it for a week and see what kind of results you get. You'll also see they are probably grossly over estimating how much traffic they actually get.

Any marketer worth their salt should run all kinds of tests. It's how we learn. It's how we improve.


The Value Of Crafting Tailored Messages


Landing pages will allow you to test messaging. And that is some of the most important tests you will run. If you have a high rise condo with prices ranging from $250k - $1M you can't expect the same sales copy to be most effective for everyone. So guide people to pages that speak to their needs.

Real estate preaches location, location, location, right? I say dig deeper. What about the location specifically speaks to them? Are they close to work? Or close to fun? Easy freeway access? Far from the hustle and bustle? Safe neighborhood? Close to the airport? Or good schools?

Access to schools matters to most home buyers, it is almost a universal benefit, even to ones without kids. Mainly this is because of the impact on home values. But it doesn't matter to the golf course home buyer. So know what is important to your audience and craft messages tailored to them.

Speaking of messaging, have your calls to action make sense. There isn't a best CTA. Lazy marketers say Call Now or Call Today. And sometimes that is the best (but again, usually not if the demographic is affluent). I've found that phrases like Let's Chat, Want To Learn More?, Ready To Talk? are more effective when used appropriately. Let the data tell you when to hard sell vs when to soft sell.


Google Analytics Interests Data


Using this report is one of the better ways you can get to know your audience. Don't just look at the stock reports. Add secondary dimensions to the charts. It'll look like this...

29866

I once noticed an ad campaign where affluent single women ages 40-55 who are gamers were converting at a rate noticeably higher than the average. I know the ones who preferred shooter games converted the highest. Their affinity for gaming was never bought up, but we did highlight the high speed internet, the privacy, the security features of the building, the extra sound proofing in the walls, the closeness to the jazz bar and low key restaurants for a night out with the girls. I don’t have the exact number, but I think over a quarter of our units went to that demographic in that building.

Not to beat the dead horse, but remember point #1. Your agents are a treasure trove of this kind of message tweaking. That's how we found out which features to emphasize. Ask your buyers why they bought. Use that info in further marketing and sales efforts. Keep testing.

I tried to replicate the success of that in the next similar project, and it failed spectacularly. Know your audience. Get in their heads. Dig into the data to craft your message. Don't assume because it worked once that it will again.


Cost Per Lead


So if you're doing the job right, success is lowering the cost per lead. On a limited budget (and what budget isn't limited?), you should devote the most money to the cheapest source of quality leads. Max that out, then focus on the next cheapest.

Keep a small percentage of the budget set aside to test other sources to see if they are more effective than your current efforts.

I can't tell you Google is better than Instagram or Facebook or Radio ads because it depends on where your clients are. I've even recommended to clients that they abandon search engine marketing (again, that is my core offering). But the data doesn't lie, so why would I?

If you are tracking results, then the cost per lead will guide you towards cutting the wasteful spend and devoting it towards higher value activities.


Random Thoughts


These are just some general thoughts, with little explanation given.
  • Don't pay to be on TV shows (like the morning home and garden shows)
  • I've never tested OTT ads
  • There is no magic color. Testing will reveal what colors work you.
  • The more expensive the home, the less mass market or blanket advertising will work.
  • Not everything has to look "sexy". Award winning design is not required to generate leads and sell homes
  • Facebook remarketing is better than others. But not everyone uses Facebook.
  • If your website asks people to share their location with you, a surprising number of them will. (Roughly 1 out of 5) You can use this in conjunction with direct mail efforts.
  • When in doubt, be clear, concise, and direct.
  • Read the chats. Listen to the calls. Learn about your customers needs and wants.
  • I prefer to not put prices on the site. I am often overruled in that decision, so I have little data to back it up, but I'd rather they get that info by talking to a sales agent.

Final Thought


In real estate we are governed by Fair Housing laws. So our hands are a little tied when it comes to targeting demographics. I can't do as much as I'd like to cut wasteful spending.

So I have to get creative sometimes. Like for example, everybody uses Chrome, right? Who uses the Edge? Older people. Maybe these are people who like golf, and maybe golf course homes. Or homes where they don't have to take care of a yard (condos). So for some of my clients I use this kind of information appropriately. But you probably don't have to go to such lengths to cut waste out of a budget. You can probably just stop advertising entirely to whole sections of the populace. So if we can get things dialed in enough to generate quality real estate leads for $30 even with this "handicap", most of you should be able to help your business grow for an affordable cost.
 

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amp0193

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Press. It boosts SEO rankings like nothing else. It increases brand searches. It generates higher conversion rates (granted over a brief period of time) then the other channels. And putting the "As seen in" logos on a site boosts the effectiveness of almost every other marketing channel.
Not to mention the serendipitous "snowball" effects that can come from press mentions. You never know who's reading.

Good for employee morale too. They can visibly see that wow, we're apart of something that's really getting recognized.

I'm doubling down on pr this year... just deciding between hiring in-house, or contracting an agency.


Great writeup @BizyDad #gold
 
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Sebastya

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Over the last several years I’ve been fortunate enough to become a “go to” marketer for builders with real estate projects coming out of the ground in the Phoenix area. I’ve helped 7 communities sell out, 2 more are on the verge, and I am currently marketing 5 other projects, including my first two new build for rent communities.

It is an interesting niche because when we're successful and the project gets sold out, often clients will be get out of the business. They move onto other enterprises or go on hiatus to start searching for the next project.

My core service is search engine marketing. For most of these projects I’m the lead digital marketer, and I’m usually part of a team. There's usually a Facebook/social person and maybe a PR person, and the lead salesperson on the team.

I’m usually the one watching the analytics/stats closest, so I see the effects of all the marketing channels. For a couple of projects, I was the sole digital marketer.

For the sake of context, I’ve done a high rise condo project downtown, a couple luxury condos projects, and an affordable condo project, also downtown. I’ve done golf course homes, affordable homes, luxury homes. I’ve done 1 bedroom condos and 5 bedroom floors plans. The smallest community was 20 homes. The condos are mostly in the central parts of the Valley, the home projects tend to be to the outskirts.

I think many of these lessons apply to other businesses, so hopefully this helps you.


People Do Business With People


Maybe in other cities things are different, but I doubt it. Real estate keeps pushing for higher tech solutions, but ultimately these "solutions" should be viewed as communication tools. Their purpose should be to connect people with people.

I want to stress, people are not data points.

If you are building communities, your sales will come through your agent(s). As a marketer my job is to keep those people fed with leads. The good ones build and nurture the lead into a relationship and then a sale. If your salespeople suck, your sales will suck.

I know this isn’t some big insight, but people get hired for all kinds of reasons and sometimes the decision makers don’t realize that a salesperson is a problem. Because I pay close attention to marketing results, I'm usually the one who figures it out.

I could probably write a separate post of all the mistakes I’ve heard a sales agents make on the phone, but here are the top 3:

  1. Not collecting name and contact info
  2. Politician speak… where someone asks a question and the agent wants to avoid answering it. So they say a lot about another topic then act like the question has been answered. Often this happens because someone is covering for the fact that they don’t know the answer and are embarrassed to admit it. Occasionally this happens because the agent is “covering up” some fact they feel is embarrassing. Either way, it is a teaching opportunity.
  3. Not asking enough qualifying questions. When are you looking to move? What is your budget range? How many people will live in the home? That kind of thing. There are books written on the subject, I won’t go in depth here.

I uncover these training opportunities because I actually listen to many of the calls our marketing efforts generate. Which brings me to...


Track As Much As Possible


Nobody has an unlimited budget. Nobody wants to waste money. It is imperative to stretch every dollar of the budget as much as possible. But you won’t know what is working if you don’t track it, right?

So we use callrail.com for our call tracking and call recording, integrated with Google Analytics. (We report first time callers to Analytics to best reflect actual results generated)

We’ll also use a call tracking number for our TV ads, TV spots, Postcards/Direct Mail pieces, Billboards, Street signs, Digital ads when possible. Pretty much everywhere except a directory or a Google/Bing/Apple/Mapquest map listing.

We’ll also use tracking domains to track our offline effort. We forward them to URL’s with UTM parameters. Sorry for the tech babble, let me see if I can explain it simply.

Let's say we've got a billboard to promote the forum. So we set up something like www.fastlanefreedom.com and set it to redirect to www.thefastlaneforum.com/community/?utm_source=billboard&utm_medium=offline&utm_campaign=3rdAve

In this case, a billboard on 3rd Ave will say visit fastlanefreedom.com and when they type that in they’ll come to this forum, but analytics will track that they saw the 3rd Ave Billboard.

You can use the same tactic for your street signs, your postcards, etc. We use this free Google tool to set up those UTM values - Campaign URL Builder — Google Analytics Demos & Tools

We also use appropriate tracking pixels for social ads, programmatic ads, etc. And to track the effects of press or other difficult to track marketing mediums, I will dig into the search volume to see what kind of lift we received in the days that follow a new marketing article. We promote our actual domain in press, for SEO reasons.

Lastly, we trained staff to ask clients how they heard about us. Some of that data is reliable "I drove by" or "so and so told me" and some is not "I saw you online".

The truth is, there is no perfect tracking solution. There is always stuff that will slip through the cracks. In the end, we do the best we can and this kind of set up gives us more than enough data to make educated choices about our marketing efforts.


Time Your Budget


Most business have a fairly level monthly marketing budget. Some might adjust for seasonality. Builders are a little different. There are a few moments in a building's lifespan that deserve additional resources.

First, at groundbreaking you have a little PR push. Then, once you have an actual model to show, you should increase the spend. It takes some skill to close sales pre-model because you are basically selling a dream. Once you have a model, things become "easier".

Then at the end, there needs to be a final push because closing out a building is probably the hardest part of the process. At the end, the last thing you want to do is drop the price of the final units or homes because that sets the value for the people who bought in early. There is a very interesting dance that takes place there where you will pay full price, but you'll probably be able to negotiate some nice upgrades if you see a final unit(s) lingering on the market.


Cheap, Effective, Often Overlooked Marketing


“Everybody” wants to go digital. And I'm glad, because it means I get work. But you know what is the cheapest and probably the best form of advertising for a new build community?

A sign in front of your project.

It’s so simple, but especially when you haven’t even built a model home yet, it is necessary to have info out there letting people know how to get in touch with you. It's so basic yet it is occasionally overlooked by a builder. Most people moving to the neighborhood drive around the neighborhood. Give those eyeballs something to see. Direct them where to go to get more info.

Many times I'll see a phone call come in from Google Organic and I'll hope its a result of the SEO, but I'll listen to the call and they were just driving by...

And on that note, a lot of people like getting fancy automated phone systems. Automated phone systems that I've seen often lower overall conversion rates. People just hang up. So to be effective, have someone ready to answer the phone when a call comes in. Remember point #1.


Effective Marketing, Honorable Mention


Email follow up. Staying top of mind and showing you want their business without being annoying is an art and I don't want to share any secrets here. The money is in the list. The list you develop and grow. The only reason I can't call this the best form of marketing is because it costs money to build the list. I will say you should segment your email list. For example you don't send the same info to buyers as you do to real estate agents.


My Favorite Marketing Channel


Press. It boosts SEO rankings like nothing else. It increases brand searches. It generates higher conversion rates (granted over a brief period of time) then the other channels. And putting the "As seen in" logos on a site boosts the effectiveness of almost every other marketing channel.

According to my data, press isn't dead. And yes, people actually still read.


Least Effective Marketing Channel


Print ads. Earned press is great. Print ads are almost useless. Factor in the cost, and they are so many better ways to spend a marketing dollar.


Second Least Effective Marketing Channel


Programmatic advertising. This has been everybody's favorite darling for a few years now. There are many versions of this, Geo fencing is a popular one. I could rant, because clients love the new shiny toy and this one always sounds to good to be true, but since it's tech, they assume it is true. But if you actually listen to the calls that this marketing channel generates, it is rarely an interested buyer. Plus I suspect the clicks are often faked. I have yet to see an effective programmatic marketing campaign.

Again, there are better ways to spend a marketing dollar.


Social Or Search? Which Is Better?


Both. Neither. It depends...

They work together. One reinforces the other. Social creates brand awareness and can at times create demand for your product, while search harvests existing demand. Know your market and use them appropriately.


On Websites, The More Conversion Points, The Better


This is generally true, but there is such a thing as too much. But let's back up. What's a conversion point? Different marketers define this differently. I track interactions with a potential customer.

So, a phone call is the highest value. Place your phone number in logical places. Don't make someone hunt for it. Have it in your header, have it in your footer, and place it in the body text next to a call to action.

Next have a form on every page. For the people who don't want to call or can't call, don't make them hunt for your contact us page. Because they won't. I'll typically put the form just above the footer of a website, but that isn't always the best solution.


The Double Power Of A Chat


Above is the bare minimum for conversion points. But if we have the manpower, I always push for a chat on the site. And I set the chat up to auto greet every visitor. Why?

I have found that 97% of visitors close that chat. Clients often think it is pointless, or worse, annoying.

But in my experience, that 97% of people is 30% more likely to convert to a call or fill out the form. It is the same reason you get greeted when you enter a store. Studies show you are now likely to buy.

Plus, the other 3% of people who actually do chat are often leads. Often these are people who would not have reached out just then, so chat has two increasing effects on conversion rates. Again, remember point 1. If you have a skilled agent in the chat, it is a gold mine.

In case you are wondering, I have yet to see a chat bot come anywhere close to bring worthwhile. The auto greet is the only bit of automation we use.


There Is No Magic Bullet. There Are No Absolute Rules. Test Everything.


If you are looking for me to tell you how to position your project, I can't. Yet. Every marketing plan starts with researched assumptions, but we let the data guide us to improved effectiveness.

For example, I can tell you Twitter sucks. Except for when it doesn't. Like reaching out to media members. But that's not the only way it helps. And you won't know when or how to use it until you test it out.

And just so we're clear, even though I am usually dealing with decent sized marketing budgets, I often run $5 or $10/day campaigns to test various ideas.

I already mentioned the best placement of a form varies across sites. It is usually best in the footer, but not always. Test it in a sidebar. Test it just under the header. Find out what works best for your customers.

Here's another fun thing I've learned from testing. Don't use exclamation points when marketing to affluent people. I have theories why tests turn out the way they do, but it's just an opinion. At the end of the day, the data has shown me several times that people with money are averse to !

When I've weighed the benefit of sliders or videos or virtual tour compared to just having a page load fast with simple text and nice images, the fast site usually wins. But not always, so test it.

Here's a fun test I do sometimes. Instead of paying to sponsor a site or do direct banner ads, if the site runs AdSense, use a Google display campaign on just that site. You'll find it is often much cheaper than what the site wants for a banner ad campaign. Run it for a week and see what kind of results you get. You'll also see they are probably grossly over estimating how much traffic they actually get.

Any marketer worth their salt should run all kinds of tests. It's how we learn. It's how we improve.


The Value Of Crafting Tailored Messages


Landing pages will allow you to test messaging. And that is some of the most important tests you will run. If you have a high rise condo with prices ranging from $250k - $1M you can't expect the same sales copy to be most effective for everyone. So guide people to pages that speak to their needs.

Real estate preaches location, location, location, right? I say dig deeper. What about the location specifically speaks to them? Are they close to work? Or close to fun? Easy freeway access? Far from the hustle and bustle? Safe neighborhood? Close to the airport? Or good schools?

Access to schools matters to most home buyers, it is almost a universal benefit, even to ones without kids. Mainly this is because of the impact on home values. But it doesn't matter to the golf course home buyer. So know what is important to your audience and craft messages tailored to them.

Speaking of messaging, have your calls to action make sense. There isn't a best CTA. Lazy marketers say Call Now or Call Today. And sometimes that is the best (but again, usually not if the demographic is affluent). I've found that phrases like Let's Chat, Want To Learn More?, Ready To Talk? are more effective when used appropriately. Let the data tell you when to hard sell vs when to soft sell.


Google Analytics Interests Data


Using this report is one of the better ways you can get to know your audience. Don't just look at the stock reports. Add secondary dimensions to the charts. It'll look like this...

View attachment 29866

I once noticed an ad campaign where affluent single women ages 40-55 who are gamers were converting at a rate noticeably higher than the average. I know the ones who preferred shooter games converted the highest. Their affinity for gaming was never bought up, but we did highlight the high speed internet, the privacy, the security features of the building, the extra sound proofing in the walls, the closeness to the jazz bar and low key restaurants for a night out with the girls. I don’t have the exact number, but I think over a quarter of our units went to that demographic in that building.

Not to beat the dead horse, but remember point #1. Your agents are a treasure trove of this kind of message tweaking. That's how we found out which features to emphasize. Ask your buyers why they bought. Use that info in further marketing and sales efforts. Keep testing.

I tried to replicate the success of that in the next similar project, and it failed spectacularly. Know your audience. Get in their heads. Dig into the data to craft your message. Don't assume because it worked once that it will again.


Cost Per Lead


So if you're doing the job right, success is lowering the cost per lead. On a limited budget (and what budget isn't limited?), you should devote the most money to the cheapest source of quality leads. Max that out, then focus on the next cheapest.

Keep a small percentage of the budget set aside to test other sources to see if they are more effective than your current efforts.

I can't tell you Google is better than Instagram or Facebook or Radio ads because it depends on where your clients are. I've even recommended to clients that they abandon search engine marketing (again, that is my core offering). But the data doesn't lie, so why would I?

If you are tracking results, then the cost per lead will guide you towards cutting the wasteful spend and devoting it towards higher value activities.


Random Thoughts


These are just some general thoughts, with little explanation given.
  • Don't pay to be on TV shows (like the morning home and garden shows)
  • I've never tested OTT ads
  • There is no magic color. Testing will reveal what colors work you.
  • The more expensive the home, the less mass market or blanket advertising will work.
  • Not everything has to look "sexy". Award winning design is not required to generate leads and sell homes
  • Facebook remarketing is better than others. But not everyone uses Facebook.
  • If your website asks people to share their location with you, a surprising number of them will. (Roughly 1 out of 5) You can use this in conjunction with direct mail efforts.
  • When in doubt, be clear, concise, and direct.
  • Read the chats. Listen to the calls. Learn about your customers needs and wants.
  • I prefer to not put prices on the site. I am often overruled in that decision, so I have little data to back it up, but I'd rather they get that info by talking to a sales agent.

Final Thought


In real estate we are governed by Fair Housing laws. So our hands are a little tied when it comes to targeting demographics. I can't do as much as I'd like to cut wasteful spending.

So I have to get creative sometimes. Like for example, everybody uses Chrome, right? Who uses the Edge? Older people. Maybe these are people who like golf, and maybe golf course homes. Or homes where they don't have to take care of a yard (condos). So for some of my clients I use this kind of information appropriately. But you probably don't have to go to such lengths to cut waste out of a budget. You can probably just stop advertising entirely to whole sections of the populace. So if we can get things dialed in enough to generate quality real estate leads for $30 even with this "handicap", most of you should be able to help your business grow for an affordable cost.
Nice work.

Did you use a press agency or outreached to journalists yourself?
 
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Nice work.

Did you use a press agency or outreached to journalists yourself?
The first couple used an outside agency. I work with PR folks well, but they have a certain way of doing things. So 2 years ago I hired a guy to handle the PR work but with an eye towards SEO.

For example, one thing we've noticed is getting on TV doesn't have much of an impact on rankings. So we don't focus on that.

Of the current projects, 2 employ an outside PR firm, and the rest are happy with our approach.

It has actually elevated our agency's reputation too. People still don't really understand what activities we SEOs do for them. I can explain it, but they think it's voodoo. Like I sprinkle juju on Google and viola, you rank in the maps.

But when a reporter calls them for an interview, or when they have to approve story we've ghost written for them, they understand better what we are working on.

And because PR is generally considered so expensive, it has skewed the perceived value of our agency positively.

On a side note, before I hired my guy, I tried to do the work myself. I am apparently a terrible PR person. :rofl: I could only get stories for my agency. I had 0 success getting anything for a client.

Not to mention the serendipitous "snowball" effects that can come from press mentions. You never know who's reading.

Good for employee morale too. They can visibly see that wow, we're apart of something that's really getting recognized.

I'm doubling down on pr this year... just deciding between hiring in-hour, or contracting an agency.


Great writeup @BizyDad #gold
Thank you @amp0193

As an SEO it was a no brainier to hire in house. I did it as soon as I could afford to.

I guess the question is do you have enough press worthy stories to merit in house work?

If not, maybe hire a hybrid worker. Someone to do the press outreach and blog outreach and maybe write for your blog, for example.

Not to disparage an industry, but I there is a lot of fat in most PR quotes. Not that you can't find "cheap" PR people. It is possible. I worked with someone who would handle things for $300/mo/client with pretty decent results. But she retired. The next two cheaper folks I found weren't worth even that much. So it's a crap shoot. Ultimately I think you can stretch the budget for PR farther by having an in house.

Just got to find a way to keep them busy.
 

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If not, maybe hire a hybrid worker. Someone to do the press outreach and blog outreach and maybe write for your blog, for example.
This is basically one of the options. PR / Content writer... as the two really go hand in hand.

Not to disparage an industry, but I there is a lot of fat in most PR quotes. Not that you can't find "cheap" PR people. It is possible.
I've got a solid recommendation from another ecommerce founder who used this firm with great results, otherwise I'd be wary with partnering with anyone. I spoke to them yesterday and I was very impressed. Cost is a little more than hiring in house, but I think I can negotiate them down to my budgeted amount, if I give them a longer contract.

Ultimately I think you can stretch the budget for PR farther by having an in house.
I think so too.

I also think that it will take longer for an in-house guy to start getting results. It's going to be a sunk cost for a while. I do have the guy in mind though, and know he would do great, but he doesn't have experience specifically doing this, so there'd be a learning curve... but his salary would reflect that.

Whereas, my thought with the firm, is that they have the resources and contacts to hit the ground running now, making hundreds of pitches a week (they claim), and it will have a faster ROI.

One interesting point they brought up, that I think has some merit, is that doing PR from a company employee comes across as more self-promotional to a journalist, whereas using a firm as the middleman is less so.
 

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Wow, your post reads like like a thriller. Great write up!
 
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I also think that it will take longer for an in-house guy to start getting results.
I believe you're right.

One interesting point they brought up, that I think has some merit, is that doing PR from a company employee comes across as more self-promotional to a journalist, whereas using a firm as the middleman is less so.
Yea, well they would say that, wouldn't they? It's also total BS.

I've asked at least a dozen reporter this question. Reporters are smart enough to know that someone is promoting something, regardless. From their perspective, if the story is good and has merit, it doesn't matter which company is approaching them.

That said, and to your point about ramp up, if someone has the relationship in place with a reporter, that can "grease the wheels" for sure.

Wow, your post reads like like a thriller. Great write up!
Thank you. Immensely.

I someday aspire to be an author, yet my long form posts on this forum are some of the first writing I've ever done for public consumption. They are stream of consciousness type pieces, and I am probably my own worst critic. I think about a topic that might have value to the group. I come up with a title. Then I just sit and write. And write. I worry I'm too wordy. So getting feedback like this is a big deal for me.

God bless you Kid.
 

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From their perspective, if the story is good and has merit, it doesn't matter which company is approaching them.
Thanks for the opposing thoughts, I won't let that play into my decision.

That said, and to your point about ramp up, if someone has the relationship in place with a reporter, that can "grease the wheels" for sure.
This is the biggest reason to go with them over an in house guy. At least for the short-term. Long-term, we could build our own relationships in house.

I worry I'm too wordy. So getting feedback like this is a big deal for me.
I don't often read posts this long on the forum, I may skim or just skip.

I didn't do that for yours, as it didn't come across as wordy. Pacing was good, and value kept being delivered, and I made it through to the end.
 

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My Favorite Marketing Channel


Press. It boosts SEO rankings like nothing else. It increases brand searches. It generates higher conversion rates (granted over a brief period of time) then the other channels. And putting the "As seen in" logos on a site boosts the effectiveness of almost every other marketing channel.

According to my data, press isn't dead. And yes, people actually still read.
  • Such a great post
  • The developers are saving a ton of money if they sign leases/sell without a real estate agent
  • I hope you put that in your metrics because it goes a long way
  • I am curious, how do you get the press to write or talk about your projects?
  • Also, have you had any success with pre-sales?
    • Selling before the property is fully built?
 
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It seems you've nailed the marketing side of the business. Seems like the next step would be to JV with a developer to work on your own real estate projects, assuming you're not doing that already.

Shame you're in the states, otherwise I'd be all over your expertise.
 

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It seems you've nailed the marketing side of the business. Seems like the next step would be to JV with a developer to work on your own real estate projects, assuming you're not doing that already.

Shame you're in the states, otherwise I'd be all over your expertise.
Thank you for the compliment. I've reached the point in this where I am keenly aware of how much I still don't know...

Honestly, I wouldn't want to JV. I wouldn't want the additional headaches and responsibilities in this space. Give me a good SaaS company to this business model any day. Or even just a good local trades business. When dealing with the biggest purchase of people's lives, the place they nest in, their castle, well, I've seen enough to know what kind of headaches come with that.

If this is your line of work, God bless you brother. I'll stick to my Google tricks and trade. :rofl:
 
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  • Such a great post
  • The developers are saving a ton of money if they sign leases/sell without a real estate agent
  • I hope you put that in your metrics because it goes a long way
  • I am curious, how do you get the press to write or talk about your projects?
  • Also, have you had any success with pre-sales?
    • Selling before the property is fully built?
  • Such a great post
Thank you.
  • The developers are saving a ton of money if they sign leases/sell without a real estate agent
  • I hope you put that in your metrics because it goes a long way
True. Just not from what I've seen in this town. If the buyer doesn't have an agent, that is a strategy to go after, but the seller always has an agent here. Of course, those agreements are different than a usual seller agreement for a home sale.
  • I am curious, how do you get the press to write or talk about your projects?
Find stories written about other projects. Make a note of the reporter's name and contact info. When the time is right, reach out to the reporter.

At first you want to send them a brief email. "Are you interested in writing about a new project with XYZ particulars?" We alternate between that and "Would your readers be interested in..." Just really brief enough to hopefully intrigue them into responding.

But once they know who you are, you can just send a standards press release with an offer of a phone interview at their convenience.

Now if you have something really unique about your project, you can expand it out to other outlets. Maybe you are using smart home tech in a cool way, so you pitch the story not as a self promotion, but more of a public interest piece about the state of the industry and how you are embracing new technology.
  • Also, have you had any success with pre-sales?
    • Selling before the property is fully built?
Yes. I'll give a little deeper reply at a later time.
 
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Also, have you had any success with pre-sales?
  • Selling before the property is fully built?
Presales...

A couple disclaimers. Some of what I know was taught to me by my broker friends, and since this is how they gain an advantage, I won't share their secrets here. Also, I am in the marketing meetings, not the finance or operation meetings, so I might be screwing up some of the technical jargon.

Ok, presales is critical. It is an bit of an art.

You asked before fully built, but I am often involved months before even breaking ground. Before we are approved to write contracts. And depending on the finance stack, you often have to hit certain sales metrics just to get the next traunch releases. So each one of these is a milestone and the tactics very a little between those different phases of a project.

I kind of danced around this issue in my original post. Like anything else in marketing it is about aligning your message to the right audience at the right time.

Hopefully this brings it together a little better for you.

As the search marketer on the team, I face some interesting challenges marketing a patch of dirt. I can't (shouldn't) create a Maps listing for the location with no building there. And a new business, new website, it'll take time to rank it. As a result, we take a slow roll out to the budget, knowing that closing percentages are better once you at least have a model built. So here's a few other tips.

1 - Open a sales office somewhere. People need to see what their buying. With a sales office, you also have the benefit of an address, solving the Google maps problem. I'll often name it "Project Name Sales Office" so later when we move operations to the model home/unit, we can just list that as the project name and we mark this first location as closed.

2 - Since you won't rank for stuff upfront, a targeted, hyper focused search ads campaign is needed. Focus on what people are searching for specific things... 4Bed/3 bath or Golf course homes or penthouse condos. Take them to a landing page that just piques their interest, tell them when they will be available, and get them to sign up for an email list.

But here's the catch... You want to filter out renters as an audience. Why? Because a renter is searching for a home because he/she will want to buy soon (ish). If you are 6 months away from delivering a home, you don't want the renters who are searching for houses right now. So elimnate renters until until appropriate.

Also, distinguish who are realtors and get them on a separate email list.

3 - The media won't touch you when all you have is dirt, so do a little hyper local outreach. Does anyone blog about the area you're in? Can you do a little social outreach to partner with area businesses on some kind of co-promotion? Think cool local events that you can invite "the neighborhood" to. If the event is cool enough, you might get a little press out of the deal. But obivously, most of your press will come later in the process.

4 - Direct Mail. If you are selling condos, hit your local rental units with some direct mail. You don't care about the people moving out soon, but you want to get on the radar of the ones who have leases up in 6 months. Again, direct them to a landing page (use the domain tracking tip above) and sign them up on an email list.

As mentioned above, geofencing has never worked for us, here in Phoenix. But I often wonder if in a place like NYC, if a geofencing campaign of nearby rental apartment buildings could provide the same result. If anyone has ever had success with this, I'd love to hear about it.

5 - Pay attention to what people do for a living. There are 4 kinds of people who buy early. 1 - The investor type (realtors, investors). They want to know they are getting an appreciating asset. You'll also find a lot of these airbnb entreprenuers asking about HOA convenants (often before you have those established). You gotta watch out for those, they come with some pitfalls. If you're in this line of work, you know what I'm talking about. 2 - The "lets do this" type (sales people, athletes, some business owners) Just get them excited enough and give them a reason to lock in the deal now. 3 - The careful planner (Math professions. Engineers. Some government workers) Most careful planners won't sign right away, but if you can make the stars align for them and overcome all their objections without being pushy, they will sign. 4- The retired. Maybe they are "empty nesters" downsizing homes. Or buying a second home. (Maybe my AZ bias is kicking in here, but there are a lot of ways to close the retied folks on your project, IF your project is suitable for them.)

If your sales agents are trained to understand the buyer's mentality (and their career is often a pretty good indicator), they can speak the language and engage these sales.

6 - Create scarcity. This is really the name of the game. The trouble is actually achieving it and doing so ethically. But build into the pricing structure something so that even at the outset sales agents can say "We only have 3 units in this floor plan left at this price". But it doesn't have to be just price. You can sprinkle in certain sales around certain high traffic holidays. "Black Friday deal, this weekend only. Get upgraded countertops!" I always think it is super cheezy, and you don't want to have a "sale" every other weekend or anything, but having this on a key 3 or 4 weekends through the life of your project can get people off the fence.

7 - Make them feel special and part of the community, like they are plugged in, way before they even bought. This is some of where my broker's tricks come in, so I'll just leave this vague.

Hope that helps.
 

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Agree with you on the power of press, earned media, and the lackluster results in programmatic, print completely sucks for us, content marketing works pretty well for us.

We got easily 6 figures in earned media last year and our visibility went through the roof.

I'm in food/bev but the effectiveness of the tactics are about the same as what your experience is.
 

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Over the last several years I’ve been fortunate enough to become a “go to” marketer for builders with real estate projects coming out of the ground in the Phoenix area. I’ve helped 7 communities sell out, 2 more are on the verge, and I am currently marketing 5 other projects, including my first two new build for rent communities.

It is an interesting niche because when we're successful and the project gets sold out, often clients will be get out of the business. They move onto other enterprises or go on hiatus to start searching for the next project.

My core service is search engine marketing. For most of these projects I’m the lead digital marketer, and I’m usually part of a team. There's usually a Facebook/social person and maybe a PR person, and the lead salesperson on the team.

I’m usually the one watching the analytics/stats closest, so I see the effects of all the marketing channels. For a couple of projects, I was the sole digital marketer.

For the sake of context, I’ve done a high rise condo project downtown, a couple luxury condos projects, and an affordable condo project, also downtown. I’ve done golf course homes, affordable homes, luxury homes. I’ve done 1 bedroom condos and 5 bedroom floors plans. The smallest community was 20 homes. The condos are mostly in the central parts of the Valley, the home projects tend to be to the outskirts.

I think many of these lessons apply to other businesses, so hopefully this helps you.


People Do Business With People


Maybe in other cities things are different, but I doubt it. Real estate keeps pushing for higher tech solutions, but ultimately these "solutions" should be viewed as communication tools. Their purpose should be to connect people with people.

I want to stress, people are not data points.

If you are building communities, your sales will come through your agent(s). As a marketer my job is to keep those people fed with leads. The good ones build and nurture the lead into a relationship and then a sale. If your salespeople suck, your sales will suck.

I know this isn’t some big insight, but people get hired for all kinds of reasons and sometimes the decision makers don’t realize that a salesperson is a problem. Because I pay close attention to marketing results, I'm usually the one who figures it out.

I could probably write a separate post of all the mistakes I’ve heard a sales agents make on the phone, but here are the top 3:

  1. Not collecting name and contact info
  2. Politician speak… where someone asks a question and the agent wants to avoid answering it. So they say a lot about another topic then act like the question has been answered. Often this happens because someone is covering for the fact that they don’t know the answer and are embarrassed to admit it. Occasionally this happens because the agent is “covering up” some fact they feel is embarrassing. Either way, it is a teaching opportunity.
  3. Not asking enough qualifying questions. When are you looking to move? What is your budget range? How many people will live in the home? That kind of thing. There are books written on the subject, I won’t go in depth here.

I uncover these training opportunities because I actually listen to many of the calls our marketing efforts generate. Which brings me to...


Track As Much As Possible


Nobody has an unlimited budget. Nobody wants to waste money. It is imperative to stretch every dollar of the budget as much as possible. But you won’t know what is working if you don’t track it, right?

So we use callrail.com for our call tracking and call recording, integrated with Google Analytics. (We report first time callers to Analytics to best reflect actual results generated)

We’ll also use a call tracking number for our TV ads, TV spots, Postcards/Direct Mail pieces, Billboards, Street signs, Digital ads when possible. Pretty much everywhere except a directory or a Google/Bing/Apple/Mapquest map listing.

We’ll also use tracking domains to track our offline effort. We forward them to URL’s with UTM parameters. Sorry for the tech babble, let me see if I can explain it simply.

Let's say we've got a billboard to promote the forum. So we set up something like www.fastlanefreedom.com and set it to redirect to www.thefastlaneforum.com/community/?utm_source=billboard&utm_medium=offline&utm_campaign=3rdAve

In this case, a billboard on 3rd Ave will say visit fastlanefreedom.com and when they type that in they’ll come to this forum, but analytics will track that they saw the 3rd Ave Billboard.

You can use the same tactic for your street signs, your postcards, etc. We use this free Google tool to set up those UTM values - Campaign URL Builder — Google Analytics Demos & Tools

We also use appropriate tracking pixels for social ads, programmatic ads, etc. And to track the effects of press or other difficult to track marketing mediums, I will dig into the search volume to see what kind of lift we received in the days that follow a new marketing article. We promote our actual domain in press, for SEO reasons.

Lastly, we trained staff to ask clients how they heard about us. Some of that data is reliable "I drove by" or "so and so told me" and some is not "I saw you online".

The truth is, there is no perfect tracking solution. There is always stuff that will slip through the cracks. In the end, we do the best we can and this kind of set up gives us more than enough data to make educated choices about our marketing efforts.


Time Your Budget


Most business have a fairly level monthly marketing budget. Some might adjust for seasonality. Builders are a little different. There are a few moments in a building's lifespan that deserve additional resources.

First, at groundbreaking you have a little PR push. Then, once you have an actual model to show, you should increase the spend. It takes some skill to close sales pre-model because you are basically selling a dream. Once you have a model, things become "easier".

Then at the end, there needs to be a final push because closing out a building is probably the hardest part of the process. At the end, the last thing you want to do is drop the price of the final units or homes because that sets the value for the people who bought in early. There is a very interesting dance that takes place there where you will pay full price, but you'll probably be able to negotiate some nice upgrades if you see a final unit(s) lingering on the market.


Cheap, Effective, Often Overlooked Marketing


“Everybody” wants to go digital. And I'm glad, because it means I get work. But you know what is the cheapest and probably the best form of advertising for a new build community?

A sign in front of your project.

It’s so simple, but especially when you haven’t even built a model home yet, it is necessary to have info out there letting people know how to get in touch with you. It's so basic yet it is occasionally overlooked by a builder. Most people moving to the neighborhood drive around the neighborhood. Give those eyeballs something to see. Direct them where to go to get more info.

Many times I'll see a phone call come in from Google Organic and I'll hope its a result of the SEO, but I'll listen to the call and they were just driving by...

And on that note, a lot of people like getting fancy automated phone systems. Automated phone systems that I've seen often lower overall conversion rates. People just hang up. So to be effective, have someone ready to answer the phone when a call comes in. Remember point #1.


Effective Marketing, Honorable Mention


Email follow up. Staying top of mind and showing you want their business without being annoying is an art and I don't want to share any secrets here. The money is in the list. The list you develop and grow. The only reason I can't call this the best form of marketing is because it costs money to build the list. I will say you should segment your email list. For example you don't send the same info to buyers as you do to real estate agents.


My Favorite Marketing Channel


Press. It boosts SEO rankings like nothing else. It increases brand searches. It generates higher conversion rates (granted over a brief period of time) then the other channels. And putting the "As seen in" logos on a site boosts the effectiveness of almost every other marketing channel.

According to my data, press isn't dead. And yes, people actually still read.


Least Effective Marketing Channel


Print ads. Earned press is great. Print ads are almost useless. Factor in the cost, and they are so many better ways to spend a marketing dollar.


Second Least Effective Marketing Channel


Programmatic advertising. This has been everybody's favorite darling for a few years now. There are many versions of this, Geo fencing is a popular one. I could rant, because clients love the new shiny toy and this one always sounds to good to be true, but since it's tech, they assume it is true. But if you actually listen to the calls that this marketing channel generates, it is rarely an interested buyer. Plus I suspect the clicks are often faked. I have yet to see an effective programmatic marketing campaign.

Again, there are better ways to spend a marketing dollar.


Social Or Search? Which Is Better?


Both. Neither. It depends...

They work together. One reinforces the other. Social creates brand awareness and can at times create demand for your product, while search harvests existing demand. Know your market and use them appropriately.


On Websites, The More Conversion Points, The Better


This is generally true, but there is such a thing as too much. But let's back up. What's a conversion point? Different marketers define this differently. I track interactions with a potential customer.

So, a phone call is the highest value. Place your phone number in logical places. Don't make someone hunt for it. Have it in your header, have it in your footer, and place it in the body text next to a call to action.

Next have a form on every page. For the people who don't want to call or can't call, don't make them hunt for your contact us page. Because they won't. I'll typically put the form just above the footer of a website, but that isn't always the best solution.


The Double Power Of A Chat


Above is the bare minimum for conversion points. But if we have the manpower, I always push for a chat on the site. And I set the chat up to auto greet every visitor. Why?

I have found that 97% of visitors close that chat. Clients often think it is pointless, or worse, annoying.

But in my experience, that 97% of people is 30% more likely to convert to a call or fill out the form. It is the same reason you get greeted when you enter a store. Studies show you are now likely to buy.

Plus, the other 3% of people who actually do chat are often leads. Often these are people who would not have reached out just then, so chat has two increasing effects on conversion rates. Again, remember point 1. If you have a skilled agent in the chat, it is a gold mine.

In case you are wondering, I have yet to see a chat bot come anywhere close to bring worthwhile. The auto greet is the only bit of automation we use.


There Is No Magic Bullet. There Are No Absolute Rules. Test Everything.


If you are looking for me to tell you how to position your project, I can't. Yet. Every marketing plan starts with researched assumptions, but we let the data guide us to improved effectiveness.

For example, I can tell you Twitter sucks. Except for when it doesn't. Like reaching out to media members. But that's not the only way it helps. And you won't know when or how to use it until you test it out.

And just so we're clear, even though I am usually dealing with decent sized marketing budgets, I often run $5 or $10/day campaigns to test various ideas.

I already mentioned the best placement of a form varies across sites. It is usually best in the footer, but not always. Test it in a sidebar. Test it just under the header. Find out what works best for your customers.

Here's another fun thing I've learned from testing. Don't use exclamation points when marketing to affluent people. I have theories why tests turn out the way they do, but it's just an opinion. At the end of the day, the data has shown me several times that people with money are averse to !

When I've weighed the benefit of sliders or videos or virtual tour compared to just having a page load fast with simple text and nice images, the fast site usually wins. But not always, so test it.

Here's a fun test I do sometimes. Instead of paying to sponsor a site or do direct banner ads, if the site runs AdSense, use a Google display campaign on just that site. You'll find it is often much cheaper than what the site wants for a banner ad campaign. Run it for a week and see what kind of results you get. You'll also see they are probably grossly over estimating how much traffic they actually get.

Any marketer worth their salt should run all kinds of tests. It's how we learn. It's how we improve.


The Value Of Crafting Tailored Messages


Landing pages will allow you to test messaging. And that is some of the most important tests you will run. If you have a high rise condo with prices ranging from $250k - $1M you can't expect the same sales copy to be most effective for everyone. So guide people to pages that speak to their needs.

Real estate preaches location, location, location, right? I say dig deeper. What about the location specifically speaks to them? Are they close to work? Or close to fun? Easy freeway access? Far from the hustle and bustle? Safe neighborhood? Close to the airport? Or good schools?

Access to schools matters to most home buyers, it is almost a universal benefit, even to ones without kids. Mainly this is because of the impact on home values. But it doesn't matter to the golf course home buyer. So know what is important to your audience and craft messages tailored to them.

Speaking of messaging, have your calls to action make sense. There isn't a best CTA. Lazy marketers say Call Now or Call Today. And sometimes that is the best (but again, usually not if the demographic is affluent). I've found that phrases like Let's Chat, Want To Learn More?, Ready To Talk? are more effective when used appropriately. Let the data tell you when to hard sell vs when to soft sell.


Google Analytics Interests Data


Using this report is one of the better ways you can get to know your audience. Don't just look at the stock reports. Add secondary dimensions to the charts. It'll look like this...

View attachment 29866

I once noticed an ad campaign where affluent single women ages 40-55 who are gamers were converting at a rate noticeably higher than the average. I know the ones who preferred shooter games converted the highest. Their affinity for gaming was never bought up, but we did highlight the high speed internet, the privacy, the security features of the building, the extra sound proofing in the walls, the closeness to the jazz bar and low key restaurants for a night out with the girls. I don’t have the exact number, but I think over a quarter of our units went to that demographic in that building.

Not to beat the dead horse, but remember point #1. Your agents are a treasure trove of this kind of message tweaking. That's how we found out which features to emphasize. Ask your buyers why they bought. Use that info in further marketing and sales efforts. Keep testing.

I tried to replicate the success of that in the next similar project, and it failed spectacularly. Know your audience. Get in their heads. Dig into the data to craft your message. Don't assume because it worked once that it will again.


Cost Per Lead


So if you're doing the job right, success is lowering the cost per lead. On a limited budget (and what budget isn't limited?), you should devote the most money to the cheapest source of quality leads. Max that out, then focus on the next cheapest.

Keep a small percentage of the budget set aside to test other sources to see if they are more effective than your current efforts.

I can't tell you Google is better than Instagram or Facebook or Radio ads because it depends on where your clients are. I've even recommended to clients that they abandon search engine marketing (again, that is my core offering). But the data doesn't lie, so why would I?

If you are tracking results, then the cost per lead will guide you towards cutting the wasteful spend and devoting it towards higher value activities.


Random Thoughts


These are just some general thoughts, with little explanation given.
  • Don't pay to be on TV shows (like the morning home and garden shows)
  • I've never tested OTT ads
  • There is no magic color. Testing will reveal what colors work you.
  • The more expensive the home, the less mass market or blanket advertising will work.
  • Not everything has to look "sexy". Award winning design is not required to generate leads and sell homes
  • Facebook remarketing is better than others. But not everyone uses Facebook.
  • If your website asks people to share their location with you, a surprising number of them will. (Roughly 1 out of 5) You can use this in conjunction with direct mail efforts.
  • When in doubt, be clear, concise, and direct.
  • Read the chats. Listen to the calls. Learn about your customers needs and wants.
  • I prefer to not put prices on the site. I am often overruled in that decision, so I have little data to back it up, but I'd rather they get that info by talking to a sales agent.

Final Thought


In real estate we are governed by Fair Housing laws. So our hands are a little tied when it comes to targeting demographics. I can't do as much as I'd like to cut wasteful spending.

So I have to get creative sometimes. Like for example, everybody uses Chrome, right? Who uses the Edge? Older people. Maybe these are people who like golf, and maybe golf course homes. Or homes where they don't have to take care of a yard (condos). So for some of my clients I use this kind of information appropriately. But you probably don't have to go to such lengths to cut waste out of a budget. You can probably just stop advertising entirely to whole sections of the populace. So if we can get things dialed in enough to generate quality real estate leads for $30 even with this "handicap", most of you should be able to help your business grow for an affordable cost.
Whoa, that's a lot to digest. A ton valuable information. Going to PM you.
 
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BizyDad

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Here's a new one, for me at least. Had a meeting with my client. We have a project in Laveen, we expected to be selling the remaining supply for the next 4-5 months based on current sales pace. Last month Phoenix opened this new highway connecting the easy valley to south Phoenix/Laveen.

The builder decides to up his prices. Makes sense.

Which triggers a buying frenzy?! Counter intuitive, right?

All the people that were sitting on the fence got the email about the price increase because the highway access was in place, and a little snowball effect happened. A couple sold right away. Suddenly less inventory, 2 more sold a couple days later, and less inventory. Long story short, the remaining lots sold in 13 days, & another community is done.

Client fails to mention it to me, so I was still running ads for 10 days after. :rofl:
 

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So I have to get creative sometimes. Like for example, everybody uses Chrome, right? Who uses the Edge? Older people. Maybe these are people who like golf, and maybe golf course homes.
Just got back from the golf course, played terribly. I use Internet Explorer though, can't quite get used to that fancy new Edge business.
 
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Update. My first apartment complex has been fully rented. Woo hoo.

But people are spooked. One client sold out of his project completely to another developer and was thankful for the opportunity. So I'm down to 4 in process.

Hearing about others cutting ad budgets this week too.
 

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The Double Power Of A Chat


Above is the bare minimum for conversion points. But if we have the manpower, I always push for a chat on the site. And I set the chat up to auto greet every visitor. Why?

I have found that 97% of visitors close that chat. Clients often think it is pointless, or worse, annoying.

But in my experience, that 97% of people is 30% more likely to convert to a call or fill out the form. It is the same reason you get greeted when you enter a store. Studies show you are now likely to buy.

Plus, the other 3% of people who actually do chat are often leads. Often these are people who would not have reached out just then, so chat has two increasing effects on conversion rates. Again, remember point 1. If you have a skilled agent in the chat, it is a gold mine.

In case you are wondering, I have yet to see a chat bot come anywhere close to bring worthwhile. The auto greet is the only bit of automation we use.
The whole thread is awesome and relevant to me, (as you already know) but this in-particular was super interesting. Can you say what chat software they were using?
 
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The whole thread is awesome and relevant to me, (as you already know) but this in-particular was super interesting. Can you say what chat software they were using?
Usually Zendesk chat (was Zopim). Else Live chat.

I will give a shout out to your chat bot. I really want to test it in the field.
 

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