During over a year of coverage for Towertrip.com, I had the privilege to witness and engage with hundreds of real estate brokers, developers and third party marketers. I saw a new generation of tech savvy professionals use (and try) a variety of alternative ways to market properties and themselves in the process. This is not an attempt at tossing aside the more traditional and established marketing practices, but rather new and fresh ideas to complement the previous.
How to leverage Instagram? Not a numbers game…
In his insightful article Influencer Reach Doesn’t Matter Anymore, brand strategist Frank Danna states that it is not simply a numbers game, but rather a question of tapping the right niche.
To discover digitally active brokers in Miami for example, simply monitor #MiamiRealEstate and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a community of hundreds of professionals who share and collaborate information on newly listed properties. “Last year alone, several transactions were directly the result of sharing on Instagram,” tells Allen Davoudpour, broker at Douglas Elliman during a visit in Miami. “Buyers are not necessarily shopping for houses on the social network, but other brokers are certainly very alert of what’s new, and that often results in a collaboration transaction.”
This is networking on steroids because it skims down your feed and interactions to a limited pool of like-minded individuals from within your field. Mix this with a strong and genuine personal brand; it can be a very effective tool.
Getting over the death of Facebook organic reach
Again, the number of Likes is irrelevant. Since organic reach is now out of the equation, owning and up keeping a Facebook page for your business is no longer a marketing tactic in itself, but rather a new toolbox for audience segmentation and retargeting.
Integrating a Facebook pixel on a listing page for example, will allow the listing broker to then retarget interested visitors with advertising about this specific listing inside their Facebook feed. Combine this with existing Facebook demographic audience segmentation and you obtain a very efficient and low cost way to market to the right audience. Just browse through Montreal broker Yury Shupilov’s listings or notorious Corcoran Group’s pages and then notice how many automated new touch points this manages to create afterwards.
Content amplification and native advertising
There is now more than ever an easy way to get featured on most websites and it’s called a media kit. If a website has all the right audience and credibility in a niche, investing in both pure advertising and advertorial can be an effective combo. According to Ross Fox, marketing director for The Real Deal, the most notorious real estate news website and magazine in the US: “We get more readers for the same stories as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, because as far as Real Estate news is concerned, people trust they can come to us first. A typical developer or development package includes both print and online for at least 6 consecutive months.” The Real Deal will also host its first Canadian Forum at the end of March in Toronto. This established formula in the US adds a third dimension to their media packages.
Of course, most brokers and boutique developers don’t have that kind of war chest to invest in advertising mixes. But as Mr. Fox also said: “No one is too small or too large to advertise.” I hence found similar stories on a smaller scale where local brokers partnered up with local influencers and blogs. As with this “dream loft” story featured on MTL Blog or the “condo of the month” column on Vancity Buzz. There is certainly room for improvement in terms of editorial transparency and integration of this promoted content inside these editorial grids, but it’s good to see an effort from both parties. I guess brokers cannot sell The Michael Jordan Estate every week…
Owned media and proprietary channels by developers
For years we’ve seen mega banners build up their own media. Think of Sotheby’s International Architecture and Design Magazine, Remax’s Above or The Luxury Edition by Christie’s. Now hotel chains and real estate developers also started to harness the power of (relevant) content to engage with the right audience.
Trusted developer Prével in Montréal recently launched it’s own webzine with in-house editorial team. “Our content strategy is to showcase the lifestyle and neighborhoods surrounding our four ongoing projects,” explains David Deschênes, Marketing Director at Prével. “Beyond brick, mortar and finishes, potential buyers need to know a particular project is a good fit for them. From featuring rock climbing facilities to temporary art exhibits, our articles are still relevant and resourceful for previous buyers in our projects.”
This strategy also gives a lot of ammunition for dwellers to become ambassadors for their own condo projects, and sometimes refers directly to new buyers. “There is so much competition between developers for SEM that creating good content is a way for us to get more organic reach and preserve a healthy balance of SEO/SEM,” tells again Deschênes.
A pivoting referral system to include agents
Last summer, Canadian referral platform Zoocasa was sold by Rogers to Lauren Haw and a group of investors who are gradually pivoting the model to include real agents under the Keller Williams banner. “One of the first changes we made was to build a team of agents who work exclusively for Zoocasa, rather than referring leads out to agents who do not work for the company. This is an important change, and indicative of the direction we’ll take with marketing and our other services across the company” explains Lauren Haw. “We know our clients will begin their real estate hunt online at home, and our USP is being able to perfect that research experience with our new website. Once our clients are ready to meet with a real person, we will be able to match that same caliber, level of professionalism and expertise they experienced online.”
Another interesting venture is Justeduneuf.ca, an independent platform that lists exhaustively all available condo units and new constructions in an area (Montreal only for the beta). This can be very useful for buyers to shop and compare all projects with a bird’s eye view. The interesting twist now, is that developers can also get a premium access to an advertising dashboard, where they can bid for more visibility for their projects on the platform, like they would usually do on Adwords or Facebook. This way, they only pay for the right clicks from prospects.
Chasing International Buyers
In a world getting smaller every day thanks to social networks, referral systems and communications automation, broker Martin Rouleau at Sutton will still go the extra mile to obtain actual face time with potential foreign investors. He and his team just got back from China. “They like the face to face communication. Most of the Chinese people we have met don’t speak French or English. Having a Chinese member in our team, William Gong, who speaks fluent in Mandarin, and who was born and worked in China was a great asset. Building trust with the Chinese community takes time” recounts Martin Rouleau.
“Being an international broker means travelling, understanding other people’s culture and build a referral network with real estate brokers from all over the world. We traveled to China to build a network of contacts more specifically with Chinese relocation companies, immigration companies, Canadian banks established in China and local banks.” Their commercial mission was also well documented to their more than 12K followers on Instagram.
I believe that no matter what type of technology is leveraged, the real estate business will always remain one of genuine human interactions. The brokers and marketers who will thrive in the new digital ecosystem will be those who understand that technology is there to work for them, and not the opposite.
If you have other ideas or cases to share, please feel free to submit them in the comments below!