A week ago, the four A's (American Association of Advertising Agencies) created a bit of a big stink.
They suggested that smaller advertising agencies and marketing firms are a bargain -- claiming billing rates are half or one third of their larger colleagues.
Which means if your brokerage was using J Walter Thompson (a New York ad agency) as opposed to say a firm like ours, Voyager International.
Shopping for anything on price or FREE can be a big mistake. When you go out shopping for creative talent, you need to focus on finding a firm that's a good fit for your needs.
1.) Are you a high maintenance client?
Do you need to call your ad agency creative staff three or five times a day? Are you neurotic? Do you have the book "Computers for Idiots," next to your laptop? Then you probably need an in-house person. You'll drive any outside marketing agency nuts and you'll get fired inside of 90 days.
2.) Do you know to use your computer? Does Internet Marketing frustrate you to no end?
Do you become annoyed even at simple explanations why your website isn't on Google two days after your website launches? These kind of clients are technology challenged and need an in-house person to constantly answer the same questions over and over again. Because asking your outside marketing or advertising agency these questions is a perfect recipe for you to get fired as a client. (It will be polite and apologetic. But nonetheless, you're simply being fired for being a high maintenance nag.)
3.) Can you afford $30,000 - $50,000 a year in outside marketing/advertising costs?
Small 10 agent shops typically fall under this umbrella. SEO and website services will run you $9,000 - $25,000 initially then another $900 - $2,000 a month in ongoing services. More SEO work (monthly) postcards, radio, and PRWeb.com Press Release ads, and lots of incoming links from the social media networks.
4.) Do you need to spend $150,000 - $500,000 a year in outside marketing costs?
Typical ad spend on marketing and advertising if you have three or more offices, or your REALTOR work force is 300 agents or above. SEO and website services will run you $20,000 - $40,000 initially then another $5,000 - $8,000 a month in ongoing services. Monthly sit down meetings are part of the service. Branding of your top selling agents with a semi-custom or custom website are often included with the larger agencies. More SEO work (monthly) postcards, radio, billboard and PRWeb.com Press Release ads, and lots of incoming links from the social media networks.
If you're a medium to large brokerage, it's certainly easy to see why using a large advertising agency can get pretty expensive. But there are good reasons for them to BE expensive.
1.) Top agencies have Top talent. If you need clip art and stock photos, you can go to iStockPhoto.com. But if you need to get your business name on the lips of everybody in town, nobody will out perform the creative and marketing talent you will get from a respected national advertising agency. Small agencies can do this too, it's just that with smaller teams, they can't turn on a dime quite as fast.
2.) Resources, Resources, Resources. If you need a billboard done across town, if you need to run a :30 second radio commercial, if you need to brainstorm on a 2nd website strategy... it's not a problem if you needed it done yesterday.
All of these things cost money.
Smaller creative and marketing shops like Voyager and many others are a different breed of ad agency.
Instead of big teams and big systems, you invest into the creative talent of a small group of multi-talented people. A day in the life doing my job, for example is spent often working 6 days a week, and working around the hours of some of my clients who can only brain storm with me at 7:45 pm my time... 10:45 pm east coast time. Being a small shop, we often have a creative hit list of outside freelance copywriters and Flash design gurus who love nothing more than to work the midnight oil on creative, crash and burn projects.
Small shops are tenacious and we have the tendency sometimes to be slow on completing things. All too often, clients like to micro-manage and add lots of feature creep requests which create their own slow downs. Smaller shops are also more technology and marketing savvy than their larger colleagues. This means a nice departure from the business as usual, "one-size-fits-all" marketing mix.
Down markets often result in the big players in your market pulling back on advertising. This is a tragic mistake that you can take advantage of. For example, the newspaper used to carry a full page ad of Amazing Realty. But for weeks, they've not advertised there anymore. Customers reading the newspaper get used to reading the ads from Amazing Realty. But now... they're not there anymore.
Next time home buyer are no different than next time car buyers. Or next time appliance or sofa buyers. They all read the newspaper. They all spend time on line surfing Google. They all drive around town and they listen to the radio.
If Broker Bob from Amazing Realty used to advertise in these places, and now they're not... there's a hole here that needs to be filled with another marketing message and it can be yours.
People need to be told that you're good at what you do. Impress them with a catchy tagline. Wow them with your new and improved website.
The two rules of getting more customers are the same today despite the fact we have Facebook, Twitter, and Google to get folks to come to your website.
These two rules is why advertising agencies work. They know the two things that help people remember your name and your brand.
In today's marketing, everything you do to market to next time home buyers and sellers should drive people to your website. But getting people to get to your website has to be done with a traditional mix and the new media. Radio, newspaper (including CraigsList) and direct mail postcards work great.
But if you're not good at creating a consistent message that you can use on Facebook, newspaper, radio or postcards... then it's time for you to get some help from advertising agency. Saving money is the worst reason to do your own creative work. 90% of those who have tried will often fail. Sure, you know how to market and sell homes, but it doesn't mean you can call yourself an ad agency of one.
You might be good with a scalpel. You need sharp medical instruments so you can make a fabulous living carving animals out of a single block of wood. But you wouldn't operate on yourself if you needed your appendix taken out with that same scalpel.
A closing note about creative people and advertising agencies...
It doesn't matter if you choose a large or small agency to help you rebrand yourself and make more money in 2010. You'll find that any ad agency big or small is filled with creative people, passionate about helping you achieve your dreams of getting bigger, becoming more visible on Google and they will enjoy hearing that you are now pocketing more commissions.
90% of brokers and REALTORS will need some outside marketing help in 2010. My suggestion if you are in that group... Please spend lots of time researching firms big and small and find yourself a real marketing "partner." Someone who cares about making you a Real Estate Rock Star in your market. Once you find the right firm, be prepared to spend some money as you are only investing in yourself. Because no matter what the costs are, price becomes just another detail when you find yourself one day sitting page one on Google and enjoying a never ending stream of next time homebuyers coming to your website.