For zombies, it’s brains. For real estate agents, it’s leads.
“Leads! Must have leads!”
I’m joking, of course. I would never compare real estate agents to zombies by any means. But if you look at the way agents often prioritize lead generation above all marketing activities, I do get concerned. Because if you do a Google search for “lead generation for real estate,” guess how many results you’ll find? Over one million.
I want real estate agents everywhere to know one thing: if all you do is focus on lead generation, you are playing the short game.
Lead generation is definitely important, but it’s a part of a more comprehensive marketing plan. But before you can generate leads, you need something else. And that something is brand awareness. Add brand awareness to lead generation, social proof and referral nurturing, and you are now playing the long game.
How can I hire you when I don’t even know you?
Let’s start from the beginning.
Chances are you, you have a network of past clients and people you are nurturing. That’s your sphere of influence, and they will bring you a significant amount of business if you take good care of them.
But what about people you don’t know yet? Those are the leads you’re looking for. But lead generation tactics alone will not get them on the hook.
Think about any relationship -- maybe a marriage. Did each partner go straight to setting up house? Most likely no. There were stages. First they had to get to know each other.
For businesses and service providers, that’s the role that advertising plays. You get in front of the people you want to do business with in several ways, and running ads is one of the most tried and true.
There are many studies and just as many answers to the question, “how many times does someone need to see my ad before they convert?” Those answers vary between 7 and 20 times. So that means you need to be seen over and over before you can break through and get the lead. Repetition is the secret sauce.
The more I see you, the more I trust you
When you can identify your specific audience and find them online, you can afford to advertise to them repeatedly. And studies show that repetition is the key to making them aware of your brand.
For a real estate agent, when we say brand awareness, we typically mean local people being able to recall your name, face, office name, and tagline - and being able to associate your brand to real estate.
Why does this matter, you ask? Because 92% of home sellers and buyers start their home search online before they talk to a real estate agent. And according to the NAR 2016 Profile of Buyers and Sellers, 70% of those people will hire the first real estate agent they talk to. They can’t possibly call you if they aren’t even aware you exist, right? That’s what awareness marketing is trying to solve for real estate.
Now we can get social.
By getting social, I don’t mean that we should be friends on facebook and you should follow me on Twitter. More to the point -- who else are you friends with? What do my friends -- or people who could be my friends -- think about you?
Think about Amazon.com reviews. They are incredibly valuable to other consumers, because they validate (or invalidate) the claims of the product. Social proof is kind of like a product review -- except you are the product!. So, given that 92% of people start their home search online, it’s becoming more and more important that you pay attention to the social proof that is out there about you on the web. Think of it as word-of-mouth marketing in a digital age.
A vibrant website filled with your community connections, testimonials, and track record is a good start. And things like an active Twitter or Facebook page with comments on them all serve as social proof that you are an experienced real estate agent worth talking to. Remember, you are dealing with the biggest financial transaction most people will ever do in their lives. They are looking for an agent that instills confidence.
Along with the familiarity that comes from repetition, social proof helps builds that confidence. In fact, The Wall Street Journal recently published a survey that found the headline, “Your neighbors are already doing it,” was more persuasive than one that said, “You’ll save $54/month” when it came to influencing consumer behavior. We feel safer when something is tried and true -- it's just our human nature.
Don’t get me wrong: lead generation is incredibly important in any sales environment, and real estate is no exception. But if it’s all you are doing in your marketing plan, you are likely missing out on longer-term gains. In fact, your lead generation marketing will actually perform better if people have already heard of you, and if they see strong social proof about you.