Real estate marketing has changed, but...

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Real estate marketing has changed, and continues to change, but real estate buyers and sellers have not.

The real estate marketing methods you use to reach prospective clients are far different than the methods real estate marketing used to rely on newspapersused just a few years ago.

Once upon a time, real estate brokerages depended upon print advertising in newspapers and magazines, ads in Yellow Pages, yard signs, and a conspicuous location to invite walk-in prospects. The brokerages did the advertising and agents got clients by being there to take the calls or greet the walk-ins on their floor day.

All of that is a far cry from the methods you use today. I’ll have to say real estate marketing WAS simpler in those days. It was also far less expensive and time consuming for agents, since the brokerages had that responsibility. But – those days are long gone.

What has not changed is human nature.

Real estate buyers and sellers still want the same things they wanted back then, beginning with your attention.

real estate clients want you to listenProspects and clients still want you to respond – not just when they call, but when they text or email. They want you to answer all of their questions and guide them through the steps to buying or selling. They want your honesty – even while some of them don’t like your honest answers. They want you to take care of any problems along the way and make the whole process easy for them.

Listing clients still want you to go all out in marketing their homes – today in more ways than you could have imagined twenty years ago.

Buyer clients still want you to be a guide and protector.

What has changed in real estate marketing?

Who is responsible for marketing – brokerages still advertise, but individual agents are largely responsible for gathering their own clients.

The marketing methods – in addition to direct mail, print advertising, networking, etc. agents have an abundance of electronic options. More and more agents own their own websites, blog, and use social media extensively to attract new prospects. Listing presentations are often done, at least in part, via laptop rather than print.

The cost of real estate marketing. Owning a website, blogging, and using social media costs far less than placing ads in magazines and newspapers. Of course, it’s always possible to spend more. Some agents do spend a lot on website design and maintenance, and some do purchase leads and pay for advertising on social media. Direct mail is still an effective marketing choice, but an agent can get started without it.

What has NOT changed in real estate marketing? Your audience.

The interests and desires of the people who read what you send out are the same as the interests and desires of people who read marketing messages decades ago.

Every prospect who reads your marketing still looks at it with the same unspoken question in mind: “What’s in this for me?”

They don’t care how wonderful you are, and they for sure don’t care what you want. That’s the reason for the #1 rule in marketing: Don’t begin your message with “I” or “We.”

They care about whether you can and will help them achieve what they want. They care about whether you’ll give them the attention and service they want. They’re interested in whether they’ll like and trust you.

And that’s it. It all boils down to “What’s in it for me?”

When they read your prospecting letters, they want to know if you understand their problems and desires. They want to know if you have the solutions they seek. They aren’t interested in “I need listings.” They don’t care if you “Love helping buyers.”

When they read your agent bio they want to learn whether you have the knowledge, skill, and attitude that will help them achieve their goals. They want to see if you have the kind of personality that means you’ll be pleasant to deal with. They want to know if you’ll listen to them and give them respect.

They want to know if you’re someone who shares their attitudes and values. That’s why I encourage my clients to let me include a bit of personal information in their bios. When they connect with you on some level, they’re more likely to trust you.

The good news is, thanks to the Internet, you have greater opportunities to show those prospects that yes, you are the agent they want.

Your direct mail letters can begin the process by offering understanding and good information, and your bio, other web pages, blog posts, social media content, and email follow-up can expand on it.

This was all a bit harder to accomplish when you were advertising in expensive print publications, cold calling, and door knocking.

It takes more time and effort to write words that show people why you’re the right choice, but it’s a lot more effective than stating “I’m wonderful and I know it all.” (And sadly, I have seen ads that pretty much say just that.)

Real estate marketing had changed. Real estate prospects have not.

Remember that when you communicate.


Newsboy Image courtesy of vectorolie at
Listen courtesy of stuart miles @

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Comments (19)

Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

BINGO! It's never about us, is it? It's about the prospect. What do they want?

Apr 08, 2021 04:28 PM
Marte Cliff

Carol - no one in any kind of business should ever forget that it's all about the clients and what they want.

Apr 08, 2021 08:07 PM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I have to disagree.  I think buyers and sellers have changed with technology as well.  They come much more educated and knowing what they want to see where as they didn't before.  But it was more than a few years ago.  My website turned 23 this year.

Apr 08, 2021 04:35 PM
Marte Cliff

Tammy - Yes, people now want instant gratification, and the internet has made them more educated about pricing and what is on the market - but they still want your attention. And most still want your guidance and your problem solving abilities.

Apr 08, 2021 08:09 PM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello and once again another great blog from you for us here in the rain.  Can I reblog it sometime


Apr 08, 2021 05:03 PM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Will - and yes, of course you can.

Apr 08, 2021 08:09 PM
Adam Feinberg
Elegran - Manhattan, NY
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse Advisor

Most aspects of this business have changed. For an agent that was in this business in 1980- did new prospective clients expect a call back in 5 minutes or less if you were unavailable? I don't know the answer as I have only been in this business for 5 years- but I am guessing that wasn't the norm, and today it is.  The on-demand economy has made it's way into our business.  The WIIFM model - What's In It For Me - aspect never changed, and likely never will, but so much of our business has changed over the years. I have access to analytic tools I didn't have a few years ago. My firm uses Artificial Intelligence to identify potential sellers in a neighborhood- and it works. 

I never understood agents that didn't do some very simple, cheap or free things that take very little investment in time to promote themselves. Clients love to read about you and the types of sales you have done- so they know what you might be able to offer to them.  

Apr 08, 2021 05:28 PM
Marte Cliff

No Adam, they did not expect an instant call-back, but they did expect a response within a reasonable time.

Your lead-gathering and marketing methods have changed, and people are perhaps more demanding, but it all boils down to wanting your attention. Every one of them wants to feel that they and their business are important to you.

Apr 08, 2021 08:13 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

What a wonderful post, Marte... and you are spot-on. How we work has changed greatly over the years... but how we relate to our clients not so much.

Apr 09, 2021 04:22 AM
Marte Cliff

Nina - Yes, how you work has changed drastically - but people are still people, interested in their own wants and needs.

Apr 11, 2021 08:01 PM
Sham Reddy CRS
Howard Hanna RE Services, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Thanks for sharing Marte!

Real estate buyers and sellers still want the same things they wanted back then, beginning with your attention.

Apr 09, 2021 04:42 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Buyers and sellers want us to listen, to guide, to assist, to help them achieve their goals.

I'm sure that is the same as it's always been.

Apr 09, 2021 04:56 AM
Marte Cliff

I'm sure it is, Kat. Of course that's with the exception of those who believe they already know more than you do. 😄

Apr 11, 2021 08:02 PM
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489

You're right, what people want is communication, honesty, and someone to look out for their best interest. However, I don't think people know to look for those things. They get caught up in all the pretty and easy things just like some agents. 

Apr 09, 2021 06:24 AM
Marte Cliff

That's an interesting thought, Carla. That makes it your job to somehow reach them and show them you offer what they need.

Apr 11, 2021 08:04 PM
Rocky Dickerson
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV
Superior Service!

Good morning Marte! Yes it all comes down to that radio station WIIFM

Apr 09, 2021 07:55 AM
Marte Cliff

That's it, Rocky. That never changes.

Apr 11, 2021 08:04 PM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Marketing with the understanding of what prospects want/need to know is important.  It's about them, not us.

Apr 09, 2021 11:57 AM
Marte Cliff

Chris Ann - that understanding is a key component in good marketing.

Apr 11, 2021 08:06 PM
Linda Metallo DiBenardo
RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois - Lockport, IL

Great post!  Chuckling as I read thru when I read what buyers/sellers don't care how wonderful we are and that we know it all....

Apr 09, 2021 11:59 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes, and yet some agents (and others) persist in telling them those things. That's OK if those agents are your competitors!

Apr 11, 2021 08:07 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Marte- while the tools for marketing have changed, what buyers and sellers want hasn't. They want to know that you are listening to what they say...they want to know that you are not looking at them solely with dollar signs in their eyes...they want to know that they are working with an expert. 

Apr 09, 2021 02:32 PM
Marte Cliff

Yes, Kathy - they want all of those things.

Apr 11, 2021 08:08 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I agree with you that there are so many universal things that don't change in the ones that dohave to be met with the right attitude

Apr 09, 2021 08:56 PM
Marte Cliff

Laura - there are those who resist the changes, but they will be left in the dust.

Apr 11, 2021 08:09 PM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

Great insights here Marte! I coulldn't agree more!

Coincidently I posted on this same subject this week!

Apr 10, 2021 08:47 AM
Marte Cliff

You know how it is with great minds, Thomas.

Apr 11, 2021 09:20 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

I am a firm believer it is all about the clients, when we forget that it is time to find another way of making a living.... Endre

Apr 13, 2021 11:10 PM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

It has always been WIIFM but I think recently that's been amplified.

Apr 14, 2021 12:30 PM
Greg Mona
Hague Partners/72SOLDHUB - Scottsdale, AZ
Professional Real Estate Representation for YOU!

What a wonderful post, Marte! And absolutely right on the money. Regardless of the business, when you're in the service industry, the "WIIFM" question must be answered, (albeit a LOT quicker than in years past!). Having had first-hand experience with a brokerage that tried to create a real estate model based on algorithms first and not people first, that model may work for some (and did) but most folks still want a real, live human being not only assisting them but listening to them and meeting their needs in the process.  And thank goodness for that!

Apr 14, 2021 02:30 PM
Paddy Deighan MBA JD PhD - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

In a prior life I ws the CEO of the largest dermatology and plastic urgery network in the matter where the practice...whether new location or older,...patient referral was 85% of our new patients....REFERRALS work

Apr 15, 2021 12:13 AM
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

In our coastal retirement and second home market the rules of marketing are different. We use very little print  and direct mail, the internet is everything to us!Our clients come from all 50 states. Most of them come from within NC, and the Northeast! I have been in this market for  over 5 years, and I have yet to deal with a local client moving locally! 

Apr 17, 2021 12:33 AM