Marketing real estate has changed so much in the last couple of decades. The traditional bricks and mortar brokerage that sill relies on print newspaper ads, mass letter mailings, postal cards, open houses, radio ads, and farming neighborhoods is doomed.
We are so far past traditional advertising, it’s embarrassing when I see a real estate agent advertising on a shopping cart at Safeway. Today’s most effective marketers are using the MLS as a start for their listings, because that gets a listing to all brokers and all buyers who use all the syndicated sites to look at homes.
Beyond that, most brokers don’t understand what to do that is cost effective, so most brokers shoot from the hip, and then boast to their listing clients about all the places they are advertising their listing, nevermind that their efforts are ineffective in reaching highly qualified buyers.
In 2010 I wrote in my book entitled, The New World of Marketing for Real Estate Agents about dramatic changes that were happening in the real estate industry. I suggested there were major disruptive moves coming, and I was right. I want to share this with you so you can see I actually have a strong background on this subject. Here’s an excerpt:
Here is the first tectonic force that is at the root of all these changes effecting the real estate industry: a change in consumer behavior. Granted, it’s a huge change in consumer behavior. It’s so big with so many implications, most people don’t comprehend it.
Consumers are no longer willing to be sold with obnoxious advertising and told what to buy and when to buy it. Consumers are sick and tired of interruption advertising, billboards, high pressure salesmen, and cold calls or telemarketing.
I believe it was Seth Godin who first coined the phrase, “interruption advertising.” It’s a very descriptive phrase of traditional advertising that interrupts your favorite movie with an ad for a product you don’t want and don’t care about, or a large obnoxious page in a magazine or newspaper that interrupts your reading experience.
Consumers want and demand freedom to control their own destiny. They don’t like being controlled. They don’t like being manipulated. I write here about changes in consumer behavior and preferences in the context of buying real estate, but isn’t it interesting that the same could be said of consumers’ feelings about politicians, Wall Street, and salesmen in every industry?
This tectonic shift in consumer behavior is changing the world. The second tectonic force effecting such dramatic changes in the real estate industry is powerful in its own right, but also acts as a catalyst for the changes in consumer behavior.
The catalyst that has empowered consumers and is forcing these changes that are the death knell of traditional real estate brokerage is . . . advances in technology. The traditional brokerage model has been unequipped to deal with these tectonic shifts. The impact of the real estate recession has accelerated this process to be sure, but only in time. Had it not been for this recession, the impact of these changes in consumer behavior would have taken longer, but the impact would ultimately be the same. The recession has acted like a diversion, however, distracting real estate agents from the real cause of their doom.
I had been using the Internet since it’s earliest days when I built my first real estate website for buyers in 1995. Those were the days when the Internet first went public, and there was so much uncertainty, no one knew what to expect of the Internet.
When I wrote my book in 2009, I had been using the Internet for real estate law and brokerage for 14 years already. I built my own websites, did all my own writing and graphics, and I did all my own tech work. I experimented with every possible way to reach clients with my free content, my articles and videos. In those days there were no systems or software that did those things yet. There was no software that created a website for you, and blogs did not exist. Forums were the first big way for people to assemble and communicate to each other on the Internet. I had to create my first website with html code, and there were no Youtube video guides on how to do that yet.
I was there before Netscape, before Yahoo, before MySpace, before Bing, before eBay, before Google, before Facebook, before Amazon, and before the invention of the iPhone. I was there before we had SEO (search engine optimization), and I was using the Internet to reach buyers and help sellers long before anyone had developed marketing and lead generation systems on the Internet.
I was convinced the Internet was the future of business, so I poured myself into it. I created the largest real estate website in my market, and the largest online presence of any individual broker in the entire Northwest. As a lawyer I posted relevant real estate statutes, regulations, checklists, forms, articles, and even legal documents I created, all free to the public.
I was an early advocate of giving away valuable information on the Internet. While that might not seem like a big deal today, at the time it was. Lawyers and Realtors were hardly willing to give away everything they knew.”
I’ve been giving it all away since the beginning of the Internet, and I never required consumers to register or provide their PII (personally identifiable information). As a real estate broker I built dozens of websites and blogs, specifically to help buyers find answers to all their questions in my little niche.
Today I have thousands of articles on the Internet written specifically for buyers, and they are all free. I have a large number of real estate videos that help buyers understand more about real estate in my area, issues of concern, the beauty of our pristine mountains, rivers, lakes, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca on our northern side.
I created videos that show buyers why Sequim, Washington is such an extraordinary place to live and why so many retirees come to that conclusion. I also created a buyer video series that takes buyers through the entire search and buying process.
And I designed and programmed a very powerful MLS site that includes features buyers can’t find anywhere else. In addition, my MLS sites include source data from the listing agents, which means the data and photos are 100% accurate, which you cannot say about Zillow.
And I could go on about what I’ve done on the Internet that my competitors have not done, but I have a bigger point. While you might think doing all these cutting edge things for buyers would be standard practice for any MLS site in the real estate industry, they are not.
The big franchises have been slow to adapt to technology and the Internet. It takes time to slow and turn the Titanic. But independent or boutique brokerages are able to adapt quickly to client needs, and are able to offer clients the best and the latest, sometimes years ahead of colleagues still on the Titanic.
Part of what I hope to convey to you is that technology and the Internet have given brokers like me a grand opportunity to create resources specifically for buyers and sellers, and to custom build these resources to answer their questions and give them everything they’re looking for, but few in the brokerage industry are actually doing this.
What I’m describing is the modern high tech real estate brokerage that uses the power of the Internet to serve the best interests of clients. I’m not the only real estate broker in the country using technology and the Internet to bring clients more than they’ve ever gotten before, but there are not very many of us. We are less than 5% of the broker population.