It’s time to simplify real estate advertising

By | October 1, 2009
Posted by Tim Fagan on Thursday, October 1, 2009, 
CEO of HomeFinder.com

Things were simpler then, more familiar. You knew who to call, what to do and what to expect.

I’m talking about the good old days of real estate advertising.

Back then, you dealt with the sales rep for the local paper over a cup of coffee. Maybe you sponsored a little league team or bought a spot on the back of the church bulletin. And your audience? You could count on them to be in just a few places, at the same times, week in and week out.

Those days are long gone, a fact that has been amply documented. I won’t belabor that point.

The more important question is this: Now that the game has changed, how can we make it simpler for real estate advertisers?

Think about it: The average agent, broker or brokerage marketing director is faced with a panoply of media, formats and creative challenges these days.

On the table are:

  • SEM/pay-per-click
  • Brand display ads
  • Direct response display ads
  • Syndication
  • Video
  • Mobile
  • Print

And this, mind you, is a growing list. Video wasn’t there three years ago; mobile wasn’t there just one year ago. Next year you may need to consider your strategy for Tweet ads, or feel pressure to get into the “augmented reality” game.

I know, it’s a little scary. And most brokers, and darn near all agents, don’t have the in-house talent to master all these platforms. Nor do they have the budget needed to hire a digital agency that does.

What to do?

Here are a few recommendations, from both the advertiser and publisher side of the business.

For advertisers (brokers and agents)

When Google launched Adwords back in 2002, thousands of brokers and agents jumped on the opportunity. After all, who wouldn’t explore performance-based advertising?

The problem was few practitioners had the time or skill necessary to optimize an SEM campaign. Results for many were disappointing.

My point: Pick media you are confident you can execute well in. If your marketing department has a good designer, you may want to focus on display ads. If you have a great headline/call to action writer on your team, SEM may be a good choice. If you or your broker performs well in front of the camera, start syndicating video.

Stick to that which you are capable executing well.

Secondly, for digital media, make sure you think beyond the click. By this I mean where the user is taken when they click on your ad. Whether this is a property detail page or a more conventional landing page, you have to make certain you present the user with something that is clear, consistent in message and look with the ad that got them to click, and loaded with a strong call to action.

If you can’t execute beyond the click, don’t bother.

For publishers

We as publishers – those site owners or media channels that sell advertising to brokers and agents – can also do our share to simplify the advertising ecosystem.

For one, we can offer cross-platform buys. At HomeFinder, we offer national exposure through HomeFinder.com combined with local placement on individual newspaper sites. Brokers and agents like this because it allows them to kill two birds with one stone.

Adwords now has a mobile offering. Several companies are marrying listings syndication with distribution to YouTube.

We are getting there. But we need to move more quickly to offer integrated packages that streamline the process for our advertisers.

Second, publishers should do more to share best practices with their advertisers. Many sales people take a consultative approach with broker and agent clients as far as structuring an ad buy, but I’m talking about something more.

For example, a strong case can be made that any large publisher would do well to hire an in-house marketing specialist available to help clients evaluate creative, craft messaging and optimize landing pages. If that sounds over the top, consider that newspapers sometimes create ads for smaller clients.

Moving forward

We will never again see a world where advertising is straightforward and audiences are concentrated. Our time is one of multiple, often blended, media channels and atomized audiences.

Our aim should be to make that reality more manageable.

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