Wednesday, October 03, 2007

 

Marketing real estate ain't easy

Despite a softening of the real estate market across the country, millions of consumers will buy and sell homes this year. Nearly 1.2 million Realtors will help them do it.

Managing the real estate ecosystem, and marketing to buyers, sellers and real estate professionals alike is no small task. Just ask Hugh Siler, a marketing professional who has spent most of his career working for some of the leading companies deeply engaged in the residential real estate industry - including Coldwell Banker, GMAC Real Estate, Microsoft and HouseValues.

We recently sat down with Hugh to talk about marketing real estate, and real estate-related products, in a challenging market.

How is marketing to real estate agents different from traditional B2B marketing?
It’s different in that the overwhelming majority of agents are independent contractors. So from a marketing and sales aspect, this makes it especially hard since there isn’t typically ONE decision maker whose purchase decision will impact 10, 100 or 1,000 agents. Sales are typically one to one.

How have your strategies changed in a slower real estate market?
Although some agents are having great years, by and large the last 18 months have been trying times for the real estate industry. When it comes to marketing, advertising and PR, studies show that companies that stay the course with their marketing are the best prepared to take advantage of things when markets rebound. My clients’ strategies haven’t changed much because they are well established firms that have been through down markets before. They know the best way out of tough times is remember the basics: stay focused and execute you business plans while looking for strategic opportunities to grow.

The typical consumer changes residences every 7-8 years. Is that a process that marketing can impact or condense in any way? What is the primary objective in marketing to real estate consumers?
Marketing can absolutely impact the way consumers buy and sell homes. It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of information about homes for sales, recent sales information and home valuation statistics were closely held by real estate agents and not very accessible to consumers. The Internet and online marketing have forever changed all of this. In my opinion, the primary objective in marketing to real estate consumers is putting as much information as possible, at the fingertips of consumers to help them facilitate their decision about such things as where’s the best place to buy, when’s the best time to sell, etc.

Real estate is a complicated and oftentimes intimidating process for consumers. How can marketing break down those barriers, and make real estate more accessible?
The process becomes less intimidating as more information becomes accessible. If you ask someone who has bought or sold a home the past 5 years versus 15 years ago, most people would agree that the process is less intimidating (although there’s likely more paperwork and disclosures involved). Any time you have an emotional purchase combined with a dozen or so entities involved in a purchase or sale (real estate agents, appraiser, lender, title rep, settlement services professional, home inspector, etc), the process is going to feel intimidating. Part of the job of the marketer is to make this process less intimidating and more comfortable for consumers.

What do most marketing professionals get wrong when working in the real estate industry?
Simply put, they don’t understand that: 1) real estate is a relationship based business 2) there is no national real estate market – real estate is local and 3) brokers and agents are often micro-focused on “the today,” rather than the big picture of tomorrow. This is simply due to the nature and cycles of their business (i.e., once a home goes into escrow, they are acutely focused on making sure the deal closes and ultimately their commission is paid).


What advice would you give new marketers just getting started today?
Real estate is a fascinating profession with many, many areas of interest. My advice would be to determine which area of real estate that most interests you, then learn everything you can about it. A marketing professional might find that they enjoy the business to consumer marketing involved with promoting new technologies that make the process of buying and selling a home easier. Or they might find their interests are more aligned with one of the other areas of the real estate process, such as mortgage, title, online marketing etc. The beauty of the real estate industry is that there are so many facets of it and the technology is continuing to evolve in a way that no one could have imagined as little as 5 years ago.

If you have more questions for Hugh, just ask him directly! You can reach him at hugh@silerpr.com, or by visiting http://www.silerpr.com.

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