Selling your home - a personal perspective: 3. The Marketing

by Alistair Helm in


Property marketing is one of my favourite topics and something I have shared my opinion on for many years both on the Unconditional blog which I started in 2007 and on this site. As regular readers will know I have in all this time been consistent about one thing. That is, that digital marketing has taken over from print media in the minds of the consumer and consigned this former stronghold of property marketing to the dark ages - never to return.

So it therefore should not come as any surprise that when it came to selling our home recently I was committed to a purely digital marketing campaign. 

So having gone through the process of choosing a real estate agent to handle the sale of our house as detailed in the second article of my four articles detailing the personal perspective of selling our home, we came to the decisions around the marketing of the property

In my view having spent the majority of my career in marketing focused roles, I judge that marketing covers a wide gamete of components and is not simply the reserve of advertising placement. It is far more about what, how, when and where. In the case of property marketing it focuses on the form of marketing as in the platform of sale, the positioning of the property, the presentation of the property, the promotion of the property and the performance of the marketing through the campaign. Let me review and share the approach of each of those 5 P’s.

 

Platform of Sale

This refers to the various options - By Negotiation/ Auction / Tender / Priced. An imperative for me in property marketing is the need to drive the process. I think it is ineffective and lacking in focus to simply announce to the world through an online listing and a sign board, that this property is for sale and then hope that someone makes an offer. Urgency is a tool that should be leveraged. The reality of selling a property is there may well be a buyer out there who will judge that your house is simply the best, and the house they have always wanted, and that they are willing to pay way over the odds for your house. The cold hard fact is that though this could well be quite likely and even possible, what is highly unlikely; is that this ideal buyer just happens to be in the position to buy your house now. So you have to be pragmatic and deal with market today - this month, and focus on the reason why you are selling - you want to move. If you don’t want to move then don’t put your house on the market, the real estate industry really doesn’t need another listing that sits on the books for a year or more.

For this reason I have a preference for Tenders. They appeal to me for the reason that they establish a deadline by which time buyers need to commit themselves. Are they in or out? Offers submitted as Tenders can be either conditional or unconditional. Tenders force buyers to put an offer price on a contract that is their ‘full and final offer’ - with no knowledge of what anyone else is offering. This compares to auctions which are public spectacles in which the winning bidder secures the property for a small (relative term) amount more than the unsuccessful bidder. Finally Tenders allow the vendor to calmly and in their own time examine and consider the submitted Tenders and accept, reject or negotiate with any of the submitters.

I have sold by Tender in the past and therefore had a preference. However I listened to my agent. Blair accepted all of these views as well as hearing (or knowing) my reluctance to the Auction method. He articulated very well the benefits of an Auction. It was a focused method which had a deadline. It ensured buyers were focused. He spoke of the recent sales experience with very similar properties in the area that he had sold by Auction. He also shared the experience that Tenders were less common and therefore could create wariness in the minds of prospective buyers. We were persuaded, not easily I should add, that an Auction would be the best method.

Another component of the platform of sale is the duration of the campaign. Given our pragmatic approach to recognising that you have to accept that the market will only deliver buyers who are ready to buy; it was our decision to go with a 3 week campaign. This would allow sufficient time for all interested parties to view and assess the property whilst keeping the whole process moving along at a good pace and keep marketing impact high.

 

Positioning of the Property

Positioning is all about identifying your buyer profile and creating the look and feel to attract them to view the property. In our area of Auckland there is a very common minimalist villa renovation-look which dominates - white surfaces, lap pools and large bi-fold sliders. Our house (as a reflection of our own taste) is what we judge to be a more sympathetic modernisation of a character villa appealing to people who want modern convenience without loosing the heart of the property. This recognised that our house may not appeal to city dwelling young families but more to older generations who crave the convenience of the city suburbs but like the character detail. Positioning is not so much about choices as to how you might position a property as few people will be re-designing or renovating prior to sale. It is more about recognising who the prospective buyers may be and how to best appeal to them.

 

Presentation of the Property

Presentation is all about creating impressions. Put it another way its about creating an experience which ideally limits criticism of the property. It may be hard to believe, but often people judge properties not on the attributes which are easy to see and tend to be presented in the listing details, but in the drawbacks and general criticism. Don’t like the curtains! the bathroom is too small! there was a strange smell! could see the neighbours messy back yard etc! 

Presentation is about literally ‘courting’ prospective buyers when they check out the property at an open home. Working hard to minimise criticism and capture the hearts of those prospective buyers.

 

Promotion of the Property

For me this was the easy part - online. That’s it!

A key part of promotion is quality materials. This starts with professional photography. Blair recommended Open2View which I have high regard for and was happy to agree on. As well as a comprehensive photo shoot I also insisted on floor plans. These in my view should be mandatory - I find them invaluable and feel that they provide a great reminder for prospective buyers are they reflective at home after a day of open home visits.

The online marketing was naturally Trade Me Property and Realestate.co.nz - again with the solus  focus online the judgement was that a plain listing was not enough so a Super Feature on Trade Me and Premium package on Realestate.co.nz were booked.

The traditional elements of a street sign and brochures were not in despite - they are a necessity.

With this comprehensive package of advertising and photo portfolio the question was still asked by Blair as to an advert in the NZ Herald. I did not criticise Blair for bringing this up. I can see the rationale for the belief that there could be a random opportunity of a buyer viewing a Weekend Herald; for them to see a house and fall in love with it. However I remained true to my principle. I would not pay for print, that did not stop Blair placing a quarter-page advert at his own cost!

Our investment in marketing totalled $1,850. This included costs for a premium featuring on Realestate.co.nz for $400, listing and premium featuring on Trade Me Property for $400, Photography and floor plan from Open2View for $650 and then signage and brochures for $400.

 

Performance of the Marketing

The ultimate performance of the marketing campaign is judged in the result of the final sale, as to how much interest was generated and how competitive was the interest from prospective buyers in wishing to bid for the property. That outcome I will share in the final article.

In assessing the performance of the marketing campaign I will let the numbers speak for themselves.

Online advertising and profiling consisted of four websites. In addition to the premium advertising on both Trade Me Property and Realestate.co.nz the property was featured on Open2View and the Bayleys website. Across the 3 weeks a total of 6,174 views were made of the property with Trade Me Property accounting for more than half of all views as detailed in the chart below showing cumulative views across the four sites for the 3 weeks of the campaign:

 

The chart reminds me so much of the typical performance curve of online listings which I analysed on Realestate.co.nz a number of years ago. The peak interest for a listing is in the first few days as the combined impact of email alerts and ‘top-of-search’ result pages drive huge awareness. That awareness and consequential views declines to a plateau very quickly. This firmly demonstrates the critical importance of ‘launching’ your home onto the market with a fanfare and grabbing the market opportunity quickly. There is an often-heard comment within the industry that the “the first offer is often the best offer” - this may have even more credibility than some may accept as early interest is high from real committed buyers who want to act.


Our agent was very effective at not only providing the stats of web views he also prepared and delivered a written weekly report (not an online dashboard - which I would have loved). This report provided the following key stats which I think are the KPI’s of the property marketing process.

A very interesting analysis of the marketing. So we 42 visits to our property over the 3 weeks. Without doubt the largest driver of visitors (19) identified their source of info as the web and the largest driver of that was Trade Me Property.  It was interesting to note that what is not detailed on this report was email enquiries. There was just 1 from Trade Me Property. To my mind this was a success! Let me explain. The listing provided all the necessary information and we held weekly open homes. The photos and floor plan gave all the necessary insight into the property - so why would you need to send an email. Email is not a key indicator of performance, if the marketing is well executed.

 

With the 3 week campaign completed, 42 visitors groups and 6,174 online views the key question was. Had we done enough to attract a buyer and was there a buyer out there who's appreciation of value in the property matched our expectation of the value of the property? That test would come on the day of sale.


Previous Chapters:

1. Method of Sale

2. Choosing an Agent

 

Future Chapters:

4. The Sale!


Agents and portals - the differing approach of UK to NZ

by Alistair Helm in


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The real estate industry is universal, and in principle operates under a similar business model of commission based services in many countries of the world. The migration from print to online is well developed in most countries and therefore it is always interesting in my mind to explore the different approaches to marketing property from country to country.

I was recently in the UK, visiting relatives in Scotland when my eye was caught by this “For Sale” sign outside a property in Edinburgh.

As a backgrounder, the UK model of real estate is somewhat different to NZ with real estate agents largely salaried off a lower commission of around 1.5%. For this the role of the agent is more as a facilitator of the contact and managing the listing. Most properties are sold by negotiation. In Scotland the model is more unusual with a lack of real estate agents as independent entities. All properties in Scotland are sold through solicitors who operate real estate services within their company and therefore provide what amounts to an end-to-end service including conveyancing.

The property I was looking at in Edinburgh was being marketed by McEwan Fraser Legal. The marketing of the property through the exterior sign board was what captured my interest.

The most conspicuous aspect of the sign was the lack of smiling face of an agent. The property is being sold by a company, not an agent - a specialist real estate team as part of the legal company ready to take your call up to midnight on weeknights!. The prospective buyer will enquire of the company rather than calling a specific agent.

The other aspect that caused me to pause and capture this picture was the brand references to the main real estate websites on which the property is being marketed. The UK has a dominant player in this space - Rightmove; a significant competitor in Zoopla and also the Scottish market has a regional portal S1Homes

The selling company has a website on which the property is featured but the pragmatic approach by them is to highlight that this property is being featured on the major UK property portals and a specialist Scottish portal - a clear demonstration to the interested buyers that the property can be found and examined exactly where they expect to find them. This makes total sense, buyers are used to the functionality of these dominant portals - why encourage them to a company website that they may not have used?

I ask that question rhetorically - NZ real estate has always seemed reluctant to advertise any other website on street signs other than their own; this despite the fact that the consumer has little interest in checking out the details of a property on the agents site, when the details will be on Trade Me or Realestate.co.nz - sites that the consumer knows well and is aligned to the functionality and established process for storing favourites.

I find in retrospect this example in the UK even more bizarre when you consider that in the UK the real estate industry is seeking to start an industry owned portal - Agents Mutual as a consequence of what they see as excessive fees and profits made by the leading portals of RIghtmove and Zoopla.

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In New Zealand agents own a portal, Realestate.co.nz, yet they have never, despite the competitive pressure from Trade Me Property taken the decision individually or collectively to act to support this industry owned portal by advertising the brand on their “For Sale” signage or print advertising. The best they seem to be able to do is a discrete reference in the print media of 'contributor to realestate.co.nz’ - hardly a glowing endorsement. Such a missed opportunity!


When does prospecting become stalking?

by Alistair Helm in


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I have highlighted in the past what I see as the glaring inefficiency of the real estate process. How fully two thirds of agents time is spent prospecting for business. How this entails the time-honoured but seemingly out-of-date processes such as door-to-door selling, mailbox flyers and newspaper adverts.

So imagine my reaction when for the fourth time I get a flyer in my mailbox from the same local agent. A mailbox I should add that has a clear “No Junk Mail” sticker.

It has driven me to ask the question, is this agent stalking me?

It all started a month ago when the door bell rang one day and an agent greeted me on my doorstep to tell me who she was and the fact that she was new in the area. She naturally asked me if we were planning on selling. On being told no; she then went on to ask if I could recommend her to people I knew in the area!

I was taken aback by this approach. I thought door-to-door selling went out with the advent of supermarkets, but to ask me if I could recommend her to other people!

I thought afterwards how un-productive and potentially damaging this process is. With no track record of success in the area, knocking on doors to introduce yourself to my mind smacks of desperation.

Anyway 2 days later I get a follow-up note again in my letter box – not personally addressed I should add; basically reiterating what she had told me and enclosing a fridge magnet - how original!

A week or so ago – another flyer from this agent appeared, full of statements of the 'success of the company' she worked for – 'top company' here, 'award winning' there etc – it also featured a property she had sold – not a property remotely similar to mine nor even in the same suburb – another flyer destined for the bin.

Yesterday I get a newsletter from the agent. Full of quotes from media article and economist quotes, the usual story of ‘great time to sell’, ‘loads of demand in the market’ and then a selection of property ‘on the market’ – not properties she is selling, just properties for sale.

So as I said at the beginning I feel like this is tantamount to stalking. I have a clear message of ‘No Junk Mail’ on the letter box yet she (or someone on her behalf) keeps dumping these flyers in my box. Nothing in the content of them is in any way relevant and instead of endearing her to me, I am getting frustrated and will be going to go out of my way to avoid her.

Now at this stage, I should stop and be constructive. Stop.........Pause and be constructive... OK!

So here is my advice to her. If I was in her shoes this is what I would do?

I would take a catchment area of say 100 homes across 4 streets within the area I would want to build my business. I would through access to the data of sales information from the likes of Terralink, Property IQ or REINZ which all agents have, collate all the data on these 100 properties. I would remove from this prospect list all properties that have sold in the past 12 months. I would also remove all properties that have not sold in the past 25 years. I would also remove all current rental properties.

I recon this would give me around 35 homes. To these 35 homes I would develop a personalised letter addressed to the homeowner by name with their address. Far too many agents do un-personalised communication, which in today’s digital world makes a distinct and memorable impression.

The letter would introduce myself and provide useful insight into the hyper-local market highlighting the immediate area around these 100 homes. I would present data showing the number of sales and how that has changed over the past 2 years. It would also show the range of prices and some of the properties – a quick walk around the area with a camera phone would be sufficient and give a consistency to the look of the photos.

The letter would close out with a call-to-action of my availability for a no obligation chat to discuss the best approach to marketing your property if you would be interested in selling.

For me as a recipient of such a communication I would feel engaged for the following reasons:

  1. Personally addressed shows care and attention

  2. Written communication rather than a door knock is respectful to not intruding and respect for people’s time

  3. Insightful information shows a willingness to offer value

  4. Insightful information demonstrates someone who knows their business

  5. Local relevance makes it more valuable and interesting

  6. Focused targeting means more efficiency and less of a scatter-gun approach

  7. Offering advice rather than saying the more blunt and somewhat desperate ‘list with me’ engenders more empathy

In my mind doing the research to send such a letter to 35 homes might take 3 days work – but if I can gain 1 listing from that, it would be a good starting strike-rate, especially if the following week you target another 4 streets and another 100 homes.

I am not advocating this approach as I feel the whole process of real estate needs reinventing but given the fact that the industry is slow to change, if I were to be a new agent this is what I would do and thereby avoid being judged to be a stalking agent!

Now here is the thing!! 

Having written this article I was stunned by the coincidence for through my letter box today I received a glossy 4 page brochure from another local agent – one I am happy to identify Brent Clarke at Custom Residential. Whilst not a personally address communication the content of the brochure is spot on and whilst I have no other assessment criteria beyond this brochure I would confidently state that I am at least 10 times more likely to call Brent than the other “stalker” agent, as well as way more likely to share Brent’s brochure with other people, whilst I unfortunately will not share anything but negative experiences for the other agent.

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Brent’s brochure engages me with what he describes as a ‘Local Property Report’ – something that lives up to the name as it provides a simple but compelling two pages of 9 properties per page for houses sold in the two streets that border our house – perfect hyper-local information. The brochure goes on to provide insight into what is happening in the local market with pertinent thoughts around population growth, transportation, interest rates as well as building consents.

This is smart marketing – providing valuable insight, a demonstration of professional knowledge. Such a contrast to the desperation of door-knocking and endless flyers and of course, lets not forget that fridge magnet!

 


Choosing the right marketing plan to sell your home?

by Alistair Helm in


This may well be the shortest article I write. There is actually only one very simple, yet highly effective marketing plan to sell a home in NZ. It is two words.

 

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That’s it. Trade Me – let me say it again incase you missed it.

It doesn’t matter if you decide to list with Ray White or Barfoot & Thompson or Harcourts or LJ Hooker or Professionals or Bayleys or any other brand. The fact is that every real estate agent in this country will feature your house on Trade Me’s Property section in the same way. They all have a subscription to upload all their listings as part of a standard monthly subscription.

In addition to every property being marketed by a licensed agent, every property being sold by its owner privately will be on Trade Me. Futher more every property buyer, be they an investor, first-time buyer or traditional buyer will be using Trade Me, setting up favourites, receiving email alerts and using the mobile app. The old argument that there are property buyers who don't use the internet is just that an old and outdated argument!

Trade Me receives over 150,000 unique visitors a day to property listings – that’s far more than there are genuine buyers in NZ on a daily basis. You can be safe in the knowledge that within that total are the prospective buyers of the house you are looking to sell.

That’s it – done. The fact is at $399 it is the only marketing budget you need to spend.

There are in addition to Trade Me a host of other options for advertising property for sale; many of which real estate agents will try and convince you are critical to the sale of your property for this reason or that reason. The fact is you don’t need them. Let me be clear they are not irrelevant, however every one of them will be viewed by people who also use Trade Me and will see your property in all its glory on Trade Me.

My advice is to think of Trade Me as the main meal, everything else is simply fancy trimmings. This analogy does though highlight the other core part of marketing your home, for the main meal is not a main meal unless the ingredients are the most appetising - appetising ingredients like great photography is eye--catching and mouth-watering!

 

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So there you are just two / four words that are the core to the marketing plan to sell your home - Professional Photography + Trade Me!

 

Disclosure: Just in case you think this is in some way a piece of paid for advertorial by Trade Me, I can categorically say it is not. I spent 6 years competing with Trade Me when I ran Realestate.co.nz, which is a great site and hugely supported by the industry and loved by consumers, however in the online marketing world of property Trade Me is the King.  I should also point out that I have no financial interest in Trade Me as I do not own shares in the company.

 


Auctions – the most favoured method of sale or the favourite method of sale by agents?

by Alistair Helm in ,


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Just a month ago I reported with what I described as a mix of disbelief and surprise that auctions had become such a popular method of sale for property in Auckland.

Based on the data at the time, the proportion of all property sales represented by auctions had risen steadily through the final months of last year to represent 39% of Auckland sales in November and 37% in December. Auckland being the nucleus of auctions, accounting for fully 3 out of every 4 auctions in the country.

So you can imagine my surprise to see this new report by released by REINZ showing that in January, Auckland auctions totaled just 330 from a total sales of 1,757 – just 19% - effectively halving the representation of this method of sale in the space of one month.

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So has the real estate industry gone from advocating this form of marketing to rejecting it?  Is that we are to take away from this data. There are many encouraging online articles eloquently advocating auctions as the most preferred method of sale written by agents, yet somehow right before our eyes, auctions seem to have fallen out of favour?

Or could there be another reason?

January is of course a holiday month, blessed with good weather and public holidays-a-plenty. As a function of this there are less agents actively working, less auctioneers available to call auctions, and as a consequence less auctions scheduled.

What is so compelling though is that despite this reduced capacity to facilitate this most recommended method of property sale by auction, property sales did not stop or in any way stumble in the first month of the New Year. In fact despite the lack of auctions in January, total property sales in January in Auckland were up 24% as compared to January last year, this was higher than the 21% year-on-year increase seen in December.

I guess the concrete proof of this hypothesis or the rejection of it; will best be judged in the February stats when released in a month’s time to see if the proportion of auctions in Auckland remains below 20% or powers back up to 40%?


Golden rule of advertising - never apologise?

by Alistair Helm in


I was quite literally taken aback when I saw this poster on a street along from where I live in Central Auckland.

A real estate company; the largest Auckland real estate company apologising (if I am reading it correctly) for increased popularity and thereby by insinuation for high property prices in the local area!

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I would say that is a risky marketing strategy. For whilst in my interpretation, what they may well be trying to say is that as a function of their success in selling property locally the suburb has become incredibly popular.

I might suggest that what it conveys to observers of the poster is that the company is in someways smug about riding the property wave of demand (and profiting from it) rather than taking the opportunity of reinforcing the value of their services or possibly demonstrating the value in their sales success as judged by market share or customer satisfaction.

Now I know as a marketeer that part of good advertising is "standout" to create interruption and thereby become memorable and distinctive but I can't recall a campaign that has built credibility or memorability through apologising! 

Now maybe the concept of this campaign is to start a series of these ads around this company's core Auckland market. I can just see these future version:

Herne Bay sure has become pricey - sorry about that

Otara sure has become unpopular - sorry about that

Meremere sure is a long drive to the CBD - sorry about that

Albany sure has become congested - sorry about that

It's just my opinion, but I feel that apologising is not the best platform for a brand building campaign - maybe you disagree. Happy to hear your views. Please feel free to share a comment below.


How brave are real estate companies, when it comes to their website?

by Alistair Helm in


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I was recently asked by a real estate company I was advising, the question “What could we do differently in terms of our online presence?”

It was a good question. Not surprising though; as most companies in most industries are looking for a point of difference.

I think however, what they were really thinking was; how could we make a website that showcased our listings better than our competitor so as to drive more traffic to the site, to generate more enquiries; after all that is what they want – right? More enquiries, more buyers, happy sellers!?

What I told them though, was not what I think they wanted to hear. I said, to start with how about not having property listings on your website!?

Think about it for a minute. Almost every website you view from almost every real estate company has a home page focused on a search box to find their listings. This is not unique to this country; almost every country reflects this approach.

So given this universal approach why would I advocate having no property listings, unless I was just trying to be controversial or get attention?

The point I made to this client and the point that I think is worth sharing more generally is that the purpose of a website for a real estate company is to attract new business. New business for real estate companies is not comprised of buyers looking for houses. It needs to be focused towards sellers looking to choose a real estate agent. In this situation real estate is no different from any other service-based business. They want to attract customers and to do that they need to profile themselves in such a way that the prospect says – “this is the company I want to work with”.

Now property listings are the content of the real estate industry, but I would argue that real estate companies are not in the content business, they are in the service business, the satisfaction business; the satisfaction that comes from a completed sales. They are not (or at least less so these days) in the property marketing business. In this regard they should leave property marketing online to the property portals – in NZ Trade Me & Realestate.co.nz. These websites have the eyeballs and this is where the marketing more and more takes place.

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A smart real estate company should focus its website to the process of real estate transaction. Helping people understand what the process involves, providing advice and rich content and then highlighting the value they add to the process.

The site should focus heavily on the team. Real estate is about agents. The industry structure is still based on independent contractors who earn their commission-based-income by people in regular and deep contact with clients. So I would advocate deep content and profiling of all agents. Take the opportunity o really reveal the personality of the agent. Too many profile just republish the same tired clichés “Jane / John has a passion for real estate, they love working with people through the life changing process of moving house. Jane / John have lived in the area for years and love the community and the relationships they build with their clients over the years that have become friends”!

This is an example of a real estate portal website - Zillow in the US, not a real estate company website, but the section "What I love about my house" is great

This is an example of a real estate portal website - Zillow in the US, not a real estate company website, but the section "What I love about my house" is great

How about a bit more about the unique characteristics of the agent – what about what they love in a house, what style they love, what is their passion outside of real estate. After all it is more likely that a person that loves dogs is going to be keen to chat to an agent that equally loves dogs!

The site should also be clear about how much it should cost to sell your house. It is amazing how hard it is to find this out in most websites. I seem to recall a quote that if there was no price on an item in a catalogue then if you had to ask – you could not afford it. Is this the approach real estate takes? If they want your business then they should be up-front and tell you what it costs. If they are flexible to negotiate, let them say that. But give a guide as to the expected cost.

They should also outline what types and scale of marketing that should be recommended dependent upon circumstances.

A real benefit would be some great case studies that demonstrate the process of listing, marketing and selling some homes, within this, demonstrating the areas where the agent helps the process through to satisfactory conclusion – this would be far more valuable than endless bland testimonials that most sites seem to have that just keep reiterating how marvelous the agent was. Let’s be clear; these days consumers only trust reviews when they are open and balanced, a curated list that is not allowed to be commented on, is generally discredited as biased.

Another key service that real estate companies can offer that is complementary to their market knowledge of property is their community knowledge, so how about making the website more about the living experience and community feel for the areas served by the real estate company. This perfectly complements the agent profile section so each agent can share open and insightful local community profiles.

Now a point I should make is that by real estate website what I mean is the business website for the local real estate company as opposed to the corporate website for the brand or franchise. In the case of NZ read Harcourts, Ray White, LJ Hooker, Professionals, Barfoot & Thompson and Bayleys. These corporate sites are likely to continue to focus on property search and listings. This is mainly because these corporates are more interested in challenging the power of the portals of Trade Me & Realestate.co.nz and supporting their franchise offices for whom they want to drive brand exposure and traffic. What they should be doing though is focusing more on profiling their core brand values, the investment in training they provide as well as the professional standards they uphold and the company network of local offices they have as well as socially minded initiatives.

Having made all of these comments of criticism and advice for real estate companies, I should add that recently I was forwarded a link from a colleague in the USA who has shared my views on the changing face of real estate – he had come across a brave real estate company who had taken the leap of faith and re-developed their website to not show properties – congratulations to Real Living at Home – a radically different real estate company of Washington DC.


Insight into social media strategy

by Alistair Helm in


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I have just set up a separate Facebook page for Properazzi, 3 months after I launched this site. Somewhat late I must confess, but for me it was a conscious decision as to how I wanted to write, read and be found online.

I thought I would share my thoughts and logic around this decision, and would welcome input, criticism and comment as with all posts, just add comments at the foot of all posts (sometime it loads a little slowly - so be patient).

I have been a big fan and user of Twitter for many years ( 4 years, 8 months, 1 week, 1 day and 15 hours to be reasonably precise) - I use Twitter as a news service and broadcast marketing channel. Over the years I have created a following which in NZ terms is reasonably relevant at over 1,300. I like Twitter - I feel a sense of community, I gain insight and through the limited number of people I follow I get up-to the-minute links and insight around the things that matter - whats going on in the world generally and specifically in tech and in real estate.

As I said I also use Twitter as a broadcast medium - whenever I post an article I broadcast it out to my followers, I actively share relevant stories to my followers, stories that I find interesting and I feel will be of interest to others, that for me defines Twitter. What I tend not to do (although I do make a few exceptions) is tell people where I am or what I am doing. Sometimes I share an inspiring photo I take, but most of the time I don't use twitter to tell people of my day!

When it comes to the web and marketing yourself and in my case Properazzi I tend to have always focused on search engine optimisation and the pivotal role that Google plays in success. I have always written with an eye on SEO, in terms of content and headline, I think about how articles could be found under search terms and always ensure the rules of SEO are followed and adhered to.

So to Facebook - I must admit I have always had an uneasy relationship with Facebook. I joined up years ago as everyone did and for may years dismissed it as a party place for non-work related social connection - great for family and friends. Then over the past year or so I have been to presentations and gained a greater insight into the power of EdgeRank (the Facebook equivalent of Google's PageRank) and just how effective Facebook can be in building engagement and connection for people and businesses. The key though is that there must be a demarkation between business and private. I now more fully buy into the ability of Facebook to be a marketing platform for business. I use the term marketing not in the simplistic form of push-advertising but in the sense of marketing being about conversations.

I also have also long held the opinion that Facebook should never be the "home page" for a business, brand or company and recently shared that thought in the post I wrote "All marketeers are dumb!" - the necessity for every company, brand or business to have an owned space on the web is paramount.

With this changed perspective on Facebook I have eventually got round to setting up the new Facebook page for Properazzi. So what am I going to be doing on Facebook and what am I going to be doing on Twitter?

Well I am not going to be changing what I do on Twitter. Further I am not going to be just using Facebook as a mirror of the Properazzi blog and just post articles each time I write. One thing I have learned of Facebook is that they are not as agnostic as Google to external links - they like to be a walled garden so I propose to play to their rules. I will largely post new articles in short form and won't necessarily link out to posts. I will highlight a new post but not copy it onto Facebook in total. I will use images extensively, especially the charts I develop of market analysis, Facebook is great at sharing images - far more than articles. I will write short-form opinion of stories i see in the media to engage in the conversations on Facebook, these are the kind of stories that are hard to fit into the wonderful 140 character restriction of Twitter.

My strategy is to build an engagement around a community on Facebook and let them choose when they want to, to jump out of Facebook to read and comment in more depth on this site.

I hope this insight has been useful, it has been a bit of a summary, internal review for myself.


All marketers are dumb!

by Alistair Helm in


I wrote this post some months ago now whilst sitting on a plane - a habit I have developed over the years - its always a creative place for me. It was triggered by this spray painted "advert" on the pavement in Auckland the previous day.

Transient

All marketers are liars – so wrote Seth Godin as the title to one of his many excellent, easily digestible books. I have respectfully plagiarised the title to headline this post.

I am not drawn to blog often to matters non-real estate related, but when it comes to the web I am often moved by what I see as inane marketing online, certainly here in NZ and likely as not overseas.

The matter that drives me to believe that all (well at least some) marketers are dumb is the seemingly blind devotion to Facebook.

I am seeing an ever growing move to drive more and more consumers to Facebook – whether it be a competition or as a surrogate home page. Do not these technically competent people realize that Facebook is a “walled-garden”? – a community where brand loyalty is to Facebook and not your brand.

As a marketer you create compelling content online and invest in rich content to drive deep SEO for your website which may very effectively drive e-commerce or at least response to you through contact forms or details of your physical location or your retail outlets and then you literally throw it all away by saying to people “Find us on Facebook” in some apologetic attempt to say that we as a company and a brand are happy to bow down before the “almighty Facebook”.

Yes I hear the cry of “well 1 billion people have a Facebook account and somewhere around 500 million people use Facebook everyday – the fact to remember is that to get to Facebook you have to access the internet through a mobile browser, app or the web. This core infrastructure is what your website runs on. The analogy would be for a fashion  brand building a great retail store on the high street and then saying come and visit us at the discount remnant store out of town in which all your branding counts for nothing with all companies apparel lined up and sold on price with you receiving cents on the dollar.

Facebook is a commercial company; the Internet is a free and open environment. On the web you can build what you like, how you like and when you like and control every facet of the experience and your investment can be rewarded through SEO and engagement. Facebook is not open, it has even begun to charge users to receive traffic to your page through promoted posts, this is likely to be their core future revenue, especially when they have your customers, but it is not flexible creatively or commercially.

As marketers we have always argued that branding is a developed art that creates and sustains a point of difference that can create loyalty and hopefully sustain premium positioning and differentiation. Why would you sacrifice all of that to flock to the Altar of Facebook?

Don’t forget that the web is accessible to likely as not twice as many people and Facebook – be creative, use Facebook, but please stop believing the web is Facebook and do a service to consumers to educate them.

As a demonstration of how to use Facebook in marketing - as opposed to being used by Facebook for your marketing have a look at this campaign currently being undertaken by Amnesty International - trial by timeline. A perfect execution in my opinion.