And then the agent will say, yeah but if I only had enough money to do one thing, what do you suggest?
With my caveat out of the way and being pressed for an answer, I would still, even in today's Internet age, say the personal brochure is the most important tool a real estate agent can develop.
Even with the emergence of the Web as the most powerful tool in real estate, the individual agent is still engaged in a business of building relationships on a community basis through trust and credibility. The average agent without a sufficient marketing budget is primarily engaged in traditional farming and networking. In the traditional scenario, the agent is meeting people at networking events, open houses, broker opens and through contact with family, friends and sphere of influence. These are the highest quality leads that can be developed. The problem is making a positive, memorable impression.
The pushback is usually, "But the Internet is changing the real estate business. 80 percent of the people start their search on the Internet." Yes, this is absolutely true (and remember I was asked about "one" tool). In my view, a real estate agent without a custom created, personally branded website, strong search capabilities, a commitment to search engine positioning and social media and the dedication to provide valuable information and content is missing a huge holistic component of the big picture of marketing. Again, I am answering the question, "What's the one thing you would do with a limited marketing budget?"
A well-written and professionally-designed brochure should be the cornerstone of your brand-building efforts.
There's a problem with an agent who creates a website as his or her "one thing." While most people do begin a home search on the Internet (or conduct research about their pending home for sale), the vast majority of people do not engage with a real estate agent solely from Internet engagement (with the exception perhaps of second home markets). The best Internet marketing agents are great marketers in general, who are active in networking, print/TV advertising, public relations, direct mail (at the very least to their sphere and past clients), and client and sphere follow-up.
How do you build your business with a personal brochure? First, it gives you a way for people to remember you. The business card is wholly ineffective in accomplishing this. It would be great if you could get the people you meet to your website, but what are the chances of that early on? And there's no immediacy of connection. Handed to someone you just meet, the personal brochure gives that person a storytelling device through words and pictures to place you and to remember you. It's PR and Marketing 101 and is essential.
So, if it's down to one tool, I recommend, with a caveat, the personal brochure as the foundational tool for the real estate agent who wants to proactively increase his or her business. First, let's assume your brochure does what it needs to do, which is tell a memorable story, create a marketplace niche or unique selling proposition, and demonstrate credibility and trustworthiness through high quality graphics and printing. That's job one. It needs to be well executed to achieve desirable results.
The next key is distribution. And if you're on a limited marketing budget, I don't mean mailing it to a farm area. I mean hand-to-hand combat, looking for ways to get 30-50 brochures in the hands of people you meet pro-actively on a weekly basis. Networking. Open houses. Broker opens. All of your real estate activities. Even door-knocking if it's come to that. People you meet at restaurants, gas stations, dry cleaners, on the golf course, at kids' sporting events. The vast majority of agents hoard their brochures and/or are too shy to pass them out. The real estate business does not pay the meek or reluctant personal brander.
What's the one tool? I still say the best real estate marketing engages a variety of communication platforms to develop relationships and attract leads of varying quality. But if you're going to play the "one tool game," the real estate personal brochure is your best bet.
Greg Herder, MBA, is the founder of Hobbs/Herder Advertising and a recognized leader in marketing and lead generation for real estate professionals. He has presented a the National Association of Realtors® national convention and regularly speaks to sold out audiences across the U.S. and Canada on his favorite topic of achieving greater success in real estate sales. For more information, visit his website on real estate marketing.
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