Updated: Mar 17
One of the biggest changes you’ll face, in transitioning to a real estate career, is having to handle your own marketing. Unlike working for a company, there’s no longer a marketing department to hand out flyers, put out pictures on social media, or even track such campaigns.
The good news is, you don’t have to become an expert in marketing mixes and above or below-the-line media. You can obtain solid results by learning one or more of the following tactics:
Don’t try to master all of these at once. It’s better to focus, and build an in-depth knowledge of one method at a time.
1. Content Marketing
Content marketing can take a while to gain traction, but it can potentially reach a massive audience for a low monetary cost.
Content marketing is a form of soft sell marketing; it relies on the creation of digital assets such as articles, videos, infographics, etc., to spread awareness and knowledge.
While its ultimate goal is to lead customers to you, the branding is seldom explicit.
- Writing articles on LinkedIn about your real estate outlook for the quarter
- Creating an infographic to show the steps of HDB Loan application
- Recording a video interview with a famous architect
- Writing reviews or recording video reviews of new projects or even resale condominiums
Very successful content marketers can even make money off the content itself; for example, if you have a large following of several hundred thousand (or even millions) of viewers, then you may be paid just to create the content.
Video hosting platforms like Youtube may even pay you for the views or embed ads into your videos if there's high traffic coming in.
Pros and Cons
+ Content marketing has little direct monetary cost. You don’t need to pay anything to post a video on YouTube, or write a LinkedIn article
+ Content marketing has future potential to be a revenue generator, not just an overhead
+ Potential pay-off is disproportionate to cost. If you create an infographic that goes viral, your monetary cost is near $0, while obtaining a reach that might cost you several thousand dollars via a TV or radio ad
+ Content online is an amazing force multiplier for any individual. Your brand and digital assets can reach out to many more people than you physically can and works for your 24/7 to influence and market you.
- You are forced to commit large amounts of time. Conceptualizing what to write or record is lots of work. Creating an infographic is free, but takes many hours and may not pay off. Remember the time value of money
- Creating content is not easy. The skill sets needed to create videos, infographics, or quality articles do not come overnight
- A high profile brings its own problems (e.g. a developer might be unhappy with your comments on their project, or other financial experts might publicly challenge your views on property investment)
2. Above-The-Line Marketing
Traditional media still has wide, fast, reach - but the costs can be hard to justify; it may not even be an option, especially early in your career
Above-The-Line (ATL) marketing refers to the use of mainstream media such as radio, television, and print to reach wide audiences.
ATL marketing is untargeted, so it’s better suited to properties that are not catered to any specific demographic (i.e. you need to announce it to everyone). Examples include:
- Paying for an advertisement in a newspaper
- Creating a short radio commercial
- Paying for a video to appear on YouTube
Because ATL marketing is expensive, you may be unable to do any of this at the start of your career. However, it should not be ignored as you move forward in real estate; this is the method that most of the world still uses to sell.
Pros and Cons
+ ATL marketing can reach very large audiences in a very short time; results are often immediate
+ Media agencies can usually bring the expertise you need to create good ads (e.g. an ad agency can handle the creation of your entire YouTube vide for you)
+ ATL marketing is highly repeatable (e.g. if radio show interviews you, they probably won’t repeat that interview more than twice. If you buy a radio advertisement, you can pay them to the ad as often as you want).
- ATL marketing is very expensive. Few budgets will be below five-digits.
- It can be hard to track which form of ATL marketing is more efficient. You don’t know how many people are calling you because they saw your ad in a newspaper, versus hearing it on radio (online, you can track where the clicks come from).
- ATL marketing is subject to more compliance and legal issues; be careful with how you say things, or you may get reported for misleading advertising.
3. Pure Social Media Marketing
Social media provides one of the most interactive avenues of marketing - but it's time consuming, and you do still have to be careful with what you say!
Social media marketing can be used with content marketing (see point 1), or on its own. In isolation, social media means using platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. to prospect.
- Regularly using Instagram to show off the properties you’re marketing
- Using Facebook to talk about developments in the property market
- Discussing your views on new regulations or market trends
- Ordering a quick burger for a prospect, because you read his tweet that he’s working late and feels hungry
Social media marketing is the most interactive form of marketing; you are constantly having conversations with prospects so you must be willing to respond and engage your readers.
This allows for deeper and more meaningful engagement than just putting up things for prospects to read, or to watch.
Pros and Cons
+ Like content marketing, there is no direct monetary cost
+ The conversational nature makes it easier to build relationships
+ Social media can enhance other forms of marketing, such as content marketing, with no incremental cost
- Social media marketing is the most time-consuming method. You need to be checking your social media feeds frequently, and interactions can go on for several hours. There will be alot of questions asked that will not reap any immediate returns.
- As with content marketing, you need to be very careful what you say. Your opinions are being expressed in writing, and can be screenshot and shared virally.
- There is sometimes a degree of disconnect between social media personas, and the actual people behind them. A prospect that seems warm on social media may turn out to be quite the opposite, in a face-to-face meeting
4. Cause Marketing
Cause marketing allows you to support worthy goals, like sustainability, through your business and marketing.
Cause marketing is a strategy that also aims to “give back”, or to advance an agenda in line with your beliefs of passions.
This sort of marketing emphasis a social cause first; your sales are simply things that arise from trying to better your society. Some examples are:
- Pledging a portion of your service fees to helping the homeless worldwide
- Advocating for developments with high sustainability standards (e.g. BCA Green Mark Platinum)
- Running GoFundMe campaigns, for families at risk of losing their homes
Note that there is no explicit sales push in many forms of these. However, many buyers – particularly millennials – seek to buy from those they perceive as being a social good.
Pros and Cons
+ You can support something that you truly care about, which brings more passion and engagement to your work
+ You are doing more than just making money with your career
+ This sort of marketing tends to bring potential partners, such as other green organisations or social enterprises, without you even trying
- You have to be careful not to be seen as a profiteer. Sceptics may accuse you of leveraging off real social causes to benefit yourself
- Many of the activities have no direct conversion to sales; it can take a long time to see results
- Some causes can be more controversial than you might suspect (e.g. a property portal’s anti-racism campaign once irked some landlords, who felt they were justified in picking tenants based on race). Not all issues are clear cut, so pick carefully
5. Syndication / Hijacking
When seeking strategic partnerships, don't forget content partnerships for your marketing!
Not as negative as it sounds, this simply means you “hijack” someone who already has a wide audience, by contributing to their content. This spares you having to build up your presence slowly. It is often used in conjunction with the other forms of marketing above. For example:
- You write an article about how to afford a condo on $6,000 a month; but instead of posting it on your LinkedIn, you print out copies and give it to an interior design magazine to insert in the next issue
- You create a video about why Tiong Bahru is the next property hotspot; but you give that video for free to an influencer or famous YouTuber to put up as exclusive content
- You write a guide on conveyancing issues, and give it to a home loan comparison site to use as content
In all the above examples, all you want is your name and contact on the content. By working with existing influencers, you give their audience useful information, and they in turn give you views.
If both of you have websites, you can do an exchange (i.e .you guest-post an article on their site, and they guest-post one on yours; readers on both sites are directed to the other, and readership grows).
Pros and Cons
+ Speeds up your marketing reach at a breakneck pace
+ Forces you to network with others in the industry, which you are supposed to be doing anyway
+ Gives you a better sense of how others in the industry create content. This is a good place to be when you’re new: first you imitate, then you innovate
- You need to produce content at a high enough quality, that more powerful influencers deem it fit to share. This is not easy
- You may be asked to pay a fee in addition to donating your content. This tends to happen when you approach someone with massive reach, such as a property portal drawing a million views a month
- It is time consuming to approach people and come up with agreements; it can feel like doing even more sales on top of your existing sales
None of these are easy, but they are essential
You don’t have a marketing team anymore, so it’s all down to you.
Just take it in stride, and learn one of them at a time. Executed well, these strategies can give you the same reach as a media company several times the size of your business.
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Stuart Chng, Senior Associate Executive Director of OrangeTee & Tie, is a renowned leader and personality in the real estate industry.
He is a licensed real estate agent, team leader, industry trainer and speaker, columnist for several property newsletters and blogs and is often quoted in media interviews on 938FM, Channel 8, PropertyReport, PropertyGuru and other publications.
Throughout his career, he has also coached many top million dollar producing agents from different real estate agencies in Singapore.
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