Updated: Sep 5, 2020
One of the biggest changes you’ll face in a real estate career is having to handle your own prospecting and marketing.
Unlike when working for a company, there isn’t a marketing department that hands you leads, continually engage clients, conceptualize and put out interesting content on social media, or test and track your 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 just 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.
If you’re really good in just one area, that is okay too!
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 your website and LinkedIn about your outlook and opinions on the real estate market for the next quarter
- Creating an infographic to show the steps in applying for a HDB Loan
- 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, you may just get paid 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, if you do it tastefully.
+ 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 you 24/7 to influence and market your brand.
- 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. We have to weigh the time value of money & our opportunity cost too.
- Creating content is not easy. The skill sets needed to create videos, infographics, or quality articles do not come overnight. Some of us might have the natural ability to design and write but some might take a longer time to learn to do so.
- 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). So you have to be ready to stand by what you create.
It is always helpful to have your team leader or digital marketers in your team watch your blindspots and give you feedback to tweak your angles carefully.
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).
- Paying for an advertisement in a newspaper
- Creating a short radio or TV commercial
- Paying for videos to appear on YouTube
Because ATL marketing is expensive, you may not be able to do some of them unless you have deep pockets.
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 video series 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 or get into trouble with your agency.
3. Social Media Marketing
Social media provides one of the most interactive avenues of marketing - but it's time consuming, and you still do have to be careful with what you put out there!
Social media marketing is often used with content marketing (see point 1), or on its own.
Such marketing includes platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, TikTok, 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 on LinkedIn
- Posting IG or FB stories documenting your work & interests to build a following
- 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, animal causes or the less fortunate 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 worthy to share. This is not easy and requires you to work hard on creating good content.
- 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 millions of 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. Is it worthwhile? It definitely is!
6. Search Marketing (Search Engine Optimization / Search Engine Marketing)
Search based marketing, consisting of both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), is my favourite and probably one of the best methods to reach out to the right audience today.
In social media media marketing, you can tweak your audience settings towards a more likely candidate who might be a customer for your product or service but you will not be able to laser target the exact person who needs it.
As such, it is less expensive but is alittle like casting your net wide and hoping for a catch.
The power of search engine marketing lies in the intent of the customer.
For example, they might be searching for a specific topic such as "How can i upgrade from a HDB to an EC".
With such a high-intent search, we know that the customer is possibly very serious and has a high chance of conversion.
In such cases, this is what they will see.
In all searches you would first see the paid listings, which can cost anything from $20 per click to hundreds of dollars per click if it is a popular new launch project or keyword.
For agents with deep pockets or who prefer to pay for results, this is the common way modern real estate marketing is done and which delivers high quality client leads.
However, take note that it is also very prone to abuse and unethical behaviour as i have heard about classes conducted by agencies that coach agents to click on competitor's ads.
Which is why i highly prefer using Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
As you can see below, for this same search term, my site is ranked on page 1 and at this point in writing, the 3rd listing shown by Google.
Being on page 1 of Google organically, without paying any advertisement dollars, is an important part of winning the game of marketing.
This means that i get to enjoy unlimited eyeballs and clicks WITHOUT paying a single cent.
It is a huge deal, considering that this is just one of the keywords that my site ranks for among many others. Imagine having to pay $10 per click for 1000 keywords. Marketing budgets can become intolerable and harder to recoup after awhile.
The downside to SEO though, is the steep learning curve and huge levels of work involved if you are doing it yourself.
There are tons of online guides that preach different methods (and of which many are outdated) and you would be wise to seek out a mentor who has achieved proven SEO success so that you apply the right method from the start.
Outsourcing also costs a huge amount of money which is difficult to justify when results take a much longer time to realise than SEM.
Those who are able to get past this initial stage of building, will soon realise that the fruits of a well SEO'd site are greater and juicier than the ones of SEM and help you trim your costs down while bringing in clients from all walks of life.
None of these are easy, but they are essential
Most agents run solo and don’t have a marketing team, so it all boils down to you.
Just take it in stride, and learn one of them at a time.
Where your funds allow, learn to outsource and delegate work to more competent people in different fields like design, copywriting and video editing so that it frees you up to focus on what matters most ultimately, which is face time with clients.
Executed well, these strategies can give you the same reach as a media company several times the size of your business and helps you "systemise" your real estate business and amplify your results.
Systems take time and effort to build but are stepping stones to a greater good that someday will passively help you carry alot of your prospecting and marketing load.
I highly encourage that you spend at least 50% of your working day on content creation and distribution that will give you a huge moat against the competition in the long run.
All great businesses have systems in place that work reliably 24/7 to build trust with its customers and generate leads without relying purely on physical man hours.
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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 adores music and can play a few instruments decently without upsetting his neighbours. When not doing so, he enjoys pillow fighting with his son and coming up with silly puns which barely amuses his wife.
Professionally, he is a licensed real estate agent, investor, team leader, speaker and 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 helped many clients grow their wealth through selecting great property investments and managing their portfolios actively. Read his clients' reviews here.
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