In many ways, real estate marketing is as unique as the industry itself. When someone is looking to buy or sell a home, what they’re really doing is starting one of the most significant personal journeys they will take in their lives. If marketing is a communications medium at its heart, the message being conveyed by real estate professionals around the country depends on precision, accuracy and reach above all else.

To that end, successfully marketing the 21st century real estate business to a 21st century customer will require you to keep a few key things in mind.

Real Estate Marketing: By the Numbers

When you begin to take a look at some of the most recently available facts and figures in terms of real estate marketing, one thing becomes clear almost immediately: digital is more important than ever. According the NAR 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, an incredible 90% of all home buyers searched the internet at some point during the process of buying a new home.

Not only that, but this seems to be directly proportional to age. In fact, younger buyers were not only more likely to search online than those in previous generations, but they also used digital resources like search engines and social media much more frequently.

When you consider all of this in conjunction with the fact that Generation Y now accounts for 68% of all first time home buyers, you have a perfect storm situation where real estate marketing software and other digital resources are only going to get more critical as time goes on. Consider these additional statistics that paint a very important picture regarding where the industry is headed:

  • 83% of all home buyers in the US want to see pictures of a property on the internet, even if they’ve spent time looking at that same property in person.
  • 52% of all home buyers used an iPhone at some point during their purchasing process. When you extend that to include other types of smartphones like those running on the Android operating system, that number grows even higher.
  • 42% of all buyers said that the first step they took in the process involved looking on the internet for a home. Techniques used included looking on social media, looking via a search engine like Google for available homes in their neighborhood and more.

The Challenges of Real Estate Marketing

One of the most significant challenges facing the modern day real estate marketer is also one that you can never truly eliminate: the burden of time. Take a standard home sale situation, for example. Every day that a house sits on the market unsold is a day that the owner (and the associated real estate professional) are losing money. The reverse is also true.

Every second someone’s search for a new home continues is a second that puts them farther away from the property of their dreams. This means it could easily be snatched by someone else in the same area who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Another major challenge that dictates a lot of the decisions made when developing real estate marketing strategies is, ironically, caused by “too much information.” In recent years, there has been a rise in people who feel like they don’t need to enlist the help of a real estate professional at all. Many people feel they can do it themselves.

There are people who believe that if they just put their time in and if they just “do enough research” they can successfully buy or sell a home on their own, saving a huge amount of money in the process. Any real estate professional can tell you that this isn’t true (or even a good idea in the first place). But thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the internet, this doesn’t stop people from thinking it.

With those ideas in mind, real estate marketing strategies need to develop to both deliver critical information to clients and prospective leads as quickly as possible, all while underlining the importance of what only an expert can bring to the table in the first place. Thankfully, digital techniques like social media in particular have evolved to the point where this is easier to do than ever.

The Reach of Social Media

Another important resource to use in terms of real estate marketing is social media, which is something 74% of home sellers use to find their agent of choice.

Your agency’s social media needs to be a way to highlight individual employees within your organization. You don’t necessarily have to “market” to your leads, but educate them. Your strategy has to provide them a real value that goes beyond just showing how much a home in their neighborhood is going for because anyone can do that.

Social media is all about establishing your organization and your employees as a voice of authority. This is how you combat the major challenge of people who feel like they can do it all themselves–by showing, not telling, that they can’t.

The Mission Critical Real Estate Marketing Tools

Your real estate digital marketing efforts will not depend on a single tool that can guarantee the results you need. Instead, it will be a combination of efforts. Using a series of tools that, when added together, all add up to something especially powerful and meaningful.

The Advantage of Customer Relationship Management

Many real estate professionals use real estate marketing software like customer resource management solutions (CRM) to manage those relationships with a level of intimacy like never before. CRM solutions can let you finely track every prospect within your organization.

You can see who has been working with them, when last contact was made, what stage of the “game” they’re in and more. You can see what techniques have been used to make contact, which they prefer and what they need at any given time.

The Value of a Strong Website

They say that you can only make one first impression, so you’d better make it a good one. For many real estate customers, that first impression will be when they visit your website. This is why a strong site is one of the keys to building out your digital strategy. Use a service like Squarespace or WordPress to design a responsive site that works on both mobile platforms and on desktop.

Fill your site with not only information about your business, but with articles and other content that is relevant to your audience’s interests. Don’t think of it like another form of advertising, but instead as an important way to communicate directly with your audience. Whatever that audience wants you to say, your website is your platform to say it.

It’s a Video World & We’re Just Living In It

When building out your real estate digital marketing strategy, you should also use video tools like U-stream or Shakr to take full advantage of the video-based world we now live in.

A well-designed video can do everything from show off a new property in stunning detail (allowing prospects to take a “virtual tour”) to informing your audience about breaking industry news they need to know about.

A study from Hubspot discovered 92% of mobile users are likely to share a video they like with others. Also, including a video in a landing page can increase that pages conversion rates by up to 80% in many cases.

If your real estate agency isn’t already using video as part of your digital marketing strategy, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

The Power of Employee Advocacy

One of the single most important real estate marketing tools that you have at your disposal is and will always be your employees. The housing market is fraught with nerves and anxiety. A single mistake along the way could end up costing the average homeowner thousands of dollars in interest over the lifetime of their mortgage. Or an error could cause customers to lose a huge amount of money in a botched sale or force them to be stuck in an area that isn’t right for them.

Your employees should be using their own social networks to reach out to people directly and convey the most important message of all: “Don’t worry, I’m here to help.” But as organizational leaders, you need to make sure that you’re providing them with the right content to share on social media to really make your real estate digital marketing shine.

Employees should pay attention to the conversations that people are already having online in an effort to better understand their needs, their priorities and what they want to see. They should reach out to people to help solve issues that customers are having–not wait until the customers reach out to them.

Try sharing things like infographics or other helpful content to help customers better understand their situation and the industry as a whole. These and similar techniques are where true value rests. And value is always a great way to build ever important trust with an audience.

It isn’t just Facebook and Twitter that should be the only concern. Instead, try other social networks like Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest to drive awareness. The goal of your employee advocacy efforts should not only be to keep people informed, but to also reach out to both existing and potential clients in a way that is much more effective and efficient for your overall business.

In the End

The real estate industry is often made up of companies that have agencies all over the country. This makes it difficult to service the market effectively. It also creates problems when you want to truly highlight the important role that individual real estate agents play in someone’s lives.

Thankfully, technology has evolved to the point where these challenges are easier to overcome than ever. Digital marketing, social media and (most importantly) quality employee advocacy will all be keys in terms of real estate marketing success in the long-term.