With the barrier of entry to launching a real estate agency being so much lower than even a decade ago, how do you keep the lights on, keep competitors at bay, and maintain a work-life balance?
Most real estate professionals would confess that making the career move from selling agent to principal comes with a whole new set of challenges. Business running costs skyrocket, plus you now have to lead (not just manage) a team or even several divisions (sales, property management, and in some cases, commercial).
Even if you manage to establish and build a successful real estate agency with a formidable reputation and team, there’s never any time to rest on your laurels. You need to continually invest and reinvest in your brand and market your services in order to generate enquiries to retain or gain ground.
Today, I am sharing the story of two amazing ladies that have not only made that leap to real estate principals but learned that investing in yourselves and your business, even in a downturn, protects your future and ensures you remain at the forefront in your industry.
Becoming real estate business owners
Monique Dower and Lynsey Kemp have co-owned Belle Property Balmain for the past 10 years. In their journey to becoming two of Sydney’s most experienced and successful real estate professionals, they have worked alongside each other for over 20 years, first starting in the mid-1990s at a high-profile all-female agency in the Inner West.
As leaders in one of Sydney’s most competitive and highly prized real estate markets, the Balmain Peninsula, both Lynsey and Monique have an impeccable reputation for excellent results and consistently rank in the REB Top 100 Agents, REB Top 50 Women, Rate My Agent and Belle Network awards as top-performing real estate agents.
Today, Belle Property Balmain has an experienced team who provides Inner West property owners with home sales support and property management services.
Engaging a real estate business coach
Monique and Lynsey decided they’d benefit from engaging a business coach to help them grow their agency and take their revenue to the next level.
With their coach’s guidance, they identified a glaring opportunity to enhance the agency’s digital and social media presence. Like many real estate agencies, they’d been using in-house resources to post property updates but had not worked out how to leverage social media or Google to build large-scale brand awareness with the 30,000+ residents of the Balmain Peninsula.
Monique and Lynsey were referred to me and my team at Hoole.co as the ideal marketing partner to help them in this area. According to Lynsey and Monique, they felt that right from the first meeting, the Hoole team, being real estate digital specialists were a great fit for their agency. Have a listen for yourself.
Staying in poll position was imperative
With its close proximity to Sydney CBD and surrounded by water, the Balmain Peninsula is a unique location and home to some of the most prestigious real estate. The ladies from Belle Property Balmain are consistently at the top of the home sales leaderboard for the region, which has a stronghold of them plus three males (interestingly all principals) securing the greatest market shares.
As any leading real estate agency owner knows, staying in the top spot is not guaranteed. You must work hard, invest in marketing to continually maintain your brands’ visibility, stay closely connected with local homeowners and property investors and ensure you are the first name that comes to mind when looking for real estate advice and support.
Invest in both your personal brand and agency brand
Both Monique and Lynsey have strong personal brands, so it was time to bring their Belle office brand to the same level. In addition, they wanted a unique point of difference that would help them stand out from the other agencies and agents in the area and give the local community something really special.
Improving their online visibility was going to be the biggest opportunity in terms of the volume of people they could reach, and using digital marketing was going to be the most affordable way to achieve their goal of attracting and retaining a loyal following of people invested in or interested in moving to the Balmain Peninsula.
Digital outranks traditional marketing for reach
It was evident to them that the traditional real estate marketing strategies that they (and competitors) had invested in over the years to maintain market awareness and deliver warm leads; such as letterbox drops and billboards, could no longer deliver the same results needed.
With phone call screening, fewer people answer the phone, and locals to Balmain were very vocal about their disdain towards businesses that, in their minds, littered the streets with too many printed marketing materials. No doubt you’ve faced the same conclusion. Consumers now add their phone numbers to the Do Not Call register and leave letterboxes unchecked for so many days that printed marketing can sometimes become weather-damaged and tasty snail food!
Do you want to be a property expert or a digital expert?
The team at Belle Property Balmain had, up to this point, been managing their digital marketing in-house – posting property updates, self-recorded videos, and head office supplied content with the occasional use of the Facebook boost button.
To their own acknowledgement, there was no strategic direction behind their activities – they didn’t really understand how to boost social posts or the fact that almost none of the 30,000+ local residents in their patch were aware of their social media updates. When we looked at their social media stats, they were reaching only a hundred or more people per post, whereas they should have been reaching thousands of people with each and every message. And those messages need to be crafted to appeal to people that were in between property transactions too.
Monique and Lynsey quickly realised that they didn’t have the time nor expertise to employ and manage social media staff or grow their online marketing audiences. Neither did they have the time to create all the digital content themselves.
After a number of strategy workshops had ensued, it became crystal clear that there was a massive opportunity sitting in front of them – to elevate their brand marketing with a strategy that included polished and professional messaging that would reach and resonate with the masses. Hence they handed over the baton of managing their digital activities to Hoole.
Everything starts with a strategy
In the words of Sun Tzu, a military strategist and philosopher;
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
We started Belle Property Balmain’s digital marketing journey by mapping out how they were going to use brand marketing to achieve their business goals. With two decades of marketing and digital experience in the property industry, I was able to provide valuable insights and guidance through a series of strategy workshops that I have perfected over the years.
After some initial brainstorming sessions together, we were able to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and tactical plan that would help Monique and Lynsey build a digital marketing ecosystem.
Combining head office digital assets with your own local needs
Being part of a larger Belle Property network, the Balmain office had informational webpages and property pages available to them via Belle Property’s corporate website but nowhere to add their localised marketing content. So the first step we took was to create an online destination that would allow the team to publish content such as articles, videos and downloadable reports for segmented target audiences.
Having a strong relationship with Belle’s head office team, I was able to arrange for a personalised sub-domain – balmain.belleproperty.com – to be created for the office. The Hoole website team then built a series of landing pages to work alongside their corporate pages. Essentially we built an extension to their online house!
Once the pages were in place, our editorial team commenced producing regular content and brand marketing messaging that is unique and localised to the Inner West Region for the Belle Property Balmain office.
Get to know your market before marketing
In-depth research was conducted on the demographics of the area so the content could be tailored to appeal to the specific needs and interests of local homeowners and property investors. By understanding your demographic in detail, the content you create can be more relevant and engaging for local residents and, therefore, more likely to result in you being remembered.
For the team at Belle Property Balmain, we produce ghostwritten articles, videos and annual reports that resonate with the Inner West audience. By using blog articles as the hero of their digital marketing program, Lynsey and Monique can illustrate to locals that they are experts in all things ‘Balmain’ and real estate in a low-pressure way. It allows them to court potential clients without the pressure of an obvious sales pitch.
The marketing topics or angles chosen incorporate seasonality, popular local interests and behavioural trends gleaned from the social listening we do for them. Social listening is the process of monitoring social media groups and forums to stay abreast of online conversations by community residents and helps you identify themes and opportunities for your content.
For example, if our editorial team see the local community is showing an interest in a particular area, such as dog parks, local council investments, or 1930s cottage conversions (in a positive way) it gets incorporated into the content schedule. We avoid negative topics altogether.
Remember: organic posts will not reach enough people
One of the important pieces of guidance I impart to all my clients is that when it comes to business-related content, posting organically alone isn’t effective in reaching the vast majority of people that reside in your neighbourhood.
Organic social media posts will only reach a small number of people because you are relying on the social media algorithm to assess how many people like, comment on and share your content before it will distribute further afield. It’s like trying to roll a bolder larger than yourself uphill. It’s a waste of time and effort, and you’ll think social media marketing sucks pretty quickly.
Why real estate marketing needs a paid advertising budget
You can, in fact, be seen by everyone in your neighbourhood over the course of a month with a consistent amount of advertising budget. Your social media posts need to have a dedicated advertising budget put behind them to get you seen.
No ad budget is, in my mind, the equivalent of advertising a home on the property portals using a basic listing that goes live on page 10. Better still, you haven’t bothered to put the property address or photo. OK, I might be getting carried away, but you get my point. It’s pretty pointless.
Therefore, each and every client of ours has chosen to include a dedicated advertising budget alongside their content creation and publishing/posting budgets. The team at Belle Property Balmain have been bold enough to increase their budget over time in order to up the frequency (number of times) that local residents see their marketing in any given month. Something that was decided after detailed analysis and discussion.
You need to warm up your audience before generating leads
Another component of any digital marketing strategy is to decide if or when you are going to use lead magnets to gather contact information. Unlike open home inspections, where prospective buyers (or nosey neighbours) must provide their contact details, in the online world people have to feel they are getting something of value before they will hand over their name, email or, better still, mobile phone number.
There are plenty of companies or freelancers out there that will happily create a lead campaign for you, but without the foundation of brand marketing activities that ensure locals know, like and trust you. These short-term campaigns will fall flat on their promises to yield hundreds of leads that convert. It’s much more effective to run lead campaigns on top of other brand marketing activities at key times of the year.
To me, it’s like building a house without putting the foundation in first. The house will topple over pretty quickly, and you’ll be left having spent a lot of money and with nowhere to live.
Video is the new black or best personal branding tool, to be exact
In addition to brand awareness programs, we offer our clients the chance to develop their own video series. In Lynsey and Monique’s case, they launched two! I like to think of these as having your own mini-Netflix series as they include 10 episodes each.
The opportunity here is to provide educational content for prospective clients as they get closer to selecting a real estate agent. A recent study found that 78% of homeowners use video to learn about a real estate agent before making their decision.
So that Monique and Lynsey could offer a comprehensive range of video content, we worked with them to produce video’s covering common selling and property management questions that you’d typically have to answer when sitting with clients in a listing presentation. Any opportunity you can create for your next client to get to know, like and trust you ahead of your competitors is an opportunity to pip those competitors to the listing!
Dedicated marketing resources you don’t have to manage
With a solid strategy and carefully chosen marketing tactics that suited not only the local market but the business growth needs of Lynsey and Monique’s business, I and other members of the Hoole team then stepped into the role of managing and executing.
My team have become an extension of Monique and Lynsey’s team, with the added benefit that they have no additional permanent staff headcount. I provide director-level support in terms of monitoring results and amending their real estate marketing strategy as needed. Plus, I manage resources and ensure they have a dedicated marketing production team (editor, writers, designer, social media marketer and so forth) who are trained to a high standard.
This leaves Monique and Lynsey to stick to what they do best in the property world; listing homes, managing and selling!
Digital marketing beats traditional marketing hands down
In a short time, with our assistance, a new digital marketing strategy helped Belle Property Balmain to reach a wider audience than they’d ever achieved previously with their traditional marketing spend. Further cementing and protecting their reputation as the go-to team for real estate services on the Balmain Peninsula.
We love working with Monique, Lynsey, Jess and their wider sales and property management team, and love having them as part of our Hoole family.
Want help with your real estate digital marketing?
If you’d like to get some advice on how you could use digital marketing in your real estate business and build a better-known brand, please get in touch – I am always happy to offer you an hour of free anecdotal advice. Just book a time on my calendar!