There’s more to real estate marketing than simply advertising your clients’ properties. If you want to be a successful real estate agent, earning gross commission income above $500,000 a year, you’ll need a marketing strategy. But how do you do this?
Establish your goals
Before you can work out your personal marketing budget, you need to establish what you want to achieve.
As a real estate agent, you should be looking to:
- Build awareness of your real estate brand in your local neighbourhood and surrounding areas.
- Create and build a strong online presence that will enhance your real-world reputation.
- Initiate and maintain relationships with local homeowners – remember that some of these people may have bought local properties as investments, so they may not live in the area.
- Establish your reputation as a local real estate expert who can be trusted to give the right advice.
- Generate inbound leads and requests for property appraisals, and make sure you are turning those leads into sales.
Create the right first impression
In today’s digitalised world, it’s essential to have your own marketing plan in place and to make sure your personal branding is strong and memorable.
It doesn’t matter what stage your business is at or what time of year it is; you need to get started and establish a marketing budget today, to outperform your competition.
It’s totally ineffective to market yourself or your agency only when your leads dry up. To maintain a constant flow of new business, you need to put a consistent set of marketing and promotional activities in place.
First and foremost, make sure that local home sellers can discover you online, and that when they do that the information they find is accurate and up to date at all times.
Once you’ve established those basics, it’s time to work out what you currently spend and look at what different marketing budgets can help you achieve. To help you balance the amount of money you need to spend against the amount of work you’ll have to do, here’s a rough guide to what you can expect for your marketing dollar.
Budgets of less than $2,000 per year
For this amount, you really won’t get much at all.
Other than some business cards, this budget could get you a:
- Professional copywriter to write your website bios.
- Professional photographer to take some profile shots.
- Subscription to a Client Review website, like RateMyAgent or RealSatisfied.
- Real estate themed template for a free DIY website builder such as Wordpress.org, Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. You can check out the differences over at Website Builder Expert.
You’ll have to allocate enough time each week to do all the rest of the work yourself.
If this is all you are willing to budget for the year, you could consider using the services of referral websites like Open Agent or Local Agent Finder, or the many other referral sites I have reviewed previously. These companies advertise to home sellers in your suburbs and then connect them with agents like you. They will list you for free and only take a commission if a vendor engages you to sell their property. Based on a recent interview of mine, Open Agent shared the fact that they invest approx $5,000 per agent on their books, as part of their business strategy, so that’s the extra no-risk marketing assistance you could gain.
Budgets around $5,000
OK, this is a little better, but not by much.
In addition to the above promotional elements, with this marketing budget you can add on a:
- Professional profile video, also known in the industry as ‘the digital interview’, where you have an opportunity to discuss your unique value proposition.
- Few hours of a digital marketer’s time to help establish your social media profiles.
- Social media training course to learn how to effectively build connections across all of the appropriate social media channels and use social media marketing techniques to establish a local presence.
However, you’ll have to be prepared to put the time in to keep marketing yourself online, so you continue to get visitors long after the initial housewarming party is over!
Budgets around $10,000
This is still at the lower end of the marketing budget scale, but it shows that you are taking your business seriously. A budget of this size will allow you to:
- Have an agent website built for you; one that is mobile friendly and optimised for search engines. In contrast to the DIY Website Builder sites mentioned above, this is a website that you engage a professional to develop. I also recommend that you opt for a website that you purchase outright, not one that you rent – there is a distinct difference.
- Implement a paid advertising campaign to help your website show up in Google search results, when home sellers search for real estate agents in your chosen suburbs. If you think of your website as a personalised billboard poster, it’s not going to be seen by people (or traffic) in your neighbourhood until you take it out the tube, unravel it and place it in bus shelters.
So with this budget, once the initial investment in your website is out of the way, you can invest your annual marketing dollars towards paid online advertising, otherwise known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
If you’ve got the time, inclination and technical nous you can teach yourself AdWords, which is Google’s official advertising interface. Alternatively you can engage the services of a professional or use online services like Adwerx, which has an interface designed specifically for real estate agents to place their own ads.
One word of warning, however, is that low-budgets such as $80 a month may sound good, but they may not be enough to keep you in that bus shelter all day or all month long. So it’s worth putting in a call to your digital marketer to help identify what your spend should be for your particular suburbs. You should also find out how much of your budget goes towards the ad spend and how much is retained by the company for placing the ads on your behalf.
Budgets around $20,000
This budget is a great starting point for individual agents who want to create great foundations for a longer-term digital presence and enhance their real estate reputation across the neighbourhoods they serve.
We have now reached a budget where you can implement a content marketing strategy and start to:
- Publish your own online content using a variety of formats, including written and video content. Only consider producing your own content if your writing skills are good enough. A professional writer will produce high-quality content containing all the right keywords to get you seen online.
- Sponsor your content on social media. You can choose how much you spend on each post based on how many people you want it to reach.
- Send out your content to your email database. However, first you will need to allocate some budget towards getting your mailing system and email template designed and set up for you. Plus you will need to put a subscribe call-to-action on your website and content pages.
You really are heading in the right direction now – the only thing is that on this budget you will still be responsible for all the planning, organising and regular posting online. So, you will have to find the right freelancers to work with and put some time aside each week to generate your topic ideas and liaise with content providers to make sure they understand and implement your vision.
Budgets around $40,000
This level of marketing investment will enable you to:
- Rely more heavily on outside help.
- Allocate a bigger AdWords budget for maximum visibility in search results.
- Start producing helpful downloadable guides.
- Purchase some video equipment of a high enough quality to produce a regular Vlog. Please remember, however, you will still need to allocate time for editing.
With this budget you will still have to manage your social media marketing and Instagram feed yourself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it enables you to keep your online focus on the needs of your local community. If you want, you could start promoting some other local businesses who will then, hopefully, start to promote you in return.
“67% of respondents were spending between $38,000 to $45,000 marketing themselves each year.”
Last year, the results of a survey I ran with McGrath real estate agents – who had reached a point in their career where they were earning around the $500,000 GCI mark – showed that 67% of respondents were spending between $38,000 to $45,000 marketing themselves each year.
Budgets around $80,000
With a marketing budget of this size, you can literally outsource all of your marketing to a team of experienced professionals who can present your real estate brand to home sellers in exactly the way you need.
You will have a whole team of creatives at your disposal including digital marketing strategists, writers, graphic designers, web developers, videographers, editors and social media managers. They will produce a complete, bespoke marketing strategy for your real estate brand which will generate constant inbound leads and keep your business growing.
Obviously, this may be difficult or impossible to afford when you’re first starting out, but it’s something you should work towards if you want to keep up with your competitors or make it over the line as a Million Dollar Agent.
If you consider this cost as a percentage of a Million Dollar Agent’s Gross Commission Income, it’s 8%. And as a general rule of thumb for a small business in Australia, a 10% investment in marketing and advertising your services is the baseline.
In the US, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7 to 8 percent of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising if you're doing less than $5 million a year in sales.
“Small businesses making full use of the internet with high digital engagement enjoy better business outcomes, with a $350,000 or 20% increase in annual revenue.”
And, in a report conducted by Deloitte, on behalf of Google, analysing How Australian small businesses are growing in the digital economy, they discovered that;
“Small businesses making full use of the internet with high digital engagement enjoy better business outcomes, with a $350,000 or 20% increase in annual revenue.” And, that the “Median revenue per employee for small businesses with very low digital engagement was $87,500 while, for small businesses with a high level of digital engagement, revenue per employee was $187,500.”
So, you do get back what you invest. You just have to have the conviction or, as I like to think of it, gumption to invest in yourself and your business in the first place!
The different types of marketing costs
So, as a final recap, I’d like to remind you that some of your budget will have to go towards larger, one-off expenses, while other areas will be ongoing monthly costs.
These are essential business expenditures that only need to be updated every two or more years.
- Profile update and video.
- Agent and agency websites.
- Email template and sending programs.
- Setting up a marketing management and lead generation system.
Content production costs
These are ongoing regular expenses, including:
- Information such as infographics and downloadable guides.
- Campaign landing pages.
Again, these are ongoing commitments that should include:
- Google advertising through AdWords or a third party provider.
- Social media marketing, including regular posts and advertising.
- PR to local news media sites.
Done right, your marketing strategy can be the key to the success of your real estate agency.
If you are looking for help with any or all of the above, contact me and my team today. We can provide all of the services above at a competitive price with the creativity you need to stand out over and above your nearest competitors.