What a suspenseful year 2023 was for real estate. If listings were not as forthcoming as in recent years, then I hope you spent some time polishing your skills and wrapping your head around the tech advances that were coming in droves.
It was hard to predict how often or when interest rates would rise and what the knock-on effect would be with listings this year. Renters had it tough, and agents, buyers, and sellers were mostly left bewildered. The best approach was to ignore the news media and get on with the transaction.
I bought a house. This is not my first real estate rodeo, but I did get a fresh take on the property buying process and saw first-hand just how many homes are now sold off-market. Does this approach save sellers marketing dollars? Or does it leave money on the negotiation table? Who knows for sure? What is certain is that these aptly named ‘silent listings’ pave the way for buyer’s agents.
What’s happening in real estate marketing?
The real estate digital and social media marketing landscape didn’t rest on its laurels in 2023. We saw some big advancements in marketing tech. We witnessed some significant shifts, most notably in artificial intelligence and machine learning, that have reshaped and sped up content creation, as well as enhanced the effectiveness of ad campaigns.
Beyond this, data is getting easier to interpret, and real estate professionals are getting much better at promoting themselves. Read on for the eight biggest marketing advancements I’ve listed for this year.
1. Use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
This year AI certainly took center stage in the press. And the race to ‘build the best AI tool and supersede the rest’ continues with seemingly all the big tech companies and who’s who of Silicon Valley invested.
ChatGPT certainly holds the mantel for the most talked about AI platform. But did you know that Google has an equivalent called Bard (in beta) along with Duet AI for enterprise clients? Apple is developing its own Apple GPT, and Facebook is talking about the impending launch of its AI tool that’ll help transform images.
From a branding and marketing perspective, AI and ML are being used for a variety of digital and social media marketing tasks, such as personalisation, ad targeting, and content creation. This is leading to more effective and efficient marketing campaigns.
Meta and Google both launched enhanced machine learning features into their advertising platforms this year, which the Hoole advertising team have been utilising.
We’ve also witnessed a plethora of webinars and events happening across the Australian and New Zealand real estate industry to help agents get to grips with AI, most notably from a process management and operational perspective.
At Hoole, as a creative agency, we are always happy to try out new AI tools if they will enable us to produce high-quality output at a faster and, therefore, more palatable cost for our clients. We had been using many of the early offerings, such as Grammarly and Jasper, for several years.
This year, we saw more free AI services launched within existing tools that we use (from Adobe Creative Cloud and Canva through to social media scheduling tools), resulting in AI becoming additional features baked into the copy creation, image generation or publishing tools we already know and love. We’ve had a lot of fun trying them all out, specifically using AI to enhance images.
2. Continued importance of video marketing
Lights, camera, action!
Video marketing remains one of the most effective mediums to reach and engage real estate prospects. Not only have more real estate agents and property businesses invested in video content this year, but the video quality has improved. We see less self-recorded videos and more professionally produced videos with clever marketing messages.
Platforms like YouTube and TikTok continue to be the main platforms for video content created at large in society and remain the popular platforms of choice for the younger generations, like Millennials (Gen-Y), Gen Z and the teenagers of today, Gen-Alpha. I know my kids, who are in their in-be- ‘tween’ years are active users.
The real estate industry needs to keep in mind which generations conduct property transactions, i.e. your ideal clients, as you’ll find Gen-X and Babyboomers still hang out on the Meta channels (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp) and LinkedIn. So, those are the channels to advertise your real estate videos.
3. Growth of conversational marketing
Conversational marketing is using chatbots, virtual assistants, and other AI-powered tools to have personalised conversations with customers. This allows real estate agents and real estate agencies at large to provide better customer service, answer questions, and even close deals.
Real estate businesses and agents receive a lot of repetitive questions about the properties they are listing for sale or lease. Using tools such as chatbots and virtual assistants reduces the amount of time a sales agent or property manager spends answering repetitive questions.
Gone are the days of ‘death by one hundred cuts’. You can now work while you sleep, eat or go to the gym, as the chatbot enables customers to gain answers to their questions 24/7. Messages are stored in one place, making it easier to review and learn what customers want. You can qualify prospects digitally and focus your phone chats on people who are enquiring about your services, not a property on your books.
4. Rise of privacy-focused marketing
This is good for us as consumers but challenges us as business owners. If you’ve been paying attention to your data and specifically email reach over the last couple of years, you would have noticed that email reach (and, therefore, open rates) dropped off a cliff, and paid advertising is at risk of experiencing the same.
With the rise in data breaches over the past few years, security and privacy measures have been enhanced by governments and corporations alike. To give you some perspective, New Zealanders report 722 cybercrime incidents on average each month, and Australians report ten times that figure at 7,833 monthly cybercrime incidents.
The spray-and-pray approach to marketing works far less than it ever did. Our emails, texts, and messages are being monitored more closely, resulting in a massive reduction in the amount of communications that get delivered to their intended recipients. And ads are heading the same way, with pixels slowly being phased out.
My team and I have been putting additional time aside to ensure digital authentication measures are in place not only for our business but also for our clients. So, make sure you talk to your tech or CRM team about setting up DMARK, DKIM, and SPF checks.
With the increasing emphasis on data privacy, real estate marketers are having to find new ways to reach and engage their audiences without relying on traditional tracking methods. This has led to the development of new privacy-preserving technologies, such as differential privacy and collaborative learning, where data is pooled and remains anonymous (without identifying any person) ahead of analysis taking place.
5. Need for data-driven decision-making
Data is the lifeblood of real estate marketing. We’ve always had plenty of it, but intelligence around how to monitor and use it to grow a real estate agent or agency’s market share continues to get easier as the tools that collect the data improve.
The worst thing you can do as a real estate professional is listen to the news and read the doom and gloom stories that are reported.
The best thing you can do is read the data in your business to see what the market sentiment is in your neighbourhood and who is actively looking for property help.
You hold the key (or subscription) to great data that will help you make informed decisions about your marketing messages and advertising campaigns.
When was the last time you looked at your website data? How are people finding your website? Are they finding you in search results (organic) or through ads (paid)? How many people are being driven to your website via emails, social media or search engines? Have you calculated your return on investment for each marketing tactic?
In July 2023, Google retired its Universal Analytics product, and we had to start using Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This is part of a wider suite of products available within the Google Marketing Platform (which includes tools to manage and track both your organic and paid marketing efforts).
Meta has also been undergoing a massive overhaul of its Business Suite interface, with improved insights into the reach and reactions to each piece of content, video performance and the management of messaging. Meta also calculates loyalty and retention measures for you.
6. Shift to signal-based marketing
This leads us nicely to the concept of signal-based marketing, which takes a data-driven approach to monitoring customer behaviour and using their preferences or actions to predict their future actions.
Read the room (or neighbourhood) correctly, and you can create far better-targeted marketing campaigns with messages that pick up on a current hot topic (or touch a nerve) that are more effective and achieve a higher ROI.
We’ve certainly been on a real estate rollercoaster this year. We’ve experienced a stop-start approach to interest rate rises, seen seller confidence waver up and down, and home buyers and property investors have had to jump through hoops again to get finance.
The bottom line is that you should be watching what is happening in your local real estate market. Work out what resonates with your local community and adapt your messaging to the micro market in which your real estate business operates. Remember, real estate market statistics for your city, suburb or the country at large are irrelevant. Use your own experience gathered from what you do day to day.
7. Going niche with micro-marketing
Do not underestimate the success you can gain and the revenues you can achieve from offering less services to fewer people.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but when you try to be ‘all things to all people’ your prospects get lost in a sea of information overload and become confused. It’s not their job to determine if you can help them with their needs, it’s your job to talk about their needs and then show them how you can take care of them. Hence, it’s important to structure your marketing messages from the viewpoint of your clients and prospects, not from how you have structured your internal divisions.
In line with the growing number of independent real estate brands, I have noticed a growing number of property practitioners who have chosen to work with specific client niches. Most noticeably, this has come from the rapidly growing buyer’s agent sector.
Many buyer’s agents work alone, and unlike sales agents and property management professionals, who generally target homeowners or landlords in a specific area, buyer’s agents are less likely to be hemmed in geographically.
I’ve uncovered buyer’s agents who specialise in downsizers and rightsizers, women investors, and NDIS housing. By identifying their niche audience or niece product, they are able to corner a market and create strong appeal by being highly relevant to their specific audience.
Being niche allows you to hone in on your target market’s pain points and develop ideal solutions that make it a no-brainer to choose you as their service provider. You become the knowledge hub for that niche, share insights and advice specific to their needs, and actively create a following or community of like-minded people.
8. Authenticity and transparency
If there was an award for the best-dressed group of professionals, there is no doubt in my mind that the real estate industry would win hands down. I’ll confess when I first stepped into McGrath Estate Agents’ head office back in 2004, the movie Stepford Wives flashed through my mind. There wasn’t a hair out of place or a suit crinkle to be seen.
The trouble with every property professional having a well-polished and uniform look is that everyone in real estate looks the same, sounds the same, and ultimately seems the same – when you are not. The idea of being more authentic and transparent is to share what’s happening on the inside (of your mind, your business, your property transactions) with the world.
Now that social media has firmly taken hold of our lives, and we like to stalk (I mean check out) business professionals ahead of engaging their services, consumers place more trust in the people and brands that do not take themselves so seriously, are happy to share their trials and tribulations or their life outside of work (if you have time for a life that is). You should give followers a taste of what you do outside of work, whether that’s walking your dog at sunset, practising your cooking skills, or staying fit and active with kite surfing or cycling.
Do not underestimate the power of your personal brand story. People buy from people first and foremost, and as most real estate agents will attest, real estate is a people business first and property transactions business second. So, make sure you connect with prospects on a personal level.
That’s a wrap from me for 2023
These are just a few of the many trends that are shaping real estate marketing. As the industry continues to evolve, real estate businesses will need to adapt their strategies to stay ahead of the curve.
If you would like a team of creative thinkers and experienced real estate marketers to help you launch, grow or protect the market share of your real estate business in the new year, please do not hesitate to book a time to chat with me, Melanie Hoole, and gain some free marketing recommendations.