The world of marketing analytics has made great leaps forward. You can now join the dots between each tool, channel and device (both online and offline) to work out which ads and marketing messages led real estate clients to your door.
Attribution in real estate marketing terms is the act of associating a result, such as a property purchase or the fact that you secured a new listing, to the marketing activities you used to promote the home or yourself as a real estate agent.
Who goes where?
Today, home buyers and sellers have a variety of devices and channels through which to see a real estate agent or agencies marketing communications before they make a purchase decision.
Hopefully, most of us understand that the person who ultimately buys a property or signs you up as their agent will not have come to this decision off the back of a single ad. No, they would have seen many different messages, reinforcing the fact that this is a great home or that you are the best agent for the job.
Which marketing touchpoint tipped them over the line?
The many ads, marketing messages and channels through which you promote a property, or yourself, are called ‘touch points’.
Historically, the last place someone engaged with you about the property or your services is the place that gets ‘attributed’ as the winning method for getting you the result you wanted. However, the truth is that all the many marketing activities you used ‘attributed’ to the final result.
Marketing analytics has reach a new frontier
Both Google and Facebook want us to gain a deeper understanding of our customers. Google has been helping us with attribution for some time. Google Analytics is free and gives you a way to analyse data for your real estate business in one place.
Facebook has now followed suit; recently launching its own Facebook analytics tool to help track marketing activities associated with not only your Facebook advertising but also monitor activity on your website in a similar way to Google Analytics.
So, you can now have both analytics tools monitoring your website traffic for you, for free!
Marketing attribution gives you a clearer picture
Once you are monitoring your marketing data, you can start to attribute each individual marketing activity to the end result.
Traditionally in real estate, we’ve not been particularly good at doing this. Often I hear agents and principals say they are confused by what the stats from the property portal, social or online ads mean and that they really only take comfort in seeing people walk through the door of their office, appear at an open home, or better still take a contract for sale and hand over money!
Seeing people in the flesh makes sense, in terms of knowing a real estate marketing campaign has been successful, but which marketing element or elements combined resulted in that person walking through the door is the more important question?
I bet you’d love to know what real estate activities you need to do more or less of, to gain more listings for less expenditure, right? We all want to make sure we are getting the best marketing bang for our bucks, right? Yep, and that includes me!
That’s where marketing attribution comes in.
Sharing the marketing attribution love
An effective attribution model lets you share credit for your sales and listings amongst the different marketing activities and channels that you use. But, as each element is very different the first challenge is to decide which channels to consider in your analysis.
These are the offline activities.
When promoting a property, you’d typically include these elements, most likely in this order and in real estate we’re pretty comfortable with using these marketing tools, especially as we are spending someone else’s money when we do so (i.e. your vendors funds);
– Online portal listing
– eBrochure or email alert
– Promotional flyers letterbox dropped (Just listed, Forthcoming auction and Sold)
– Newspaper ads over several weeks
We’ve also moved toward the online search and social media world with property listings too;
– Social media post
– Paid Facebook ad
– Paid Google search campaign
When it comes to your own marketing, real estate agents have typically relied on the fact that their name and face is promoted alongside the property listing to gain visibility for their brand. These elements alongside a cold calling strategy have been the real estate marketing staples for many years.
But times have changed.
The world is now digitalised. There is really no denying this fact.
We spend more time plugged into our devices than time speaking to people either over the phone or face to face. In fact, society has evolved to a point where we avoid real human contact (especially with anyone whom we know will try and ‘sell’ us something) and instead consume information in our own time at our own pace.
We now like to form decisions in our own way before we reach out to a person or commit to a purchase. We also like to form small peer-to-peer groups online and use the opinion of others we trust to form decisions, hence the rise of Facebook groups and instant messaging groups on Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.
As real estate agents you know this is the way the world works, as you also consume information in the same way, but as an industry real estate is still behind the 8-ball, grappling with how this new world works and how best to promote ourselves and our real estate businesses through a mix of digital and traditional marketing channels.
That’s where marketing data (whether big or small), analytics and attribution come in.
Spend your digital dollars wisely
Today, the primary PAID digital channels are;
– Email (if you use someone else’s list)
– Google search
– Display advertising (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Portals)
– Affiliate marketing (where other people promote you and you give them referral fees, e.g. Open Agent or Which Real Estate Agent)
– Agent comparison websites (such as Rate My Agent)
And, the primary FREE digital channels are;
– Word of mouth referrals
– Direct traffic visiting your website
– Organic search in Google
They may seem free from a paid ad perspective but a lot of hard work and cost has gone into building your profile either offline or online for the free visitors or leads to have appeared.
With digital there are also three types of devices today, that we must consider;
– Mobile (it’s important to think mobile first, as this now leads the traffic count)
– Desktop (still leads in the business to business arena)
– Tablet (has become more of a utility and app based channel)
Across the board, most real estate websites receive upwards of 60% of their traffic via mobile; this includes the real estate portals, large corporate websites and real estate agency websites.
When it comes to measuring digital actions, this is typically captured in three ways;
– Impressions (seeing a static image or video)
– Clicks (clicking on a post, link or search engine result)
– Visits (landing on a web page or lead capture page or screen, which happens after a click)
Hopefully the above makes sense to you, in terms of your own behaviour online and the stats that you see from your current marketing activities. All three of these measurements work together in the sense that you are exposed to an ad (impression), click on it (click/engagement), and then land on the advertiser’s site (visit).
There are three basic approaches to understanding the value of these interactions;
The ad-centric tracking model
Impressions and clicks lead to conversions, i.e. filling in a form or sending a message. Typically, in the online world, these two interactions get all the credit for the conversion.
The site-centric tracking model
A series of visits to your website cumulates in a conversion, i.e. someone does the one thing that you want them to do when they are on your site, typically that is as highlighted above to fill in a form or give you a call.
Here we are counting visits (from clicks), but impressions are being left out of the picture as they happened elsewhere. This is the information you receive from analytics tools that monitor your website, like Google Analytics.
It’s important to remember that it’s an accumulation of activities that result in a home sale or rental being secured or a new listing being acquired by an agent. What is evident to me, but may not be so obvious to you is that it’s a combination of property campaigns that result in a home purchase, not a single campaign.
When I worked for Domain.com.au, we were able to conduct extensive research into consumer behaviour and analyse the home buying process. More often than not a home buyer will be in the market for six months to a year before they are ready to make a purchase. Renters hover around the one to two month mark.
The multitude of campaigns potential buyers (or renters) see, plus the market sales data they consume and the process of elimination that they go through (i.e. missing out on property and then readjusting their wish list) contributes collectively to the final purchase decision.
So, the property campaign associated with the property they finally purchase is not singularly responsible for their purchase decision.
The people-centric vs. device-centric tracking model
The reality is that consumers and clients interact with your real estate brand and its properties across a number of devices and channels. Traditionally we’ve looked at the device or the channel that brought people to our doors (or website pages) separately, but marketing analytics is getting smarter, and we can now start to focus on people-centric tracking which means that we identify a person and monitor the range of places or devices on which they interact with our advertising.
Tracking all your marketing channels
Today, marketing plans are getting more complicated. In order to optimise your marketing spend you need to have a clear understanding of the purpose and performance of each touchpoint. We must gather the results, connect each interaction to a person and then conduct our analysis.
However, it’s currently impossible to track the total of all media interactions to which your consumers or your clients are exposed.
Limitations of web tracking
Most recently, digital and social media marketing has been tracked using cookies and pixels. You can read more about these in my blog called the digital marketing sweet spot: cookies and pixels. These small pieces of code, embedded on your website and linked to your advertising accounts, enable us to collect and store the interactions a person has with your brand.
Today there are two types of cookies; first-party cookies and third-party cookies.
What are first-party cookies
These cookies are created and placed on your website or in your ads by your own website or your advertising account. Because the first-party cookie is implemented by you (or your web developer), it works in conjunction with your domain name i.e. www.realetateagency.com.au.
What are third-party cookies
These cookies get created on the fly by 3rd party systems that you use when you opt-in to make use their click tracking features. Instead of site visitors being directed straight to your website, they are directed via the 3rd party system, which in turn captures a record of the click on the way through.
Unfortunately ad blockers, most commonly affecting browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox, stop these tracked events from occurring. Globally, approximately 21% of people have added an ad blocker to their browser, so Internet Explorer and Google Chrome can also be affected.
Hence, it’s safer to use first-party cookies to track the results of your marketing activities, as they are less likely to be affected and you’ll get a much better picture of the total number of clicks from each source.
You may have some emails of late from Facebook and Google telling you to check your cookies, in relation to first-party and third-party changes. Most of the time you do not need to do anything with your Facebook or Google account as you are already using first-party cookies. Hopefully, this now sheds some light on what those emails were talking about.
Bringing the digital and traditional marketing worlds together
Finally, marketing data has come of age, and we’re now able to bring data from the online world together with the offline world to form a better picture of how consumers and clients interact with our real estate brands and what led them to attend that open home, turn up at your office or give you a call.
Known as ‘research online, purchase offline’ this concept commonly gets shortened to the acronym ROPO.
As it’s not currently possible to purchase a property online, and it’s highly unlikely that a client will enlist your services without first talking to you, then these new attribution strategies mark an exciting step in the evolution of tracking our real estate marketing budgets.
To make the connection between people and your ads, you need each person in your database to be tracked with a key, such as an email address (or a mobile number) and then a CRM ID.
The exciting news is that advanced marketing systems, personal IDs and fingerprinting are helping us better track and manage our real estate marketing budgets than ever before. And, if you want to get clued up on the whole new world of marketing automation and the advantages it has over the traditional real estate CRMs then have a read of my blog titled move over CRM, marketing automation has come to town.
You are probably thinking that this all sounds pretty sci-fi right now, but the future is here and the worlds of marketing data from both online and offline advertising are starting to coincide.
So, in true sci-fi fashion, this story is … to be continued …