Here is the question you have to ask yourself as a real estate agent:
What do you think it costs you when you don't get it right in terms of what your customers need and want?
The foundation of marketing comes from really understanding who your target audience is and basing all your messaging, marketing, communications, and real estate services off that. But when you don’t have it right, there's a disconnect.
Most real estate agents, when they first take the leap, tend to be overconfident.
They think that their experience, education, and the fact that they know everybody in town is going to make things great. But for so many it is the opposite of great—it tends to be massively discouraging.
Most of the good agents eventually figure out they are not messaging or communicating properly because they do not know their audience the way they think they did.
So if you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall or you have promotions that aren’t going the way you want them to, start by really looking at the market and asking, A) is it the right market, and B) do you really, really understand who that market is?
Most agents are taught to go through a process. Narrow your market. Really focus in, as specifically as you can, on the type of person you want to help. We’re taught these "ideal customer" exercises where you write down who you'd like to work with. And it’s a great exercise, but it’s really only the first step. I think what happens is we do this exercise, and then we set it aside and feel like we’re done. We move forward, but we don’t make it an ongoing process in our business.
Then it’s either not specific enough, so it can't be really effective, or it creates an illusion that we think we know who our market is when we don't. We’re just a little bit off. Maybe we haven’t taken it the step further to understand the pain our customers are in and the problems they’re experiencing when trying to do a real estate transaction, when that understanding is really the crux of what makes marketing work. When you can target so specifically that you speak to the exact precise problems that your market has, then the value of your marketing will skyrocket.
Additionally, copywriting and related things, which I also used to struggle with, become easy when you know exactly who you’re talking to because you can speak in terms of solutions to their problems.
The magic for good copy—and all social media marketing for that matter—is authenticity. Your email marketing, your social media, and all your messaging should be very real and personal.
2 Steps to Follow
1. Be Tactical
2. Build Relationships
Start with whatever you know about your customers today. Maybe it’s a lot, maybe it’s a little; maybe you have some data to back it up, maybe you don’t. Just start by writing it down so you have a place to start. Then if you take ten minutes a day for a week or two, that’s enough to start to hone in, make it more specific, and really connect it to those customer problems.
If you have a contact or email list, surveying your list—asking them what they want and what the biggest problems are that they experience—is a very powerful thing to do. If you can back up what people tell you with research and market data, then you have even more on the tactical side. For market research, I recommend starting with keyword research.
Another aspect is looking at your competition, your colleagues, your peers. Chances are if they’re doing something over and over, like if you see ads repeating, they’re doing it because it’s working. That gives you a very specific way to confirm who they are.
Social media is a great thing to do too. If you don’t have a contact list, you can create a survey and put the link to it on your Facebook account, and collect responses.
Keep in mind as you dig into your research that a simple tool or two can make all the difference. One I love is KeywordSpy. Another is called iSpionage. Tools like these allow you to see what keywords people are using and what advertising they are using over and over again, so you’ll see not only where the searches are but also where the money is. Getting insight into the terms and language that your audience is using, as well as a sense of what your competition is doing, is very powerful.
Finally, if you Google "market research" on whatever aspect of the real estate industry you work in, you’ll likely find reports and collected data. Inexpensive or free reports from organizations like PewResearch.org can be incredibly useful for understanding your market.
The takeaway is that you should dedicate at least ten minutes a day to look at your competition and your audience. If you can survey them, that’s great—start to break down the details. How old they are, are they male or female, what’s their education level, what’s their income range, do they have kids, are they married, that kind of stuff.
As a real estate agent, you do not have a lot of time, and I understand this. Dedicating even a little bit of time tends to be painful for some, but if you commit to just ten minutes a day and use some of these tools, you'll still make progress.
Once you start to understand the demographics of your region, the key is being able to take it one step deeper. If you can translate the data into five main (or core) problems that your audience has—the things that keep them awake at night—that's the connection point. The things a person struggles with, that are big frustrations for them, are opportunities for you to provide value and connect with your audience. And let me be clear—it doesn't have to be five. It can be three, or four. I like to pick five because I think it gives you a bigger sense of who your audience is and more options in the type of content you can put out. But it’s really about understanding the issues and being able to bring something useful to the table based on that data
It’s one thing to say, “OK, my market is in their thirties with college degrees and children under five. They’re married.” That’s intellectual data—it's just a starting point. The next step is to break it down and say, “These people are struggling because they don’t feel like they have any time to look for a property, but they know they need to. They are incredibly stressed about time. They don’t feel like they’re taking care of themselves. Their health is a big issue. Supporting their relationships with their spouses is a big issue because the kids are always getting in the way of that relationship. All of this is putting looking for a home on the back burner.” Being able to take that and translate it into solutions is what allows you to really have that connection with your customers
It can be as simple as just asking them. Put out a survey and ask, "What are the big problems you face?" You could give them a list of problems to rank, or you could ask them to answer with text—whatever, however you want to do it. Now you can incorporate the results into your social media to grow your list, as people will be more eager to follow you
Many people struggle with knowing what content to put out to get interaction. Many put something out, get engagement, and think, “Well, that’s weird. Did not expect a response on that one.” Then they put out something else that they believe to be great and no one responds. So it ends up being a hit or miss approach or what I call "Throwing as much crap as possible against the wall to see what sticks."
With research and time, you will know what to put out in your content marketing. You can write a blog post that addresses one of the problems of your audience; you can put out little tips on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. You now have the pulse of your people.
The second part is creating and cultivating relationships with your audience, which allows you to go even deeper.
Let’s pretend I’m at the gym and I ask someone to take a quick survey where they fill out a little information about themselves. From those results, I'm going to understand something about them. But there’s a difference between that and a mom getting on a step-climber next to me where we start talking about what we’re experiencing, what it's like to have children, and the challenges we’re struggling with.
So by cultivating relationships, we gain a more complete picture. One of the things I love about social media is that people will share. They’ll tell you what’s going on. But building relationships goes much further than the digital world. It encompasses going to events; it includes taking any opportunity you have to get in front of your customers, your audience, your market, or your colleagues and competitors and talking to them about what’s going on, what they’re experiencing, and listening to them in turn.
When you participate and network, you’ll meet people and have the opportunity to follow up and cultivate relationships. But you have to do the follow-through. Often we know it’s important, but we don’t do it because we get busy or life interferes. At those times, remind yourself it's a key component to moving your business forward.
Targeted expenditure of energy and time will pay off large dividends, whether it's in person or online. When you make a post on Facebook or Twitter, many people will not see that post. But what about the people who are seeing it? Are you reaching out to them? Are you asking them questions? Are you listening to them? We don’t need the masses. We don’t need a million people. We just need to understand those who are near us—those who make up our market or our community.
The big takeaway is to think about this as an ongoing process. Start with ten minutes a day for a week or two to really get in the habit, and then make it a periodic part of your process to really understand what your customers are going through. This way it becomes natural. I find that within a week or two of doing this, it’s so powerful that I just continue to do it.
So tactically. Ten minutes a day for two weeks, you’re going to do a little bit of research. You’re going to look at some of the social media accounts that your audience is on or some of the blogs they follow. You’re going to Google "market research". You might look at PewResearch.org or look at some of the keyword tools like KeywordSpy or iSpionage, and you’re going to look at what your competition is doing. You’re going to look at what your customers are saying and get some data about what’s happening with them online. Additionally, you could do a survey. Surveys are a quick way to cut to the chase and get great data.
For the relationship part, pick one thing. One event or conference you’re going to go to, whether local or regional—whatever makes the most sense for you. Pick one thing to get in front of your customers, in person, to create a deeper relationship with them.
Happy researching! You might just be surprised by what you find.
Here is the question you have to ask yourself as a real estate agent: