Online Marketing vs. "Traditional" Marketing

25 Replies

I will be getting my real estate license very soon (approximately 2 weeks). I currently work full time in the RE industry (not as an agent) but will probably start out as a part time agent on the side doing open houses on the weekend and stuff like that.

I've been starting to develop ideas and strategies for how I want to run my business and was hoping to get some insight from people with experience.

My current plan is to go very heavy with online marketing. I plan to create a website, do SEO, PPC ads, blog, tons of social media marketing, email list, etc. My thought process behind this is that more and more people are and will be using the internet to search for homes, especially as my generation enters the first time home buyer market. This generation is the first generation to have grown up online.

I am only 25 so I'm sure that my age has something to do with it, but I'm having a hard time justifying traditional marketing such as door knocking, mail campaigns, etc. I know that these strategies do work as I have seen them work first hand with the companies that I work for. The thing with these is that they are either costly, time consuming, or both. With all of the new technology and apps there are so many free or very cost effective ways to market compared to these "old-school" marketing tactics.

So I guess what I'm wondering is, am I crazy to think that I can be successful using this online strategy vs. going the traditional route?

Hey @John Steele I don't think you're crazy. I just got my license a couple days ago and I'm planning to do the same. Seeing as we are in different markets maybe we could connect and share strategies. I'd be happy to help any way that I can.

You might try not to think of it as "traditional vs. online," because honestly, that doesn't matter. Instead, try "what works vs. what doesn't" and by "work," I mean methods that make you much more money than they cost you. Last time I checked, PPC wasn't free. Neither are websites, hosting (the good type that you can run analytical on." Also, people your age don't usually have equity in their homes. So, as far as the near future is concerned, you're probably going to need to target baby boomers. Direct mail works because everyone checks their mailbox with a certain frequency. PPC and SEO strategies work if you know how to capture leads and convert them into clients.

What I'm trying to say is that I know traditional marketing techniques work because their effects can be proven and tracked. Social media and online efforts are just another medium and the same campaign tracking that one would use for direct mail or telemarketing can also work for online campaigns with the right techniques. Marketing isn't rocket science, it's mostly common sense... benchmarked, tracked and ruthlessly evolved. Be careful of "new marketing" that emphasizes branding and intangible benefits over ROI. It's not that the benefits can't be measured, it's that the metrics never look good when translated into dollars. Small businesses can't afford that and would likely do better focusing on proven techniques that pay for themselves and folding branding themselves through those same efforts as a secondary benefit.

Checkout books by Seth Godin, Dan S. Kennedy and Zig Ziglar if you want a good background on marketing and sales.

@Robert Musallam definitely, I have a lot of ideas floating around that I have yet to implement, mainly because I can't do much legally regarding marketing myself as an agent until I get my license. What market are you in?

@Luis Toledo I definitely agree with some of what you said. I am a big believer in the 80/20 principle and "trimming the fat" so I really like what you said with "what works vs. what doesn't". Obviously websites and PPC are not free but their costs are drastically lower than that of say a mailing campaign.

I also understand that people my age do not have too much equity usually but I would say that around the 25-30 range is where many people look to purchase their first home, start a family, etc. I'm hoping to really establish myself online so that I can be ahead of the curve so to speak. I think that the newest generation entering the home buying market will rely even more on online searches and research.

I guess a major advantage cost wise that I didn't mention is that I would be able to set up all, or close to all, of these online strategies myself.

The only people that think PPC and online strategies are cheaper than direct mail are the ones who've done neither. PPC can be very expensive to do effectively. Mainly because it's tough to target with the efficiency of a mailing list and thus tire kickers will likely drain your allocated budget faster than qualified leads. If you just focus on organic growth, you can equal the successes of PPC for much less, but it will take much longer. Especially in a very online savvy market like SD. PPC is best used to jump start online efforts until organic ranking comes up to speed.

The nice thing about PPC is that once your organic ranking efforts get you to the top spot for your focused searches, you can lay off the PPC or refocus to cover other searches. In your market, SoCal, you're facing massive competition both online and offline. There are established firms with deep pockets and lots of experts already doing what you're talking about. Your best bet is going to be to do something they aren't willing to do. Those activities are typically going to be either totally original, in which case don't share it here ;) or it's going to be something that doesn't scale well and thus doesn't appeal to large concerns. Door knocking, for instance, is one such marketing activity that large firms don't generally bother with, but can be highly effective when you do actually find a motivated seller.

I'm sorry for the equity stuff before. I just realized that you posted in the agents forum and not the wholesaler forum. Web savvy first time home buyers sounds like a good "bread and butter" niche to go after at first. The other stuff still applies though, you've got some stiff competition in your area. Your best bet is likely to go online and act like you're a new home buyer, then see which agencies are always in your face online. Those are the firms you want to be a part of, rather than competing against as they likely have the most to teach you. Good luck.

@Luis Toledo Shout out to Durham!

While Luis definitely sounds like he knows what he's talking about, I do think you are on the right track. I recently got my license and joined a firm with a relatively young BIC - he's 36 and the average age of a realtor is 57 years old. He was just selected as one of the 10 rising stars for our national network and believes there is a niche that isn't being filling in real estate in the form of social media. I would tend to agree. Think about it - where are buyers? 94% start their search online, especially if they are coming in from out of state. That includes 95% of people aged 25-44, 90% of people 45-64 and 69% people 65+ (this is all info I got given on my first day at the company :-)). I agree that you cannot compete with the zillows and trulias and realtor.coms, but last week I saw a webinar on designing long tail keywords that get you good organic ratings. I also agree with Luis that you should not use PPC - conversion rates are only ever around 1% and its not worth the money. The number one real estate agent in the country at Coldwell Banker only uses Facebook - she posts one video per day. So it can work. Do you research though and don't just be hanging on FB, thinking you're working - using social media should be a well-thought out strategy for marketing and should have wide ranging topics with targeted, relevant content that attracts leads to your site. Oh and also be sure prioritize an email capture facility - this will be the foundation of your database. Good luck!

Just make sure you use strategies that work now (active) rather than later (passive).

Online strategies do work, but they take time. Even PPC, you'd figure it would be quick, but the thing is that even when people sign up on your website they usually aren't ready to buy.

They're just window shopping and it's going to take 3-6 months before they reach the next step. So in the mean time you're spending a ton of money (I would assume PPC in San Diego isn't cheap!) and not making any.

Nothing beats direct mail / calling / door knocking for speed. Open houses can be good too if done right. I wish I had known these when I started. I focused a lot on websites and stuff like that and it took months before they started generating anything meaningful.

I think both approaches to marketing is the best way to build quickly and scale at the same time.

Your ultimate goal is to maximize each marketing channel.

In regards to expenses, they both cost money BUT when you're able to rank your website strategically (you'll pay a pretty penny upfront but the long term benefits are amazing) it'll be one of the better investments you make since you won't stop getting leads when you stop paying.

When you stop paying for mailers, NO mailers go out.

When you stop paying for PPC, your NOT seen.

When you stop paying for SEO (and your site is ranking in the top 3) you continue to pull leads based on the traffic volume.

You've got great energy and thats awesome! Keep it up, read, watch videos, listen to podcasts then formulate what works for you and your budget. Most of all DO SOMETHING and that momentum will move you forward.

Originally posted by @Rob Pene :

When you stop paying for SEO (and your site is ranking in the top 3) you continue to pull leads based on the traffic volume.

Instead of using theory, focus on reality. The San Diego market is not the Steamboat Springs, Colorado market.

Rank top 3 for anything meaningful, above Zillow/Trulia/etc and above the other real estate agents/agencies that have been doing this for 10 years? Hmmm.

@John Steele I'm a big believer in online marketing to pull leads. I also think it should be combined with direct mail in order to create multiple streams of leads (throw in networking, news paper ads,etc...).

Over the past 12 months I've really focused on building up my online presence. It took roughly 6 months before i started getting leads from my websites. Even then it was only 5 or so a month. Just now (12 months later) I'm starting to see an increase in the leads to about one every 2 days.

It's a slow climb up the rankings that takes a lot of work or a lot of money to hire an SEO Guy and a Content Guy.

I just closed my first deal I got off my website yesterday.

Direct Mail will get your phone ringing faster and is a matter of quantity you send out (the list has to be good though).

Online Marketing is great to have because it's not a One and Done method like direct mail....send out a bunch of letters get some calls and done. With Online for every blog post you put out there, for ever backlink that is created it all builds up your website. That's what I like about it.

One word of caution however...If you don't get to the top 3 spots for quite a few keywords it's almost not worth the effort. The difference between those 3 spots (Even between #1 and #2) is eye popping. Almost 60% of clicks are on the first 3 spots.

#1: 35%

#2: 12%

#3: 10%

#10: 2%

#20: 1.5%

That is just the click throughs to your page. Converting those clicks into leads is an entirely different science. The average is probably 5% will fill out your contact forms.

If you are going to build a website, start now though. The competition is going to tougher and tougher as time goes on, but you'll have the "AGE" advantage by starting now.

Originally posted by @Account Closed :
Originally posted by @Rob Pene :

When you stop paying for SEO (and your site is ranking in the top 3) you continue to pull leads based on the traffic volume.

Instead of using theory, focus on reality. The San Diego market is not the Steamboat Springs, Colorado market.

Rank top 3 for anything meaningful, above Zillow/Trulia/etc and above the other real estate agents/agencies that have been doing this for 10 years? Hmmm.

It is very tough for sure. You may not rank in the top 3 for highest competing keywords, but you can still get a ton of traffic from ranking for more specific keywords (local keywords)...."Sell Your House Fast in Steamboat" or "Sell an Inherited a house in Steamboat". Get ranked 1st in about 20 of those and you'll be doing great!

Drill down, back to the basics again. Do you have a business plan, at least a general business mission that identifies the areas of concentration? From that you can then determine a target market.

As a Realtor, you'll want listings and sales to build a long term business.

Who are your most likely clients? Are you in circles of owners of million dollar homes? What type of person do feel most comfortable with, who do you best relate to? What price range homes are usually associated with your centers of influence and those you relate to? This is a starting point, it's not a limitation.

When you identify that initial target market, what advertising mediums are most effective to reach them?

I'd say the internet would be a part of your advertising plan, it may not be the most effective or the most viable. Cost is a factor, what activity gives the greatest bang for the buck?

What is your personality, are you an extrovert? Are you comfortable in meeting people cold and leading a conversation into real estate? I am, I can sit in a coffee shop and I'll probably get a lead of some kind others are searching emails and going through CL listings! I know it's not for everyone. But, if you can't do this at all you're going to have problems in business.

Are you good on the phone? The only way to get good at this is to practice.

As mentioned all forms of getting you name and face before the public have advantages, you'll pretty much need to try things in your area with your target market to know what is the best approach for you.

If I were to start over, I'd have a web site, probably just linked through my brokerage. Another good strategy is through Homes Magazine in my area. But by far, the most effective is meeting people face to face, talking about RE and what I do. It's the lowest cost. You gather "intelligence" in your area.

I doubt my target market would really be on the internet searching for an agent, they would search for properties. If you can't advertise a property, advertise your exceptional representation and services.

I'm not your age, I'm old school, so my experience in this area may not fit with your age group, but I can guarantee that wearing out a pair of shoes works better than any site promoting yourself. 100 hits on a site in one day won't yield the same information or intelligence or prospects that 25 face to face meetings will yield. :)

@Luis Toledo The thing with PPC/ Facebook advertising and things like that is you only pay when someone clicks/ interacts. With direct mail you send out and really have little to no idea how many people are getting an impression. Just taking me as an example, I instantly toss any junk mail.

I do understand that the market in SoCal will be very competitive in regards to online search rankings though.

I like your example of pretending to be a new home buyer too.

Thanks!

@Kate Pierse Long tail is exactly one of the things that I am going for. I have some experience building websites and doing SEO so I'm hoping to improve on those skills and be able to leverage that in Real Estate.

I am pretty familiar with social media marketing as I have just implemented some strategies helping my fiance to re-vamp her blog (twitter, instagram, tumblr, facebook, google+, and on and on...). I am also going to be doing an email campaign most likely using mail chimp.

@Account Closed I'm also going to be focusing on open houses, not strictly online. I'm sure there is a lot of competition in SoCal for PPC. Its by no means the biggest aspect of my strategy, just a piece in the puzzle. I think that I should be able to do most of this for relatively cheap. I can build the websites and all the different social media aspects for free. Then with blogging and email drip campaigns, you can pump out a lot of content and start to build a web presence for minimal costs. This is what I plan to do in the first couple months as I'm working full time and being an agent on the side. If I can start to see results then I can focus on transitioning to full time.

I'm sure that I will be doing some direct mail/ calling/ door knocking, I am just hoping that I can find a way to be successful without relying on that as my primary strategy.

Thanks for the advice!

Originally posted by @Rob Pene :

You've got great energy and thats awesome! Keep it up, read, watch videos, listen to podcasts then formulate what works for you and your budget. Most of all DO SOMETHING and that momentum will move you forward.

Thanks! This is exactly what I'm trying to do. I'm in hustle mode, just gotta keep moving forward.

Originally posted by @Scott Costello :

It is very tough for sure. You may not rank in the top 3 for highest competing keywords, but you can still get a ton of traffic from ranking for more specific keywords (local keywords)...."Sell Your House Fast in Steamboat" or "Sell an Inherited a house in Steamboat". Get ranked 1st in about 20 of those and you'll be doing great!

This is the type that I'm going to shoot for, the long tail!

@Bill Gulley Great post! I like how you have the approach, "start with why."

I guess another aspect of the online marketing that appeals to me is that I would be targeting more tech savvy people than with some of the more traditional types. Just being a tech savvy person myself I would prefer to work with clients who are competent with tech. I'm sure that not every client or lead I get will be tech savvy, but the more that are, the more opportunity I have to streamline my business (email, dropbox, docusign, online scheduling, etc.).

I totally agree that networking is really one of the biggest things and it is something that I am trying to work on.

Thanks for the advice!

@John Steele Looks like you got some great advice as well as already having a good idea of what you're planning to do.

Good luck and keep us posted on how things go with your marketing strategy!

@Account Closed ranking for something "meaningful" above the sites you mentioned isn't really difficult for professionals who know how to rank and have the resources to do so :)

I don't want anyone to be discouraged like its not possible or realistic because it certainly is...there are a lot of dynamics involved BUT with good ol fashion hustle, creative thinking and possibly strategic partnering, anyone can rank.

but i get where you're coming from and I hear that a lot lol

Originally posted by @Rob Pene :
@Patrick D. ranking for something "meaningful" above the sites you mentioned isn't really difficult for professionals who know how to rank and have the resources to do so :)

I don't want anyone to be discouraged like its not possible or realistic because it certainly is...there are a lot of dynamics involved BUT with good ol fashion hustle, creative thinking and possibly strategic partnering, anyone can rank.

but i get where you're coming from and I hear that a lot lol

Show us what you're ranking for in the top 3 in San Diego, and I may have a job for you, wise guy.

I think a mix of both would be best

@John Steele  & @Scott Costello  

Great posts form both of you. People like me are looking for well organized content, appealing websites and information online. Even though a cliche content is king and if there's a good information on a particular website/blog I will come back often and when the times come I will take action if the agent has established trust and credibility. Getting traffic to your website is the first step to engaging an online lead and there's room for optimization. I believe technology startups will start to pop more in the real estate space trying to make life easier for both the real estate agent and client. E.g. I heard of a new company trying to make the process even better offering you live video and audio chat with your potential lead. No plug-ins or downloads and also free of charge at the moment. The website is www.icfloortime.com check it out might be of help. 

This post has been removed.

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here