Mass Media is the Next Step in Personal Marketing.
January 2007, An E-News Featured Article
Here at Hobbs/Herder, many of the agents we work with embark on a professional personal marketing campaign that builds a strong brand through delivery of a consistent message. The first step they take is to select a farm group and use direct mail to reach that market. Direct mail is a natural choice for this initial foray into personal marketing, but is that the be-all-end-all? Is that where you stop? What’s next once you’ve established a consistent presence in your farm? Well, the next step is to explore “mass media.” There’s a vast world of marketing opportunities out there that cannot be overlooked, and the best campaigns take a holistic approach integrated across multiple media platforms. In this article, we’ll explain your mass media advertising options and show you ways to continue to build market share and keep your business growing.
But before we get to the “how,” let’s talk about the “why.”
The objective in marketing is to garner exposure to build mindshare in prospective clients. The more places you are seen, the more effectively you can build that mindshare. The more mindshare you control, the more leads you get as a result.
A campaign that is integrated across various media outlets creates a perception of success. When people think they see you everywhere, each exposure to your brand establishes credibility and furthers the relationship being built between yourself and prospective clients. Remember that a large part of personal marketing is all about developing rapport and breaking down barriers between yourself and the consumer. The more comfortable they feel about you and the higher awareness they have of you, the greater impact your marketing is going to have on your bottom line.
The goal of all of this is to use the least amount of money possible to create the perception that people are seeing you everywhere. This is called leveraging your message. That’s why we suggest that if you send an AdKard to your direct mail farm, you also run the same ad in local publications simultaneously. Leveraging your message makes it more powerful and allows your marketing to penetrate deeper in the minds of prospective clients.
The Power of Mass Media
Most of the advertising you are accustomed to seeing and hearing can be categorized as mass media advertising: television commercials, radio commercials, print ads in newspapers and magazines, billboards and other outdoor advertising. Many agents dismiss these media as the “big leagues” of advertising that are off limits for an individual agent. This is a common misconception that can be extremely limiting.
The truth of the matter is that running commercials on cable TV and small-market local stations can be extremely affordable. Print advertising in small, local publications or specialized magazines often allow agents to reach their target markets effectively and affordably.
Also, as your direct mail farm area grows, mass media only becomes a wiser and wiser choice. Once you reach a certain point, it may actually be more cost effective to reach your target market through mass media advertising rather than the postage and printing costs associated with direct mail. A good rule of thumb is when the homes in your direct mail farm exceed 3,000, it’s time to evaluate whether or not you might be better served by mass media options.
In any case, never lose sight of the fact that the best personal marketing campaigns typically consist of a carefully orchestrated mix of both direct mail and mass media advertising. So let’s take a look at a few viable mass media advertising opportunities for real estate agents.
Do you think it would be easier to convince someone to work with you if they already feel like they know you and are excited to meet you? That’s the power of TV advertising. When combined with an existing direct mail campaign that includes your personal brochure, Powerkard and house flier master, a TV commercial greatly enhances your visibility and can make a huge impact on the overall effectiveness of your campaign.
We can hear you now. “Television commercials are outrageously expensive!” you’re saying. And you’re right. But we’re not talking about advertising during the Super Bowl or on CBS during CSI: Miami. We’re talking about local TV and cable advertising that allows you to advertise on a much smaller and more focused level than network advertising.
Cable TV allows you to reach the select communities you desire without having to pay to reach the entire region as a whole. Think of the perceived difference in quality between an agent who advertises alongside everyone else and an agent on TV in prime time.
Because of its perceived value and because it is such an underutilized marketing outlet by real estate agents, TV is often a great place to start expanding your personal marketing campaign. Television is the only place where people can see and hear you, making it an outstanding rapport-building tool. Many Hobbs/Herder clients who advertise on TV not only find themselves increasing business, but becoming local celebrities.
What if there was a medium that would continually deliver your message 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine? One that couldn't be turned off like a TV or thrown away like a magazine? One that was cost effective enough even for limited budgets? Actually, there is, and it's one of the oldest forms of advertising around. It’s what's become known as outdoor advertising, primarily meaning billboards and other unique large-scale advertising opportunities.
Unfortunately in real estate, where outdoor advertising is concerned, agents tend to gravitate to bus bench ads that do not lend themselves to any kind of valuable content or message. Large-scale billboards, on the other hand, like television, are underutilized by real estate agents. Therefore, when an agent does run a TV commercial or has a billboard, they stand out due to the unique-ness of their advertising vehicle.
Another mistake agents make is using a billboard or billboards as the extent of their marketing campaigns. Outdoor ads work best when they are part of an overall marketing mix complete with direct mail and supplemented by print ads and, possibly, TV and radio spots. The key to success with a billboard or other outdoor ad is to keep the message simple. Since most of your audience is driving by, the message needs to be easily understood in seconds. The general guideline for billboard design is to keep the text to seven words or less.
As we research advertising around the country, we recognize that agents use print advertising extensively yet they waste thousands of dollars every year with ineffective content characterized by the dreaded “house ad” template. These ads do nothing from a brand building perspective and only benefit the newspaper publishers who rake in the advertising rates.
The preferred approach is to develop display advertising that features your personal marketing message, builds your brand over time and leaves an impression on the reader. Real estate agents also seem to all advertise right next to each other. Whether it’s in the real estate section of the newspaper or local homes publications like Homes & Land or Harmon Homes, agents commoditize themselves by all doing the same things and appearing right next to each other.
If your farm is geographic in nature, small local publications are often your best bet to deliver your message affordably and effectively to your community. Agents often make the mistake of looking toward the large daily papers when there may be smaller, community papers that better serve their advertising needs.
If your farm is a niche market, there are often specialized publications that target a certain hobby or any demographic. If you are the golfer’s specialist, there are local golf publications in many areas of the country now. Hobbyist magazines and professional journals both allow you to reach a targeted audience with laser focus.
The Power is in the Message
Many agents seem to think that advertising in any fashion is better than nothing. This could not be further from the truth. Remember that placement of good ads and bad ads costs the exact same. That’s why it’s essential that when you’re going to invest thousands of dollars annually into ad placement, you invest wisely in developing appropriate content to ensure return on investment.
Nothing is more important than consistency in your marketing. The design, style and messaging must be compatible. What this means to you is that your mass media advertising must all deliver the same message and look from your direct mail materials.
A big mistake we have seen repeatedly is that agents make an ego decision to shift what they are mid-way in a campaign. The problem is that people don’t shift with you. So many agents who become successful think their image will stretch to cover everything. It does not. So don’t mix messages or try to be all things to all people and don’t change your marketing on a whim. McDonald’s hasn’t changed their colors from red and yellow to blue and green, and for good reason.
In TV, a commercial has about a six-year lifespan, and ideally you will want two to three commercials aired on a rotating basis. Print advertising follows similar guidelines. A good place to start is with three to six ads utilized on a rotating basis and then introduce three new image ads every 18 months to keep the message fresh. And a word to the wise about image – while the message in your advertising needs to stay consistent, your photos need to be updated on a regular basis. When you meet clients for the first time, they expect you to look as you do in your ads. A good rule of thumb is to compare your photos to what you see in the mirror every six months to gauge whether or not you need to shoot new photos.
For outdoor ads, we advise that you change the message every 90 days to keep your message fresh and keep your audience engaged. Moving your billboard location in different areas of town is another way to gain exposure in diverse areas of your farm. Keep these messages brief, no more than six to eight words.
And lastly, differentiate yourself by taking advantage of mass media opportunities across other platforms as well. Place your TV ad on your Web site. Reference your billboards in your e-newsletter.
Budgeting for Mass Media
Most agents dismiss mass media when in fact it is more powerful and affordable than they realize. Therefore, budgeting for it should be considered a worthwhile investment in your career. Your real estate practice is a business and its growth depends on establishing brand name familiarity in the market. A marketing budget is integral to any serious business on a growth curve. Since your expertise is the product and service, you cannot achieve greater mindshare without mass media budgeting. Ultimately, a successful multi-faceted campaign positions you as the only answer in the minds of consumers.
We suggest spending 15 to 40 percent of your gross earnings on marketing expenditures. The lower your current market share, the more you need to spend on marketing. Once you have gained significant market share, your campaign does not need to be as aggressive and can be operated on “maintenance” mode. In all forms of mass media, the goal is to keep increasing market share and eventually create barriers to the competition. The best barriers to entry for real estate is a plethora of marketing activity.
The Power of a Media Plan
Finally, once you decide to delve into mass media advertising, it is essential that you have a written plan of attack. Integration across multiple media platforms and outlets requries a great deal of analysis, planning and time. Without a well-conceived, written media plan, gaining market share will fail. Many agents waste money and time in the trial and error of implementing mass media. A shortcut in this very costly education is to hire a knowledgeable team that will craft a plan specific to your area, goals and resources.
A powerful advertising strategy with realistic budgets, sizzling content and strategic placement of ads is an outstanding method of expanding your marketing scope and augmenting your direct mail campaign. Think of the alternative — the scores of ill conceived, lackluster ads you see. Doing it yourself can create worse problems than doing nothing. Bad advertising is a bell you cannot unring. Your business is worth the forethought and capital required because your reputation as a professional is on the line.