#3. Count Your Consumer Touchpoints
#3. Count Your Consumer Touchpoints
If you have never used Google then the time has come – and if you’ve only been using Google to find the latest sports scores or what is playing at the local movie theatre, then it’s time to familiarize yourself with its true power in the world of real estate marketing.
First, a quick overview: Google started out as an online search engine - a website where you can type in random words and have a list of web sites appear that feature those same words. Handy stuff. But over the years, Google has transformed into more than just a search engine. Today, you can buy much of your traditional media through Google, including radio and television spots.
And as new means of advertising become more popular, such as marketing on our cell phones, it is likely that Google will lead the way in this environment as well. In many ways Google is a virtual one-stop shop for advertising dollars.
However because most of us do not have time to become Google experts I recommend hiring one. They are usually in their 20’s and have their heads filled with knowledge that would take most of us a lifetime to acquire.
Hiring a skilled Google expert is probably the best investment you can make – and it is an investment that should be made, considering the fact that the Internet drives 80 to 90% of all real estate sales, despite being allocated only 2% of the average marketing budget.
A great way to lower your cost per lead
Let me give you an example of how Google marketing can pay off. We did a report for a client called Waterside, the largest condo conversion project in America at the time with 917 units. Our marketing plan focused on getting unique 1-800 numbers and unique URLs, and here is what we learned about the last thousand leads we received.
Our price per lead was $660 from all of our traditional print marketing – even with great copywriting and messaging that targeted the right market. Our online cost per lead was in the $100 range – but of all of our online advertising, the least expensive and most valuable investment was Google. It cost just $13 per lead.
Now let me ask you, would you rather pay $600 or $13 per lead? Sure the $600 cost may make you feel good because you will see a big photo of your project in a major newspaper, and you can show it to your friends. But in the end you will be paying 25 times more for those leads that if you were advertising on Google.
So here is what the Internet and Google can do for you:
In the old days of marketing, your print ads were separate from your direct mail, which was separate from your sales centre and so on. Today every marketing initiate you do should drive people to the one, central marketing hub you have – your website.
Every single touchpoint you create with a potential buyer, whether it is over email or a billboard, at your sales counter or in a phone call, should drive people to your website so you can track what’s working and what is not.
Traditional marketing pieces that sync with your website can be particularly effective. For example a postcard is the least expensive direct mail piece you can send – and it is even better when that postcard addresses a client by name, Sally in this case, and includes a specific call to action: “Want to see if you’ve won a weekend in the Florida Keys? Log on to: www.atripforsally.com”.
Once Sally logs on to this unique URL a salesperson can be notified and can contact her within hours to inquire about her interest in your project.
Do you know what the single largest online resource is for selling real estate? Craigslist – and it is free. If you have never posted a Craigslist ad it takes about 10 minutes, even with photos. Facebook, MySpace, Linked In, Twitter and other social networking sites are also great options and well worth the investment.
You should also familiarize yourself with Search Engine Optimization – the free advertising you get on Google when your website address appears when people type in search words related to your offering.
Now you may be thinking that Google only reads words right? When Google bought YouTube, the number one video site in the world, they changed the game. Google reads Flash and images, which means the keywords, tags and meta-tags used in the naming and descriptions of your content must be relevant. It is essential to optimize all of your text to be as relevant to your audience and project as possible. Be sure to hire an expert.
Pay per click is a great way to go
You should be using pay-per-click advertising. Go to Google’s home page. Do you see the sponsorship links? Those listings are paid for. Figure out what keywords people would type in the search toolbar that are related to your project and buy that listing. For example, if you buy ‘Miami office condo’ it might cost you $2 to have your listing appear in the search results.
Pay-per-click is a bidding war so if somebody is paying $1.00 you should pay $1.05 and you’ll be listed above him or her. I would suggest being in the top three positions for your ad to count. I’ve seen enough studies to show how the human eye works. It goes from left to right and it doesn’t scroll down very far. So if you’re trying to save money and end up in position six or seven, people will never see you because you’re too far down the page.
When you’re writing text for the pay-per-click listings, create different versions. You’re limited in the number of words you use, which is why you need a good copywriter. You could do it yourself but it is probably better to pay a professional.
There is no denying it – the pace of change in our modern world is dizzying. Just close your eyes and think about life just ten years ago and consider how different things were then. A decade ago nobody had high speed Internet or HTML interfaces. There were no iPods, iPhones or BlackBerrys. Google was just coming out of Stanford and had yet to revolutionize the way the world shares access to information.
Back then nobody was tweeting or had a Facebook profile. And although cell phones were available, they were not everywhere the way they are now, and had only a fraction of their current capabilities.
Ten years ago these tools were literally not available and certainly were not an integral part of the real estate marketing landscape. They are most certainly available now – and the challenge is that most developers are still not even using them.
The painful truth is that what sold your property a decade ago is terribly outdated now. Today, smart, skilled builders and developers are trying to market everything from multi-million dollar developments to single-family residences using antiquated methods from the dinosaur age. My goal is simply to change all that and dramatically increase your real estate profits in the process.
Find out what is working
One of the first things my company does is to begin tracking and measuring our client’s sales and marketing efforts. It is almost life altering when we present our results – our clients cannot believe that the things they thought were working best were not working at all, and the things they thought worked the least were actually generating 80% of their current business.
Beware of registration cards
Let me give you an example. One off the most common tools that builders and developers in residential and commercial real estate use are the standard, old school registration cards. Unfortunately, 70% of the data on registration cards is actually pure baloney. People will check the first box in the list nine times out of ten.
Now people do not mean to lie – but most of them cannot remember what they had for breakfast let alone how they came to hear about your project. So if registration cards are not telling you where your leads are coming from, is there a more accurate way to track the information? The answer is yes, there is.
However before I explain how to track leads, let me stress again why it’s important to track your sales leads. When most developers do a marketing plan they say “Okay, we are going to spend this much on the Chicago Tribune. We are going to do something on Google. We are going to do something on billboards. And we’re going to do a print piece.” So they write out a number of different initiatives as part of their marketing plan, and put a dollar figure beside each one. Done.
The problem is that this is old world thinking – there is nothing trackable about any of these initiatives, and none of them include projections. So how will you know if the things on your marketing plan are actually working?
Make a plan to track your progress
What I am challenging you to do is to add a layer of information to your marketing plan by writing down what you expect your cost-per-lead to be and how many leads you are planning to generate from each separate initiative. Then track that information every week and every single month. Are you hitting your numbers with the Tribune? If not, try changing the creative direction or try something different.
If your Google ads are not hitting your cost-per-lead projections or if you are not getting enough leads, then it’s time to make a change. Information like this is powerful because with it, you can strategically focus your budget on things that are producing real results.
Another thing to remember – not only should any lead-generating tool be trackable, it should also give you results in real time.
The days of waiting weeks and even months to find out what is working and what is not are long over. And if you do not feel that trend already, rest assured that your clients most certainly do.
So let’s discuss your prospects for a moment – they are impatient and have every right to be. These days information is immediate and accessible. With computers, people can search for any piece of information in a matter of seconds. Downloading pictures takes no time at all.
If someone missed their favourite television show they can probably go to the network’s site and watch it then and there. Customer service lines are open at all hours now – and even mainstream shops have extended their hours to accommodate their shoppers’ schedules.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling commercial real estate or ice cream, the point is that you had better be ready when your customers are. And that means changing the real estate feedback cycle from days to hours.
You have to follow up on leads fast!
Let me give you an example. Someone registers on your website on a Friday night at 5:30 pm and expects to hear back immediately.
The problem is that you haven’t assigned a Lead Manager to follow up over the weekend, which means the weekend passes and the lead is only contacted on Monday or Tuesday. I guarantee you they won’t be pleased with this and in all likelihood, will not do business with you. This is the reality of real time customer service.
If you don’t have a process for this situation, you will not be in business in five years. People’s expectations have been transformed forever because of the Internet, and it is unlikely that they will ever go back. Now I do not suggest that you keep your business open and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But I would suggest hiring an Internet Lead Manager who can get back to people in the evenings until 9:00 pm. This is a critical necessity.
Can you guess? Here is a hint...It's not Twitter or Facebook!
Our world now moves faster and faster thanks to the information age.