Real estate is an industry built on relationships.
Real estate is most peoples' largest single purchase. Buying or selling a home is a huge decision. As such, different people approach it differently.
One thing's certain: no one takes a major real estate transaction lightly.
People save for years, plan & shop for months, view many properties, and still might take 6 months to finally close on their new home. If you're relying on exact timing to get deals the moment someone's ready to buy or sell, you'll be leaving a lot of cash on the table (or creating a lot of extra work for yourself).
Marketing automation is the single most important tool to take all those potential deals that would have languished, forgotten... and turn them into cold, hard cash.
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By The Numbers: Why Automation Is Crucial
- Based on average home prices, it would take 14 years for the typical American family to save enough money for a 20% down payment [7 years for 10% or 3.5 years for 5%] 1
- [In 2014,] the typical home buyer searched for 10 weeks and viewed 10 homes 2
- The average home for sale is listed for 116 days [16 weeks] 3
- 90% of home buyers searched online during their home buying process [and] shoppers will perform an average of 11 searches prior to taking action on a real estate site 4
- [1,368 real estate agents] reported their database — including emails, newsletters, drip campaigns, and website registration follow-ups — as the part of their marketing program that delivered the most bang for the buck. Nearly 41 percent ... ranked their database as "most effective." 5
Making real estate decisions takes the average person a lot of time, research, and contemplation.
That means if you want to be a successful deal maker, you have two choices:
- You can manually followup with the leads in your database for as much as 3.5 years ... from the time they first decide to buy a house to the time they finally pull the trigger, or...
- You can create automated real estate marketing systems to do the job for you, while you focus your time on crucial face-to-face client relationships.
With all the facts pointing so blatantly toward the importance of marketing automation in real estate, I am surprised how many people are still relying on the first one. My goal here is to teach you how to stop it! And start automating.
What Is Real Estate Marketing Automation?
"Marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to ... nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers."
-Hubspot (some of the foremost masters of marketing automation)
Marketing automation, like all forms of direct response marketing, is salesmanship multiplied. Whatever actions a sales person might take from lead generation to closing a sale is a target for automation.
Finding yourself sending repetitive followup emails? Automate it.
Want to have a progressive series of conversations with every new prospect? Automate it.
Tired of manual brand building & networking to cultivate a loyal database? Automate it.
Looking for a way to custom tailor your sales process based on prospect profiles? Automate it.
To me, all of the above, and all marketing automation in general comes down to two simple aspects:
- Psychology. The most profound motivations to which you can appeal are greed, fear, and intrigue. My favorite simplification is Bencivenga's Persuasion Equation: Urgent Problem > to > Unique Promise > to > Unquestionable Proof > to > User-friendly Proposition = Ultimate Persuasion!
- Math. It doesn't matter how good your sales skills are on the Psychology side of things... marketing automation is a numbers game. "Test, track, and optimize" must be your motto.
The best news of all is that today's marketing automation tools will take care a lot of the tricky parts of "2. Math" for you automatically! Auto-responders track conversions (opt-ins), open rates, click-throughs, and more. IVRs (Interactive Voice Response systems) & auto-dialers track time on call, voicemails dropped, options chosen, and more. Social media sites & website analytics can track every detail about your content's visitors, like time on site, goal conversions, bounce rate, pages viewed per visit, and much more.
As long as you know where to look & how to interpret what you see, today's marketing automation tools provide all the data to make informed decisions in all your real estate database marketing efforts. You can do the math often just by visually comparing graphs or traffic stats. What a world.
However, you still need to create the content, implement it, and split test it to find the best results!
Creating Quality Content For Your Real Estate Marketing Automation Campaign
I'm not going to sugar coat this:
Creating enough quality content for a good marketing automation campaign is a lot of work.
You can try to take short-cuts, and you can definitely outsource a lot of the manual labor, but you still need to guide the process. You still need to provide content direction based on your knowledge, experience, personal brand, and unique selling propositions.
Or you need to hire an actually good writer to do that for you... and anyone worth their salt will still be asking a ton of questions to learn everything I just mentioned about you & your business.
So what's the secret to creating quality content in your real estate marketing automation campaign?
Let's examine this with a few general rules first, then delve into each content medium's unique pros & cons. To make things easier to understand, I'll provide examples of tools to automate your marketing in each medium.
General Rules For Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is going to consist of a lot of contact points. From individual drip emails, to social media interactions & sharing, to phone calls & voicemails, to blog posts, Youtube videos, audio recordings, and webinars.
That means any rules that are universal would apply literally in every medium (text, audio, video).
These general rules, therefore, are all about your strategy and grander vision. They most likely apply not only in your marketing automation, but in your branding, advertising, sales, and support. For now, I am strictly focusing on how they apply in a marketing automation campaign.
#1.) Maintain integrity. Be honest & candid.
Good marketing automation requires far too many points of contact, platforms of engagement, and unique interactions to try and "keep your story straight" ... unless that story is actually true and integrated with your real personality. You better be a real expert in your material, and be able to prove it, or marketing automation is going to be a painful uphill battle that's probably not worth waging.
So long as you are a real, legitimate expert in your field, and you can really deliver on your compelling unique selling propositions, you will be find if you simply be real, honest, candid, and confident. Be yourself. Maintain integrity. Or your audience will find out!
#2.) Provide value for free.
Adopt an attitude of no entitlement. Provide value first, before you expect anything in return. Your marketing automation campaign is the perfect place to do this. Don't turn it into your soapbox, but use it as an opportunity to help your prospects learn & grow. Create valuable educational materials, courses, white papers, studies & reports, or even interactive podcasts & webinars... and share them for free.
If you're lucky, people will not only be engaged by your content, building your personal brand & the prospect's perception of you as the expert... but they'll also share your valuable content with their friends, helping to create virality that results in major ROI boosts on your whole marketing funnel.
#3.) Track results.
That which gets measured gets managed. Everything else...
Luckily if you're using any marketing automation tools of the trade, you'll have a lot of the data tracked for you automatically. Then, your only job will be interpreting it.
When it comes to tracking results, the easiest way to jump right in is to look at the lead flow in two directions: from outside in, and from inside out. In other words, first put yourself in the Client's shoes, and see how they arrive then what actions they take. Then, look at it in reverse: find the best long-term & most effortless sales, and track them back to the point of your very first interaction (then everything in between).
By tracking results from your ideal Clients, back to their first point of contact, you can aim to replicate this exact series of interactions using your marketing automation.
#4.) Use a natural voice.
The worst type of marketing automation, which tends to fall on deaf ears, is the corporate-speak, jargon-packed, completely impersonal tone you'll find far too often. The top marketing campaigns connect on a personal basis, building a deep relationship between a brand and an individual.
Speak directly to your audience as if you were talking to them one-on-one in a relaxed, casual setting. Keep it simple, reveal your natural voice, and build rapport as if you're speaking to an old friend. This applies in all your content, from Youtube videos to blog posts to email autoresponders.
#5.) Include Calls To Action (CTAs).
While it's important to be casual, use a natural tone, provide value for free, and generally be a helpful contributor to the conversation... you are running a business here. And you need to keep your mind on the bottom line.
The easiest way to do this is to be sure your marketing automation always includes a call to action.
This can be as subtle as a little request on your email PS, like:
PS: I'm never too busy for referrals! If you know someone selling their house, refer them to me and get an all-expense-paid vacation on us when the sale closes.
Email me here for more info.
Or it can be huge pop-over ads, a weekly series of videos & webinars, or a month-long product launch sale that includes 20+ distinct messages all hard-selling a specific offer. The point is: you need to test what works best (without being too disruptive), and you need to track not only Click Thru Rate (CTR), opt-ins, goal conversions, and unique visitors... and lastly, most of all:
#6.) Focus on Marketing Automation ROI!
How much money is your marketing automation effort actually netting you?
If you're doing it right, real estate marketing automation should be one of your single most profitable investments.
When it comes to tracking ROI in your Marketing Automation campaigns, I recommend keeping an eye on, and optimizing for:
- Cost Per Lead (CPL). How much does it cost to generate a lead in the first place? If you spend $1,000 on a telemarketing campaign, and get 10 leads, your CPL is $100 ($1,000 / 10).
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). How much does it cost to actually acquire a customer, from lead to conversion? This will include your CPL + marketing & sales costs + software expenses + commissions paid out.
- Sales Cycle. How long does it take from first contact to conversion? How many interactions occur? How many are automated vs. manual? What percentage of your CAC comes from Sales Cycle expenses (vs. CPL-related lead generation expenses)?
- Lead Conversion Rate. What percentage of leads become a paying customer? If you get 100 leads, and 10 becomes paying customers, your conversion ratio is only 10%. Can it be higher?
- Initial Transaction Value. How much do new Clients typically pay in their first transaction? This is good to know, but not as important as:
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). How much money will you earn from the average client, over the lifetime of that relationship? Will you keep them for 1 year? 3? 10? 30+? How many transactions will occur during that time? This is your total average CLV, and is one of the most important stats for understanding your Marketing Automation ROI.
There are many more stats worthy of your attention, tracking, and optimization. At the end of the day, it comes down to your free cashflows. How much money is left over after all expenses are paid, and how fast is your revenue growing?
Marketing automation is a key tool in your arsenal to improve these figures. If you're wondering about your own approach, feel free to schedule a no-cost Opportunity Analysis to discuss. We'd love to hear from anyone directly, or in the comments, who is tackling the task of Real Estate Marketing Automation.
- CRL Brief, 2-25-11, "Don't Mandate Large Down Payments on Home Loans" - Center for Responsible Lending ↩
- National Association of Realtors - 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers ↩
- Zillow's United States Market Health Data through Mar 31, 2015 ↩
- The Digital House Hunt - National Association of Realtors & Google Joint Study ↩
- "Survey: High-income real estate agents lead the pack on tech" - Inman News ↩