Since the mid-2000s, brokers have decimated their marketing departments to cut expenses and transition from print to digital. With the commission splits increasing the amount of money received by agents, the brokerage marketing budget now focuses on supporting the agent. Profoundly, few broker marketing departments are developed to serve the larger marketing spend of agents and teams.
The landscape of the brokerage marketing department has changed, resizing teams and altering priorities. These departments historically employed many, requiring custom flyers, magazine and newspaper ads that took large groups to produce. However, today’s marketing departments work mostly digitally, and primarily agents build their own marketing materials from technology solutions like our industry’s fast-growing Amarki by CreelIT, or industry leader Imprev. Many companies can staff their marketing department with a single designer or two. We always recommend at least two if possible: multiple designers will allow for team collaboration, department continuity, and lower burnout. It is important that these designers have the imagination for marketing automation.
Digital Marketing Tzar
Despite some successes, most brokerages fail to grow beyond the testing phase of digital marketing because they lack a digital marketing tzar. Digital marketing is a fluid process of trial and error. It is not advisable to pay an agency for digital marketing. This is a center of excellence that you will want to develop in your firm. You can continue to outsource to agencies for your digital media buys, but you need to have a skilled manager making sure that every dollar spent is being maximized. Many agencies charge between 40% and 200% markup on digital ad buys. Your Tzar will make sure that you are not being taken advantage of.
Brokers need more than solely designers, they need copywriters in their marketing departments. More than ever before, social media content has allowed firms to build and reach massive audiences with effective content strategies. Please stop using social media management companies or automated social media campaign tools that write your content for you. You need full-time employees that talk to your management team, your agents, and your customers about what is happening in your community. All day long, they talk, read, post, and tag. They build communities and fans.
Redfin, CoreLogic, Zillow, and the like use Chief Economists. They do an extraordinary job of getting their property insights into the media. Not every broker can afford a chief economist, but most large firms can afford to hire a few. For those of you that cannot afford to hire a Cheif Economists, reach out to your local universities to see what is available. Usually, you can employ an economics professor to design your economic reporting. You can provide them with the data and they can have students draft the reports for the professor to finalize.
The utilization of data and analysis compose important aspects of rebuilding your broker marketing department. There have been some excellent tools like Listtrac, that work remarkably well to giving brokers vision into where listings and leads are coming from. But if to give you want to have a 360-degree view of where your budget is most effective, there is much more work to be done. Pulling all of your tracking data into data visualization software such as Google Data Studio, Tableau, or Microsoft Power BI is key. In an ideal world, your digital marketing tzar will have the skills to tie in APIs or import reports from marketing partners.
Consolidated Programming and Rate Negotiation
Trust me, businesses who are selling advertising to agents would rather sell a bigger program to the broker than individual programs to teams or agents. For example, a huge burden on advertising portals like Zillow.com that drives up costs are the thousands of salespeople that are reaching out to agents every day. Not only are the sales costs higher when companies sell directly to agents, but churn is higher for them too. Companies like Adwerx have figured this out and provide program selling to brokers to make it easier on their business, better for the broker, and a lot better for the agents and teams.
With consolidated programming, the brokerage marketing department can develop the marketing themes for each advertising cycle and apply that theme to the advertising the agent or team would like to purchase. The broker negotiates the best possible rates for the agents and teams by purchasing in bulk. WAV Group has worked with brokerages who have been able to consolidate their advertising purchases across their offices and reduce the rates from $55,000 per month down to $12,000 per month for the exact same ad purchases simply by negotiating on behalf of their agents and being a single point of contact for the ad channel partners.
Seller Reports and Agent Success Reports
Seller reports are vitally important to real estate today. Sellers enter into agreements to have an agent list their home with an array of pre-conceived beliefs about marketing. These preconceptions about what marketing needs to happen to sell their property for the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time are typically wrong, but agents tend to appease sellers and do what they ask anyway. Why fight with the client, right?
Seller reports can be a valuable tool to educate sellers on what is really working to engage buyers in their property. For example, if you look at Listtrac reports, you can see that the MLS and network of broker and agent IDX sites drive the most leads on listings. Sites like Zillow drive the most eyeballs, but fewest leads. Services like Buyside allow brokers to harvest sellers already working with a company’s agent. Seller reports allow the agent to retrain the thinking of the seller, and in doing so, allow the agent to invest valuable marketing budget into the technologies and advertising services that are yielding the highest and greatest returns.
Most of all, brokers need to train office managers on the power of the agent success reporting. This is a report that shows the global effectiveness of a firms total marketing across all agents, teams, and offices. That is contrasted with the office level effectiveness. The agent success report allows the agent to see where their marketing is performing relative to other agents in the office too.
Agent Recruiting and Retention
Your broker marketing department can become the single most powerful component that drives the success of your company. With an excellent marketing department, agents will be attracted to your firm’s services. Moreover, agents will not leave your company if the competitor does not have a legitimately competitive marketing service available.
Most of all, if you coordinate the marketing for your agents, your marketing will be exquisite. Rather than a hodgepodge of fonts, old logos, missing DRE numbers, poor quality photos, horrible ad copy, etc. You will have a beautifully curated theme and message that supports your agents and your brand at the same time.
Competitive Analysis and Research
What are your competitors doing? Survey the marketplace and continually evaluate your competitor’s marketing efforts. What do consumers think of your competitor’s marketing programs? What do your agents think of competitor marketing programs? Most of all, what do agents say when you are recruiting them?
It’s kind of funny to hear everyone talk about Compass and their technology development. If you really want to see what Compass is doing very well, look at their marketing. Most of my exposure to Compass marketing is in the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles Westside – but I can tell you that they are slaying every competitor they face. When you ask an agent why she/he joined Compass, they will always say marketing and technology before they talk about commission splits. When you ask a broker why an agent left for Compass, they will always say commission splits and hardly ever mention marketing or technology. Why is that?
Aside from watching your competitors and looking across the country at brokers who seem to be remarkably successful, do your own research. Try new things even if they fail. You would be amazed at how much you can positively influence your success through failure.
Winning is All About Planning, Changing, and Execution
I love sports because they are such a great metaphor for life and business. You can watch the best teams in the world fail, and relish underdogs who succeed. Some brokers read an article like this and move on. Others will pass it along to their office managers, marketing and IT staff to read. Proactive brokers may even put an agenda item on the next company meeting to discuss.
Great companies will send this article to their team and call a special meeting. They will invite their team to rip this article to shreds – defending what they do well and suggesting ways to consider implementing new ideas or inspirations.
Plan. Change. Execute.
As for WAV Group, we are happy to jump in and help. Marilyn Wilson runs WAV Group Marketing, Strategic Planning, Research, and Recruiting. Kevin Hawkins runs WAV Group Communications. David Gumpper runs WAV Group Technologies. I am not exactly sure what I do, so make me your first call if you need help.
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