Marketing Director at PropertyStream, Pernilla Tweddle, shares her insights and tips for how estate agents should approach a turning property market to outshine the competition.
It really is true, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Having headed up the marketing for national estate agency franchise group Hunters prior to joining PropertyStream, I have seen first-hand the twist and turns estate agents go through when the market turns - in either direction - and how it affects their operational running, their marketing strategies and their team management.
Whilst there is no doubt that any slowing down or downturn in the housing market causes concern not just for property related businesses but also for homeowners, landlords, buyers and tenants, it is important that agents don’t sit back, blame external factors and wait for the market to turn. That is what some agents may do, but not great agents. And certainly not exceptional agents.
Great agents perform well in tough markets. It is when they stand out and outshine the competition. It is when their proficient training, refined processes, advanced tech and proactive outlook come to the fore to give them a real edge against the competition.
There is some truth in the statement that every market is unique, and localised or regional approaches to marketing and customer engagement should be considered. But saying ‘my market is different’ as an excuse not to consider a proactive approach when things get tough, is generally not helpful in navigating and maximising the potential of the market you are in.
It is always about making the most of the market you are in. People will always move. And let’s not forget that actual market data suggest a far more positive picture than some of the current doom and gloom headlines. Many of our estate agency clients are reporting busy activity in their local market with high buyer and tenant demand.
Below are 5 ways that can help estate agents perform better during tougher markets.
1. Manage your database
It’s easy to think that a tough market needs new innovation, fresh ideas and doing things differently. If you’re an agent with good processes in place, it may be better to do the opposite. Back to basics is often what’s needed in tougher markets to successfully sell and let houses.
If enquiries and leads are declining, make sure you focus the team on managing your database and hitting the phones. I hear many agents who say, “we have a big database but are not really doing much with it”. You are sitting on a goldmine. Keeping in touch with your customers, past and present, is critical during this time. Be the agent who picks up the phone to stay in touch and. Reassure them, give them honest stats and figures about the local property market; it is likely to be more positive than the negative, scaremongering media headlines caused by speculation.
A well-planned nurture campaign of emails is also a great way of staying in touch. Check that your content is relevant to what's happening in the market. Be agile, flexible and tweak messages so that your emails hit the mark.
2. Don’t stop your marketing
- Stick to your plan
If you have planned and budgeted for your annual marketing activity, don’t change the plan. Remember, out of sight is out of mind. Gaining visibility takes time and building brand loyalty can take even longer, so keep going as long as your budgets allow you to. Reducing your marketing when times are tough may give you short-term financial respite, but is likely to be damaging in the long term to your business.
History has taught us that marketing in a recession or a tough market can be really beneficial and stopping marketing can be a big mistake. Marketing when others may not can also mean your business will be in a stronger position, not just right now, but also when the tough times pass.
- Continue canvassing
As long as budgets allow, continuing with your canvassing programme is a good idea. The reasoning behind doing regular bulk mail-drops to off-market properties is to place your brand in front of your audience frequently and regularly, in an engaging way.
When targeting a dormant market - properties that are not actively on the market - naturally you do not know when they may decide to sell or let. But you still want to remind them of your brand and why you are the agent of choice WHEN they decide to sell or let. This is a proven way to increase your chances of being one of the three agents they are likely to ask to value their home when the time comes. In other words, when the dormant market becomes active.
- Target the active property market
Marketing to people who are already on the market through another agent should definitely not cease. In tougher markets, it is possible that houses take longer to move. It is prime time to ask the audience if their chosen agent is doing everything they can to find a buyer or tenant? Are they proactively managing the sale or let by refreshing images and pushing it across social media?
Demonstrate how you, a great and pro-active agent, believe you can get the sale or let over the line. Prop-tech such as Spectre or Homesearch allow you to take complete control of when you send your targeted messages out. Use this proficiently and routinely - it should be part of your daily tasks so you are instantly reacting to market changes such as price reductions, time on the market, fall-throughs and new instructions. Be the first agent to react.
- Maintain SEO investment
Improving or maintaining your position on Google is imperative, in all markets. People will still be searching for estate agent and your business needs to be prominent in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Ongoing investment in some level of SEO should not be stopped even if the market slows down. You need to maximise on the potential business out there and appearing in a prominent position on Google is key. To learn about our effective SEO services and how we help estate agents achieve great visibility online, get in touch. We have recently achieved a 50% + increase in Google rankings for clients within 2 months.
3. Up your game on social media
- Use market data effectively
This is a time to educate, inform and reassure. Negate the speculative media headlines and clickbait content that fuels uncertainty and hesitation. Instead, share real facts and figures about what’s happening in the market near you. Use data suppliers such as Dataloft or TwentyEA to get the most up to date market stats. Have you integrated Dataloft with your website? That is a great way of adding market stats to your site - content appreciated by both Google and your customers.
When sharing stats and data, give them context by looking at historic figures in the property market. For example, how the economy and the landscape is not the same today as it was during the crash in 2007/8.
- Share useful content
Share useful content that will be relevant to your audience right now such as access to online mortgage calculators or stamp duty calculators you may have on your website. Does your website include downloadable guides and tips such as ‘How to increase the value of your home when selling’, ‘How to prepare your home for Sale’ or ‘How to maximise return on lettings properties as a landlord’? It should do, and if it does, point followers to where these can be found. Sharing links to specific and highly targeted pages within your estate agent website design is a great way to pull in visitors to your site.
- Be informative and local
Be informative, add useful content, follow and support other local businesses. Remember, this is not just a tough market for property, you’re in this together. Use your social media channels to connect, endorse and empathise with others. Local businesses are future customers too and it’s important to be part of your local online community.
Whilst platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are making it more challenging to get your posts seen, organic social media marketing is still FREE, and an important way of reaching your audiences.
- Strike a good balance
A good way to assess whether your social media content is hitting the mark is to check your historic posts; if your feed is made up solely of property listings, it needs sprucing up. Effective social media marketing takes a degree of strategy, planning and management to make sure you are posting a good balance of branding, promotional, educational, local and social content. If you do not have the resources in-house, it is worth out-sourcing parts of your social media work, keeping hold of the more manageable and local content in-house.
4. Be a thought-leader
- Produce blogs and vlogs
As the owner or manager of an estate agent, use your knowledge, experience and insights to share opinion pieces, blogs and videos about what’s happening in the market. Video content takes first prize, but if you are not comfortable behind the camera, get someone else within the team to record your content. Second best, and also excellent, is to regularly write and publish blogs and opinion pieces on your NEWS section of your website.
It does not always have to be your opinion, you should also include blogs around seasonal aspects of the property market such as taking advantage of the post-Boxing Day spike in property browsing as well as content that reflects topical issues that are discussed and debated at the time, for example, implications on mortgage rates following interest rates rises.
- Share you content
Once your blogs are uploaded on your website, make sure you share it across your social channels for greater exposure. Invite comments and engagement as this lets you lead the conversation and gives your posts authority.
5. Shout about your success
- Share success stories
People want to hear good news! When done in an uplifting and aspirational way, there is nothing wrong in shouting about your success. Talk specifically about case studies and success stories around people selling, letting, buying or renting properties, even if there were bumps in the road. Be honest and upfront.
- Share Google reviews and Awards
Share your Google reviews and awards achievements on your social channels. Winning an estate agency award is a big deal and helps to position you as a trusted and successful agent. It is worth explaining how you won the award; the strict criteria and assessment you fulfilled in order to receive the accolade. Short videos or GIFs can showcase this really well - we have created engaging videos and animations around this for some of our clients at PropertyStream.
Do you need help with your estate agency marketing?
If you would like help with creating engaging and relevant content for your marketing, let us know. Anything from copywriting, blog writing and flyers to SEO, PPC and social media content such as videos and animation - we’ve got it covered. Check out our flexible marketing packages here.
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