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10 ICSF marketing truths that smacked me in the face


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At every Inman Connect, I learn something — in fact, I learn a lot — about where the real estate industry is and where it’s going, what matters to smart agents and brokers, and how to be better at what I do.

And there are always moments where a speaker or panelist says something that just hits me between the eyes — an idea, principle or practice that immediately grabs me with its clarity and obvious application.

Focused on marketing (my role in the industry), here are my top “gotcha” insights from this year’s Inman Connect San Francisco.

“The attention-getting stuff is no good if you get to the real estate part and suck at it.” – Scott Stratten, UnMarketing

Keynote speaker Scott Stratten has built a highly successful consulting and speaking business around the idea of “unmarketing”: ditching obnoxious, ineffective and coercive tactics in favor of competence, service and genuine engagement.

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This, Stratten revealed, is how his own “un-Realtor” won Stratten’s loyalty.

“He was immediately there and immediately killer,” Stratten said. In other words, his agent wasn’t just a good marketer. He understood the fundamentals of real estate — prompt follow up, needs assessment, how to write an offer — and executed with substance.

If your marketing isn’t getting results, turn it off. – Lindsay Listanski, Coldwell Banker

I camped out in Thursday’s Marketing Intensive track, where social media expert Lindsay Listanski led off the afternoon with a simple proposition that so many of us fail to follow: if what you’re doing isn’t working, stop.

Many of today’s marketing tools, such as Facebook ads, show results daily or even in real time. So the next time you kick off a campaign, monitor the results closely. You should see results within 24-48 hours. If not, switch gears.

Video is one of the most affordable marketing tools available. – Lindsay Listanski, Coldwell Banker

Listanski’s second gem was the assertion that high-cost marketing video is a myth.

You may have to pay a bit more for it in absolute terms, but the investment averages out to a measly 1 cent to 5 cents (yes, cents) per view. At those rates, you can’t afford not to use video to grow your real estate business.

SEO is a long game. – Bob Stewart, ActiveRain

Bob Stewart took the stage at the Marketing Intensive to talk about SEO and the importance of choosing a niche. His pearl of wisdom: different marketing options have different payoff horizons, so mix your methods accordingly.

SEO is a long game. Even if you’re following best practices, it can take weeks or months to see any change in your search ranking. And you have to keep at it, year after year, constantly adjusting to fit changing algorithms.

Well-executed digital ads, however, can pay off in just days and are easy to change on the fly. Combine both to maximize your marketing impact.

“On a fundamental level, we need to modernize the value proposition we present.” – Joseph Rand, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

Consultant Valerie Garcia led one of the conference’s smartest panels in analyzing the causes of and possible solutions to our industry’s record inventory shortage.

Broker Joseph Rand, always a champion of professionalism and higher standards, recommended that agents weather the storm by bringing value both to prospective clients and to their own businesses.

His recommendation on the marketing front?

Get savvy with predictive analytics and other data-driven technologies to make sure you’re targeting the right people before they decide to move.

“Reverse-engineer the search process.” – Alex Wang, Sereno Group

Before Alex Wang’s session on social proof, I could have defined the term for you — essentially, it’s the tendency of humans to mimic other people’s actions and attitudes — but didn’t understand much beyond that.

Wang had a number of useful tips for attracting positive social proof (glowing online reviews) for your business. One was to google the search terms for which you want to rank, see which social-proof sites appear (Yelp) and make sure you’re listed on them.

The other trick that caught my attention: see who’s ranking for your preferred terms and copy their social-proof strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

“Don’t confuse a home’s story with the details.” – Katie Lance, Katie Lance Consulting

When you’re marketing a listing, it can be very easy to fall back on the details: the home’s size, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and hallmark features such as a pool or custom cabinets.

That, according to Katie Lance, is a dire mistake. Instead, remember that homebuying is a very emotional process. And the way you connect with buyers’ emotions is by showing “what it feels like to walk in the door.”

Don’t do away with the details altogether, but keep them short and sweet and instead focus your marketing on what makes the house a home.

The digital ad is just the start. – Andrew Fogliato, Just Sell Homes Inc.

Andrew Fogliato’s session on paid advertising was packed full of usable ideas. Most importantly, he had the wisdom to point out that digital advertising isn’t just about the ad.

In fact, the ad is just the most visible piece of a successful campaign — the tip of the iceberg, if you will. The rest of the campaign consists of hidden elements that rise to the surface at various stages: a mobile- and conversion-friendly landing page, a signup incentive and automated follow-up emails.

Piggyback off big companies’ ad spend. – Andrew Fogliato, Just Sell Homes Inc.

Fogliato also offered one of the best digital advertising tips I’ve ever heard: when targeting ads, piggyback off the cachet and awareness spending of big brands.

If you have a listing near a dog park and want to market it to pet owners, for example, don’t just target to “people who like dogs.” As Fogliato put it, “That’s going to get you everyone who’s ever liked a puppy video.”

Instead, target people who’ve liked PetSmart’s Facebook page. Sly, maybe, but sly like a fox.

“Understand that buyers and sellers have experiences outside the industry, and those experiences set expectations.” – Charlie Young, Coldwell Banker

Whenever possible, I stay at Inman Connect through Friday morning, and speakers like Charlie Young are the reason.

It’s easy to think of buyers and sellers as simply that, but Young’s comment was a wake-up call to remember that clients have an identity and a life outside the real estate process.

They’re parents, husbands, wives, doctors, janitors, hikers, swimmers — the list could go on forever.

To market to and serve them effectively, you’ve got to understand what makes them tick in their day-to-day lives and how those experiences affect the way they want to interact with you and the selling or buying process.

These are my top takeaways from Inman Connect. What are yours? Please share in the comments section below. 

Kathryn Royster is the marketing director for HouseLens, Inc. You can follow Kathryn on Twitter @kathrynroyster. HouseLens is on Facebook.

Email Kathryn Royster

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