LAST week I attended the IAB Mobile Connect Conference at the, always impressive, Guinness Storehouse. The theme of the day was ‘Mobilise your Marketing Mix’ and it got me thinking about how estate agents promote their property business and, in particular, how this has changed (if at all) since the heady days. Newspaper advertising and property sales portals like daft.ie and myhome.ie are the mainstay of traditional estate agency marketing but could estate agencts be doing more?
There is no doubt that digital marketing must play a greater role in the marketing strategy of every agency in the country given the rise in potential buyers and sellers accessing information via their smartphones; but are estate agents in Ireland even thinking mobile? Certainly the dominance of online property portals has levelled the playing field for new estate agencies in terms of attracting buyers, but it does not help them achieve listing instructions, which really is the life blood of the business. The days of marketing to attract buyers seem to be behind us, newspaper advertising and the online property portals do that. Most estate agencies have a long list of potential buyers and their housing needs that they are never likely to satisfy. The key for estate agents, whether new or long established, is to reach out to would-be sellers, who are an altogether less predictable bunch.
So what can estate agents do reach out to would-be sellers? Traditional print and digital advertising in property supplements and on property-related websites are still crucial, after all, this is where potential sellers go for an initial idea about value, but I think it is fair to say that the personal touch is still required to establish trust.
With this in mind, I did a quick scout around to see who is doing things differently. Unsurprisingly, the newer firms are finding novel and cost effective way to reach out to potential clients. One example of this is Conerney Estate Agents, established in Dublin in 2013. I first learned about the company one day when I was sitting in traffic in Tallaght and a very pleasant young woman approached me with car air-fresheners in hand. I was intrigued and accepted the gifts through the car window, when I noticed they were branded for a new estate agency I asked about the company. She told me as much as the traffic flow allowed but left me with a positive overall impression, so much so that I tweeted about the encounter. As author of the Irish Property Buyers Handbook series since 2011, followers to my property Twitter account (@BuyersBrokerLtd) are there for local property news so the old-school approach – albeit accidentally – reached a targeted digital audience. Just today, more than two years on, I passed the same estate agent’s logo on a professionally wrapped vehicle and I was reminded on the earlier encounter. Both times when that particular company came to my attention it was offline and not in any property-related circumstances. Speaking with the agency’s Head Simon Conerney about his approach to marketing, he is an advocate of combining the best of traditional (leaflet drops to raise brand awareness locally) and digital (business and industry -specific websites and, increasingly, social media). As a relatively young agency, Conerney acknowledges the importance of word-of-mouth; “your own client is your best agent, we always ask for recommendations and clients are happy to recommend us”. Transparency with fees is one of the agency’s USPs with their fees appearing on all company materials, from the social media account to the wrapped van. The estate agency has embraced the power of mobile by using paid-for advertising on Facebook. “This form of advertising is entirely measurable and targeted, so we can choose the geographical area, age range and even the interests of the audience receiving our ads”. And this appears to be working. By way of example, Conerney Estate Agents are currently listing an impressive four bed detached home in Kilmacanogue, just a few minutes’ drive from the N11, with an asking price of €595,000. In addition to the main property portals, they created a Facebook ad for the property. “Because it is a monetised ad, the level of views is nearly the same as all of the other portals combined – and the people seeing the ad are those we have targeted”. This is an unusual approach but one that is proving successful among buyers and sellers.
Social media can seem daunting to ‘newbies’. Every few months brings a new app or platform, some are more successful than others; many launch in fanfare, fail to garner traction and then fade into the digital ether. Understandably, companies with limited resources must pick and choose how and where to spend their time and money. Property conversations – discussing everything from social housing and the growing issue of homelessness, to proposed new developments and tips on how to stage or feng shui your home to attract buyers – are happening on Twitter and Facebook hourly, agents need to engage. House-hunters spend hours on Pinterest looking at homes across the world, Irish properties should be appearing there too. Periscope allows a viewing to be broadcast live across the planet (check out what Liz O’Kane is doing with Youngs Estate Agency in Dublin to see this in action!).
Social media offers estate agents the opportunity to interact with and educate the market and by doing so, they are building themselves up as central spheres of influence within that market. Yes, it can be a slow burn but the days of overnight success in the property industry are gone. We are back to relationship-building, and this is not a bad thing, but agents must go to where their potential buyers and sellers are.