Inbound Marketing for Real Estate: What You Need to Know
For many realtors, marketing is a nuisance. Reaching potential homebuyers is both expensive and vague; in fact, it's almost impossible to find a traditional marketing tactic that reaches only the audience you want to communicate with.
Billboards, TV ads, and other traditional marketing options can get your face known in the local community. But above all, they take significant budgets to run, only to interrupt the lives of their viewers, 95% of whom probably don't want to buy or sell their home anytime soon.
Fortunately, expensive 'push' advertisements are far from your only option. Enter inbound marketing, a digital strategy that has evolved over the last decade to become the preeminent marketing philosophy across industries.
For the unique needs of realtors, the strategy can be particularly successful. Keep reading to find out how inbound marketing can make the difference in elevating your real estate marketing success.
The Core Concept: Inbound Marketing
inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring leads and customers in when they’re ready, rather than you having to go out and wave your arms to try to get people’s attention.
In other words, the philosophy turns traditional marketing concepts on their head. Rather than pushing your message out to your audience whether they're ready or not, you develop an online presence that draws in your audience in a more organic way.
Inbound Marketing: Tactics to Succeed
To accomplish its goal of drawing in your audience when they're ready to engage with you, inbound marketers engage in a number of tactics:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of optimizing your website to make sure your audience can find you in relevant searches on Google, Bing, etc.
- Blogging on topics relevant and helpful to your target audience, in order to enhance your credibility.
- Social Media Marketing to provide engaging content to your audience on an ongoing basis.
- Lead Generation, by offering content valuable enough for your audience to give you their contact information (and enter your database).
- Email Marketing, used to nurture existing contacts in your database until they are ready to become customers and clients.
Optimizing a Limited Budget
Depending on your level of marketing expertise, you may have to work with external professionals to generate content and optimize your website for search engines. But the actual content is placed on platforms owned by you, which means you don't have to pay to publish your message.
Some inbound-focused organizations use paid ads on social media and search engines to enhance their efforts. But at its core, the tactics used within this strategy framework have one thing in common: they're free.
As a result, inbound marketing works particularly well to optimize limited budgets. In the real estate industry, where income is not always regular and depends on individual sales, that fact is especially valuable.
Maximizing Your ROI
Of course, low cost matters little if the return is not positive. Fortunately, inbound marketing has been shown to reliably deliver a positive return on your investment.
Inbound marketers, in fact, are 4 times more effective in achieving their objectives than their outbound ('push') counterparts. Blogging is especially successful, as brands who blog are 13 times more likely to generate positive ROI than those who don't.
How quickly can you expect success?
It's important to understand that though inbound marketing has significant potential in elevating your real estate business, results will not be instant. Instead, it's a long-term philosophy that will begin to pay off after a strategic buildout.
An MIT study earlier this year showed 72% of HubSpot users, an inbound marketing software, saw increased sales revenue within one year.
In other words, inbound marketing has the potential for significant success. And in the real estate industry, that potential is magnified.
The New Home Buying Journey
The real estate landscape has changed significantly within the past decade. A 2015 report by the National Association of Realtors found 43% of buyers begin their process with an online search. The younger the buyer, the more likely this option becomes.
An additional 12% of buyers began their journey to a new home by finding out more about the home buying process online. That trend is also pointing up with younger audiences.
In other words, your audience is no longer reaching out to you directly about finding you a home. They find the home, and then get in touch with a realtor about purchasing that home.
Helping Home Buyers Find You
Unless, of course, you are the resource they use in their first step of online research.
Provide relevant information early in the home buying process, optimize it for search terms that your audience might use, and you will see an influx in visitors that can eventually become clients.
For example, many home buyers wonder about the actual cost of buying a home, beyond the sticker price. Write a blog about the process, and optimize it for search terms related to cost of buying a home.
Now, you'll begin to receive visits from potential home buyers who are not yet ready to get directly in touch with a real estate agent, but when they are, they'll know your name, and will be more likely to choose you.
Establishing Credibility in a Crowded Environment
In addition, inbound marketing helps you cut through the noise in crowded real estate environments. Especially in urban and suburban areas, you are likely competing with a number of other agents for buyers' and sellers' attention.
How can you be sure your message cuts through the clutter?
The answer is simple: credibility. Both buyers and sellers ultimately have to trust you to get the best house and the best deal for them.
The best way to do that is by establishing thought leadership, establishing yourself as an independent expert in addition to a business person in the minds of your audience.
Become a Resource
Publish information about the home buying process, including complicated topics such as financing, and offer it for free to your audience.
Build a regular newsletter with helpful tips for anyone looking to buy or sell a house.
And of course, go beyond the 'normal' real estate listing to create comprehensive profiles of each home you sell for increased interest.
Getting Started Building an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing, at its core, consists of 3 stages: awareness building, lead generation, and lead nurturing. Here's how you can get started in optimizing your inbound marketing strategy for all three stages:
1) Awareness Building
Create a social media presence along with a regular blog. On both outlets, publish regular content directed specifically at your target audience. Don't focus on selling your services; instead, seek to inform and educate your audience in order to build credibility.
Sample Blog Posts:
- 5 Things You Should Know Before Selling Your Home
- What Does a Home Inspection Actually Mean?
- Good Bones: How to Look Beyond the Staging to Spot Your Dream Home
- Does Landscaping Make a Difference in Selling Your Home?
2) Lead Generation
Build long-form content, gated behind a sign-up page, your audience considers worth signing up for.
- An E-Book helping first-time home buyers through the financing process
- A webinar for home sellers on how to best stage their home
- A checklist for home buyers on every step of the process
- An e-newsletter with regular new listings in the area
3) Lead Nuturing
Create a lead nurturing strategy designed to get potential buyers closer to the point of sale. Be sure to segment your audience into buyers and sellers, as these groups will need very different messaging in order to maintain relevance.
Lead nurturing works best when set up as a marketing automation workflow, with a number of regular emails (and other marketing activities) set off by a trigger such as a newly generated lead.
Using this system, you can stay in the minds of potential buyers and sellers so when the time comes, they'll remember your name as the best agent to work with.
Ultimately, that's what inbound marketing comes down to: position yourself as a valuable resource to your target audience, and you can be sure when they need services like yours, they turn your way.
For a lower budget than traditional marketing efforts, and with a much stronger foundations, you can build your profile as a premier real estate agent in your area.