OPINION -- Marketing goes way back

No agent can do without a marketing strategy that embraces the latest technology, writes Ben Stockdale, but neither can they do without community-based marketing

ONLINE AND mobile communications are growing at a phenomenal rate.

Despite the communications revolution, however, your success in real estate today really depends on something more old fashioned.

Before the internet, real estate businesses had two chief activities. Their primary challenge was to build relationships with prospects and customers.

Second, they had to make the market aware of their property listings.

The internet has met the second challenge, making it incredibly easy to reach property hunters.

It’s easy to make people aware of your listings using the portals, the search engines and your own website. Given that some portals even offer free listings, you can reach a more complete audience than ever before, very affordably.

With everyone doing at least a minimum online to broadcast their listings, the emphasis has shifted back to how you reach customers and build relationships with them.

Despite many changes since then, much remains the same.

The best agents in the internet era would still be the best even if the internet were to suddenly disappear. They practise effective, community-based marketing.

Community-based marketing is different from community involvement. Taking part in the community is commendable; for it to help you build your business, however, you must also create marketing opportunities through your efforts.

There are many success stories. I think LJ Hooker was the first real estate network to implement a structured community-based marketing program.

In the past couple of decades, LJ Hooker has amassed close to $6 million for charitable organisations.

The Tamworth LJ Hooker office alone has raised more than $100,000 for cystic fibrosis. Its charity golf tournament and other efforts present the office with significant marketing benefits. Since the current owners took over in 1984, the office has tripled its turnover, number of staff and physical size, placing in the top 10 per cent of all offices in the LJ Hooker network.

Australian real estate agents have been practising community-based marketing like this for almost two centuries. Rather than diminish this old-fashioned marketing technique, the internet has made it more powerful than ever.

Online, you can create your own community, building it around your personality and the community and property information that you freely share.

Everything contributes: your website, Facebook and Twitter feeds, property videos and e-newsletters.

Agents who are true online advocates for the community and for the local causes they believe in can engage in a more direct form of community-based marketing than ever before. Building your own community of followers online gives you a direct sphere of influence. You can reach these people without having to work through some community group; you just use your keyboard and web camera.

Real estate portals that let you create a personal profile can be used just like another home page: provide links to all of your activities, connect your social media feeds and load up your promotional videos.

‘Offline’ community-based marketing requires you to give at least as much as you expect to receive back; online is no different. You don’t just push messages out to your online network, your network is a place in which to engage and enter into relationships.

The internet, mobile technology and social media haven’t changed the fact that you still have to reach and engage with your customers, or that community-based marketing is the best way to do it. They have, however, given you new tools and opportunities.

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