I've been teaching real estate advertising internationally since 1994 and I find a great way to help realtors write their ads is to imagine they are talking to a friend over the phone.
Let's assume the prospective buyers are in a different and remote country, with no internet whatsoever – so no photos will be available to them. You know these people well and let's say they have two children and one or two pet dogs.
Now, this friend is going to buy a property from you based on what you tell them over the phone. Would that get you focused? Absolutely!
When they arrive to view the house they bought, the last thing you want is for them to feel you have let them down and it wasn't what they imagined.
In my advertising training sessions, I show a standard floor plan and, from that, compose ads that will hopefully influence these “friends over the phone” to buy the property sight unseen.
Let's make a comparison: firstly, a fairly standard real estate ad approach we can find in almost any real estate advertising portal or other media – “Bob, you and Sue are going to love this place. It's got four bedrooms, two bathrooms, formal lounge and dining, kitchen, rumpus and play room, pool and hot tub and a fence around the backyard. $560,000 – what do you think?"
Invariably, in my sessions, the audience agrees this wouldn't entice them to commit to spending that money as they don't feel they have a clear picture. Sadly, when you look at it, that is what most real estate ads are doing and agents are expecting buyers to read those ads and buy the property.
Now let's try a different approach – "Bob and Sue, you are going to love relaxing in the hot tub in total privacy after a hard day’s work. When you drive up to your place, you will see the turf farm to the right, just like having a meadow in suburbia, where you can kick the footy with the kids and take the dogs for a run.
“You're going to fit right in as it's a lovely, friendly neighbourhood and all the neighbours in the quiet cul-de-sac get together for a street party every Christmas. When you walk into the house, you will see the four bedrooms are separated, with the master bedroom at the front, giving privacy from the children's bedrooms at the rear. The study is located opposite the master bedroom, so you can work without disturbing anyone or being disturbed.
“The formal lounge and dining rooms are at the same end, separated from the rest of the house by a glass door, so you can entertain your friends at one end and the kids can entertain theirs at the other end without disturbing each other.
“In the kitchen, the cooktop has been installed in the main bench, and when preparing food, you can look across to the rumpus room, TV and play room. If you look to the right, you can watch the kids playing safely in the pool. And the backyard is surrounded by a six-foot fence to give you extra privacy and safety. At only $560,000, what do you think?"
It's a longer ad, but there are no unnecessary words and, when they get there, they wouldn't be disappointed as everything would be exactly as per the word-pictures you created.
Very simply, what you and your ad are doing is telling them what it would be like to live there. That is what you are selling and, most importantly, what they are buying – the picture in their minds of them living there.
When you are writing an ad, ask yourself, would I say this to my "friend over the phone"? If the answer is no, don't do it!
In this exercise, there were no photos or visuals whatsoever. But in real circumstance, it's an easy matter to match the photos with the ad – and by the way, that is the correct sequence.
Always write the ad first, then take the photos to match the headline first, then follow the body copy in sequence. All too often unfortunately, realtors take the photographs first and then try to fit them into the ad. The professional advertising industry would never do this – it's always copy/wording first, then the photos/visuals follow.
Let's face it, when you watch a movie, you don't marvel at the photography and assume somebody came along and wrote a story around the photography. The script always comes first and the photography is matched to the script.