STANDING OUT IN A DIGITAL WORLD
SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES IN A PERIOD OF GREAT DISRUPTION, Stefan Williams explains why campaigntrack went allin on digital marketing ‘before the storm'.
Hands up if you’re a sheep and follow what everyone else does... Just kidding: sheep don’t have hands! The relevance of that bad joke is that if you just do what everyone else does all the time, you're not going to stand out. It's a good segue to the story of our own digital marketing product.
Like many in the real estate industry, campaigntrack has been around for a while. Our whole reason for existing was to give our clients an edge, ensuring their ads looked better than their competitors’, their signs more attractive, their marketing processes more streamlined and their brands better executed. What got us out of bed, and still does, is a passion for real estate marketing.
Over the years we have seen, been part of and in some cases driven revolution and change directly – online artwork design perhaps most notably. Process perfected, job done, go home? Life is not that simple, though, and the grinding of the Darwinian wheel means change is always upon us.
Technology is speeding up the world as we know it, and I can honestly say that I have never seen such enormous change in such short timeframes as we have today.
The grinding of the Darwinian wheel means change is always upon us.
If you just do what everyone else does all the time, you're not going to stand out.
This is both good and bad. Good if you are smart enough to take advantage of major shifts; bad if you don’t.
Two years back we had a good hard look at ourselves and realised that, while we had an industry-leading business, nothing fundamental had changed in a while. We needed to mix things up, challenge ourselves and lead in new directions. That was the reason that we created our Advanced Internet Marketing (AIM) division back then and invested millions into developing something new. A leap of faith or calculated futurism? How about a dash of both.
Digital marketing was, and still is, dominated by traditional real estate portals. These very clever companies had been in the right place at the right time and essentially owned the digital property marketing space, pricing their product accordingly. The rise of Google and Facebook, and advances in our own technology, created an opportunity to produce an entirely different way to advertise to buyers and sellers – one that wasn't dependent on the portals and that also presented a massive branding opportunity for our clients.
In our eyes it was a no-brainer, and we felt certain that solutions like ours would become as ubiquitous as the real estate signboard – every property would have it. Of course we saw an opportunity for ourselves but also for the industry, in a time of coming disruption.
The investment was a hard sell to our shareholders: place a bet on something that was, at the time, over the horizon. I was asked why, and my answer was this: Exceptionally well-branded marketing has built many successful real estate businesses, attracting better agents and getting higher commissions – and better selling prices, too. We can deliver this exact thing into the new digital marketing using platforms like Google and Facebook.
The development journey has been in equal parts exciting and challenging. Aside from the enormous R&D project, the biggest challenge so far has come from an unlikely place. The industry itself is change-resistant – at its peril.
What has surprised me is that digital marketing seems to come second for so many people, especially with the rapid decline of print advertising. Case in point: we do many rebrands for our clients and we are always given artwork designs for print ads, brochures, signs, business cards, letterheads and so on – but rarely are we given any digital ad designs as part of any of this. Almost never is a Google or Facebook ad template included in the designs.
How can this be? Is the industry really happy to be reduced to listings on portals, or ads that are branded with other businesses’ logos that direct traffic to websites you don't own? To put things into perspective with clients, I often like to cite this obvious fact. You rightly put a lot of time into ensuring your sign looks good, and hundreds if not several thousand people will likely see each sign. But digital marketing is far more visible when done right.
We regularly deliver hundreds of thousands of ads per property across Google and Facebook. This is the place your brand needs to look its best nowadays; this is the place you want your brand to shine and impress. With the help of clever ad targeting and retargeting technology, this is also the place you will find buyers and sellers who are not on the real estate portals. Oh, and it's kind of inexpensive too. Why, then, doesn't every agent say they want to do something along these lines for every listing? I won’t say I suffered any doubt about our direction, but it became clear that we had a long way to go in terms of educating the market. Just because I was a convert didn't mean everyone else was.
Proof of efficacy is a great tool to have, and the great thing about digital is you can measure it. We know, for example, exactly how many people see each ad, how many click on it, how many then make an enquiry or call. We know exactly how many people are in each client’s remarketing or retargeting audience. We also know that committing at scale, for most if not all of your listings, delivers far better results on every level versus ad-hoc use. We’re talking not only more buyer interest in your listings but, critically, more leads for sellers who see your shiny, beautiful brand online a lot.
We know it works, but how do you convince a potential client of the benefits? Start with talking to leaders wherever possible.
So, talking about leadership, this is where we have seen true vision from some of our clients that has transformed their businesses in wonderful ways. Take this quote from one of Ray White’s largest franchise groups:
“We have launched an AIM package on every listing since September last year, and our agents would never let us go back to a time without AIM. We are receiving more inquiries on some properties through AIM than we are getting through the traditional portals combined.” Ray White Leaders, Wellington, NZ
Feedback like this is wonderful and helps reinforce our conviction that we made the right investment back then. Of course, there are other clients saying that they don’t think digital marketing, beyond the portals, is important enough to put on every listing. This position is not supported by the facts, though. Based on tens of thousands of campaigns of data, we know that vendors like Google and Facebook as part of their marketing campaign – actual ads, not just posts on Facebook. In fact, smart agents are using this to win business over agencies who have a more ‘steam age’ approach.
Whether you’re a principal, an agent or a brand, you need to get serious about digital – and soon. It’s a time of fabulous opportunity for savvy people, and a time of inevitable decline for others. Be a leader, embrace digital, own your online brand and data – it's easy, because all the work is done for you. Lead or follow; it’s your choice.
Stefan Williams is the cofounder of Campaigntrack, the marketing platform driving property marketing of agencies and agents nationwide. For more information visit campaigntrack.com.