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7 Steps to Choosing the Right Real Estate Digital Marketing Agency

Save time and money -- and optimize results -- when you choose the right agency for your company's needs.

7 Steps to Choosing the Right Real Estate Digital Marketing Agency

When you sat for your real estate license exam you probably didn't realize that at the same time you became a real estate expert you were also going to have to become a marketing expert. Indeed, it seems that half of your job as a real estate agent involves either marketing yourself and your services or marketing your clients' listings. In order to free you up to better serve those clients, you may be ready to engage the services of a real estate digital marketing agency.

Whatever you are currently doing to market your business and your listings, you can probably look around and find other agents and brokers in your market who are doing more. At some point, it just makes sense to outsource some or all of your promotions to a marketing agency specializing in real estate agents and real estate brokerages.

You're probably wondering how to choose from the variety of digital marketing firms out there. One of the most important things you can do to begin to narrow down your search is to choose the services of a digital marketing agency specializing in real estate professionals and their services. Qualified real estate marketing consultants will, quite literally, speak your language and the language of your clients and understand how to position you as the local market expert.

Once you have narrowed down your search to real estate marketing firms, it is time to begin the process of choosing from among the various digital marketing agencies specializing in real estate branding and marketing strategy. If you've never worked with a marketing agency, you may be asking yourself some or all of the following:

  • What should I look for in a digital marketing agency?

  • How do I go about hiring an agency?

  • What questions should I ask the agency?

  • How do I evaluate the effectiveness of their services?

  • How will I ever choose the right agency for my real estate company's needs?

We are here with a step-by-step plan to help you evaluate your options and determine whether the real estate marketing firm you're considering is the right one for you and your real estate business. Let this post be your guide as you move forward to streamline your real estate company's marketing with turnkey promotional services that are more effective and impactful than you ever thought possible.

1. Decide What Marketing Services Your Real Estate Company Needs

The first thing you need to do before you start looking at service providers is to determine your real estate company's needs. If you're like many real estate professionals, you may not know quite where to start in determining what services you need. There are a few important questions to ask yourself at this point:

  • 1. What do we do well that we want to promote?

    Do you specialize in a particular niche or market segment? Are you primarily a listing agent or a buyer agent? Do you provide flawless customer service? Are your negotiation skills second to none? Identify the central message that you want to convey so that you have a starting point for talking about your goals.

  • 2. What is our Unique Value Proposition (UVP) and how can we effectively communicate it to potential clients?

    Take a look at the other real estate agents or brokers in your area. What do you do that they don't? What special skills or services do you provide? How do your Days on Market compare? What makes you different from every other Realtor out there? If you can identify your UVP, you can create a winning marketing and branding message.

  • 3. Have we adequately defined our brand?

    Real estate branding can involve a variety of services, from market research to photography to logo creation and more. There is no point in beginning a marketing initiative if you have not clearly identified your brand identity and the clients you are trying to attract. For many real estate agents, this is an essential first step before any marketing initiative can be truly effective.

    If you have not defined your brand, doing so will probably be part of the process of marketing your business. You will need to ask the agencies you consider whether they offer branding services or, if not, whether they can refer you to brand specialists who can do so.

    A branding process will add to your timeline and may delay the rollout of your new platforms or other marketing initiatives. However, it will be worth the extra time and expense to get the brand message and branding elements right before you begin.

  • 4. What platforms do we currently have that we wish to utilize?

    There are so many platforms to help you reach out to past, current, and potential clients today and so many strategies to utilize. These include

    • Email Marketing

    • Content Marketing

    • Social Media Marketing

    • Online Marketing through Paid Advertisements

    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    As these various platforms have come online, you may have bootstrapped the creation and management of your company's online presence. That means it may be time for a more professional design that will both elevate and unify your various accounts.

    You may have been doing your best to keep up with the management of your online presence on your own or with the help of an administrative assistant or office intern, but turning over that responsibility can help you achieve new levels of professional success. A targeted marketing strategy, a website designed to outrank the competition, and professional content creation can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of your platforms -- and of your marketing strategy.

  • 5. What platforms do we not have that our competitors are effectively using, and vice versa?

    Take a look at the biggest names in your market. Perhaps they've been around longer than you have and perhaps they have sold more homes. However, you'll probably also find that they are putting significant resources into making sure they outrank you online and outpace you in social media followers. It is vital for you to do what you can to compete with them in the online space.

    Next, take a look at where they are not. Maybe they are all-in on Facebook but don't do much with other social media platforms. Maybe their email marketing is poorly segmented or intermittent at best. Knowing what they're not doing well gives you a point of entry for competing -- and winning new business.

  • 6. What type of information do we already have on our sphere of influence, former clients, and current leads? What information do we need to begin to capture?

    Have you focused your information capture and CRM on phone numbers? It's time you started capturing email addresses, social signals, and more to ensure that you are everywhere your potential clients are looking. In order to be top of mind, you need to reach out and touch your leads in a variety of ways.

    If you have been successfully using email marketing to promote your business, how can you use it more effectively? List building, segmentation, autoresponder sequences, design changes, conversion enhancements -- all of these should be part of optimizing an already successful strategy.

  • 7. How can we adjust the scale of our marketing, from the broad to the local or from the local to the national?

    It's no accident that the watchword for real estate is Location, Location, Location. Real estate is a uniquely local business, so optimizing for maximum online presence in the local market requires uniquely local search engine optimization and content designed to appeal to a local audience. This will help you reach buyers and sellers in your market, as well as those who are relocating to your market.

    Alternatively, you may be looking to develop a reputation that goes beyond your local market. Whether your goal is to become an influencer in the industry, a coach or author, or you simply wish to boost your income through a robust referral business, you'll need to be able to work with your digital marketing agency to target your message effectively.

2. Choose a Real Estate Marketing Agency That Meets the Needs You Have Identified

Now that you have identified the services and strategies that are uniquely suited to your marketing strategy, you are in a better position to compare the various full-service real estate digital marketing agencies available. Find out what they specialize in and what services they provide and see how they align with your real estate company's needs.

Take a look at the content the various marketing firms use to promote their own services and consider how well they are doing the job for which you're hiring them. There is no point in enlisting the services of a marketing agency that does not keep up with its own content or properly promote itself online and through social media.

Keep in mind that while you have identified elements that you think are important in promoting your real estate business, the agency you ultimately hire will come in with its own ideas about what you need to do and where you need to be online and in your social media marketing. Even as you keep in mind your own goals, be open to the strategies that they recommend, especially if they are supported by research and results.

3. Do Your Due Diligence on Your Real Estate Marketing Firms

Just as you would do with a lender, contractor, home inspector, or title company, it's up to you to do your homework when evaluating your various options for marketing services. Ask for references, check out testimonials, and look at the clients listed on their brag boards. See which of the digital marketing firms you're considering have been mentioned in the media and find out how influential they are in their industry.

If your digital marketing agency claims to be an expert in real estate, make sure that they have content and clients to back up that expertise. Some marketing agencies purport to be specialists while in truth they are generalists. A specialty marketing firm should be able to support their assertions with references and examples.

Remember, it's not enough to ask for references; you need to contact those references. In addition, contact some of the clients that are included in their marketing but are not included as references. Take a look at their clients' content, social media marketing platforms, and websites to determine the agency's level of expertise.

4. Know What Questions to Ask When Selecting a Marketing Agency

Once you have narrowed your search to a handful of agencies, it's time to start narrowing down even further with a few well-chosen queries. It's best to ask these questions in identical emails so that you have a written record of the responses and can clearly compare apples to apples as you proceed through the decision-making process.

  • How will you differentiate marketing my business and marketing my listings?

  • Can you provide samples of marketing campaigns you have done for real estate businesses like mine?

  • Are you working with any other real estate agents or brokers in my local market?

  • Will I have a particular person in charge of my account or do you work as a team?

  • Do you have a minimum time commitment in order to take on my account?

  • What is the minimum budget that you require in order to take on my account?

  • How often can I expect statistics and analytics from you?

  • Can I see an example of an analytics report?

  • How do you judge the effectiveness of a marketing campaign?

Some of these questions will be designed to give you a basis for comparison, while others may be deal breakers for you. For example, if a real estate marketing company is already working with one of your competitors in the local market, this may create an insurmountable conflict of interest that would keep you from choosing them.

When asking for specific materials, content, reports, and other items, keep in mind that purchased content is usually proprietary and some clients may object to its use in promoting the agency. However, the marketing firm should be able to provide some examples for you to review.

Another red flag to look for is content that does not sound like it was written by someone with an in-depth knowledge of real estate. Incorrect or out-of-date terminology or irrelevant topics may mean that the agency or its content creators are out of touch with the current real estate industry.

5. Submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to Your Selected Agencies

Now that you know something about how the digital marketing agencies on your short list work, you can submit a request for proposal (RFP) to your top candidates. This functions as a sort of written audition and allows you to gather information about a marketing firm's services and to share with them your goals, budget, timeline, and method for evaluating their proposed services.

Include the following information in your RFP and, again, send identical requests to all of your potential marketing agencies in order to facilitate a side-by-side comparison.

  • Your company name, contact information, and the individual to contact with questions.

  • Background information about you, your real estate business, and your current marketing strategies and platforms

  • Your goals for a new marketing initiative and the services you require

  • An estimate of when you plan to move forward with signing a marketing firm

  • Instructions for the submission of proposals, including timeline and required elements

  • A rubric of expected elements that make up an acceptable proposal

  • Any difficulties or limitations that might limit marketing effectiveness

  • Your proposed budget or budget range

You may want to work with your team or with colleagues to brainstorm what a successful proposal would look like or to come up with a wishlist of sorts. That will help you understand what you are looking for and to convey your goals and requirements to the digital marketing agencies you are evaluating.

Different clients will have different requirements at this stage. You may have an extensive list of must-dos and feel that any missing elements or a missed deadline should result in a disqualification for that agency. Others may have more flexibility in their requirements.

This is a good time for you to gauge how you will work with an agency should you decide to contract their services. If it is hard to get information from them at this stage, consider what it will be like to communicate with them long-term or after they have already secured your payment.

6. Respond With a Specific Task for Further Evaluation

Depending on your timeline and your budget, you may want to evaluate a small-scale example of your chosen agency's skill and effectiveness. This will help you make your decision with more confidence and can give you the opportunity to compare the potential of your various choices.

If the agencies you are considering provide a la carte services, choose one or two specific tasks and evaluate their effectiveness. You may want to set a time frame of three to six months in order to determine what the return on investment will be. These tasks could include:

  • Social media management for one or more platforms

  • Paid advertising including paid search, social media, or advertorial content

  • Content marketing, including blogs, infographics, or video content creation

  • Press release creation and distribution

  • Email marketing initiatives

  • Web design and development

  • Search engine optimization

At this juncture, you will be looking at a variety of markers to determine effectiveness, including the following:

  • How easy is the agency to work with?

  • How professional is the content they produce?

  • What kind of engagement do you get from their content?

  • What is the return on investment for their strategies?

  • How well can they demonstrate the effectiveness of their content or strategy?

  • How easy is it to ask questions? Discuss strategy? Make changes?

  • How streamlined is the order process? The billing process?

Use these standalone services to find out what it will be like to work with this agency on a larger scale. Remember, small frustrations over one task can turn into major problems when both the task and the budget are bigger.

7. Create an Effective Strategy for Communicating with Your Chosen Real Estate Marketing Agency

Once you have a good idea of what marketing agency you want to work with to develop your overall digital marketing strategy, open the lines of communication in order to get to know the team and give them a chance to get to know you as well. This communication can come in the form of a conference call, teleconference, or other virtual meeting.

Often, we get into the habit of trying to do everything through email and electronic communication, however sometimes a phone call can allow you to discuss questions, problems, or challenges and problem-solve more efficiently. In addition, developing a personal rapport helps each of you to be more invested in the professional relationship and in the results of your marketing plan.

If you have questions, concerns, or hesitations, these, too, will be easier to discuss up-front. Once you have worked together on an ongoing basis, a quick email or text may be sufficient for communication, but when the relationship is new, more in-depth discussions are often required.

Why This Search Process is Worthwhile

Working with a real estate digital marketing agency is a commitment of time, money, and energy. You may feel that undertaking a step-by-step process like this is more than you want to do, but consider the alternative:

  • Months of paid onboarding as you figure out how to work together

  • Months of trial and error as they figure out what you're looking for

  • Months of poor communication and frustration due to unrealized expectations.

Doesn't it make far more sense to do the work up-front, before you're under contract, and before you're paying month after month?

All of the time, money, and energy you'll put into a properly conducted search will come back to you in the form of effective marketing initiatives, more leads, more clients, and more homes sold. Remember, the goal is for you to work with your chosen marketing team for many successful years to come. Put in the work before you choose in order to make that possible.

Guides October 7, 2019
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