A COMPLETE GUIDE ON DIGITAL MARKETING FOR REAL ESTATE

JANEESH UTHUPPAN Director - Digital Strategy

Introduction

The foray of Digital Marketing into the real estate sector has seen a positive transformation in terms of clients being identified and projects being sold. Today, a vast majority of prospective home buyers are taking to the internet to do a thorough research before even trying to establish contact with real estate representatives.

This has resulted in brands having to dedicate time and resources towards developing an online presence. The key here is to understand that having an online presence doesn’t necessarily mean generating results. It has to be a mix of well-planned target audience outreach backed by reseach along with the understanding of how Digital Marketing platforms work. The Real Estate sector is one of the fastest growing markets in our country. The sector is the second largest employer and is estimated to touch 180 billion US$ by 2020 (http://www.ibef.org).

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Digital Marketing provides a scientific model for project developers to attract target audience with less investment. The key here is to provide information that is relevant and to the point, for potential customers to make an informed decision. Majority of mobile technology users have access to the internet. In today’s fast paced world, they are entirely dependent on the information shared by various online channels. For starters, you have Google and Bing which support your search based queries. Then you have channels like YouTube and Vimeo which share information in the form of videos to better connect with the audience. Platforms like Quora are also being utilized by many to find answers to questions they really care about with replies being posted from individuals who have first-hand knowledge specific to the query. A user with an intent to buy a house makes use of such channels to gather as much information as possible. If your brand is not making its presence felt on the web sphere, then the obvious route for the potential customer is to invest in the ones who do. This is where the different brands have to show their mettle, and to be really honest most are doing their best. A user’s journey before committing to a project is complicated. Nearly 60 percent of the decision is made just by research, and if his/her quest for information is better served by your digital assets, then you have an excellent chance of selling your product.

1Understanding A Home Buyer’s Journey

Real estate marketers have for long been concerned about the number of leads they can generate from a given activity. Often, this obsession with the volume of leads to be generated gets th em into a situation where their actions are effective but inefficient. What I mean by ‘inefficient’ is that the marketers often manage to achieve the targeted number of leads, but the sales team only manages to convert a small fraction into paying customers.This mismatch between the number of leads and the final achieved number of sales will always, if not most often, trigger a blame game between the real estate marketers and the sales team, each trying to justify their actions and outcomes.

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This issue can be rectified by understanding the behavior of prospects, or in general clients before they become leads. This goes a long way in helping marketers to increase the number of leads without compromising on the quality. The core concept a marketer needs to understand is the fact that buying a house is one of the most important decisions an individual or a family would make in their lifetime. A few of us have already gone through this journey and know how difficult it is to zero-in on the location, appropriate property and a trustworthy developer.

This resource is intended to give all the real estate marketers an understanding of the journey a prospect goes through before making a final decision. First, we will look at the two scenarios, one used in the past and the one currently being deployed, and their major talking points.

Previous Scenario

Until a few years back, folks who were trying to buy a house primarily depended on the following ways to connect with a vendor:

  • Word of Mouth: Talk to their relatives or friends and then connect with a company through referrals. This concept involved a prospect getting in touch and talking to their relatives or friends and based on their suggestions connect with a company. However, the whole approach was not based on any research but an association a vendor might have had with one of the relatives in the past. The suggestions or recommendations given by relatives or friends could be based on many aspects, and do not necessarily lead to an informed decision by a client looking to buy a house.
  • Traditional Advertisements: Referring to ads in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, hoardings and exhibitions among many others. The idea of creating an impression in the minds of clients was efficient until a few years back. This scenario has lost its sheen because of the large investment required to ensure its operational success. It’s still being followed by many vendors, but is no longer the only solution to achieve the goals targeted by any business in general.

Current Scenario

The digital medium, in its current form, has brought about a massive change in the way people think and the above-mentioned scenarios are no longer the threshold for real estate marketers to depend on. The digital medium has empowered people and given them a different option to make a decision not entirely dependent on Word of Mouth or Traditional ads. The new medium has given potential buyers a whole new perspective and also simplifies their journey towards becoming homeowners. A few of the advancements include:

  • Anonymously research information about a particular product or vendor – Individual now have the option to log-in to a website without revealing any information about themselves, hence keeping the whole privacy aspect in check.
  • The ability to chat directly with a representative of the vendor group to gather specific information which may not be available on their website.
  • To communicate directly with social network connections, mainly previous buyers, about their experience and procedures to be followed.
  • To gather an overall opinion about a particular vendor by visiting third party websites and reviewing their ratings/feedback.

The Different Stages A Lead Goes Through In The Real Estate Sector:

The digital transformation of marketing is giving more control to a prospect than the marketer. However, this challenge can be turned into an advantage if a marketer can understand the scenario and help a prospect by responsibly guiding the individual through the various phases of becoming a lead. Mentioned below the different stages a prospect goes through before making an enquiry with a particular vendor or interacting with their sales representatives.

Awareness – The Interest Stage

This is the initial stage where people become aware of their needs, issues, desires and opportunities with regards to buying a house. The job here for a marketer is to stimulate prospects in this state with messages and relevant campaigns to trigger interest in their product, by trying to address all their concerns.

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Discovery – The Qualification Stage.

The second stage involves the part where prospects are looking for solutions to their identified pain points. The core aspect to understand here is that prospects will dig into the various available options to solve their concerns. These can range from renovating their existing abode, renting, constructing a new house or buying a second-hand one or even buying a new house from a builder. A marketer dealing with folks in this stage must be able to address their concerns and advise them with the best possible solution to go with.

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Consideration – The Comparison Stage

At this stage, prospects have already made up their mind to address their concerns in a specific way – to buy a flat or villa for example. The job here is to prove that your offerings are the best when compared to other competitors. Differentiating your product with its services and benefits goes a long way in your company making it to the final shortlist of a potential lead. The point to be stressed here is that if marketers can successfully manage prospects in the initial two stages, then there is a real chance that they will stick with you during the Comparison Stage as well.

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Enquiry – The Connection Stage

The final stage is where a prospect is all set to connect with your brand. This stage mainly caters to the individuals who have already done their research and are ready to interact directly with a brand. Marketers now have to focus on ensuring that this final state of establishing a connection is straightforward and efficient. They’ll have to present the different options on offer to the prospect, share their contact details including email ID, office address, enquiry forms, live chat links and other options like contacting via WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Messenger, etc.

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Conclusion:

To conclude, it is imperative for one to understand that the entire duration of buying a house takes around 12 to 18 months. Earlier, prospects got to the final stage of becoming leads very early as the options to explore were limited. Today, consumers are curious and very cautious when it comes to engaging with a particular developer. They would go through all the information about the products on offer by a developer based on research and other metrics, and would only get in touch with a representative of a brand towards the latter stages of the journey.

In the following chapters, we will take a detailed look at how to efficiently manage prospects in each stage of their journey.

2Awareness Stage

If you are a real estate marketer, then you must understand that your efforts are measured by the quality of the leads acquired by various marketing activities. The Digital medium is today an unavoidable platform for marketers to generate quality leads for any new project. The fact is that the competition is getting tougher day by day and more projects are mushrooming with relatively similar features and competitive pricing structures. This makes it a really tough task for marketers to generate quality enquiries. The key for real estate marketers to overcome this dilemma is to understand the first stage of a lead, the Awareness level, and align your marketing activities accordingly.

understanding the awareness stage of a real estate lead

The ‘Awareness Stage’ is where a prospect goes through a phase of realization that he/she has to do something about a situation and this mainly happens in the form of a trigger event. A trigger event can be a thought or an outcome that may have an indirect link to housing. I have categorized the ‘triggers’ into four groups so that you’ll be able to understand the concept better. They are as follows:

Need

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The first part is where the aspect of ‘need’ comes into play. Prospects acting on need-based triggers could include people looking for a job-change or who have been issued transfers, individuals nearing retirement and looking to settle down, people who’ve been working abroad for a long time who feel the need to return home, the birth of a new child, having to bring home aged parents, etc.

Problem

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Every individual face problems in their life. It is a very generic but factual statement. Problems being faced by prospects which can be solved by the need for a new abode are mainly twofold – Issues being faced with the current rental home and/or commuting long distances to work on a daily basis. A real estate marketer needs to address these situation head-on by providing information to a prospect as to how his product/service can help alleviate these situations and ensure a better walk of life.

Opportunity

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The third factor within the awareness stage is that of Opportunity. A real estate marketer’s duty is to convince a prospect who may have received monetary gains, to invest in the sector. These may include individuals who received a promotion or increase in pay package, performance-based incentives, inheritance of parental wealth and/or economic development of a particular region, resulting in the generation for funds to invest. All these are opportunities a prospect may have got, but real estate marketers can turn it into an opportunity of their own by responsibly guiding a prospect towards the benefits of investing in the real estate sector.

Desire

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All of us have the desire for better and greater things to happen. A better lifestyle, pride and even wanting to be unique and different are all pointers for real estate marketers to turn into their advantage. The key is to understand what a prospect is going through and address the need based on responsible inputs.

The Awareness stage of a home-buying journey begins when a prospect experiences symptoms of a problem or need with regard to housing. Majority of the prospects at this stage are not ready to explore or address the situation immediately but try to gain as much knowledge and understanding of the pain or need they are currently experiencing.

One of the biggest mistakes marketers usually make at this state is to really push for a prospect’s attention towards their product. The rightful approach at this state is to design activities that can trigger a better understanding of their needs or requirements. The messaging, content delivery and other associated marketing activities should be focused towards helping prospective buyers navigate through the situation for which they are looking for answers.

Truly Be Helpful

Modern day marketing, that too in the digital domain, is all about guiding prospects from one stage of the buying process to the next. It is vital to keep in mind that during the initial stages of buying a house, prospects are mostly unaware of the need or opportunities associated with it. At this stage, there is no need for them to pay attention to any particular brand unless they offer to help them move forward in the process.

A real estate marketer has the opportunity to uncover specific pain points of a prospects by delivering valuable content with the aim of making them understand and realize their need or problem. A real estate marketer should whole-heartedly try to help a prospect. By doing this, an awareness about your product, service or company is indirectly being instilled in them, and this increases the chances of a prospect choosing you for the remainder of the journey.

3Discovery Stage

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the initial stage of a home buyer’s journey begins when a person becomes aware of his/her need or pain with regard to having a home of their own. Once the awareness is established, prospects progress towards a stage where they notice the various solutions that are provided in the respective market they are likely to purchase from.

Following are the 5 activities that real estate marketers can do to better reach the potential customers while they are in the ‘Discovery Stage.’

Build brand familiarity

The Discovery stage is an important phase where a real estate vendor can build brand familiarity. The idea is to help prospects navigate with enough information to make their journey easier. While providing information, the brand is being indirectly introduced as a trusted entity to prospective buyers. The brand connection that is made during this stage will give the marketer a clear edge with all the prospects in the ‘Consideration Stage (Chapther Four) where they start to compare different vendors.

Differentiate yourself

A marketer should understand that his/her counterparts have similar tools available to them to make their pitch to a lead using both traditional and digital platforms. As you are operating in an extremely competitive market, a lot of players will be offering products at almost identical rates and similar features. The challenge for real estate marketers at this stage is to clearly differentiate their brand and product/services from the competition.

Focus on solutions

The discovery stage is where prospective home-buyers actually start searching for solutions to their identified needs or opportunities. As a real estate marketer, your job at this stage is to give answers to their questions with regard to solutions, including your products.

Offer alternatives

It is very important to talk about multiple types of solutions as prospects have not yet decided to buy a product that you are trying to market. A prospect may need to relocate to a new city and in turn may realise the need for a new place to stay, but will consider multiple options such as sharing space with a relative, company guest house, renting a home, buying a second hand home or even building a new home if the relocation is of a long-term nature.

Guidance on support services

Prospective home-buyers have to deal with a lot of challenges in today’s turbulent economic climate. They have issues with reduced savings, loan eligibility, rising property rates, etc. Also, there is a lack of understanding about how to buy a good home in today’s market conditions without making a mistake. Prospects really appreciate genuine efforts from a brand to attend to the specific pain points in various areas like the ones mentioned above.

Conclusion

It may be tempting for real estate marketers to talk about their products, features and benefits whenever they interact with a prospect. Customers have more control and they are constantly searching for more information using digital channels. The best way to impress upon prospects at this stage is by being empathetic about the situation they are in – it may be a problem, an opportunity or a desire for a better living.

4Consideration Stage

When prospects reach the ‘Consideration Stage’ in their home buying journey, they have already made up their mind to go for a particular type of product available in the market, like a new flat or a villa. Their search for the perfect home takes shape at this stage.

Digital Marketing Approach: Aggressive Product Promotions

This is a stage where a prospect has started to give more attention to various direct and indirect product promotions happening in the market specific to a product type like an independent villa, gated community villa, etc. In addition to the passive listening of promotions, the prospect will also actively start engaging with various online channels to figure out a potential list of solution providers. The consideration stage is where today’s prospects would think about getting in touch with a few representatives from the vendor side to acquire more details.

Prospects will spend much of their time in comparing different vendors and shortlist few players to make a direct enquiry. Marketers have to quickly reach out to this audience who are in the process of shortlisting potential vendors. The aim for a marketer should be to ensure his/her brand gets included in the short-list of three or four vendors the prospect may have decided on. I have listed below top five channels that are suitable to target prospects who are in the consideration stage.

5 Digital Marketing Channels To Promote Real Estate

1) Paid Search Campaigns – Paid search campaigns or Search Engine Marketing are aimed at reaching people when they search for a particular product or service using major search engines such as Google, Bing, etc. Google has its Adwords platform and Microsoft operates the Bing Ads platform. There are many other search engines where we have opportunities to reach prospects depending on the market we operate. Both Adwords and Bing ads offer marketers sophisticated targeting capabilities to reach potential customers in a cost-efficient manner when compared to traditional marketing tools.

2) Paid Social Campaigns – Paid social campaigns or social advertisements are one of the fastest growing platforms in the digital marketing eco-system. Facebook operates its highly successful Facebook Ads platform along with additional capabilities to reach Instagram users, a network that’s owned by them. Marketers can also make use of Twitter ads, LinkedIn ads and many other social networks who have launched their own ad platforms in the recent past. Paid social marketing allows you to reach out to the audience based on broad categories of interest and demographics. Social ads are highly visual and have the power to persuade people to take action based on impulse.

3) Listings In Property Portals – Listing portals are very useful for people who are looking to narrow down their search for an abode based on particular locations with clear preferences. The wide variety of listings and filters to specify their preferences makes it easy for home buyers to zero in on a particular product for consideration. A marketer has to make sure that they are present on all relevant property sites while prospects are building their short-list.

4) Display Advertising – Prospects will be much more receptive to a visual presentation of solutions while in the process of shortlisting vendors to engage. For marketers, there are two types of options available at this stage. One option is to go with media websites relevant to their audience, for example news, entertainment, etc. Another option is using the display network of Google and audience network of Facebook to run targeted product promotions in visual formats.

5) Affiliate Marketing – Affiliates are partners who run complementary businesses vertically supporting brands in a specific sector. In the case of real estate projects, Chartered Accountants and other financial advisors can send your offerings to potential clients who are looking for options to invest in real estate. Banks who offer loans can be the next option. When deciding to buy a home, people might try to better understand their credit options in terms of bank loans or other financial assistance. Partnering with these institutions by offering a fee for each qualified lead can contribute a lot to your sales.

Conclusion

We have to understand that effective lead-nurturing is the cornerstone of making a sale in the digital world. Prospects who are in the consideration stage are highly valued as there is a increased level of buyer intent. The sole purpose of marketing activities targeted at people in this stage should be aimed at moving leads from consideration stage to a stage of Enquiry (Chapter Four) with your company.

5Enquiry Stage & Conclusion

For a real estate marketer, it’s always a major hurdle when it comes to getting a prospect to enquire about their projects. Traditionally, prospects used to get in touch with a sales agent early in the purchase funnel. Earlier, the practice was pretty straight forward. Prospects used to contact a representative after coming across an advertisement of the project(s). Here the marketer had more control in terms of sharing the project details alongwith other relevant data. Today, the scenario is different. Broader connectivity and extensive internet-based research options have given prospects a different medium to gather information without making any contact with a sales agent.

Digital Marketing Approach: Building Trust & User Experience:

This is a pretty complex stage for prospects. In this stage, they have already prepared a shortlist of vendors to choose from. The main objective for a marketer here is to get the prospect to reach out and contact a representative with confidence and convenience.

Building Trust

Any marketing activity to reach out to prospects at this stage should be based on projecting a level of trust that the client can resonate with. Openness and transparency are the prerequisites here. For example, a prospect would appreciate a company that shares information about the steps taken by them towards an efficient water and waste management system incorporated into one of their projects.

Trust can only be earned, it cannot be forced upon, and the willingness to think and communicate from the perspective of a potential customer is the easiest way to build trust in the mind of a real estate prospect.

Steps To Build Trust With A Prospective Client

Use the following elements as part of your marketing strategy to build confidence in the mind of a prospect:

1. Successfully completed projects
2. Real customer testimonials
3. Events on special occasions
4. Process of building projects
5. Details of quality standards being followed
6. Offer comparisons

User Experience:

A marketer should make sure that there are many ways for a customer to contact them. It will make sure that you don’t lose out on enquiries because of an inconvenience in not being able to get in touch.

By the time a prospect adds you to the shortlist of vendors to contact, it is clear that they have a level of confidence in your brand. A marketer should give utmost important to this stage and take steps that can minimize losing out on potential customers. A better user experience can be achieved by testing and experimenting options offered to the prospects. The key here is finding out their preferences with respect to the channels being used to reach them. Using the following methods effectively, one can help make the enquiry process more efficient and convenient for your prospects

Features To Implement For Convenient Real Estate Enquiry Process:

1 ) Enquiry Forms
2 ) Phone numbers and email addresses
3 ) Live Chat
4) Instant Messaging ( WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.)
5 ) Request Call Back
6 ) Inbound Calling ( Click to call)
7 ) Book a site visit

Conclusion:

It is very clear that today people can gather the basic project information through research conducted via various online channels. It is no longer required of a salesperson to repeat the same information that customers can consume digitally. Rather, a marketer should focus on adding value to the conversation by offering a unique perspective on the product.

Final Thoughts

Hope you had a great time reading this resource. The aim of this resource is to give an overall idea of the importance of Digital Marketing in the real estate sector. Traditional marketing strategies are slowly becoming obsolete and it’s time for real estate developers to look at the digital medium to increase their conversion with only a fraction of investment required when compared to traditional marketing protocols. Our expertise in the domain has seen us improve conversions of two major real estate brands in the country by over 100%. The casestudies for both can be accessed below. If you are a real estate developer, then feel free to reach out to us. We can help your brand reach the right customers and ensure a steady growth.

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