Case Study: Marketing A Brand New Real Estate Business Mid-Pandemic

I wanted to do a little something special for you to wrap up this nutty year.

So, throughout November, December and January, I’ll be sharing the behind-the-scenes of our 90-day Marketing Mentorship, by walking you through, step by step, what we’re working on with one of our clients.

Consider it my holiday gift to you – knowing that there will be at least ONE win from what I share that you can apply to your own business.

I’ll think you’ll particularly enjoy this peek behind the curtain because we’re building this client’s business from the ground up…it’s brand new.

It’s about 75% fun and 25% stressful. 😉

And you’ll get to hear about it all – the good, the bad and the ugly.

You pumped? I know I am.

So, let me start by setting the stage with a little context.

This client is currently working on starting a side hustle, due to some industry-wide changes outside her control (thanks pandemic) that affect her current career.

In an attempt to get ahead of what may be inevitable, she decided to take steps towards a career change in a booming industry in her local area…residential real estate.

Despite the 6 months of delays in getting her real estate license (testing centers were shut down for a while)…she eventually got the certifications required to start selling homes.

And, she found a local realtor to work under – a requirement for the first two years when you’re just starting out. They struck a great deal and have a stellar working relationship.

But, as this client shared with me before starting our work together, she was worried about the lead volume coming from the realtor and his marketing efforts…

… she wasn’t sure they would be enough to kickstart her new career nor create enough ongoing sales opportunities.

We did the math. And sure enough, a few leads a week was far from sufficient.

Especially when you considered the reality that MOST of these leads were far from sales-ready. Instead, they were just poking around and looking at nearby homes…but not necessarily ready or able to pull the trigger.

Plus, many of these leads were ghosting her even when she followed up week after week.

Remember when I said this was 25% stressful? Well, as a new real estate agent, my client was definitely feeling defeated.

And, due to a decline in income in her current career, she was looking for ways to increase lead volume without spending a ton of money on marketing. (However, she did have an abundance of time.)

So, we sat down and crafted a time-abundant / money-scarce marketing strategy together.

Where did we start?

By honing in on her target audience.

One of the big problems I saw right off the bat was that the realty firm was marketing to everyone and anyone who wanted a house. This approach makes it very difficult to stand out in a competitive market.

Plus, we were hedging our bets on two things when choosing this target market:

(1) Homeowners in the area were selling their properties to move to neighborhoods with more space during the pandemic.

We wanted a neighborhood that homeowners were leaving, so there were more opportunities to act as a seller’s agent, instead of a buyer’s agent.

Why?

If you sell a home for someone, you often can then act as their buyer’s agent for the next home they purchase. It’s frequently a two-for-one deal.

The major city this agent is located in has more buyers than homes available for sale. It’s literally a bloodbath and prospective buyers are resorting to higher-than-asking cash offers right now.

It’s going to be hard for my client to compete as a buyer’s agent. But if she’s acting as a seller’s agent, well…what a great role to play in facilitating the best deal possible.

(2) The neighborhood is one of the hottest spots in the city, in spite of the pandemic.

Most of the best restaurants, entertainment, watering holes, and culture are in this neighborhood.

We hope (yes, we’re experimenting) that demand to live in this area will stay strong, now and post-Covid.

Plus, the neighborhood has a strong identity that locals resonate with. We could leverage this in our marketing assets.

And so, with decisions about my client’s target market made, we were off to the races!

Truly, everything in marketing becomes 5,000 times easier (that’s a scientific number 😉), when you have a very specific target market because it informs ALL of your marketing strategy and assets.

(Our client is building a residential real estate business, from the ground up.)

And once we honed in on her target audience, it was time to craft a short-term lead generation plan.

Really, we were looking to answer the question:

How can we get you in front of your target audience as quickly as possible?

Remember, this client basically has zero local network to lean on AND no one knows who she is or about her business.

So, our initial work was twofold:

1. Getting in front of hot, qualified leads – anyone within the target audience who may be looking to sell their home in the 1-3 months

2. Building brand awareness – getting her name + services in front of her target audience who may not yet be ready to take next steps, but will be in the future

Because we were so specific with my client’s target market, we knew EXACTLY where the qualified leads lived…basically all homeowners within a 10-mile radius of her neighborhood of focus.

And the easiest way to get in front of them was using an offline marketing channel – direct mail.

We put together a print brochure, explaining exactly who my client was and how she could help her target market.

We made sure the copy spoke directly to her ideal client and focused on their needs, wants and desired outcome (selling their home for top-dollar).

Buying or selling a home can be a scary and intimidating process…especially because it’s likely one of the largest financial transactions you’ll make in your lifetime. With over 10 years of experience in commercial and residential construction, I know how to save you time and money, whether you’re buying or selling. It’s my duty to help you avoid costly oversights to get you the most bang for your buck.

And, we went with a personal approach, one that put human connection at the forefront of the marketing copy…instead of the traditional, stuffy and anonymous approach you see from most real estate agents.

My family and I have been living in {{Neighborhood Name}} for over 5 years, and we instantly fell in love with the vibrant neighborhood. When we aren’t working, we can typically be found exploring the new restaurants and businesses in the area.

As you can see in the above copy, we also focused on the client’s love of the neighborhood and focus on supporting the local community.

We also included some social proof, to help build trust, by referencing the client’s real estate team.

The real estate team I work with, the {{Team Name}}, has been a top 1% producer for the past 2 years at {{First Name}} (over 1,500 agents). We are also a top-rated team on Zillow with 5/5 stars.

Last but not least, we included a call-to-action, wanting to make it easy for a hot lead to contact my client by providing texting options as well.

If you are looking to buy or sell a home in or around {{Neighborhood Name}} and want an agent who has local knowledge and construction experience, then please give me a call, shoot me a text or send me an email. I’d love to work with you to find your new home or sell your current one!

The total cost of printing and mailing these brochures was just under $1,000. And, it got my client in front of 3,700 local homeowners – for approximately $0.27 a homeowner.

The jury’s still out on how many leads and sales this effort generates for my client at the time of writing this. (We just printed materials and the post office is currently delivering them.)

However, as far as marketing efforts are concerned, this is fairly inexpensive considering we’re getting the client in front of so many highly qualified leads, so quickly.

In my next update to this case study, I’ll dive into our long-term lead generation strategy.

A quick tangent about branding

As you know, the client in this behind-the-scenes case study is building a residential real estate business, from the ground up.

Which means that ZERO branding existed when we started working together. No logo, no color palette, no typography, no website…zilch, nada, nothing!

And of course, when you (and the many other business owners that read these emails) saw that we started a direct mail initiative to generate leads quickly…

…all I heard was: “But wait, how did you brand these flyers? Did you have a logo? Don’t skip over that part of the process!”

So, allow me to explain.

When I took this client on, because they were creating a brand new business, I had THE TALK with them.

I said something along the lines of:

“Look, I know you don’t have branding in place. And, you aren’t hiring me to work on your branding. You’re hiring me to help you with your marketing – to create a short and long-term lead generation strategy for your business – so more people buy and sell houses from you.

There ARE going to be some pieces of branding we need to move forward. But to be honest, these aren’t very important in the beginning and really aren’t going to make or break your marketing.

So, I WILL help you get the branding basics in place – a logo + some colors and fonts we can use for your marketing assets. BUT you have to promise me to be ok with doing this quick and dirty style. It will be pretty enough and it will look professional.

I WILL NOT spend weeks (or even days) agonizing over every detail of your brand. You have to accept that it won’t be perfect and you have to accept that this does not matter in the long run. You are not Coca Cola. Or Apple. Nor do we want to blow your non-existent marketing budget on expensive branding when we have higher priorities to tackle.

Save the expensive branding for later, when you’re rolling in so much money that you don’t know how else to spend it on your business.

So, if you agree to this, we can work together.”

Yup, that’s basically how it went. And fortunately, the client was on board.

In short, yes, we did create a logo, brand colors and fonts to use for all of the client’s marketing assets. We did not spend a lot of time or money on then. And THIS is how we created a professional-looking piece of direct mail that would stand out among spammy flyers you get in your mailbox.

I skipped over this piece of the marketing process, to be quite frank, intentionally.

Why? Because I find too many new (and long-time) business owners get overly caught up in their branding.

While professional + good design can make a difference in first impressions, 90% of your marketing efforts and budget should not be spent on branding.

In fact, I was so curious about this branding vs. marketing focus, that a year ago, I reviewed every single client that I’ve worked with over the past 9.5 years.

And guess what I found?

17.67% of the companies we had ever worked with up to that point in time were no longer in business.

Now, if you’re sitting there wondering: “Why on earth would Lauren tell us that ANY of her past clients went out of business…let alone almost 18%?”

I hear you. And there IS a method to my madness.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of businesses fail within 10 years. So while our 17.67% was a small number compared to the average business failure rate, I still wanted to get a better understanding for why some of our clients’ businesses did not survive.

And, when I dug deeper into which companies went out of business, there was a common thread on the marketing side of things:

ALL of these companies thought “beautify-ing” their online marketing assets was the end-all-be-all to their marketing.

Does this sound familiar? It’s what so many businesses do, because conventional wisdom has been to “build it and they will come”.

So these clients focused most, if not all, of their efforts on branding and not enough on generating leads for their business.

While I’m sure there were many factors leading to the demise of these companies, I strongly believe prioritizing design over marketing and sales was a leading contributor.

Ok, now that my branding rant is over 😉, in my next update to this case study, I’ll dive into our long-term lead generation strategy.

Have questions about this case study? Comment below this post, and I’ll reply to you shortly.

Bixa Media Secret Sauce

Marketing That Generates

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