It’s true that a big idea doesn’t always need a big budget, but a healthy marketing budget is an important key to success for real estate pros. Unfortunately, that budget could take a hit when sales are slow and inventory is low, so you should always have a plan in place for marketing on a lesser dime.
Kristin McFeely, a Realtor and team leader with Philly Home Girls Real Estate in Philadelphia, a real estate team with Coldwell Banker Preferred, has built a model based on outside-the-box marketing.
“Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune,” she said. “Remember, when you buy the leads, those are people who want a real estate agent. But when you cultivate good local content and deliver a consistent message, those people actually want you.” She offered the crowd at Inman Connect New York 10 tips on how to market on a budget.
1. Build a great website
McFeely considers her team’s website as more of a digital storefront rather than a place to host online real estate listings. Their site features a warm introduction and tons of stories about clients and neighborhoods. And the best part? It was built on Squarespace, so it’s very inexpensive.
2. Make your email newsletter unique
Instead of studying her competition in real estate, McFeely looked at what travel blogs and retailers were doing with their email newsletters. They use MailChimp as an inexpensive way to send out a fun and informative newsletter with proprietary content, rather than a list of links. “We want to invite potential clients to actually read what we have to say,” she said.
3. Tell home stories
One of the most unique aspects of the Philly Home Girls website is the “Home Stories” section. “People are always interested in what other people are doing,” McFeely said. “For better or worse, HGTV has made the homebuying process entertainment.”
Whether it’s a major renovation, or someone who just purchased a unique new home, McFeely is always looking for buyers to highlight. For sellers, the stories are actually part of the selling process — they even include it in their listing presentation.
“We talk to [the homeowner] about their favorite things about the home, and neighborhood,” McFeely said. The cost of the photographer and time spent crafting these stories is minimal compared to the return, she added.
4. Tell stories about your community
The home story format was expanded further into “maker stories,” which tell the stories of the local community and businesses. McFeely says they pride themselves on being a small business, so they’re always looking for unique partnerships with businesses outside the real estate community.
For example: they’ve partnered with a bar to host an event for their clients, and they teamed up with a local jewelry maker to host a pop-up shop at an open house in a loft.
5. Make open houses worthwhile
According to McFeely, an open house should showcase potential lifestyle opportunities and create awareness and buzz. One time, McFeely was marketing two homes in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, and the properties had uniquely large backyards — a rarity in the city. Instead of a traditional open house, they hosted an evening event on a fall night, with a fire pit, twinkling lights and a pumpkin beer tasting.
By the end of the night, they sold one of the homes to a family who envisioned the backyard as a perfect gathering space for friends and family. “For the expense of a few cases of beer, some lights at Target and about an hour in the kitchen, we put on an event that make an impact and ultimately a sale,” McFeely said.
6. Partner with other agencies for referrals
Most agents regularly rely on their referral network in one way or another, but are they maximizing its potential? After purchasing a lakefront home in the Poconos for weekend getaways, McFeely said she started to get a ton of inquiries from friends and co-workers about doing the same. That’s when she reached out to the Realtor she used in the Poconos and they decided they’d both put a referral link to the other on their respective websites.
It wasn’t cutting directly into McFeely’s business because she doesn’t list properties in the Poconos, and vice versa. It was no cost to either agent and on last count, she’s gotten five referrals from her partner in the mountains.
7. Follow-up for the review
“Yelp reviews add credibility to your business and people love to read what other people have to say,” McFeely said. Her agency makes sure to follow up with clients after doing business to thank them and encourage them to leave a good review.
8. Explore the neighborhoods
In a city like Philadelphia, each neighborhood has its own vibe, so McFeely and her team decided to collect all of their “maker” and “home stories” and group them by neighborhood. In addition to linking potential customers to the stories, each neighborhood story features a write up about the history of the area and the architectural style of the homes.
9. Send direct mail
You can get a lot of value out of sending direct mail, according to McFeely. Her team has turned the process on its head a bit by sending targeted mail to prospective buyers — as opposed to canvassing owners and potential sellers — introducing them to different neighborhoods and sharing seller stories.
10. Build a social media presence organically
McFeely rarely pays for a social media campaign. Instead, she tries to make connections on a personal level. By just being herself, she’s found that engagement is high and she’s built relationships through social networks like Instagram that have actually lead to sales.