The emerging real estate content marketing age

If SEO and search engine marketing dominated the early real estate digital era, content + digital marketing are quickly becoming the kings of real estate’s maturing internet age.

Former ZipRealty exec Lane Hornung sees this just like he saw the early internet revolution in real estate. Zavvie, which bakes content with digital marketing on neighborhood-focused Facebook pages and WordPress websites, is his answer for the modern age.

Lane Hornung

Lane Hornung

Over a Rowdy Mermaid in downtown Boulder, Colorado, Hornung, a founding ZipRealty exec who was with the firm from 1999 to 2002, recounted how he and his former colleagues once whiteboarded how they would buy Re/Max in those heady days of real estate’s proto-digital era.

That plan obviously didn’t see the light of day. Tech-focused brokerage ZipRealty did, however, ride a smart internet lead-gen system built on SEO and search engine marketing to a 2004 IPO and national prominence before foundering and being acquired by Realogy in 2016 for $166 million. The firm lives on as Realogy’s tech hub, ZapLabs.

Hornung returned to Boulder (where he received his MBA in 1997) in 2002 and ran a successful Re/Max team and co-founded COhomefinder.com, one of the most popular real estate sites in Colorado in the mid-2000s. The rise of the Zillow powerhouse (co-founded by one of his Stanford classmates, Rich Barton) eventually sapped that site’s juice.

Seeing the times were a’changin, Hornung founded 8Z Real Estate in 2009. The brokerage now has 16 offices, 143 agents and 30 staff spread along Colorado’s Front Range with an agent high-production philosophy anchored by a three-part marketing strategy: sphere, internet and farm.

The latter showed so much promise that Hornung and another ZipRealty alum, Stefan Peterson, who joined Hornung at 8Z in 2012, raised seed money and spun it off in 2015 as Zavvie.

Zavvie emerged from 8Z’s business because of Hornung and Peterson’s recognition that the golden internet-centered lead-gen wave of the mid-aughts to early teens -- when the ability to net boatloads of leads using search engine marketing and SEO was, in Peterson's words, "like shooting fish in a barrel" -- was waning.

Farm marketing

Zavvie, like the recent explosion of Facebook-focused marketing businesses and blog posts, is another piece of evidence showing real estate’s evolution from lead-gen to content marketing. We’re not totally there, but soon content marketing will be by far the most cost-effective way to bring in warm leads who know and respect you and are ready to convert.

That’s the whole point around Zavvie (and what drives HageyMedia): create content, form relationships and win business.

While SEO and internet lead-gen have been effective, farm marketing is the way most top-producing real estate agents do business, Peterson said. Zavvie brings traditional farm marketing online.

Zavvie stitches together the two core components of any real estate agent content marketing strategy: a Facebook page and a gated website.

Zavvie subscribers get access to a community-specific Facebook page, which Zavvie stuffs with content (currently with Shareable Social and Sprout Social content, but in April it’s bringing content creation in house) and features the subscriber's head shot. It boosts specific posts, about one each week.

Certain Facebook posts link back to corresponding community WordPress sites. Currently visitors don’t need to register with their contact info to access to the site, but they will in April.

See the Zavvie process in action for its territory of Troutman Park in Fort Collins, Colorado. (Peterson says the firm is in the process of revamping the design for the websites, which should go live in April). See the Facebook page here and website here.

Zavvie owns the Facebook pages and WordPress sites, so subscribers are just renting them, but if they leave Zavvie, they can take the lead info they generated with the sites with them.

The firm sells territories of approximately 2,000 homes, which can be a neighborhood, ZIP code or town, depending on the number of homes located in the area.

Zavvie co-founder and chief operating officer Stefan Peterson breaks down his startup's vision, subscriber content strategy.

Currently, the service, which is available nationally, has approximately 200 users (all 143 8Z agents and over 50 others). When Zavvie gets a new subscriber in a new territory it builds a Facebook page and website for the community and then starts feeding them content.

Zavvie primarily feeds the Facebook posts and subscribers usually post the website content. The firm is rolling out market update videos soon, Peterson said.