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Content + community marketing, media and the real estate industry

Machine learning + the great CRM integration

Machine learning + the great CRM integration

Customer relationship management platforms are amazingly powerful and increasingly central to everything real estate agents do. That's why there's a glut of them in the market -- Contactually, Follow Up Boss, Top Producer, Chime, Firepoint, Wise Agent, BoomTown, Commissions Inc. (CINC), Kunversion.

I wrote about BoomTown, CINC, Chime and Firepoint five months ago during Inman Connect San Francisco as representatives of the burgeoning IDX website-CRM-marketing integration real estate software space. It's huge -- merging user-behavior information with a CRM that spotlights leads likely to transaction based off this data makes agents more focused and efficient.

Many of these CRMs are building in the ability to track where leads come from, conversion rates for specific lead sources and potential ROI for each channel spend. That's a huge promise but still appears to be mostly smoke, as firms have yet to really deliver on that promise. (If you're one of these companies, reach out, I'd love to dive in and profile you). 

As the engines that convert leads, CRMs are a core aspect of content marketing and brokers and agents are gaining access to more and more sophisticated tools that turbocharge them.

Machine learning + integration

Two companies that jumped out at me this Connect include First and Brytecore -- they're building out analytics platforms baked with machine learning that can be integrated with other CRMs and websites. Machine learning refers to algorithms designed to "teach" themselves to become more accurate over time with the help of training data and feedback loops.

First hit the scene in June 2016 at Realogy's FWD Innovation summit where it took runner-up in the pitch competition. The firm recently (and wisely) eschewed becoming a full-fledged CRM in the interest of doubling down on its core competency: a machine learning-powered predictive analytics algorithm baked with public and other data that pinpoints the homeowners in an agent's farm most likely to sell in the next year. It has a 25 percent success rate, according to First CEO Mike Schneider.

The firm plans to integrate with CRMs and other systems to power predictive insights. This week, the CRM Contactually announced an integration with First. These integrations are powerful for First, but API syncs take much longer than I thought -- about two weeks, according to Schneider.

Brytecore, a tech firm spun out of Atlanta-based brokerage Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers in 2014, has also decided on developing a partner-agnostic platform powered by a machine learning algorithm. Brytecore, which works with brokerages, tracks user behavior from a website, CRM or app and notifies agents when a lead's behavior indicates that he or she is ready to transact. The firm's machine learning algorithm has been trained on four years of real estate website user data, Brytecore CEO Eddie Krebs told me.

The decision by both firms to integrate instead of build out full-featured CRMs featuring their standout tech illustrates one trajectory for industry tech -- best-of-breed and niche products patchworked into powerful platforms. Integration limitations, pricing and multiple-vendor challenges remain hurdles with this possibility, but it should hearten brokers to know they can boost their digital strategies with powerful tech offerings like these.

Inside Outbrain: content marketing is about distribution

Inside Outbrain: content marketing is about distribution

Editor's note: Sorry for the unplanned break from the blog. I've been focused on my duties as managing editor of the Swanepoel T3 Group. The last few months have been consumed with editing and preparing the Swanepoel Trends Report (release date: Feb. 1, 2017), an in-depth report analyzing the huge trends that will shape residential real estate for the foreseeable future, and the Swanepoel Power 200 (release date: Jan. 9, 2017), the definitive ranking of the most powerful leaders in residential real estate.

Great content is gold, getting it seen is diamonds raining from the sky.

Distribution is hard and expensive. If a new post hits the blog forest, and stays there, it doesn't make a sound. Ask any publisher, Facebook has them in a stranglehold -- you have to spend money to get content seen. If you're a media company and want to grow audience on the platform, you're paying for Page likes, too.

Facebook is a great option, and comes with a regular tithe, and email marketing is also effective, but, if you're like me, you protect your inbox like a castle guard, spear in hand -- a tough barrier to crack.

I've been writing about the power of real estate content marketing -- I help firms and agents devise and execute smart strategies around it -- and distribution is always a tricky beast.

Platforms like Outbrain and Taboola offer one compelling solution. They sell ad space to content marketers on popular sites across the internet including CNN, ESPN, People, USA Today, Wired, and Condé Nast (they each manage their own distinct network of sites). When readers on these sites click a sponsored link, they go to the post on the advertisers' own sites.

These services are part of the sponsored content media revolution, which allows struggling newspapers and magazines to rake in ad dollars in new ways. As opposed to display ads, these "sponsored content" engines advertise marketers' editorial content, leverage the trust (and eyeballs) professional media firms build and foster. 

As distribution becomes trickier amid the blaring noise of content, these sites offer a compelling way to grow audience and get specific pieces of content seen by a wider audience.

Inside Outbrain

Outbrain head of sales (western U.S.) Brandon Bergmark (husband of real estate's wonderful Vanessa Bergmark, owner of Oakland, California-based Red Oak Realty and a prominent industry player) broke his firm's product down for me recently.

Outbrain leverages cookies, the powerful (and a little creepy) internet ad reality, to serve up links to readers they may be more likely to click based on the online content they recently viewed. Typically, these links show up on websites accompanied by a note such as "From our sponsors" or "Recommended by Outbrain").

Outbrain sponsored stories on CNN.com's tech page.

Outbrain sponsored stories on CNN.com's tech page.

The 10-year-old firm allows its clients to geo-target readers by country, state, demographic market area (DMAs generally map to metro boundaries) and ZIP code. When readers click on an Outbrain-sponsored link, they access the article on the advertiser's site.

Outbrain's service comes in two flavors: a self-serve option with a minimum spend of $10 per day and an Outbrain-managed option at much higher price points. Outbrain clients have access to a backend dashboard that helps them manage their campaigns and analyze their performance, including click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates and spends. 

The firm works on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, charging clients only when a reader clicks through to their content. Users set the maximum they want to spend for each click and the max they want to spend per day. CPC amounts determine how often content shows up, as the cost is market-driven -- campaigns with higher CPC thresholds will show up more often on partner sites.

Marketers can place multiple articles under one campaign. Initially, Outbrain will showcase all articles equally, but over time its engine will increasingly feature only the best-performing ones. The platform also allows users to test multiple headlines and images for each article, helping them select the most effective ones.

Outbrain does more than just generate traffic, Bergmark said. Users can define what constitutes a "conversion" within the platform, which helps optimize campaigns. Users can define conversion events in a variety of ways including when a lead submits a form, a thank you page comes up, readers scroll to the bottom of an article, spend X number of seconds on the page or spend X seconds watching a video. 

What this means

Outbrain and Taboola are great options to kickstart a campaign, highlight positive company news and grow and establish an audience for a content marketing site. Given the broad audiences they reach, they fit best with well-designed content marketing strategies, which have clearly defined audiences and engaging high-quality content.

Schedule a free consultation to find out HageyMedia can help you design a smart content marketing playbook.

How to be digital mayor of your town, 7 insights

How to be digital mayor of your town, 7 insights

Four years ago, the small business client engagement software maker Groove was languishing. That's when it turned to content marketing, and saw website traffic, and revenue, grow.

Groove chief marketing officer Len Markidan broke his firm's content marketing strategy down at Curaytor Excellence, the annual conference for real estate tech and marketing firm, Curaytor, a great HageyMedia client. 

Content marketing is much more than just content. It's having a full-spectrum strategy from content planning to distribution to measurement.

Markidan outlined how Groove got scientific with content and started winning, in seven steps:

1) Groove created a blog unrelated to its product. Instead it focused its blog on its own growth journey. "SaaS startup's journey to $100K per month." Bottomline: all but your hottest prospects, don't care your business, but they do care about their daily lives. 

2) Was smart about blog topics, culling them from its clients and prospects, and also from vibrant online community's like Reddit. 

In email marketing to its sphere it included one line to elicit topic ideas: "Could you answer one quick question for me? What are you struggling with high now? I’d love to help." The responses guided the topics the firm wrote about it. You can imagine they resonated.

3) Got savvy about promotion. The firm leaned heavily into influencer marketing, which is tricky. It tested 40 different scripts to elicit participation from influencers. The one that worked ended up being a combo of a form letter and a personalized note. 

The winning message addressed something about the person's recent work and how it influenced the firm's thinking on something. Then it asked for feedback on the blog post, with the question: "Mind if I send you a link?"

There were three outcomes, Markidan said: 

  • No response.
  • Send along actual feedback, which was cool and share.
  • No feedback, but shared the post.

The key was making the influencer feel a part of the process, Markidan said. That entices them to share.

4) Gave away targeted free materials, like proven scripts it was using. It drove newsletter signups with a savvy trick. It presented the newsletter info before the registration, but it was an image. Users had to register to get a PDF version that they could copy and paste.

5) Got clever with emails. Markidan used an example. It did a blog post on Groove's experience with a business coach. On first send to its database, it had a 28.88 percent open rate. It decided to send it again, with a new headline, to the portion of its list that didn't open it the first time. This won a 24.08 percent open rate. Same email, just tweaked the headline.

6) Practiced COPE, create once publish everywhere. The firm got triple-mileage from every post. “20 biggest myths about building a business” blog post became a Slideshare presentation and an infographic.

7) Focused on story. By weaving story into its blog posts, it tripled the number full-page reads on its posts. Instead writing a post mechanically, it told a story. I.e., “I remember the worst day at our firm clearly. The leadership team was sitting around the conference table when our chief technology officer’s brow furrowed and face lightly reddened as he typed away at his computer, muttering ‘this has never happened before.’”

Groove tested posts. Those with stories like the above had 296 percent more full-page reads and 520 percent increase in time on page as compared to articles without story.

Get methodical and scientific about your content strategy and you will see the same results. Reach out to HageyMedia for help.

Real estate content marketing guru Marguerite Giguere spills her secrets

Real estate content marketing guru Marguerite Giguere spills her secrets

Tacoma, Washington, real estate agent Marguerite Giguere knows content marketing.

Her site MoveToTacoma.com, which houses blog posts and podcasts, accounts for 75 percent of her real estate revenue, thanks to the caring-filled rich community content she consistently publishes on it.

If real estate brokers or agents doubt content marketing's efficacy, or don't know quite what the practice is, Giguere's a good person to ask. And so we did.

Her answers below market the latest edition of HageyMedia's "What is content marketing" interview series. See others in the series: New Jersey broker Joe Rand, Seattle agent team leader Kim Colaprete and Seattle broker Sam DeBord.

Get in touch with HageyMedia to learn how to do the same for you business!

Giguere's best-performing piece of content of all time is a blog post written by a client.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a way of taking all of your knowledge, wisdom and wit and putting it out there to work, to reach people without them having to contact you. Ideally, it attracts the clients you love best.

What content do you frequently produce? (i.e. blog posts, podcasts, videos)

I do about four to five original blog posts per month, 25 or so podcasts per year, and four to five produced videos per year on my website MoveToTacoma.com. I'm hoping to do an entirely new video series starting this fall, but I'm making myself finish 20 more neighborhood pages first!

Who’s your audience?

I write content for people living in Tacoma (The City of Destiny!) and people thinking about moving to Tacoma.

What are your goals? Why do you do it?

MoveToTacoma.com is designed to attract readers who are community-oriented, people who want to know everything about what's happening in Tacoma. I have reached the limit of what I am able to sell as an individual agent (sans nervous breakdown) so MoveToTacoma is designed to show my community that I'm trustworthy and available to matchmake them with a great agent.

This is my way of growing my business without doing the traditional team model and has been successful much faster than I expected. I do my best to help people navigate our dicey rental environment for free.

How do you measure content marketing success (if you do)?

Content marketing success normally takes kind of a while. So there are two phases, right? The first phase is people clicking on your article and then staying on the page long enough to read it.

Google Analytics can tell you if this is happening. Likes when you share your content on Facebook are great, but comments are better. Once people start publicly questioning or disagreeing with you, you know you've really arrived.

Phase two is people actually reaching out to you based on your content. I know a lot of people think this is difficult to track or amorphous, but really it isn't.

"I heard your podcast about the Fircrest Neighborhood and now I want to move there. Can you help me choose an agent?" Or "I read your blog post about the lady that sold her house in Seattle and moved to Tacoma, I want to do this, what are my next steps?" I get emails like these multiple times per week.

What’s content marketing done for you, your business?

The first four years or so I was in the business I was always wondering where deals were going to come from. It all seemed so mysterious. And all the ways people talked about generating a steady stream of clients just seemed so ... douchy.

I learned about “personal marketing” (having a personal brand) from real estate marketing guru Hobbes Herder and then saw Miami agent Inez Hegedus Garcia and prominent real estate agent and Inman News columnist Teresa Boardman on a panel at NAR in 2008 and it all came together in my head.

Like, I realized you can just tell the truth about your business and community and people will find it, read it (or watch it, or listen to it) and decide for themselves if you are the agent for them.

This has been my plan ever since -- working by attracting great (willing!) clients instead of hunting and killing them.

So far in 2016 (through August 9) I've had 25 people reach out via text or contact form on the website to ask about selling their house and 55 people reach out about buying. Twelve of those listings have closed so far, and 43 buyers have closed so far. Based on last year’s numbers, 50 percent of the people who reach out on the website will close escrow within 12 months. Obviously, the selling season is fading, but so far inquiries remain steady.

Screen shot of a MoveToTacoma.com Google Analytics screen showing the site's best-ever performing content, the blog post, "Why I Sold My House in Seattle and Moved to Tacoma." It captured over 9,400 unique visitors.

Screen shot of a MoveToTacoma.com Google Analytics screen showing the site's best-ever performing content, the blog post, "Why I Sold My House in Seattle and Moved to Tacoma." It captured over 9,400 unique visitors.

What’s been your best-performing piece of content?

The most popular piece of content of all time on the MoveToTacoma.com site is a post I didn't even write. My client wrote it for me. In fact, she ASKED to write it for me. It's called, "Why I Sold My House in Seattle and Moved to Tacoma."

It has had more than 10,000 pageviews, and people stayed on the page for an average of five minutes and three seconds, which is actually long enough to read the whole thing. It's been shared a lot, debated a lot and (clearly) read a lot.

So far this year the most popular post is "How to Open a Successful Bar in Tacoma," which is a podcast interview I did with an amazing woman who has opened a successful bar and another successful restaurant in Tacoma. I think a lot of people have this dream, so listening to her story is really inspiring.

Mor Zucker, The Denver Ear and the real estate content marketing long play

Mor Zucker, The Denver Ear and the real estate content marketing long play

The Denver-focused community website The Denver Ear attracts approximately 140,000 readers each month.

It’s not a local journalism site, but a content marketing play by Denver real estate agent Mor Zucker. That might not be clear at first glance.

Zucker focuses nearly all of her content on topics other than real estate: a compilation of the city’s best haunted houseswhat to do with kids on upcoming weekendsspotlights on local favorites.

The homepage features a faint glimmer of real estate branding. On mobile, Zucker’s real estate logo shows up at the bottom of the page. On article pages it shines a little brighter, with a call to action at the bottom of each post. (see the image below).

Thanks to Zucker’s original, high-quality content her light touch leads to an average of five buyer clients each month.

Hoodline, local journalism + real estate content marketing

Hoodline, local journalism + real estate content marketing

It’s been well-chronicled. The long death-rattle of local journalism has opened an immense opportunity for real estate brokerages and agents, to, as media luminary Gary Vaynerchuck implored the crowd at Inman Connect in August, become the digital mayors of their towns.

That’s starry-eyed counsel. Media and publishing isn’t easy, but, when done well and with the right commitment, it bears more fruit than persimmon trees in late summer. And takes about as long from inception to start bearing. (For a flavor of the required commitment: see Marguerite GiguereDustin OldfatherNest Realty).

That’s where San Francisco hyperlocal media startup Hoodline comes in -- it offers a plug-and-play rich local media solution for both brokerages and agents (just in San Francisco for now).

By collecting and chopping up vast amounts of local data, cultivating a broadening set of local tipsters and working with local, freelance content producers, Hoodline is building out what it hopes is the future of local journalism, and allowing brokers and agents to house it on their sites for a subscription fee.

Nest Realty + content = trust

Nest Realty + content = trust

Jonathan Kauffmann, broker-owner of Charlottesville, Virginia-based Nest Realty, found an answer to a big question.

Zillow and realtor.com offer consumers world-class real estate search platforms and massive brokerages and franchisors cultivate recognizable brands with national marketing campaigns. What’s a small, regional brokerage to do?

It’s a question many real estate leaders stare down nowadays -- if the big boys have tech and brand, how do you stand out?

The answer to that question defines marketing, and Kauffmann’s 8-year-old, 110-agent firm lit on it early: a fixed focus on high quality -- agents, brand, service.

Colin Kaepernick, protest & content marketing

Colin Kaepernick, protest & content marketing

San Francisco 49er backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick is spearheading a national conversation with his bold, some would say foolish, decision to not stand for the national anthem before his team's NFL games. 

It started with a sit-down during an Aug. 26 pre-season game anthem and evolved into a kneel (a better look) at the team's next game Sept. 1. Kaepernick backed up his provocative actions at that time by pledging $1 million to organizations that help alleviate racial inequality. 

Other NFL players, and at least one pro soccer player, have joined him in demonstrating during national anthems before their team's games.

What does this have to do with content marketing?