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.
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.
A lot of eyes glaze over when the word "marketing" pops up, mine included, especially before I shifted from the journalism side of things and began exploring the dark arts of content marketing.
But seeing the real estate industry and, increasingly, other industries through the eyes of a journalist-marketer makes it clear just how critical marketing is to business success. One of the core missteps I see, over and over again, is confusion around messaging, positioning and brand.
So many real estate tech firms I see aren't presenting their valuable products in engaging ways to their target audience, whether it be brokers, agents or consumers. There's a narrow focus on product, but messaging and bringing the company to life with story and content, languishes in cubicle shadows.
Have you ever had a business secret so valuable you wanted to clutch it closely to your chest and not let it see daylight?
A HageyMedia real estate agent client has one of these. On a post that went live this week, he earned 472 listing leads in 24 hours with a Facebook boost spend of just $206. This is "better than any other campaign I've run," he said. A content newbie, he's grown his database by 25 percent to approximately 2,500 in three days. This is his first content play (he requested anonymity to protect his newfound strategy, despite my imploring and the fact that savvy strategy is no secret -- barriers often aren't ideas, but execution).
He's hooked on content now.
He started with a problem many agents face nowadays: as the digital age matures and basic digital marketing becomes easy and prevalent, how do you stand out? Just take one look at the options to check your home's value in your market -- you'll drown in agent lead-gen sites.
Editor's note: this is Part 3 in a three-part series on Zillow Group's content marketing strategy. Part 1 and Part 2 deal with the real estate media giant's B2C content strategy; this post focuses on its B2B strategy.
Producing engaging content for specific audiences with specific goals for each lies at the heart of content marketing. Zillow Group knows this very well. Its strategy encompasses two distinct audiences -- consumers and real estate agents -- two separate goals, and, consequently, two content marketing strategies.
Consumers don’t buy goods or services directly from Zillow Group -- instead the giant strives to capture their attention around everything home and sell that to its money-maker audience, real estate agents, who pay Zillow Group for the consumer exposure they get on the firm’s suite of sites, which include Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy, HotPads and Naked Apartments.
We’ve covered the consumer side in Parts 1 and 2 of this series -- the agent side is just as compelling. Its agent army paid the firm $604 million for exposure in 2016, the overwhelming majority of its revenue. In this way, Zillow Group is a classic media company.
With scant money, two babies and a new brokerage in 2008, Jenelle Isaacson stared necessity in the face. It stared back and presented her the content strategy that would catapult Portland, Oregon-based Living Room Realty into a thriving company.
“I required every single agent that joined to write about the people they helped,” Isaacson said. Ignore the quality of the house, it’s the people that matter, she told them. She directed those agents to then share the blog post with their clients on Facebook, which, she hoped, they would share with the people they know.
That’s how she leveraged the hustle inherent in content marketing to build a sharp, authentic brand and company that nine years later has 108 agents, 15 full-time staff and did $443 million in sales in 2016, 24 percent more than it did in 2015.
Melanie Piche’s Toronto real estate team, The BREL Team, did $85 million and 251 deals in 2016. The 12-person team she runs with her husband doesn’t send post cards, cold call or door knock.
Instead its business centers on its blog full of rich content, a unique voice and value. Without advertising, the blog draws in between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors each day and, as Piche told me, gets leads to like and trust the brand, so when they reach out conversion rates are sky high.
The five-year-old blog does two things all marketers love: lowers customer acquisition costs and ups conversion rates considerably. The blog accounts for 80 percent of the team’s business and drives 90 percent of its leads.
Amy Bohutinsky is the 10th the most powerful person in real estate. Zillow Group's former chief marketing officer and now its chief operating officer, her vision and execution helped catapult the Seattle-based giant to tremendous growth and an anticipated $1 billion in revenue in 2017.
She built Zillow's brand from the ground up. The term "Zillow" is now synonymous with "real estate" in many consumers' eyes thanks to her (just ask Google). When she joined Zillow pre-launch in 2005, its visionary co-founder and then-CEO Rich Barton tasked her with growing monthly traffic to 1 million by month six after launch without spending any money (on advertising).
She achieved a million visitors in the first three days and brought in 5 million visitors in the first month. A former broadcast journalist, she knew what to do when presented with a great product and an engaging unique value proposition (read "Zestimates"): turn to content marketing. She started a newsroom within Zillow and it began cranking out daily content.
We all witnessed Tom Brady's excellence on Sunday -- calm, poised and infectiously passionate. Did you doubt the Patriots would score a touchdown and end the game when the team won the overtime coin toss? (Poor Falcons).
A roll-out-of-the-bed style did not breed that mindset, and comeback and brilliance -- that's obvious. But what may not be so obvious is the intense work and commitment that enables Brady to sling magic on perhaps the world's biggest stage at age 39. It's easy to think of him as "other" -- a golden god with a supermodel wife and perfect life destined for greatness. Not it at all.
He was drafted 199th overall, in the sixth round, by the New England Patriots in 2000. Years of steadfast commitment, and a great franchise, gave Brady the opportunity to do what he did on Sunday. Oh, and he goes to bed every night at 8:30 p.m.