Real Estate Print Advertising - Not Dead, but Evolved

This post originally appeared on AgentApplause.com which has been merged with Harmon Enterprises.  It's the same team creating the content...but now you can find it all under the HarmonEnterprises.com web roof!

In a recent post by Stefan Swanepoel, he asks "Is Print Finally Dead?" and writes that (bold added for emphasis):

Ninety trillion emails were sent in 2009 – that’s 247 billion per day. Twitter send 27 million tweets per day, You Tube serves up one billion videos per day and Facebook enjoys 260 billion page views per month. No wonder the Internet is redefining every industry, including real estate brokerage.   Real estate professionals have to redefine what they do and how they do; where they find their customer and how they stay in contact with them.

Many progressive Realtors® have and continue to adapt every day uncovering new ways to use the Internet in their profession.

Auburn, Virginia Realtor Heather Elias is one of those progressive Realtors.  She is an active blogger and has figured out a smart way to utilize old school marketing to support her modern marketing efforts.  Instead of using her local paper to advertise listings, she promotes her blogs.

There are many reasons why Heathers newspaper ad strategy is worthy of applause.

First, Heather's ad is a soft sell.  The call to action is very different from ads which feature listings and promote the phone number of the Realtor in order for readers to get more information.  Nobody has to call her.  If readers are in the information gathering stage, they can simply go to her site and learn about her.  They can subscribe if they choose to. This allows Heather to incubate leads that aren't ready to work with, or contact an agent.  It gives her an opportunity to brand herself over time.  She is able to attract the "real estate curious" - those who sit at home or in the local coffee shop and want to read the paper, browse the real estate section, keep an eye on the market.

In addition, we know that real estate is a local business.  Heather is brilliantly utilizing a technology with no geographic boundaries (the internet) to reach a hyper-local audience (the newspaper readership), giving her the best chance of appealing to her most likely customer - people familiar with, and most interested in, her community.

Third, the effectiveness of her ad is trackable.  By using Google Analytics on the back end of her blogs, Heather is able to see the traffic volume to her site and can see the spike in traffic that resulted from her ad running.  In addition, Heather used a Google Voice number (a free Google service which offers you a unique local phone number that you can have ring to any phone you choose) in the ad.  By having a separate phone number tied to her ad, she is able to know if she is receiving any calls from her print expenditure.

This trackability is a key point for Heather.  She told Agent Applause:

The goal (with the ad) was to drive new readers to both sites, and the increase has happened on both sites in the ad.

The website traffic has been fantastic. I can tell how many people are 'direct visits' to the site versus coming in from links or referring sites, and the percentages for those types of visits spiked way up over typical numbers starting the day after the ad, and has stayed that way for a sustained 4-5 days."

The other interesting thing is that the traffic came between 4 and 8 pm, when people were getting home from work and picking up the paper off the front lawn. It's a free paper, delivered to all residents of the county.

Also interesting to note is that the ad is always current and therefore doesn't date itself.  The paper has archives of the publication available on their website and Heather's ad appears.  Her ad has no listings that will go out of date, or prices that will change.  Her blog URL's are constant.

In addition, Heather's print ad reaches a traditional, or old school audience who likely wouldn't find her on Facebook or Twitter.  This audience may not even know what a blog is, but the do know how to go to a website.  And, they also understand that listing information in the paper is dated.  She has created an ad which is technically unintimidating to an audience who may not be particularly tech savvy or an audience that she could build via promotion online.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that the success of this strategy is closely tied to the level of quality, relevant content that is on Heather's blogs.  She has the opportunity to capture readers because she is delivering them information that is consistent with what she is advertising in the ad.  She also did a smart thing in writing a post titled "New to LoCoMusings? Welcome!" that was on the home page the day the ad ran.  Again, she has made the process of interacting with her blog unintimidating and welcoming.  This is very appealing to consumers who are both "just looking" and/or uncomfortable with technology.

Heather is smart to understand that although the internet is important in modern real estate marketing, it is not the only thing.  In Heather's own words:

Truly, I think you can't totally abandon the traditional marketing methods, true success is finding a way to allow them to complement each other. And in my market area, the really successful listing agents still maintain a print presence, so perception is reality in print!

And, beyond the increased traffic to her sites, Heather has other indicators that her print strategy is successful:

One of my neighbors mentioned to my husband at the bus stop that she'd seen the ad, and mentioned LoCoMusings by name. Not someone that I would have thought was a reader. =)

Heather plans to continue her print strategy…"Especially since they are costing me less than half of what I used to pay for them."

So although the power of the hyper-local newspaper may be diminished, it has not quite yet disappeared.  Heather Elias has figured out how to effectively utilize this channel for increased visibility for her business.  She didn't advertise listings, but instead promoted her blogs.  What a smart way to stand out from the crowd and appeal to a local audience.  Kudos to Heather for her strategy.