Anatomy of a Marketing Makeover

February 1, 1997

For just a moment, visualize your sales and marketing materials as a house. Would it be the most attractive on the block, withstanding the gusts of competition and pleasing those who step in for a closer look? Or would it be a fixer-upper, showing its age and the places where you've skimped on repairs?

Chances are, some revamping is in order to make it reflect the quality and commitment of the person living inside. Just as you'd most likely turn to an expert for construction advice, Today’s REALTOR® asked real estate marketing whiz Greg Herder, a partner in Hobbs Herder Advertising, Santa Ana, Calif., to share his secrets for turning the drab into the dazzling.

Enter Michael Davis, a salesperson with RE/MAX–Realty Unlimited, Brandon, Fla., who underwent a complete marketing makeover at the hands of Herder. Davis’ self-described “metamorphosis” taught him that attention to seemingly insignificant details makes an enormous difference in the appearance of marketing materials, not to mention in their effectiveness.

Davis credits his makeover with bursting a sales bubble of roughly $6 million he'd been trapped in for several years. In 1995, the year his makeover began, his gross sales soared to $11 million. Not a shabby return on an investment in Hobbs Herder of $8,950, which included the design of a personal brochure, print ads, direct mail pieces, Web pages, television commercials, letterhead, business cards, and a complete marketing strategy. Of course, printing was extra. Davis paid $3,800 for 10,000 full-color brochures and another $3,800 for 50,000 oversize postcards. He estimates that, for all his marketing efforts, he has invested $24,000 beyond Herder's fee.

Whether you recruit the services of an outside advertising agency or tackle the job yourself, take a gander at these marketing pointers.

Image and Logo

The most common and costly marketing mistake, says Herder, is inconsistency--the messages and the images vary greatly from one promotional piece to another, preventing the powerful buildup of name recognition. To get around this, define the image you want to project and center every marketing effort around that. Avoid projecting an image that clashes with the people you're trying to attract.

Davis was guilty on both counts. In an area where homes averaged $130,000, he drove a big, black Mercedes and wore Italian silk suits. “To my targeted consumers,” he admits now, “I appeared intimidating, a bigwig who wouldn't give them the time of day.” Actually, Davis is friendly and pretty down-to-earth, but many never called to find out.

Personal Brochure

Like many practitioners, Davis relied on a resume and a business card to encourage calls. Big mistake, says Herder. “Resumes and lists of accomplishments are too impersonal. They're cumbersome and difficult to understand.” As the cornerstone of an effective campaign, Davis’ personal brochure was created first.

Print Ads

Besides reinforcing your chosen image, a print ad should distinguish yours from the zillion others out there. But Davis learned from his previous ads that different doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Web Site

An Internet address says you're one savvy salesperson. So why blow it with boring Web pages? “Most people are so excited or intimidated by being on-line that they settle for anything,” says Herder. True, cool Web pages aren’t cheap--Davis paid Hobbs Herder $700 for Web page creation. But with more consumers surfing the Net, the chance to score big is getting better.

Marketing Trends to Follow and to Pass On

Numbered are the days when local practitioners can get away with airing cheesy TV commercials, believes Greg Herder, a partner in Hobbs Herder Advertising, a Santa Ana, Calif., real estate marketing company.

“Viewers today are too sophisticated,” he says. “Every day they see Madison Avenue's best efforts. It's better not to run a commercial than to run one that’s badly written and poorly produced.”

  • Consequently, Herder sees more practitioners turning out better TV spots. The key is to hire professionals and to not accept the finished product until you're satisfied. “It's worth the extra money ten times over,” he says.
  • And he knows just the place for those commercials: cable TV. “Now almost any budget can afford local commercial time on top national stations,” Herder says. “It's like adding rocket fuel to a local marketing campaign.”

Not all bandwagons are worth hopping onto, notes David Knox, president of David Knox Productions, a real estate training seminar provider.

  • “Look at the trend toward putting umpteen numbers on marketing material,” he says. “That just tells me you're hard to get hold of, and I’ll probably be on the phone awhile tracking you down. No thank you.” He suggests listing only one phone number that’ll forward the call to your location.
  • Giving away CMAs is another trend not worth pursuing, Knox says. You can make money from them.Instead, give away free information on the buying and selling process.
  • His point: “Don't adopt a herd mentality. When you hear of something others are doing, take a minute to consider whether it’s right for you.”
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