Appeal to Their Senses: Choose the Right Words

When crafting real estate ads, use language that will reach consumers through their eyes, ears, and emotions.

February 1, 2007

Excerpted from Fundamentals of Marketing for the Real Estate Professional (Dearborn Real Estate Education).

The primary purpose of all marketing strategies is to deliver a message to the consumer. The message may be an attempt to sell a specific product, to promote a specific brand, or to introduce the consumer to a company with something to sell. In the real estate business we may be “selling” ourselves, our expertise, or our prod­uct. Our products are the properties that owners have listed with us in the hopes of getting them sold.

In order to better prepare the marketing message, we must first understand something about the psychology of the consumer.

Neurolinguistic programming, or NLP, is a communication tech­nique that was developed in the 1970s by mathematician John Grinder and linguist Richard Bandler. This technique was designed to help people and companies increase their rate of suc­cess through more effective communication. It identifies the following three ways in which people process the information that they receive:

  • Visually. The visual process takes place through the eyes and is most affected by pictures and words that relate to seeing.
  • Auditorily. Auditory pro­cessing relies more on sound and is affected most by things that are heard or words that relate to hearing.
  • Kinesthetically. Kinesthetics refers to touching or feelings. The feelings may be internal ones such as joy, fear, comfort, or anxiety. External feelings relate to taste, touch, smell, or physical movement. Words that support such feelings capture the attention of the kinesthetic processor.

Using V-A-K in Marketing

The visual-auditory-kinesthetic, or V-A-K theory, was not specifi­cally developed for writing real estate ads, but it can be a useful tool when preparing any type of marketing piece.

By using visual words, you are able to attract the interest of the person who pro­cesses incoming information through their eyes. By using auditory words, you can catch the attention of the auditory person who pro­cesses information by hearing. And with the use of well-placed kinesthetic words, you can establish instant rapport with the per­son who relies on touch and feelings.

The list of words and phrases below can be useful in preparing ad copy for use in different media sources. The trick is to be able to insert enough of all three kinds of key words into your media advertising.

Examples: V-A-K Words and Phrases

Visual: Beyond a shadow of doubt, Describe, Get an eyeful, Get a perspective, Gleam in the eye, Hazy idea, Imagine that, In view of, Looks like, Like a photo, Mental image, Mind’s eye, Map out, Paint a picture, Pretty as a picture, Take a peek.

Auditory: Clear as a bell, Discuss, Entertain me, Give me your ear, Hardly a peep, Heard voices, Hold your tongue, Listen in, Loud and clear, Power of speech, Manner of speaking, Outspoken, Pay attention to, Rings a bell, Purrs like a kitten, Tuned in.

Kinesthetic: Chip off old block, Demonstrate, Get a handle on, Get a load of this, Be in touch with, Gut feeling, Draw a picture, Heated argument, Illustrate, Tasty, Hot seat, Lay hands on, Intuition, Point out, Feels just right, Moment of panic.

Good marketing is a matter of quality, not quantity. You want to spend your time, energy, and dollars where you can anticipate the most return.

Write ads in a V-A-K way that will attract the attention of all types of consumers. Use a mix of media: print, audio/visual, TV, and the Internet.

Concentrate on direct market­ing techniques where you can expect more direct response. Select marketing tools designed to reach out to your chosen target mar­ket. Whenever possible, take the opportunity to market yourself along with your listed properties.

Be sure to track which of your marketing efforts brought the most results. And remember that marketing is a matter of long-term planning and action.

The following is a detailed description of a property. It could appear just as it is written for a newspaper or magazine ad, but see if you could make it more interesting by using words that will attract the attention of all three V-A-K types.

Just Listed Three-bedroom, two-bath, one-level house on 3/4 acre bordering 4,000 acre lake. Yard has orange and grapefruit trees, flowering shrubs, and perennial flower beds. Glassed-in porch extends across back of house with French doors opening onto a 25-foot swimming pool. Pool area is screened in and has deck area with room for picnic table & lounge chairs. Interior of house has gray carpet in LR, DR, & BRs, with hall, kitchen, and baths in white tile. Large kitchen includes refrigerator/freezer, double oven, microwave, double sink with gar bage disposer, and pantry. Washer and dryer plus storage cabinets are included in adjacent laundry room. Master bath has separate shower and toilet areas plus Jacuzzi tub. Ceiling fans in every room of the house, including the 2+ car garage. Property is located 2 1/2 miles from the center of small town and 40 miles from major city.

Look over what you have written. Underline the words that will appeal to the visually oriented in red, the auditory in blue, and the kinesthetic in green. Which color shows up the most? More than likely, this is the way you process information. The most challeng­ing part of using V-A-K in marketing is to come up with words that relate to a processing mode that you seldom use yourself.

Mark Nash is the author of Reaching Out: The Financial Power of Niche Marketing and The Original New Agent’s Guide to Starting & Succeeding in Real Estate. He is a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential, Central Street Office, in Evanston, Ill. He can be reached by e-mail at

Doris Barrell is a real estate veteran and author of Fundamentals of Marketing for the Real Estate Professional (along with Mark Nash), which offers tips on personal branding, developing a marketing strategy, and using state-of-the-art tools and technology.