Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing that Turns Heads
Creativity in your promotional efforts can bring awesome results.
November - December
Buy or sell a house with Sam Kowalewski and get a free three-day Caribbean cruise.
Not many real estate professionals are able to offer such a tantalizing incentive. Kowalewski, a sales associate with HomeSmart in Scottsdale, Ariz., also owns a travel agency, Dream Vacations. He’s banking on the novel promotion—which he launched in August—to differentiate himself from competitors and boost both businesses. By the beginning of October, Kowalewski had scored two new real estate clients based largely on the travel offer. He covers the cost of the cruises, valued at $800 to $1,500.
Splitting an 80-hour workweek between his real estate and travel ventures, Kowalewski is all about cross-promotion. “When I get client calls for travel, I’ll also mention real estate. Many people say, ‘Oh, I’ve been wanting to move there,’ ” he says. “When I’m out doing an open house, I’ll lay out all my marketing for the property alongside business cards or flyers for my travel business. I’ve had multiple visitors say, ‘I’ve always wanted to visit here or there.’ ”
Even before he began the cruise promo, Kowalewski was cross marketing. He started Dream Vacations in 2012 and became a licensed real estate agent in 2016, converting three travel clients into real estate customers, which led to $1 million in property transactions. The cruise idea came to him as a way to expand his reach to real estate prospects after a slow spring and summer, in which he closed only two transactions between May and August.
Now Kowalewski partners with his local chamber of commerce to place ads on its website and at its monthly networking mixers. In return, he helps recruit volunteer workers for the chamber. “It’s helped raise my profile,” Kowalewski says. “People are starting to call me ‘the traveling real estate agent.’ ”
While most agents don’t juggle two full-time gigs and lack the opportunity to capitalize on client pools in multiple industries, every real estate pro can benefit from thinking creatively about their marketing. Whether it’s producing listing videos with flair or turning open houses into neighborhood events, it’s the individuality that counts.
Roll Out the Red Carpet
Boston was abuzz when the 2005 film “Fever Pitch,” starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, was released. It’s a romantic comedy about a man torn between his love for a woman and his love for the Boston Red Sox, a plot that resonated in a town known for its diehard commitment to its team.
Some 10 years later, the movie retained a strong following locally, and Madison Kazes, a sales associate with Coco, Early & Associates in the Boston suburb of Methuen, Mass., decided to use an open house to commemorate the milestone. She dubbed the event at her three-bedroom, two-bathroom listing a “movie premiere night,” turning the driveway into a red carpet and tapping a colleague to act as a mock Hollywood interviewer asking attendees, who were prospective buyers and friends of Kazes, for feedback on the home. Inside the property, Kazes hung old-fashioned movie posters, handed out bags of popcorn, and screened the movie. She estimates there were about 50 attendees, including a reporter from a local newspaper.
Kazes hosts eight to 10 “big open houses” annually, she says. At a $300,000 oceanfront condo, she hosted a sushi night; a chef prepared gourmet sushi rolls onsite. And “every year, I find a way to coordinate an open house around the opening day of Fenway Park [home of the Red Sox]. People take the day off work to go to the stadium. It’s an ingrained part of our local culture, so I have a hot dog vendor at my open house to make it feel like part of the festivities around the city.”
She takes extra safety precautions for these open houses, which draw larger crowds. “I will let the police department know, and they may decide to drive by to show themselves,” Kazes says.
Her events take a minimum of three to four weeks to plan, she says. For inspiration, “I look at things that are going on in pop culture, local sports, or charity events.” The end game is to create a deeper, more memorable connection with prospects. “Little is memorable at your run-of-the-mill open house. I want to make a connection where people tap into a positive feeling,” Kazes says, “to remember not just me or the house but the emotion—the fun.”
Grab 7-Second Attention Spans
Many practitioners who employ video marketing preplan the structure of the video and the script to ensure smooth production. But Colin Cameron, a sales associate with eXp Realty in Harrisburg, Pa., chooses to wing it almost every time he steps in front of the camera. Whether he’s shooting a video property tour or tutorial for buyers and sellers, Cameron, who has an easy humor, mostly adlibs his lines. Sometimes, it’s just him talking to the camera; other times, he brings in friends, colleagues, and even clients to set up a funny scene.
“The point is just to come up with something engaging to watch, and whether you realize it or not, you end up seeing most of my listing in the course of the video,” Cameron says. “My goal is simply to get your seven-second attention span through this.”
Since Jan. 1, Cameron has produced one video a week, posting each one on social media. In a recent funny home tour, Cameron draws similarities between house hunting and dating. He poses as a sort of matchmaker for his listing and a couple of pretend buyers, played by two of his colleagues.
The video was a labor of love, he says. He wanted to show his commitment to the real-life seller, who had failed with three prior agents to sell the property. The seller told Cameron, “I’m over this experience. I don’t like real estate agents.”
“I went in there with this idea of winning him over,” Cameron says. Within 45 days of its release, the video had received nearly 7,000 views and the home had garnered 20 showings and two offers. It sold for more than $6,000 over the $149,900 asking price.
Cameron gets video inspiration from his growing fan base—he’s added about 3,400 Facebook followers since May. Fans have helped him develop ideas for videos on homebuying tips, mortgage rates, and funny home tours. The videos, Cameron says, average between 5,000 and 10,000 views, but he has collected as many as 20,000 views organically for a single video.
Flip the Marketing Switch
With home flipping on the rise recently, Pfashema Faber, a sales associate with Real Living at Home in Chevy Chase, Md., has gotten half of her business from investors. When she lists a flip, she doesn’t just market the property. She also markets the flipper.
Faber creates a website for each one of the conversions she sells. In addition to showcasing the property with photos and video, she highlights the past and future projects the investor is involved with. The goal is to be more transparent about the investor behind the flip and fight the bad rap the home--flipping market sometimes gets because of hurried, shoddy workmanship. By presenting other projects the investor has completed, Faber aims to help buyers become more comfortable with the person or group doing the flipping and, thus, instill confidence in the quality of the property.
“Being able to brand our developers and put all of their projects in one place where potential buyers can review them is a huge value-added,” she says, enabling her to develop a lead list of buyers, even before a property hits the market.
Faber’s work also gives investor clients a marketing piece to show when networking with developers, a piece they find very important, she says. “With so many things to juggle, they allow us to handle this on their behalf. My clients love the service.”
Simplify Your Customers’ Lives
Sometimes, it’s the little things that set you apart. Chris Pagli, ABR, a sales associate with William Raveis Legends Realty in Tarrytown, N.Y., spends about $200 a year on customized key-shaped USB drives, which he preloads with all the necessary transaction documents and gives to clients at the start of their relationship. “We have to know our audience,” he says. “Most of my clients don’t want tons of paper laying around the house, which is why my USB drives get such a positive reaction.”
The creativity you put into your marketing reflects the type of customer service your clients can expect, Pagli says. “Figure out what the client wants and needs, and then give them more than they expected from you.”