This is a guest post written by Jon Shanahan, one of the talented writers at Braun/Allison Inc. Blogging is one of the bedrock fundamentals of marketing real estate in the new economy. A blog on the homepage of your website allows you, in a very real way, to become the media, and rely less on traditional media channels to tell your story. It attracts repeat visits to your site. And it allows Google and other search engines to find your site more easily, and rank it higher. Used in conjunction with other social media tools and a strong campaign in the traditional media, a weekly blog can be the best investment you make in promoting your real estate offering.
Everyone knows that blogs are a credible, viable medium in today’s digital landscape. But the real estate marketing industry has only just begun to show the faintest signs that we recognize the potential of blogs for our marketing campaigns.
Blogs are, in fact, particularly suited to real estate sales programs. This is especially true now, as buyers require more and richer information, and the agility of a real estate campaign (its ability to adjust, on the fly, to both positive and negative responses from the market) is absolutely vital in today’s skittish markets. Blogs serve these needs wonderfully.
A blog keeps prospects engaged with fresh content. It offers a platform from which you can respond, in a forthright way, to objections you might not have seen coming. Most importantly, it allows you to provide the kind of detailed, real-time information that helps buyers feel more secure in their purchase decision.
We have had some real success with blogs as a real estate sales tool. (On one recent project, buyers explicitly referred to specific blog entries as having tipped them into their final purchase decision). What follows are a few of the things that we have learned about best blog practices for real estate development campaigns.
1. Choose an appropriate voice, and stick with it
This is absolutely essential for credibility. At the outset, decide on the most effective voice for your blog – as dictated by your content, and the demographic you’re speaking to – and be sure to stick with it. It gives your blog a more consistent, seamless personality. (Which, in turn, makes readers more disposed to believe what you’re saying.)
2. Be strategic – but don’t oversell
Your blog should be a resource that helps people connect to your development, and fill out some of the texture of living there. They should want to return to it for its compelling content. And this simply won’t happen if they get inundated with a hard sell every time they open the page. Yes, you want to speak to the key selling points. But be sure to provide plenty of useful, friendly ancillary information as well. It will give your sales pitch more credibility when you come around to it.
3. Keep everyone updated. All the time.
Blogs are a fast, easy way to provide construction updates (with a link to your Flickr account), changes to the product, pricing, or shifts in the neighbourhood. (This is that campaign agility we spoke of above). And once you’re in the market, posting accelerating sales figures is a great way to incite some urgency.
4. Put your project into a bigger context
You want people to return to your blog out of interest – not only to consider buying your property. Create a backdrop for your project. Speak to the philosophy behind it, and how it was inspired. Post about demographic shifts, financial conditions, environmental features, and other quantitative factors. Relate your project to a bigger picture. It gives your buyers more to relate to.
5. Introduce people to the real neighbourhood
In real estate, neighbourhood matters – obviously. Specific details and points of interest in the neighbourhood will help people picture themselves there. And when you send people toward small businesses in the area – providing links to their websites – they will support you in ways that will do wonders for your credibility.
6. Be unafraid. Tell the truth. (It pays.)
People are sick of wading through airy, half-truthful real estate messages. So when you confront them with hard, real, irrefutable facts, they love it. In some of our blogs, we’ve gone so far as to post links to competitive resale homes on MLS. This kind of thing projects confidence in your project, and is seen as an act of good faith. Which converts to a whole new level of loyalty.
7. Answer possible buyer objections
We’ve used titles for like “For that money, I could get a house.” When you speak directly to the objections people will have about a project, it demonstrates that you see things from the buyers’ perspective. It also leaves less room for a “yeah, but what about…?” kind of doubtfulness.
8. Provide relevant, targeted information
When you’re selling a community that’s targeted to 50-somethings, it makes no sense to talk about bars, clubs, and extreme mountain biking. Remember who you are selling to, and provide content that’s relevant for them.
9. Use your Twitter account in tandem with your blog
Using Twitter for real estate is a blog topic unto itself. But of course, your Twitter account should be used to push new blog posts into your network. It’s all about connectivity.
10. Post videos
Video is engaging. And in the new social media landscape, the more human and personal it is – and the less polished – the more it engenders trust. Clips of developers, environmental consultants, even neighbours give a living face to the development. And search engines love it.
11. If you use your blog to push a contest, make sure it’s worth it
Online contests have become incredibly popular. So much so, in fact, consumers have become wary of them. If you have a contest, make it either a) offer a prize that people will actually get excited about or b) is only tangentially related to the project, and supports the arts, the local community, etc. There’s a lot more to the whole contest question. But for starters, don’t offer 10% off your product and expect buyers to make you a commercial. It will be a dud, and you’ll look cheap.
12. If you allow comments, be ready. And respond.
Comments allow feedback and questions to be vented and asked in an open forum. Which can be terrifying (this is in fact ill-founded, as the comments are moderated by you). Just leaving yourself open like this projects confidence and a spirit of transparency.
There is much more to think about, of course. But this should get you started. Basically, blogs offer a way to communicate in a richer, more detailed, and much more direct way to prospective buyers. But they are a new medium. Adjust your strategy accordingly