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Delivering results

Digital tools and techniques are becoming part and parcel of what we consider the traditional marketing methods for agents, as Lisa Isaacs discovers.

Lisa Isaacs

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Let’s start with the disclaimer. There is no ‘winner’ when it comes to a chosen marketing method, nor is this an endorsement for the exclusive use of traditional techniques. On the contrary. Every single contributor to this article sang the praises of digital, with plaudits for social media, e-marketing and websites.

What is clear is that traditional marketing has been redefined to incorporate digital data and emerging technology. There are crossovers, chain reactions and multi-channel campaigns that present exciting prospects for agents. In many cases, one can’t happen without the other and the very best traditional marketing requires a synergy with its digital counterpart.

Print allows homeowners to engage with an estate or letting agent’s marketing messages on their terms, instead of seeing it as an interruption. Graeme Edwards, Ravensworth.

Link to Marketing featureThat being said, traditional marketing has lost none of its competitive edge. In fact, the last 18 months have seen the pendulum swing back in favour of print. Graeme Edwards at Ravensworth says that our over-reliance on digital communication during the pandemic is actually working in a letter’s or leaflet’s favour. “A recent study by Royal Mail revealed some interesting insights about people’s perceptions of print marketing. It reported that engagement with mail is higher than ever before at 96 per cent,” comments Graeme. “There’s a real opportunity for agents to make their mark with more traditional print campaigns, especially as too many messages from computers and phones are described as ‘invasive and stressful’.”

Defiant in a ‘delete’ society

Digital noise is a cliché but it can be deafening and consumers have a quick, convenient solution – the delete button. It’s weird to think that circulars – which used to be the scourge of the doormat and a marketing word almost edged out of existence – are proving their worth when it comes to permanence. Andrew Robinson from Mr Flyer has been charting the success of door-to-door print marketing, with interesting results, “Highlights from MarketReach and JICMAIL reveal the average time door drops are kept in the house is 38 days and 23 per cent of all mail gets shared around the household.”

Link to Marketing featureFrom younger generations engaging with printed collateral due to the novelty of receiving a physical item to multiple people seeing one flyer (Andrew says a door drop is interacted with 2.8 times, rather than seen once by a single person), direct mail has a habit of hanging around. “In addition, direct mail is generally remembered by more customers, with research showing it has 35 per cent better recall than social media advertising and 49 more than per cent email,” adds Andrew.

As well as being deleted or scrolled past quickly, digital marketing messages can feel relentless, clumsy or even unwanted, which can move them into ‘spam’ territory. In a reversal of fortunes, traditional marketing methods can offer agents a more measured and accurate approach to communication. “Print allows homeowners to engage with an agent’s marketing messages on their terms, instead of seeing it as an interruption,” says Graeme Edwards. He says that using information about a customer’s online interactions – one of the many useful digital synergies available – can inform canvassing materials, like direct mail, door drops and flyers. This enables the exercise to evolve from blanket marketing to a well-informed, targeted campaign.

Link to Marketing featureIt’s a combination of timing and precision messaging that Richard Combellack at BriefYourMarket finds gets the best results. “When the timing is right, prospects are naturally more likely to respond to a call to action. Perhaps that message is their property has increased in value or that houses in their area are selling quicker than ever – even reminding people they can get an instant valuation provokes engagement”

When the timing is right, prospects are more likely to respond to a call to action – even reminding people they can get an instant valuation provokes engagement. Richard Combellack, BriefYourMarket.

Data driving print

The precision element of targeting is where traditional works so well in tandem with digital. Companies, including BriefYourMarket, have systems where an agent’s archive database can be sophisticatedly cross-referenced with on-market data and Land Registry details to uncover selling patterns and identify who will move next. It’s a case of big data influencing print actions, with the bonus of homeowners not on an agent’s database being identified and targeted.

Blanketing letterboxes is probably one of the oldest traditional marketing methods used by agents. It does, however, push agents into a generic ‘all things to all people’ direction when it comes to messaging. Don’t discount it though – it’s a useful tool to have in the marketing pack in terms of brand awareness and ‘drip effect’ marketing tactics.

Link to Digital Marketing featureRecognising the importance of targeting, however, direct mail has become so precise that a ‘less is more’ approach can work best. Sam Hunter at Homesearch has seen agents enjoy new instruction success off the back of sending personalised marketing letters with pinpoint accuracy, so only the homes where engagement is likely receive the content.

Direct mail is about direct response. You want to narrow your send down to those most likely to respond, with a message that compels action. Sam Hunter, Homesearch.

“Sending 10,000 leaflets in a month because you’re panicked about the well running dry, but none for the next 12 weeks, won’t deliver the same results as sending 600 targeted, story-telling letters a month, every month,” says Sam. “Whatever an agent decides to employ as a marketing method, the key is to remain boringly consistent.”

Instead of a generic leaflet saying ‘we have buyers, more homes needed’, Sam says valuations are won when there is a real reason to write to a homeowner. A customisable letter that explains an agent has recently sold a property identical to the homeowners’ and that they have motivated buyers who are still looking for a property is one of Homesearch’s most successful templates. “Since the market took off back in 2020, we’ve seen this type of targeted direct mail become a part of an agent’s actual valuation pitch. Direct mail is about direct response. You want to narrow your send down to those most likely to respond, with a message that compels action,” says Sam.

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Special delivery

Digital marketing has caught the eye for its ability to track engagement and monitor responses but how many agents have been frustrated by high bounce rates or undelivered emails? It’s not a problem confined to online either, as traditional marketing has had a ‘hit and miss’ history, although piles of dumped flyers are largely consigned to the past.

Delivering printed items by hand is actually more accountable than ever before. Mr Flyer has chosen Royal Mail as its delivery partner, as a piece of collateral’s journey is fully monitored – from the initial handover to being loaded onto the delivery van and into the postie’s bag. “We also adhere to our own strict ISO audit trail when actioning leaflet drops so the entire process is thoroughly accountable,” adds Andrew.

Link to Marketing featureTracking is an aspect of traditional marketing that also interests Maddie Phillips at Letterbox Distribution. It was the first UK company to use satellite-tracked vans and Live Distributor Tracking, allowing it to monitor vehicles and distributors right down to individual addresses.

Digital does not allow you to target as many people as it relies on the audience having social media, using the internet or watching television. Maddie Phillips, Letterbox Distribution.

Keen to rival the analytics offered by Google and other campaign monitoring software, Letterbox Distribution’s missed property reports detail where distributors were unable to gain access, while the distributors themselves provide feedback on aspects such as new developments that have been built, so it’s mapping team can make real time alterations. “Just like an online spend, we offer agents the ability to work out a ‘cost per copy’ price when using our doorstep service,” comments Maddie.

There is no disputing that a collection of digital details is a great marketing tool but what if your archive database isn’t very big or very good? And what if your future clients don’t consume digital channels or browse social media? “By delivering a leaflet through the letterbox, you are targeting everybody that you possibly can within a given area,” comments Maddie. “Digital does not allow you to target as many people as print as it relies on the audience having social media, using the internet or watching television. The letterbox is unavoidable – people do not have to opt in to get this sort of marketing.”

Unnamed leafleting doesn’t have to mass, however. Direct marketing specialists can step in and create a finely-honed audience on a branch’s behalf. “Direct mail allows us to be quite specific in our deliveries,” adds Maddie. “We can target just Victorian properties, homes over a particular value or only houses on a certain street for a level of tailoring usually only reserved for database mailshots and digital sends.”

QR codes finally take off

Digital marketing’s buzz phrase is ‘calls to action’ – those buttons and prompts that encourage the consumer to take the next online step – but it’s often a same-page exercise or, at least, uses the same device. With traditional media, the challenge is a call to action that prompts the reader to switch mediums quickly – make a call after reading a printed brochure or visit a website after seeing a leaflet.

Link to Marketing feature“Print response rates have had a renaissance recently and incorporating digital within print is key,” says Richard Combellack. “Although a simple web address is good, adding a QR code to printed collateral makes it even easier for prospects to get in touch.”

QR codes have become more familiar since the pandemic, thanks to lateral flow tests and checking in at venues, so it’s no surprise they’re being more widely adopted in property marketing. Ravensworth has recently added a QR capability into Directmair – its new direct mail campaign builder – while it has noted more agents are including QR codes in their window card designs.

Perhaps the biggest uptake of QR technology will be in sign boards. Although the adoption has been on the periphery for years, it’s only now that Kremer Signs is seeing a rise in requests for boards with QR codes. “September saw us officially launch our new Smartboard product – an industry first,” says Tom Cummuskey.

The development is an upgrade to any previous offerings and now yields sustainable sign boards. Smartboard technology allows the url link attached to a QR code to be changed as frequently as required, meaning one board with one QR code can be reused multiple times. An agent simply reprogrammes the QR code when it’s allocated to a new instruction, taking the user to a specific listing or virtual tour.

Data capture has also been enhanced, “The person scanning the QR code is prompted to input their contact details if interested in arranging a viewing or receiving more information. The agent then receives an email detailing the nature of the enquiry, while an easy-to-use online platform allows agents to review the performance of their boards, as well as reassign the QR code to a different property,” explains Tom.

Even without QR codes, sign boards remain an essential marketing asset. “In a digital age, we can forget that signage is still a key part of local advertising,” comments Naomi Wood from Agency Express. “A well designed, strategically-placed board will not just direct viewers to the property, it is a leading call to action for an agency business. A board outside a property highlights a branch’s dominance within the local area, raises brand awareness and instils confidence in the company.”

Leave something behind

Naomi also says the board is king when it comes to brand recall – an aspect of marketing that’s hugely underrated and plays to the strengths of traditional marketing. Brand recall can be effectively reinforced using more tangible, physical items – those that provide a degree of value and usefulness, and prove harder to delete or bin.

Link to Marketing feature“More and more agents are realising the benefits of a ‘leave something behind’ marketing approach, whereby the client is left with a piece of stationery or branded merchandise at each meeting or interaction,” comments Lucinda Perks at Woodblock. “From business cards and brochures to hand-written cards, keyrings and house-warming mugs, these are a powerful way to make the most of those touch points and ensure a brand lives long in a client’s mind.”

Agents are realising the benefits of a ‘leave something behind’ approach, whereby the client is left with a piece of stationery or branded merchandise. Lucinda Perks, Woodblock.

Backing up her belief that physical is more engaging than digital , Lucinda cites a piece of Rethink research carried out for Wardour, which found 44 per cent of those surveyed said they were more likely to remember something they had read in print rather than on screen. In addition, the same study found 25 per cent of people said that they trusted print more than digital (only six per cent said they trusted digital more). “People can easily to forget digital marketing offerings when in context of the unending expanse of the internet but a stand-out piece of print will keep doing your marketing for you whenever it is seen,” concludes Lucinda.

December 12, 2021

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