Are traditional marketing tools still relevant?

Is it time to go back to the old school? Lisa Isaacs revisits traditional marketing methods to see if there’s still a place for them amongst today’s digital dominance.

Marketing postcard image

I’m watching the postman from my kitchen window. He’s taking a zigzag trajectory and it’s soon clear there’s no post for me today. There wasn’t yesterday. Even the pizza menus and double glazing flyers have dried up. Welcome to the digital age where junk has moved from your letterbox to your inbox. With so many messages, feeds, posts and photos, it begs the question: are we becoming ‘digitally blind’?

Onscreen communication is all-consuming to the point where it’s unhealthy. In fact, some reports say that the future generation of homemovers is turning off social media – the current buzz way of communicating. Origin, a market research company, polled 1,000 members of Gen Z – people born in 1994 or later – and found 34 per cent had deleted social media permanently, while 64 per cent were taking a break. Opting out of digital marketing is an emerging trend worth noting.

Even for those still opted in, not every piece of digital content catches our attention and something has to be utterly engaging to warrant a click. Consumers are clever too. What they once thought was an uncanny fluke – those Facebook adverts that read your mind, for instance – is now understood as modern marketing trickery.

Nevertheless, agents are constantly being told that digital content can be perfectly delivered by a machine and not a (post) man. Precise location-based targeting is often described as the icing on the cake, with ROI analytics the cherry on the top – but, what’s this? Print is fighting back with highly tailored flyers hitting the sweet spot.


Marketing postcard imageThe ‘sold in your road’ concept – accompanied by a photo of the actual property sold – is the original geo-marketing product and one of the most requested at Precision Connects, says Paul Tyrell, Business Development Manager, “Our most popular product with estate agents is the A5 Postcard. The format lends itself to easy customisation of templates with our editing software (house images and branch details can be changed for each ‘sold in your area’ campaign for example) and being image-led it is also high impact, putting an agent’s message and offer right there in front of the recipient. They also offer great value to customers at 59p delivered, personalised to each named individual using highly effective targeting and geo-demographic profiling. This greatly improves the relevance and saliency of the communication, increasing the likelihood of response and a positive outcome.

Our A5 postcards are delivered, personalised to each individual using highly effective targeting and geo-demographic profiling. Just 59p each. Paul Tyrell, Precision Marketing.

Paul Tyrell image

The other key benefit is that Paul’s clients are not restricted by a minimum order quantity so all marketing budgets are catered for – and customers do order just one postcard!

“Clients love the ease of use, especially through our on-map search tool, and coupled with increased response rates the use of our platform amongst property professionals is increasing rapidly,” says Paul. “For example, we work with several estate agent groups and housebuilders whose individual branches use the solution voluntarily, without a mandate from head office to do so. Connects has become an integral part of the marketing mix and a key part of their success when seeking instructions or promoting developments.”


Don’t abandon mass door drops either. Research (Royal Mail MarketReach, Iluminas 2014) found that 92 per cent of people read leaflets delivered to their home.

Therefore, it’s possible that customers may doubt your brand’s existence if they don’t see regular flyers from you. Think about it. Home movers only engage with agents once every 3, 5 or even 10 years. They won’t be actively tracking a brand outside of the moving process but the drip feed of door drops keeps the agency’s name fresh for when the time does come to move.

Print endures within the branch as well and its not the slow process it used to be, Aaron Perks, Director at Woodblock, says, “Our most popular product is our property particulars. We have a dedicated web2print system which makes it very easy for clients to order from anywhere and once placed we dispatch the orders within 24hrs. We also offer small volumes with unit costs as low as 75 pence.

“Our customers say they like the high quality of our products which are very competitively priced and that they can use our web2print system for all their marketing materials including stationery, 2020 cards and new home cards.”

It can take 18-20 touch points to reach a customer for the first time, so it makes sense to run campaigns across multiple channels – including print. Suzie Pattison, Ravensworth.

Suzie Pattison imageSuzie Pattison from Ravensworth goes as far as saying that the moving process is truly validated when print media is involved, “Homemovers still expect to see print marketing when working with an estate agent. Agents know it can take 18-20 touch points to reach a customer for the first time, so it makes sense to run campaigns across multiple channels and platforms, including print.”

Suzie also points out that print is an important medium in post-transaction customer relationship marketing, “We are seeing a trend for using print to stay in touch with clients via greeting cards and newsletters. The contact helps with recommendations and customers may well reuse an agent the next time they move.”


Marketing brochure imageDialogue with customers – past, present and future – should take many forms over a longer time frame to result in genuine engagement. Online conversations can feel one-dimensional and disposable; it’s easy to press delete or navigate away from a web page. The advantage of print will always be its tangible presence, infiltrating people’s lives and thoughts even when they’re on a digital detox or unsubscribing to declutter their inbox.

In this respect, beautifully crafted paper products can feel really special, indulgent even. Hunters is keeping faith in magazines – something substantial enough to hang about. Magazines that are gorgeously designed and subtly branded offer agents a softer, subliminal sell – advice and hand-selected properties bound up in a lifestyle wrapper.

Hunters says its bespoke publication cuts through digital noise and it has sent out over 600,000 paper copies so far. “Everyone is talking about our magazine when they call to book viewings and valuations,” comments Julie Lukow at Hunters Worsley.

When you email someone they’re often multi-tasking. Multi-tasking while reading a magazine is less common so the focus is more significant. Mark Burgess, Iceberg Digital.

Mark Burgess imageMark Burgess, CEO at Iceberg Digital, the producer of Hunters’ magazine, is proud to fly the flag for traditional marketing, even though his company offers a ‘full content marketing loop’, which comprises digital tools as well as offline solutions, “One of the biggest advantages of a printed publication is user engagement. Whilst I am a huge believer in digital marketing, when you hit someone’s email inbox or Facebook feed, they’re often multi tasking, with seven tabs open, writing something down and listening to the radio in the background. Multi tasking whilst reading a magazine is less common, so the focus is more significant.”

Meanwhile, Marsh & Parsons has taken its love of paper to the extreme, with an ongoing outdoor media campaign that has seen its witty ‘portrait and slogan’ posters being slathered across the side of London buses and on the walls of Tube stations. The campaign has worked – it’s unmissable and is a huge talking point.


It’s not just paper products that deliver results. The board is still a premium tool. It gets ’phones ringing, promotes your brand 24/7.

Big red bus marketing image
See the great big red bus!

Andy March, Director at Signboard says, “According to HMRC there were 122,110 property transactions in 2017 and over the last three years that number has varied by less than two per cent. You can guarantee that the vast majority had a For Sale board up at some point, there has been no reduction in their popularity because a board is the cheapest tool in the marketing mix. “Not only is it working 24/7/365 but a good “board presence” in a town or city helps to enhance market share. When the all-important “Sold stc” slip goes on it is proof that the agent in question can do the job that they were instructed to do.

“The Signboard is also used to great effect by the increasing number of estate agents sponsoring school fairs and other community events. Again this is an economical way of boosting their profile within a target audience and well as a temporary increase in their ‘boards up’ count.”

Demand from our High Street and online customers is higher than ever. Signboards are a costeffective, proven form of traditional marketing . Naomi Woods, Agency Express.

Naomi Woods image

“Demand from our High Street and online customers is higher than ever,” says Naomi Woods at Agency Express. “Signboards are a cost effective and proven form of traditional marketing. They indisputably raise brand awareness and increase market penetration.”

It’s a trend mirrored over at Kremer Signs where Tom Cummuskey says they processed an all-time high of 1.2 million signs in 2017. “We’re finding orders are increasing even when stock is low. Kremer Signs is also seeing agents order more sophisticated boards to help market premium properties: “Hangman boards and those treated with reflective or mirrored vinyl are a popular way of getting more attention for high-end stock – it shows that even the oldest marketing methods can evolve.”

That evolution includes Kremer Signs’ new boards that are chipped for contactless scanning – a step up from QR codes: “We’ve trialled a reusable chip with a couple of agents and are waiting for smartphone technology to catch up across all models before this approach becomes mainstream,” adds Tom. “With so many restrictions attached to the size and style of boards, we’re focusing on ways of achieving new levels of engagement with traditional tools.”

The power of the passerby should never be underestimated and as with boards, traditional marketing reaches customers when they’re not logged on. A high street branch is probably the most powerful traditional marketing tool, giving agents opportunities to strengthen its brand in ways that are not available online. You can appeal directly to your target audience and quickly outmanoeuvre rivals with tweaks here and there.

If you’re paying a premium to have a physical office, display pockets, posters and window stickers are impactful, quick to change and cheap to produce. “You may be in a row of three of four agents so standing out from your competitors is just as important as catching the eye of the general public,” adds Tom.


So what does the future hold for traditional marketing? Paper products will be a necessity as long as High Street branches exist and agents visit clients in person. Leaving nothing behind after a valuation is not an option (well, you could leave an iPad or a USB stick but that’s impractical and impersonal).

Rather than worrying about print dying out and digital taking over, the focus should be on joined-up marketing campaigns that span all channels. A unified message on and offline adds credibility. Get it right and traditional marketing can play a major part in an agent’s success. “Print can’t survive as a stand-alone marketing tool but if you have the right systems in place to track leads coming from printed materials, you can bring them into your marketing eco system and the results will be outstanding,” concludes Mark Burgess.

That’s is a key point for anyone wanting to get a good ROI from traditional marketing in the future.


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