When Trinity Mirror announced back in May that it was launching a ‘fightback’ against property portals Rightmove and Zoopla, it would be fair to say there was some scepticism about whether or not it could ever claw back a niche for newspaper advertising in today’s digital focused world.
But its #be1ofthe3 campaign was underlined by a valid point; while portals may be all that’s required when an agent is trying to sell a property, when it comes to getting that property onto its books in the first place, it’s brand recognition that’s needed and it’s harder to achieve on a platform as crowded as Rightmove or Zoopla.
We believe in print so we do newspaper advertising but we also do SEO, we invest heavily in our website, Google Adwords, everything. Nicki Treffers, Beresfords.
As Nicki Treffers, Head of Marketing at Beresfords, puts it, “For selling property and acquiring new stock there is a very different approach needed, so I think the more traditional forms of advertising will always have a place.”
It’s worth pointing out that Trinity Mirror isn’t just naively trying to lure agents back to the good ol’ days of printed newspapers, it is also heavily pushing its online presence and ability to keep up with changing marketplace trends.
At the time, Paul Spencer, Trinity Mirror’s Head of Property, said, “This isn’t about having to make a choice between newspapers and property websites, it’s about recognising that they both have a really important role to play, not putting all your marketing eggs in one basket.”
Whether or not Trinity Mirror’s fightback succeeds, its diversification approach appears sound as it mirrors what many agents are doing themselves when it comes to the marketing mix.
Treffers says while new digital opportunities arise on a regular basis, it doesn’t replace the need for print advertising and she estimates the company’s marketing budget is now split 50/50 between print and digital.
“We are a business that believes in print, so we do newspaper advertising, but we also do SEO, we invest heavily in our website, Google AdWords, social media, basically everything and anything because we know that property is such a broad spectrum and the target audience is so varied.
“We are one of the largest independents in the South East – we have 15 branches – so we will enter different newspapers in the different regions and week in, week out we are doing newspaper advertising. But our spend has changed ever so slightly. Whereas we would have once been prolific in the papers we’ve pulled back slightly and I think a lot of agents are doing that because though they see value in being in the paper from a brand point of view, with all the new things that are happening with Facebook and geotargeting and all those things, something has to give from a spend point of view. I would definitely say we have adapted our spend to be able to allow for slightly more targeted advertising modes.”
In this vein, she says developments such as Trinity Mirror’s campaign are a welcome move for agents. “A lot of the big groups have sat down and put their heads together and realised they’ve got to adapt as it is survival of the fittest and if they just keep thinking it is newspapers agents are going to go after they’re living in a dying age. What a lot of these newspaper groups are doing is what any good business that wants to survive is doing — they are looking at new products and a lot of them are pushing their own social media platforms. If you’re going to retain your customer base and you can see their spend is going towards the digital platforms it is logical for you to enter those products.”
Marketing used to be photocopied details with a photo stuck on if you were lucky, boards and local ads. Now its superb brochures and digital marketing. James Wyatt, Barton Wyatt.
James Wyatt, partner at Barton Wyatt, says the Surrey estate agent adopts a similar mixed approach to its marketing budget. “It is a complicated ‘pie’ to split – and the truth is, we use rudimentary methods to work out were to spend the money.
“For us we embrace a mixture, from the Barton Wyatt magazine, print adverts, direct marketing, search engine optimisation, blogs and much more; PR when we can afford it.” Of course print is about a lot more than newspaper ads, adds Wyatt. “Marketing used to be a combination of sign boards, local adverts, photocopied details (with photograph stuck on if you were lucky) and a picture in the window.
“Now crappy details have been replaced by superb glossy brochures with floor plans and professional photos combined with online listings, social media and digital marketing.”
GOOD OLD SIGNBOARDS
One of the areas that hasn’t perhaps changed as much as others is the use of signboards. While admittedly some councils have put bans in place due to poor practice and slightly more vendors than in the past are now displaying a reluctance to shout about the fact their home is for sale, boards are a traditional form of print advertising that remains perennially popular, across the nation, perhaps because there is no real digital alternative.
Andy March, Director, at Signboards, says that James Wyatt is right, ”Overall sales have been more buoyant so far this year than we might have expected – based on market statistics and predictions. Scotland has been quieter, but the Midlands, South East and South West have remained comparatively steady. Our biggest growth has been in Ireland where we have seen a significant increase in volume and value of orders over that last twelve months.”
As Naomi Wood, Marketing Manager at Agency Express, puts it, “Via our national network of operators we make over 100,000 property visits every month. This figure alone provides an excellent reflection of the industry’s need for traditional marketing methods – the estate agency board. The estate agency board is still as relevant at ever; it remains the cheapest and most effective form of marketing for any agency and the demand from both our high street and online customers is higher than ever.
Our customers are looking to enhance online advertising with hard copy print, using a combination to build the brand.
“So in our experience the question shouldn’t be ‘is traditional marketing still effective?’ or ‘should the focus be online?’ it should be ‘how can I marry online with traditional methods?’, because in unison they deliver a powerful campaign. A home seller will expect their property to be marketed online and have an estate agency board outside the front of their house. One complements the other.”
Marrying traditional methods with online is a recurring theme among clients of marketing agency Ravensworth, which offers both digital and print solutions, says Managing Director Suzie Pattison. “Our customers are looking to enhance online advertising with hard copy print such as our property guides and window displays using a combination of on and offline advertising to build brand awareness.
“Whereas agents used to book pages in local papers to showcase their latest properties, many are now using this space to help enhance brand recognition and choosing either email or digital combined with print to showcase properties. The benefit of products like property guides is that they can have fixed covers which include brand and company information and the inner pages can be updated frequently with latest properties allowing agents to quickly reprint and distribute when needed.”
BLURRING OF DEMOGRAPHIC LINES
Interestingly, Pattison says some methods that have typically been associated with older demographics are coming full circle and in fact being used to attract younger groups. “One of the best ways to reach homeowners is still through their letterboxes and whereas the pre-digital generation received all communications by post or door drop, the Millennial generation are more likely to have full inboxes and pay more attention to hard copy personalised mail. We are seeing a shift in what our customers are doing and more and more are choosing to purchase data and run direct mail campaigns through our web-to-print platform.”
Beresfords’ Nicki Treffers agrees that conventional wisdom about which age group uses which medium is being increasingly challenged. “It’s true that the older generation will be more inclined to pick up the newspaper to actually have that tangible element, or the leaflet drops, whereas a lot of the younger generation are a lot more involved with social media and the digital day and age, but we are seeing that that is changing. For example, the age categories of Facebook are changing, it is becoming older than it was so I think that people are becoming more educated in different technologies.”
Indeed, Ofcom’s June 2017 Adults’ media use and attitudes report noted a sharp rise in smartphone and tablet use among the over-65s. It also noted a significant rise in social media take-up between 2015 and 2016 among older generations – the number of over 75s with a social media profile more than doubled to 41 per cent from 19 per cent the previous year.
Of course, that still leaves almost 60 per cent of the over 75s without a social media presence and while they may not be the core market for estate agents, they’re certainly a market. In fact, those in charge of marketing budgets for estate agents perhaps have one of the biggest challenges in that almost everyone is part of their target market.
The majority of estate agents are targeting all age groups – everything from first-time buyers to retiring downsizers – so they need to be present on all of the many advertising channels available.
The mix between traditional and new marketing methods will, with time, inevitably shift further, but at this point there’s little to suggest that there isn’t plenty of room for both.