I’m in Toronto this week, and noticing some distinct differences between how real estate developers promote the homes they have for sale, compared to how things are done in Vancouver. But regardless of how you choose to promote your project, one thing is consistent. The buyers you are looking for are online. Are you?
“Research studies show that 9 out of 10 home buyers start their search online, even before contacting an agent,” says Matthew Slutsky, the man behind the popular Toronto/Vancouver/Calgary real estate development listing and map service called BuzzBuzzHome.com. “I first conceived of the idea for BuzzBuzzHome while working as VP Development for a Toronto land-developer/builder, and became frustrated with the lack of a publicly accessible online listing of all new residential developments,” he said to me over a cup of coffee last week. “So I quit my job and took a chance, and, well, it paid off. We have 35,000 visits a month now. And developers here are realizing the power of online to help sell homes.”
This mirrors our own experience at Braun/Allison Inc. for the real estate developers that we work with. Projects that combine traditional media channels along with online channels are finding a bigger audience, faster. And some of the results are startling. I’ve mentioned in this space before that we’ve had as much as 70% of our registrations for real estate projects come from Facebook advertising. And when we back up newspaper and outdoor with social media, blogs and online ads, we are able to find this sweet spot that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
So what’s stopping the real estate development industry from embracing online channels wholeheartedly? Based on the conversations I’ve had here in Toronto this week, and my own experience in Vancouver and with projects all over the world, the answer is obvious. Age. The people running development companies are mostly older, and, while I am generalizing, they are scared of social media and most other online opportunities. Oh sure, they all realize they need a website. But start talking to them about web 2.0 or SEO or SEM or Social Media or any of the other tools we now have at our disposal, and they retreat back to the safety of what they know and understand. Print.
What’s an eager (younger) marketing director to do? How do you convince the old guard to take a chance and try something new? I have a couple of suggestions.
First, break it down into dollars and cents. Explain that for the cost of one full-page print ad you can launch an entire online program.
Next, spend your money wisely. While the most intriguing benefits of online advertising and social media are long-term, focus first on the immediate gratification angle. Use fast-result options like a gateway drug to get buy-in from the senior team. Facebook ads are an impressive and affordable option. So is BuzzBuzzHome. Start small with outlets like these, and gradually you’ll win them over.