The real estate industry caters to independent strategies. For every investor, there is another way to go about conducting business. Some may prefer to utilize the convenience of technology while others want to maintain personal relationships. However, for one reason or another, there remains a void between these two independent strategies. Smart investors will figure out how to incorporate technology into their business while simultaneously maintaining the personal relationships that they have worked so hard to create. Others will need to learn this before it is too late. Using the latest technology, in association with establishing lasting relationships, can go a long way in making a business successful.
Programmers, and the venture capitalists backing them, certainly want the real estate industry to be run through advancements in technology. At the same time, a number of the leading industry minds, and young entrepreneurs are dismissing technology as just another tool. So which real estate strategies will prevail over the next decade? The early adopters riding the next wave of technology? Or those taking customer relationships seriously? Perhaps both?
Tech is invading real estate, and fast. The following advancements in technology have already been incorporated into the real estate industry:
Highly controversial drones have been flying their way into mainstream real estate applications. They are now being used for enhanced photography, virtual tours, and even property management.
As the world becomes a planet of digital natives, more and more data is becoming available to the public. While big data may seem hyped up to many real estate professionals, better data means being able to pinpoint prospects with highly targeted marketing, and give them more of what they want. Theoretically, this means improved real estate marketing performance and ROI.
Curation remains a popular trend, though its value may be suffering due to larger trends, and the obvious need for originality.
Not only is technology creating more efficiency in mortgage lending, it is spawning new financing models altogether. The advantages of speed and streamlining operation technology can increase lender margins, or help keep interest rates and borrowing costs low. One of the largest new developments has been ‘buy to rent’ loans for single-family rental home investors. Crowdfunding goes even further, completely breaking from traditional mortgage lending and having to rely on banks.
Home searches haven’t necessarily benefited from new technology much. The big home listing portals haven’t changed much. The many new startup attempts at mimicking these real estate search engines haven’t appeared to gain much traction. The data shows house hunters are still far better served turning to local real estate websites.
Web design has changed significantly in the last year; both aesthetically and functionally. HTML 5 has taken over, and both responsive sizing and content is becoming the norm.
Augmented reality is rapidly gaining traction. Augmented reality and interactive ads are taking over as the top ads in print and outdoors. Google Glass is now being used on the streets by some real estate companies to coach agents and team members in real-time. Technology is also working its way into improving green building efforts.
Where’s the Personal Touch?
Technology is great. It can make life and business a lot easier, and more profitable for real estate agents, investors, and the companies they work for. However, some entrepreneurial thought leaders and real estate commentators are increasingly highlighting the benefits of offline, and personal connections.
It all comes down to what is best for business, and enabling real estate professionals to stay in alignment with the things they really care about. Efficiency from technology is great. It gets even better when it improves service for home buyers, sellers, and renters. Done right, integrated technology can make management easier, facilitate business growth, ensure sustainability and long term competitiveness, and significantly drive up ROI and profits.
Still, it shouldn’t be a replacement for real interaction and service. Unless this is kept at the forefront of the mind, short term gains will be just that – short term. Winning customers could become far more expensive, and those with the strongest relationships will be those that retain customers and benefit from their referrals.
With this in mind, some real estate professionals and companies have been taking another look at brick and mortar storefronts. However, they are also taking the time to build real relationships. These are all good things. But, unless the same care and attention to caring for customer needs, and wowing them with great service is maintained at all levels of an organization, it may not make much difference. In fact, you might be better off with just a website, instead of allowing poor customer service reps destroy your reputation, and brand.
The latest technology has been helping to blur the lines between offline and online. Perhaps this is the best strategy for real estate companies. Meet each client where they are and interact across multiple channels for efficiency, while still providing tailored, but high quality service.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve been hearing about various mobile trends in integrated marketing. And maybe you’ve entertained the idea of how a mobile app could help your business. If you haven’t figured out whether you can afford to build one, or how to go about it, this brief overview will give you a few places to start.
First determine how an app would benefit your customers. For example, the hair-cutting franchise Great Clips launched an app that allows customers to see estimated wait times in their area, and easily make an appointment without calling. Consequently, stylists also save time by not having to interrupt haircuts to answer the phone so often.
Below are a few sites that can easily and cost-effectively help you build your own mobile app. Most of these, plus others, can be found in the book “Go Mobile: Location-Based Marketing, Apps, Mobile Optimized Ad Campaigns, 2D Codes and Other Mobile Strategies to Grow Your Business” by Jeanne Hopkins and Jamie Turner.
This free service focuses on the tech novice who wants an app for a specific event, like a conference or wedding. It includes directions, news, updates, and photo-sharing features. Yapp is limited in its functionality, but requires little-to-no technical know-how.
Authors are turning books into apps. Bands are turning albums into apps. If you’ve got the content, the MyAppBuilder team will create an app for you for $29/month. No tech experience necessary. They’ll also upload it to the app store for you.
This web-based editor is designed to let you quickly create your own iPhone app. The basic tool is free. Advanced features are available for a $79/month fee. AppMakr works on the iOS, Android and Windows operating systems.
The Mippin platform lets you create apps for Android, iOS and Windows, and offers app designs for individuals, small businesses, media owners and products. Native apps can cost as much as $999/year.
A cloud-based mobile Content Management System (mCMS) that helps you create live-content apps with no programming and “zero total cost of ownership.” Apps can include monetization options, such as ads, coupons, and subscriptions. A three-month trial is free. Pricing then depends on app features.
Signs are marketing communication vehicles for identifying a business and promoting products and services. Added to an integrated marketing campaign, they help widen your message. But a sign is only effective if it can be seen. Sounds obvious, right? But the proper placement of signs is as much as an art, as is the design of the sign itself.
In an article on signcraft.com, sign analyst, Dan Mika explains that placing a sign in the right place so people can easily see and read it requires an understanding of “sight-lines”—regions of maximum visibility. He explains that signs are best viewed at a 90-degree angle to the viewer. So, although a sign on the front of a building might be placed above a shop doorway for long-range visibility from many angles, to attract sidewalk pedestrians nearer to the business, the best sign would be placed at eye level, 90 degrees, such as a freestanding banner, A-frame sign, or flag pole style coming off the building. Even the side of an awning can carry a message that would be considered within sight-line.
The above isn’t meant to imply that all flat signs on buildings are wrong. In fact, sides of buildings can be great places for signs if traffic patterns around the building make it a sight-line for drivers.
As Mika states, once a sign is planned for just the right place, all the principles of effective sign design can then be applied to the layout. To ensure your sign investment is a solid one, be sure to work with a sign provider that can help you with both placement consultation and good graphic design.
When Facebook claimed the title as the biggest IPO in Internet history, social media officially segued from a consumer fad to a business fact. Although the abundance of Internet cat memes could make anyone wonder if social media has business validity, the emergence of the concept of social business has tangible value for any integrated marketing program.
Research firm Altimeter Group defines social business as the deep integration of social media and social methodologies into an organization to drive business impact. In a recent study, Altimeter pinpointed the two most important criteria for a successful social business strategy. First, you have to align it with the strategic goals of your organization. Second, you have to put the resources in place to execute the strategy.
What Social Business Can Do
Knowing what you want to accomplish with social business can help you make it a viable part of your integrated marketing strategy. Consider these benefits; by using social business effectively, you can:
The Art of Conversation: How to Build a Social Business Strategy
Most experts recommend you think of your social business strategy in seven stages. This process stresses brand alignment and continual feedback.
First: Align Your Efforts.
Before beginning any social business activities, your first step will be to review your company’s integrated marketing activities and assess how these other methods are working. If you haven’t done so yet, define your company’s brand personality, sales channels and target audiences. Also, document how your target audience typically engages with your organization.
Second: Refine Your Listening Skills.
Companies engaged in social business marketing should listen to their online communities more than 50 percent of the time. That means asking questions, responding to their answers and prompting conversation.
Third: Define Community Expectations.
During this stage, try to outline your program by asking your target demographics what they want to experience in a social business program.
Fourth: Determine Assets.
A common misconception is that social media tools are free. Although many do not charge for service, they really aren’t free because they cost a lot of time to maintain as a part of your integrated marketing efforts.
Fifth: Measure Your Methods.
The goals of a social business program should evolve over time. During your initial program, track goals and metrics against your overall integrated marketing and business plans.
Sixth: Select Your Channels.
It’s tempting to try out every social network available, but that isn’t strategic. Go where your customers spend time. A pin on Pinterest might buy you more than a tweet on Twitter, depending on your target audience’s activities.
Seventh: Engage in Conversations.
Online conversations must mirror real-life conversations to be effective for company branding, sales, customer satisfaction and even employee recruitment. Be transparent and authentic. Focus on your industry and always observe any industry standards or regulations. When appropriate, tie your efforts to pop culture or “news of the day.” Thank your community profusely and, most importantly, have fun with it.
What does it take to make a home famous? In case you’re wondering how to make YOUR home famous, there are two main routes to explore: Either become famous yourself (the more difficult of the two options) or lend your home to a film project for use in a movie or even a commercial.
Found an interesting article published March 5 in the Los Angeles Times titled “The star treatment: Want a film set in your living room?” (To access this article, registration is required). It’s all about looks, marketing and good neighbors that gives some background on how to go about getting your residence into a film. The article states that “On a big-budget Hollywood film, your house can earn anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 a day.” Even though you have to register on the L.A. Times site, it’s definitely worth the effort if you are looking for the fast track to having a famous home (or if you just want to get paid $2k-20K per day to stay in a hotel)!
Summer is peak season for home selling—but also for barbecues, vacations, and long, lazy beach days. In other words, there are lots of things to distract even the most diligent would-be buyers. And that’s not even counting those dog days when it’s too hot to even venture out to view homes.
But for home sellers who are eager to drum up an offer before Labor Day, having their sale sidelined isn't an option. And luckily, there's plenty you can do to lure buyers through your door. Check out these five smart tips for getting buyers to brave the heat and squeeze your house into their summer schedule.
1. Embrace 'rush hour' traffic
Long weekends out of town are the stuff summer dreams are made of. But they're also the reason many Saturday and Sunday afternoon open houses end up nearly empty. Choosing an alternative time frame may turn that around.
"During the summer months, I've found holding 'rush hour' open houses to be hugely successful," says Lindsay Bacigalupo, Engel & Völkers Minneapolis. "For example, Minnesota is full of lakes and so many residents here go up north for the weekend to enjoy time at their cabin. That's why I hold open houses on Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m.—it creates an opportunity for buyers to view it during a time that might be more convenient."
2. Turn your open house into a summer party
Let's face it: Heading to a barbecue or pool party sounds a whole lot more fun than an open house. If you can't beat 'em, why not join 'em?
"Advertise it as a party instead of simply an open house," says Brett Fischer, associate broker at Lee & Associates Residential in New York, NY.
In other words, put together a gathering that feels more like a celebration than a sales pitch. Try serving up refreshments outside like lemonade and iced tea on trays, or fire up the grill to serve summer-themed appetizers or sliders.
Timing can make a difference here, too: Rather than holding your soirée in the middle of the day, wait until the evening when the temperature's bearable and people are ready to venture out and kick back at a house party.
3. Shine a spotlight on the outdoor space
Nothing's more appealing on a scorching summer day than a backyard pool. Play up this feature and other outdoor amenities to convince buyers this is the warm weather oasis they deserve.
"The long days of summer make for the perfect opportunity to highlight the exterior living spaces of the property," says Than Merrill, a real estate investor and CEO of the real estate education company FortuneBuilders. "Make additional effort to keep patio areas, the pool, and outdoor furniture extra-clean. Incorporate tasteful props such as cushions, towels, lanterns, and string lights to help spur the imagination of your guests."
Mark Cianciullli, a real estate agent at the CREM Group, recalls how setting the stage paid off by getting potential buyers to envision themselves enjoying the amenities he's featured.
"It was a hillside home that had a beautiful view of the city below, especially at night when the city was lit up. So I decided to have a 'summer nights'–themed open house where I set up bistro lights in the backyard and floating candles in the pool and served wine and cheese," he says. "It was such a charming atmosphere that the ultimate buyer wanted the house so bad so she could re-create those kinds of settings for parties or just hanging out with her family and friends."
4. Create a community event
Sometimes getting a home sold is a matter of enlisting the help of those who already live in the neighborhood. Merrill recommends hosting a summer block party at the front of the property, rather than in the backyard, to invite more attention and foot traffic from neighbors and others passing by.
"Prepare a theme, such as a luau or a summer barbecue, with entertainment for kids," he suggests. "Make sure to design and pass out event fliers around the neighborhood days in advance. Consider renting food trucks, including a snow cone or ice cream truck, to help serve your guests. As you mingle with guests, invite them to take a tour of the property and ask them to spread the word to friends and neighbors."
This concept translates to urban areas as well.
"New York City is famous for its residents fleeing the city on weekends, so real estate professionals have to get creative," explains Mable Ivory at Engel & Völkers in New York. "So this week, I hosted a community event called 'Sunset Soiree in the South Bronx.' Attendees could preview my listing, a penthouse on the Grand Concourse, while enjoying Bronx and Manhattan skyline views at sunset. We provided live music from Bronx native Pernell Walker, custom-designed 'Bronx Bomber' cocktails and bites, and had a raffle for 'The Bronx Rox' gift basket. It was more than just an open house, but a way for the community to get together and celebrate their neighborhood."
5. Advertise early, often, and offline
Spreading the word about an open house is always key to getting people in the door, but never more so than that stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
"Summer is a crazy season, and often people become unplugged from their devices," says Jennifer Brownhill, regional marketing manager of CLV Group. "So advertising online well in advance will help give people the heads-up to clear their schedule for this day."
To capture more eyeballs offline, plant signs on roadways headed toward the beach, campgrounds, and other popular summer destinations. Add extras like balloons to draw even more attention.
"Buyers know that it doesn't take long to tour the home," says Alex Hubler of Keller Williams Premier Realty Lake Minnetonka, MN. Advertise how your home's just five minutes off the highway, and "people can pop in quick if they're on their way somewhere, rather than taking the whole day to tour homes."
Even though the amount of housing inventory has reportedly shrunk, the market for selling homes is still incredibly competitive. It is only expected to become more competitive in the near future. So what are some real estate marketing ideas for real estate agents, investors and regular homeowners that want to sell their houses and do it faster? The following is a comprehensive list of proven real estate marketing ideas:
What are the best real estate lead generation options today?
Where and how can real estate agents, investors and other related industry professionals generate more leads for buying, selling and renting properties? What are some of the little known benefits, and pitfalls of common real estate lead generation channels today?
Here are 12 ways for real estate investors and Realtors to bring in more leads:
Some popular real estate gurus have said that direct mail is the fastest and easiest way to generate new leads. It can still be very effective. In fact, as others have turned to online marketing, direct mail may have become even more effective and profitable. However, direct mail success does rely on volume and testing to hone messaging and delivery.
Cold calling on a large scale, such as using call centers, might face many challenges with regulations today, but it has still been proven to generate an effective hourly income of hundreds of dollars for Realtors. Simply picking up the phone can be one of the fastest ways to generate real estate business. It is also one of the lowest cost ways to generate leads, and can help professionals stay on top of their sales game.
Many fantastic real estate deals and listings can be uncovered by simply driving neighborhoods and knocking on doors. There are obvious obstacles in doing this, but when it comes to getting the jump on competitors, it can be hard to beat.
Google may have made reaching consumers via their inboxes more challenging, but email can still be one of the best ways to reach both the masses, and highly targeted contacts. Email lists may be rented from data companies versus buying them. Subsequently, real estate investors and agents can take control of their own email real estate and build their own lists.
Buying Internet Leads
Buying internet leads has been popular for a variety of real estate and mortgage companies since before the last housing boom. These individuals experienced somewhat of a bubble, but have now been improved with enhanced data and targeting tools. There are various types of these leads ranging from ‘aged’ leads, to live exclusive leads, and non-exclusive leads. Make sure you do your homework and understand exactly what you are getting, as well as the difference in these types of consumers, in order to maximize ROI.
Buying Lead Lists
Lead lists have been a staple of the real estate industry for many years. An almost endless array of filters can be used to laser target the best prospects with these lists. However, newer individuals and real estate companies need to recognize that they may not legally be allowed to have, or market to some of these lists depending on how the data was generated. Watch for junk, and be sure lists aren’t being fluffed out with bogus names.
Real Estate Blogging
Real estate blogging remains one of the most powerful and profitable forms of lead generation, but also one of the most underestimated. A regular blog can ensure real estate pros and companies are not held ransom by other platforms, and can go on helping to generate leads for years after posts are written. A blog can be used to draw regular internet leads, feed email list building, and fuel social media efforts.
While this medium changes constantly, social media platforms can still be a fantastic way to generate leads in real estate. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and even Pinterest are all great options. There are many debates over calls to action, the amount of engagement which is right, and how much should be invested off-site, versus on a real estate company’s own websites, but with the right funnel strategy, it can be fast, affordable and enjoyable.
Signage & Outdoor Real Estate Advertising
Even the simplest yard and ‘bandit’ signs can be incredibly affordable ways to generate real estate leads. With the right message, these and other outdoor advertising solutions can be used to generate a steady stream of local leads. New technology can make this even better. Call capture, QR codes, interactive augmented reality signs, text messaging options, and even links to virtual tours can be used to boost outdoor advertising performance.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be one of the best methods of predictably and consistently driving in real estate leads on demand. PPC solutions, like Google Adwords, offer the ability to drive in leads on command. This can be tweaked to be hyper local, or reach global buyers, investors and homeowners right where they are now. With a little strategy and education, real estate marketers can significantly drive down PPC costs. With a large enough budget, they can even dominate, and starve out the competition by buying every lead for a given keyword. Aside from the big platforms, more affordable online leads may be gleaned from purchasing image, text and banner ads on other websites directly.
Don’t forget print. Beyond the traditional line up of real estate mags, consider other industry magazines that will reach the same prime prospects, and even leveraging online magazines.
Referrals and Affiliate Marketing
Personal referrals can be both a compliment, and the most valuable form of lead generation. Savvy real estate CEOs are taking this to a whole new level by using technology to scale and organize referrals on a national and global scale.
What if the world of real estate advertising and marketing, as we’ve known it for decades, was irretrievably broken? What would it mean for real estate investors and agents? What would it take to get real estate leads and retain clients? What level or care and quality would it require to stay in business and keep growing?
In a recent interview with Inc. Magazine, Seth Godin alluded to the idea that marketing and advertising, as we used to know it, has been broken in large part to too much noise. Perhaps ironically of course, Seth Godin is revered by many as one of the greatest marketers of our time. Seth has recently posed a couple of important thoughts. The first, which can be found in the respective Inc. interview, referred to paying for marketing as a losing strategy. The second, via his blog, asked what if there were no more customers to be had? What if this was the last generation of potential clients – how would you treat them differently?
There may absolutely be challenges in real estate marketing, more competition for attention, and platforms like Facebook may constantly be upping the premium to reach your hard worked for fans, but thankfully traditional channels aren’t dead yet.
Traditional real estate marketing (phone, SMS, yard and bandit signs, direct mail, email, PPC and SEO, print and display advertising) is far from being outdated. All of these types of real estate marketing may have their own cycles, just like the property market as a whole. However, attention is undoubtedly becoming more valuable, as are loyal customers. Few could argue that working with referrals and repeat customers isn’t the highest ROI and most sustainable type of business. So in order to maximize ROI and avoid being held ransom by marketing agencies which control the costs of so many of these channels, what does it take to make your budget go further, get free business and keep them coming back?
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, real estate companies and independent pros have to realize it is about the customer, not themselves. You have to really, really understand this, and keep it in mind with ever move you make. So make your messaging more about helping consumers, home buyers and sellers and renters and investors, and a lot less about you. Stop bragging and show them what you can do for them. Think creatively. In order to get more out of a real estate marketing budget, it needs to be highly effective. It needs to have viral capability by itself. Consider any paid boost to get it in front of others a bonus.
We are also seeing a return to personal connection. The internet isn’t going away, and in many ways this can actually augment relationship building if engaged accordingly. To cultivate referrals, close new business, retain customers and benefit from repeat business, relationships are important. Seth Godin suggests focusing on building ‘tribes,’ communities and groups that really care about something. This could be helping each other succeed in real estate, or rebuilding their community or beautiful design. It can be done on Facebook, Google+ groups, Twitter, via email, and in person at events.
The bottom line is that paying for marketing is still a reality in the real estate world and can have great returns. It’s just better done with same level of care and quality as if it was the only single message you could afford to send. Sincere marketing is hard to fake, and even harder to stick with. However, those that care enough and care about the long term will find these things helpful.
Print advertising appears to be making a rebound in the U.S. housing market, but what practices and tactics can help companies get even better results? More importantly, how can real estate investors increase their ROI with effective print marketing? How can you maximize your marketing efforts?
The current resurgence of real estate magazines suggests print media is back. During the downturn they thinned out, many went broke and others merged together. Now, housing is booming along with the offers made for print ad space. Experienced marketing and real estate pros know that all media, just like the property market, is cyclical. However,, no one wants to gamble or take chances with their advertising budgets. So how can real estate investors, agents and companies improve their ROI and ensure better results from print?
1. Credible Contact Information
Without accurate contact information, minimal response and action can be expected from any advertising campaign. The more options that real estate marketers provide, the better the odds that response and conversion ratios will go up. However, having credible contact information is equally important. For example; would you respond to a magazine ad that only had a gmail or Yahoo email address?
2. Research the Competition First
Don’t launch your ads until you’ve researched what the competition is doing with their ads. There is no sense in burning your budget and opportunity with an inferior ad. For example; if one mortgage company is advertising 2% interest rates and no closing costs, those offering anything less are likely to be overlooked or discarded. Make your ads count. By knowing your competition you can give yourself an advantage.
3. Split a Page
Having control of a full page in a magazine is great, but that doesn’t mean innovative real estate marketers can’t slash their costs, boost ROI and build relationships with strategic partnerships by splitting the expenses. Perhaps a mortgage, title or insurance partner will be willing to chip in? As long as it benefits both parties, why not?
4. The Back Cover
The back cover of a magazine can be just as valuable to real estate agents, investors and companies than the front cover.
5. Negotiate Better Deals
While demand for magazine and print advertising may be headed up, everything is always negotiable in this industry. Can you get a better deal if you commit to several months or multiple pages? Can you negotiate additional perks or discounts for referrals and links, or simply print ready ads versus having the publisher put it together?
6. Augmented Reality Ads
Augmented reality is the next big space for marketing, especially print. In fact, it is AR that has probably saved and revived the print industry from the brink of extinction. New statistics show a significant percentage of top print publications and ads in those publications turning to augmented reality, with as many as 80% of readers downloading AR apps and engaging across digital boundaries. If more money doesn’t excite you, it looks really cool too.
7. Print +
There is no denying that most real estate pros today are more interested in growing their online business. For those that are going to do print, try negotiating with the publisher to have them send out emails on your behalf, post social updates with back links and look for active back links in digital copies of magazines. These perks could far exceed the print value. Just make sure you know what their online traffic numbers look like in addition to the number of magazines left around which may be a poor reflection of readership numbers.
Since 2005, social technologies have swept through popular culture. Today, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide have an account on a social networking site, and nearly one in five online hours is spent on social networks.
Businesses, however, are still missing the boat, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study that analyzes how social technologies stimulate business growth and generate added value. Researchers say that by not embracing and implementing social technologies to their fullest, businesses aren’t tapping even a tiny fraction of the $1+ trillion of annual value that’s there for the taking.
Social Technologies Defined
McKinsey defines social technologies as “products and services that enable social interactions in the digital realm, and thus allow people (consumers and enterprises) to connect and interact virtually.”
Among many others, the study’s list of technologies includes:
An abridged summary of the 13-page study’s business upside for integrating social technologies includes:
Already integrating social technologies or tactics? Our prior social media posts may provide some actionable new ideas.
TC On Point
Wary integrated marketers should look carefully before leaping into SMS (short message service) marketing. It may feel like the Wild West of the new mobile frontier, but there are still rules that must be followed. If you go off half-cocked without knowing the boundaries before you hit “send,” you could end up shooting yourself in the pocketbook. Learn from these expensive mistakes others have made so you won’t have to repeat them:
1) Spamming Your Customers
Don’t abuse the medium. Simply having someone’s cell phone number does not mean you have permission to text them. They need to opt in. Then once you have permission, you need to maintain it. Don’t forget to give people the option to opt out within your message, every time.
2) Forgetting Disclaimers.
Your message should always include the standard caveat that “message and data rates may apply.” Remember, some people don’t have unlimited texting or data. If you send a link that takes them to a video, they could easily exceed their limit. Don’t upset your customer! Be diligent about following the rules and respecting the recipients of your messages.
3) Meager Incentives to Opt-in.
Give your customer a reason to want to text in and give you their phone number. It could be a free report or valuable information for a B2B audience. For a B2C consumer audience, the incentive will usually be some type of discount or offer.
Be aware that the same offer in an email may not work on cell phones. People guard their cell phone numbers more than emails. You need to make it worthwhile for customers to give out their cell phone number.
4) Mobile-unfriendly Destinations.
Your audience is going to view your message on their mobile phone, so send them a link to a webpage that has been optimized for mobile devices. Be sure your message works on a small screen by testing it first.
5) Using the Wrong Text Message Provider.
Businesses looking for a texting company need to know whether the provider is using a good system. To do so, it helps to understand the difference between SMTP and SMS. According to mobile marketing expert Jean-Michel Bernstein of Emarcom, “Some providers use SMTP, or email protocol. Although it costs less, your message could get blocked as spam. SMTP is like a non-toll road, there’s lots of traffic and messages are not guaranteed to go through—SMTP has a 60% failure rate! If a provider offers unlimited texting for a flat rate, this is a red flag! It means they’re basically sending emails to cell phones.”
When a carrier sees a large block of messages (e.g. 100+) going out via SMTP, they may block all the messages. However, your test message will go through because it’s only a single message.
Be sure your SMS campaign goes out on the cell phone carrier’s data network. By using the data network, you guarantee the message will be delivered within 60 seconds. Using the data network costs 3-5 cents apiece.
6) Buying Lists of Phone Numbers.
This is our last big no-no. Never buy a database of cell phone numbers from a list provider and then use it to send out text messages. Cold call if you must, but don’t spam people. If you violate an anti-spam law, the penalty could result in a fine of as much as $175 per cell phone number, per incident.
You’re just going to have to build up your list of cell phone numbers the old fashioned way. Expect to spend 30 to 60 days developing a sufficient cell phone number database. Give people a good enough incentive for giving you their number and your list should have no trouble growing.
You may have a lot of “owned media” and not even know it. Does your company have empty walls or hallways? Perhaps they could be put to better use than as generic art galleries. Think of at all those blank office walls as “owned media”—yet another avenue for getting your integrated marketing message across and an opportunity to cross-promote services while reinforcing your brand values.
Who Uses Owned Media
Hospitals offer a prime example of “owned media”. Their campuses have miles of blank walls and waiting rooms filled with captive audiences, but few use them effectively. One notable exception is Kaiser Permanente, which has been using the vast wall space of its new Irvine, California, facility to motivate patients with images from their “Thrive” marketing campaign that also reinforce the brand’s commitment to the their members’ total health as well as the communities they serve.
But you don’t have to be as big as a hospital to have “owned media.” Take a walk around your own business. Do you have waiting areas? Are you using your signage and store displays effectively?
Match the Message with the Environment
Take advantage of potential areas within your company to talk about new products or improvements. Be careful to balance environmental design with marketing—don’t come across as too pushy or salesy. Owned media within the office also offers a vehicle for engaging and inspiring employees, informing visitors and reinforcing your brand values.
Potential Owned Media Opportunities
According to M. Muneer, CEO of CustomerLab, empty walls are not the only places for branding and messaging opportunities. Owned media potentially includes the building, walls, garden, vehicles, websites, and social media.
Muneer cites additional opportunities that include external signage, vehicle wraps, garden boards, interior design, digital signage, floor and wall graphics, information kiosks, and so on. Owned corporate messages can be put in the entry hall, waiting areas, cafeteria, staircases, elevators, and parking area. Even your phone system can be used for branded audio messages instead of traditional ring tones. In short, anything a company uses to communicate or to make an impression can be considered owned media.
Integrated marketers should be sensitive to their environment and carefully choose the right way to deliver the right message for the setting to convey your brand values without getting pushy.
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Facebook introduced Graph Search, a new way to explore Facebook. Given Facebook’s reach and content — 1 billion users, 240 billion photos and 1 trillion connections — there’s a lot to search. Graph Search is a way for Facebook users to find photos, places, recommendations, people, interests and events that are relevant to their lives.
With Facebook Graph Search, you can use Facebook to find information qualified just for you. Think of it as the ultimate search, combining location-based review sites, such as Instagram, with photo sharing services, such as Flickr, and engines, such as Google. There is no limit to how you can combine keywords to return relevant data.
Graph Search is too new to indicate its impact on businesses, but its scope means you have to consider Graph Search as part of your integrated marketing strategy. Given that Graph Search combines personal recommendations culled from Facebook users with traditional search-engine marketing, your business will benefit from earning as many likes, check ins, ratings and recommendations as possible to push it higher in results.
Here are three ways to get ahead of the Graph Search curve by focusing on the relevancy of your Facebook Page:
Check Page Information. Start with the basics and make sure you classified your business properly and have posted up-to-date information, such as physical address, telephone number and hours of operation. You’ll want this information to appear accurately when your business appears in Graph Search results.
Promote Your Business to Target Audiences. Consider ways to cross-promote your Facebook marketing with other integrated marketing initiatives. If you run a retail shop, post signs and encourage your customers to check in. Earmark some dollars from your online advertising budget to buy Facebook ads that target customer demographics, such as people who share hobbies similar to your products or services.
Give Your Audience Reasons to Connect. Your Facebook community will grow if you give your audience content that encourages engagement. This means setting an integrated marketing strategy that includes consistent Facebook posts, with valuable content that encourages sharing. Although you can post sales messages from time to time, rely on other creative messages, such as contests or polls.
Create once, publish everywhere. That’s how smart companies are getting the most mileage out of their integrated marketing content.
If you’re like most small to mid-size businesses, you might consider the curation of customer case studies and testimonials, surveys, product data, presentations, company statistics and more as one of your most-important integrated marketing tactics — and one of your time-consuming tasks. So it makes sense to market that content as widely as possible.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t promote their content beyond their own websites effectively — yet it’s the single biggest opportunity you have. That’s where an integrated content marketing strategy comes into play, so you can ensure you’re influencing customers with the right content at the right time.
Here are three sure-fire ways to connect company or product content with buyers:
A Picture Is Still Worth a Thousand Words. Our ancient ancestors might be responsible for the infographics craze. After all, they told stories by painting images on caves more than 30,000 years ago. Today, we have it a lot easier. According to Visual.ly, an infographic — shorthand for information graphic — is data sorted, arranged and presented visually. Pinterest is another popular platform to publish your infographic.
Turn Commerce into Child’s Play. We turn to our smart phones, tablets and apps for everything from answering emails to finding the best Chinese restaurant in town. So why not turn your integrated market content into an interactive game or app? This trend of gamification is expected to increase by 90 percent reports Mind Commerce.
Be Your Own News Channel. With the ease and low cost of press release distribution services today, you can create your own news room to announce company information, putting your brand on every major news site and search engine on the web. According to PRWeb, you can boost readership by adding a multimedia element, such as a photo or video.
Signs, or signage, are so commonplace that their importance can be taken for granted. The International Sign Association (ISA) published a study indicating that when a sign was added on a previously blank side of a building, sales increased anywhere between 2.5% and 7.1%.
Most small business owners know they need signage, but too many think of them as merely a marker identifying the business –certainly not a powerful marketing tool. The fact is, when designed effectively, a sign can be a part of a solid integrated marketing strategy that helps brand your business in the minds of your customers.
According to the International Sign Association (ISA), your sign should
Attract New Customers
Research indicates that 85% of your customers live or work within a five-mile radius of your business. But according to the U. S. Census Bureau, 18.6% of the population relocates annually, which means every year you’re losing customers that you must replace with new customers just to break even. The quickest, easiest and most economical way to attract new customers is with signage.
Brand the Business
When your business is the first one that comes to mind as a place to find a product or service, you have achieved what is called “top-of-mind awareness.” Top-of-mind awareness is built and reinforced through repetition. When driving to and from work, school and shopping, your customers pass your location some 50 to 60 times a month. Your sign should be designed so that it commands their attention every time they pass by.
Create Impulse Sales
A recent study from the University of California at Berkeley analyzed 30,000 purchases of 4,200 customers in 14 cities. It found that 68% of purchases during major shopping trips were unplanned–they were bought on impulse. Even though many of today’s consumers have the financial ability to spend money, few have the time in which to do that spending. They’re certainly too busy to search for you or wander around comparison-shopping. They are more likely to stop at the first convenient place they see that seems to be selling what they need.
If your sign is going to convince the impulse customer to stop at your business, it must be designed so that the important information is easily recognized at a glance. Make sure the first time someone reads your sign, they immediately understand the most important information–what you’re selling!
Is direct mail a part of your integrated marketing strategy? If so, do you maintain your own mailing lists and mail your direct mail pieces yourself thinking you’re saving your company big money?
Well, think again.
According to the USPS, over 40 million Americans change their addresses annually, which makes maintaining a high-quality mailing list a near impossibility. In fact, the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) reports that Undeliverable-as-Addressed (UAA) mail costs the United States Postal Service approximately $2 billion each year.
Too many small businesses shy away from data management practices, usually because they don’t think they’re big enough and/or they don’t know how to get started. The truth is, small companies can benefit greatly from keeping their customer data clean. Implementing some simple controls¾like checking addresses against the National Change of Address database (NCOA) and making sure there are no errors in content or address formatting¾can ensure ongoing data quality.
If these activities sound daunting to you, consider outsourcing this task to a mailing services provider to maintain your lists. Oftentimes, mailing services can actually save you more money than if you tried to do it all yourself. Not only can a mailing provider ensure the data you are working with is as clean as possible, they can save you money by improving deliverability and maximizing postal discounts to help you mail at the lowest possible rates with the fewest possible UAA mail pieces. This not only saves you money, it protects the environment by reducing paper waste.
So the next time you’re getting ready for a big mailing, give outsourcing a try. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
Is keyword research a strategic function or a tactical one? The late Ron Jones, president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing and author of Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond believed that it is not only strategic, but also foundational to all marketing channels you will use.
According to Jones, the first thing to consider in developing a keyword strategy is what you want to accomplish when you reach your target audience. Do you just want to generate an impression for branding purposes or do you want to invite them to your place where you get them to make a purchase?
Here are three types of strategies to consider:
Identifying this up front will help you put your keyword research in the right perspective. As you refine and pick your top keywords, you can sort them accordingly based on which strategy you’re targeting.
By some estimates, more than 20% of all searches are for local businesses. If you want your brick-and-mortar enterprise to attract more nearby patrons, local SEO (search engine optimization) is a must-have marketing tactic, says the pithy “Definitive Guide to Local SEO” post over at Search Engine Journal.com.
Local Means Trusted
Six in ten users trust local search results and consider them relevant. So appearing atop the list means you’re more likely to be chosen. Summarized below are some of the article’s top local SEO tips, which perfectly complement our previous Location-Based Services post:
Tip #1: Create a Google + Local Listing—But only after first reviewing Google’s quality guidelines to understand their requirements. Giving Google precisely the information it wants, in the format it most prefers, is the best (and only) way to fully leverage this powerful marketing channel.
Tip #2: Learn how to use Reviews—Positive reviews (and lots of ‘em) tell Google and customers that your business is reputable, popular and worthy of appearing higher in the search results. Ask for reviews regularly and make it easy to submit them. Include your Google + Local profile links (and request) in emails, direct mail and in-store signage. Cautionary note: deliver on every brand promise at every customer touch point or reviews could backfire and keep customers away.
Also, take time to learn about local search citations so you’re conversant when you and your marketing team or provider decide to take the local SEO plunge. Biggest takeaway: Google gladly gives citation search-love, but only if you use their preferred format consistently across the web.
Tip #3: Get your on-site SEO in order—All the same elements apply for local SEO as national SEO, says the SEJ article, with some extra considerations like: putting your company’s name, address and phone number on every page of your site (in the same format as your Google + Local listing), preferably in the footer; also include your city and state names in Title Tags, Meta descriptions and where they fit naturally into your content.
Social media wasn’t around during the Cold War, of course. But the term “social listening” does conjure the image of marketers in ushankas, huddled around a Twitter feed, like half-frozen Siberian spies parsing transmissions for intel.
Social listening is really just a subset of a larger discipline called “brand monitoring” by big companies and their big expensive agencies. They eavesdrop on the Twittersphere and other online sources, mining traffic for comments about their companies, products and leaders.
Not Just for Big Brands
The good news is that most small businesses can implement some form of brand monitoring or social listening. But to succeed, you’ll need a purpose, a plan and some patience—and a Twitter account to serve as your company’s listening outpost.
So Why Listen?
Central to any integrated marketing initiative is being crystal clear about why you’re doing it.
A very good AdAge.com article, summarized below, cites three important but very different strategic reasons for social listening:
Be Patient and Persistent
Planning and implementing a social listening program can take many months and man-hours. Ditto for the other critical piece of the social listening puzzle: learning to mine and interpret results.
But with patience and the right approach, social listening can yield many new competitive advantages, including: deeper customer insights and connections, a more authoritative market presence, and the confidence to guide your brand’s social marketing narrative. And what red-blooded Western marketer wouldn’t say “da” to that?
You probably only think you’ve eliminated pet odors. Here’s how to make sure.
Having pet odors inside your home can turn off potential home buyers and keep your home from selling. Ask your real estate agent for an honest opinion about whether your home has a pet smell.
If your agent holds her nose, here’s how to get rid of the smell:
#1 Air Out Your House
While you’re cleaning, throw open all the windows in your home to allow fresh air to circulate and sweep out unpleasant scents.
Once your house is free of pet odors, do what you can to keep the smells from returning. Crate your dog when you’re out or keep it outdoors. Limit the cat to one floor or room, if possible. Remove or replace pet bedding.
#2 Scrub Thoroughly
Scrub bare floors and walls soiled by pets with vinegar, wood floor cleaner, or an odor-neutralizing product, which you can purchase at a pet supply store for $10 to $25.
Try a 1:9 bleach-to-water solution on surfaces it won’t damage, like cement floors or walls.
Got a stubborn pet odors covering a large area? You may have to spend several hundred dollars to hire a service that specializes in hard-to-clean stains.
#3 Wash Your Drapes and Upholstery
Pet odors seep into fabrics. Launder, steam clean, or dry clean all your fabric window coverings. Steam clean upholstered furniture.
Either buy a steam cleaner designed to remove pet hair for around $200 and do the job yourself, or pay a pro. You’ll spend about $40 for an upholstered chair, $100 for a sofa, and $7 for each dining room chair if a pro does your cleaning.
#4 Clean Your Carpets
Shampoo your carpets and rugs, or have professionals do the job for $25 to $50 per room, depending on their size and the level of filth embedded in them. The cleaner will try to sell you deodorizing treatments. You’ll know if you need to spend the extra money on those after the carpet dries and you have a friend perform a sniff test.
If deodorizing doesn’t remove the pet odor from your home, the carpets and padding will have to go. Once you tear them out, scrub the subfloor with vinegar or an odor-removing product, and install new padding and carpeting. Unless the smell is in the subfloor, in which case that goes next.
#5 Paint, Replace, or Seal Walls
When heavy-duty cleaners haven’t eradicated smells in drywall, plaster, or woodwork, add a fresh coat of paint or stain, or replace the drywall or wood altogether.
On brick and cement, apply a sealant appropriate for the surface for $25 to $100. That may smother and seal in the odor, keeping it from reemerging.
#6 Place Potpourri or Scented Candles in Strategic Locations
Put a bow on your deep clean with potpourri and scented candles. Don’t go overboard and turn off buyers sensitive to perfumes. Simply place a bowl of mild potpourri in your foyer to create a warm first impression, and add other mild scents to the kitchen and bathrooms.
#7 Control Urine Smells
If your dog uses indoor pee pads, put down a new pad each time the dog goes. Throw them away outside in a trash can with a tight lid. Remove even clean pads from view before each showing.
Replace kitty litter daily, rather than scooping used litter clumps, and sweep up around the litter box. Hide the litter box before each showing.
#8 Relocate Pets
If your dog or cat has a best friend it can stay with while you’re selling your home (and you can stand to be separated from your pet), consider sending your pet on a temporary vacation. If pets have to stay, remove them from the house for showings and put away their dishes, towels, and toys.
As email spammers become more and more creative in their approach, spam filters become more and more sophisticated in their approach. If you engage in email marketing, you’re already aware of how hard it can be to get your message past your audiences’ junk mail filters and into their in-boxes. The following tips, courtesy of ePly Online Event Registration, can help keep your emails from being flagged as spam:
Free Spam Testing Tool
There are a number of free tools online, such as http://spamscore.me/, that will take a sample email, process it, and assess its likelihood of getting caught in a junk mail folder. A 100% delivery rate for your email campaign might be pie-in-the-sky, but with a few easy steps, avoiding getting flagged as spam can be as easy as cake and ice cream!
B2B mobile marketing, including text message marketing (SMS) and multimedia message service marketing (MMS), can be effective additions to your integrated marketing mix, says Target Marketing magazine, providing you follow some simple but vital planning and delivery tips.
Versatile, Flexible, Instant
SMS marketing is an “opt-in” service, in which those interested in your company, product or offer give (by texting, of course) their permission to send short promotional messages to their mobile device.
SMS-enabled retailers, restaurants and service companies use text-message marketing to send in-store redeemable offers and discounts. Airlines and event planners use SMS texts to dispatch alerts and confirmations.
MMS Slideshow Combo
A multimedia message service (MMS) is similar, but more engaging, because MMS texts can contain a timed combination of images, messages, audio and video. They’re more work to produce but can provide a bigger lift in response rates.
According to MobileMarketer.com, nearly 98% of all text messages are read within five seconds, and 67% of business owners who use SMS marketing find it more effective than regular email.
These tips summarized from the Target Marketing post will help you use SMS/MMS to jumpstart or enhance your mobile marketing program:
Combine these tips with others we’ve recently posted and you’ll be on your way to a stronger, more successful mobile marketing program.
Criticism can be difficult to take, especially from a customer. But for any business to survive, negative comments must be addressed, and promptly, no matter how they’re received.
Word of mouth used to spread to only a handful of people—usually the customer’s friends and family. Now, customers can broadcast their experiences to the world via social media, amplifying the reach of your company’s service, good or bad. This can also lead to additional publicity when social media messages go viral.
A strategy for handling public complaints should be part of any integrated marketing program, especially given the growing number of new media channels for customers to air their grievances. The fact is, negative reviews can be seen as valuable opportunities to convert unhappy customers into enthusiastic brand evangelists.
Here are eight principles to keep in mind in order when dealing with bad online reviews.
1. Don’t Delete or Fake
Deleting negative comments only infuriates the disgruntled, causing them to redouble their efforts and vitriol. By the same token, don’t try to write your own positive reviews. Review websites can find out when someone is writing multiple positive reviews for one business. Eventually you’ll get found out. That would be negative.
2. Respond Promptly
Your customers are living at Internet speed, always plugged in and connected. The longer it takes to respond to a negative (or potentially false) representation of your business, the more time it has to spread. Then the proverbial genie is out of the bottle.
3. Show You Care
When you get a negative comment or review, don’t ignore it. Reply respectfully and sincerely. But rather than emailing privately, use the same forum in which the negative remark was received to post your response publicly. Show other readers and prospective customers that you are listening and acting accordingly.
4. Take Serious Complaints Offline
Once you’ve responded publicly to let everyone know you’re addressing the situation, take the details offline. After apologizing, ask the customer to email you so you can resolve the matter. This helps to protect the privacy and dignity of both sides and reach a more positive outcome.
5. Monitor the Conversation
You don’t have to subscribe to every blog or forum to see what people are saying about your company online. Sign up for Google Alerts. It’s a free service that notifies you with an email alert every time your name or any other key phrase you specify is used on the Web. People pay big money for focus groups to get the kind of consumer opinion that’s now available free online.
6. Make It Right
Acknowledge the mistakes. Apologize—even if it’s not your fault. Then make it up to the customer somehow. This is the opportunity, the chance to exceed expectations with a huge potential return on investment. Do whatever it takes to turn that frown upside down.
7. Bury the Bad
If you don’t have a website, LinkedIn profile, or any social media presence, then any negative reviews have a higher likelihood of rising to the top of search results. By consistently generating your own positive online content through blog posts, press releases, videos, and social networks, it’s possible to bury the negative results further down in the listings.
8. Watch for Trends
One bad review could be a fluke or an off night for someone. Or it could be an early warning sign of an operational problem. Investigate the incident carefully. Ask open-ended questions of your customer to learn more than they may have been willing to write in a public forum.
On-premise signage is a lot like your company website FAQ or About pages: it plays a small but vital role in brand recognition and lead generation. Yet, once in place, signage can be easily forgotten. One way to freshen up your marketing efforts is to replace exterior weathered and faded signs, as well as interior ones touting an old logo or message. A well-designed sign with the right font, colors and graphics can attract the attention of more potential customers and make for a more lasting impression of your company.
Sign technology has come a long way. Whether you select a free standing sign, lettering applied to the exterior of your building or graphics on your front window, numerous options are available to match your company’s personality and budget. Some sign options, such as posters and banners, are so affordable you can change them frequently to align with your current marketing campaigns.
Signage should always be considered when developing integrated marketing campaigns for your products. If your prospects and customers are receiving an offer or being introduced to a new product through direct mail, email, or via your website using a new creative campaign, that same creative and messaging should be developed for the exterior or interior of your business. This is a great way to upsell that new product to existing customers. And, temporary magnetic signs on delivery vehicles are another way to communicate the offer.
It’s really all about visual communications—the art of using pictures, graphics, charts and signs to communicate information. Visual communication gives us perspective to help us learn, understand and retain information. So, if you want your company to be seen and heard, use signs!