Selling real estate is an unruly, undefined art. You need to cover all the conventional advertising hotspots, you need to hunt in every corner of the web for good leads, and every once in a while, you need to get creative with your real estate marketing.
It’s extremely tough, and that’s why last week’s webinar on “How to be a Smarter Real Estate Marketer” with our guest presenters, Santhan Reddy and Srikrishna Mamidipudi, was a huge hit and highly appreciated by all our attendees.
Deep Red Ink‘s Santhan and Srikrishna delivered a great session on the real estate marketing ecosystem in India today. In case you missed it, here’s a summary of some of the questions asked and answers to them by our guest presenters. Click on the link below to access the webinar recording:
What are the most common mistakes real estate marketers make?
- How the leads considered “cold” are dealt with:
The first mistake that comes to my mind is the hot, cold and warm lead system. Cold leads are generally not given much attention compared to the “warm” and “hot” leads. This is not really a good approach to take because in real estate business the buying cycle is almost 6 months long. So considering someone in very initial stages of buying as “cold”, and not concentrating on them at all is not a good assumption to make.
- How marketers track data within a system:
The other common mistake is to not track every single lead that enters your system. There should be a transparency in the whole lead lifecycle – what’s happening to the lead at each stage. However, there is a general fear among the employees of a real estate developer in keeping these things transparent. Sometimes, there are malpractices within the system. Keeping these things transparent would mean that the system cannot be abused.
- How you use different media:
Different media are better used at different stages. You would want to use mass media to deliver a certain message very early on in the buying cycle. You would use your website or brochures to communicate with people in the middle of the cycle, and you would want to use social media slightly later in the cycle. Each medium has a place and how these mediums are used seems a bit arbitrary. The industry needs to learn a lot more about the best place to use the best medium.
Any suggestions on fixing that?
This is something we are trying to get better at as well. Even though we understand that leads are there at different stages, how to actually nurture them so that we don’t lose people at different stages is a hard thing to nail down.
But something I see as promising is properly using email and SMS at this stage. These are things people are more acquainted with. SMS especially has a lot of contribution to this stage. I think communicating with customers in a way which is valuable to them is important. Give them lots of value and then you’ll see that you are gradually gaining their trust.
Lead quality is easy to measure online, but offline is generally where people struggle. Can the same system be used for both, to measure lead quality?
There are ways to do that but not as effectively as online. For instance, in case of online, we have tracking URLs. There are a lot of tools available for the online marketer. In case of offline, you would want your customer touch points to deliver a positive experience, a consistent experience. Whether somebody is calling your call center or somebody is directly coming to your construction site, or talking to your sales person, a consistent experience is important.
Today, somebody who walks directly into a construction site needs to talk to a sales person in many cases. Lack of consistency here won’t allow us to track the quality and intent of such offline leads. It generally affects online leads as well, but in case of online leads the impact is much higher.
So, delivering a consistent experience at different touch points will really help you understand the quality of your offline leads as well. If you start thinking of quality of leads from each individual medium, let’s say, from a hoarding or a newspaper, it becomes very difficult. But on the whole if you look at offline as one larger bucket, then it’s much easier to make the assessment of lead quality from offline media.
How does ROI compare in terms of lead generation from Google Adwords and property portals?
If I look at it in terms of how well does it compare, there are 2-3 variables in this. What I have noticed is different property portals do differently in different cities. The experience with a property portal in Hyderabad is not the same in Chennai. Similarly with Adwords, with the amount of competition there is, it depends on how savvy your competition is and how they use it. We have seen variations in different locations even in the case of Adwords.
Overall, you are not directly in control of what happens in property portals. As a marketer, I take that as a challenge. I run adword campaigns for my clients and I always try to perform better than the property portals. In fact, if the marketing department of the developer does this well, they will always outperform the property portal because a customer would rather take the word of the salesmen whom he has been talking to for the past couple of weeks, over the property portal who has neutral information.
Property portals are good at early stages in the lead cycle. The conversion really comes down to your sales and marketing teams. If your sales process is not delivering a good experience, even the best property portal can’t help you, but with a good and consistent experience, you can convert leads from property portals as well as Adwords. We have seen comparable performance of PPC and portals in certain months, but in most cases PPC campaigns outperform the portals.
How we can safeguard the broker’s interest?
Technology has helped us a lot in protecting the interest of property consultants, channel partners and brokers. Essentially also, it’s not just the technology but the attitude. The leads which are brought in by property consultants, brokers and channel partners need to be kept transparent. You would need to see that the lead that is handed over to a real estate developer, marketing team or sales team, is actually attributed correctly and the progress of the lead in the system (whether they come for a site visit or actually end up buying an apartment) is displayed easily to the broker.
There is an online system we have seen where a broker can directly enter the lead and follow the lead’s progress until the end. A lot of times, if the systems are not transparent, there is always a doubt on the broker’s side whether his lead is being attributed to him correctly or not, what’s happening to the lead later on, etc. So it’s a combination of right attitude with technology.
Out of 100 new leads/calls, what is the average percentage of site visits, we can expect?
In the beginning, out of 100 new leads, we would get an average of about 8-10 people coming to the site. By optimizing this further, last year we were at 18. I recently had another conversation with a person who joined my clients’ business, and they were probably doing 29 out of 100. So there is scope for improvement. 29/100 is the best number I have heard so far.
At the very initial stages, how can we make out who is a genuine buyer and who is a general enquiry person?
Today’s marketers have got this question wrong. There are a few exceptions. Most people who are contacting you are in fact interested in buying your home. In our industry we classify this as whether somebody is going to buy soon or if somebody is going to buy later.
A lot of times when people are very new to the market, they don’t understand how to go about buying a home and their questions tend to be quite simplistic. They appear to be unsure and guarded. In some cases, they don’t want the salesman to know that they are not sure of where they are.
Many of these cases are seen as people who are not likely to buy. Of course, we have come across cases where people do submit wrong numbers and those things do happen. But the majority submit genuine information. The industry should definitely start looking at the buying stages and treat the people earlier in the buying stages differently.
If a buyer is ready to book the flat on a particular day but suddenly gets into a fix reading negative reviews/feedback about the company, how can we fix this?
In the spirit of delivering a consistent experience, it’s important that if this problem has already been remedied, then you should be able to talk to the prospective buyer about it. It is hard. Many prospects won’t open up and say that they read a negative review and instead, will make an excuse (I’ll come back next month/I’m not ready now), since they have built a relationship with the salesperson and don’t want to say no to them straight away or back out of what was developing to be a contract. The prospective buyer may not be forthcoming about seeing such negatives.
But if the prospect is forthcoming, it is important to be attentive. If there is a problem and it has been solved, mention that. But if the problem has not been solved, tell them what it is and what the company is planning to do to solve it.
Even with the best interests of the real estate developer, there are some things that are not solvable. And that unsolvable kind of situation is very important to a particular client. Then it’s probably better to lose that client than to somehow convince him to buy it.
Is there any scope for video advertising in real estate? Would it be a viable option for a developer to attract an audience via video ads?
Definitely. Every medium has viewers and YouTube being one of the most consumed mediums in India today, is a good platform. You only need to find the right message, good execution and good creative.
How to understand customer’s sentiment of actually which stage of buying he is in right now?
Understanding customer’s sentiment requires you to do a lot of things offline. Regular team interaction is taken up only to understand what customer sentiment is like. It involves a certain amount of risk for a developer to start an active social media presence. Most developers feel under-equipped to handle negative comments. Those customers who are not happy with the project will come forward and share their experiences. More interaction between prospective buyers and the marketing team will give you that information.
In case of online, you can understand which stage a lead is in, from the keywords you are bidding on. If you are bidding on stage 2 keyword like ‘property buying guide’ and people are clicking on those ads, you would know that perhaps those who are clicking on them are quite early in the stage.
If you are looking at a property show, you can expect a lot of people coming there to look for information. You don’t expect too many people to come for a site visit immediately from a property show.
You can also talk to your sales team and call center team to find out what kind of questions people are asking. The specifics and details really determine the stage of the lead. If customers are asking details about the nitty-gritty, like what is a particular thing made of, what is the issue most customers are facing, or talking about water, electricity, local schools, etc., that tells you that they have already done their research on the project. You take clues from different things and you kind of form that picture.
How to estimate the right marketing spend? Is there a percentage formula? For example, if I have a 40 crore inventory, then how much should my marketing spend be?
From what we hear from the industry, anything above 3-5% of your inventory is something that would be your budget for marketing. For example, if you are having 40 crore inventory, let’s say 4% of that is about 1.6 crores.
Let’s say our overall marketing spend is 1.6 crores. We start off with a small percentage of that for our online budget. If 4% is the marketing spend that is available for a particular project, then we take the first 7-8% to start it off. We work in a very experimental kind of model. We run ads on many pages for a certain amount of time to figure out if they are working or not and put more money behind the things that are winners. As and when we start seeing traction, every 3-4 months we can go back and say – put more money in this – this is what we are seeing.
Over a period of 3-4 years, we are still in a journey of increasing marketing budget. Every time we go back and renew our contract, we ask for larger marketing budget. Essentially, it is for us to understand how to deliver results each time.
Can you advice us based on your experience about overseas marketing (shows, ads, etc.)?
Looking at overseas marketing from a digital standpoint, some of the things are already indicative. For instance, when you look at Google Analytics, you see where your project is gaining traction geographically. It’s possible to create campaigns and target specific geographies. We have found real success only when we have had PPC campaigns running. Try to specifically create content for NRIs and talk about investments, facilities, and life experience over here.
How to differentiate between customers who have viewed the landing page / downloaded the flip book / downloaded floor plans / asked for site visit? Are these customers the same or different?
It’s quite straightforward to differentiate it. LeadSquared actually helps us quite a bit in that. We have different forms on each of these pages (landing page, flip book, floor plans). So if someone schedules a site visit, it goes to a different form. Same goes for the other two. So we know if somebody has submitted one form or if they have submitted multiple forms. In many cases, it has happened that somebody who has downloaded a flip book has also downloaded the floor plans. So we get to know if somebody has downloaded something and if somebody has downloaded something multiple times. It’s quite easy to track that.
Is it advisable to write blogs on the project and link them up to the website or have the complete details on our website?
Sounds like a good idea. The thing is content is everywhere. If you are producing a blog, my advice would be to provide content that is of value to your customer segment and something that is not easily available somewhere else and not just produced for SEO’s sake.