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32 Ways to Slash Marketing Costs

There are umpteen ways to market yourself and your properties. Here’s how to get more bang for your marketing buck.

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Not so long ago, it seemed like buyers were snapping up new listings as soon as they came on the market. Today, it can take weeks or months to sell a Florida home, which means higher carrying costs for sales associates and brokers. It’s vital you know how to make every marketing dollar count.

That usually means preparing a marketing plan that uses both print and online components in a mixture that can vary with each listing. “We no longer do newspaper advertising other than ‘open-house’ announcements,” says Debbie Beichel, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker in Port St. Lucie. “Most buyers are coming into the area from out-of-town, so we’re more focused on Internet marketing.”

At the same time, many sales associates are also stepping up their personal marketing programs to reach potential sellers and buyers. “Today, you have to be in front of the people in your territory more often than anyone else,” says Tony Marino, a broker-associate in Watson Realty’s Southwest Orlando office. “That means having a strong marketing program and spending your money wisely.”

Here are 32 tips from Florida sales associates and experts that will help you stretch your marketing dollars in the coming year.

The ABCs
1 Shop around for vendors. Prices for photography, video, graphic design, printing and Internet-related services vary from vendor to vendor. If you’re planning a direct mail or e-newsletter program, getting several competitive bids will probably reduce the overall cost.

But Lynn Savits, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker’s Aventura office, offers an important bit of advice.  “Even if you get a low price, you still need to consider the quality. It’s better to send out nothing than to mail a cheap marketing piece with poor quality.”

2 Negotiate discounts whenever possible. For instance, ask if your photographer will cut her hourly rate if you guarantee a minimum number of hours per month.

3 Do some of the creative work yourself, rather than hire a professional. “I take my own photos and write the captions for my postcards,” says Mike Mason, a sales associate with Keller Williams Eagle Realty in Miami Shores.

4 Buy in quantity. Rather than purchase 500 postcards for a direct mail campaign, consider buying 2,000 and use the extras later in the year. It’s far cheaper to print 2,000 cards at once than to print 500 cards four times during the year.

5 Take advantage of any broker-supported marketing programs. Your company may help pay for your newspaper or magazine ads, for instance.

Direct Mail
6 Expand your search for a printer beyond the local market. “We use the Internet to shop around for the most reasonable printing costs,” says Marino. “If you get a printer who’s already set up to serve real estate clients, it’s almost a no-brainer.”

7 Use your desktop printer for fliers, postcards and thank-you notes. “With the improvement in the quality of off-the-shelf print material from any office supply store, you can save a great deal of marketing money by printing from your desktop printer,” says Charlene Cross, a sales associate with Southern Realty in St. Augustine. “This also provides you with the ability to change your message frequently to keep it fresh.”

8 Hand address your envelopes. This saves a small amount of money on labels, and greatly increases the likelihood that potential customers will open your mailing.

9 Reduce your mailing size. Try sending a high-quality informational piece to past clients and top prospects, rather than an entire farm area. “It’s better to send out 200 pieces that really grab your customer’s attention,” says Cross. “My partner and I have experienced this with customers who call months after a small mailing.”

10 Limit your mailing to homes in the same ZIP code. Typically, this allows you to qualify for bulk mailing rates, greatly reducing your postage costs. Check with the U.S. Postal Service or local mailing house for other cost-saving postage tips.

11 Reuse your “just-listed” postcards. When planning a just-listed mailing to your farm area, print twice as many postcards as needed. Then, after you sell the home, send out the same card with a “Just Sold” sticker attached to it. “Using the sticker on the same postcard people received before helps them remember that you marketed the property and successfully sold it,” says Delilah Alvarez, a sales associate with Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell in Plantation. “We’ve received many other listings from sellers that were impressed with this approach.”

Brochures, Fliers & Invitations
12 Create an “all-in-one” brochure. To consolidate his marketing expenses, Mason produces an eight-page brochure that showcases all of his current listings. “I put one of the brochures inside the ‘Take One’ box at each of my listings,” he says. “That way I’m able to cross-promote all of my properties. I find this is one of the most cost effective ways to advertise.”

13 Limit a property flier to one page.  Keeping all the information on one sheet allows you to print as many as you need from the office printer, rather than using a commercial service. You can also cut toner costs by running copies in a black and white copier for open houses.”

14 Rather than print invitations to a broker’s open house, send “e-vites” to local associates.  “This saves gas driving to the real estate office, as well as the time and money to print the invites,” Alvarez says. “You also benefit by having the associates e-mail their RSVPs, so you get a more accurate head count for food.” Just go to www.evite.com and follow the directions.

15 Use e-mail instead of the postal service to send out property fliers to your real estate network. There’s no additional cost to e-mail a flier in a PDF format, eliminating printing and postage costs.

Advertising
16 Consolidate your spending. Rather than purchase ads in a variety of publications, focus on one key newspaper or magazine. This strategy usually reduces total advertising costs, while sending a consistent message to consumers. “We use a magazine that has a longer shelf life than the local newspapers,” says Cross. “And people passing through town tend to take the magazines back home with them, increasing your long-term exposure.”

17 Rotate your listing ads. Why run four ads for similar homes in one neighborhood? Featuring one of those homes every week will cut your advertising costs dramatically. Just note in the ad that you have similar listings available as well.

18 Use a newspaper “rate holder.” This allows you to run an ad for an entire week for virtually the same cost as a “Sunday only” advertisement, says Phyllis Crosby, a sales associate with RE/MAX Realty Associates in Carrollwood Village/Tampa. “You can save a drastic amount of money and get far more exposure for your listings. I usually start my ads on a Sunday, so they run through the following Saturday, and [the] ads appear on both weekend days.”

19 Run small ads in the classified section. With the right “grabber” words, even small ads attract potential buyers. Think of headings like “Price Reduced,” “1-Acre Lot,” or “Cathedral Ceilings,” says Crosby.

20 Get additional online exposure. Check with a newspaper or magazine to be sure it “publishes” its print ads online. In many cases, there is no extra charge for this service—which gives much greater exposure for a listing.

21 Advertise in community association newsletters. If you want to farm an area in an inexpensive manner, there’s no better choice than buying an ad in the association newsletter, says Crosby. “It’s a great way to promote yourself to the neighborhood,” she says.

Internet
22 Use your own Web site and your broker’s site to promote new listings. By including your Web site address in any print ads—as well as your business card and even your “on-hold” telephone messages—you can drive prospects to the Web site. It’s far less expensive than printing and mailing hundreds of fliers or brochures to prospective buyers.

23 Look for free sites that will promote your listings. One favorite for many South Florida associates is www.miami.craigslist.org, an online “bulletin board” for buyers and sellers. Check the national site—www.craigslist.com—for a regional edition.

24 Review the performance of any lead capturing functions on your site. For instance, you may be paying a monthly fee to support six registration forms on your site. But if some of those forms aren’t being used, just drop them and save a few dollars.

25 Use a template rather than a custom design. If you’re launching a new Web site or redesigning a current one, take a close look at using a template service. The costs are likely to be significantly less than for hiring a custom designer. (See “Your Web Site: Template or Custom Design,” on page 36, October Florida Realtor magazine for more information.)

26 Enhance your listings on Realtor.com. “We believe in spiffing up your listings here with photos, floating banners and headlines,” says Beichel. “You can post the information yourself and it’s a free way to improve their visibility online.”

27 Keep a Blog. A Web log can be a great way to generate interest for your listings. Be sure to write about everything from interesting details about the homes to information about the real estate market.

Other Tips
28 Put magnetic signs on your car. “Every weekend, I pull my car out to the end of my driveway and make sure the signs are there,” says Crosby. “I get a lot of calls from that, as people drive through the neighborhoods.”

29 Leave your business cards at neighborhood shops and restaurants. Crosby purchases plastic holders, then leaves a stack of her cards near the register.

30 Knock on doors. Ken Rubman, broker/owner, Access Homes Realty Inc., Coral Springs, says this is an effective way to introduce yourself in a neighborhood. “You can ask homeowners if they’re looking to sell and you can tell them that you have a home just listed in case they know someone interested in moving in,” he says. Just be sure to follow the community rules about solicitation.

31 Pick up the telephone. “The best cost-saving measure I could advise would be to eliminate most advertising and start making “just listed” phone calls,” Rubman says. “The sellers will be impressed with your hard work and it brings results.” Of course, when cold calling, sales associates should scrub their databases against the Do-Not-Call Registry. For more information on FAR’s Web-based do-not-call solution, go to http://media.living.net/releases/dncquickcheck.htm.

32 Send out media releases. Participate in a charity? Have a listing that is interesting such as a rumored haunted house or the most expensive property in the area? Send out (or e-mail) a press release to the top newspapers and media outlets. 

Richard Westlund is a Miami-based freelance writer.