from Florida Realtor Magazine, September 2007 | page 46 Promotions that Score
If you don’t know where to spend your marketing dollars, you might as well throw your money out the window. Here, our expert shows a broker how to tie her sports connection into her marketing plan.
Lisa Egstad had a short yet successful run in real estate sales when she lived in Minneapolis. But when she returned to Destin four years ago, she had to start over. So, she got a broker’s license and went to work for two years as broker-associate with a boutique firm that specializes in beachfront properties. That position proved pivotal to her career. In no time, she became a top producer, racking up about $10 million in first-year sales. “The market was so hot that I was getting plenty of business from word of mouth, referrals and floor duty at our sales office, so I didn’t feel the need to do a lot of individual advertising,” says Egstad, now broker-owner of Champion Realty of the South Inc.
Her broker was impressed with her performance and began paying her to train and mentor new recruits. “This gave me the confidence to start my own real estate company in 2005, and basically start all over again—again,” she says, adding that her fledgling company did surprisingly well, considering that the market took a direct hit when the Panhandle experienced multiple hurricanes.
“When our market slowed, I thought it was temporary,” says Egstad. “I’ve seen a small increase in activity, but it doesn’t come close to previous years. Six months ago, I was thinking about getting a second job, and then I sold a million-dollar house. Once [insurance and property tax expenses] are reined in, our market will take off.”
Egstad is an avid sports fan—she was the first female football team manager at Auburn University in the 1970s—and she knows many former professional athletes and has access to current and future sports pros. Many also play golf, and she sponsors and attends charity golf tournaments. The first sales associate she hired is also an avid golfer, who is well connected to many professional golfers. She’d like to come up with an effective campaign that would take advantage of her established sports connections, as well as appeal to both the golf community and beach property customers.
“Since advertising can be expensive, I want to make sure it’s effective,” she says. “I see hundreds of [real estate professionals] advertising in local publications, and I know their business is slow too. My theory is that Destin and Walton County are resort areas and most of our buyers and sellers aren’t here locally, so why advertise here?”
Bring in the Expert Marketing guru Greg Herder agreed to offer some guidance. Here’s how their conversation went:
1. Invest in Direct Mail Egstad says she sends a lot of e-mails and an informational e-newsletter to her 250 contacts (i.e., past clients and customers and sphere of influence), to remind them she’s “still there” and to let them know what’s going on, like the fact that the Panhandle is getting a new international airport that will bring more people to the area. “In a slow market, you have to do so much promotion that it gets expensive,” says Herder. “I definitely think e-mailing is valuable; however, the biggest challenge is that it’s really hard to turn e-mail into a brand-building marketing piece because it’s immediate and then it’s gone.”
Herder recommends that Egstad work at building a database of 2,000 to 3,000 people and concentrate her dollars there. “You’ll get a higher return on your investment than trying to advertise [to a broad area,] ” he says.
Since most of Egstad’s business centers around out-of-town buyers and absentee owners, he recommends that she try sending letters that promote the value of having a second home in her area. “One of the best uses of your marketing dollars would be to mail something at least once a quarter,” he says. “Give your recommendation on what’s happening [in your market].” The letters should be printed on quality stationery and include a photo of Egstad, Herder says.
2. Share Your Story Next, Herder suggests that Egstad enlist the help of a marketing professional or graphic artist to create a brochure that tells people who she is. She could include information about her sports hobby, her success in real estate and even biographical and family information. “Ideally, you’ll send this out with your letters four times a year, to let people get to know you,” he says, adding that she should opt to print the brochure in color rather than black and white and make sure it’s printed on good paper.
“For the rest of your career, you’re going to send these marketing pieces, so go for high quality,” Herder says. “And make sure your direct mail has a consistent look and theme, such as the area in which you work and your passion for football.” [See list of marketing design firms at left.]
3. Go a Little Zany Another effective marketing tool, Herder says, is what’s known as a relationship card. These are a far cry from the customary cards that most people send for birthdays, anniversaries and so forth. “Look for fun, offbeat things tied to your personality,” he says. “For example, you could send a card that says something like ‘It’s 90 days to football season’ or something that hits on April 1, such as ‘I’m hoping the Auburn Tigers have their worst year ever … April Fools’!’ Send Groundhog Day cards instead of Valentine’s Day cards.
“I’m not a big Christmas card fan,” Herder continues. “The average consumer gets 45 or 50, and the only ones they care about come from people they care about. Why not send a Merry After-Christmas Card?”
The purpose of this madcap approach, Herder says, is to make Egstad stand apart from the crowd while showing a fun, lighter side of her personality. He suggests that she pick at least four themes that are outlandish enough to have a wide appeal. “The timing doesn’t have to be every month,” he says. “It really depends on what’s going on. Make them off-the-wall with a message that gets attention, and wrap it up with a little slogan that says something like, ‘If you like my unusual cards, you’ll like my unusual service.’”
4. Play Up Your Sports Links “You’ve got an interesting background, Lisa, especially with the Auburn football team,” says Herder. “Alumni magazines love to run those kinds of stories, so contact them and persist until they pick you.”
Egstad has advertised in a sports magazine that targets people who contribute to Auburn University. “They all donate thousands of dollars to the sports program,” she says. “Here, football is huge. People donate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to these programs. I’ve actually joined that association, Tigers Unlimited.”
Because she works primarily with fellow sports fans and professionals, Herder says, she might attract prospects with the offer to donate a percentage of her commission to a team or group. “You could say, ‘If you buy or sell a home with me, I’ll donate 10 percent of my commission to the Auburn Tigers,” he says. “You’ve already got connections with those people.”
5. Hit the Road Finally, Herder suggests that Egstad go through the tax rolls to get the names and addresses of all absentee owners and send two or three mailings to those who live in the areas where she already has contacts.
Egstad sends ads via e-mail to contacts in Alabama. One has the headline, “Your Auburn Connection on the beach” and mentions that she’s a member of the Auburn Alumni Association and has enjoyed helping Auburn coaches and alumni with properties along the Gulf Coast.
The other e-mail ad says, “Now is a great time to invest in your family’s future and get a tan in the process” and has the tagline “Birmingham’s beach connection” at the top and her contact information at the bottom. (She is licensed to sell real estate in both Alabama and Florida.)
“Build a client base in a major metropolitan area and keep them up to date on what’s going on in Destin. Let’s say you know a couple hundred people in Birmingham who own property in your area. Once a year, go to Birmingham. Send out an invite that says, ‘I’m throwing a party for all the homeowners in Destin.’ Talk about what’s going on and do one event before the season in areas where you have a significant concentration of homeowners. And ask them to bring a friend. People who have second homes know other people who can afford second homes.”
This column, designed to provide advice from industry experts to real estate professionals who need help with technology, business or marketing issues, won the Bronze Award in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.