HELPING REAL ESTATE AGENTS GAIN A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE WHEN THE MARKET RE-OPENS AFTER THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
All industries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown, but real estate in Calgary has been hit especially hard given that it’s been in a downwards trend for a few years already. Only to make things worse, COVID-19 hits at a time (spring of 2020) when Calgary realtors hoped that the market would start moving again. In a market that is notoriously seasonal (sales usually surge between April – September, and subside between October – March) COVID-19 seems to be hitting the Calgary market at the worst possible time. We’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown so we don’t know yet how hard it’s going to hit the market this year, all indications though show that it’s going to hit very hard and it will shake the real estate industry in its core.
But there is hope (and opportunity)!
Traditionally, in the digital age, the Calgary real estate market has been dominated by a handful of realtors (or realtor teams) who have managed to harness early on the power of the internet and dominate this space with extensive and strategic digital marketing spending across several platforms.
If someone is looking to buy or sell a home in Calgary chances are they’ve seen the websites, online ads, or other digital assets from a few realtors and their teams: Justin Havre and Associates, Kirby Cox, and Associates, Jim Sparrow, and a handful more. It’s really a very small list of realtors who are highly visible on the web, the rest are either nowhere to be found, or they’re buried somewhere within a corporate website. If you’re one of these realtors, how can you possibly “compete” with the likes of Justin Havre or Kirby Cox and their teams and their massive digital marketing budgets?
Well, the truth is that you can. There is a way.
MAKING A GOOD AND SMART USE OF YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING BUDGET
In warfare when small groups of combatants want to take on larger armies using hit-and-run tactics and mobility this is called “guerilla” fighting. Similarly, in marketing, a movement was developed in the late 80s where the basic idea of guerilla warfare was “applied” to marketing tactics (and aptly named “guerilla marketing”). Guerrilla marketing then is an advertisement strategy in which a company uses surprise and/or unconventional interactions in order to promote a product or service at a very low cost as compared to its competitors.
In the era of digital marketing we have even more tools at our disposal to get the best value out of our digital marketing investment. What is important then for a realtor is to work closely with a digital marketing agency like Esquared Consulting and understand what’s important and what’s not so important when it comes to the realtor’s digital strategy, and also understand where they should divert most of their digital marketing budget, and most importantly how much they should spend to get things started and start seeing a return on their investment very quickly.
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE, POST COVID-19
The reality of the present situation is that we don’t really know what’s going to happen next. We don’t know how quickly the restrictions will be lifted and we don’t know whether life will go back to normal again. Many people seem to believe that as soon as the restrictions are lifted people will go back to their previous behaviour and start buying/selling homes (amongst other things) as they did before COVID-19.
My feeling says that this is not what’s really going to happen.
I think what we’ll be seeing after the restrictions are lifted is going to be people still living in fear and trying to understand whether the COVID-19 scare is gone for good or if it’s still coming back within the next few months. If there’s no vaccination found that will eradicate COVID-19 once and for all then people will continue living in fear for many months to come and until this vaccination is in place. This means that the market is most likely going to remain very volatile even after the restrictions are lifted a few months from now. What’s most likely going to happen is that many people will be scared and will try to unload their properties as they may not be able to afford them anymore in the future (especially if they’ve reached their credit limits during the COVID-19 lockdown period, lost their jobs, etc.).
Coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown period we may be entering into a new world, much different than the world we knew before COVID-19. I think it’s a given that many businesses – in all sectors – will be closing down, and the real estate sector will be affected in the same way as most other businesses. Given than the barriers of entry to the real estate business is very low I wouldn’t expect to see fewer realtors operating in this market after the COVID-19 lockdown period, which makes it even more important for those realtors who want to “survive” in the post-COVID-19 world to ensure that they stand out from the crowd.
Having a personal website where you can slowly build your personal brand is a given and it’s CRITICAL for your business. This website doesn’t have to be overly large or expensive to start with. Modern CMS (Content Management System) technologies allow us to start small and add on to the website as your business and budget grows. What is CRITICAL though is that the initial website (however small it may be), it’s properly done and reflects professionalism, credibility, great functionality and SEO compliance.
The same goes for your initial digital strategy and digital marketing campaigns. You can start small, very small really, but it’s critically important that whatever you do is based on a longer-term plan and it reflects professionalism and credibility.
HOW DO YOU START THEN?
Do a quick review of your digital assets:
- Do you have a personal website? If yes, does it:
- Look professional and up-to-date
- Not so professional and up-to-date
- Do you have access to web analytics/visitors data? Do you understand this data?
- Do you have a robust social media presence (at a minimum Facebook, hopefully also Twitter and Instagram).
- If you do, do you post there regularly – minimum twice per week?
- Do you do these postings yourself or do you work with an agency to do them for you?
- Do you do any paying advertising?
- Do you advertise on Google?
- Do you advertise in social media (Facebook etc.)
- Is any agency managing these paying ads for you?
- How much are you paying monthly for paying ads (media spent only)?
- Do you receive easy to understand statistics?
- Do you have an SEO strategy in place?
- Do you have a local SEO strategy in place?
WHAT’S NEXT, HOW CAN ESQUARED HELP YOU?
If you want to work with us we’ll need to review the answers in the questions above ad then provide you with some feedback and advice on where you should go next.
For realtors who start taking their digital journey seriously now our advice is simple:
- Start small
- Focus in a small/niche market and expand from there
- You can’t beat the large realties and large and established real estate agents if you’re competing with them all over Calgary. However, you can beat them (remember guerilla marketing?) if you focus in a small area or a niche market.
- As an example, you can present and market yourself as an expert for sellers/buyers in a very specific area of Calgary (example: Brentwood), or you can present yourself as an expert in relocations (a niche market). This way you can focus your SEO and digital marketing efforts (and budget) in a much smaller space instead of trying to be everything to everyone.
- Understand your budget and the costs associated with the work you’d like to do:
- Can you afford paying ads? These can start as little as $100/month. If you can afford them then start with Facebook. Facebook typically offers the best return on your investment and it’s usually much more inexpensive than Google Ads. It’s a good place to explore paying ads without breaking the bank.
- Do you have the time to post on your social media channels at least twice/week? If you do then you should be doing your own postings. We can provide you with some guidance to get you started so that you’ll do it right.
- If you don’t have the time to do your own postings then we can offer options to have our team post in your social media channels for you.
- Before you explore any of the above, ensure that your website looks professional and up-to-date. This is a critical first step before you do anything else.
- Let’s discuss. We can help you review your current digital assets and then provide a clear proposal (along with pricing options) for reasonable next steps for your business, based on your available budget. We want to be your digital partner and help you be ready to succeed when the current situation shifts and buyers and sellers are ready to engage again.