The journey to marketing your real estate business begins here - with content.
A well-developed content strategy tells the story you and your business in a way that convinces your customer that you’re the real estate agent they should work with. And it forms the foundation upon which every other piece of marketing collateral is built.
In the digital world, content is essentially the carbon element from which everything is made.
In definitive form, content is, “the collection of words and images that make up your presence.” It’s the information and experiences directed towards an end-user or audience and is expressed through some medium, such as speech, writing, or any various form of art.
In plain speak, content is what you’re trying to communicate to your audience.
Now, three things are required in order to make content:
Something to say
A medium in which to say it
This makes content complex because it allows content to take on various forms. A blog article is a piece of content, a web page is content, a speech is content, images and video are content, Podcasts are content - just about anything expressed regardless of how it is being expressed is content. This is your something to say and how you’re saying it is your medium.
Now, we can spurt out all the content we want all day. We can create articles about home buying or styling but none of it will ever stick unless it’s expressed within a strategy.
Why do we need a content strategy?
Because every day, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are uploaded to the Internet.
Quintillion. That’s 18 zeros in case you were wondering.
Snapchat users share 527,760 photos
Users watch 4,146,600 YouTube videos
456,000 tweets are sent on Twitter
46,740 photos are posted to Instagram
With numbers like this, it’s no surprise why much of what we say doesn’t seem to hit the ears of our customers. This is why it’s so important to have a strategy - our content strategy.
So what makes a content strategy different from just say putting content out there?
A content strategy differs because it delivers an objective.
It is the high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver a specific business objective. It’s a high-level vision, your core, from which every bit of content you make comes from.
Content marketing and strategy is a calculated marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Did you pick up on all the keywords there? Let’s break it down.
Content marketing is:
Valuable - people gain value from content
Relevant - your message speaks to the user
Consistent - you deliver not only a consistent message but schedule content consistently
Attracts - content marketing attracts your audience
Retains - content marketing retains your audience, keeping them coming back for more
Defined - you don’t speak to everyone, you speak to your defined audience
Every leading brand in existence uses content strategy as part of their larger marketing strategy.
Why? Because it works.
I could list a series of benefits as longer than my arm. Some of the benefits of using a content strategy include:
Increased sales - I can say with 100% confidence that you will increase your leads and sales
Cost savings - content is free to create. All it takes is a little bit of brain power and some time. Short on time? It’s affordable to outsource content at any budget.
Quality customers - content weeds out the wrong customers and leaves you with the right ones while building rapport with said customers
It’s organic - Organic marketing is always the best kind of marketing because it’s natural, unforced and like the word organic implies, it grows.
Let’s run through an example using two very different agents. One agent does not have a content strategy in place and one does.
Over here we have agent Joe. He’s your sort of agent who just sort of does the bare minimum to scrape by. He takes the listing he’s given and posts it up with nothing else in terms of support. He has no content strategy and simply adds a generic listing description:
NEW LISTING: 2bd/2ba in desirable neighborhood $200,000. This house won’t last long!
Click the listing and it takes you to your run-of-the-mill MLS listing on his broker’s website or on a software he’s paying for.
How do you think this listing comes across to the customer?
First of all, this 2bd/2ba caption says nothing to me as the buyer. It doesn’t speak to me, it doesn’t make me want to click. Then when I do, I see pictures that are low-lit, and off-center. I, a potential buyer, get no sense of value from this listing and when I do click for more details, it takes me to a location that I could just use Zillow to find more detail on. I, as a customer, am not enticed to work with Joe. I don’t feel like he provides me with any added value and feel as if I can do this on my own.
Bring on the #FSBOlife.
Now meet Mac.
Mac is advertising a nearly identical listing. Except his post is a lot different. It reads:
2bd/2ba dream home in Charolette’s hip new SoHo neighborhood. Just three blocks from the Saturday Morning farmer’s market in Pioneer Square. A fully remodeled kitchen includes granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and stunning iron, gas stove. Exterior updates include a new roof and security lighting. Move in ready with new, wood floors. Large, shaded backyard features a 50 sq.ft. deck and trellis. Only a five-minute walk to Charolette Elementary School bus stop. Click here for complete house photos and set up a walk-through today.
The listing features beautiful photos that entice me to see more. Photos are bright and clear and I the buyer begin imagining how my couch will fit perfectly in that corner. Or how I’ll place my favorite painting there above the fireplace.
I can picture myself living here.
Upon clicking the link, I’m sent to a self-owned website that tells the whole story of not only the listing but the agent as well. There’s information on how to set up an appointment as well as similar listings in the neighborhood. A featured article gives me a step-by-step checklist of the home buying process and I think to myself, “Wow. Mac sure knows a lot about this process. Plus he’s personable. This is someone I can get behind.”
So I submit my inquiry and immediately receive a text message or phone call that sets up an appointment to chat with the agent.
Bam. Mind blown. Talk about service.
Which post do you want to engage with more? Better yet, which agent do you want to engage with more? I don’t know about you, but I’m really leaning toward Mac. He seems engaged in this work whereas Joe feels completely removed.
Both listings say basically the same thing, but Mac’s listing is the one that says, “I will jump over the moon for you!” without ever having to say it. Why is that? It’s because he was a content strategy in place that aligns with his business process.
Mac provides added value in the form of quality, attentive service but it was his quality content that first grabs your attention and makes him stand out.
This is a classic case of a proactive vs. a reactive agent.
I use this example because this is what I see everyday. A reactive agent vs. a proactive agent. And if you’re reading this article, I’m filled with so much confidence that you’re the proactive agent which is why we’re going to get your content strategy, digital strategy and process down pat.
Everything you do from here on out needs to revolve around a sound content strategy.
It is the framework around which everything you do will be built. It will be the structure of your entire marketing story.
Now, let’s begin to get a little technical here.
While there’s a framework to developing your content strategy, it is not a concrete step-by-step template. Every agent’s strategy is going to be different. That means that unlike math, there’s no equation that results in a right answer.
While some agents are empowered by this, others may not be. I encourage you to see this as a good thing because it means that if there’s no right answer then there’s no wrong one either. Meaning you can take this in just about any direction your creative mind can come up with.
Now while there’s no exact equation for marketing, there are certain elements of creating a strategy to serve as your guide in the process. You’ll find these elements will make your life a whole lot easier in developing a strategy and all quality pieces of content have them.
Which is why you’re here because we’re here to cut through the fluff and get right into building your content strategy.
There are five key elements to the content marketing equation. We’re going to focus on these components and getting them in place before we diving into developing out the arms and legs of your content strategy. Because everything we’re about to discuss is the elemental core of it.
Content element number 1:
A business plan.
I’m not trying to be captain obvious over here. It seems like this is something I shouldn’t need to note but many a time I’ve run into clients who don’t have concrete business plans for how they want to conduct their company. Or even there’s no set direction for where they want to go with their business.
Then they try to use marketing as a bandaid to patch the iceberg size hole in their business.
Remember Mac from our example? Remember how he had a business process in place that allowed him to immediately reach out to inquiries as those leads came in? It’s these business processes that enable him to build rich content based around the process to engage and entice his audience.
The simple fact of the matter is that you have to have a business plan prior to developing a content strategy or any type of marketing strategy for that matter.
It’s going to be very difficult to build a content strategy for a business if there’s no business plan to begin with. You will be a reactive agent without one.
This includes having an intimate understanding of your goals, the unique value proposition you bring to the table and the details of your process. Be aware of obstacles and opportunities that may arise in the process and think a little ahead.
I don’t want you to freak out and think of documenting your business plan as this huge undertaking. This doesn’t need to be fancy. At the very least, the MVP that needs to be in place are your business goals, knowing who your target customer is and a documented flow of how you’re running your business. Again, this doesn’t need to be anything fancy. A simple word document will do. Having a written account of your process will help center you on those hectic days when decision making is difficult and will make it much easier to add new aspects to your business - such as marketing.
The second content element is...
A general marketing plan.
Once you know your business plan and your goals under a unified mission, it’s much easier to make strategic decisions in terms of your marketing. Such as which goals to prioritize and what message you want to deliver in each piece of content, as well as what techniques you want to use in pursuit of those goals.
For this we ask ourselves three questions:
First question: what are our marketing campaign goals?
A campaign is a new push in our marketing. In essence we’re asking what do we want to see happen as a result of this effort.
Examples could be: as I result of this campaign, we want to seem more credible. Or our goal is to share a listing. Perhaps we want to collect the contact info of ready buyers.
Question two: what are our financial goals?
In other words, what is the ROI we expect to see from this campaign. In what ways will we be saving time and money?
Not sure how to get started with your content strategy?
Download the 30-day Content Calendar & Planning Guide
For example, we collected rich data about families ready to buy via a call-to-action placed on a blog post. We know that these leads are most likely buyer ready. Therefore we will be putting a little more time into crafting a more personalized message for them since we’ve already shifted through the chafe. Or we can use this hot email list for creating look alike audiences on our Facebook ads, thus saving us on time and money spent on an ad campaign.
Question three: what are our business growth goals in relation to this piece of content?
The goal is for each piece of content we create to further supports our business goals. So with question three we’re asking where in our business do we see this strategy supporting the goals of our business plan.
Is this strengthening one of our weaknesses? Extinguishing a threat? Capitalizing on a new opportunity? Essentially, we’re addressing how the goals in our business plan and our marketing campaign relate.
Content element number three is…
Know your ideal audience.
We can’t develop content unless we know who it is we’re talking to.
Many real estate professionals - and marketers for that matter - freeze up when creating content. It’s easy to get in our own way wondering, “I don’t know what to say! I don’t know what to write!” Of course you don’t know what to say because you probably don’t know exactly who it is you’re talking to.
You wouldn’t talk to a kindergartener the same way you would an adult. Same goes for your customer.
Very different language will be used and different conversations will be had dependent on who you’re talking to and where in the buying process they are at.
So the question is: do you know who you’re talking to?
That’s because when developing content we need to be thinking about their needs, fears and desires as a whole as well as their needs, fears and desires in the current moment. We want to map out content strategically that will support them through their home buying or selling journey.
Our fourth content strategy element:
You must establish your brand.
Your brand is more than just your logo.
A brand is the expression of who your business is and sets the expectation for your customers of what they can expect from working with you.
It’s the cohesive ideas and messages you want to communicate about your business defined by a number of different design & content elements such as your name, tagline, key message, color scheme, photography and much more.
It’s the feeling and emotion behind the narrative of your company.
Think of a big brand, any brand. Chances are you know exactly what they’re about and who they cater to solely based on the essence or aura they throw out there into the world. That’s because every message they create echoes their brand.
Brand is vital in developing your content because the tone of voice is a big part of both content and branding.
For example, we’ll compare content from two agents that are killing it with their content but in completely different ways.
First we have Alyssa Morgan Jansheski, a luxury agent in Miami.
Alyssa leans heavily into an influencer-vibe with her content to appeal to an international audience. Her tone of voice throughout her website, social media and marketing channels is luxe, authoritative and perfectly coifed.
Compare this to Colin J.J. Cameron of Small Town Agents.
Not only is Colin’s tone completely different than Alyssa’s but he utilizes a completely different medium as well - video. Every video on STA’s YouTube and Facebook channels uses humor even when showcasing listings. But even though he uses humor every video is still incredibly informative.
As you can see, these are two completely different brands and ways to do content. Neither of these approaches is better than the other, but both these agents know exactly who their brand is. And each creates content perfect for the audience they aim to reach.
Moving into our fifth and final content element…
A channel plan.
A channel plan is defining which platforms you will use to tell your brand story.
Let’s quickly touch back on our previous example using Alyssa and Colin. Alyssa relies more heavily on using Instagram and professional photos while Colin uses phone-shot videos via Facebook & YouTube.
And both create amazing content with their chosen channel plans.
Picking content channels and mediums depends heavily on what we discussed above: knowing your goals, marketing expectations, brand and target audience. Different audiences are more active on different channels.
Alyssa more likely uses Instagram to capture her audience because Insta has become a big platform for all things luxury and she can hone in on her target audience and building influence using hashtags. Meanwhile Facebook is more local friendly, which is where Colin creates much of his content. He’s able to reach those local audiences more effectively and post long-form videos.
Okay, you took in a lot today. We’re going to cut it off here and give you a moment to digest. It’s common for people to overthink this process when developing it out, but really it’s more of a brainstorming activity or what I like to call a brain dump where you just let everything stuck up in your head flow to paper so you can see it and start making sense of it.
Look for consistencies to align your criteria, process and objectives with each content element to create a cohesive and consistent brand conversation. Then go back and refine for documentation purposes. Try not to overthink it.
Start simple and then refine. The key to developing good content is just to begin.
If you’re not sure how to get started with developing a content strategy, DOWNLOAD THE 30-DAY SOCIAL CONTENT CALENDAR to start your brainstorm.
Ashley is the co-founder and marketing + tech brain behind Shore to Summit - an education & marketing service platform for real estate professionals.