We all know agents who are great at marketing but only coast by on 10 deals a year. Sure, they have gorgeous websites and social media profiles, but that doesn’t increase their gross commission income (GCI).
Their problem? They don’t have a strategic marketing plan for long-term growth.
That’s why we put together this guide to help you create an actionable, strategic real estate marketing plan. This plan will work for new agents, mid-level agents, and even teams.
In order to get the most from this article, you’ll want to download our free marketing plan template first. We will reference it throughout the article.
Once you have the template, put your phone away and get ready to work on one of the most important documents of your career—a marketing plan that will help you achieve sustained growth and avoid the burnout so many agents fall prey to after a few years of success.
The 30,000-foot View: What Is a Real Estate Marketing Plan?
A real estate marketing plan is a strategic roadmap for agents, teams, or brokerages to determine where to focus their marketing efforts and budget in a given time period. A good marketing plan will be reviewed quarterly, and quantify success or failure based on key performance indicators (KPIs) from the previous period.
Why Agents at Every Level Need a Strategic Marketing Plan for 2021
Before you get started on your marketing plan, it helps to understand the big picture.
You really only have one goal with your marketing: to turn ideas into money.
The problem, of course, is that executing on almost any of your ideas is going to cost you something. Some might cost you time, some might cost you money, but nothing you do that has any chance of turning into money is going to be free.
Oh, and the clock is ticking. Every day you wait is another zero day. Not only did you make no money, but you actually LOST money you should have made.
Let’s say you had $10,000 and I locked you in a Las Vegas casino and gave you a week to turn that $10,000 into $100,000.
Would you just waltz in there with no plan? Would you not bother to study poker or blackjack, or figure out how much time to spend at each table?
If you didn’t, chances are you would end up like this:
Just like being thrown into a casino, if you don’t have a plan for your marketing, you’re going to bounce around from marketing trend to marketing trend and never really get ahead. Making your marketing decisions based on whims or the latest trend is a recipe for failure.
Someone is going to dominate your farm area next year, and there is a 100% chance that they have an actionable and strategic marketing plan.
“Regardless of if you’re on your own or with a team, creating a marketing plan is crucial to success.”
In Manhattan, real agents have to compete with sharks. Not having a well-thought-out plan for their marketing means career suicide. This is a big part of the reason so many agents fail in this city.
Here’s another take from Jarod Salinas-Dick, Director of Marketing & Operations for The Martin Eiden Team at Compass:
“It is not enough to focus only on current needs—you need to be proactive about the future. And the only way to do this is with a plan.”
Getting Started: When to Create & Revise Your Marketing Plan
They say that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time to plant a tree is today. The longer you wait to start your marketing plan, the more money you will leave on the table. It’s as simple as that.
So that means you need to commit, yes, right here and right now, to spending 15 minutes to finish this article and at least an hour or two today or tomorrow to start working on your plan.
If you don’t already have the template, download it now:
When to Revisit Your Marketing Plan
For the future, you should plan on revisiting your marketing plan once per quarter, or at least once every six months. Large companies make plans based on financial quarters for a good reason. It’s a small enough amount of time to take advantage of trends, but long enough to get a solid understanding of your performance.
Important: Please don’t make the mistake of revising your plan every month, or worse, every week.
You won’t have enough data to make strategic decisions, so it will be virtually impossible to figure out what’s working or what isn’t.
5 Steps to Creating a Marketing Plan That Can 10x GCI
Wait a minute … 10x GCI?! Just by taking an hour or two to make a serious real estate marketing plan? Well, yes. If you create a plan that’s SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely), stick to it, regularly measure your progress, and get over your fear of change, then yes, you will 10x GCI. Maybe not overnight, maybe not next year, but trust us, you WILL do it.
How do we know? Simple. All of the top-producing agents and teams with billions in sales volume we work with have marketing plans. So if you want to join them, here are the five steps to creating a real estate marketing plan that can 10x your GCI:
1. Create an Honest Mission, Vision & Values Statement
The first step to creating an actionable real estate marketing plan is to write a mission and vision statement that outlines where you want to be in the future, how you’ll get there, and the values that will drive you.
While this may seem like a fluffy, pie-in-the-sky exercise, it’s actually one of the most important things you can do for your business.
Just ask Sean Moudry. Sean has been in real estate for 27 years as a superstar agent, brokerage owner, top recruiter for Keller Williams, and now real estate coach, speaker, and author. Sean tells every new coaching client that determining their mission, vision, and values (MVV) is a crucial first step to long-term success.
“Agents, brokers, and team leaders who don’t have a MVV are just stumbling around in the dark. Almost all burn out after a few years of success. A strong MVV will guide every decision you make, give you the motivation for long-term success, and help attract long-haul customers who align with your values.”
If you want to learn more about writing your mission, vision, and values, check out Sean’s in-depth guide here. It’s written for brokerages, but the same principles apply to agents.
In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown:
A Mission Statement That Motivates More Than Money
A mission statement briefly outlines your purpose and fuels your motivation for long-term success. No, making money is not a mission that will motivate you enough for long-term success. Every agent we know who was motivated purely by money burned out and failed after a few years. You need to dig deeper.
Why did you get into real estate? What do you really love about your job?
Here’s an example of a possible mission statement for a fictional real estate team in Bedford-Stuyvesant:
“The Jones/Smith team helps the Bedford-Stuyvesant community build generational wealth through real estate.”
Think about that. What will motivate you more to work 70 hours a week? Adding a zero to your bank balance or helping your community build generational wealth?
An Audacious Vision Statement
A vision statement outlines where you want your business to be in a specific time frame. Sean counsels his coaching clients to think big here.
Here’s a quick example of a vision statement for our fictional team in Bedford-Stuyvesant:
“To become the No. 1 ranked team by volume in Bedford-Stuyvesant by 2025.”
Values That Will Attract Customers
Your values are the very core of your real estate brand and give your potential customers a compelling reason to work with you. What do you value?
Here’s an example of values our team might have:
“The Jones/Smith team values honesty, transparency, and teamwork.”
2. Research Customer Personas & Give Them Names
Your real estate marketing strategy should be based on attracting potential customers who are aligned with your mission and values. Sean calls this process “finding your tribe.”
However, even if everyone in your community shares your values and respects your mission, you can’t just sit back and wait for them to come to you. A secret agent with a strong MVV is still a secret agent.
You need to market to them. In order to market to them effectively, you need to know as much about them as possible.
This is where customer personas for potential buyers and sellers come in. Customer personas are fictional descriptions of your most likely customers that you can use to help make decisions about your marketing.
For example, if you focus on new buyers, your buyer persona might look like this:
Education level: College
Political affiliation: Leans Democratic
Hobbies: Outdoor activities, sports, video games
Interests: Technology, politics, art
For homeowners, your persona will be very different:
Education level: College
Political affiliation: Leans Republican
Hobbies: Television, fishing
Interests: Family, politics
You can even give your personas a name, like Linda. This helps humanize your personas. If you name your persona, that means before deciding on a new logo or Facebook ad, you can just ask yourself “Will Linda like this?”
In order to start building your personas, you need to gather as much data as possible on your potential customers.
It is generally helpful to break your persona data down into two sections: demographics and psychographics.
Demographics are quantifiable facts about a community of people. Examples of demographic information include median age, education level, median income, and how many people buy vs rent their homes.
You can pull demographics from your Realtors Association, tax records, census data, and so forth. Just make sure your demographics are as detailed as possible. You never know what info might come in handy later when you’re trying to write ad copy.
Psychographics, on the other hand, are facts or educated assumptions about the way a community of people acts or feels. In other words, psychographics measure the “why” your clients might buy or sell, while demographics explain “who” they are. Psychographics might include attitudes about religion or politics, interests like sailing or baseball, and values like fairness or equality.
You can pull psychographic information from polls, voter registration data, state or city data, or just general truisms you might know about them. For example, if your farm area is largely rural and largely Republican, they will probably be more likely to support gun rights and be religious.
Now create individual buyers and seller personas using the data you’ve gathered. Try to get as detailed as you can.
Oh, I know that naming your personas sounds silly, but it is genuinely helpful. It forces you to think of an actual human being looking at your ad or reading your blog.
3. Assess Your Previous Marketing Performance
Now that you have a mission, vision, and values and your customer personas built, the next step to building a marketing plan is to assess the performance of your marketing during the last quarter or year.
Here’s marketing manager for Manhattan Luxury brokerage Warburg Realty Erica Langendorff on the importance of assessing your past performance:
“When looking at the year ahead, it’s important to take a moment to have a pulse check on the previous year: What worked? What could’ve been more successful?”
So pull together all the data you can to try and turn your money, time, and effort spent over the last period into numbers. You’re going to want to get data like click-through rates for ads, closing ratios for leads from various sources, and how much you end up paying for leads from different marketing channels.
Quantify Results From Marketing Channels
For example, let’s say you got 30 leads from Instagram last year. Now figure out how many of them turned to appointments, how many went to your nurture list, and how many you actually closed. Next, figure out how much time and money you’ve spent on Instagram and try to come up with a rough cost per lead. Using this data, is Instagram a platform you think you should spend more time and money on this year? Use the template to do this for all your marketing channels.
Audit Your Branding & Marketing Materials
Next, gather together all of your branding collateral, your website, slogan, logo, and headshot, and then gather all of your marketing material like ads, flyers, and listing presentations. How do they look? Do they work well together? Do they all look like they are from the same company? What would your buyer persona, Linda, think of them? Make a general assessment and write down areas you need to improve and what’s already working.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity, and Threats. This is the framework you can use to analyze your own performance as well as the performance of your competitors. Conduct a SWOT analysis for your marketing channels. What were your marketing strengths and weaknesses for the year? Where can you improve? What opportunities do you see on the horizon?
4. Analyze Your Direct Competitors
The harsh reality of the business world is that there are only so many customers out there. That means that in order for you to expand, you’re going to have to literally take customers from your competition. If you want to do this successfully, you’re going to have to do some snooping to find out what they’re doing wrong, and where you can swoop in and offer something better.
While some of the information you’re looking for here might be private, you might be surprised at how easy it is to gather information about your competitors these days. Here are a few easy ways to get valuable information about their business.
Facebook & Instagram Advertising
Believe it or not, a recent update to Facebook allows anyone to look at the ads that a business is running on their Facebook page. So, find the individual agents, teams, and brokerages fighting over your farm area and start snooping.
Start by going to the Facebook Ad Library, where you can search by keyword or advertiser name. Now you have access to all the ads your competitors are running. Take notes and screenshots of each ad and try to figure out who they’re targeting (does it match your buyer or seller persona?), what they look like, and what the copy sounds like.
Pay special attention to ads they ran multiple times. If they are running the same ad over and over again, chances are that’s because the ad works. If you notice all your competitors running similar ads, then you can either base your own ads on theirs, or figure out who they’re missing with these ads.
Website Domain Authority & Traffic
Another important element of marketing is your website. How are your competitors’ websites doing? Are they ranking on Google? Are they driving traffic? In order to find out, we’re going to use free versions of popular search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
First, head over to similarweb.com in order to get an estimate of their traffic. It will give you a breakdown between organic (Google search traffic, direct traffic) and paid traffic (traffic from social media and Google ads).
Next, let’s look up domain authority, a measure of how well a site can rank on Google from Moz.com. Sign up for a free account, then click on Mozpro, then Link Explorer, and then enter your competitor’s website in the box.
Finally, we can get a sense of what keywords your competitors are ranking on Google by using Semrush.com. Head over to Semrush, create a free account, then click on domain overview, enter your competitor’s domain, and then click on “view full report” under the “Top Organic Keywords” section.
Here’s a quick rundown of what you’re looking at: Pos. = position on Google search results page (SERP); Volume = the number of people searching for that term every month; KD% = the difficulty (out of 100) of ranking on the first page of Google for those keywords; and CPC = Cost-per-click from advertising for that term.
You can use this information to try to compete with other agents for blog topics that can rank on Google, or potentially write e-books or other content that your leads might trade their contact information for online.
IRL Advertising & Marketing
You should also try to collect as many of your competitors’ newspaper ads, magazine ads, bus stop ads, billboards, and so forth as you can. These ads are generally expensive, so chances are your competitors put some thought into them.
5. Use the Data You Collected to Create a New Marketing Plan
Now comes the fun part. Compile all the data you’ve gathered and use it to create a marketing plan for next year. Here’s how to do it:
Double Down on What Worked
If you have advertising or marketing that has been working for you, then you should consider doubling down on the time and money you devote to it.
Make a Concrete Plan to Fix What Isn’t Working
For example, if your logo doesn’t quite hold up compared to your competitors, make a plan to hire a graphic designer from Fiverr to design a new one. Go through all the data you collected about your own business and compare it to your competitors. Make a plan to fix what doesn’t compete.
Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Now you need to come up with a way to measure your progress. The best way to do this is to come up with KPIs, or key performance indicators, that you can check in on once per financial quarter. For example, the number of leads you get from a marketing channel is a good indicator of how your marketing is doing, so that would be something to check every quarter. Do the same with closing ratios, money spent, click-through rates, or anything else quantifiable that might help you measure progress.
Ask for Feedback & Incorporate That Feedback Into Your Plan
What your leads, clients, and sphere think of your new marketing plan is important. If you can, try to take the pulse of people who engage with your business to see what you might improve.
Tweak Mission & Vision Statements as Needed
At this point, you should have a very good idea of how your new marketing efforts are working, so you might want to revisit your mission and vision statements to see if they still mesh with reality. If not, tweak them. That said, try not to tweak them too much. It’s hard to hit constantly shifting targets!
Over to You
Have a great real estate marketing plan or strategy that you want to share with our audience? Have a great tip to measure performance? Let us know in the comments.