Estate agents have a duty to prove ROI when it comes to marketing activities

gumtreeThe real estate industry is extremely competitive, which is why many sellers (particularly those with an exclusive mandate) contractually require that comprehensive marketing activities are undertaken by the agents that represent them. However, it’s not enough to know that the property is being marketed – both the agent and the home owner need to know that these activities are paying off.

“The cost of marketing properties can be extremely expensive,” says Kevin Bainbridge, Head of Property for Gumtree South Africa. “Which means that small agencies can struggle to compete and have to be extra discerning before committing to a marketing platform, particularly since many specialist sites insist on lengthy contracts with upfront payments from the get-go. It’s very important for agencies to know whether their ads are paying off or not.”

It is also not unusual for a site to opt for pricey exclusive premium placing on a site, which can be risky in and of itself. “It’s not enough to know that your ads have been placed and that the site draws X-amount of traffic. You should be able to see how often ads were viewed, responded to, at what time. We are living in the era of real-time analytics and it’s time that agents use that to their advantage.”

Bainbridge says that agents should be able to log in and see which ads are performing and underperforming. “It’s the only way to intelligently strategize. If you have a property that is receiving some views, but very few replies, you can compare it to historic and current ad data of similar property. You might find that the property in question has fewer photographs uploaded than the others, or is not descriptive enough compared to the other ads. Or you might find that an agent is receiving a large number of replies, but only responding to 10% of them, and additional support is required to make sure leads aren’t being overlooked. You can adjust your strategy according to the information you find.”

Bainbridge says that most property sites will present a rate card detailing traffic and an overall weekly or monthly performance report, but few allow in-depth real-time analytics. “Sites are selling themselves based on hits. But hits without proper “hit management” tools are useless. You need to find out why hits are or aren’t converting, and you can’t do that unless you have access to all the tools. Property platforms shouldn’t be in the driver seat of analytics. Estate agents should be. They are the ones who have to report back to their clients and adapt their strategies.”

Many property agents spend a significant amount of money advertising in print publications, although they have no idea whether or not this strategy pays off. “The cost of a full page is determined by the quality of the print as well as the distribution, which can be up to 300,000 in a national paper. But there is no guarantee that any of the 300,000 who buy the publication will take notice of the property section. By moving online, a fraction of the cost is spent and leads can be tracked – even telephonically – to determine exactly how many people visited the platform and responded to the ad.”

Bainbridge says this is exactly why many online property platforms insist on lengthy annual contracts. “Analytics is a double-edged sword for many sites. If the agent isn’t receiving a return on their ad spend, they will naturally want to stop investing in it, which is why it pays to keep them on board with long contracts. It’s important for that mentality to shift. In my view, if no one is interested in the agent’s properties, it demonstrates that the content or product is simply not relevant to the audience or needs to be adjusted to pique the interest of the visitors. Forcing someone to remain on a platform that doesn’t pay off isn’t beneficial to anyone in the long run.”

Bainbridge says that estate agents should use analytics to build up a portfolio of case studies that can be used for agency marketing and as best-practice training. “It’s great to show a prospective client a graph of how many online views and replies are generated every month for properties similar to theirs. It’s also great to examine the data to determine which properties generate the most leads and views, which agents are the star performers, which designs and photographs and descriptions pay off more than the others. It simply saves times and money to determine what works and what doesn’t work.”

It’s hard to argue with hard data. “Agents work in silos and with varying degrees of experience – in-depth analytics means the learning curve is shortened and the bigger picture is instantly accessed. It’s important for any property marketer to have access to that information at all times. Make sure that when you are advertising, you are doing so with a company that is willing to provide full and transparent access to the gold mine of information that accompanies online ads.”

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