Finding the right real estate marketing agency is often compared to finding the perfect date. If you discover that an agency doesn't meet your standards or help to grow your business, then you'll be traversing rocky roads until you tell them to hit the trail. However, if they enhance your marketing efforts and drive results, then it will be a successful, happy relationship.
Just like any good advice column, we went straight to the experts and asked them: When is the right time to hire a real estate marketing firm? What should you ask for, and what should you watch out for? Here's what they told us.
When to hire a real estate marketing agency
Hiring a marketing agency can be expensive but well worth it—if you find the right one. But when is the right time to start looking for an agency to take over your marketing? If you've just started your company, it isn't yet time to worry about this, but it might come up later on. For example, here are some of the reasons our experts gave.
Looking to grow. If your company's growth is stalling, or if you're reaching your goals but want to accelerate, it might be time to consider hiring a real estate marketing firm. The agency can take some responsibilities off your plate and super-charge your marketing efforts.
Lacking the time or skills. Alen Kadimyan, CEO of IEI Realty, said they knew it was time to hire an agency when they ran out of time to increase their marketing efforts. "We were falling behind on social media marketing, SEO, and our presence was not as prominent. We needed to differentiate ourselves from other bus-bench agencies." Bringing in an agency can fill those time and skill gaps for you.
* Unsure of your next move. Here's the situation: You're running all the marketing yourself, or you have some in-house marketers on hand. However, you're struggling to determine or settle on a larger marketing strategy. This is a clue to begin searching for a real estate marketing firm that can help you find your direction.
What to look for in a real estate marketing agency
Benjamin Franklin often advised others to date "with your eyes wide open," to ensure you don't go into a relationship blind. This advice applies well to finding the right marketing agency for your real estate brand. Here's what our experts say to watch for when you're "courting" a marketing firm.
Do they provide the services you need?
Before searching for real estate marketing services, you should sit down with your team (no matter its size) and discuss which services your brand would benefit from most. This could be digital marketing, PPC, social media, creative strategy, advertising, or any number of services. Once you understand your priorities, you can start looking for creative marketing firms who are experts in those areas.
Kadimyan said that when they began searching for marketing services, they knew exactly what they needed help with. "We needed someone who could help us find a unique voice in our branding, help us market ourselves as millennial-friendly realtors, and help us expand our reach on social media." These goals made it easy to narrow down their shortlist to the firms who specialized in those areas.
Do they understand real estate?
It's vital for agencies to know how real estate groups work and how to collaborate with them, according to Kadimyan. "Make sure they understand real estate, selling and buying process, and are familiar with the terminology. Agencies that stay connected via messenger and accommodate the on-the go agency."
Jeff Miller, a real estate broker with AE Home Group in Maryland, said that marketing agencies who try to be experts at everything only end up being average in their skills. "We found that it is much more effective to hire an agency based on their expertise in one vertical of marketing. Our experience was that being great at one form of marketing yields more leads than being average at all of them. Over time, if we want to expand and obtain more leads, then we would reassess hiring additional agencies who are experts in other verticals."
Do they understand marketing trends?
A good marketing agency is on top of the latest trends in digital marketing and traditional advertising. They should be able to tell you which mediums, channels and formats are most effective today—and which ones should be left by the wayside. Perhaps most importantly, they should be able to spot opportunities that other marketers are missing.
Evan Roberts, a real estate agent with Dependable Homebuyers, said, "A good marketing agency should be able to guide you on whether direct mail, Google Adwords, Facebook marketing, or print ads are providing a high return, and which calls-to-action are connecting with individuals in your local city. Marketing agencies create their value by saving you money in pursuing strategies that others have found to be ineffective."
Do they have experience in your area?
Local marketing is big business, but few industries depend on it as much as real estate. Understanding the local areas you serve is business-critical—without that knowledge, your failure is virtually assured. Your marketing efforts should cater to local areas and help you build relationships with local homebuyers and property owners. Therefore, your agency needs to research and immerse themselves in the markets you serve.
Regarding experience in your locality, Roberts said, "As a real estate brokerage, it is critical that your marketing agency have extensive experience in your local area. Every major metropolitan behaves differently. Some tactics work great in some areas while being over-saturated in others."
Do they share your vision?
You've created a vision for your real estate brand. If you want to see your vision come true, then your marketing agency has to understand and support it. The agency you hire will create strategies that impact your brand and business, so you want to make sure they're on the same page as you.
Your brand's vision and values should come across in your marketing, from creative advertising to social media to direct mail campaigns. When you find an agency that shares and respects your values, their work for you will reflect that in a compelling, natural way.
Do they play to your unique strengths?
What unique advantages do you already bring to the table?
Most realtors are warm and personable. But you might be a uniquely good writer, photographer, or great in front of a camera. Handling certain tasks yourself lets you play to your strengths and ensure your brand conveys a personal touch.
Real estate is a face-to-face, high-trust industry. It's important your marketing conveys a personal feel. One potential solution is to focus on tactics that tap into your strengths and hire out the rest piecemeal.
For this to work, your marketing partner must be flexible with their services offered. Don't get locked into a contract where you're paying for things you could have done better yourself.
Do they have simple (and transparent) metrics?
Terms like "increased brand exposure" or "better visibility" sound great... but only if they translate into a healthier pipeline of leads and clients. What can't be measured can't be improved.
You might not understand all the technologies or tactics a marketing agency might use, but tracking results should be simple. Look for partners with a regular reporting deliverable, or at least access to a dashboard that helps you see new contacts being made and how well they're responding.
Don't buy into one of those promised "hands-off" solutions. At a minimum, you'll want to check the metrics to make sure your investment is justified.
Making the best decision for you
Between all those open houses, impromptu photo shoots and stressful closings, you can't let marketing fall by the wayside.
Whether you decide to hire a marketing agency or handle it yourself is a personal decision. It also isn't a completely binary one. You might find that, after experimenting for a few months, a balanced solution—where you handle the parts of marketing you enjoy and hire out the rest—works best.
Bonus: Real estate marketing company comparison chart
When you start looking for real estate marketing firms, it's easy to run into information overload. To help you get started, here is a comparison of some of the top real estate marketing firms. The chart includes services offered by NYRE, SM Sold, Conway + Partners, Cohn Marketing and 3 Sixty Strategies. Find your perfect combination of SEO, social media and website creation services.
You can use this as inspiration to create your own comparison chart in Lucidpress, Google Docs or Excel. This will help you keep track of the different marketing agencies you research, so it's easier to make your final decision.