How to improve relationships with your real estate advertisers
By Janet DeGeorge
Why is it that so many newspapers have a love/hate relationship with their real estate advertisers? Classified real estate advertising usually makes up one third or more of the classified inches and ad count and that is a great! How do we keep this large segment of our advertising happy and healthy?
What do realtors want from newspapers? Easy! They want us to get their phones to ring. Newspapers don't sell homes, Realtors sell homes. Our job at the newspaper is to provide an advertising atmosphere of service and results. And results to Realtors means we get their phones ringing with not only home buyers, but more importantly, home sellers!
Here are just FIVE WAYS you can improve relationships with these very important clients:
1. IMPROVE YOUR REAL ESTATE PRODUCT
So many newspapers are blind to the fact that their real estate product should be coffee table perfect. It is our job to get our readers to notice the real estate section and want to pull it out and look through it. This means you must have a stand-alone real estate section. No matter how small the market, there is always enough going on in real estate to provide a weekly and/or monthly product you can be proud of.
I often see newspapers totally disregard the design challenges in their real estate product. Poor color reproduction, uninspired display design, lack of reps trained in real estate copywriting advice, confused pagination, classifications that are not updated to match your current market, blurry photos of both homes and realtors and ugly, ugly covers. As I often say, it takes just as much time to produce a beautiful real estate product as it does an unattractive one!
So I'll ask you, is your weekly and/or monthly Real Estate Tab or Broadsheet product "coffee table" ready. Is the cover of the product something that will make any reader stop, look and be compelled to look further into the product? Take a look at the website of my favorite designer, Alan Jacobson from www.BrassTacksDesign.com.
Click on the Classified makeovers and look at the befores and afters of the real estate designs he so carefully constructs for each of his clients. If you have no one on your staff to redevelop your real estate product, then hire him! Your new product design is one that you will keep for the next five years or more!
And if your production department is bogged down creating those full-page photo heavy display ads for your weekly or monthly products, check out MacDonald Classifieds "Promoter" products that cut hours off these maintenance heavy ads. My clients who use this swear by it!
2. IMPROVE YOUR REAL ESTATE ADVERTORIAL
Hopefully you have more in your real estate section than just ads. When your precious readers look to your newspaper to find their new dream home, they are also looking for pertinent information to help them with their decision, both in print and online. A great tool is a listing of the home sales by zip code in your circulation area. Both home seekers and home sellers find this incredible information.
Q&A's are always a big hit with readers. Where do you get these? Newspaper syndicates like www.KingFeatures.com or www.OnTheMarkMedia.com have them ready for you in electronic format each week for less than $20! What other information will work? How about giving your Board of Realtors a 1/4 page each week to list all the training classes that are ongoing for their Realtors? How about space for the board to announce any charity involvements? How about listing all the new Realtors who just joined the board, along with their picture! How better to start a relationship with a new realtor than to have their picture in your real estate section announcement their board membership! All of these things gets the Realtors always looking into your product. The more they look, the more they may be likely to buy advertising!
New Homebuilders often have wonderful promotional material that you can print each week describing the neighborhoods of their new developments. And don't you think the presidents of both the local Homebuilders Association and the Board of Realtors would like to say something to both homebuyers and sellers each week!
No doubt always having a list of why you should use a Realtor not only wins points with your real estate advertisers, but also helps readers understand what a Realtor can do for their home sale. Always promoting the use of a Realtor creates a strong bond between the newspaper and the Realtors. (With this in mind, never have a FSBO only promotion. I suggest having a great overall Real Estate promotion with perhaps 10 or 15% off for licensed Realtors. Never leave them out of the special!!)
3. BROKERS, AGENTS, INDEPENDENTS
If you are not completely sure what all those terms mean when it comes to your real estate section, its time you learned.
A real estate agent is a person licensed by the Department of Real Estate to handle real estate sales. A broker, also licensed by the State, is the person who may own a real estate company or who has overall responsibility for the agent's actions. The agent or broker will have had to take real estate courses and pass an exam before he or she could become licensed to practice. The real estate agent is the foot soldier of the real estate business. They show the houses and get the listings. An agent must have a state license and be supervised by a real estate broker
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2002 real estate brokers held about 99,000 jobs; real estate sales agents held 308,000 jobs! Most real estate firms are relatively small; indeed, some are one-person businesses. By contrast, some large real estate firms have several hundred agents operating out of numerous branch offices. Many brokers have franchise agreements with national or regional real estate organizations. Under this type of arrangement, the broker pays a fee in exchange for the privilege of using the more widely known name of the parent organization.
There are also hundreds of "independent" Realtors in every market who are not connected with big name companies like Coldwell Banker or ReMax. And very often, no one from the newspaper contacts them because they do not have the "big name". This is a big mistake as often it is the independent Realtor that has more need to advertise both their services and their listings to the mainstream market the newspaper serves.
Learn more about realtors at www.Realtor.org. This site is jam packed with information that is important to the success of a Realtor. It is also a place you can purchase a great amount of research such as the 2005 National Association of Realtor Profile. In fact, it lets you down load a free sneak peak into the lives of Realtors based on a survey of 60,000 of their members. You'll find out that the average realtor has had their own website for over 2 years, the average Realtor's business expense per year is $8200, nine out of ten are INDEPENDENT contractors and not affiliated with a big name firm, the typical realtors is 52 years old and 54% are all Realtors are female. Only 25% of Realtors are under 40 years of age.
4. YOUR REAL ESTATE SALES STAFF
Unless you are in a very small community with few homes for sale, I suggest you have an outside sales rep dedicated to Real Estate, Apartment Rentals and New Homebuilding. Have a whole team of reps if you are in a bigger market! Since real estate can be a high maintenance category, it is also important to have an inside sales staff dedicated to real estate. While your outside staff often only has time to build relationships with the major companies in town, your inside reps could be working with the hundreds of independent realtors in your market.
Your outside rep should work at building strong relationships with the real estate community, attend the real estate board meetings (your newspaper must join as an associate, it is always very inexpensive) and get involved in their charity events. Both the classified manager and advertising director (and whenever possible the publisher), should have quarterly meetings with the top brokers of their market as well as the Board of Realtor president and directors.
While you don't need either their permission or blessing on any new real estate project you want to kick off, having them on your side and getting their valuable feedback is always a good idea. Your outside and often even your inside sales reps needs to be proficient in presenting the new products at both board meetings and (with a preset meeting time) at the individual Realtor offices.
The key is involvement, relationship building, and a true understanding of their needs.
5. YOUR RATES & REALTOR PROMOTIONS
It is imperative that you understand the way each broker, agent or independent Realtor buys advertising. At some companies, only the broker approves the advertising while charging each participating Realtor their share of the cost. At others, it is the job of each agent to decide on their own advertising needs.
How much you charge and how much they spend often depend on both the home prices in your area and the average time a home sells. The higher the price of the home, the more commission the agent will make and the more willing they are to spend on advertising. Remember, Realtors are on 100% commission and are always juggling their finances! When there are many homes on the market, you'll find your real estate advertising will go up. When the inventory of homes starts to decline, it is a sellers market and homes disappear fast. In either scenario a Realtor is always trying to get more listings!
Your Real Estate rates and specials need to adjust to the supply and demand in your market. If the average home is selling beyond 30 days, then your realtors will appreciate a great frequency rate. If homes are selling quickly, then change your special to fantastic short-term programs.
If you want Realtors to use more copy, than your special should not be 3 or 4 lines! Think out of the box! Train your reps on copy writing and have a good 7 or 10 line Realtor special at a price that encourages multiple ad placement. For display advertising, most Brokers will want full-page ads that can be billed out to each participating realtor. The more you can accommodate their billing needs, the more sales you will make.
Realtors love hearing about a new promotion and more individual realtors will buy ads on top of their display ads if your liner program is outstanding. What should it be? Every market is different, but I like a program that lets a realtor buy an ad each weekend for a month under $99 to encourage multiple ad purchases. Add-on cost for extra could include flat charges for Photos of the Home and/or the Realtor logo and website links.
Your Internet product should be included in the basic Realtor line sale. There are so many wonderful extra products to sell to the more aggressive Realtors including TOP HOMES and the wonderful products from www.castnetmedia.com (click on "samples), www.digitalmediaclassifieds.com and the incredible interactive maps from www.classifiedconcepts.com (of course, those maps are great in print as well). From 360 video to voice over sophisticated slide shows, to open home maps, let these vendors show you what Realtors really want to buy on your website. And then let them do it all for you!
There is no reason not to have a mutually satisfying relationship with your real estate community. Following the 5 steps above it just a start. It takes regular communication and an indepth knowledge of their needs to keep any advertiser happy. Make it a priority to meet with your Real Estate board President on a monthly basis over lunch. Attend real estate meetings regularly to keep up with their current trends, and give them a product that will make their phones ring while also making sure your readers view your newspaper as the main source of homes for sale.