Real Estate Marketing: The Historical Context
In today’s internet-driven marketplace, content is king. Just as the internet revolutionized every other industry, in real estate, the internet has empowered buyers by enabling them to browse through listings online–without the assistance of a buyer’s agent. The listing information that brokerages once held complete control over is now freely accessible through websites like Zillow.com and Trulia.com. Back in the ole ‘book-o-listings’ era, a few pictures were all the ‘visual content’ a brokerage needed in order to create a new listing for their ‘book’, or an ad for the newspaper. However, as buyers began gaining more access to online listings, agents and brokers began to realize that a few photos simply wasn’t enough visual content. In this new realm of internet-based house-hunting, listings needed more (and higher quality) visual content in order to compel buyers to stop and look. Brokerages needed to find a way to attract buyers to engage and interact with their online listing more than all the other listings. Hence, the virtual tour became a go-to solution. Brokerages began leveraging virtual tours in order to capitalize on the moment—the very brief moment—when a buyer would stumble upon their online listing. Though buyers might only spend a few moments clicking through pictures, the virtual tour held the promise of a captive audience—as buyers needed only to click “Play”, sit back, and enjoy the show.
The Value of the Virtual Tour
With the virtual tour, a listing agent could integrate multiple means of communication in one buyer-friendly package. Without a virtual tour, the basic listing only provided text and photo content. With a virtual tour though, text, photos and audio could all be overlaid in one little advertising package that could easily keep the attention of online buyers. Some virtual tours had music, while others had a recorded voice—a virtual ‘tour guide’—describing a property as images cascaded across the screen. Then, and now, the value of the virtual tour is in its ability to keep a buyers’ attention–to keep them thinking about that particular home–for a longer period of time. When this happens, the advertiser’s message–the value proposition–is communicated to the buyer. With mere photos and text, buyers spend far less time on one single listing, making it easier for that message of value to be missed entirely. If they’re able to scroll through the listing photos in 10-15 seconds, that may be the only 10-15 seconds they spend considering that home. If there’s more content though, they just might hang around a little longer. And, if they’re looking at, and thinking about a home for 5 minutes, they might actually begin to see something they like. The virtual tour helps to enable this kind of online buyer interaction with a listing. If you’re selling, or thinking of selling, keep this in mind: In today’s market, the ideal listing advertisement provides visual content that will captivate the attention of buyers, and compel them to spend as much time as possible looking, watching and thinking about your home as an option. If they don’t like looking at your home on their smartphone, many buyers aren’t going to go see your home in-person. I know this because I work with many of these buyers. Like it or not, for many buyers in today’s market, that’s simply how their decision-making process works. As a seller, you need to keep this in mind when you choose a brokerage to list your home with.
Beyond the Virtual Tour
One evening, shortly after I became a real estate agent, one of my best friends and I were discussing all of that ‘new’ stuff that friends discuss when one of them embarks on a new career path. I remember telling my friend how it seemed odd, to me, that the “Virtual Tour” appeared to be the pinnacle of local real estate advertising in Faulkner County. In our high-tech day when most folks have a video camera with them everywhere they go, somehow, the visual content in local real estate advertising had apparently only progressed to the technological point of the “slideshow” (a.k.a. Virtual Tour). Since that conversation, he and I have pondered this phenomenon again and again. I’ve done a lot of research and theorizing, and I’ve asked “Why?” a lot. While I still think it’s odd that virtual tours are the bread-and-butter of local real estate advertising, I think the simple explanation might lie somewhere in the process–the checklist–that some local listing agents/brokerages go through to list a home.
Process vs. Content
I’m beginning to learn that listing agents have very little free time. I understand that when ‘time’ becomes an issue in a company, it makes sense to look for ways to streamline processes and find ways to add efficiency to the overall operation. It seems to me that some local brokerages have placed a significant emphasis on streamlining their processes. Though, somewhere along the way, amid all the streamlining of processes, it seems that some decided to streamline their processes for creating listing content as well. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that content creation processes can’t be efficient. I’m simply saying that advertising—good advertising—requires time, thought, and attention to detail. It’s a creative process. And sometimes, a bit too much streamlining can have an undesired effect on the quality of the content. Whatever else listing agents may do (which happens to be a lot, actually) at the nuts-n-bolts level, a listing agent’s job is to provide the highest quality, most effective advertising they can possibly provide for their clients’ homes. In a nutshell, listing agents are advertisers, and real estate brokerages are advertising firms. It just stands to reason then, that an advertising company should prioritize the content of their advertising over the process used to create that content. However, considering that in local real estate advertising, virtual tours are the most advanced technology being used to convey visual content to potential buyers, it almost seems that for some companies, process has been prioritized over content. Let’s face it, building a virtual tour (which is simply a fancy slideshow) is a whole lot faster than filming and editing a video. It’s a much more efficient process, but the content just isn’t the same at all. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite business minds. In 1996, Robert Cringely interviewed Steve Jobs for the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires. In that interview Jobs said the following:
“…People get confused; companies get confused. When they start getting bigger, they want to replicate their initial success. And a lot of them think, ‘Well, somehow, there’s some magic in the process of how that success was created.’ So, they start to try to institutionalize process across the company. And, before very long, people get very confused that the process is the content…”
Don’t misunderstand me. Virtual tours have value, and that’s why Geraldson Realty offers them. But they’re not the best form of visual content that can be used to advertise a home. Not today. Not anymore. I’m simply pointing out that in 2014, there are better ways to advertise with visual content. Locally, there’s room to improve real estate advertising–beyond the virtual tour.
If you’re a seller, when you hire a listing agent/brokerage to list your home, understand; you’re hiring and advertiser from an advertising company. At a very basic level, when you list your home with a brokerage, the product/service you’re buying is the listing content and the advertising of that content. In a nutshell, the visual content is how brokerages show your home to 21st Century buyers. Content matters. Quality content matters. If you’re going to agree to pay a 6% listing fee for someone to list, advertise and hopefully sell your home, the visual content needs to be a priority. Doesn’t it? In 2014, it does actually affect homebuyers’ first impressions of your home. For this reason, Geraldson Realty has prioritized content over process. And, while we will still continue to offer virtual tours (remember, they do add value) we recently began producing professional, high-definition real estate videos as well (no…not with an iPhone). Does it add more time to our process? Of course. But, we believe it’s worth the extra investment of time because of the competitive edge that these videos will provide for sellers vying for buyers in Conway and throughout Faulkner County. Will we be able to churn out new listings as quickly as some other companies? Well, probably not…but we’re not shooting for listing or sales volume–we’re shooting for excellence in advertising content. Our process for creating these videos is unique for each home we list—‘custom-tailored’ you might say. In time, we’ll look for ways to refine our process. For now though, to help sellers achieve the best possible return on their investment, we’ve decided to focus our attention on the details, the quality, the content.
HD Real Estate Listing Videos
Below are the first three HD Listing Videos we’ve produced so far, and we’re hoping there will be many more in the future. We invite you to look around on other brokerage’s websites. See what advertising content they’re providing, then compare it to the content below. If you’re thinking of selling your home, we would love to help you get a solid, top-dollar return on your years of investment in your home. To do this, we believe quality is essential in the visual content of your listing. If you’d like to learn more about listing your home with us, simply scroll to the bottom of this page and click the link for “Pricing & Packages”. Or, just give me (Daniel), Lori or Cherita a call and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.