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Cost-effective Marketing Ideas for your Real Estate Business

by Tracey C. Velt

Cost-eff MarketingWhen it comes to cost-effective marketing, Joan Rogliano, CRS, GRI, broker-owner of Rogliano Real Estate Group in Denver, CO, has one word for you – relationships. "What we do is personal," she says. "I think many real estate professionals, and salespeople in general, have gotten away from relationship marketing and building relationships through public relations." The best part of building relationships? Nurturing them doesn't have to cost a ton of money.

And, even if it did, cost-effective marketing isn't always cheap marketing. It's about the return you get on your investment. We talked to several experts and Women's Council members who offered the following strategies for getting the most bang out of your marketing buck.

1. Create a reputation. "I am convinced that the easiest and fastest way to craft, mold and promote your reputation is through the news media," says Edward Segal, CEO of the Marin Association of Edward SegalREALTORS® and author of Profit by Publicity, a PR reference handbook. While social media is all the rage today, convincing a local newspaper or television station to quote or do a story about you provides something that Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites simply can't provide: validation and credibility.

Segal suggests you use basic tools such as news releases, bylined articles, messaging, sound bites, media interviews, speeches and presentations to get your message out. "It is possible to control the media, but you must learn how to identify your message, talk to the press, have something newsworthy to say and customize your message for your audience," he says.

2. Nurture relationships with niche marketing. Several years ago, Rogliano decided to define a portion of her business by working with families and women who were going through transitions, specifically a divorce. "I put together a focus group and asked what those people wanted most from me," she says. Turns out they wanted a trusted resource.

Joan RoglianoSo, Rogliano built a presentation offering information and resources for women going through a divorce. "I started with in-home PowerPoint presentations for small groups, and my business exploded," she says. The key, she says, is that many times she would help the woman stay in the home rather than sell it. "Very early on I saw the same theme. I'd go to the listing presentation, and it was very emotional. The woman would not want to move, so I would bring in a lender, and we would figure out a way for her to stay," she says.

"Of course, when they were ready to sell a couple years later, they came to me. And, they referred friends to me because they knew I wasn't just out for the deal," she says. From those in-home presentations, Rogliano moved to larger sessions (about 35 to 50 people) at the local association of REALTORS®. To save money, she asked people to bring a dish to share, and local professionals would speak for free. "We had sessions on estate planning, budgeting, identity theft and even featured a local designer who had the women model his clothing," says Rogliano. "By having everyone bring a dish, you gave the women a reason to engage in conversation, ask for recipes, comment on dishes," she says.

Rogliano's niche was so successful that she spun it out into a non-profit called Wildflower Women's Organization, a national network of professionals who can help women going through divorce.

3. Join networking groups. Elizabeth Ristine, ABR, CIPS, GRI, a broker-associate with Pan Florida Realty Inc. in Miami, relies heavily on networking groups to bring her business. "Since 1998, I've been with Women's Council, and I get anywhere from three to 10 closings from them a year," says Ristine. "Since dues are pretty low that is a huge cost-effective marketing piece for me."

Eli RistineRistine is also a member of Big Business Referral Group of South Florida. "I've been with this group for 13 years. I'm the only residential REALTOR® in the group, and it allows me to have a team of attorneys, doctors, printers, insurance agents, lenders and more behind me," she says. The group meets for lunch, and each person has the opportunity to do a 30-second commercial. Then, in rotating style, each member of the group performs a 10- to 20-minute presentation. Ristine has done presentations on what is a good referral for her, what services she offers buyers, the buying process and more.

"There are 30 people in the room who understand how I work so that when they're talking to someone, they know details about me and how I do business," she says. Ristine pays $1,000 a year in dues for the group and gets 37 percent of her business from her relationships with members. In addition, Ristine is part of a networking group of past Women's Council presidents. "The only cost is your dinner at the meetings. There is no membership fee, but you have to be voted in because we only want members whom we know, love and trust," she says.

4. Engage in social media. "A little time spent working on your marketing can stretch your budget," says Nicole Nicolay, founder and chief creative officer for Agent Evolution, a Wordpress design company that specializes in real estate. "There are many affordable ways you can market your real estate business using social media tools," she says. She recommends you comment or like at least three posts from your newsfeed every day, create a Facebook page for your business and post helpful and relevant resources daily.

Nicole Nicolay"Leave sincere comments, not self interest link-backs," she says. "One idea is to create a past client photo album with testimonials, post it on your business page and tag clients who are on Facebook," she says. For Twitter users, "use Twitterlocal.net to connect with locals, tweet homeowner tips, local market information and list your profile on Twitter directories such as NearbyTweets and WeFollow. Tweet about local events and open houses," she says.

One thing to remember when it comes to social media, it is just one form of relationship building. You must follow up in person to make the most out of those relationships.

Overall, it's the personal things that make marketing cost-effective: handwritten notes, phone calls, networking groups and one-on-one meetings. "Business cards are the cheapest form of advertising," says Ristine. "But you have to go somewhere to use them, such as the grocery store, networking events and community events." She says, "Answer the phone, respond to your emails, change your listing status in the MLS. Building good will with other real estate professionals can go far." You'll know it's working, says Rogliano, "when you get a phone call from someone who says they were referred to you by someone that you don't even know. That is the definition of success."

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