I've Been Guilty - An Agents Perspective of Marketing.

by David Stewart (other articles by David Stewart)

When I became a real estate agent 18 years ago I just wanted to make some money. I was 23 and I had spent a few years living on the Gold Coast and I spent way more than I earned. This left me with a mountain of credit card debt and no real prospect of paying it off.

I saw real estate as an easy way to make fast money and much to my surprise I turned out to be pretty good at it.

Two years later I was a Sales Manager of a major franchise office and not long after part owner.

My ambition was based purely around earning money and I went to every conference, workshop and training event I could to learn what the best of the best did. I didn’t question any of the training, I just saw my growing bank balance and I wanted more.

The more I made, the more I wanted. A few years later I was the sole owner of two offices and in all truthfulness the needs of everyone I came into contact with came secondary to my desire to make money.

I would lie if I had to. I would follow the industry standards of conditioning my Vendors to get them to accept a lower price and I slept soundly at night without a hint of ethical concern.

The older I got and the more money I made, the more I realised that all the material processions I had gained couldn’t quite cover up the growing realisation that I was not doing the best by the people that entrusted their homes to me.

If I had to push them down $10k or $20k to get a quick sale then I would, with out hesitation. I mean everyone I had looked up to did the same thing so it couldn’t be bad right?

In 2009 I made an obscene amount of money but as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise I knew there was something wrong. I suffered a huge bout of guilt.

It dawned on me that all of my local profile and my push for ever increasing levels of Vendor paid advertising were completely selfish. It just promoted my sales results and me. Then I started digging.

What worked and what didn’t work purely from a client’s perspective? Were all of my upsells in advertising for their benefit or was it for mine? I simply didn’t know the answer to this.

So I sold my business and went looking.

I travelled to the United States and looked at what they did. I visited some high profile offices and I started to educate myself on the true nature of Internet traffic. I looked at how people searched for property and how houses generated legitimate enquiry.

I separated mere page impressions from actual views and click throughs. I researched actual buyer enquiry from print media.

What I found simply stunned me.

Nearly all real estate marketing was crude and based around personal and company branding. The agency owners knew it; the sales staff knew it yet they continued to push for more and more marketing.

I was baffled.

I knew these people and contrary to public perception these where good people. They were people that raised families and paid their taxes and followed the rules and were generally good citizens.

So why the discrepancy?

Simply, they had to keep up with their competitors.

There is no doubt that the fastest way to gain community recognition and build business traction is to spend as much money as you can in marketing. The problem? It’s not their money.

We are one of the very few industries that can advertise for new business by using past clients money.

No one wants to fight the status quo and the few that are brave enough to try, find their public recognition falling and revenue dropping off significantly. What do they do then? Well, fear kicks in and they revert to what worked for them before.

Is there an easy solution to this? Well no, there’s not.

One part of the solution is education of the consumer. They need to know that you can spend a fraction of the average marketing budget with clever and cost effective online tools.

It means that the agency suffers a massive loss in branding exposure but the client wins.

It’s a catch 22 and I completely understand why agency owners are reluctant to take this step. It costs a lot of money to keep a large office running.

It’s a conversation we as an industry need to start having. There are supplier companies out there that openly promote that vendor paid advertising is necessary for brand growth.

It’s not fair to our consumers and very soon they are going to wake up to this and either wipe us from the transaction altogether or demand accountability for our expenditure.

It’s an evolution that has to happen, better we start talking about it now rather than be blindsided by the backlash in the coming years.


19th May, 2016

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