Is there still a place for print? Do the portals hold all the power? REINSW talked to the experts to find out their thoughts on these marketing questions and many more.
Looking back through copies of the Journal from the thirties, a Sydney Morning Herald advertisement pops up in the magazine every month. It was a different era back then, when channels were few and marketing was limited to feature windows and newspaper advertisements. Since then, a raft of new marketing channels have come online.
Mobility of communications is rapidly changing the way people consume information. According to the ACMA Communications Report 2013, a total of 7.5 million Australians used the internet via their mobile phone during June 2013, an increase of 33 per cent compared to June 2012. This also marked a telling 510 per cent increase since June 2008.
However, agents are still loathe to part with print advertising. The question is, does it still have the same impact as it did back in the thirties? Is the marketing mix still a true blend of platforms or is one becoming more dominant?
When you consider the example of the portals, the evidence would suggest that ‘yes’, there are a few dominant players.
Real Estate Australia (REA) is a case in point. The company announced earlier this year that it reported a 30 per cent increase in revenue for the half-year ended 31 December 2013. Whether this dominance will be dented by any one of the new contenders entering the market is yet to be seen.
Over the course of this article, the Journal is going to explore how agents are using the different marketing platforms available to them and how the marketing mix will continue to change in the future.
This article is the first of a two-part special. Watch out for next month’s instalment where we talk to the platform providers (newspapers and portals) to find out where they see things going in the future and how they plan to rise to the challenge.
Print vs digital
Q. Is there still a place for print marketing?
Reece Coleman (RC): Our biggest spend is still print. I hear a lot of businesses saying that they’re pulling away from print and going digital. We totally disagree and we’re actually doing the opposite. We’re going back to print.
Print still brings us an emotional buyer. And when we do our case studies on our properties we can see a direct correlation between print and digital campaigns
I think it’s a naive person who actually thinks that we can get away without print. The great thing for clients now is that print is actually reduced in price in the last 2-3 years. It has become sensible. Our local papers reduced print rates by 15 per cent.
Kit Bashford (KB): The marketing mix is constantly evolving and we need to be continually flexible with our approach. In our current campaign we have created assets for both traditional marketing methods including print media, mail pieces, radio and television, as well as digital including pre-roll, banner ads, viral seeding and Google AdWords. At the moment, both print and digital mediums are vitally important and we see equal value in both.
Q. How do you sell print to your vendors?
RC: If I go out and sell digital and the local paper [to a vendor], they’re going to say ‘no, I’ll just go digital’. So now, depending on the profile of the property, I’ll talk national, metro, local, café, outdoor, mailbox.
Peter Hanscomb (PH): The concept of going all digital is a recipe for an agency long-term going broke. It’s absolutely ridiculous to create a vanilla brand in the market place and by purely being on the internet, your brand loses a lot of the richness and the value set of the brand.
Last year our digital spend went up by 41 per cent and our print spent went up by 46 per cent. It gives you a pretty accurate picture of how we see both. I think it’s only really the portals that are trying to convince people that digital is the only way.
Jenine Cranston (JC): There has definitely been a shift to digital, but it has not entirely been at the expense of printed matter. I think we are still dealing on the whole with quite a traditional audience [in commercial] who like to be able to take away something from an inspection or who, when they receive a brochure, it has greater cut through than perhaps an email version of a brochure. Indeed, if they take a brochure back and they put it on the CEO’s desk he will see it, but he might not see an email. The headline would be, while digital has increased, it’s a genuine mix of digital and printed and I don’t see that changing.
Q. Is newspaper advertising still important?
RC: Take a digital buyer. If the digital buyer goes home, flicks through the newspaper, and they see the property in print. It reaffirms that they are making the right decision.
PH: We had nearly 80,000 people go onto our direct website because they’ve seen something physical.
They’ve seen a sign or they’ve looked at an ad and they want more information so they go online.
RC: “Online, offline and inline” is what we talk about. We use that mantra throughout business.
PH: Australian Tourism quotes that two out of three internet inquiries are caused by something offline.
It’s only the real estate business where we’re getting conned into the belief that it’s all about the search engines and what people do. Digital is a valuable part of the process, but it’s certainly no replacement for print.
RC: I think people get caught up on where the final buyer comes from. We sold a house last year where the eventual buyer was literally from across the road, so some could say they bought it off the signboard. In that case, we had six registered bidders that night. One of them came off the internet, two came from the local paper, three of them had come off databases. All those elements worked together and delivered that property to the market and, as it turned out, it was the highest auction in Australia.
Barry Johnston (BJ): We only specialise in commercial and industrial, and we don’t do any residential, so our view is probably slightly different in that we don’t do a lot of print. If we have an investment property we will, or if it’s an auction campaign we will, but otherwise it’s just a waste of money.
I was talking to another agency the other day that sells a lot of investments. They now only do two placements in the Sydney Morning Herald on a four-week auction campaign. Five years ago, it would have been every week, without a doubt.
There’s no doubt in our industry, on the commercial and industrial side, the classified section is becoming less [important] so then we’ve got to be more creative. We do brochures, but to a lesser extent than we used to. PR is probably more important.
Q. How did you decide on your brand principles and who is the final arbiter of the brand?
PH: For us, it’s a little simpler because we’re probably the only property brand that was a brand before it was a property brand because of Belle magazine. The first thing we wrote when we bought the business was our value set, which we put on the back of every single property magazine ever printed and it’ll still be there in the future because it’s the thing that doesn’t change with growth.
What happens with real estate groups is the value set is too tied to the personality of the leader, not the values the leader chose to start the business with. That’s why we see so many businesses get corrupted, because it becomes too much about ego and individuals and not about the original value sets that predicated the business.
BJ: That’s interesting. If you look back at the old brands, they have their values tied to the personality of the founder. As the brand changes or as the brand grows, or as the generations changed, the personality – the brand changes.
PH: If you look at the most successful companies of the world, how many are called after the owner? There’s no Mr Google.
A brand has a feeling to it. A marketing identity has a look to it. And lots and lots of businesses in this industry are changing their look to get noticed because they don’t resonate with their feeling of long-term residual trust. It’s a real problem for a lot of businesses in this industry. They keep trying to throw a little magic dust over their shoulder and say ‘We’re new, we’re great, we’re wonderful, we’re different now’.
Q. How do you control your brand output?
PH: I’ve got four graphic designers inhouse. Everything we do is about controlling brand output and every time we open a new office now, there’s a very defined role in terms of brand control. There’s a greater need to have brand control now than there has ever been. I think the need to keep that is only going to become more important.
JC: I think the commercial audience is more informed and their expectations of information are far greater. While it needs to have some sizzle in the commercial world, it also needs to have a lot of facts because the due diligence process is as long as we’ve ever seen it. While it’s difficult to distinguish between the emotional and nonemotional, it’s fair to say that campaigns now are more about information and the sizzle is implicit along the way.
Q. Do you think the portals hold too much power?
PH: There needs to be another major portal that’s more industry focused and industry run, that keeps prices down. Do I think they cost too much money for the value they give? I would say ‘yes’.
RC: I don’t think the portals have got any more power than the media companies have. If we get down to it, we’re still a country with a duopoly in media in mainstream media. What I’m really frustrated with is a myriad of new portals that keep coming onto the market constantly. Every day there’s a new portal.
PH: If you look at the US, the US used to be dominated by a website called www.cyberhomes.com. Then www.realty.com was born and 85 per cent of the listings disappeared off www.cyberhomes.com and went to realty.com. It’s not like there isn’t a place for REA. It’s not that there isn’t a place for Domain, just like the different newspapers.
You know there’s nothing stopping REA or the portals from increasing their rates by whatever percentages they want. If they wanted to double them tomorrow, they could probably do it.
PH: The only thing that would really change it would be if all the searching was mapping based and that’s why I think Google is a contender in the future, because Google holds all of that information [and allows you] the simple ability to walk around with your iPhone and find homes for sale. I sold my own house last November. Sixty per cent of the searches on my property were mobile.
RC: And that’s why I think Google stands a good chance down the track because you can have your smartphone out, type ‘real estate’ and the listings will come up, match and then go straight back to the agent’s website.
PH: Well look, there are other companies at the moment running around looking at putting different portals together that have different functionalities for the agents and for the consumers. The reality is that consumers have to see the relevance of the website they’re looking at.
We’re increasing our own website so volume is going up, but it’s a never-ending task. Getting the volumes, getting the people in. The portals still have a very strong place in the future, but I believe we need a third major player to keep the balance and it should be an industry-based organisation. It’s a bit like www.realestate.co.nz. You look at what they’ve done in New Zealand in terms of stopping this whole media fee process and they’ve done it very well.
BJ: We need a third party [in the commercial space] as well. It’s probably more doable in our area because we’ve got the ability to get more of the principals together and get them on board.
I think we’re getting much closer to the tipping point. Not only on fees but also because now there’s a special department in one of the big portals targeting our clients directly.
They say these are professional clients and most of those have a Real Estate Licence, but now there’s an advertising group without the intervention of an agent. This only starting to happen in the past 12-18 months and I can see that really starting to drive a wedge between the agency community and their clients.
PH: The biggest danger to them is map-based searching. And if it becomes map-based searching then whether you paid $3000 or $100 doesn’t make a difference.
BJ: We’ve set up a couple of our own microsites that focus on specific areas. We’d often be dealing with the PA and the CEO. The PA is just going to go straight to Google [and type in] ‘Office Space, North Ryde’.
RC: That’s the biggest threat for the portals in my opinion, Google.
Case study - Raine & Horne Campaign
Call to action: Get all your ducks in a row to win $50,000
When: Feb-May 2014
Goal: To increase the number of listings and appraisals
Raine & Horne National Marketing and Communications Manager Kit Bashford talks the Journal through the company’s new marketing campaign.
“Although ‘Ducks in a Row’ is primarily a listing campaign, it has been designed to target both appraisals and listings,” Ms Bashford said. “To do this, we’ve created a URL (www.youandrh.com.au) that appears on all promotional material and advertising associated with the campaign.
“If an individual only lists their property with a Raine & Horne agent over the competition period, then they are eligible to enter and must complete their entry via our dedicated competition site – www.rhducksinarow.com.au. It is not a condition of entry that the listed property is sold within the competition period.”
“R&H has advertised this promotion across a number of platforms, including digital, local area marketing, print advertising and even a small TV run on channels 7 and 9 in metro NSW and Queensland (promotions and advertising vary from state to state).”
What were the main challenges?
“It is always a challenge to communicate our campaign messages (what’s happening when and how the offices can be involved) to our network of offices and all personnel within those offices,” Ms Bashford said. “The people we are trying to connect with are extraordinarily busy and getting information across is essential.
“To try and overcome this we circulate information in hard copy, electronic communication and via our monthly newsletter.
We’ve also had our corporate team and our network of business development managers personally supporting and introducing the campaign to our offices at regional meetings.”
According to Ms Bashford, the campaign has been received very positively by the market.
“There’s been great enthusiasm from our offices in terms of taking up print and digital advertising created for the campaign, and we have been inundated with requests from staff looking to leverage off the campaign in their local areas,” she said.
“We’ve also had great take-up from the public in the early stages of the campaign, with offices regularly feeding new vendor listings into our business operating system, rhcompass.”
“We are constantly analysing data from our marketing campaigns,” Ms Bashford said. “We know from previous campaigns that advertising on certain websites generates more leads than others, so we use this intelligence for altering existing placements if required as well as future expenditure. For our current campaign we are delving further into viral video seeding, as well as the use of pre-roll video, rather than just standard banner advertising.”
Case study - CBRE 'Workspace' campaign
Call to action: To give 10 leasing clients an edge in a competitive market through a targeted marketing campaign.
When: Q3 2013
Goal: To generate leasing enquiries, inspections and deal activity. Competition is fierce in the commercial leasing market. Companies looking to lease 1,000 square metres have close to 300 options available to them over the next 12 months. CBRE Senior Director Office Services Jenine Cranston discusses how CBRE worked with a select number of clients on a marketing campaign to overcome the challenges of a highly competitive market.
“We put together a portfolio campaign strategy with the assistance of our marketing team, took it to each of our clients and filled the spaces with ease.
“The campaign offered customers exposure for their assets via a number of marketing channels. We chose channels that had broad relevance and effective cut through. The only thing they were able to opt in to was photography, which we got at a good price for them.
“If we were to offer those components to a client, even if they had multiple properties, it would cost them multiples of what they spent in this situation.
“By using the expertise of our marketing team and CBRE’s scale – our purchasing power – we were able to pass on the purchase benefits to our clients as well as the co-ordination of a comprehensive, month-long campaign.”
“It’s about engaging with your clients and talking them through the campaign and its their relevance to the asset’s marketing strategy and target audience,” Ms Cranston said.
“The selling kit contained the specific elements that were going to be included and some detail about them. In addition to that we had the key dates that they were going to have to meet and a booking form.
“One example of a component of the campaign were the coffee cups we used. There were around 20,000 placed in cafés around the city with the campaign branding on them.
They lasted for only a short period of time but were complemented by other ongoing elements that ensured we were in-market at all times. The cups were strategically placed in cafés close to our clients’ assets.”
What were the main challenges?
“Key to the success of the campaign was the thorough planning that was undertaken in its formulation. I think that ironed out a lot of unforeseen eventualities.
“The leasing and marketing team worked together to decide on the right blend of digital and conventional mediums within the predefined budget. In the end we got a campaign that gave our clients best bang for their buck and provided a balance of digital and traditional channels.”