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Marketing Lessons I’ve Learned from 26 Years Running Hobbs/Herder Advertising

26 Years of Marketing ExperienceBy Greg Herder

I don’t have to tell you how tough the last few years have been for the real estate industry. Hearing the varying reports on the market recovery from agents all across the US is heartwarming, but that doesn’t take away the sting of this recession and the hit that many in this business took.

As I take stock of the past few years, I can’t help but note that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” If you’re reading this and you’re still in the real estate industry, then like us, you are a survivor. For all you new agents who have just come into the market, just know that the real estate market is cyclical and these points I’ll be covering in this blog post are the never-changing fundamentals. Whether it’s a market bubble and anyone who can fog a mirror and put a sign in the yard can sell homes, or if it’s a market like we’re just emerging from, the fundamentals of marketing and growing your business don’t change.

Celebrate Your Individuality

The first common element in all or our successful campaigns, and I believe the most important key to any successful marketing campaign, is that they all found a point of real differentiation that was consistent with their personal core values. The funny thing is that clients tend to fight this more than anything else. They tell us that they don’t want to limit themselves. Yet all the marketing books, research and our 26 years of experience shows that if you don’t have this element, your chances for a successful campaign are significantly reduced.

The hardest part of identifying core values is that it requires each person to look inside themselves and clarify in their own mind who they are and what they stand for, both personally and professionally. Based on what they find, they then have to make some gut-wrenching decisions and recognize trade-offs that most people would simply prefer not to make.

Carve Your Niche

I remember when we started Hobbs/Herder Advertising how difficult it was to limit ourselves to working in the real estate industry. Looking back, I realize it was one of the biggest keys to our success. Though we have expanded our service slightly to professional services marketing, I know that you will succeed faster by starting with a highly focused differentiating message that establishes your position in the minds of your clients, and then expanding from there, rather then trying to start with a broad general appeal.

Facts Don’t Sell

The next common element is that every successful campaign must touch the prospects at an emotional level. This is another thing that some clients struggle with. They tell us they want the facts. They believe that a logical argument supported by facts will win over an emotional appeal every time. No matter how logically we present the evidence that emotions sell and facts do not, they are emotionally committed to being logical. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that every great marketing campaign has just enough facts so that a consumer can justify an emotional decision. This was one of the hardest lessons for me personally to learn and finally embrace.

In the early days of Hobbs/Herder Advertising, I even wrote some ads that made a logical case about why Hobbs/Herder Advertising was worth the investment. These ads talked about the quality of our professional writing and design staff, the training we gave them and how our systems worked to ensure that they would get a campaign that worked. The problem is that I could never get the ads to emotionally resonate with anyone I ever showed them to. Finally, I came to realize that the ads were really a reflection of my personal beliefs about the quality of work we did and the value we provided our clients. It was information that was important for me to believe in, to keep me true to my beliefs and values, but would have been a total disaster as a marketing campaign.

Look at the Big Picture

Another common element for all our successful campaigns is that they are truly campaigns, not just one ad or one brochure or one piece of direct mail. Over the years I have been constantly asked, “If you can only afford one thing to get started, what should it be?” The answer is that when you start with a business plan and a basic arsenal of marketing materials, including your personal brochure, logo, ads, direct mail PowerKards®, Web site and informational reports, I’d say your chances for success are almost 100 percent. We have found that if you start with only one piece, your chances for success are only 5 percent to 10 percent. In fact, I cringe every time one of our clients gets great response from their first few pieces because they start telling others it works instantly! Every now and then it does, but consistent success comes from a complete campaign.

Stick with It!

The final common element of all successful campaigns is consistency in message and time. The reality is that it takes time for a marketing campaign to take root and grow. I tell agents the key to success is to start out by developing and following a one year marketing plan that puts a differentiated personal marketing message in front of consumers three to five times per month in a variety of media – it works most of the time. In fact, after 26 years of creating exciting marketing campaigns for real estate professionals, I know that on the rare occasions that it does not work, it’s not a failure of marketing. It’s a failure of the agent’s basic competence as a salesperson. The good news is that most agents who are willing to invest the time, money and effort in a quality marketing campaign have quality sales and servicing skills that allow them to capitalize on the business their marketing campaign creates for them.

I am often asked, “Is this hard to do?” The answer I give is both yes and no. The process is really not hard, the steps to take are clear; many agents have done it and are doing it every day. The hard part is all mental. Making the tough choices about how to differentiate yourself, investing money that you cannot afford to lose, and then waiting for it to take root and grow during that critical first year of launching your marketing campaign – these are the hard parts and where most agents simply fail to act, because in reality, it is easier to do nothing and simply hope that it will work out.

As the market recovery expands, we at Hobbs/Herder are hearing from our clients who have stuck with their marketing that they are doing much better than their competition who are starting to fire up their marketing after going dormant during these lean times. To those brave and hardy individuals, we salute you and know you deserve the rewards you will reap. For any new agents, it’s NEVER too late to launch a powerful marketing campaign. It’s the cornerstone to LONG TERM success.