NOTE : Due to privacy issues and Non Disclosure agreement, I will not be sharing the name of the client or any campaign/ad screenshots in this case study. But, the strategy is shared as whole which can help you understand and implement digital marketing for real estate industry.
In today’s time when every business is dependent on digital marketing for driving sales and getting good conversions, Real Estate tends to be one of the highest spender and most of the builders rely heavily on digital marketing for real estate projects.
But, unlike any other industry, real estate is scattered and not as organized as it should be. Many factors such as false promises, non clearance properties and delayed deliveries always have been haunting real estate market. Though RERA(Real Estate Regulatory Authority) has brought in regulations in the industry but still a lot more has to be improved.
Contents of the Article
How Digital Marketing for Real Estate is different?
Looking at the marketing aspect of Real Estate, it is different from any other industry too. As real estate is one of the biggest investment, it involves a lot of thinking, cross checks, option hunting and extensive back and forth from prospective customers.
Talking about difference in Real estate and other industries, the usual purchase pattern is lengthy which involves builder/brand reaching out to audience, then audience will probably leave his or her details on the lead form.
After that, the leads will be called for a site visit post which they would probably see atleast 5-10 more options and then decide that they have to go ahead with it or not. This whole process usually takes 3-6 months in the fastest scenarios.
While many real estate builders rely heavily on real estate portals such as Magicbricks, 99acres, commonfloor etc., they all know how important is to have their own marketing strategy in place to create brand awareness among the audience, engage them to make them understand the USPs and then finally convert them into customers.
That is the reason real estate industry is one of the top spender segment , especially for digital marketing. I have been across some of my clients who spend 1 crore a month to generate leads from Digital Marketing.
Because of it’s scattered and multi layered structure, digital marketing for real estate has to be done with a lot of caution and requires an out of the box strategy which should create a perfect balance between being aggressive but not too pushy.
I have a fair share of working with many real estate developers ranging from single building owners to the biggest real estate developer in India.
Unable to state the name of one of my clients because of privacy issues, I will be talking about the strategy which won me wonderful results for the biggest real estate developer in India.
My client(Yeah! still cannot name it) has a plethora of corporate and residential real estate projects across country and is always focused on expansion and maximum market capture.
I started working with them for their commercial projects which are spread in 5 different cities in India. They needed leads from eligible audience who would lease out their commercial office inventory which consists of millions of sq.ft. in area.
The Target Audience
As per the client’s objective, the target audience was the people in companies who decide which office they should take on lease or purchase. As our projects were huge and the minimum inventory requirement was atleast 5000 sq. ft., that too in top notch and state if the art projects , we needed to ensure that we reach big companies only who have huge budgets and to the administrators or other people who decide which office to rent/lease out.
The client used to spend heavy amount on SEO, SEM and email marketing which resulted in decent traffic to the website but negligible conversions through online mediums. A spend of around 15-20 lacs in a month used to fetch them only 4-5 conversions to actual sales, which was nothing less than a huge loss to their business.
Clients usually are not aware of insights as much as we are. For them, conversion is directly linked to traffic. In their sense, they wanted more traffic to their website, thinking that will increase their conversions.
From the first interaction, I understood that the reality is far from what they presume.
The Twist in the story
I strongly believe that the key ingredient of creating an impeccable recipe of digital marketing strategy is “knowing your audience well”.
Having an in-depth knowledge and extensive insight about the audience which you need to target is the most critical element and a first step to create an overall digital marketing strategy.
As always, I starting digging into various research papers, case studies and other tools to find out as much information and as many statistics as I can.
After 2 days of deep diving into plethora of data, my conclusion came as a surprise which literally made me rethink the whole thought process which I had built up since the time client briefed me about the project. I will explain with an example.
Imagine a company like Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle or any other MNC wants to open an office somewhere. As per our general understanding, the people who would decide where to set up the office are Administrators, Branch VP/Heads or in worst case scenarios, the Director/CEO of the company itself. Right?
What if I tell you that it is WRONG?
Well, gone are the days when companies used to spends time and money in making their admin team visit various office spaces and then choose the best one. Instead, there are aggregators and consulting companies who provide their expert opinions and recommendations in locating their next office space. And as told before, MNCs’ are a huge chunk of my client’s potential buyers.
So in order to get more conversions i.e. bookings of office space from my client’s inventory, we needed to reach out to these companies(people who decide).
What came as another astonishing fact through a simple search is this.
Here, in this screenshot, JLL surprisingly appeared in the search result. JLL is one of the consulting companies which provide MNCs’ with assistance for office space acquisition. This means the audience who I need to reach, engage and convert are MY OWN COMPETITION who are targeting the keyword which I should appear in. Similarly, there are other consulting companies too which appeared in various search results where my client is present(I paused ads from my client in order to hide the name from search).
After getting a bit tipsy on the thought of this tricky situation, and diving into researching these consulting companies, I got the solution.
Each of these consulting companies were purely into consulting business. They did not own even a single sq. ft. of corporate real estate inventory except their own offices.
Now, in order to provide consultation to hundreds of companies worldwide and recommend office space to them, these consulting firms would either be biased(connections, favors or money) or genuinely be happy to offer the best recommendations as per them.
While nothing can be done for biased recommendations, there is a huge scope when it comes to creating awareness of my client’s inventory and engaging with my actual target audience(these companies), place the client’s brand in such a way that it makes them feel that they care and then convincing them to recommend you(sell).
Now, when it comes to B2B marketing, especially real estate, it is practically similar to walking barefoot on a tight rope which has being aggressive on one side and brand’s values on other side. You need to create a perfect balance between both and walk the thin thread which can easily throw you off in case of any mistake.
Thus, I needed a strategy which should be aggressive and engaging to make the target audience consider our inventory while not being too pushy to tip them off the edge. The strategy should add value to their life and help them understand why we offer one of the best solution that they look for.
Now, the time was to look for overall scope for corporate real estate market online. A basic research revealed that there are around 3 crore people online who consume information about corporate real estate(mix of in-market and affinity audience) and around 10 lac searches each month on Google, only in India.
This clearly indicated that the scope is huge though, it also indicated that competition is fierce and the strategy should focus on engaging the audience effectively, rather than just pushing ads to them.
Also, the client was under the impression that the target audience’s age group is 40 yrs-60 yrs. This seemed legit assuming that the decision makers are probably people at senior position.
But, the analysis led to another astonishing data which clearly indicated something totally opposite.
The maximum no of audience comprises of age group 18-34, followed by age group 35-44.
As this information was new which totally toppled what the client presumed, we needed to dig in further.
I spent 4 days, trying to understand the actual reason behind it, which brought me up to insight that the actual people who try to gather information about office spaces are junior-mid level people who are just fetching data off internet to pass it on to their seniors which will decide which office to take or recommend further.
These first level of data gathering by these people also works as first filter where these junior-mid level people try to find out the best options as per them and forward it ahead.
Thus, these are the actual target audience which we need to reach out to.
So I came up with this
As per the target audience, I kept the initial entry points as Search Engine, Display ad network, Facebook, Linkedin and Native ads.
These 5 touchpoints are good to drive good amount of targeted traffic to the website for lead generation which will cover the overall audience for them by narrowing them down based on keywords, job profile, companies they work in, location, age group and interests.
Now, as per the strategy, the objective was not just to bring them to the landing page and generate leads. Infact, it was to engage with them in a much better way through multi-layered reach.
Now, through these touchpoints, I am able to drive a substantial amount of traffic to the landing page (14%-16% CTR). The focus at this point was to drive high CTR but keeping high relevancy too.
This is possible by segregating each kind of audience separately and addressing their pain points. My each campaign was focused on one single interest, by which I made multiple ad sets on each platform, further divided into different age groups and geographical region.
The idea here(infact any kind of industry or campaign) is to break down the audience in multiple pieces based on interests, age group, region and behavior. This will help you to address each one of their’s pain point directly(a huge reason to get targeted and relevant traffic) and help you to optimize your campaign to the greatest level.
This strategy led a massive 200%+ increase in traffic to the landing page at the same spends(just changing the mediums and ad strategy)
Once the traffic comes to website, there are two outcomes i.e. they will fill up the form or not. Here, the focus was to create impeccable user experience which would convey the perfect amount of information(A/B testing is very important here) and drive them to leave their information.
Remember, even change in the submit button below the form impacts on the conversion rate. Huge amount of science and common sense goes into creating a good UI/UX which can make or break your campaign.
The first fold, form placement and right content(relevant communication) are major deciding factors when it comes to conversions.
For this client, I am able to generate leads at 21% conversion rate on an average which by far, has been their best.
No doubt, this conversion rate is very good as per real estate industry(8%-10% is standard) but this is not what we aim for. The rest 79% of traffic also has a huge potential, which we need to target. Plus, the 21% converted traffic has just been converted to leads.
There is still a long way to convert them to actual customers. This is where we can make a difference.
Now, the targeting becomes two pronged where we re-target unconverted traffic through Display ads, Facebook and Linkedin.
We all know re-targeting and it is a normal practice so what is difference that I brought to the table?
Imagine you saw an ad, clicked on it and did not leave your name and phone no. Will you do anything differently if you see same ad or reach the same landing page through a different ad?
Obviously not, right?
Thus, I came up with a strategy to ensure that it makes a difference. Communication on the ad for re-targeting visitors changed from informative to provoking where I emphasized more on aspects such as what will happen once a person submits his/her information as a lead, how our overall onboarding process is and what they will lose out by not being our customers.
Along with that, I created separate landing pages with new communication strategy used for re-targeting ads, taking the conversation to the different level.
This worked well for the client and it helped boost the lead count by whopping 73% of the total leads which we get daily.
For any normal campaign, the job would be done. I mean, the client wanted good leads, we provided the leads and now the work starts for the sales team by the real estate developer.
But the actual objective does not end here.
As explained in the start of this article, turning leads to actual customers is the longest procedure in real estate industry. Also, it does not take much time for a warm lead to turn cold and die down.
While the client’s sales team would do their best to convert the leads into customers, it became critical to engage with the leads to ensure that they remain hooked on to us and stay as warm leads and probability of them being converted as customer stays high.
It also becomes imminent because even though they gave their information and we have them as leads, not every lead gets converted.
On an average, lead to customer conversion rate is around 10% which means approximately 90% of leads do not turn to customers.
This indicates the huge drop off from the lead count but it also indicates the huge scope which can be utilized in a much better way through an effective strategy.
So the next step after lead submission was a common practice, i.e. sending a thank you email.
This may sound very simple, but it works effectively. Usually people submit their information on multiple websites when they are looking for real estate(infact many other industries too) and because of that, they tend to forget exactly where all they submitted their information.
If you have worked on lead generation campaigns and have glanced through the feedback, you would see that many leads would respond to the calls telling that they don’t remember giving out the information.
A thank you email acts like a reminder which goes and stays in their email inbox, reminding them that they have submitted information to a certain brand or company. Even if they delete it, they manually have to take an effort doing that, helping them remember about the client.
I used a basic thank you email which went out instantly after the person filled up the lead form. Along with basic thank you, the email contained simple communication stating that they should expect a call soon from our sales professionals.
Though the leads already know that they would be called but when you state this fact, you induce positive impact in their minds, making them feel comfortable and in control of things.
Also, the mail served as another option to softly showcase the client’s inventory. Remember, this is a reminder mail and not a pitch mail, thus any kind of product/service mention has to be bare minimum. For my client, I just used 3 images at the bottom of emailer, mentioning them as latest addition to our inventory which seemed that I am just keeping them posted about the things rather than trying to sell it to them.
In addition to sending a thank you mail to the leads, I also used the lead database to create a look-alike audience on Facebook and targeted them too.
Trust me when I tell you this, lookalike audience is one of the best way to expand your audience, especially when your audience pool is not too wide.
Here, audience pool for my client was too wide(3 Cr) but having certain audience which has higher probability of converting is better than targeting fresh audience right?
On Facebook, when we create a look alike audience, it asks us for the percentage of country’s population(on Facebook) which defines your relevancy and reach. After years of working on various campaigns and strategies, I have understood that there is no fixed rule to find a perfect percentage at one go for this.
Thus I always create multiple look alike audience ranging from 1% to 6%(1% step each) and then analyze which percentage converts better. I did the same for them and 2% custom audience converted better than other ones.
Lookalike audience helped me get around 15% of the total lead count from the overall campaign which is a good number considering the cost per lead was really less(~370 Rs.)
Now coming back to already generated leads, they had to stay warm so that the probability of converting them stays good.
After the follow up mail, it was time to wake them up from their slumber. In short, it is time for reminding them that we are waiting. In almost all of the cases, the leads get call from my client’s sales team within 24 hours.
Thus, after 2 days of lead generation, almost everyone from the leads would have been called from the sales team. Some of them would have set up site visit while some of them either would have said no or still making the sales team wait for confirmation.
Considering 2 day timeframe to be the best, my next email would hit them after 48 hours of lead generation.This email would work as a follow up email, which reminds them that they have submitted their information us and our sales team has called them, asking them feedback of the call(again putting them in better controlling power, psychologically making them feel good).
Along with psychological booster, the emailer also contained value addition content for them to ensure that our communication does not look like an ad to the audience e.g. top 10 things to look for while choosing an office etc.
This way, you can keep them hooked as you are adding value to them while making them feel they are in control. It gives them immense comfort, connecting them to the brand emotionally.
After waiting for 2 more days, it is time to reach out to them again. Till now, on an average, the conversion rate from lead to sale is 7% which is near the industry standards. But, it is time to take it further.
The next email goes after 96 hours of lead generation. Now this email is in a form of survey which asked questions from the leads such as what they seek in an office, which is biggest deciding factor while choosing an office etc.
This email does not show them our inventory, does not push them to buy from us or gives any other info. It plainly asks them their preferences.
Insightful data from the leads, making me understand what is their actual concern and what is that they actually need to hear so that I can convince them. In short, they are telling me themselves what I should be focusing on.
Through the survey which is sent to leads, an ongoing report got generated which is constantly fed with new data which keeps coming to us each day.
Also, according to the leads responses to the poll, they are divided into different groups where one group focuses on better office location, another wants state of the art tech in pace, another wants good amenities etc.
This gave me a nice way to reach out to them in a better way and pitch. As my client has huge inventory which is top notch quality, each of the aspect which the leads seek exists in the project already. It is just a matter of positioning which hits bang on for their preferences.
To each one of the groups created as per poll responses, customized pitches are sent, highlighting their preferences which they seek in an office. Hits the sweet spot rightaway.
This strategy worked wonders for them. At present, we are sitting on ~12.7% lead to customer conversion rate post this step. This is the step which actually made a huge difference just by understanding what exactly the audience seeks for.
12.7% conversions is above industry standards for conversion but we definitely aim for more so that we can get maximum ROI for client.
Customized pitch was followed up by another insightful emailer(non marketing) and then by another pitch, again followed by the same after 2 day interval in each email.
Through the 5 initial touchpoints to drive traffic to the landing page and then 8 automated follow up emails, the campaign turned out to be much better than what it used to be before this strategy.
The overall lead to customer conversion rate increased to 16.3% from a mere 2-3% which they used to get before, all at the same spends.
It isn’t that digital marketing for real estate is tough or too complex. It is just that for each industry, the strategy has to adapt based on it’s target audience. We as digital marketing strategist need to understand that the best ingredient to a great campaign is audience insight. The more we know about industry, the target audience, their expectations and pain points are the pillars on which your campaign will stand high.
I would love to know about some uncommon strategies which you have used in your campaigns. Share them through the comment section below.