Photo of Sam and Phil

Well hello there! Good to see you.

If I might be so bold, I’m guessing that this post title caught your eye for one of three reasons:

  • Your diary is fairly busy, but the quality of your valuations is lower than you’d like;
  • You’re getting out to the right properties, but you’re not converting as high as you need to;
  • Your fees are being pressured by your competition and you’re dropping below a profitable level.

Sound about right?

Well, stick with this post (it’ll take you around 13 minutes to read) and by the end of it, you’ll know….

  • How it feels to build the agency you’ve always dreamed of, the agency you set out to build all those years ago or maybe only recently.
  • If you’re in launch phase with a strong vision of what you want your agency to look like in the future, you’ll discover the steps to get there.
  • Why a big ad spend is not the answer, and how little we actually spend on our advertising at AshdownJones, (our boutique estate agency here in the Lake District).
  • What happens when you don’t have your marketing working on autopilot.
  • How to compete with low-fee competitors without slashing your fee to win the instruction.
  • And a clever Facebook ad funnel, for those of you who consider yourself to be intermediate or advanced marketers, to bring in new leads automagically.

 

“Why do you give away so much information for free?”

It’s a question I get asked often, so here are my best answers:

I wish I’d discovered ‘me’ – or somebody like me – back in 2004 when I first started my business. In hindsight, I desperately needed a marketing mentor, but I didn’t even know they existed. Even the content I share now would have hugely helped me back then.

These ideas should be shared freely for the greater good – if that makes everyone a bit better at marketing, it’s actually good for the industry as a whole.

I’m guessing you can’t afford a marketing agency – but if you can, then you can probably stop reading now! This post is for agents who genuinely can’t afford a marketing agency costing thousands of pounds a month, and who are looking for ways to grow and scale their agency without unnecessary spend and expense.

I like being your secret weapon!  My wish for you is that you take these tips and tactics on board and action them, and in doing so, develop your agency into something really special. And if your competitors can’t work out how you’re doing it, that’s even better.

Some of you will become clients.  Once you’ve been following my content for a while, and understanding what I and the team stand for, you’ll probably feel a lot more comfortable about booking a call to have a chat about if and how we can help you grow your agency.
What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]
This is me and Phil (trying not to look like a couple). Phil is not only my co-director, he’s also my son-in-law, which makes for some pretty solid office banter. Together, we own and run AshdownJones, the Lake District estate agents. We launched our agency in 2017, from my dining room. All we had was a couple of MacBooks, and neither of us had ever even sold a house (well, for someone else, that is).

By the end of our first quarter we’d taken on our first £1 million property. By the end of quarter two, we’d moved into a real, grown-up office and employed our first member of staff. We reached a milestone in month 13 – £500,000 in listed fees, and soon would move into a much bigger office and become a team of eight.

It’s been a really exciting journey so far, and our growth has become steady and predictable. We’re now proud to be considered as the premier agent for unique homes in the Lakes, and we now list and sell more homes over £500k than any other agent (out of 53 competitors).

Our selective strategy means that we only work with those clients who appreciate everything that we do, and who tell all their friends about us, so that we get fantastic referrals too. Working with a small number of properties means that we have the time and the budget to make every client feel like a VIP, and to showcase their home in the most beautiful way imaginable. It really is a win-win.

Here’s how our strategy of selectivity works for us:

  • We always charge 1.5% (our area average is 1%)
  • Our conversion from valuation to instruction is 90%
  • Our average fee is over £11,000
  • So we only need two sales each month
  • We’re currently selling four every month

Phil and I speak to independent agents like you every single day. That’s what we do. We both love to hear what’s working for you right now, and what your biggest marketing challenges are.

And what we’ve discovered is this: most agents have a serious problem; they are wasting money on marketing that doesn’t work.

And these are not small amounts….

Last March, I spoke to an agent in Colchester who was spending £80,000 a year on advertising and marketing. And that didn’t even include their portal spend. It was a mixture of PR, newspaper and magazine advertising, canvassing, and a ton of fancy software they weren’t even using.  This kind of spend just isn’t sustainable. As a comparison, we spend less than £3,000 a year in order to generate a turnover that is much higher than this agency’s.

 

It’s not your fault that you’re wasting money on marketing that isn’t working

You have been misled, often misadvised, bamboozled, and on occasion, you may even have been ripped off.

How are you supposed to know what actually works? How can you identify the marketing activities that do work, and ditch the ones that don’t? After all, everyone is trying to sell you a silver bullet.

Let’s have a look at the kinds of services some independent agents I know are subscribed to:

  • Content marketing – £300 a month
  • Social media management – £250 a month
  • Facebook ad management – £500 a month plus ad spend
  • SEO – £400 a month
  • Google AdWords – £500 a month plus ad spend.
  • Market research – £300 a month.
  • Rightmove Optimise – £1,500 a month

Total possible spend on ‘lead generation’ – £45,000+ per year. Which might be palatable if it actually works. But it doesn’t.  Say yes to everything and financial ruin lies just ahead.

So what’s actually going to work for you? What do you need to do to meet your goals this year and next? If you don’t find out what marketing really works, bad things will happen to you.  If you never have enough quality valuations in your diary then your staff will leave. Staff don’t like to be in an agency that is struggling for business, and in which the boss seems perpetually worried. The best ones will simply leave for a more successful competitor, or perhaps even become one, knowing your biggest weakness lies in your inability to generate a consistent supply of quality leads.

When you’re scrapping around for profitable instructions, every day becomes a fight. Having consulted to many agents in this position, I know that when they go into the office, they’re already anxious about the day ahead, feeling constantly overdrawn – physically and financially – and heavily burdened by their problems.

There is another way. You can discover what marketing works for your agency, to bring in those instructions that make you smile, on those homes you’d love to put your board outside.

When your diary is full with the best, most profitable and enjoyable valuations, your team will love you, because who doesn’t want to work in a successful agency? The money will start to come in more consistently, and with a healthy bank balance you can focus on taking your agency to the next level, to become a brand you can be proud of, and one that creates impact and legacy for the future.

If all that’s standing between you and this kind of success for your agency, we can help you, just like we’ve helped thousands and thousands of independent agency owners just like you.

 

Here’s what some of our clients have to say about their results:

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

Aren’t our clients AWESOME??

So, what are they doing, that you’re not? Here’s the big question:

 

What IS working right now in estate agency marketing?

Because it changes all the time, how can you possibly keep up? Well the good news is that you don’t have to keep up – because Phil and I keep up for you. We go to conferences and events,  we read marketing and direct response books, we listen to audiobooks and podcasts. We talk to the best leaders and influencers in our industry, and invest in the best mentorship and coaching available in the UK today. As well as all this, we’re talking to independent estate agents every single day – over the last fifteen years, we’ve probably spoken to over 3,000 agency owners, so we know exactly what’s working – and not working – right now in our industry. 

We’ve distilled this huge amount of information and data into our top five marketing winners so you can shortcut directly to what’s working the best for us and our clients today. Go straight to GO and collect £200 (or if you’re winning fees like ours, more like £10k).

 

Marketing Win #1: Direct Mail

Direct Mail is absolutely crucial for the success of an independent estate agency. If you woke up tomorrow morning to find someone had stolen your agency, and you had to relaunch from scratch, I’d tell you to focus 100% on Direct Mail. A little while ago, we had a client who was right on the verge of bankruptcy. Phil and I spent a couple of days writing a fantastic letter, which he hand-delivered to just 100 of the target homes in his area. He got 15 valuations, and ended up with 10 instructions – one at over £30,000. That letter saved him and his agency.

Direct Mail has been a huge part of our success with AshdownJones too. In fact, in our first year, 70% of our fees were attributable to direct mail – at the princely sum of £352,964 in fees.

We’ve now got our Direct Mail down to a fine art.  Just a couple of weeks ago Phil sent out one of our specially written letters to only 55 houses in an area where we’d love more boards.  We got 14 responses.

If you’d like to know more about how we may be able to help you grow your agency,pop us an enquiry form to our Firewave department here. 

 

Marketing Win #2: Content Marketing

Content is not just blogging. A great blogpost on a topic your audience want to know more about is vital, but your content strategy needs to embrace many forms of content. Photos, graphics and video are also important, and will reach a much wider audience that just one blogpost on its own.

Why is content so important?

  • Content creates brand awareness – social media can become your megaphone but you have to have the content to broadcast in the first place.
  • Content builds trust – people can see that you’re showing up consistently, and you’re talking about things that nobody else can or will talk about. And if you’re talking about a difficult topic like maybe reluctant downsizing, or houses that won’t sell, then those people who follow your content can appreciate and understand what you stand for.
  • Content positions you as a thought leader – by acting as a guide and mentor to your audience, they will be drawn to your confidence and expertise in your topic.

Want to know how we can create a beautiful blogpost and multiple pieces of content, every month? Ask us about Firewave Content here.

 

Marketing Win #3: Social Media

Let’s face it, most agents haven’t got a clue what they’re doing on social media; not even the corporates. Content that is boring, bland and just plain ‘so-what?’ will turn off not only your audience, but also put yourself in the bad books of your favourite social media platforms. But don’t worry, I’m going to share with you our very simple formula that you can apply to your social media strategy. This formula will not just make it super easy for you and your team to know what to post every day on social, it’ll also make sure the social networks love your content, and show it to lots of people.

 

Our magic Blast Formula:

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

Here’s a brief explanation for each of these types of posts:

1. Behind the scenes – anything you do in the course of your work, eg on a viewing, unboxing brochures, styling a room – these are all great material for our most popular post type.

2. Local – put the spotlight on a local event or person, but avoid links – most platforms hate them.

3. A day in the life – this is where you can create a post that’s not related to selling houses. Perhaps a local river in flood, an unusual flower, or a funny happening. We once posted a 7 second video of tree cutters using an open-top bus that pretty much went viral.

4. Sneak peek – remember this is not a property advert – it’s just one great photo of something intriguing from a home not yet on the market with you.

5. Tips and advice – this is where you post your content – your tips videos, advice blogposts, and beautiful graphics that send traffic to your website.

Marketing Win #4: Facebook Ad Funnel

This strategy is a little bit more advanced than the others, but if you’ve got your direct mail, content and social media all sorted, a Facebook Ad Funnel is a good place to turn your attention to next.

Here’s what a simple Facebook Ads funnel can look like:

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

I’ve used ValPal for this example, but most instant online valuation tools will work for this funnel. (By the way if you’d like to get a discount on ValPal, use my special affiliate link here.)

Let’s run through these steps, one at a time:

Step 1: Add the Facebook pixel to your website

The Facebook pixel is just a little piece of code that you or your web developer can insert into the ‘back end’ of your website. It’s a tracker that allows Facebook to identify which of its users have been to your website, and then allow you to serve up an advert to them on Facebook. You’re probably familiar with the concept of browsing say, a sofa on the John Lewis website, then that sofa ‘following’ you around the internet for weeks. It’s the same idea with Facebook. With a pixelled site, you can show a website visitor an advert based on what pages they’ve been to on your website – clever, isn’t it?To create your Facebook pixel, just go to your Facebook Ads Manager and under the Measure and Report menu heading, you’ll find Events Manager, and Pixels. In here, Facebook helpfully takes you through the steps you need to take to create and set up your pixel, including inviting you to email the pixel, together with instructions, straight to your web developer.

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

If you’re not sure whether or not you have the Facebook pixel set up on your website, or if you’d like to check if it’s been done correctly, message me here and I’ll check it for you.

Step 2: Create your Facebook Audience

Once you have your pixel installed correctly on your website, you can set up a Facebook Audience. Just go to the Ads Manager, and click on the Audience menu heading. Click the big blue button named ‘Create Audience’ and choose ‘Custom Audience’. In the ‘Sources’ menu, choose ‘Website Traffic’ (see below).

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

From here, choose the longest time frame available, which is currently 180 days, and name your audience something like ‘Home Styling Blogpost’ plus the date. Facebook will then generate a list of its users who have visited your blogpost in the last 180 days, and create an audience from this list. Although you don’t get to see who is on this list, Facebook will invite you to create an advert for them, which we’ll do in Step 3 below.

Clear? Great. Let’s move on to Step 3.

Step 3: Create an advert to this audience

You can create an advert to this new audience you’ve generated by clicking on the big green ‘Create an ad’ button in the Facebook Ads Manager dashboard. Under ‘Audience’ (see screenshot below), start typing the name of your new audience, eg ‘Home Styling Blogpost’ and it should pop up as a targeting option. Select it, and add in your audience age range (we use 30-60 usually), and the geographical area you cover (perhaps your office location plus a 20-mile radius). A word of warning – DON’T add in any interests here whatsoever – your audience will reduce to a tiny size and Facebook won’t show your advert in the newsfeed.

What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

Now you’ve targeted the right people, let’s move on to Step 4.

Step 4: Take them to ValPal

Once you’ve chosen your audience and set up your budget and schedule, it’s time to create the advert itself. We call this the ‘creative’, which in simple terms, is the image and text. I’m not going to go into too much detail here about ad creative strategy, or this blogpost will end up being 20,000 words! But here are some guidelines and tips you’ll find helpful if you’re doing this for the first time, or if you’d like to improve the results you’re currently getting:

  • Use the same image in your ad you’ve used as the background to your ValPal page – Facebook likes congruence, and so do its users – especially if they’ve never heard of you before.
  • Be specific in your copy – we’ve found that using phrases like ‘in just 57 seconds’ gets more clicks than if you just say ‘find out now’.
  • Experiment with using the ‘call to action’ button, and ads without any button at all. We find that no button wins over using say, ‘Learn more’, but only marginally. Test it for yourself to see what works best with your audience.
  • If your audience is small (less than 2,000 people) don’t run your ad for any more than a week at a time or you’ll ‘exhaust’ your audience.Make sure you pixel your ValPal page too, so you can retarget anyone who visits the page, and who doesn’t complete the form. Or even target someone who did complete the form, with a blogpost or article about when to book a valuation. Be creative with your thinking – put yourself in your audience’s shoes – what would they want to read next after taking each action?This is a great little digital funnel, and one that you can set and forget – provided you have a large enough audience (ours was 34,000 people so we could run our ad for several weeks before it became stale).

    Marketing Win #5: Get an expert onside

    Successful marketing might be simple, but it’s not easy. You will meet many obstacles and difficult challenges along the way. And your biggest obstacle is probably you. If you can get out of your own way, your marketing will work much better. Stop thinking you can do it all yourself and seek help from those who are doing what you want to do, and achieving what you want to achieve.

    We’re so lucky in our industry to have some amazing experts to work with. To list a few of the top coaches and specialists we recommend regularly:

    Sarah Edmondson – Agency Allstars – top-class training for estate and letting agents

    Mike Day – Integra Property Services – in-depth success consultancy and exit strategies

    Perry Power – Power Bespoke – energetic and dynamic estate agency coaching programmes for agents who want to improve their prospecting skills and fulfil their growth plans.

    Christopher Watkin – not only creates market-specific content for estate agents, he also has a terrific podcast/show and teaches agents how to use video to grow their agencies.

    If you’d like to read what happened when some of these top industry people and I got together to discuss the future of the property business, you’ll enjoy this article: #Proptrend.

    Not to mention Jane Gardner (social media guru), Mark Burgess, Iceberg Digital (digital marketing), Julian O’Dell (estate agency training) and Matt Giggs (performance coaching for agency owners).

     

    What ONLY we do

    Phil Jones – my co-director – and I are the only industry experts who can help you attract and convert high-value homes. It’s what we do. It’s our zone of genius.

    So if that’s what you want to do for your agency, then we can help. To find out how, just get in touch in one of these ways:

    Email: sam@samashdown.co.uk
    Call: 015394 40892

    Join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FirewaveEA/

    Message me: Facebook Messenger

    …and let’s have a chat.

    What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

    PS I’ll leave the last word to our star client, Lucy:

    What's working right now in estate agency marketing? [Updated for 2019]

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