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Pack a Digital Punch

A well-balanced, interrelated mix of digital marketing tactics creates a relevant and impactful strategy to engage online leads and increase conversions

By Donna Shryer

According to a 2018 Nielsen report, American adults spend more than 11 hours daily listening to, watching, reading and generally interacting with digital media. If everyone’s camped out online, then that’s where you want to funnel a significant percentage of your marketing budget.

Digital marketing also comes with an added bonus. Analytics software makes it easy to measure your ROI. Metrics tell you if you’re meeting top digital marketing objectives such as:

  • Increased lead generation/conversions
  • Improved brand awareness
  • Increased web traffic
  • Improved online user experience—from desktop to tablet to smartphone
  • Improved data quality
  • Increased sales

Going Up? Yup!

Tim Brown, owner of Minneapolis-based marketing firm Hook Agency, recently sent a strong message on his blog ( “According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 7% to 8% of your gross revenue should be spent on marketing. Half of that marketing budget should be dedicated to digital marketing in 2019. Seem a little high? Well, in 2020 it should be 55%. The average company is spending 35% of its marketing budget on digital campaigns, and that’s not enough. The average company is stuck three years in the past.”

Land the Lingo

If you plan to move forward with an appropriate digital marketing budget, it’s a good idea to revisit digital marketing terminology—so you can confidently walk the talk.

Digital marketing strategy: Strategy is about selecting general, broad digital channels to help engage, convert and retain clients. “Your strategy might be to use social media and search advertising to acquire leads, but pass on online advertising,” explains Peter Prestipino, digital marketing campaign manager at Antenna Group, a national integrated marketing agency with a real estate industry focus.

Digital marketing tactics: Tactics drill down to specifics. For example, your strategy may be social media while your tactic might be to post a new video on Facebook every Wednesday at 11 a.m. that links back to your website.

There’s overlap between strategy and tactics, but it’s essential that you understand the nuances of both, Prestipino says. “Strategy is the overall plan and tactics are the means used to achieve the plan. Strategy, in effect, governs tactical execution.”

Strategizing Tactical Action

Common digital strategy channels include:

  1. Website
  2. Social media—paid and free
  3. Paid search engine marketing
  4. Paid online marketing
  5. Email
  6. Video

We’ll take a closer look at each of these channels, including specific tactics that can be employed for maximum effect within each channel. Tactics seem to be changing at the speed of light, so a finite list would likely be out of date by next week. Instead, keep reading for a series of examples to get your creativity humming. Each tactic starts with a basic approach, segues into intermediate actions, and closes with what’s cutting-edge.

1. Your Website

Your digital marketing strategy’s home base is your website. All tactics lead here and most leads convert here.

And there’s room for improvement on even the most advanced websites. For example, here’s a slice of advice from Carrot, an online lead-generation system for real estate professionals. The “About Us” page on real estate websites is the third most-viewed page. So, “About Us” needs to reach beyond business jargon. “People want to work with people who believe in and stand for things similar to them,” Trevor Mauch, Carrot CEO, writes in his blog.

In response, routinely freshen your “About Us” page to ensure it’s accurate, on-trend with website design best practices and emotionally engaging. It should provide visitors with your unique brand story, statistics they may find useful and, most importantly, your contact information.

Three Channels

Multichannel digital marketing includes three distinct types of digital marketing channels: owned, earned and paid.

1. Owned channels include those that you or someone you hired created, over which you have sole ownership, control and responsibility.

Owned channels include:

  • Your website, including text, images and unique content, such as blogs, videos, webinars, podcasts and company news
  • Email marketing campaigns and the client profile database used to disseminate email touchpoints
  • Your social media posts

2. Earned media: This is digital coverage about you and your brand that you cannot control—since it’s posted on websites you do not own. Think of earned media as digital word-of-mouth.

Earned channels include:

  • Media coverage that mentions you or your brand
  • Social media replies and reposts of your content, or references on social media to your brand
  • Reviews, testimonials and ratings of you or your brand on third-party websites such as Google, Yelp, Zillow or

3. Paid media: These digital channels, as implied, come with a cost. Paid media’s primary goal is to drive users to your website.

Paid channels include:

  • Paid online advertising, such as banner ads
  • Paid search marketing (SEM), also called paid search advertising. SEM, such as pay-per-click (PPC) and Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), allows you to purchase top placement in search engine results

2. Social Media Marketing

The Pew Research Center estimates that 72% of U.S. adults have at least one social media profile and the average American claims three. So, to max out your digital presence, head to the social media landscape.

Basic: Establish a free Facebook business page with all posts linking back to your website. More than two-thirds of U.S. adults (69%) use Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.

By the Numbers

69% of American adults still use Facebook, but the gap is closing. Today, 37% use Instagram, 28% are on Pinterest, 27% network on LinkedIn and 22% tweet on Twitter. Source: Pew Research Center

Intermediate: You can certainly purchase a sponsored Facebook ad, but there’s also a cost-free way to magnify your Facebook presence, says Dan Brun, REALTOR® with RE/MAX American Dream. Brun joined and frequently posts on multiple Facebook group pages focused on his market—Marshfield, Wisconsin. “That brings a lot of exposure and more ‘likes,’ and I respond to every one with a thank-you instant message. It takes time, but the payoff is big,” he says.

Advanced: Use every shred of analytics a social media platform provides. Then drill down even deeper with A/B testing to improve your measurements.

For example, post once a day for one week on your Facebook business page. Next week, post three times daily. At the end of your A/B test, measure user engagement to find your message frequency sweet spot.

Play around with different A/B tests, such as:

  • Post length
  • Post time
  • Tone of voice
  • Posts that do and do not include numbers and lists
  • Posts with and without images—and if images win, test gifs vs. photographs vs. videos
  • Posts with links to blogs vs. videos
  • Facebook Live vs. video linked to your website

What you choose to test depends on what you want to know, although there’s one nonnegotiable point. “If you don’t measure reactions and responses to your social media posts, it’s all a shot in the dark and not worth doing,” says Brian Ladd, CRS, principal broker with Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty, serving central Oregon.

Social Media 2.0: The original social media landscape looks different today. Although Facebook remains the dominant player, the Pew Research Center reports that the gap is closing (see By the Numbers on page 20). That makes it important to broadcast posts across multiple social media platforms. You can invest in a social media management tool, such as Hootsuite, or you can manage posts without the expense. Anna May, CRS, broker/owner of Realty World Neighbors, serving San Francisco East Bay, says, “I manage social media through Instagram, which lets me automatically and simultaneously syndicate posts across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter,” she says.

3. Paid Search Engine Marketing

Google reports that search engine marketing (SEM), also known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, can boost brand awareness by 80%. So, what is this tactic that delivers such remarkable results?

SEM helps your website secure one of the top few spots on page one of the search results. Create a text-only ad with keywords your ideal client would likely use to search for a REALTOR® like you. Since REALTORS® typically choose identical keywords, you declare how much you’re willing to pay every time someone clicks your sponsored ad. A higher bid increases search results placement.

Basic: “Search engine marketing is like walking into a room filled with people all looking to buy or sell a home in your market,” Prestipino says. “And since Google Ads is the dominant player, it’s a good place to start.” However, Prestipino adds, PPC ads are costly if you skip testing.

Fortunately, Google Ads makes it relatively easy to test click-through rates, keyword quality, conversion rates and additional measurements that reveal your search engine marketing ROI so you can make improvements.

Intermediate: While Google commands 77% of market share among search engines, you might want to test the waters with Bing’s paid search advertising, called Bing Webmaster Tools. Did you know that Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana search Bing? Siri uses Google for web searches, Bing for image searches and YouTube for video searches.

Advanced: Bundle PPC search advertising with PPC display advertising for twice the bang. This combo is called remarketing, also known as retargeting or behavioral retargeting. It targets a defined audience that previously interacted with your website but didn’t convert. As this population roams around the internet, your display ads pop up.
It can take months to convert a casual site visitor, Ladd says. “You need a remarketing strategy to stay in front of these folks and engage them for as long as it takes.”

Paid Search Advertising 2.0: REALTORS® expanding into an international market might want to dig deeper into global SEM. For example, Baidu is one of the leading internet companies in China, and Yandex is the largest search engine in Russia, with an impressive 65% market share.

4. Paid Online Marketing

Unlike text-only paid search marketing, paid online advertising relies on display ads bedazzled with photography, video and graphics to communicate a message. Like paid search marketing, paid online marketing follows the pay-per-click formula and always points the user to your website. According to the social commerce platform Curalate, 52% of American consumers have at some point been interested in a product or service featured in a display ad placed in the right-hand side margin of their Facebook news page.

Basic: Generally, REALTORS® are already comfortable with social media advertising, whether it’s a free post on your business page, a sponsored ad that resembles a post or a display ad. Let’s take basic up a notch with boosted Facebook posts.

Post on your Facebook business page and then click the blue “Boost Post” button. This button pushes your post to a desired target audience, such as U.S. Facebook users ages 18 to 29. Payment depends on how many Facebook users within your defined demographic will see your boosted post. Pay more, reach more.

How to Decide Between Facebook’s Three Major Ad Placements

Expect these trendy changes as we head into 2020:

  1. Desktop News Feed: Used for conversions and high engagement.
  2. Desktop Right Column: Reserve for retargeting and remarketing to brand-aware people.
  3. Mobile: Use primarily for driving discovery and brand awareness.

Intermediate: The time has come to make sure that your marketing and website are optimized to enhance the smartphone or tablet mobile experience. According to the Irish digital marketing firm Wolfgang Digital, 53% of a brand’s website traffic originates from research conducted on mobile devices. The moral of the story is that mobile digital advertising is not repurposed digital desktop advertising.

Advanced: Just as remarketing strengthens paid search marketing, this tactic also empowers paid online marketing. “If someone clicks your Facebook post or a banner ad, moves to your website but doesn’t register, you need to remarket to this person with relevant display ads,” Prestipino says.

If still unsure about remarketing’s power, consider this from Michigan-based Invesp, provider of e-commerce conversion rate optimization software: The average click-through rate for general PPC ads is 0.07%; click-through rates for remarketed ads jump 10 times greater.

Paid Online Marketing 2.0: Digital advertising is taking on a new look—or sound! In a 2019 survey of the digital media consumer, Infinite Dial research reports that 51% of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast—up from 44% in 2018. What’s more, podcast listeners don’t mind promo spots; they even pay attention! Maybe it’s time to debut your own podcast, with some self-promoting, or advertise your brand on another podcast.

5. Email Marketing

Chatbots, influencers, social media, videos, podcasts … every time you get comfortable with one digital communication format there’s a new kid on the block. So does the grandfather of them all—email—still belong in the mix?

According to the Direct Marketing Association, you bet. Email marketing on average sees a 4,300% ROI for businesses in the U.S.

Basic: The new-normal email strategy is based on skillfully built and meticulously managed lists of those who gave you permission to email them. Email service providers, such as Constant Contact and Mail Chimp, help you create engaging personalized emails and e-newsletters, manage contacts, measure performance and, last but never least, keep your emails out of spam folders.

Intermediate: While an email campaign opens doors, be prepared to switch communication channels on a dime, says Joe Epifanio, CRS, associate broker with Premiere Plus Realty, serving the Naples, Florida, market. “You’ll learn how people want to communicate. I don’t care if they prefer carrier pigeons, texts, emails or phone calls, I’m ready to adjust.”

Advanced: Adding eye candy to your email may sweeten your open and click-through rates.

  • Video: According to MarTech Advisor, a source for marketing technology news, adding a video to an email can increase click rates by 300%. Syndacast, an international digital marketing agency, adds that simply putting “video” in your email subject line can increase open and click-through rates by 19% and 65%, respectively.
  • Personal touch: Enlist a service’s expertise to personalize emails per contact. Netflix is a pro at this, emailing you only hours after you finish watching one TV show with suggestions for other shows to enjoy.
  • Stand for something: Routinely send emails that link your brand to a cause you believe in and work for. Data from Morning Consult, a national research and brand-tracking technology company, reports that millennials in particular increasingly connect with brands that project values in public and online.
  • Surprise and delight: As a REALTOR®, your first instinct may be to base your email campaign around new listings. Eventually though, your database will likely become numb to your emails—always expecting one more pretty property listing. “Our emails go beyond selling,” Epifanio says. “Sometimes we promote a new video or blog on our website. Sometimes we provide solutions and information, which makes us a valued resource instead of only a real estate agent.” May emails a monthly newsletter with listings as well as news about her market. “No two emails are alike,” she says.

Email Marketing 2.0: An advanced version of the original email is a video format, which Epifanio uses to “humanize” his email. He currently uses BombBomb, an email marketing and automation tool with video capabilities. The platform allows you to record, send and track personalized video emails.

Pushing the personalization element even further, Epifanio often holds a small whiteboard in front of the camera with the words, “Hi, NAME GOES HERE.” “There is no doubt that this is a personal video email,” he says.

6. Video Marketing

HubSpot, national developer of sales, marketing and service software products, states that 54% of Americans prefer video content from a brand or business they support. In addition, 39% of Americans say they’re more likely to remember branded video content—with photo content coming in at 37% and branded written content landing at 20%.

Basic: Having mastered property listing and walk-through videos hosted on your website or YouTube channel, do you also post teasers for these videos on your social media business page? According to Brightcove, an online video hosting platform, 53% of consumers engage with a brand after viewing one of their videos on social media. The figure increases to 66% for millennials. Facebook is the leader in sponsored video ads, and exactly like its Link Click ads, Facebook video ads send people to landing pages on your business website.

Intermediate: Get creative with different video topics beyond properties, such as testimonials, tips about how to select a REALTOR®, why a home inspector is important, what a first-time homebuyer needs to know, etc. Host videos on your website or YouTube channel, and then try different ways to promote those videos, including social media, search advertising, display ads and email.

As always, creativity is great—but unless you analyze which video topics resonate with your database and where they choose to watch your videos, what’s the point?

Here’s something in particular that May strongly suggests you test. “According to Sprout Social, 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound,” she says. “So, make sure your video has text overlays, captions and bold, graphic words. I’m not saying to ignore sound, but try watching your video without it. Does your message still come through?”

Advanced: Once you feel comfortable behind the camera, step away from “talking head” videos and add action. Film your neighborhood—showing rather than talking about the wealth of parks, cultural attractions and jogging tracks. Epifanio loves action-packed videos, so he purchased a green screen. This lets him shoot in the office, in front of the screen, and add lively neighborhood footage later.

Staying agile

Every day, digital marketing brings new options to promote your brand, but that’s not what excites digital marketers most. As Prestipino explains, “What’s so beautiful about digital marketing is that it’s measurable. Measuring is so integral to direct marketing that we have a name for it—agile marketing. It comes from the fact that analytics give you measurements, and once you see what’s happening, you have to be agile enough to make adjustments.”

Here’s another strong point in favor of agile marketing:

The practice makes your team happier. According to research conducted by Marketing Insider Group, which conducts digital content-based workshops, 87% of agile CMOs find their teams more satisfied, loyal, innovative and productive after transitioning to agile marketing.

Donna Shryer is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

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