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NAR Power Broker Roundtable executives discuss ways to maximize both old and new marketing strategies

RISMEDIA, May 8, 2007—Gone are the days when real estate firms placed ads exclusively in local newspapers or magazines to attractive potential home buyers. With the advent of the Internet, more consumers are beginning their real estate search online – and more brokerages have followed them there. Print ads, while still holding some amount of appeal, are being combined with other advertising and marketing strategies – TV ads and programs, radio spots, billboards, and Web sites – to enhance profitability. Two colleagues talk about the old and new strategies and the importance of using them effectively to reach the consumer.

Moderator: Virginia Cook, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR
Participants: Gino Blefari, Founder, President & CEO, Intero Real Estate – Cupertino, CA
Lewis Glenn, President & CEO, Harry Norman, REALTORS – Atlanta, GA

Virginia Cook: In what ways have your marketing and advertising strategies changed over the years?

Gino Blefari: Intero has been very progressive over the last several years in regards to our marketing and advertising efforts. We have shifted a sizeable percentage of our overall advertising budget to the Internet and other non-traditional media like outdoor billboards. The impact was not seen immediately, but now that we have had this shift in place over the past few years, we have a sizeable sales pipeline that can be attributed directly to these new efforts. The ROI is substantial, and we only see it increasing in the long term.

Lewis Glenn: Today, we are serving four generations of homebuyers and sellers: the X, Y, Baby Boomers, and Greatest generations. To continue to grow and serve the needs of our customers, we are letting the demographic trends dictate how we conduct our business. Over the years, we have realized that the consumer is spending more time online. According to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, 79–80 % of consumers begin their real estate search on the Internet. The average age of today’s consumer is between 32 – 41 years old. This demographic sector wants information to be available 24/7 and they want access to all the listings that are available. So we are making their experience interactive by moving out of print into online media to reach these consumers directly.
When we use print media, we target local newspapers because their readership has increased while national print media readership has faltered. We also now use magazines to target the second homes market because these consumers tend to flock to vacation publications.

VC: What advice can you offer about effectively integrating online and offline strategies to enhance profitability?

GB: I would tell brokers and agents that you need to listen to your audience. We know what the Internet has done to our business and the impact it has on our profitability. But we also have to realize that there are still people out there who find information outside the Internet. We still use offline sources, like print advertising, in specific markets that embrace these outlets as one of their primary information sources. You cannot go to the extreme for online or offline opportunities, but rather find the balance that works in your marketplace.

LG: In the overall scheme of things, we are really incorporating the online experience into the whole real estate experience because real estate is a relationship business. We want to make it a total experience to provide our clients and customers with the best move they’ll ever make.

VC: How does the consumer factor into your game plan?

GB: The consumer is ultimately the most critical component of our game plan. A large majority of the changes and enhancements that we make to our Web site or our advertising strategy is based on the feedback we receive from consumers either directly or through our agents. Our business is shifting, and a large amount of consumers are contacting us directly through our Web site, so we need to listen and make adjustments to meet their needs.

LG: As consumers have greater demands on their time, we provide all the real estate services the consumer needs by marrying the information the consumer desires online to the experience the consumer deserves and requires offline. Having a strong online presence also gives us an opportunity to promote our e-commerce businesses, thereby increasing the company’s profitability.