I recently presented the Content System framework to a group of real estate agents who were interested in using content to attract and grow an audience of potential clients. This group had no prior experience with content systems and needed a foundational workshop to get them started. The lessons I shared with them can be applied in markets throughout the country. So, if you work in real estate, this high-level view of a proposed set of activities is for you.
Before we start, I’d like to point out that I apply science to everything, including the creative process. What follows is a proven framework to help you achieve differentiation in the real estate industry. I’m using a bit of psychology within this post by presenting the information in small chunks and by not including examples. I learned that deconstructing challenges into smaller components then solving each component one at a time, makes what seems impossible, possible. Within this and subsequent posts, I break down the process of creating a content system that achieves differentiation step-by-step. In addition, I do not include examples for two reasons. Seeing what others are doing within your industry limits your thinking. This form of benchmarking forces you to compete with their offerings rather than thinking about what’s possible. Also, seeing a mature content system could demotivate you. How DO you eat that elephant?
From Agents to Mentors
As real estate brokers and agents, I’d like you to shift your thinking, even if it’s just for a moment, to imagine that selling homes is no longer your profession.
You are now a mentor.
You have wisdom and insight into the home buying experience. You’ve acquired this specialized knowledge throughout the years. With each transaction, you overcame unique obstacles and negotiated agreements that led to successful closings. The knowledge you gained is applied to future transactions, which helps you to overcome new, unforeseen challenges. This cycle repeats with every seller and every buyer who works with you.
You take this accumulated specialized knowledge for granted because it’s ingrained in how you approach your work. You see what others don’t: the benefits, the pitfalls, and the possibilities within homes and the home buying process.
The knowledge you acquired through all your transactions is data. It’s proprietary data. You own it and it has intrinsic value. You want to tap into that value to attract and grow a following of potential sellers and buyers. That’s accomplished through a content system, a structured method for consistently creating and publishing content for a target audience that addresses their needs.
A home is a fundamental human need, and we need a guide who will help us navigate an unfamiliar process so that we can secure what we’re looking for while operating within a budget, or receive the fairest price for the property we’re selling. That’s complex stuff, and that’s where you come in.
Drawing upon your knowledge and experience, you should produce content that educates your audience (ideal seller or buyer). If you consistently publish authentic, original content that solves your audience’s problems or answer their questions, you will become their trusted resource. This happens because the quality of your content will show that you are knowledgeable, committed, passionate, and trustworthy. Adopting the mindset of a mentor is critical to your content system success.
How real estate firms benefit from content systems
Content systems provide many benefits. The first is that you will become an authority in your space. The web crawlers will see that you are consistently publishing relevant and useful information to a target audience. And, sites like Google want users to find what they are looking for, so your content system will increase your rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). This outcome is organic and authentic. It’s not clickbait and you’re not cheating the system. Your efforts will increase your brand awareness and drive organic traffic/word of mouth, which generates qualified leads.
A content system will build your own personal brand and will expand your network. For example, if you are consistently publishing content, your online connections will see and share it. This keeps you top-of-mind when it comes to someone within your network needing an agent or broker.
When thinking if it’s worth your time to develop, produce, and publish a piece of content, keep in mind that your content system is working for you 24/7/365.
A possible additional revenue stream?
Beyond the primary goal of serving your audience, a successful content system can be monetized. Your site provides value to your audience, sellers and buyers. However, as your audience grows, you’re also creating value that’s appealing to advertisers. If you have an engaged audience within your market, your site can earn revenue through affiliate marketing or Google AdSense. It probably won’t generate millions, but you may earn enough to cover your content system expenses.
So, you now know the value and importance of content systems, but where do you start and what do you do? Here are some actionable steps to get you going. These steps will ensure that you are publishing content that meets your audience’s needs.
Know your audience.
Wear the shoes of your ideal seller or buyer
First, you need to start with your ideal customer. Let’s take sellers for instance. In a general sense, this is your target audience, but take it a step further and articulate your ideal seller. In other words, even though all sellers share commonalities, not all sellers are the same. Therefore, you must understand your sellers and their unique needs. For example, ideal sellers in one market may be different than ideal sellers in another, and you may have multiple ideal sellers within your own market.
Put yourself in the shoes of those sellers. What are their questions? What keeps them up at night? What are they feeling? Anxiety? Excitement? Confusion? Concern? And why?
If you are just starting out in the business, I would recommend qualitative research. This type of research involves talking to sellers and buyers one-on-one or in small groups to learn more about their psychographics (attitudes, behaviors, habits, lifestyle). If you’ve been in the industry for a while representing sellers and buyers, especially in a single market, you already have this knowledge.
Personas keep you focused
A tool that firms use so that everyone on the team understands the target seller is called audience personas. A persona is a tool to help you empathize with your audience.
Personas are fictional characters who represent your target buyer or seller. They are based on data and guide your decisions when developing content. In addition to representing basic demographics and psychographics, each persona provides a snapshot of your sellers’ goals, challenges, and pain points.
For example, what types of sellers do you have?
Sellers looking to downsize? Empty nesters.
Sellers looking to sell a property they inherited? Beneficiaries.
Sellers needing to relocate out-of-state? Relocators.
All three examples are sellers, but they have important differences. For example, empty nesters have different needs and concerns when compared with beneficiaries. Relocators may need more support and a quicker sale than empty nesters.
Once you understand your audience or audiences, you move to the next step of producing content. I’ll cover that in the next blog.