Can Social Media or Marketing Automation Help You Convert More Browsers into Buyers in 2012?

The Challenge

Today 95% of home buyers begin their home shopping online.    The challenge that real estate sales & marketing professionals have is the reality that only 8 our 10 of prospects that request information online are not ready to engage in a serious buying conversation – “they are researching.”

So what can sales agents do to figure out who are the 2 that are ready to have a serious conversation?  Answer is quite simple:  “filter the leads by working them aggressively, after all isn’t that sales 101.”  So what does that mean?

A Follow Up Tip

Contact them as soon as possible even if its 9PM at night, acknowledge your receipt of their e-mail and request a call time the next day to discuss their home buying criteria.   If it’s during normal business hours call them.   If a prospect gives you a legitimate phone number it’s because they want to be called, if you opt to use e-mail rather than fire off a canned e-mail with all of the details of the homes or communities you are selling in, give a simple overview and focus on open ended questions to engage the buyer in sharing their needs.

You will be amazed on how much you impress your serious prospects and how much you will improve your results.   Once the initial follow up is executed and the lead is not engaging or ready to buy what can sales or marketing do to increase the opportunity to nurture the lead?

So what can you do to try to engage and convert the 8 out of 10 that were not sales ready after all they responded your marketing campaign?

Having the opportunity over the last 6 years to manage over 20 million dollars in marketing and advertising budgets that has lead to over 125,000 leads and close to 400 million real estate sale for our builder and developer customers I will share with my fellow NAHB members our experience with these tools to reengage leads and increase the conversion results from your marketing investment.


Social Media


As social media made its emergence in the late 2000s as marketing communication channel we had an opportunity to be amongst the first firms to help builders & developers to leverage this channel that had such hot buzz.    As we approached this endeavor the market was beginning to turn and we had to justify how we would spend each dollar and what was the ROI for our customers.  We were able to justify the effort in developing Facebook & Twitter pages for our customers because at the time it was a variable that had significant weight on search engine rankings.

I’ll share with you a few tips of what you can expect out of a Social Media Marketing Campaign effort.

1)    If you are going to do social media you need to have valuable conversations posted at least 4 days a week.  Otherwise it actually dents your credibility.  It’s the equivalent of going to website news section that has not been updated in months or years.

2)    The amount of effort it takes in man hours to have genuine content and conversations takes in the neighborhood of 4-6 hours a week.  It takes quite a bit of effort so whether you do it internally or outsource it be prepared to justify the ROI.

3)    The voice or personality needs to be genuine and there needs to be a grass roots focused effort on growing the list.

4)    Do not expect social media campaign to be a source of lead generation.   The reality is that potential buyers will search a brand they recognize or utilize Google to search for location and product they are looking for.   Facebook & Twitter will be the last place search for homes in.   People go to those sites to keep up with friends, not to search for real estate.    What do you do when you browse through Facebook?   “Go look at your old friends pictures?”   Yeah…

5)    If you build a significant following or fan base of realtors, these sites can be leveraged to help you manage and boost attendance at your realtor events.

6)    If you want to leverage your fan base to convert leads or cross sale your best shot is to put incentives that are only available on Facebook or Twitter.   “Yeah right”, I have yet to meet a builder that will publicize their most aggressive incentives online.   But if that is not an objective, this can actually be a way to get a true ROI.

Marketing Automation (Intelligent Drip Campaigns)

Historically, broadcast e-mails have been a primary weapon in all real estate sales & marketing programs.  It’s the most economic marketing communication channel.    85% of builders with a formal marketing program use email to broadcast marketing information to potential buyers.   However less than 20% utilize the power of Marketing Automation a.k.a intelligent drip campaigns.

Three years ago we began to follow the emergence of this technology in the B to B arena.   Providers and industry analysts raved about how these automated 1 to 1 emails were increasing their engagement and sales conversion rates by 20-30%.    In addition to being a provider or real estate marketing programs our firm is also a software development company that provides a lead management platform.

So in 2010 we added marketing automation to the Smarttouch® Platform and began using the technology with the objective of helping builders and developers engage more of those leads that went into a black hole or that sales simply gave up on.   What we found was that by automating follow up with well crafted marketing messages we were able to match the same results providers in the B to B arena boasted about – on average 20% of leads engaged and responded to these campaigns and across the board with our customers marketing automation has helped increased net sales by 10-15 percent.

I’ll share some quick tips on some keys to the success in managing a marketing automation program

  1. Content is king.   You must invest the time in developing content that helps your prospects make a good buying decision.   For example, some of the most popular concepts we produce and have high engagement rates are; “8 Reasons on Why Buying New vs Resale,” 10 Fun Things to do in ABC Community”,   “Area Accolades”, “Top 10 Tips to Prepare For a Move.”    Opportunities are endless, but the content needs to be genuine.
  1. 2. Timing. Every 7 or 14 days is a good interval for frequency.  After all you want to stay in front while the idea is fresh on their mind.   You will want to produce at least a series of 5 e-mails that will go off automatically on behalf of your sales agents, to supplement their follow up efforts.  The date and time that gets the best results are Thursday’s at 10am.    In box is clear by that time and folks are making weekend plans.



  1. 3. Technology. A lot of email marketing programs offer drip campaigns, however true marketing automation technology goes way beyond that.  It enables you do introduce lead scoring to help you rank prospects that engage the most.   In addition, they offer the ability to utilize links to capture additional buyer info.


After all this is a tool to market to existing leads so chances are you already have all of their contact info.  So why make them go to a landing page and fill out everything all over again?

A key tip if you proceed with that is limit yourself to 3 questions on let us know what you are interested is about as much as you want to ask.    Sample questions that we often use is location preference, timing, number of bedrooms and of course “contact me to schedule a tour.”

Whether you use a regular email service for drip campaign or marketing automation, assure that your calls to action generate notification e-mails to the person responsible for working that prospect.

  1. 4. Response Time. If you are able to set up a notification alert when prospects engage with your automated marketing messages, treat these reengagements with the same follow up urgency we advice on new leads.


Try it and do a test run in 2012.   If executed properly it will get you a larger ROI from your marketing budget and can be what leads you increase sales by 10% this.   It’s in our arsenal because it WORKS!


Robert Cowes III
President & Co-Founder
SmartTouch® Interactive

Leads + CRM + Marketing Automation = More Sales

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Building Industry and Land Development Association
Home Builders Association of Greater Austin
National Association of Home Builders
Texas Association of Builders