reading time: 4 minutes “In business, as in biology, adaptation is the key to survival and competitive advantage.” – Urban Land Institute, Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2016 If you’re a real estate professional, there’s a good chance you find yourself consistently overwhelmed by the multitude of options out there for marketing your services. You realize the importance of integrating new technology into your buying/selling process, but you have no idea where to start and, frankly, little time to commit to such pursuits. The good news is that business looks good. In its 2016 report, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) summed up today’s state of real estate with the words of a lending officer at a large financial institution… “You can never forget about cycles, but the next 24 months look doggone good for real estate.” While the positive outlook is encouraging, agents know the realities of devoting weeks and months to a project that ultimately falls through and results in zero income. To be successful in this business, real estate professionals must secure a steady stream of potential clients and serve them well consistently. And in this market, the competition is fierce. Here’s the million dollar question… How can agents capitalize on this surge in the industry through their marketing efforts? For fear of appearing biased in our answer, first consider the following facts: 88% of consumers learn about brands through online search. 90% of consumers did online research before they bought their last home. 72% of marketers indicated relevant content creation was the biggest driver of their SEO success in 2015. Content marketing was viewed as the most important digital marketing trend for 2015. 72% of agents are unhappy with the amount of website leads they receive. 78% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. Content marketing produces about three times as many leads per dollar as paid search. 79% of internet users almost never click online ads. 78% of consumers believe organizations providing custom content want to build good relationships. Perhaps you see where we’re going with this. For today’s tech savvy consumer, great content matters. We’re living in a buyer-empowered era where a consumer can make a decision about whether or not to pursue your service BEFORE ever personally speaking to you. To strategically drive prospects through the sales funnel, agents must first establish themselves as knowledgeable and trustworthy online. More and more agents are shifting from traditional advertising to a more digital approach–a smart move, indeed. Yet, so many are doing a poor job at it. Many are relying solely on outbound, paid advertising (the very thing that was voted by marketers as the most overrated marketing tactic of 2015). Others have absolutely no way of tracking the ROI produced by these campaigns, eliminating any chance of strategically improving their efforts. This error in execution represents an amazing opportunity for the agents out there willing to do something different. The way we see it, 2016’s real estate professional has options: Continue throwing marketing dollars at a half baked strategy and cross their fingers for a quick fix. Do something bold and authentic to cut through the noise and strategically reach more buyers. Enter content marketing. Already sounds like a time consuming headache, right? We promise, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the foundation of a great content marketing strategy isn’t complicated and follows many of the same principals great agents already apply in person. If you’re providing answers to your market’s most frequently asked questions, educating buyers/sellers on their options, empowering your clients to make smarter decisions and coaching them through the ins and outs of the neighborhood, you are already well on your way to creating great content and building trust and authority online. Real estate is a media (content) rich industry, meaning that there are plenty of ways to engage and delight your existing and potential clients with what you already have at your disposal—photos of your listings, video tours, home buying tips, etc. Content marketing is the process of distributing these resources strategically to establish deeper trust, foster stronger relationships and, ultimately, build a steady stream of qualified leads. At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing for real estate agents–the customers. A sound content marketing strategy informs, entertains, educates and caters specifically to your customers. As professionals whose bottom line relies on commission alone, real estate agents can’t afford to ignore the opportunity to evolve and embrace this competitive advantage.