Are you getting the most from your marketing materials?

Are you getting the most from your marketing materials? You may be turning away potential clients in droves without even realizing it. If you’re still using marketing techniques from the 1990s, it’s time to give your marketing materials a facelift.

The nineties were the decade of the personal marketing piece. Experts told us to display our picture prominently on our business cards, brochures, post cards, and anything else we gave to potential clients. Today’s consumer, however, is now demanding a different approach.

Recent research has surfaced a surprising fact: one of worst things you can put on your marketing pieces or on the home page of your Web site is your face. That’s right – your face. Although additional studies may be necessary to confirm this is actually the case, the data below make a strong case for this viewpoint. Here are the facts:

1. Clients surf past agent Web sites that have the agent’s picture on the home page.

According to VREO Software’s focus group research of 1,173 real estate Web site visitors, 54 percent of their respondents said the agent’s picture on the home page either interfered with visitors’ ability to find what they were searching for or caused them to leave the site. The age group with the most negative attitude towards the agent pictures was the group under the age of 35. According to the 2004 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, this age group represented 39 percent of all buyers in 2004. VREO’s focus group research also revealed that agent Web sites featuring pictures of the agent’s family or pets consistently were perceived as being “unprofessional.”

2. Sellers will visit a Web site to learn their property’s value, but will not use the link when the agent’s picture is on the marketing piece.

Shamus McDonald of ValueMyHouse.com shared his company’s experience using traditional postcard marketing and Web marketing. Their business model provides interested sellers with a free evaluation of their property’s value. Their research shows that when agents send out a postcard that only includes the Web site address for obtaining the property value, they consistently generate leads. When agents modify the postcard by adding their picture, the campaign generates zero leads.

3. Web visitors want access to pictures, virtual tours and the MLS.

Research from Z57.com shows that visitors to its agent Web sites click on three things: “properties for sale,” “buyers,” and “sellers.” Realtor.com’s data show that its users skip over listings with only one picture and focus instead on listings with multiple pictures and virtual tours. Bottom line: the consumer clicks on property information rather than information about the agent.

4. People want to be anonymous – your picture makes it personal.

Gary Elwood of Proquest Technologies surveyed 25,000 leads generated by users of their 800 Call Capture technology. Their research showed the typical “homes magazine” ad generates 5 to 15 calls. By adding the “free information hotline,” the number of calls typically increases to more than 75. The point is consumers are more likely to call when they believe they won’t have to speak to an agent.

How do these facts affect your ability to market your real estate services? Psychological research shows that we tend to form relationships with people who are similar to us in terms of age, sex, race, background, interests, attitudes and beliefs (Coon, 2004). Research also shows that people make judgments about others within seconds of meeting them. Your picture on your marketing materials allows people to make a snap judgment about who you are based strictly upon your physical appearance. When your picture is missing, the person receiving your marketing pitch can focus on the message, rather than the messenger.

Furthermore, when your picture is prominently displayed on the Web or on your marketing materials, the message is: “It’s about me” rather than “It’s about the client.” To market more effectively in today’s competitive environment, remove your picture from your marketing pieces. Instead, focus on meeting your consumers’ needs. On your Web site, give consumers what they want – information on properties for sale, multiple pictures and virtual tours, and access to the Multiple Listing Service. If you are going to use your picture, place it on a separate “about us” page on your Web site.

If you still doubt the validity of this argument, try the following experiment. Send out two different sets of mailers to the same group. On the first set, offer a complimentary CMA by returning a self-addressed stamped postcard. Include your picture. The second month, repeat the process, except leave your picture off. See which approach generates the most leads and make your own decision.

Bernice Ross, an owner of Realestatecoach.com, has a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” scheduled for release March 1. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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