SAN FRANCISCO – Real estate marketing dollars are increasingly flowing online, and even some major players in print media are working to drum up more Internet-based revenue while urging real estate agents and brokers to take a balanced approach to ad spending.

“You have to have a broad marketing strategy using different channels. Try different things and track them,” said Michael Montsko, president for Weichert Lead Network. Montsko participated in a panel Thursday, “Making Online Marketing Decisions Smartly,” during the Real Estate Connect 2005 conference. Keep what works and dump whatever doesn’t work, he said.

The Weichert Lead Network is a high-tech lead-generation center built for the Weichert Realtors brokerage network. The lead network features a call center that is operated seven days a week, response to consumers’ online queries in a matter of seconds, and a higher-than-average conversion rate for Internet leads.

Newspapers have been losing revenue from real estate classified advertising to other marketing venues, including Internet-based free classified listings, and online advertising and lead-generation business models. But some newspaper companies are battling to make up some lost ground with their own online ventures.

Montsko said that the lead network spends most of its ad money – about 90 percent – on Internet advertising. He said there is definitely a shift in companies moving print ad money toward Internet advertising. “Right now the return on investment is probably greater in general online than it is in print. (Our president) saw that the Internet was really changing the face of real estate.”

Weichert uses some very low-tech marketing techniques, too, including phone calls and direct mail campaigns to keep in touch with potential clients. “We’re a big proponent of lead incubation,” he said.

“While leads are very important, it is also important to make sure that brokers and agents are using traditional advertising and marketing their brand to consumers outside of individual leads they’re getting for listings,” said Kim Christiansen, a business manager for the Washington Post’s online subsidiary.

Christiansen, also a panelist at the online marketing session, added, “You need to be in different mediums. There still are many consumers going to print. You need to be there.” The Washington Post is a part of a newspaper conglomerate that formed an online enterprise, Classified Ventures, to capitalize on the online classified ad market, and this company purchased real estate lead-generation company HomeGain in a deal announced July 1.

Partners in Classified Ventures also include Knight Ridder, Gannet Co., and The McClatchy Co., among others.

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