Most real estate agents advertise, but very few have effective marketing campaigns. Do you know the difference?

Jennifer Cummings is America’s leading real estate marketing coach. She helped Christina Martinez, America’s top-producing real estate agent, increase her commission earnings from $4 million to $7 million in only seven months. What’s the secret to her success? Marketing — rather than advertising.

According to Jennifer, most real estate agents advertise, but very few know how to market. "Advertising" creates attention and promotes an image or brand. "Marketing," in contrast, compels someone to buy. Marketing is the number one way to build your business. An effective marketing campaign has seven steps.

1. Practice "Potato Chip Marketing"
Jennifer calls this "give-to-get marketing." Imagine that you are on a reality show. To win $100,000, you must persuade 20 squirrels to eat out of your hand. Your only tool is a bag of potato chips. You are taken to a park where you must stay within 100 feet of a park bench. How would you attract the squirrels? You certainly wouldn’t run out and say, "Here squirrels, come get these potato chips!" That would scare them off. Instead, you would lay out a sequential trail of potato chips to attract them to where you were sitting. They will come to you only when they feel it is safe and that they can trust you.

Today’s clients seek relationship and trust. They want to "try before they buy." Potato chip marketing is about uncovering their needs, building trusting relationships and providing service before expecting people to do business with you.

2. Target market
When you ask most agents who their clients are, their response is, "Anyone who wants to buy or sell a home." In contrast, effective marketing always targets a specific group. Your message must match the audience. For example, if you were marketing a luxury penthouse, your message would be quite different from the message for first-time buyers.

The next step is to decide what medium you will use. Will it be a postcard, print ad or a Web marketing piece? You must also decide the purpose of your piece as well as the message you want to send. Will you offer a special report or a checklist of pitfalls to avoid? To obtain the information, do they leave a message on your 800 number or can they download the item from your Web site?

3. Research your target market’s wants and needs
To generate leads, you must know what makes your target market tick. Search for commonalities. Make it about them. This means doing your research before you begin your marketing campaign. For example, are members of your target market concerned about schools, down payment or neighborhood safety? As you go through this process, keep in mind that you’re not in the real estate business — you are in the problem-solving business. The better you are at solving problems and at providing value, the better your business will be.

4. Develop a hook
A "hook" is a headline or hot button. Because we’re constantly bombarded with advertising, it’s important to cut through the clutter. You have only one or two seconds to grab your reader’s attention. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is the brain’s screening mechanism for what receives attention. While your subconscious can process up to a billion bits of information, you can only consciously pay attention to about 15 bits. A great hook cuts through the clutter and captures their attention. Some examples are "Save up to $100,000 on Your Next Mortgage!" or "Avoid the Seven Most Expensive Mistakes Sellers Make."

5. Keep them reading
If the piece is about you, readers will toss it. Instead, engage them in "coffee talk." This means to write the way that you speak. Aim for the seventh grade level. "Coffee talk" copy is salesmanship in print. It’s about your customers and speaks to them in an easy, conversational tone.

6. Layout to stand out
"Legibility" refers to the "quality of print that can be easily read," while "readability" refers to the "quality of language that makes it easy to understand." Use short paragraphs, bullet points, headlines and subheadlines to keep the eye engaged.

7. You must have a call to action
What differentiates advertising from marketing is a call to action. Prospects are begging to be led! Remember, they want to try before they buy. On the other hand, they don’t want to talk to you. Make it safe for them to contact you by creating a free hotline where they can order a special report or a checklist that will help them with their sale or purchase. You can also make the same offer online.

Ultimately, service is at the heart of attraction. We are paid according to the value we give. Get excited about creating value for your clients and being the resource to solve their problems. When you approach your business with a give-to-get mindset, you’ll never want for business.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at or visit her blog at


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