As we pass through the shortest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (and the longest in the Southern Hemisphere) I figured it might be worthwhile to write a column about time.
Time isn’t something we normally think about in relation to software and other digital stuff.
Perhaps in the same way that high-tech fabric makes it easier to be outdoors in cold times of the year, digital tools are often hyped with the promise of making more out of our limited time.
But no fancy winter coat will take the bite out of a windy February day in Edgeley, N.D. And no marketing-focused software is going to add hours to the day or put weeks back on the calendar.
In a strategic sense, time is one of those resources to be managed. But there’s a lot of different kinds of time out there. Let’s talk about time and technology in a couple of ways that relate to real estate marketing.
Most every real estate market has a season of some sort. In four-season climates there’s probably a busy summer showing season. In warm-weather climates perhaps there’s a vacation home season that coincides with snowbirds traveling in for vacation.
There may be work-shift-related seasons as employers add or subtract seasonal workers.
You get the idea, and you probably know when these seasons begin and end in your market. In terms of real estate customer behavior, the most serious customers begin the online aspect of their housing search some time before the big season. Often a month or two.
This means you want to have your marketing technology in place a couple months before the selling season you’re targeting.
For example, if you have an important summer season and you want to attract new visits to your site via search engines, then you’ll want to have your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts ramp up by March or April.
Note: This means you will want to be starting your SEO efforts much earlier than March or April.
So remember that technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Technology is used by people. And people are probably making seasonal decisions about real estate. Learn to observe what those seasons are and how they occur, and then use technology to make the most of it.
Time of day
People make decisions and use their time in shorter cycles than seasons. They surf the Web on their lunch break, for example. Or before work. Or Friday night after the kids have been put to bed.
You’ll want to spend some time observing what time of day is most active for your real estate market. Once you know this, you can work on optimizing your message placement to reach people when they’re most active.
For example, if you can observe a particular time of day when people use your website the most — or even better, a particular time of day that yields the most customer responses — then you might consider altering your paid-advertising campaigns to run heavier during those times.
This is an advertising technique you can use to get the more out of your paid advertising than just running wall-to-wall ads all the time.
Sometimes time isn’t measured by natural seasons or by the office’s clocks. Sometimes it’s measured by events. This is probably easiest to observe in children as their birthdays or other gift-giving holidays approach: It’s a countdown to something big.
As grown-ups, there are a number of specific events that we become aware of. The deadlines for federal programs regarding real estate the past couple years have been events.
Some events, like holidays or tax deadline days, are more predictable. Other events, like rainy days in the middle of the showing season, are not very predictable.
Once you are aware of what sort of events influence your customers’ online behavior, then you can prepare your technology to make the most of it.
For example, perhaps you notice that in the summer more people use your website on rainy days. You can prepare a rainy day-focused advertising or social media campaign to take advantage of the fact that people would rather look online than venture into the rain.
Being able to observe seasonal time, time of day, and event time is a valuable capability for getting the most out of your technology.
Figuring out how time relates to your customers’ behavior and your own marketing activities can be challenging — it definitely requires a long-view sort of approach. But it will ultimately help you make the best use of your own time.