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  • Play on your strengths as a broker or agent and understand where you fit into the overall real estate market.
  • It’s not about the marketing vehicle you use; it’s about how you tell your story through a specific medium.
  • Pay attention to what others are doing, but don’t think of those efforts as the end-all-be-all.

SAN FRANCISCO — Whether you consider your product as a real estate agent to be your website or the service you provide to your clients, marketing yourself genuinely and with innovation in mind is what sets you apart from the rest of the pack.

The panel of marketing experts spanned from big company executives to longtime industry pros to leaders of boutique firms, and they shared their vast wealth of knowledge. Here’s what you need to know:

Don’t compete with Zillow — you won’t win

The panel overwhelmingly agreed that sticking to what you do best is the key to success. That means understanding that a small boutique brokerage is never going to be able to compete with Zillow and Redfin. And that’s OK.

Even Bob Hale with the Houston Association of Realtors, which outranks Zillow in its city, says building a brand takes time — his company created a website in 1997 before anyone knew what that was.

Vanessa Bergmark with Red Oak Realty suggests taking into consideration what big guys like Zillow and Redfin are doing. But when a lead is redirected from Zillow to your site, it’s your job to keep them there and interested, she says.

Innovate the way you tell a story through noninnovative technologies

Bergmark talked about a recent marketing campaign that was her most innovative — and done through print media. Red Oak Realty used a little bit of sarcasm and a hyperlocalized hook to encourage San Francisco buyers to come across the Bay to Oakland to find homes in her market.

Garry Wise with GoodLife Realty spun the traditional open house to a luxury waterfront estate tour working with other local brokerages to get homebuyers to an outskirt part of Austin. With the tour, Wise said GoodLife’s branding and marketing put the company’s name in front of those who came.

Content is king

Redfin’s Jani Strand spoke about the high traffic brought to the website through its resources. And while a big Redfin can provide how-to information, market data and home trends, a smaller local broker can bank on its ability to provide a “deep dive” into the neighborhood. “If you have people coming to your website, you have the power to engage them and keep them coming back,” she says.

Let your personality shine

Video marketing was a big topic of conversation among the panelists, and Hale said HAR’s most successful videos are agent profiles. Wise says that brokerages can even have agents record a video on the localized market data.

The panelists agreed that videos — no matter what they are for — are one of the best ways to show consumers who an agent or broker is before even meeting them in person.

Take consumer input to heart

Rebekah Bastian, VP of marketing at Zillow Group, has been with the industry giant since it was a little guy, and she saw the company grow without an initial ad spend.

“Our philosophy is that the product is king, and we are obsessed with the consumer,” she says.

The company’s key tactic was creating data, doing testing constantly, and leading focus groups to see what was working and what was not. From that, she says, you’re able to build something that will grow organically through word of mouth.

The only way to be successful at word-of-mouth marketing is to listen to what the consumers are saying. Hale said that HAR recently released an app to a lot of disappointment and negative feedback, to which the organization made roughly 100 tweaks to its product.

Surveys help to understand what people want because, he says, “If we don’t give them the information, they are going to go somewhere else.”

A/B testing was a short but sweet point made when an audience member asked how to improve the views of videos. See what works and ditch what doesn’t, the panelists said.

Email Kimberly Manning.

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