Curaytor co-founders say agents are starting to realize they “do not need a middleman” and can go directly to consumers.

September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.

Nearly half of agents plan to increase how much they spend on advertising for the second half of 2020, but third-party listing sites such as Zillow and realtor.com won’t be seeing much of that increase, according to a survey by digital marketing company Curaytor.

Chris Smith

Curaytor fielded the 16-question survey from July 22 to August 3, 2020 by distributing it to Curaytor’s email list and social media channels. The results include responses from 168 real estate agents, 65 percent of which have been in the business for more than 10 years. Real estate creative marketing agency 1000watt helped come up with the idea and questions, Curaytor co-founder Chris Smith told Inman via email.

The survey found that 35 percent of agents increased their marketing spend as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic while 43 percent did not. Just over a fifth of agents either decreased their spend (17 percent) or stopped it altogether (5 percent).

When it came to how much they planned to spend on digital advertising in the second half of 2020, which the survey specified to mean June through December, 48 percent of agents said they planned to increase their spend while 31 percent anticipated no change from their current spending levels and 12 percent said they would spend as much as they did before the pandemic. Less than 10 percent said they would spend less or not advertise at all.

Source: Curaytor

The No.1 channel that agents plan to spend more on is social media (specifically Facebook and Instagram) followed by video, with more than half of agents saying they plan to spend more on each. In terms of marketing tactics, more than half of agents said they planned to spend more on audience retargeting and local geotargeting.

Thirty percent of agents planned to decrease their spending on leads directly from third-party portals such as Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com. More than half, 57 percent, did not plan to change their spending on portals at all while 13 percent said they planned to increase their spending.

Source: Curaytor

“Across the board, in nearly every category we asked about, agents are planning on spending more. But when it came to buying leads from the portals, 1 in 3 agents plans to spend less,” Smith said in an email sent out to Curaytor’s email list titled “Is Zillow in trouble?”

“Why? Good question. Maybe it is because they don’t feel comfortable spending money with them now that they directly compete through the buying and selling of homes. Maybe it is because they are not willing to give up 35 percent of their commission, which is quickly becoming how Zillow charges for leads,” Smith continued. “Maybe they are starting to get a better ROI from building their own brand and going direct to consumers, at a fraction of the cost, via social media.”

Jimmy Mackin

In an episode of Curaytor’s “Water Cooler” video podcast, Curaytor co-founder Jimmy Mackin said that the fact that more than twice as many respondents are planning to decrease their spending as increase it indicates to him that “people are starting to wake up … that we can go direct to consumers.”

“When you invest in portals as your primary source of generating business, you rob yourself of the ability to build a direct relationship with the customer,” Mackin said. “You’re seeing our industry realize that their proximity to the customer is their value. So if they don’t have to use one of these gatekeepers — a Zillow, a Trulia, a Homes, a realtor.com — and they can go direct to consumers through social channels like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google, that they can do that in a more cost-efficient way and generate a better ROI.

“Now it isn’t to say that this can’t be part of your strategy, but it shouldn’t be your only strategy.”

Mackin pointed out that right now people can spend as little as $500 to advertise on TV shows on Hulu as part of a beta group.

“What that represents to me is the great democratization of advertising, which is you now can run ads and reach people at a low cost through any channel,” Mackin said.

“You do not have to wait for permission, you don’t have to have a large budget, you don’t have to fight over a specific spot. You as a business can reach consumers directly — you do not need a middleman.”

Notably, 70 percent of agents planned to make changes to their digital advertising messaging in the second half of 2020 and about as many agents planned to increase one particular messaging strategy: branding/awareness. The vast majority of respondents (88 percent) said they viewed their brand identity as an important differentiating factor in their digital advertising and 57 percent said they planned to update their brand identity in 2020.

Source: Curaytor

More than 60 percent of respondents also said they planned to increase their messaging strategy in regard to market knowledge. And more than half planned to increase their messaging strategy toward listing promotions and seller calls to action (CTAs). Less than 40 percent planned to increase their messaging to buyers.

The survey also asked about chatbots, which do not appear to be on their way to becoming ubiquitous though may perhaps become more common. Only 22 percent of agents said they currently use a chatbot to improve their conversion rates while 34 percent of agents said they planned to deploy one in the near future.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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