TourFactory: A Example To Study To Tune Your Marketing

October 20th, 2009

Today, because I used to be a agent or have used Tourfactory products in the past, I got a promotional piece of “bacon” from TourFactory. Bacon is not to be confused with Spam because it’s much tastier than Spam. Anyway, here is the whole piece.

Because I think it is valuable to analyze and learn from good marketing pieces of your competitors I’d like to point out some things that will be useful to independent real estate photographers in marketing:

  1. In many markets in the US you are competing against TourFactory photographers or agents that load their own photos on Tourfactory.
  2. The copy in the opening paragraph is memorable. It says: “A Real Estate agent who expects to sell homes without marketing is like a surgeon who expects to operate without a scalpel. Having a first-class personal brand and exposure of your brand isn’t a luxury… it’s a necessity. In times like these, the real question is, Where can you get that killer image for the least amount of money? Look no further.” Whoa, give this marketing person a raise Herb! This is great copy!
  3. Notice the term “killer image”. What this is saying is that great presentation (their tours) of killer images gives the agent a killer image. This is true. They are appealing to agents’ egos here. Listing agents, particularly upper-end listing agents try and build their image. One way to do that is with elegant presentation of great images. You can make use of this approach with your marketing too. Agents will eat it up. Tourfactory’s goal with this piece is more about enhancing agent image than about great images.
  4. What this also demonstrates is that if you are competing against Tourfactory in your market you want to have a great looking tour to present your images with. It will be difficult to compete with just images or great images and a weak tour.
  5. So how does an independent photographer compete? I think Tourfactory’s weakness is image quality. This is obvious when the agent is shooting the images. Here’s an example: This is their example tour they link to in the marketing piece. I don’t know if this was shot by an agent or a Tourfactory photographer but either way, these are not what anyone could call great images. Almost all verticals are way off! However, the majority of agents will not see this. This is why part of your marketing job is to educate agents about what great photography looks like and then sell it to them.
  6. Another big part of Tourfactory’s promotion is that they syndicate tours to 17 different sites. The biggest benefit to a long list of sites that an agent’s listing is syndicated on is that it makes the agent look good to the home seller so syndication is a factor. The fact is, when it comes to getting buyers some sites are important and many don’t make any difference. I’ve found that in the Seattle area Zillow is important and craigslist important but almost all of the buyer traffic comes from the broker sites that are popular in the area. So syndication is mostly a gimmick to make the listing agent look good… but that’s what Tourfactory is promoting, agent image.

In summary, Tourfactory is a powerful and successful competitor. Many top agents that I know sign up buy the year and have an assistant provide the images. I think there is a lot to be learned about marketing your services by studying what Tourfactory doing.

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12 Responses to “TourFactory: A Example To Study To Tune Your Marketing”

  • Ii would like to know why Tour Factory cannot be used by Independent Photographers? This is the Million Dollar question.

  • I don’t know where I read this, but I have used it.

    “If professional photography wasn’t necessary to sell a product, magazines would be full of amateur photography.”

    And then add to that thought that even in these tough times, you still don’t see amatuer photography to sell products. That area is probably the last to have a budget cut.

  • TourFactory does look great. It has become the standard look that people hold TourBuzz up against and say “we need that look in TourBuzz”, and has caused us to start working very hard on design.

    We will be rolling out a new design (in fact more than one) soon that you can choose from that is specifically meant to make your tours look as good or better than TourFactory. We are interested in your feedback on this process, please feel free to comment here: http://community.tourbuzz.net/forum/topics/tourbuzz-design-improvements

    TourBuzz’s strategy is to provide independent photographers with the tools that they need to compete with these large national chains. We have recently added an interactive floorplan feature as well as a single-property-website tool with syndication to 10+ sites through our new Neybor automated marketing platform.

    Alan

    PS – that is *great* copy. I am going to share it with a few people!

  • again, not trying to be the eternal pessimist, but in many markets, agents really do not care, it seems, what the photos look like, just how cheap can it be done (and in most case, free when they walk around and snap a few on their own)

    but the opening piece was good on it… I just suspect many a real estate agent chuckling and thinking ‘good thing I decided not to be a surgeon!’

  • I have called once to see if they have anything for independent photographers. They said no. They make their money off of their cheaply paid photographers and not very good ones. I almost worked for them but once finding out what they would pay, I bailed.
    The TF Rep who interviewed me said that they I would have to “contain my post processing” admitting that it was not worth what I would be getting paid. I have worked with TF for a Realtor that has her own account and like it. But as a photographer I will be looking at TourBuzz and excited to see what their templates will look like – If tour buzz gets video hosting capabilities, they will be golden!

  • I’m looking for a slide show or VT that can be viewed on the iPhone. If, as NAR says, 84% of the home buyers begin their search on the internet, then I’d wager that 83% are using iPhones or soon will be. Photoshop Elements 7 lets you create a nice slide show as a pdf file. Could a pdf viewer be embeded into a slide show product? Any other ideas?

  • Judy, PDFs can be displayed on the iPhone… I’ll have to see if PDF slide shows work. Another alternative is to use a Javascript (NOT Java… Javascript) based slide show that doesn’t use Flash. I’m working on creating such a slide show.

  • Judy-

    We are actually just finishing up an iPhone version for both TourBuzz and Neybor now. It should be ready to start showing off next week. Essentially there will be an iPhone version available for all properties in TourBuzz and/or Neybor.com, so you won’t even have to do any additional work!

    Alan

  • I also contacted a VT company, although not Tour Factory, after seeing an ad in CraigsList on how to make an easy couple hundred a day. Besides having to buy some 800 dollar tripod head, the pay was 20 dollars a house.. they said oh easily you can shoot a house in about 15 min, do 10 a day… I just laughed….

  • I think Tour Factory looks kind of cluttered………..but it’s not bad. I find TourBuzz, in it’s current iteration, a bit difficult to navigate, and even more cluttered looking than Tour Factory–but certainly useful. I like the look of vicaso.com the best. Very simple design and a plain dark gray background for the photos. Obeo.com can also look good, if the photos are good.

  • Thank you for the compliments on the marketing piece.

    The quality of the photos is always a struggle. At present about 40% of our tours are shot by our photography network (our full-service product offering). The other 60% is shot by agents, assistants and independent photographers that work directly with agents (just like Kim) through our patented self-service application.
    Our focus on the appearance of the tour template serves two purposes – dressing up the agent AND dressing up the home. Both are important, since effective marketing is a game of presentation.

    To answer the million dollar question, there are really two approaches, and both are used widely.

    1. The volume-based model is best suited for folks that want to focus on photography and leave the rest to us. The photographer is contracted to shoot photos for TourFactory on a work-for-hire basis, and TourFactory marketing is used to attract new clients. We provide all of the order processing, billing, technical support and syndication trouble-shooting through our highly-evolved web site and our customer service center, which is staffed by real live Americans. In this model, photographers setup their product offerings (from basic photo shoots to HDR night-photography with an aerial pole shot and everything in between), and they can configure the price point for each product by zip code. Since the photographer sets the price that they want to get paid for the work, they can dial in the price level to a point that works well for their market. We limit the number of photographers that we bring aboard in each area to keep their order volume up, so we do not have these positions available in all markets – but many good markets are still available.

    2. The other approach is for photographers that contract with the agent directly, and load their photos into the agent’s TourFactory account using the agent’s username and password. This model works better for photographers that don’t mind spending time on things like chasing agents for payment, don’t mind spending hours in post-processing, or feel that they need to retain copyright ownership of their photos. Due to the higher level of quality, these photographers typically charge more for their photos. However, this level of service appeals to a small percentage of agents, so the orders are quite a bit less frequent. There are hundreds of independent photographers out there working directly with the agents in this manner, most of which work with only a couple dozen agents.

    The one caveat that we have is that a photographer has to pick one or the other – they cannot do both at the same time.

    If you’re new to TourFactory, please check us out. I think you’ll find that working with a company with 13 years of experience in the space can be a big benefit. If you’d like to find out about the first option above, just head over to: http://www.tourfactory.com/company/jointeam.asp

    Herb

    PS – We have been working on something new that will raise the bar for virtual tour companies again. I am excited to share it with our customer base all across the country. @Larry: I’ll send over some details before we do our formal announcement to share a sneak peek with the PFRE community.

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