Target Your Real Estate Photography Marketing

November 11th, 2013

I’ve talked to several people recently that are building their real estate photography business, and have talked about doing general, non-targeted type marketing. I think it’s worth raising the fact again that as a real estate photographer building your business targeted marketing should be your top priority. Here’s why:

  • Your potential clients (listing agents in a specific geographic area) are easy to find because they are all advertising to their potential clients.
  • You don’t want to waste your marketing time and resources marketing to buyers agents who just want to work with buyers and never have a need for a professional real estate photographer.
  • Your marketing is cheaper, faster and more effective if you know exactly who you potential clients are.

Thanks to Google search and real estate agent broker websites, I can sit here at my desk in my underwear in Podunkville, OR and in a few hours (takes longer for more populous zip codes) make a list of all the listing agents in any given geographic area on the planet. The list will include each agent’s name, e-mail address, phone number, number of listings and price range of the listings. I can even judge whether Josephine Realtor’s specific listing in St. Louis, MO has professional photography. If I can do all this so can you, and if you are a real estate photographer building your business you need to do this no matter how you chose to market yourself.

This technique of building your potential client list will help you of you visit real estate offices, call listing agents, send post cards or do e-mail marketing. I have a chapter on how to build your potential client list in my business e-book, The Business of Real Estate Photography, but most people will be able to do it just from the description in the paragraph above.

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21 Responses to “Target Your Real Estate Photography Marketing”

  • Should you target the agents that currently use virtual tours/professional photography since they already realize the value of good photography or agents that don’t use good photography in the hopes they will see the light?

  • Hi Larry,

    Taking my prior product management experiences, I am now applying them toward building my own re photog business very similarly to how you describe. When speaking on the topic, there are two points I make to my audiences.

    First, there is no ‘everyone’ in your target market. You cannot be all things to all people. This, in and of itself, should encourage folks to be at least someone selective in their efforts.

    Second, as a product manager, I build products to meet an established need, solve a particular problem, for a particular group of people. When I advise my Sales teams, “the target market for this product are customers making X$$, with Y# employees, in these 3 industries…” I am doing two things. Yes, I have told them where to focus their efforts. More importantly, I have told them where NOT to expend any energy.

    This article’s particularly timely. As we speak, I am preparing to email out postcards to local brokers and office managers. With holiday down time upon us in most markets, my effort is to encourage them to have me come in and speak with their teams during any training events they do. I track responses to my efforts and am always keen to learn what works or doesn’t.

    Cheers!

  • Larry McLaren: I will be curious to hear what the other Larry has to say:).

    My own view, I do both. For the agents that already use professional photography: you do not know if they need a backup alternative (photogs get sick or go on vacation, too); you never know if their primary photog is about to retire or otherwise leave the market; and, agents will provide referrals to one another…I’d like to be referred.

  • I just went to a real estate technology confernece here in Bend OR. One of the classess was a advanced real estate photography course taught by a local photographer. Much of the class realized after 15 minutes that they would never be able to achieve results like the pro teaching the class. The instructor handed out cards at the end of the class, and I’m sure he gained some clients out of it. I’ve already passed his name on to a few agents that have asked me to take photos, but I couldn’t do to scheduling conflicts.

    I think this is another way to get your name and contact info out there. Include statistics and examples in your presentation for best results.

  • On a somewhat related note, sending postcards to your potential clients used to be considered an effective marketing tool. But I quickly discovered that many (If not the majority) of my target clients work from home and only visit the main office once a month if that. And because nobody lists their home address, my postcards ended up in a pile back at the office with a few hundred other pieces of mail that probably got lightly sifted through then tossed by an office assistant.

    So if postcards are no longer effective, what’s the best method? A phone call? How do I convince a realtor to take even five seconds out of their day to look at my online portfolio much less schedule a face-to-face meeting?

  • @jeff: Yes the top agents usually do not come into the weekly meetings. You can get their home address off of the state real estate commission site.

  • @Rohnn

    Good advice! I’ll check out my state’s site and see what I can find.

  • I agree that target marketing is the key to success in this business. I have also wondered if it would be helpful if a few photographers in a given area got together to put out a general advertisement to the mass on the importance of having professional photography when selling their home. The ad could simply state the benefits of pro photos and recommend that any agent they use require them to use a pro.

    I think this could educate the sellers and generate more business for all. On the down side, it could alienate the agents from using those that did the ad…… But in the end, it would reveal the fact that not all agents provide professional service.

  • @Rohnn – I would not market agents at their home address… keep it at the office

    @Jeff – Yes some agents hate flyers/postcards etc and will through them away. In the office I was in you could mark your mail box “no flyers” which told secretaries to not put marketing stuff in your mail box. My experience was this was not usually done by top agents, it was done by lazy agents.

    @Dylan – thanks for the example. This is a great approach. I’ve seen this kind of thing done to a whole office or as a demo at a RE conference, or as a side meeting after a regular office meeting. It can work well.

    @JT – I would market all agents in your target area. Who knows they may be looking for a new photographer because of customer service issues or they like your style. Perhaps you market them less frequently but be sure they have seen your best work.

    Over the years many have reported the success of a large postcards that show your best image. I think this is because it is the same way agents market their clients. They send just-listed and just-sold postcards to all the homes in their “farm area”… all of their target clients. Frequently the postcards look like crap or are templates they get from their broker. They realize what a knockout a full bleed postcard of the actual home they just sold could be if they could make one.

  • Hi Larry,

    To clarify. I do market more broadly. Today’s effort simply has a ‘specific’ target in mind though. Within the broader market space, I stay focused on a specific set of criteria I’ve defined. Loosely stated, the top ~15%.

    Today’s postcard, has a full-bleed image on the backside, messaging on the reverse. After reading other comments here, and then considering I ‘am’ promotion photography after all, it does seem to make sense to use large attractive images to the extent possible.

    🙂

  • @Jerry – I done many post on the subject of marketing to home sellers in the past just use the search box to find them. In parts of Australia the home seller pays for marketing. In the US you have to be very careful to not alienate agents who are your primary customers. Actually, most home sellers in big metro areas understand that professional photography is important. There are WAY better ways to get to home sellers than local newspapers.

  • @Dylan – Sounds like a good way to discourage the competition. There is an investors group that meets one a month nearby that I attend to network. I have thought about presenting at one of the meetings, but they don’t have a projector available and I don’t have one that I can bring. If I can find somebody that has a projector and screen I can borrow, I’ll get my presentation polished up and ready to go.

    I know there are photographers around that are much better than I am and that doesn’t bother me. I haven’t spotted any in my immediate area and even if I did, there could still be plenty of business available. I haven’t spotted ANY photographers in my area that service the RE market. It’s not as good of a thing as one might expect. All of the agents have lousy photography, so there isn’t much incentive for them to improve. I’m still working on getting enough agents using my services to make the higher quality work I do stand out more.

  • I recently moved to Albuquerque, NM from Southeast Virginia. In VA I found very few agents willng to pay for photography, they were very happy spending 10 minutes to do it themselves. So far in the last two months I’ve photographed four homes in NM. I found one agent, who has a degree in art, who loves my work and has told me my photos speak to her of warm feelings and are the best she’s seen anywhere.

    I’ve called a few other agents in her company and left messages, but they do not return calls. Today I Googled “real estate agent broker Albuquerque NM” and “real estate agent broker Santa Fe NM”. I got a listing of the top 20 in each area and spent over four hours searching their websites. In Albq. I found a very few listings out of many hundreds that even look like it was made by a pro. Most of the listings in Santa Fe look professional and were more than likely made with a 4×5 view camera. These were the million dollar plus homes up to $17 million. The less than 1 million dollar homes look like the agents made them with their iphones or worse.

    So my question is do I make phone calls, send mailings or do you think it would be better to make a cold call to show my work and then set up a meeting?

  • @Jerry – Agents are typically people oriented so personal contact works best. Ways to do this are: go to their open houses, go to their weekly sales meetings, call them and talk to them about your services. A great looking jumbo marketing postcard is another possibility where you can market most of the top agents in your area. Use the WSJ article that describes the benefit of professional real estate photography (http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2010/10/04/in-real-estate-a-picture-is-worth-1000-or-more/). This explains why they should be using professional photography. Remember, that the top 10 to 20% of agents are the only ones making money and that can afford to spend money on marketing so you’ll probably get push back from those lower 80% of agents.

  • My problem seems to be the opposite of what many here have. Pro-photography has taken off, but only with the big-box guys…You know Obeo etc. They love the rock-bottom prices and so I’m wondering whether this is truly viable in my area. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, its NY – it costs a lot to live here so bargain basement prices aren’t an option. I’m trying to find some hook that makes me truly unique. My photos are better than the others, but that will only take you so far. I have about 5 loyal agents working with me. But that’s not nearly enough.

  • @Ken…no projector? Stores have liberal return policies for occasional usage. Not suggesting that in a negative of abusive way, but eventually – if you do enough presentations – you will want to purchase your own and there are features that you want to learn about in a projector to best show your photography. You don’t want to be dependent on 3rd party projectors. A couple of examples – local photo club projector obtained cheap, but dying bulb gives weak image and poor color. Last week gave speech at Toastmasters using their projector which had a lot of dead LED pixels speckling the photos, but worse, converted everything to square output creating gross distortion. For a killer, attention getting presentation, I now hook up Apple TV to the projector, and present on an iPad with AirPlay using either their wireless network, or my phone as a hotspot. Phenomenal freedom of movement to move about the room!

    Open houses are good, however, realize that the actual listing agent may not be there. Our office has an “open house team” which is basically an ad hoc group of newbies or those with low inventory volunteering to sit in open houses seeking buyers/sellers leads. Personally, as a Realtor, I don’t do open houses as that was the only time I had concern for my physical safety with a guy that walked in off the street, but a “team” is a great selling point when seeking a listing, and makes the homeowner happy. Related, and WILL have the listing agent present are Brokers Opens – which are essentially open houses for Realtors and held during the middle of the week with ‘caravans’ going to 5 or 6 houses. Don’t know how you would tap into that other than clients advising you, or seeing n open house in the middle of the workweek rather than weekend.

    Definitely have a brochure. I use a 2-fold card that can mail with special size envelopes. I use them to sent to homeowners at expired listings and even print out and critique photos of what their prior agent did and their house didn’t sell. Cuthrought message “You can do much better with your marketing budget – we need to talk”, “commission = their marketing budget; where else did the prior agent skimp in marketing that you can’t see” etc. Simple mailing is not good enough as they rarely will call. Absolutely need to have direct contact, but the mailing gives a talking point that following up on

  • Have had some really good success with using Tour Buzz and SmugMug for marketing myself and clients marketing. Client recently emailed one of our Tours to her OA who then forwarded it to the Company distribution list to announce her new listing~happy agent~seller and me. I freely share their VT on my Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook if requested. I would definitely support what Larry has said about Agents being “people persons”. Also I think that it’s beneficial to offer some empathetic hand holding to support a photography client whose main focus has not been technology. The more I help my clients be successful, the more they appreciate the work I do. Grateful for all Larry shares and looking forward to Scott’s New Lighting Book!

  • @LarryG, Good points on projectors. It has been very slow for me this year, so investing in iPads (I’d actually get an Android tablet), AppleTV boxes and other bits is not something I want to do going in to the slow season. Small projectors are getting less expensive all of the time and I have a background in electronics, so getting a slightly dodgy one and tuning it up might be an option. I am going to keep asking the people I know if they have one I can borrow from time to time. I may see if a member of the investors group can bring one in. If they describe it as wearing out, I’ll wait.

    Finding listing agents in my area isn’t very easy. There has to be on the order of 1,000 agents listed on the websites of the most prominent real estate franchises. Some of them are going to be strictly buyers agents and I know from making calls that many of them are not active having jumped into the sector when the housing market was booming and jumped back out and made babies when the bubble burst. I also find that using many of these websites takes a lot of work to find anything. I’d welcome tips on narrowing down the field.

    I like the idea of applying my marketing effort to the top 10%-15% of listing agents. I’m interested in building up a customer list that keeps me working steadily. I can only handle a certain amount of work by myself and I’m not interested in having employees at this point so trying to take over the entire market is not on my agenda. I would like to get the laws of supply and demand to help elevate my standard fees and move into servicing higher end properties exclusively. I’m sure more people will move in to service the bottom end if the market is developed. The last time I had employees, it often felt like I was working for them to keep the business humming along. I could rarely take a holiday or a long weekend.

  • On Projectors: If you are giving an hour or more class, sure use a projector or AppleTV or whatever makes sense. However, if you are just popping in to an office sales meeting to talk about professional real estate photography a projector etc. is more trouble than it’s worth. You want it short and sweet. 15 min max. When you pop in for a short office presentation like this bring handouts. Minimum of hassle, so setup and everyone ends up with a copy of your message and name and web URL.

  • I haven’t had any luck with presenting at an office meeting. I get brushed off when I try. The only time I was asked to an office meeting, they wanted me to do a class, for free, on how to get better pictures with P&S and cell phone cameras. I wonder if they ever figured out why that was a stupid request. There are a couple of RE groups that have meetings once a month that would welcome a presentation and that’s where I’d like to be able to project images or a Keynote presentation. I think it might be easier than trying to keep everybody on the right page number. You are correct that a handout is a good idea. I keep hoping that I get home to shoot that is really something special to put on postcard handouts. I have a couple of good enough’s, but nothing really stunning.

    A customer of mine’s graphics department is putting together some photo comparisons between what I have shot for them and what they used to use (Same homes). A regional manager is trying to get the use of professional photography (ie: me) a mandatory procedure and will be presenting the photos to the executive management for approval to implement the policy. I might be able to use that work for my own advertising. I have my fingers crossed I will get permission, the graphics guy is really good.

  • I seem to have better luck with direct emails v’s postcards. I have dropped off over a couple of hundered postcards with nary a response. But I have emailed directly some of those same agents and have gotten a response. Granted it’s for a free shoot to get my foot in the door, but the one I just shot was for an agent looking to take their marketing to the next level. My email came to them at the right time. Plus their mamager wants to setup a fair for outside vendors to come in and pitch their services to the agents. Something I will be invited to attend now.

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