September 4th, 2014
Not too long ago I got some real estate photography business starting out questions from Chris in New Jersey. I think the questions are classic and important enough to look at in detail. Here is Chris’s initial question:
I have been trying to get a real estate business up and running since October of 2013 and its just not happening. I may get jobs here and there but nothing remotely stable. I know other people have stable work and I’m wondering if maybe I don’t have high enough quality photos? Or if I am doing something else wrong. I have the Canon rebel t4i and mainly use the Tokina 11-16 for real estate jobs. I was thinking maybe the rebel isn’t good enough, so I was thinking of moving up to a better camera (70d, 6d, or a7).
When I looked at Chris’s work it was immediately clear to me that the quality of his work or what kind of equipment he had was NOT his issue. His work is very good. I asked Chris what he was doing for marketing and he said he was using Adwords and handing out business cards to agents. He quit Adwords after about 6 months because he didn’t get any business from it.
Here is my advice to Chris:
- Its not surprising Adwords didn’t work. Focus on personal contact with potential clients. Agents are people oriented they like talking to people; that’s why they are agents!
- Instead of just business cards make a postcard or jumbo postcard with your greatest image, phone # and website on one side and this info graphic (or similar) and link to WSJ and RedFin article on the other side. Hand it out like a business card and deliver it to mail slots of all the top agents in your area (cheaper and more personal than mailing if you get to talk to them).
- Understand all the data in the RedFin article. It’s the reason agents need professional photography. It should be your main pitch. Make an elevator pitch out of it.
- Also, use local brokers sites to find top agents that aren’t using professionals. Deliver your postcard to them and have a quick chat about the RedFin data if possible.
- Deliver your postcard to listing agents holding open houses and talk to them about the RedFin data.
- I noticed from Zillow in his zip code there was a high rate of agents using tours. Sign up for Tourbuzz.net and include a tour with each of your shoots because your competition is. This is frequently the case.
I think Chris is struggling with the classic mistake of thinking that equipment is more important than marketing! Many people that are naturally good technically struggle with personal marketing.
Update 9/9: Several commenters correctly pointed out that the data in the RedFin articles that documents the fact that profession photography increases the net sales price of the property isn’t always a big direct payback for listing agents. Particularly at the low end of the market. The major benefit to the listing agent is that if professional photography gets more net $ for the seller then listing agents will get more listings. I should have been clearer about this. Doing a great job marketing property ultimately will increase the number of listings the agent gets. It’s never difficult to convince home sellers that professional photography will net them more money.