How To Optimise Your Channel Mix in a Changing Property Market
It’s no secret that we’ve seen the property market soften through the back end of 2022 and into 2023. As we turn our focus to FY24, looking holistically at how and where we’re talking to customers is key to ensuring your strategy maximises your chances at success.
We’ve seen the cost to advertise increase — yet all the while, there’s lingering uncertainty in the market due to uncertain economic conditions, interest rate hikes, and long lead times on new builds.
What’s more? We know that the longer-term outlook of brand building, and generating customer loyalty is more successful than short-term sales activations.
Whilst first instincts have been to cull spend and watch bottom lines, the reality of a softening market is that you need to work harder for your leads and talk to them at all stages of the purchase cycle.
Taking a longer-term outlook on the ROI and value of bolstering your advertising spend during times of uncertainty is essential. While many of your competitors are looking at areas where they can reduce spend, opportunities are appearing for you to seek out your future customer — with the added benefit of supporting your brand, at a time where customers are seeking outright reassurance from builders and developers.
We’ve previously been able to exclusively hone in on middle-of-the-funnel advertising, but to keep our pipelines looking healthy now, it’s important to broaden our scope of reference for where and how we’re talking to our prospects.
The biggest shift we’re seeing in customer sentiment & behaviour is the dominant role that fear is playing in pulling prospects out of market. Through 2020–2022, customer confidence was high; prospects were looking to upgrade their digs with the help of considerable stimuli that were geared toward moving people through to purchase. However, in the current climate, your prospects are likely feeling uncertain and overwhelmed: both with the state of the market, and the understandable sense of trepidation that comes with a big life decision like purchasing property.
The job is no longer as simple as serving your customers price & product information.
Instead, we need to establish early rapport to nurture the buyers of tomorrow, in the here and now. The framework/approach for your advertising needs to shift from transactional in nature, to being more nurturing, with a mind for upfront objection handling.
The best way to do this is by establishing an emotional connection with prospects through marketing, effectively positioning your hero & project brands as their trusted advisor, and communicating the benefits of your brand… before finally going in with the hard sell.
But where do you start?
How can I use digital strategy to nurture future customers?
Fortunately, there’s a myriad of options available to marketers in the digital landscape. What’s more, these are some of the most cost-effective ways to reach your audience at scale, at all stages of the purchasing journey.
1. Build brand engagement and lead the flight to quality
Capturing your audience is one thing, but keeping their attention is another. Research shows that the average customer journey takes between 50–200 touchpoints (Google). Typically, the higher the value of the purchase, the more touchpoints conversion takes.
We know that time frames to purchase are longer than usual right now, so attention has to be maintained for a longer period before we can focus on bottom-of-the-funnel, conversion-focused marketing.
Prospects who are 12 to 18 months away from purchasing are probably not going to be motivated by things like a floorplan, frontage, or facade. At this stage, they’re thinking aspirationally; so our marketing should focus on the emotional drivers behind the purchase.
For customers like these who are further up the funnel, it’s also essential to communicate the benefits of your brand in order to ‘socialise’ it in a subtle way. This meets your customer where they are, and creates an easy introduction that will be the foundation for continued attention.
Utilising top-of-the-funnel techniques
At the top of the funnel, you can afford to run longer-form video content that centres around your overarching brand pillars. Importantly, at this stage you can reach a broader pool of prospects for less outlay.
In terms of platform, think Google Display, Performance Max, Video in Facebook, and YouTube.
Google Display & Performance Max
Google Display & Performance Max are perfect if you’re lacking in video assets, or maybe you’d just prefer to take a copy-led approach to introducing your brand to customers.
Remember, the goal with these formats is impression share and click-through rate (ideally to a project or corporate site), because your customers are firmly in their research phase.
From there, you can track time on page, engagement across areas of your site, and ultimately leverage this data to continue informing what makes your buyers tick.
Facebook Newsfeed video
Love video? So do we.
You’ll be excited, then, to create Facebook Newsfeed ads that don’t have to keep to a strict time limit, like standard lead-generation assets.
Look to introduce some more social-proof video content: testimonials, first residents content for newer projects, and content that introduces the on-site amenities (parks, playgrounds, schools, and community-led design). This will reinforce the broader picture that your developments are more than just the house & landscaping.
The same goes for the content choices you can make for YouTube, with one key exception.
More and more, YouTube is being used as a search engine across all manner of topics, and property is no different. Use this research tool to your advantage — not only to serve meaningful content to your prospects, but to ensure your presence there is consistent with your brand pillars.
As users deepen their research, a well-kept channel is an essential addition to your toolkit.
2. Leverage brand rapport in lead generation
As we continue down the funnel, you can begin narrowing the focus of your content and refine your audiences in order to move the needle on direct-response marketing.
All the while, your targeting is more enriched and your content execution is more educated in the middle of the funnel, thanks to your earlier efforts to build brand engagement.
A strategic shift
Strategically, your content will shift here. Your customers’ objections are changing, so the way you respond should, too.
When first introducing the brand, our goal was to allay early trepidation around trust and brand vision. Now, it’s now more appropriate to address product preference, inclusions, and purchase or building process.
Not only are your prospects more literate in the property market, but they’ve now already developed an affinity with your brand; this allows your product- and project-led content to be more specific, given the increased context.
All that’s left to do (for now) is convert!
Here, you can rely more heavily on static, animated, and video placements on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Google Search and TikTok.
So, how should your content change at this stage?
- Tighten up the copy
- Shorten video length and ad copy
- Gear focus towards engagement, always keeping in mind the journey from click to conversion
Our lead generation product creates a specific conversion ecosystem that tests and learns the content that is resonating with prospects. It then takes an agile approach to scaling this content to high-converting audiences.
We’ve learned, over the last 12 months of downturn, that the kind of content you serve your prospects makes a real difference to the overall volume of leads you can expect to convert.
Across the Social Garden portfolio, we saw that our shift away from product + price content toward site imagery, lifestyle, and project-benefit content resulted in CTR improvements of 108%. In comparison, product + facade content drastically decreased in terms of engagement.
It’s worth noting that benchmarking looks different compared to 12 months ago, with the average conversion rate for middle-of-the-funnel campaigns decreasing to between 4% and 8% across the portfolio. The industry benchmark for conversion currently sits at 2.5%.
If that’s not evidence of the benefit of building a strong brand and early rapport with the audience to increase engagement and conversion volume down the track, I don’t know what is.
3. Utilise marketing automation & social media for retargeting
The job isn’t done once a lead is in your system.
In fact, the reality is far from it — particularly now that data indicates that your leads are extending the interest and consideration phases of their purchase journey. Our data-capture strategy suggests that the proportion of leads indicating their timeframe to purchase was 0-3 months decreased by nearly 40% between February 2022–February 2023.
Whilst it is true the leads in your database may require further nurture, the silver lining is these potential customers have given a clear indication that they’ve resonated with your brand through the TOFU and MOFU components of your digital strategy.
Now, the job to be done is to continue supporting them through their purchase journey, by leveraging marketing automation to enhance a great customer experience, and remarket your brand to deepen their loyalty.
Marketing automation, you say?
The guiding principle here should be to keep the conversation going with your customers, using your nominated marketing automation platform. We’re proudly platform agnostic, but we love platforms such as Marketo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Hubspot, or Pardot.
A well-established platform will leverage tools like lead scoring and nurture campaigns to ensure our work continues to be personalised to where customers sit in the funnel.
For example, for someone who converts with 12 months to purchase, you should ensure that your content is high level, and focused on benefits of buying new/off the plan. Contrastingly, if you have a customer convert with a timeframe to purchase of less than 3 months, it would be more appropriate to serve them retail-focused content, showing them available stock & any offers you have running, as well a strong call to action to book an appointment.
Ultimately, you want to encourage your prospect to feel a sense of autonomy in the journey by ensuring there’s always scope for them to take the next step in their journey. Where your leads may have been ready to speak to sales within 3 months of converting previously, it may take a series of structured nurture campaigns & marketing comms to help them feel ready to take the leap, and speak to sales.
Additionally, SMS is a powerful tool that can also be automated to meet your customers where they are. Our data shows up to 85% of all leads convert from a mobile device, so underestimating the power of a friendly SMS here is one to avoid!
Alongside this, a common misconception is that the work of social is done at this point. In truth, you now have a fully enriched data set on your potential purchasers & a higher chance of converting these prospects, because they’re already in your funnel.
Leveraging the native remarketing tools of your CRM/MAP, such a Leadsbridge , or manually using list uploads is an effective way to ensure you’re increasing communication with prospects, in relevant channels based on their position in the funnel.
Whether you’re playing in email or SMS nurtures, remarketing through social channels or both, the ultimate goal here is to make your customers feel empowered about the next steps in their journey through education.
To conclude, there’s so many ways in which marketers can make modest investments throughout the buying journey to support a longitudinal outlook on brand awareness, through to conversion. Shifting our focus toward nurture through the funnel, and ensuring we are the trusted advisor of prospects, will ultimately pay its dividends.