Property marketing 2021: five things to get right.

Every year, it seems property marketing takes new leaps and bounds forwards, but the past 12 months have driven change like no other. To help you keep track of it all, we’ve put together this list of five things you need to get right when marketing a property development. Serendipitously, they all begin with the letter S. So here we present: 

The five Ss of doing property marketing right

Click the headings above to jump straight to specific advice, or read on for the full story on each. 

Specification  

The standard of stock in BTR and new build homes has steadily risen over the past few years, as too has the number of extra features being packed into properties by architects and developers. Beyond high-spec living spaces, there has been a rush to offer bonuses such as on-site gyms, private cinema rooms, as well as ancillary lifestyle benefits such as free bicycles for making a reservation, group yoga classes, meal prep memberships and more. But now a new set of priorities – inspired by the pandemic and, specifically, people’s experience of lockdown – has come in to shape product design. As far back as May 2020, RICS homebuyers surveys were reporting a surge in interest in features such as gardens, as lockdown forced people to reckon with what they deem most important in a home. In fact, the stats were clear. 

  • 81% of respondents across the UK felt that there will be an increase in desire for properties with gardens or balconies
  • 74% predict an increase in demand towards homes located near green spaces
  • 68% are of the opinion that properties with greater private and less communal space will become more desirable

By the same logic, tall developments in highly built-up areas were deemed to be becoming less attractive to buyers. 

At the other end of the scale, 78% of respondents sense there will be a fall in the appeal of tower blocks and 58% feel properties located in highly urban areas will be less enticing.

Source: RICS

So when it comes to product, the message is clear: buyers want more outside space; they want natural light and not to be sat staring at their neighbours’ exterior walls; and they want to be nearby to local green spaces such as parks. For a scheme that’s too far down the line to change, it’s not about redesigning the building. It’s about how you sell the product in terms of buyers’ new priorities: make sure you’re talking up features that speak to the above concerns and making it clear how your development will benefit people’s lives. With restrictions on outdoor movement and exercise set to continue well into 2021, understanding buyer needs and marketing your properties in terms of how they meet them will be vital. 

Service 

Another decision – and, again, one driven largely by the pandemic – you will have to make is over which channels you will be available to customers looking to make enquiries and reservations. Even before Covid, there was a trend towards people preferring a remote or virtual first interaction with brands – witness the increasing use of chatbots, messenger apps and video content in your own interactions with businesses over the past couple of years – but this has only been accelerated by the events of 2020. Today – and especially in light of the need for social distancing and increased calls to stay at home – you should make sure you have a ‘digital-first’ customer service strategy that prioritises giving people the ability to virtually or remotely interact with your developments and sales agents. Why? Take a look. 

  • More than two-thirds (67%) of search users say they want their first interaction with a brand to be virtual, without human contact 
  • Specifically, 43% of potential homebuyers say they would prefer to speak to a chatbot than a sales agent when making enquiries about a property
  • More than a quarter of potential homebuyers say that in the wake of Covid they would rather use video to view a property virtually rather than visit in person 

Source: theEword

For many property brands, this is real sit-up-and-listen stuff. By not having a chatbot on your development’s website, for example, you’re alienating almost half of your potential buyers right off the bat. And if you’re still not offering virtual viewings by now – with a dedicated landing page to make the experience seamless for customers – that’s a quarter of potential buyers who will be turned off right away. We’ve written in-depth about chatbots and virtual viewings, so why not take a closer look at these blogs. 

Chatbots for property marketing – save time on early stage questions, filter out timewasters and convert more sales with this clever, easy-to-install tech. 

Virtual viewings for property – keep customers and sales teams safe, let people view homes from the comfort of their sofa and drive in-person appointments by offering a seamless and intuitive virtual viewing experience. 

Story 

We’ve already seen how the pandemic has changed people’s priorities in terms of the spec of their new homes – think gardens, balconies, natural light and nearby green space – but this was only ever part of the story. Sure, you’ll want to get across how highly specced and well-finished your properties are, but ultimately, that’s not really what you’re selling. The most successful developments in recent years have been those that effectively sold a story – the story of a new home, a new adventure, a new life – to buyers rather than plain old bricks and mortar. Spec alone will not sell off-plan units; you need to be able to articulate the new life customers are buying in to – to get them excited and to help them fall in love with your scheme and its location. All of this is aided hugely by putting the branding – and story – of the development front and centre. Consider these questions. 

  • When naming our development, what sort of words convey the character of the design as well as the lifestyle we are trying to sell?
  • What values do our buyers hold? What sort of words and branding would be attractive to them? Aspirational? Prestigious? 
  • If we’re going down a location-focused route to market, isn’t it more inspiring if we centre the area and its story rather than our name? 

That last question in particular has driven a real shift away from the [Developer Name] + [Location] style of branding developments, which you may have noticed over the past few years. Today’s most successful developments have branding and stories that speak directly to what their audience holds important, whether that’s the chance to start an aspirational new life in a new place, or the opportunity to secure an investment property in a prestigious location in a regional or international hub city. 

Getting this right requires a razor-sharp understanding of who your audience is (split by buyer type if you have more than one, for example first-time buyers and empty-nesters), what their priorities are and how best you can communicate with them. You should build detailed buyer personas and shape specific marketing plans around them before launching any development – this may be easier and quicker if you work with a third party such as a property marketing agency who have experience in identifying audiences and matching them with compelling tailored storytelling. 

SEO 

Property SEO (search engine optimisation) is a vital building block of success that goes overlooked surprisingly often. One of the reasons for this is that many (not all) of the branding agencies who tend to build websites for schemes are more versed in design than they are in SEO. It’s not their fault – for them, the logo trumps local search – but it can create a blind spot that is often left undealt with. Whether you bring in a specialist partner to fine tune your SEO or not, at least being aware of its importance gives you the edge over those who aren’t clued-in. SEO for property is concerned with three main factors. 

  • Code – the better-built your website is, the faster and easier it will be for buyers to use, and this is a big priority for search engines. Google will mark you down, for example, if your website is slow or if it does not work well on mobile phones 
  • Content – we’ve come a long way since the days of shoving as many keywords as possible into a website and hoping for the best. Today’s SEO content needs to be compelling, support your storytelling, but also feature enough of the words and phrases people are looking for to make in impact 
  • Links – less important in the life of an ephemeral website for a specific scheme, but still vital to get right. Links and shares count as ‘recommendations’ for your website, which search engines use to decide whether they should show it or not, so make sure you’re making the most of every opportunity to gain a quality link 

When it comes to SEO for property marketing, there is another hugely important consideration – one of the biggest ducks to get in a row early on: local SEO.

Depending on the study you read, between two-thirds and three-quarters
of homebuyers start their journey
with a local search 

With location playing such an important part in the typical search for a new home, it makes absolute sense that you’d want to get your local SEO right as early as possible. There are several key factors that play into this, with these two being among the most important. 

  • NAP – this stands for “Name, Address, Phone number’ and is a mantra held dear by SEOs which says your NAP should appear in as many (relevant) places as possible online, and should always be consistent in spelling and structure. The more often your address is seen consistently by search engines, the stronger your association with a specific location will be. This will help you appear for people making searches such as ‘apartments to buy in [city]’ 
  • Google My Business – other listings services are available, but with the majority of the search market sewn up, visibility on Google is paramount. Filing in your profile with keyword-rich content that supports your brand/development story should be one of the earliest quick wins on your list. A well-optimised GMB is your route to better visibility in local search, as well as appearing on Google Maps 

Like audiences and planning, SEO is another area where property brands might benefit from working with a specialist partner, who can apply best practices and quickly drive gains. 

Social 

The use of social media for property marketing has evolved considerably over the past few years, from ad hoc postings of CGIs and build updates to full-blown comms campaigns designed from the ground up to support the story of the development and make clear why people should buy there. As a visual medium, social provides the perfect opportunity to really show the lifestyle you are hoping to sell to people. Sure, renders of the development or homes in CGI have their place, but is that really what people want to see in their Instagram feeds? It is not. Buyers want to see colourful, vibrant images that show what the view will be like from their new home; what cool things they can do nearby; images of exercise, wellness and, at some point in the future, bars, restaurants and cultural hotspots. Your aim with social media is to have target customers look at it and see a future version of themselves, one that loves their new life in their new home. And it’s not just a matter of matching messaging with potential buyers, either. Each channel can (and should) be used in different ways; each of their audiences skews differently in profile; each offers unique ways to engage customers. 

It can be hard balancing messaging priorities across a full social media campaign, so it pays to plan all of this out at the start. The ratios of different types of content will be slightly different for different brands, but we have found the following split to work really well. 

  • People (30%) – lifestyle content about the people who give your development’s location its character, this gives your audience a chance to see themselves represented in your content, boosting their affinity with it and, by extension, your development 
  • Area (40%) – this is the bulk of what people are buying – a new home in a new area. Show them what that area looks like, why they should get excited about it. How many parks and green spaces are there nearby? How many gyms and fitness businesses? Are there outdoor sports? Convey all of this in your content 
  • Development (30%) – in any campaign, you still need to post a good amount of content relating to the actual properties themselves (this is where your CGIs come in), showing its quality and spec. As the build progresses, excited buyers and investors can be kept up to date with visuals from the site, reassuring them about progress versus delivery date 

(It spells ‘PAD’). For the ‘P’ and the ‘A’, it’s important to build up a list of local social media users who may be interested in content partnerships with your brand. In doing so, consider which of them would be the most relevant to your storytelling. If part of your messaging is based around the location being a food-lovers dream, profiles of local chefs, restaurants, suppliers, sellers and diners would be ideal. If a more creative audience is being sought, look for social collaborations with artists, craft markets and the like. This is what you’d commonly hear referred to as influencer marketing for property, but another way of looking at it is as community building. Forging relationships with local influencers early on will not only help your marketing, but it will also help your arrival in the area. Property brands who reach out to and engage with their local communities are invariably more popular than those who don’t. It’s especially important if you’re building in an area with historic or cultural sensitivities. 

TL;DR

That’s a lot to take in, so let’s wrap it up in a more bitesize way. Here are five Ss you need to get right when marketing a property development in 2021. 

  • Specification – Early-stage developments have time to incorporate people’s new Covid-driven desires (gardens, balconies, natural light) into their design; those later down the line will need to frame what they’ve got in terms of what people want 
  • Service – More than a quarter of people prefer virtual viewings to in-person ones, nearly half of people want their first interaction to be with a chatbot rather than a sales agent; are you set up to handle that? 
  • Story – It’s not about your name or the spec of the units. Branding and storytelling should reflect the audience’s values back at them and get people feeling excited about the prospect of starting a new chapter in their life
  • SEO – An important building block, but one that is all-too-often overlooked. Bad SEO can seriously hamper your development’s ability to appear in search results, especially if you’re not making the most of optimising for local SEO 
  • Social – Remember, social content should be lifestyle-focused and support your headline messaging and storytelling. For planning campaigns and to keep multiple stakeholders happy, consider using the PAD structure outlined in this blog 

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