Saturday, February 06, 2010

An Old Fashioned Marketing Plan

From the Basic Marketing Blog:

How One Billboard Can Change Your Life

A Billboard Still Beats A Web Banner For Local Business

A few years back I was in Nashville, TN, working with a realty company. The hot topic with the reps around the water cooler of the company that I was working with centered on a recent addition to the team (let's call him "Joe"). Joe was a new retiree, who like many, found that he had too much time on his hands and not enough money. The work options are limited in that age range, so he decided to become a real estate agent.

Nothing surprising here, realty is often the job of last resort for many older workers. This is not a slam against the real estate profession, but most offices will take on any reasonable candidate who is willing to work in this commission only environment. Sometimes these retirees, with their supplemental income, can last long enough without sales income to eventually build a business. That is not how Joe did it.

Joe was different. He took an incredible gamble his first month on the job, the ink barely dry on his liscense. He bought a huge billboard that could be seen easily from the Interstate. It cost him a great deal of money to get this prime location. It was an insane move for the first month of the job.

However, this was before the housing bust, and the Nashville housing market was hot. Almost immediately Joe's phone began to ring. He was new, and didn't know a lot, so he asked other agents to partner with him for a split-commission. Of course they agreed, it was "free" business. Soon, it seemed every agent in the office was partnering with Joe - the guy who didn't know a lot.

Although the other agents were glad to split the commissions with Joe, it didn't prevent them from talking behind his back. "Don't people realize that he doesn't know what he is doing?" They complained. "People can be so gullible."

What was interesting for me is that no one in that office was considering getting a billboard for themselves. Let me repeat that, NO ONE. This is from a group that considered themselves to be savvy marketers. Yes, a billboard along an Interstate in the middle of Nashville is very expensive, but the results made it worth it.

Maybe Joe got a lucky break, but I saw the billboard, and he did a couple of things right. First, the billboard had a huge photo of his face. There was nothing to distract from the simple image of the "Joe brand". It was not the typical full length photo of him planting a sign in a yard, or jumping in the air, or anything clever. It was his face - front and center. Second, his message was simple: "Let Me Help You Find A House" with a large phone number and company logo. The message was easy to read at 70 MPH (or at a slow crawl during rush hour).

Also, his office and the billboard were adjacent to one of the best-selling areas. He became associated with that area by the proximity of the billboard to a desirable location of homes. A billboard across town would not have been effective.

Nothing beats the power of the human face to draw viewer interest

For Joe, his face was his story. It was the core of his offer. As people sped down Interstate 40, they looked up, saw his smiling face, and made some quick decisions: He looked likable and appeared trustworthy. Because of his age, he also looked like he had been selling houses for years. Maybe they were wrong about his real estate knowledge, but he sure knew what he was doing. Thousands of impressions each day turned him into the sales leader for that office. This was the guy who didn't know what he was doing.

For the local market, online marketing still doesn't hold a candle to on-the-road marketing. I not saying that everyone should rush out and buy a billboard, but sometimes the only "social media" that you need is proper signage.

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