Digital Marketing interview

Brad Laviolette, Corporate Marketing Manager at MLA Canada​

How has the current health situation impacted consumer behaviour in the real estate industry?

Halfway through March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic effectively halted the real estate industry in the Lower Mainland, leaving many to believe that the real estate selling process would be substantially impacted in the near-term. Despite the initial shock of the first lockdown, our industry professionals proved to be incredibly resilient. Many actively selling projects reopened with newly established cleaning protocols and a switch to appointment-only showings. The buyers needed to take the extra step of making appointments online, rather than just showing up on a whim, leading to more highly qualified prospects walking into the presentation centre. However, for those buyers that seemed to be a little more reserved, much of the sales and marketing had to shift online. Virtual realtor events, Zoom webinars, Facebook and Instagram Live, became the go-to-digital channels for the industry to connect with homebuyers. Many of the prospects that participated in the virtual events tended to be more qualified leads as well. The homebuyer was spending more time being thoughtful about the product they wanted to look at and buy.

What opportunities has the current health condition created for real estate agents, brokerages, or developers?

Overall, the real estate industry has been plodding to adopt new technologies, see disrupters, or substantially change the way its sales and marketing operate over the last decade. The status quo was good enough to get by as the local market was organically strong. Covid-19 has put technology at the forefront of our industry. We’re likely to see sustained changes to consumer behaviour and how we can support them through various services such as sales and marketing, appraisals, legal, and mortgage lending. All service providers will need to continue adapting to new ways of operating. MLA Canada has invested in online tools like a new CRM, virtual sales platforms, apps and a more robust online presence. We’ve adjusted, and we’re not going back. More consumer buying trends will happen online, and more big data will become available to the industry than ever before. Deeper and on-demand insights will help make more intelligent decisions on the consumer journey like product preferences, trending locations, and more precision targeting to reduce wastage on ad spend, etc.

What are the top three digital marketing challenges you foresee real estate companies encountering in the near future?

  1. Data. When the data starts to flow from all the new online activities, meaningful and actionable insights will become more critical than ever to navigate. Otherwise, all the learnings could quickly go to waste. Those that can harness the data and leverage it to their advantage will succeed beyond their peers.
  2. Digital Consumer Experience. In an increasingly digital consumer experience, it will be necessary for real estate companies to not lose sight of what they have done best over the years – building meaningful relationships with their clients, peers, and customers. Although we typically think of relationship building as an offline activity, it is now a digital marketing challenge. It’s all about finding or developing the right tools to connect with the consumer on these complex consumer product purchases and providing innovative experiences.
  3. Digital Storytelling. Much of the digital marketing in the real estate industry is cookie-cutter. There are only a handful of agencies and developers that stand out. Those are the organizations that are great at storytelling through digital marketing. Consumers will quickly get bored with the “same same” advertising and start to have ad blindness, which is already happening. Those brands that can translate their product or service offering into an authentic story that resonates with their target audience will win. It’s easier said than done, but there are a few that are nailing it.

What are the top three digital marketing programs (e.g. SEO, Google Ads, YouTube ads, etc.) real estate firms should invest in or continue to invest in and why?

  1. CRM (Customer Relationship Management Software). Every other investment could be a waste of money, time, and energy without a suitable CRM. Intelligence is the future of real estate, and the CRM is the brain that houses all the data. It still takes humans to harness actionable insights but having the right CRM that suits your business is essential. It also supports another recommended tool for investment, Email Marketing. Automation can enhance connectivity with customers through personalized and timely communications. MLA Canada is currently transitioning to Hubspot, and we are uncovering an immense amount of opportunity that will serve our clients better and provide a much-improved buyer experience.
  2. Social Media. Keeping up to date on the platforms buyers are using is essential to stay relevant. Omnichannel marketing is imperative to success, and social media is a channel that can support digital storytelling. As to which platform is best, that depends on your target audience. However, Instagram, used through Facebook Ads Manager, is a useful advertising tool because of the targeting options and multi-media opportunities.
  3. Google Ads. For everyone out there that says Google Ads is a waste of money, they are likely not using it well or its full technological capabilities. It still proves to be an effective lead generator and is truly trackable. The science to it is finding the right balance of budget and return on advertising spend. It takes intention and someone to manage it regularly to get the best out of it. The data will tell you a story; you need to pay attention.

What are the top three digital marketing tips you would give to small businesses such as restaurants or local retail stores?

  1. Strategy! Strategy! Strategy! Do not underestimate the power of a digital marketing strategy. Posting on Facebook is not a strategy; that’s a tactic. Learn the difference between the two and understand the “why” behind every digital marketing activity you do and how it leads back to your objectives.
  2. Quality content over quantity. Don’t rush your content or use platforms mindlessly. Be intentional, tell a story, be authentic, and represent your brand at the best level possible. Do not underestimate the power of digital branding.
  3. Data analysis. Take the time to look at the data presented to you through the various tools available. For example, track your digital performance using Google Analytics and Social Media Analytics to help glean insights to optimize your efforts and see a better return on your investment (both money and time).

Brad Laviolette

Brad Laviolette is Corporate Marketing Manager at MLA Canada and Digital Branding Instructor at BCIT. Brad leads and inspires his teams and students to create marketing that matters. He has over 15 years of marketing and digital marketing experience that spans multiple industries, including real estate, automotive, and fashion. Brad focuses heavily on brand experience and strives to create successful communication strategies that convert into leads and sales. His areas of expertise include strategy, branding, communications, and digital marketing.