NEWSPAPERS HOPING TO shore up their real estate advertising should take care not to overlook a fundamental resource: local real estate agents.
That's the message delivered by a panel of advertising managers at the recent Newspaper Association of America classified advertising conference in Las Vegas.
Sandy Lohr, assistant advertising director for the Times in Trenton, N.J., said that appealing to agents' innate fondness for self-promotion generates incremental revenue and protects the newspaper's real estate ad base.
"Top producers thrive on self-promotion," Lohr noted. "We saw that as an opportunity."
The Times utilized research from the National Association of Realtors which indicates that, nationally, 31% of all real estate agents pay for 100% of their advertising, an annual average of $2,500 per each agent.
With that in mind, the Times devised its "real estate action plan" -- a number of strategies targeted specifically toward capturing agent dollars.
The Times' market includes four boards of real estate agents and four real estate associations. The Times is a member of each.
Direct mail has made significant local inroads with agents, as has cable television advertising and some of the estimated 15 free-distribution homes publications.
The Times created a Wednesday pull-out real section focusing on real estate and real estate agents. The newspaper sent out "Tell Us All About It" flyers to area agents that encouraged them to send in pictures, business cards and announcements of any special awards, achievements or new employee notifications.
After an announcement runs in the section, the Times sends a copy to the agent, along with information about current real estate promotions the paper is offering.
Also, as a service, the Times holds real estate sales seminars for area agents on such topics as "How to write ad copy that makes the phone ring," and "What to do when the phone rings."
In two years, the Times has sponsored 25 sessions, reaching over 750 agents, Lohr said.
The Times also holds discussions with agents to "have them tell us what their needs are," Lohr said.
Similarly, Ken Collica, classified advertising manager for the Ann Arbor (Mich.) News, said that his research showed that "agents need to spend more dollars than their brokers can afford to spend on advertising."
With over 1,000 real estate agents in the Ann Arbor ADI, the News recognized a significant opportunity to fortify its existing real estate ad base.
A particularly successful promotion involved weekly targeted distribution flyers for real estate agents. The News produces the flyers, which feature individual agents and their available properties.
Collica said that in one instance, an agent was able to offset the "nominal" cost of the flyer by selling ad space on one side to a moving company, a home inspection service and an insurance company.
Because of the "overwhelming" response to the flyer, Collica said the agent has arranged to run a monthly flyer. Other agents have expressed interest in following suit.
Mort Goldstrom, display advertising manager for the Columbia, S. …