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Communicating the REALTOR® Message

Each year, HAR undertakes its communications program that helps educate consumers about the importance of using a REALTOR® and reinforces the current market conditions.

For 2013, it is clear from speaking with a diverse group of members that the primary issue facing REALTORS® in our market is the lack of available inventory to sell. Yes, I know that if they are going to sell a home, they must also have somewhere to buy, but we have historically had a more buyer-focused message for our campaigns. This year is different.

Our outdoor campaign (aka billboards) has traditionally been one of our most visible and productive communications channels to reach our desired consumer. Even in a digital world, billboards remain effective, and consumer surveys have shown high levels of recollection of seeing an HAR billboard in the recent past.  As the Association continues to fight for its members against “outside forces” that would charge them for leads, HAR.com has been consistently ranked as the No. 1 real estate site not only in Houston, but in the entire state of Texas. Your site ranks higher than any of the big national sites that spend millions upon millions of dollars building up brand recognition. Those sites have been successful at making inroads though, so this is not the time to rest on our Houston REALTOR® laurels.

We always have a great working relationship with the Houston Chronicle for print ads that run every week in that publication. In addition to quarter page ads running every Sunday in a rotation of sections of the paper, HAR also has section-front ads that achieve high visibility among newspaper readers. These, too, have surveyed well among consumers in the past.

Since HAR.com is obviously online, it only stands to reason that the ads that would most easily lend themselves to a direct impact on the amount of traffic on HAR.com (which means more traffic for your listings) are digital display ads. HAR reviews the previous years’ campaigns in consultation with our media buyer to determine the best choice for our limited ad dollar in the online space. This year, we have narrowed down our buy to some more targeted locations.

Since the beginning of the online ad buy in March, the best bang for our buck has been Yahoo!, which has both the highest click-through rate and the lowest cost per visit among our purchases. RadiumOne and MSN have also performed very well for us since they began running.  RadiumOne is a real-time bidding advertising company that helps us reach our desired target market at the most affordable price. We also started a custom channel, which allows you to create a set of custom criteria for your ads to be displayed across a variety of websites. This particular campaign did not perform well in its first two weeks, so we have reallocated that budget to Yahoo! and RadiumOne because they are performing much better. Yes, we gave it two weeks and then cut it. We don’t mess around with our advertising efforts for our members.

In light of the need for more new listings, we proposed a TV campaign for the first time in five years. The HAR Board of Directors approved this expenditure earlier this year, and the TV ads have been running on Bravo, HGTV, The Food Network and USA Network for the past couple of months. We also participated in what I call a “fire sale” with Comcast, which is basically just a run of network buys at deeply discounted rates. True, we do not have as much control over where the ads will be shown, but it allows for a good mix of different channels and viewers. Plus, we only use a very small portion of the overall TV ad budget for this “fire sale” effort. We have heard from lots of people who have seen the ads running in our market though. The four previously mentioned channels on which our TV ads are being broadcast were chosen after evaluating those cable channels that best met our desired demographic. We defined that as skewing female (because research shows that women generally begin the home purchase/sale discussion), skewing toward the 25-54 age bracket and higher income levels. We also chose those channels that had the highest homeownership rates since obviously the viewer of the commercial trying to convince them to consider selling right now would need to own a house to sell.

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The tremendous thing that helped make these ads possible this year is that we produced them in-house in the HAR-TV Department.  Other advertisers might spend tens of thousands of dollars on production, whereas we spent less than $500 to have our own professional staff produce them. This was an enormous benefit of having the in-house capability to produce great looking ads while allowing us to maximize the dollars spent to buy actual ad time instead of paying for production.

We also appear in the Where GUESTBOOKS that are placed in more than 21,000 hotel rooms throughout the greater Houston area, as well as all of the local relocation guides.

As opportunities arise throughout the year, we are still flexible enough to take part, if it makes sense for our members. For example, last year there was a pro-REALTOR®/pro-Houston full-page ad that ran in Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and The Week. We had the ability to appear in these publications for literally 16 percent of the normal ad rate. It was a chance we couldn’t pass up.

Just know that the Association staff and leadership have the common goal of promoting the use of a REALTOR® and to help promote the strength of the greater Houston housing market. Everything we do leads the consumer back to you.

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