Case Study: Realtor Finds Value in Patch Ads

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Ever since Minnesota real estate agent David Nelson started placing ads and blogging on the Lakeville Patch, he’s seen an uptick in interest from people looking to buy and sell their homes in his area. Given the targeted audience that reads Patch — and the exposure that the neighborhood site provides — he views the associated marketing costs as a wise investment.

So how did your involvement with Patch first begin?
My broker actually brought up that there’s a Patch in Lakeville. So I took initiative and I talked to the local editor and I started marketing on there. I have an advertisement on the right side of the page. From that point, I was like, “I like to blog and talk.” So, I got my own blog going as well.

Between blogging and placing ads, which has brought you more clients?
I’ve just started blogging over the last three weeks, and with my personal Web site I can tell where my links are coming from and where people are clicking through. I’ve noticed now from my blogs that it’s definitely picking up from where it used to be. Of course my ad is placed on every page 50 percent of the time, so it’s pretty hard to beat that. That’s on anything from classifieds to the local police report. But my blogging is picking up definitely.

Did you have to negotiate with Patch to make sure your ads would show up on every page 50 percent of the time?
It’s a price point. So if I wanted to be on the front page, [in the] upper right, it’s more expensive. I just looked at what my marketing and advertising budget is for the year, and I figured since I live in Lakeville, I’ll specialize in Lakeville — and the Lakeville Patch gets 43,000 hits a month. I’m going to put my money in a wise area. They actually designed the ad for me and I picked that spot [on the page].

For about four months, I was the only person that had a spot. So, I had 100 percent coverage for only paying 25 percent of the fees, which is great. You can’t beat that. Now, somebody else bought a spot, too. So, I’m only 50 percent, but it sure beats anything else. I am paying for 25 percent, but I’m getting 50 percent exposure.

How does the value in hyperlocal advertising compare to the value in print advertising?
With print advertising, by the time you distribute it sometimes the information is already outdated or somebody beat you to it. With the online, I type it, and it’s posted online. It costs me nothing to do it, plus the value comes back because people can keep reading it, they can email it to a friend, or they can tweet it to a friend. So the exposure with online marketing is so much better than print. I’ve almost gone print-free.

What kind of response have you gotten from people in the community since you started with advertising on Patch?
With Patch specifically, people like it because I’m posting more. I’ve actually written a book, but never had it published. So, what I’m doing is breaking down my books and placing chapters on my blog. For instance, right now it’s about getting a house ready to sell. So, I’m putting tidbits from my book on my blog, and people are starting to follow it. I end my blog with “part two coming up next week, and the topic is this.” So, I just started that this last week and I’m actually getting a really good response. The thing is, too, with any blog, people read it because they want information. I’m not there to tout what I do. I’m like, “Hey, if you want more information you can contact me.” That’s just how it works.

I’ve noticed that realtors tend to make up a big portion of the advertisers on hyperlocal news sites. Why do you think that is?
Well with any sort of marketing, people remember the top two in the field. So, it’s all about exposure. You may be the best real estate agent out there, but if nobody knows who you are or what you look like, it’s hard to get your name known. So, that’s why as agents it’s funny. People make fun of us for putting our faces on everything, like business cards, but it’s because they want to put a face to the name. So we have to make a name for ourselves, and that’s a little harder. Real estate agents are a dime a dozen; there’s a lot of us out there.

What is the biggest marketing challenge these days as a real estate agent?
Well, the biggest [for me] is that I’m very new to the company and the business. So, just trying to get your foot in the door and trying to break a mold of what a typical real estate agent does — I tend to do more of the technology aspect. So, even within the Coldwell Banker company, some people are still doing the print ads, some are doing the old school marketing, while I’m trying to take it to the next level. I have to prove to them that I can do this and that it’s marketable.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Click here to read more Street Fight local merchant case studies.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.