As a marketing expert I am the first one to love a tongue in cheek marketing piece. Especially when it comes to real estate. I mean how many times do we have to see a “What’s My Home Worth” Facebook ad or a “Just Listed” postcard?! Whenever I see a real estate marketing piece that steps outside of the box I give them a round of applause.
But every once in awhile there comes a marketing piece that isn’t okay. One that crosses the line. And if you have been on the internet the last few days you know the real estate marketing piece I am talking about.
My sister-in-law saw an article about this postcard and took the time to post it on my Facebook page. She’s not in real estate and is about as far removed from the industry as one can get. Her exact quote was “Wow, this is crappy.” Her post on Facebook unleashed several more comments from friends of mine that aren’t in real estate. They were appalled.
This postcard hit a lot of nerves and it should. It is offensive and disrespectful to women. It says that a working mother doesn’t have it together because her kids and house are a mess. If she doesn’t have it together at her own home how can you expect her to sell yours?
Now before this turns into an ugly gender bashing scene let’s slow down and take a look at what we can learn from this marketing piece. My male readers– stick with me here. I am not lumping you all into the same group. My female readers–let’s all, me included, put down the pitchforks for a minute. There are things that we can learn from this marketing postcard.
1. Know your market
Before you do any marketing you must know your market. I am guessing that this postcard went to a middle to upper middle class neighborhood in the Seattle area. In that case women and mothers are the influencers. They make the buying decisions, control the calendar and control how the money is spent. I am also guessing that the women of the household get the mail and saw this before their husbands did.
The mistake here is not thinking about your market and who you are sending the postcard to. The households that got this postcard have women that are juggling career, marriage, kids and home. I am doing the same things so I get it. If someone portrayed in a postcard that I am only doing my career “half-assed” I would be offended down to my core.
This takes me back to a cheesy story that has influenced my marketing mind since I started my business. Remember the TV show “Who’s the Boss?” from the 1980’s? (For my millennial readers IMDb it for the back story.) There was an episode on Who’s the Boss where Tony took one of Angela’s advertising classes. The students had to make a video for laundry detergent. Tony made one about female wrestlers and mud wrestling. His thought? You need the laundry detergent to get clean after the mud wrestling. Angela gave him an F.
Why? Because he neglected to think about his target market in his advertising video. At that time more women stayed home and doing the laundry was their job. But in Tony’s mind that was his job because he was the housekeeper. He created an ad that appealed to him. He didn’t think about his demographic or the target audience. His F was well deserved.
In the case of the agents’ postcard they also deserve an F in advertising. If they were sending this to single men would it have worked? Maybe. But to send it to the typical two parent household where everyone is stressed out and there is a big fail here. Send it to working mothers and you might as well crawl under a rock and not come out.
The lesson: Take the time to know your market and the niche you are targeting. Think about their needs, their desires, their hardships and their pains. Only then can you hit a home run with your marketing. Why? Because good marketing is about empathy and connecting with people. There is no empathy here in this example. Only a “we are better than you attitude” and that is not good. No one is connecting with that and no one is buying from them either.
2. Don’t compare yourself to something you’re not
When I saw this postcard I said to my friends, if they would have put a man on here that is juggling a full time corporate job and selling real estate part time this would not have been the sensation that it is. It would have been an outrage only to those selling real estate part time.
The fault here is that these two men tried to compare themselves to working mothers and really all mothers. Men across the country are going into hiding over this postcard. It’s the age old phenomena– walk a mile in my shoes and then you will understand how I feel.
Except a man can’t walk a mile in my shoes and I can’t walk a mile in his. Which is why I would never do a marketing piece for myself that compared my situation to a man. You are comparing apples to oranges in this marketing piece. I know the intent of the postcard wasn’t to offend women. At least I really hope it wasn’t because if it was– shame on you boys, shame on you and I would hope your mother is taking you to task over it.
You were trying to say a full time agent is better than a part time agent. But how it came across is that you are saying that you are better than the working mother. That sets us back about 40 years and that isn’t okay. Stay in your wheelhouse of comparing men to men in a marketing piece and this postcard doesn’t even get on anyone’s radar.
3. It’s Not Reality
My favorite comment on the Facebook post from my sister-in-law came from a client and friend of mine Ben. Ben is a real estate agent in Pennsylvania. He agreed that this postcard was in poor taste and he could relate more with the mom than the over polished agents on the right. That mom is dealing with the crazy work/life balance and he gets that. The offense here is that if all agents aren’t the polished professionals to the right that they aren’t professionals at all.
I have been around the real estate business my entire 36 years and I have yet to meet an agent that has an abundance of time on their hands. Agents works nights, weekends, holidays and through concerts and soccer practice. They work while folding the laundry and right after tucking the kids into bed. This postcard is a joke because it sets agents back 40 years too. Every agent out there, women AND men, are trying to do the best they can by their kids, spouses, family and friends. They are trying to keep it together, take care of their clients and run a successful business. And it’s hard. To diminish that and say that only the person that is perfectly polished is prepared to sell your home is wrong.
Personally I would rather go with the agent that is a little unpolished and who’s life isn’t perfect. Why? Because neither is mine and that agent will understand when our house isn’t perfectly put together. They will appreciate how hard it is for us to get a house ready for a showing while getting three kids out the door. That’s real life and that’s a connection. Working with phony people who have it all together is not a connection at all. In fact it tends to make us feel worse about ourselves and we avoid them at every turn.
4. Be Nice
My mom’s greatest lesson to me in life and in business was to be nice to other people. She hates any marketing that talks negative about a competitor for your own gain. As an example in Minnesota we have local, city owned liquor stores in some of our cities. In others there are private liquor stores. There is one private liquor store, Total Wine and More, that has come in and taken on city owned stores. Total Wine and More has less expensive wine and that is well known. The city owned liquor stores now advertise right on the price tag “This bottle of wine is $3.00 cheaper than Total Wine and More.”
I hate that kind of advertising! My mom always taught me to be nice, mind your own business and don’t worry about what other people are doing. And definitely don’t put other people down in your advertising for your gain.
I think that these two agents did the same kind of advertising. They put down women. They put down mothers. They put down working mothers. They put down part time agents. That’s a lot of meanness if you ask me and it was all for their gain. It wasn’t nice and who needs more ugly advertising in this world?!
In the beginning of this post I said this piece of marketing is something we can all learn from. There are two big takeaways here.
1. Get Opinions
When I have worked on client pieces in the past I always get a few opinions before it gets published. I bet if these guys would have asked for opinions about this postcard it would have never been printed. Don’t think you are so good that someone else’s opinion won’t help you. That is pure arrogance and it will come back to haunt you. In their case it would have made all the difference and would have saved them the humiliation they are currently experiencing.
By the way humiliation in Internet years can last forever. Better to be humble and get an opinion then suffer the wrath of the Internet for years to come.
2. Hire an Expert
Real estate agents are fond of this saying: “You wouldn’t take out your own appendix so why would you sell your house yourself?” The theory behind this is just like you need a doctor for surgery, you need an agent to sell your house. So my real estate friends I am going to challenge your statement.
Had these two hired a real estate marketing expert this postcard would have never seen the light of day. You are an expert at selling houses. You are an expert at helping people find their dream home. You are an expert at negotiating the transaction. You are not a marketing expert. Hire one to help you so you don’t make these same marketing mistakes.
This postcard was an unfortunate piece of marketing that offended so many women and men. There is no justifying it because it’s intent was not nice. The best thing you can do as a real estate agent or business professional is learn from it.
Think about your marketing and more importantly think about the people you are serving. They deserve better than this. Show them you are different and you genuinely care about their needs. Then you never have to worry about living in Internet hell or offending the very people you are trying to serve.