The State of Real Estate
ACCORDING TO THE U.S. Department of Commerce, for the month of March 2008, the median sale price of a U.S. home was down 13.3 percent from March 2007. For the same month, sales of new homes dropped to the lowest level since October 1991. Regionally, the Northeast was hardest hit with sales down almost 20 percent when compared to the same month the previous year. The news is not rosy, and while experts differ in their opinion on how bad the housing crisis will get, there is no denying the housing industry slowdown is having and will continue to have a ripple effect on other markets.
For promotional product professionals, a slower-than-normal housing market can cause some of their biggest clients, realtors and real estate agencies to change tactics, cut corners and look to save money wherever possible. Suddenly, long-standing accounts can start to run dry and normally active customers grow skittish at the mere sight of a product proposal. In light of this, Promo Marketing turned to Sheila Curtis, sales agent and sales manager of Glenside, Pennsylvania-based Prudential Reddington Realtors, for a conversation about the industry, distributors and how they can mitigate any slowdown due to a slumping
Promo Marketing: When the housing market is slow, should agents spend less on advertising and giveaways?
Sheila Curtis: If possible, spend less but advertise more. When the market is slow [agents] need to bring more business in, so distributors should stress that agencies need to continue advertising. However, it might be time for some agencies to look at where the advertising dollars are going, and how they can best maximize spending, which is actually good for promotional products distributors. Agents still need their name out there, and [promotional products] can be a more reasonable way to do it than other advertising channels.
PM: How long do you think the downturn in the market will remain?
SC: I believe that things will pick up in spring of 2009, but I still don’t think our market is as bad as what you hear.
PM: What sort of promotional product giveaway items do you generally see in the real estate
market and what should
SC: Magnets are very popular—some are the size of business cards ... others are notepads or calendars that are attached to the magnetized business card, and they are a bit more helpful.
The best magnet I’ve seen is a plastic calendar holder. It is approximately 8x11", and holds a refillable calendar that is only slightly smaller. Every other magnetic calendar I’ve seen is practically useless, because it’s too small for the calendar to be of real use. However, the large one holds a calendar big enough for writing on the dates—which is why you’d put a calendar on the fridge to begin with. The point is, distributors really need to offer well thought-out items and be prepared to sell agencies on their intrinsic value.
PM: What giveaway item would you suggest distributors offer to help real-estate agents in the present climate?
SC: Money. Or, if that’s not possible, something useful, “sticky” and inexpensive. Maybe a tiny Maglite keychain flashlight, something like that.
PM: What was the most
effective promotion you’ve seen or done?
SC: Chocolate-covered pretzels, actually. About 15 years ago, an agent in my office got the idea to send chocolate-covered pretzels to her then-manageable client list with a note that said something like “I love your business, and I love referrals!” Her referrals began to increase, as did her business. Over the past 15 years, her client list has grown huge—she now sends out more than 800 boxes of chocolate-covered pretzels each Valentine’s Day. Many, many of her clients have mentioned the pretzels to her, and how much they love receiving them. It’s the kind of long-term promotion and marketing that can really help an agency.
PM: So how long did it take you to jump on the bandwagon?
SC: About eight years ago, I started doing the same with my client list, and the response has been fantastic. On several occasions I have been told by clients that it was the pretzels they got each year that made them think of me when they were ready to sell the home that I’d sold to them. It’s just one of those unique ideas that make people remember you. Who doesn’t love getting candy on Valentine’s Day?
PM: In the end, what would you tell distributors who are dealing with reluctant agency clients?
SC: Probably just to be vigilant and do their homework on the products they offer. Come with something new and different. Don’t expect me to buy just anything, so don’t just offer the same old, same old. I just know I’m more likely to give a quick “no” when the money is tight and I think others are as well.
As sales manager, Sheila Curtis is in charge of sales and marketing for Prudential Reddington Realtors. The company has served Pennsylvania home buyers and sellers for more than 29 years. They can be reached by calling (215) 886-1200 or visiting www.prudentialreddington.com.