In the fight for marketing might, those leading the charge within the housing professions are the ones who seem to at least dabble in and, in some cases depend heavily on, social media and web-based marketing services.

In a recent PropertyWire.ca survey, the majority of respondents indicated they are using a combination of print and social media, but on closer inspection real estate and mortgage professionals seem to prefer marketing their services online for a variety of reasons.

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Hamilton realtor Rob Morrow is convinced that social media and internet promotion is the answer despite having combined both print and online marketing in the past. Today, the only time you’ll see him using print media is for open houses.

“Internet marketing is much cheaper and has more immediate results,” says Morrow, who also edits www.HamiltonHomeReview.com, an online real estate publication. “I can test promotions simultaneously and control changes instantaneously. None of this is possible in print because of the production delay. That same delay makes print obsolete for younger buyers as immediacy is paramount. Only the internet, controlled by the agent, can provide that type of instant, accurate information on an ongoing basis.”

Morrow like the internet’s wide reach, its relatively low cost and the fact that you can track your success.

“I embrace internet marketing because it is the future of real estate,” he says. “All our competitors are based on the internet (private sale companies) and the strongest brokerages have a strong internet presence.  It is the primary way to gain new business. Over 80 per cent of my clients come from internet calls to action.”

Vancouver’s Mike Stewart prefers Web-based marketing because it’s completely trackable, unlike print. And it’s way cheaper, he says, adding that he can build a website for $1500, which is the same cost as three print mail-outs. Furthermore, his success rate on print is next to nothing at maybe one per cent compared to the response he gets from a website.

The only time he uses print-based marketing is for very specific clients, which comprise about 10 per cent of his marketing and media budget.

“Print marketing is a small component of a holistic marketing strategy,” says Stewart, an avid web and video blogger. “With traditional print marketing, I’m wasting 50 per cent of my money whereas with online marketing I’m wasting 25 per cent, but that doesn’t bother me because with 75 per cent of it I can track.”

Toronto Century 21 real estate sales rep Laurin Jeffrey says 99 per cent of her promotion is done via the internet, though she’s tried a few mailers and print ads in the past. Her self-described “killer” website attracts a ton of visitors in combination with a blog and the use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Jeffrey’s web-based marketing strategy is pretty much sewn up so she may be considering expanding into the print world next year. Since she designs all of the online marketing, she enjoys the low or no cost involved. Jeffrey says she’s not so sure she could stomach that if she went with print marketing.

“Print costs money, money that I am not sure is worth spending,” says Jeffrey, who used to work in web design and online marketing before she got into real estate. “We have found in the past that we tend to get one extra deal per year with printed ads, making enough money to pay for the ad costs. Mind you, we have never had a concerted advertising effort over a long time, with multiple avenues.”

On a ROI basis, Internet marketing dollars have proven the most effective, says Rob Johnstone, a Calgary realtor. The analytics of each website is measured for traffic, click throughs, return visitors and how long a web visitor spends on a page in addition to which pages they view. The real deal, though, is with listing inquiries and sellers requesting evaluations.

“Of course, the reality is that web buyers and sellers are generally not as high-quality of a prospect as a prospect that calls after seeing a sign or print ad. We generate more leads for our sellers but have to sift through them to find the truly motivated people. Therefore, follow up is critical.”

Mississauga realtor Marjorie Canales uses a combination of print and Web-based marketing, although she finds she’s leaning more toward the latter lately. Because Canales’ business is focused on a niche market as opposed to a mass market, she leverages social media, direct mail to her existing client base, blogging, and other web-based mediums.

To measure the ROI of her web-based marketing, she uses Google analytics and other tools. For print items, she will try to follow up personally with a phone call or email.

“In the end, it all comes down to conversion,” Canales says. “How many of those potential customers are actually turning into a client. However, establishing engaging connections even with those prospects on my mailing list that may not be ready now but will be in the future is also important for me. This is Tribe Building 101.”

Vancouver realtor Sam Wyatt focuses his attention on a monthly email market update to existing contacts, daily calls to existing contacts and clients, his website, social media and blogging. He uses little to no traditional print advertisements. He, too, is not interested in marketing to a wide audience, but rather a quality audience that can provide repeat business and referrals.

“I measure my success by the number of contacts I make a day with my contacts new and old,” says Wyatt. “Marketing is simply letting people know who I am, what I can do for them and where they can find me.  I think it is as natural for a business person to market themselves as it is to breathe air or eat breakfast.”

Nanaimo mortgage expert Adam Hawryluk also finds a combination of print and online marketing best suits his practice. Because Hawryluk’s brand is one of educator, he tends to walk the line between teaching realtors, first-time home buyers, and potential clients in general about the ABCs of financing.

“It’s sometimes hard to monetize the success of the strategy,” he adds, “so it is important to be continuously re-evaluating it. Marketing is a very important pillar to the success of a business, so even though the monetary and time investment can sometimes feel unrealized, it should not be ignored.”

For Leslie Penney, vice president of business development with APlus Mortgage Group in St. John’s, diversification is the best way to spend your marketing dollars.  That way, he says, you can hit different demographics. To determine the success of your marketing you need to look at two areas.

“First, is your goal to get deals in the door?,” he asks. “Or is your goal to build brand recognition? The key is to ask any new clients where they heard of you. That way you can determine where your results are coming from. If you’re looking at it from a brand recognition stance, it’s much harder to determine your results. The client may have just renewed and might not walk into your office for another five years, but if you continue to plug away with advertising and marketing you stay top-of-mind for any potential clients.”

What kind of marketing do you prefer? Are you leaning toward web-based marketing or are you more of a traditional type? How effective has either of these been for you?