Online Marketing Is a Public Service
Online Marketing Is a Public Service
In 2007, I watched possibly one of the worst implosion events of any industry in recent history unfold. The housing bust and financial meltdown forced me to reinvent my company’s business model.
In retrospect, this was an opportunity, and I’m grateful that we were able to take advantage of it. We moved 100 percent of our marketing online, not only because money was tight and WordPress was free, but also because at that time most consumers would have picked chewing off their own arms over talking to a real estate or mortgage salesperson.
With that in mind, we set forth to build a consumer education-focused lead generation Web site on WordPress. It took almost two years to understand this new medium to the point where we could measure results directly attributed to our online marketing practices.
Now, five years later, I’m trying to translate what I’ve learned, what worked, what failed, and what I think the future looks like — even as the strategy itself evolves over time. I approach this area not as a technology vendor or solutions salesperson but as a small businessperson working daily in the trenches.
Since 2009, I have been trying to identify a parallel between the successes we’ve achieved with our online marketing approach and the challenges and opportunities that real estate practitioners have being on the ground and in the community every day.
While mortgage lenders and real estate agents share a common customer in home buyers, our conversations with them are very different. A lender’s conversation with an online consumer circles around the ability to buy a home, whereas a practitioner’s conversation with this same person focuses on what and where to buy.
While our discussions contain different words and phrases, our task of earning the opportunity to have this conversation with the online consumer is the same. I have identified three foundational truths about earning the trust of this online consumer:
- Online consumers want answers to anonymous questions. They don’t care about who you are or what you do; that will come later. They will cease to be anonymous when they chose to, once they feel they can trust you.
- If you educate and empower online consumers, they will trust you and ask you to contact them.
- If you give online consumers the tools and resources they need to make educated decisions, one of those decisions will most likely be to work with the source of said tools and resources.
My epiphany after years of trying to put my finger on what worked in terms of marketing our business online is that we treated it more like a public service than a sales strategy. At a fundamental level, Mayorism is a pay-it-forward, or givers gain, approach to sales and marketing.
Ultimately, marketing your business online means having the ability to establish yourself as an expert in your local community — earning the trust of anonymous online consumers so that they raise their hand and ask you to help them in their pursuit of discovering, living in, and contributing to your community. You will accommodate them by putting the reader’s needs above any business- or income-related needs of you or your business.
This is what led me to draw the parallel between marketing real estate and mortgage services online and successfully running a political campaign to earn a public-service position from your constituents. The networking, trust-building, and exposure strategy that politicians use to earn enough votes to be elected to public office can be translated into similar actions and activities to successfully establish you as someone in your community who people will follow and trust.
“Win-win” is a term that can serve as the backbone of your online marketing efforts. As a public servant, you win when enough other people feel that they win by supporting you. This philosophy works not only in the acquisition of new customers (votes), but also in how you build your campaign team and alliances.
In later columns, we’ll further explore in detail many examples and analogies to support this strategy. In the meantime, I ask you to just think about it. See how many parallels you can draw between online marketing and public service. I think you’ll find — as I did — that innovation is found at intersections of different disciplines, not on the well-traveled paths of old ideas.