Getting Too Personal with Marketing Can Backfire

TechnologyFree-Farmhouse-Plans-with-Wrap-around-Porches makes it easy to access public records and to tailor messages directly to consumers. Beware. Getting too personal when trying to connect with your customer can backfire big time.

This is particularly true with fiance and real estate. Many Real estate agents “farm” for listings by blanketing a neighborhood with marketing materials.  Some take it too far. Each tactic below is a valid way to generate business – when done right. It’s a fine line.

The three cases below happened to friends and neighbors. Each offended several potential clients. The agents (all were new) not only hurt their own business, they hurt their agency’s reputation.

Three real cases:

  • Canvasing the neighborhood. Sounds innocent enough, right? Pass out flyers touting an open house or an achievement. That’s fine.
    • Offensive: Going door to door – not ringing the bell, but pounding on the door. This agent’s goal: to find a house to buy in a popular neighborhood. For himself – not for a client. This agent hoped to use insider knowledge to snag a personal bargain.
  • Direct mailers. Many announce nearby sales, offer a discount or provide information. A successful tool when done right.
    • Error: Buying a list, using “mail merge” and mailing it – with misspelled names. In this case, my husband and I received a “personalized” letter – with the last name spelled Driskll. My last name is O’Driscoll. In the body of the letter, the agent misspelled the neighborhood name AND used bad grammar.
  • Too Much Information. Sending out price trends for a neighborhood may generate interest from potential customers.
    • Invasive: Sending multi-page individual property analysis going back 20 years, showing every permit, every sale, identifying owners, tax payments and liens. All this is gleaned from public records, and may be of interest to a buyer. The homeowners felt violated and were offended the agent had so much personal information on them – and spent money sending it in hopes of getting a listing.
    1. Bonus wrong: When sending the “personalized” letter with the property analysis, this particular agent under estimated the neighborhood’s value by close to $30,000 compared to recently sold homes. And the recipients knew it.

People told me how offended they were by these agents. In each case, the agent invested time and money into efforts that crossed a line of privacy and/or professionalism.

Educating people on the value of their home and explaining your expertise in getting top-dollar for a property is a valid marketing tactic. The problem: each of the examples above crossed a line. The people who brought each to my attention were offended. Most had no interest in selling in the first place, and they resented the pushy formats – and some teetered on the edge of feeling victimized.

My friends and neighbors are still talking about the incidents above — and want me to “do something” about it. That “something” is this column.

What are your best tips for farming tactics – that generate interest without offending people?

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