Case Study: How franchisors create digital marketing programs that fit the local market

Originally posted on Marketing Sherpa.

EXIT Realty International is based out of Canada with thousands of independent contractors stretched across many local markets.

“Our challenge is to create digital marketing programs that use our corporate messages and adapt them, so they are localized to an agent in Alabama as well as a broker in New York. This challenge has three parts: How do we create digital marketing programs that fit the local market? How do we distribute them to local offices and agents? And how do we get people to use them?”, said John Lim, Director of Innovation, EXIT Realty International, an international franchisor with offices in the USA and Canada.

The team has three different audiences that they need to distribute digital marketing programs to.

  • The first is regional owners, this audience owns the rights to sell franchises to people in a geographic territory like New York or Florida.
  • The second is the Franchisee, or Broker/Owner. This audience needs to recruit real estate agents into their brokerage and help them market themselves and the home listings that they need to sell.
  • The third is the real estate agent. They need to brand themselves as local experts, attract sellers, and generate buyer leads for homes that they are selling.

The international real estate company used a collaborative marketing platform to build an internal EXIT Ad Center – a gallery of ads these three audiences can quickly and easily leverage. For example, one ad blueprint allows agents to promote a home listing to an audience of potential home buyers. Another blueprint enables the promotion of a listing that just sold to an audience of people interested in selling their homes in the surrounding area.

MLS (Multiple Listing Service) data was used so listings automatically appeared as content within an agent’s blueprint gallery and CRM (customer relationship management) and website data automatically built relevant audiences for instant use.

“Through this traditional real estate model (territory owner, broker/owner, agent) we are really good at creating a distribution network for training people to sell homes and equipping them with traditional marketing material. But digital marketing introduced a new level of complexity that requires expertise with channel platforms, like Facebook and Google, and with data. We knew that to become successful at distributing digital marketing programs we needed automation technology that was simple for each of our audiences to use and execute,” Lim said.

The platform can automatically post the ads based on a set monthly budget (example: $2,500) and automation rules that govern how the budget is spent. For example, the rules can be set to spend $100 on newly active home listings valued between $150,000 and $300,000 and spend $150 on home listings valued between $301,000 and $500,000.

“We set out to enable our agents and offices with automated lead generation programs that use listing ads. Once this was achieved we shifted our focus to branding, awareness, and recruiting programs. All of our agents are independent contractors, and all of our offices are individually owned and operated. In addition to having the power of EXIT’s international brand, each agent and office wants to have their own brand within their local market. Enabling them to brand themselves and stand out from the competition, while using EXIT approved material, is a key driver of our digital distributed marketing program,” said Samantha Morris, VP, Digital Marketing, EXIT Realty International.

The use of this tech led to $450,000 in incremental marketing spend from franchisee-funded programs and a 300% increase in clickthrough rate (CTR). Users of EXIT Ad Center reduced the amount of time spent managing their online marketing programs from nine hours a week to nine minutes. The program has reached more than 6.5 million consumers with more than 15.5 million brand-compliant ad impressions and generated more than 60,000 leads.  

“By using the right technology, and supporting its rollout with an internal champion, EXIT has cracked the collaborative marketing challenge at scale,” said Spencer Smith, VP of Marketing, Evocalize. “Thousands of EXIT’s agents and offices are now enabled with sophisticated digital marketing programs that are simple to execute and drive real business results.”

The internal champion came from a surprising place. One of the beta testers was initially skeptical about the marketing program generating better results than programs she was running on her own. “But, after trying our program she was blown away by the results she was receiving,” Lim said.

He continued, “She became our champion and wanted to evangelize the tool to all the other brokers, owners and agents. We found that the best marketing technique to increase adoption is from word of mouth from inside our franchisee network and the enablement and training materials that [VP of Digital Marketing] Samantha [Morris] creates is a key driver of this.” The internal champion works closely with the marketing team to generate case studies, training videos and education materials, and other marketing assets to generate adoption from different audiences.

“The most important thing that we can do for our agents and offices is to make digital advertising easy for them because it’s a quickly evolving space and they (agents/offices) are focused on their main line of business, working with people to sell homes and hire agents,” Morris said.

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