Real Estate and other big ticket items are normally not thought of as something you “sell” on social media.
After all, the timelines are much longer for a £240,000 pound ($317,000) sale than a quick eCommerce buy.
So can you – as a real estate owner or agency acting on their behalf – use Facebook for real estate advertising and close a sale?
You can. And we’ll show you how in this month’s case study, where we feature Fritton Lake Retreats.
A total Facebook Ad Spend of £17,000 (a little over $22K), helped drive sales of over 2 million pounds ($ 2,600,000 and change) of real estate whilst simultaneously building a database of several thousand people and realizing the potential of Facebook for selling holidays.
Fritton Lake Retreats is part of the Somerleyton Estate, a wild rump of land tucked between the North Sea & the River Waveney, 2 hours from East London and within 2 hours from Cambridge, Essex, and Herts.
Formerly watery Viking Badlands, the estate has been more or less as it is now for over 700 hundred years. For the last 150 or so years, it has been successfully owned and managed by the Crossley family, currently Lord Hugh Somerleyton and his wife Lara. They are now growing the lakeside holiday park, originally founded by his father, to include two brand new developments, named Shedrooms and Hillwood.
The new properties will be some of the highest specification luxury holiday homes in the UK featuring marble worktops and wood-fired hot tubs.
Having become fascinated by the way he was being retargeted by brands across Google and Facebook, Lord Somerleyton enlisted the help of Bolt Digital to help drive sales using social advertising.
In this case study, we’ll go over how we (Bolt Digital) structured our campaign funnels to sync with email and how we measured their effectiveness (and recognized difficulties!).
We also provide new ideas you can try yourself if you’re interested in experimenting with real estate advertising on social media.
The Real Estate Advertising Funnel
So how does one create a funnel for such high ticket items?
Our plan, which we continue to optimize, revolves around a brochure that attracts initial interest.
Once someone downloads the brochure, we follow this up with a series of autoresponder emails over a period of 55 days.
To make up for the fact that many people might not open these emails, we feature the same content in video form via Facebook Video ads.
Step 1 – The Brochure
With print media in regional magazines and limited PPC (via AdWords) previously being the estate’s only form of marketing, we were excited to use the power of Facebook to reach an entirely new audience – people who had never heard of Fritton Lake before and might not even be directly looking for a new or secondary home.
To get our funnel started, we created an image ad which was then replaced with a video ad.
There was a lot of agonizing over putting out such an ‘unoriginal’ opt-in as a sales brochure, but we decided to keep things straight and not try to be too clever about it.
We also realized that some people were hitting the landing page and immediately presuming from the imagery that they could book a holiday (which technically they can as the resort business model is that people own properties and then rent them out while they are not using them).
But this campaign was targeted at 2nd home buyers only, so the ‘download our sales brochure’ actually fitted well for prospective buyers whilst putting off holidaymakers from this particular funnel.
For users that click on the video, it then leads to a page to submit information.
And after submitting the information, the download begins and the users land on a Thank You page that delivers the brochure and tells them to call Jude (Sales head) to book a visit.
Originally we started the brochure campaign with ‘interest’ based campaigns, based on who Lord Somerleyton felt his purchasers would be.
This included people who are interested in brands such as Soho House, as well as those working in East London/Shoreditch and Cambridge tech hub, as well as highly affluent people located along what we called the ‘Somerleyton corridor’ – the main motorways heading up to the area within a 3 hour radius – we were just thinking ‘how far would people want to ideally travel to their 2nd home’.
This was a fairly expensive process, with some brochure downloads coming in at over £25, and a very low relevance score. But we saw this as gathering data as we had nothing at that stage.
With all the testing, and after about 6 weeks (we tested over 64 variations simultaneously with AdEspresso!) with some quite nervous moments thinking we can’t sustain brochure downloads at this price, we ended up with an initial batch of leads and landing page visitors.
We created a lookalike audience of all of these website visitors + all the people who visited the landing page for the brochure. By adapting the audience, our brochure CPA started falling.
We also narrowed this further through simple gender tests: women turned out to be far cheaper for cost per lead than men. In just a few weeks of running brochure ads, we adapted them to target only women.
The optimal copywriting and placement also began to surface at this time.
For the ad headline, we found “Heart of the Country” won over “Luxury Living.”
Similar to the headline, emphasizing the rural countryside and short commute to London won out over our real estate advertising that focused on luxury.
On ad placement, we found mobile was the most cost-effective. Instagram was the most expensive (3X what mobile was).
With our design optimized, and our targeting narrowed to a gender-specific lookalike, can you guess what the results for the “lead generation” brochure campaign became?
2.37 pounds (about 3 USD) per lead!
Before the audience and ad design optimization, we were paying 10X that.
As the initial lead magnet for your funnel is the most important part of the entire sequence, we spent a lot of time narrowing down who we thought our target market was and what ad copy resonated with them.
With that target market in hand, we had the most important step-down… but how do we convince them to actually give Fritton Lakes Lodges a call or be convinced of the value after the download?
Step 2 – The Email Sequence
As mentioned, all of the real estate ads we walk you through below were also mirrored via email. But with open rates these days, we wanted to make sure our brochure downloaders saw our offers!
For every visitor to the brochure opt-in complete, we have different time-based custom audiences. For each further step, we excluded all previous ones.
- Brochure Downloaded last 3 days
- Brochure Downloaded last 9 days
- Brochure Downloaded last 15 days
- Brochure Downloaded last 25 days
- Brochure Downloaded last 35 days
- Brochure Downloaded last 45 days
- Brochure Downloaded last 55 days
I know this campaign seems very long BUT we kept thinking ‘it takes time for people to make a decision about buying a property and we’re not letting them get away.’
Now we’ll walk you through how we set up the campaigns people saw after they downloaded the brochure.
At no point does a user see the same ad more than 5 times (always a good idea to keep frequency down!).
Days 0 – 3 – The Quick Summary
The first advert users saw after they entered the funnel was a quick summary of everything that makes Fritton Lake Resort such a great family-friendly countryside estate on which to own a second home
Our frequency here is 4.86, so on average, those that download the brochure will see this ad 5 times before moving onto the next step of the sequence. This is a short video, but as you can see, some great engagement.
This ad’s purpose is to explain in more detail about the benefit of the location and we found the video engagement to be very good.
Our CPC is £1.83 (2.40 USD) at this step.
Days 3 – 9: Free Pub Stay Offer
Now with a summary of the location and a few days to digest the brochure, we offered individuals a free stay at The Fritton Arms, the pub at Fritton Lake! Obviously, during their stay, they would have to come for a tour of the properties available to buy!
As with the previous step, we kept the frequency low – 5.36 for this.
When someone clicked over they would see the same video from the ad (so users did not *have* to click over to view it).
We tested placement on this video, and similar to the lead magnet, we found mobile won out. Throughout the next steps of the sequence, we continued to test placement, and – just like this initial step – mobile continued to be the most effective.
Our CPC at this step of the sequence raised slightly to £1.96 (2.58 USD) for these days of the funnel.
Days 9 – 15: The Virtual Tour of The Lodges
In contrast to almost all other ads in the Facebook sequence, we did not use a video this time around.
However, when the user clicks on the image, it takes them to a landing page with a virtual tour video embedded from YouTube.
At this point, our CPC increased 25% to £2.93 (3.85 USD). We weren’t sure the exact influence, but we’ll likely be testing this step in the future to see if we can optimize the ad design.
Originally our retargeting stopped here (after two weeks), but then we filmed virtual tours for each of the property types and decided to add them to the retargeting series too.
Days 15 – 25 – The Shedroom Tour
In this step, we highlight a specific type of lodge (Shedroom) for sale to familiarize those with all the options available at Fritton Lakes.
We re-tested the Instagram placement during this campaign, but like others in the sequence, we found it was 2X the price of Facebook mobile placement.
Despite being so far down the funnel, we found CPC became half of what it was previously at £1.40 (1.84 USD).
Days 25 – 35 – The Hillwood Tour
In this step, we highlight another type of lodge (known as Hillwood because of the area of the park it is in).
This is a different lodge than the previous ad we showcased for 10 days, in that it is in a more remote location and a different style, and as we’ll point out in the later section (see: Difficulties), we found that it was very difficult to accurately predict which demographic preferred with lodge-type, so we showed both to all leads.
The CPC for the Hillwood tour was almost identical to the Shedroom at £1.39 (1.83 USD).
Days 35 – 45: Pre-Loved Homes FAQ
Once we’ve displayed the brand new lodges, we then showcase pre-owned lodges that have come up for sale as existing owners move on.
This was our lowest CPC in the whole sequence at £ 0.854 (1.12 USD).
Days 45 – 55: Second Offer of a Free Pub Stay
The last step in our funnel!
At this point, the individual has hopefully spoken to Jude (the head of sales), and if not, this is a friendly reminder that our offer for a pub stay is still on the table! The CPC here was still very reasonable at £ 1.26 (1.66 USD).
It’s now been 55 days, and no more ads would be shown to the prospective buyer after this point.
If you’ve followed the math, it’s a rough estimate of £2 (2.63 USD) “nurture” each lead.
Given that our lead cost is, on average, between £2 – £3, that means we are looking at around £5 – £6 (about 6 – 8 USD) for the full sequence including the cost of the lead.
Not bad for £240,000 (317,000 USD) homes and up!
It wasn’t without its difficulties though!
Issues In The Real Estate Advertising Funnel
While the sequence we created is streamlined, tested, and effective, we had some issues with our sequence that we hope you can avoid.
Problem #1: Attribution
If you know Facebook’s Pixel, you’ll know right away we might run into some difficulty here.
There’s no “add to cart” or “checkout” for a £240,000 home. This makes it that much more critical for staff to mark *where* a lead came from, especially since our call to action is usually a phone call to set up an appointment.
Sometimes this would slip the staff’s mind, which means some sales may not have been properly attributed.
Problem #2: The unexpected ways people communicate
We have regularly had people arrange a visit/ requesting brochures from commenting on the actual ad video.
Our ads have very long comment threads which can be demanding to manage. And the on-estate team has had to get to grips with communicating quickly on Facebook.
Not one of us ever expected that an ad message, comment, or even a reply to someone else’s comment, might be the first ‘show of hands’ from a potential buyer or holiday maker but this regularly happens.
Likewise, we have had people view a video and then enquire for more info/brochures via Messenger to the Facebook Page.
We didn’t expect Messenger would be a channel for a property purchase, but this “difficulty” actually turned into an opportunity (see: Future Advertising Tests and Offers below).
Problem #3: Over-Segmentation
In the beginning, we had a very clear idea that one type of property (ie, a Hillwood lodge or a Shedroom) would be suitable for one type of purchaser, whereas another particular ‘type’ would definitely want the other one. As such we had two funnels and two sets of targeting.
What then happened was an early buyer turned up to view from the ‘Shedroom’ funnel and ended up buying at Hillwood. We realized were being too prescriptive with trying to direct younger Londoners towards the Shedrooms and older people towards Hillwood… We discovered people can just decide for themselves which property type they prefer.
Actually, our goal needed to be just letting people know we had properties available and getting them interested enough to come to view, and then the sales team could show them the different types and even the pre-loved lodges and take it from there. Moving forward now we just have one funnel.
Future Real Estate Advertising Tests and Offers
When people began messaging the Facebook Page, we began to realize we had an opportunity to explore testing messaging ads.
While it’s still in its beginning phases, our first Messenger campaign rolled out last month and within the first week had taken a number of sales and holiday inquiries and delivered basic information on whichever option they were enquiring about.
This means by the time the estate team picks up on the conversion, the person has made it clear whether they are enquiring about having a holiday or buying a property and has had basic information about both delivered.
New “Offers” – The Holiday Getaway
We had many holiday inquiries usually coming through Messenger during the sequenced campaign.
Next year we will be properly marketing holidays and Facebook Messenger will be a key channel for this.
Even though we are selling a very expensive luxury product, all our videos are fairly low quality! It’s just the head of sales talking to the camera and not expensively produced (ahem, I filmed them!). They have still worked really well. The ad videos have a total view count of around 300,000 views.
It’s important to remember too that Facebook is working holistically with everything else.
If they originally came in via Google PPC or visited the website because of a print ad, but then started seeing our content on Facebook, does that mean FB was null and void if they then get in touch? Absolutely not – the two work together.
In fact, we purposely set up a specific landing page for Google PPC and then retarget our Google traffic on Facebook.
Additionally, some of the “difficulties” you encounter might actually uncover golden opportunities: for us, we thought of experimenting with Messenger, and are now on the road to implementing a “holiday rental” trial.
We also found a lot of value with AdEspresso’s campaign reviews and coaching.
Thinking long term for real estate is common sense that can often be forgotten in the world of a 28-day attribution window.
With a great lead magnet, good staff, and an engaging sequence of both email and advertising, you can sell real estate with Facebook Ads.
Natasha Courtenay-Smith is the co-founder of Bolt Digital, a best selling author and speaker on the subject of integrated digital marketing, social media, PR and expert branding and positioning. She was one of 8 women in the UK to be selected for the Facebook’s ‘She Means Business’ campaign. Through this initiative, 10,000 female founders have been taught how to use Facebook for business. For more information visit boltdigital.media