It's Saturday morning. Joel and Rebecca are walking their dog through a neighborhood in Austin, TX. As they walk, they chat about the movie they saw last night, what they're going to make for dinner, and the big trip they have planned for next weekend. You wouldn't know it by listening to their conversation, but the couple is also house hunting.
They cross Brodie Lane when Joel's cell phone buzzes in his pocket. It's a text message that reads:
Joel says to Rebecca, "We've got a match from our real estate company. It's only four blocks away. Let's go see what the house looks like."
Within minutes, the couple is outside the 714 Longview Rd. home. It happens to be exactly the type of home they wanted, in the exact neighborhood they wanted to live in. They call their real estate agent to set up a viewing.
How did this happen? How was the couple instantly notified of the opportunity, perfectly merging buyer requirements, location and timing? The answer involves a combination of "geo-fencing," mobile phones and GPS technology.
If you're a tech savvy real estate agent or property manager, this powerful combination of technology represents a great opportunity to gain new clientele. Many real estate buyers do not have the time to review new listings online, travel to viewings or patrol their desired neighborhoods for opportunities. But the vast majority of real estate buyers do have mobile phones they carry with them nearly all the time.
This technology would help real estate and property management companies capitalize on business that may otherwise slip through the cracks. Software Advice would like to see this type of mobile marketing become a permanent feature in today's property manager software systems to help advertise real estate and rental properties.
Let's see how that could be done.
Geo-Fencing + Mobile Phones = Powerful Real Estate Marketing
What if a buyer looking for a place to live didn't have to do anything beyond choosing what features they wanted in a home? What if a buyer was automatically alerted to nearby properties that matched their needs?
This is what we're talking about with the next generation of mobile real estate marketing.
The use of "geo-fences" surrounding properties really drives the location-based marketing engine. A geo-fence is a virtual boundary surrounding a geographic region. When a person with a mobile phone crosses a geo-fence boundary, a notification is automatically issued to that mobile phone. Traditionally, geo-fencing has been used to send alerts when users exit a certain area, instead of entering one.
Geo-fencing has been used in conjunction with GPS technology for a while now and for a variety of uses:
- Tracking senior citizens with Alzheimer's;
- Ensuring mobile employees don't travel outside of certain areas; and,
- Monitoring hazardous cargo, to name a few examples.
We're confident that someday, we'll be able to add "Market real estate" to that list. Here's how we see this new form of mobile marketing working in the real estate industry:
Create geo-fences. Before real estate and property management companies set up their online portals, they'll need to create geo-fences around all of their properties. This will ensure that if a qualified user crosses the geo-fence with their mobile phone, that user will be notified about that property.
We'd like to see geo-fencing modules built into today's property management software, allowing companies to quickly create geo-fences around their properties by drawing them on a digital map.
Collect buyer needs online. Real estate and property management companies can create online portals on their web sites, where prospective tenants and buyers set up notifications tailored to what they want in a property.
For example, a user could create an alert based on square footage, number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, special amenities, and zip code, to name just a few of the myriad of options available. Once they've entered their cell phone number and submitted those housing preferences, all they have to do is carry their phone with them to receive notifications.
We'd also like to see today's property management software vendors integrate these online portals into their systems. Many property management software vendors offer web site design and hosting packages to their customers. A geo-fencing module could be another module that's presented as an option to a management company when they purchase the software.
Let the notifications begin. The notifications are where this entire concept of location-based mobile marketing comes together. The geo-fences have been set up. Users have entered their housing preferences online to receive notifications. All that is left is for the users to go about their normal lives, with their GPS-enabled mobile phones, of course.
When they get close to a property that matches their wants, they'll be automatically notified on their mobile phone. Property management software can then integrate all of these contact points with customers into their CRM system, to track the effectiveness of the messages and review properties with clients.
House hunting couldn't get much easier than that, could it?
Hopefully by now, the benefits of this unique marketing method are clear.
First, since the user opts in to receive these marketing notifications, there is no feeling of intrusiveness or annoyance as with unsolicited messages. This type of marketing is perceived as a service, not an intrusion.
Second, from a marketing standpoint, notifying the right person, at the right place, at the right time about your product is powerful.
It's the holy grail of marketing:
- You have a desirable product;
- You have identified the person that wants your product; and,
- You can automatically tell that person that your product is nearby.
Finally, this marketing method is scalable. A real estate or property management company could theoretically have dozens (or more) of users taking advantage of this service at any given time. Beyond taking calls to schedule viewings, it wouldn't require any extra labor on the part of the management company.
We don't expect this spin on mobile marketing to be installed in every real estate and property management office tomorrow. But whether through geo-fence triggers or other GPS-centric methods, the real estate industry will undoubtedly continue to make a huge effort over the next few years to connect with buyers and renters through their mobile phones.
The technology is too compelling to ignore.
What are your thoughts on geo-fencing's affects on real estate marketing? Too far-fetched? The holy grail of marketing? Share them in the comments.
For more information about property management software, visit our specialized guide here.