There’s an old sales adage that says “People buy from people they know, like and trust,” and public relations (PR) is one of the most cost-effective ways to build the awareness, goodwill and credibility that help influence buying decisions. Not that we would suggest that REALTORS® use PR to the exclusion of all other marketing tactics, but a healthy dose of PR, combined with a little advertising, direct mail, or other tactics, can provide a big sales boost for many small businesses.
But how can you determine if the campaign is worth the investment? You might think that gauging a campaign’s impact on immediate sales makes the most sense, but bear in mind that only a direct sales campaign can be measured that way.
Most marketing programs for small businesses, especially retail, professional services (REALTORS®, CPA’S, etc.) serve to generate a pool of potential clients. The onus for converting prospects into customers rests with the client, not the campaign.
Here are a few ways to measure the results of your campaign without relying on raw sales data. As with many marketing tactics, tracking the results of your PR campaign can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so consider using some of these techniques:
- Track the number of inquiries or leads your business receives via phone, drop in or web visits. You’ll need to start by establishing a baseline for each inquiry stream before your campaign starts so that you’ll know whether or not your campaign is actually drawing in more leads.
- Ask your prospects how they heard about the real estate services you offer. Know that many people may not remember exactly where they heard about your business, unless it was the result of research such a through the Yellow Pages. This is good, because it means that your PR campaign is working! PR is supposed to have a “ripple effect” so that one person who sees a story tells another, adding to the pool of people who are informed about your business through the PR, plus adding the weight of personal sanction to the referral.
- Create a campaign-specific offer through your web site with a unique URL, such as a coupon or special program that is only mentioned in your PR. By isolating an offer this way, you can see how effective your pitch was by counting exactly how many people respond to your offer (of course, that’s assuming the offer is enticing enough to draw interest).
- Compare historic sales patterns for each year by month to see when or if your business has seasonal sales cycles. Keep in mind that it is always easier to boost a high cycle season’s sales because there are often external factors that drive customers. For example, as a REALTOR® if you work in a ski resort area, perhaps you’ve noticed a jump in sales during the holidays. That time of year (and right before) would be the perfect time to add PR to your marketing mix so that when potential clients are ready to purchase, your Resort Expertise has top-of-mind awareness.
While your story in the newspaper or on TV may motivate someone to get off the couch and take action, an actual buying decision may be based on price, location or convenience. That’s why developing clear goals and measurement metrics for your PR campaign are so important, so that you can get the maximum return on a minimum investment.
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