Copy Writing and Promotion

engine in a Q45

by Jay on November 14, 2009

V8 engine in a Q45 Infinity

The most dramatic lesson I ever had about writing copy wasn’t even written down. I was shopping for a car and had my eye on a used Infinity Q45 that was at a Lexus dealership in Raleigh.  As I was pondering my decision the salesman happened to mention that he had driven the car home one evening. I think his exact words describing the car were “That car has balls.”  That pushed me right over the edge and I drove that car for two years and loved it even though the mpg was terrible and it was the most expensive car to maintain and repair that I’ve ever owned.

My point is, that whether it was intentional or not, that salesman didn’t describe the horsepower or the handling or the leather interior, instead he described the experience of driving the car in a way that most guys can relate to.  If GM survives its current difficulties, Pontiac and Saturn may join Oldsmobile in oblivion but Cadillac will live on because it has been able to re-position itself from a stogy luxury land yacht to something sexier. What does the hot babe with the husky voice from Private Practice ask as she speeds away in her gleaming red STS into the lights of the city…”When you turn your car on…does it return the favor?”

When you’re competing with other sellers for the few buyers in the market, turn them on with better copy.

When I first got into real estate a few years ago you could tell who the veterans were just by reading the copy they wrote about their listings. They were so used to writing for the cramped space under a little picture in the paper or the limited “remarks” in MLS that they had a hard time dropping abbreviations like 3bdr2bth.  It was hard enough covering the basics let alone trying to describe the “experience.”  But those days are over. Most copy now is written for the internet, and there are practically no limits.  So, here are three suggestions for improving copy for flyers and internet distribution.

Go sensual.

We experience life through the senses. Nine of my twenty five years in Durham were lived in Forest Hills and it is still my favorite Durham neighborhood.  In fact, for me it is sort of the essence of Durham.  It rubs shoulders usually in peace with less affluent neighborhoods north and south and even within its boundaries there are a variety of styles and sizes of homes. The neighbors are universally congenial and an interesting mix.  It has an urban feel and a lot of that has to do with sounds. The mournful wail of a train whistle at night. The fireworks in the summer at the DBAP.  Central’s marching band practicing on fall mornings. The twack thwack of tennis balls and hoots and hollars of the semi-organized soccer and ultimate frisbee matches in the park.

Durham is such and interesting place because many of its neighborhoods have a feel of their own. This is not to say that you ignore the house. But with few exceptions, it is assumed that the homes will be well constructed, well designed and well appointed.  It is not necessary to describe the number of levels in the crown moulding. Again go for the senses…the restfulness of the color scheme, how a room feels in sunlight…or in candlelight. The smell of freshly mowed fairways, the shimmering stillness of the lake on a moonlit night. You get the picture…paint a picture.

Leave something to the imagination.

There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  A picture may be worth a thousand words but a thousand pictures is War and Peace. Most, if not all, of the promotional materials should be designed to get showings from agents with qualified buyers. If you show too much or tell too much in the promotional materials  you may inadvertently give people enough information to rule your listing out before they really get a chance to experience it. Instead, tantalize. Give them a reason to want to see more. Good real estate photography is not meant to document the home but to set a mood.  Nothing is a bigger waste of pixels than a photo of a bare window in an empty room.

Sell the community.

In Durham especially, where the market has competed within the long shadow of Chapel Hill’s air of sophistication, listing agents need to talk up the town.  Durham has come a long way in the last 25 years and there are lots of posts in this blog that provide some detail.  There are lots of things to like about Durham. But I think the reason that I really love Durham is that, like the car salesman says, it really has balls. If you doubt it, check out the bronze bull in the new plaza downtown. As Councilor Mike Woodard so aptly put it, “That’s how you tell it’s a bull.” Also remember that the potential buyer may not be familiar with the community. It’s the forest and the trees thing. If all you do is describe the home that buyer will not know whether it is the finest home in Woodcroft or a starter home in Hope Valley, two attractive neighborhoods but very different from each other.

The next article in the series is about Channel Marketing or using the distribution system to best advantage.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Yacht Charter Vancouver December 5, 2009 at 3:50 am

Very tricky promotion, great job!

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