Author: Brandon Cornett
My first exposure to writing magazine ads came when I worked as a marketing writer (and later advertising manager) for a postcard marketing company popular among real estate agents.
In that role, I embraced education and read every book and article I could find about writing ads for magazines. From the copywriting techniques of the 50's to the magazine ad techniques of today -- if it could help me write better ads, I studied it closely.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I'm about to share all of the key lessons I've learned over the years about writing in general, and about writing real estate ads in particular. With that said, here are 21 tips for writing the kind of real estate magazine ads that get results.
Choosing Your Ad Topic
Before you start scribbling away at your real estate ad headline or body copy, you first need to identify the topic of your magazine ad. Quite simply -- what are you advertising and why?
Some real estate agents will answer this question by saying, "Well, I'm advertising my services, of course." But this is not a good reason to write a real estate ad for a magazine or any other type of publication. If you write your magazine ad simply to advertise your real estate services, I can guarantee that you'll be disappointed with the results.
Every other agent in the world is advertising his or her services. That's the first problem here -- there's too much advertising "noise" and redundancy. The second problem is that everyone knows you can simply go online to research real estate agents in your area. So why pick up the phone and call one just because a magazine ad says to do so?
You can see the problem here.
The key to choosing a good topic for your real estate ad is to focus on the reader. What do home buyers or sellers in your area really want to know? What are their real estate fears, hopes and dreams? I can promise you it's not "first-rate customer service," which is the weak selling-point in a lot of real estate magazine ads. Every real estate agent clamors about superior service and expertise. It has been overused to the point that it means nothing anymore.
So when you write your real estate ad you'll have to dig a little deeper to find a good topic. And that's what we are going to talk about next!
I also recommend that you seek out as many local advertising options as possible. You can usually buy this kind of ad space for fairly cheap, but it may turn out to be one of your top three lead sources. You have to experiment to find out. Here's a great example of what I'm talking about. This site offers to local businesses in that city, and it's dirt cheap.
Creating a Real Estate "Item of Interest"
Before you try to write your magazine ad, ask yourself this question: "What item of interest am I marketing here?"
Remember, your real estate services alone are not an item of interest -- at least not for the average consumer who doesn't know you. Sorry, but that's the reality of it. So instead of writing a real estate ad that says "Call me about my real estate services," try to identify an item of interest. This might mean that you need to actually create an item of interest before you try to advertise anything ... but you'll get better results in the end.
Here's a nudge to get you started. What special event, special product, or special service do you have that might be an item of interest? "Special" is the key word here. Anything less than special will be ignored in a real estate ad headline.
Let's take a hypothetical scenario. Let's say you've created an online real estate forum for home buyers in your area. People can register in seconds and participate to get answers to their home buying questions, to share thoughts with other home buyers, etc. (Ambitious, you say? Well, ambition is what it takes to succeed as a real estate agent these days ... but I digress.)
Chances are, yours would be the only real estate forum of its kind within your city or town. So it would be a truly special real estate service / product. It would be an item of interest to many people.
Now that's something worth advertising! In fact, with an item that interesting, your real estate ad would practically write itself.
Writing Your Ad Headline
The three most important components of a magazine ad are the headline, the main image, and the offer / call to action. I combined the last two elements (the offer and the call to action) because they are so closely related.
As for headlines, this is where many real estate agents falter when writing a magazine ad. Headline writing is essential to your real estate advertising success, because people will make a decision to read further (or not) based solely on the headline and the supporting image.
I'm not going to delve too far into the "how" of headline writing in this article, because I've dedicated a chapter to that subject in my real estate direct mail book. So let's cover some of the basics of writing a strong headline for your real estate magazine ad:
Make sure your ad headline identifies your primary audience in some way (either directly, or by way of the benefit it promises).
Make sure your ad headline offer a strong benefit to the reader.
Make the benefits crystal clear upon first glance (using simple, straightforward language).
Write an ad headline that's interesting enough to move the reader into the message. Remember, it helps immensely to start with an item of interest before you write your real estate ad headline!
Write the kind of enticing (but truthful) headline that makes it nearly impossible for the reader not to read further.
Use your main image to reinforce the message in your headline, and vice versa.
Make sure your headline is truthful and relevant to the message that follows. (No misleading the reader with bait-and-switch headlines!)
Giving Your Ad a Strong Call to Action
So now your real estate ad has a strong headline, an eye-catching supporting image, and some body copy that expands on the headline and moves the reader forward.
Now you integrate the most important part of your real estate magazine ad -- the offer plus the call to action. What reason do people have to respond to the real estate ad? In the example used earlier (the online real estate forum), the forum itself is a good reason for people to respond to your ad, in this case by visiting the forum and registering to participate.
But why not give them even more reason to respond? For example, maybe you'll create a homeowner's guide to avoiding foreclosure -- a hot topic at the moment, wouldn't you say -- and offer that guide to people who register. Maybe the sign up for the forum and the auto-responder email sends them a link to download the "foreclosure avoidance manual" in PDF format.
I'm just brainstorming some ideas here. The point is, this would be a way to strengthen the offer and thereby increase response rates to your real estate ad message.
Having a strong offer is the first part. But having a clear offer that people can understand is equally important. Continuing our forum example ... if people didn't understand the value of registering for the forum, or the value of the foreclosure-avoidance manual, they would be less likely to respond in any way.