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Ever Wondered Why Some Ads Work and Others Fail?

Feb 4, 2013

Posted by

Laurie Moore-Moore

Laurie Moore-Moore is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, an international training and membership organization for agents who work in the upper tier. The Institute offers Read more

An agent once told me, “I think I’ve finally written the perfect ad for a four bedroom/five bath home and I plan to use it with every four bedroom/five bath home I list.”  This agent was virtually guaranteeing her listings would drop to the bottom of buyers’ desirability list because, in a competitive market, a generic ad rarely generates much more than yawns.  Yet many agents write brochure copy, website copy, and ad copy that makes their listings sound just like all competitive listings.

What Nobody Teaches Realtors®

Before we jump into a discussion of how to find and tell a home’s story, let’s review a few important advertising principles that are rarely shared with Realtors®.  Keep these ad truisms in mind.  Some of them may surprise you.

•  Five times more people will read your headline than will read your body copy.

•  The purpose of the headline is to capture interest and keep the prospect reading.

•  Good long copy outsells good short copy (especially if the reader isn’t familiar with your listing).

•  Copy in all capital letters is too hard to read, ditto for small type sizes.

•  Big blocks of copy should be broken with interesting sub-heads.

•  Target your copy to specific prospect groups for better results.

•  In real estate, the more high quality photographs you use, the better.

•  The photographs should reinforce the story the words tell.

Think of Real Estate Marketing as Storytelling

Finding the story starts with making a list of the positives and negatives.

One of our Institute for Luxury Home Marketing members identified the story to tell for a lakefront property by listing the positive and negative characteristics of the home.  The house offered great views of the lake and, in addition to a huge price reduction, the home had a moveable bedroom wall which opened at the touch of a switch to allow the platform bed to slide forward, thereby providing a look of the lake.  Now that’s a unique feature! 

Here’s a headline and a few words of copy to pull the reader into the ad and separate this home from others.  Here’s her ad:

“Your offer to buy must come with these promises:

a.)  I will appreciate the sweeping lake views,

b.)  I will open the master bedroom wall and sleep under the stars,

c.)  I promise not to gloat too much over the $45,000 price reduction!

“If you’re looking for a lake house and $850,000 is in your budget, don’t consider buying anything until you’ve seen this home.  Nestled into the hillside with lovely views of Lake Whitney, this four story, 3800 square foot custom home offers lakeside living with all the extras -- including a unique master bedroom!

“Own this home and imagine opening the master bedroom wall and watching the bed and its platform roll out under the stars.  Settle in for the night in the moonlight.  How romantic!”

Sometimes what you think is a negative is the very thing you want to use as your story hook -- a reason to buy.  Here’s an example:  While there may be other homes for sale at this lake which has turned into a mud puddle due to a severe drought, if you use this copy approach you are probably the only agent turning the low level of the lake into a valid reason to buy.  Continue the body copy with the wonderful inside features of this home. 

“Buy before the rain returns!

The price of this lakefront beauty will rise with the level of the water!  When the rains do come, buyers will rush back to the lake, and home prices will rise even faster than the level of the lake.  Now’s your chance to make the ‘buy of the year.’  The water level may be low, but so are interest rates! 

“Enjoy this home’s fabulous inside features today.  Then, after the storm clouds pass, you’ll love outdoor lakeside living.  Bring your suntan lotion, water fins, jet ski, and party boat -- you’ll need them.”

Don’t Waste a Headline by Using the Street Address

Which headline is more likely to generate interest -- “7432 Johnson Drive” or “Just featured in Architectural Digest … yet only $750,000.”  Will a reader be more likely to want to know more about the latter rather than the former?

Don’t be afraid of long headlines or long copy.  If it’s good copy, it will be more effective than short copy.  Yes, really!  Ad research backs this up.  Do break long copy into short paragraphs and use sub-headlines to help tell the story.  Use long copy online, but format it so that it is reader friendly (bullets, numbers, copy indents and the like).  Obviously MLS descriptions have to be short.  But don’t use MLS blurbs elsewhere.


Effective marketing is part storytelling.  Your challenge is to find the stories in your listings and tell them well.  To adopt this approach, look for what makes your listing different, find a benefit in that difference, and then work to tell the home’s story in an interesting way.