How Pablo Escobar can help you sell NYC real estate

Brokers woo clients by sending out non-real estate information, from hippo videos to home décor tips

Sep.September 01, 2011 12:58 PM

Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar once owned a heard of hippos
This summer, real estate broker Amelia Gewirtz snail-mailed a thick sheath of papers to everyone on her contact list, including all of her former clients. But the missive wasn’t a market report. In fact, it wasn’t real estate-related at all — it was a printed list of free upcoming New York City events.

“Life can be hard, and I want to pass something on that makes me smile,” said Gewirtz, a Halstead Property executive vice president, who last year sent out a sample of music from the band she sings in, “Parents with Angst.”

Real estate brokers know it’s crucial to maintain strong client relationships, and in the past, many kept in touch by sending out market reports or the occasional postcard. These days, however, more and more brokers are sending mass communiqués on subjects not at all related to real estate — from recipes to YouTube videos — in order to get clients’ attention and connect on a more personal level.

Called “stealth marketing,” this technique is growing in popularity, said Burke Smith, a real estate marketing expert and founder of YourNetCoach. One reason is that with market statistics now plentiful on the web, homebuyers no longer rely on brokers for basic real estate information. “People can get that anywhere on the web if they want to,” Smith said.

So, brokers need to get creative. Instead of sending information on “New York City Real Estate,” for example, Smith suggests: “365 Things to Do in New York City.” This not only raises a broker’s visibility, but piques clients’ interest.

In the past, broker Steven Kopstein mailed out ordinary, real estate-related postcards to market his company, Steven Kopstein Real Estate. About four months ago, he changed his strategy. He started sending out a monthly e-newsletter containing a mix of real estate news and quirky links from around the Internet. In August, the most-clicked-on link in his newsletter was a video entitled “cocaine hippos,” featuring hippos in Colombia that once belonged to drug lord Pablo Escobar.

The newsletters are less expensive than postcards, and Kopstein estimated that they generate about 20 times as many responses. And he said he has never gotten a negative reaction — at least not yet.

“My own father actually unsubscribed,” he said. “But I like to think that was by accident.”

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