Sale and letting board bans highlight why agents should focus on digital marketing

As more local authorities consider banning For Sale and To Let boards, estate agents should consider using their board budget on more effective digital marketing strategies.

The call comes from free-to-list property portal Residential People, which says that as well as potentially more bans, many consumers are becoming increasingly disillusioned with advertising boards.

Despite being an effective market tool for many years, boards are arguably less effective in a modern property market where consumer behaviour continues to shift towards digital solutions.

At the same time, more local councils are looking to ban boards in certain areas following consumer complaints.

The issue of boards became a hot topic again recently as Camden Council urged the government to back its request for a borough-wide Section 7 direction which would see all boards banned unless planning consent is secured.

The London authority described boards as ‘clutter’ and ‘free advertising’, reporting that it has received over 1,000 complaints about boards from residents over the last five years.

“In areas where boards are banned, the decision for agents is already made and they can use the additional marketing budget to focus on innovative digital strategies,” says Christopher May, Director of Residential People and its sister site Commercial People.

“However, forward-thinking firms who are still able to erect boards should seriously think about reducing their use of boards.”

Residential People argues that a digital-focused campaign can provide agents with a more rounded and effective marketing strategy.

The portal’s research shows that in 1997 when the UK’s first portal Propertyfinder was launched, only 7.39% of the UK’s population used the internet, whereas 56.48% of the population used the internet when Rightmove launched in 2002. Fast forward to 2016 and 94.78% of the UK population used the internet.

Moreover, the internet is no longer reserved for younger generations, with the proportion of 65-74 year-olds going online regularly rising from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019.

“Agents have an exponentially greater market of all demographics to target than ever before via portals and other online marketing methods, from first-time buyers and second-steppers to landlords and downsizers,” says May.

“Digital marketing allows agents to track results effectively and then shift spend, approach or messaging accordingly to get the most out of their budget,” May explains.

“For Sale and To Let boards may be good for brand awareness, but unlike online marketing, boards less likely to generate leads beyond the local area.”

“Marketing your agency via videos, online brochures, featured property advertising and microsites can enhance your brand recognition and promote awareness of your available properties with the right audience,” says May.

“Despite the growing influence of video marketing, our research of over 3,000 agency websites found that 7 out of 10 firms do not use video or promote a corporate YouTube channel.”

Residential People adds that the influence of social media platforms continues to grow for agents looking to engage with a large audience of consumers.

According to ‘Our World in Data’, two-thirds of 3.5 billion internet users worldwide are active on social media.

“Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are ripe for agents’ promotional campaigns and can help them to generate leads for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising,” May adds.

“A holistic digital approach can help agents to be more targeted to specific areas and audiences, while also taking advantage of the millennial market which is made up of the buyers of today and the sellers and landlords of tomorrow,” he concludes.