Why Your Advertising Never Works (And What to Do About It)

Has this ever happened to you?

You spend the weekend hunched over your computer writing and designing a postcard to announce a new listing. On Monday, you spend one hundred dollars to print the postcards. On Tuesday, you spend an additional fifty to mail them.

But nothing happens. What gives?

The Reason Your Advertising Doesn’t Work

The reason your advertising doesn’t work–whether it’s a billboard or email newsletter or postcard mailing–is simple: you never test.

Testing, especially for you DIY real estate marketers, is critical if you want to find out what works. And make it even better.

But all good tests start at the same place: a good test strategy. You must know where you are going before you begin the trip. And to do that, you must ask the right questions. Otherwise, at the end of the test, you are lost in an ocean of data.

To avoid that conundrum and to stop wasting your time and money, follow these four critical ways to test.


Creative tests involve experiments with the copy, cover treatments, envelope size and envelope copy. These tests tend to be the easiest to conduct. And offer a popular way to increase response.

A common test is to write two entirely different pieces of copy. One uses fear and the other uses pride. And the whole reason you went after these two emotions is because you’ve studied your prospect and profiled him. (Remember, writing is one of the best skills you can practice and hone.)

Another common, easy creative test is envelope copy. Try one envelope with a teaser like, “You will never sell your home, unless…” and the other envelope with no copy at all. If you find out the teaser copy pulled in more response, then roll it out to the rest of your list.

Or test and refine the teaser copy. Your call.


Most real estate marketers go after offer tests after they’ve tinkered with the creative. These tests involve promotions–or a combination of promotions–to increase response.

An example of differing offers can be as simple as “Sign with me and I’ll let you use my moving van” or “Sign with me and I’ll pay your moving costs.” You’re looking for what motivates people–service or money.

Offer tests help you understand what drives response and are an efficient way to work your list of prospects.

One thing to watch out for when conducting an offer test: make sure you account for the full cost of the test. Examine how the test impacts your profit and loss in the long run. That means don’t forget to include all costs for owning a moving van, if that’s your offer.

Timing and Frequency

Another big question real estate marketers like you need to ask is “When and how often should I mail/email/advertise/etc.?”

The answer to that question will help you to determine if an aggressive pay-per-click campaign or ad placement does better in getting more customers for a small investment. Or it will give you the value of an incremental mailing.

Do you get more response when you send out an email on Monday morning or Monday evening? Do you get more response when you email them twice a week for three months or once a week for six months?

Those are the kinds of questions you need to ask.

Keep in mind, you need to wait to the end tests before making a judgment on your test. Especially when it comes to long-term tests. If your incremental mailing is six months, wait six months.


Testing lists is a basic must-have in your marketing plan if you want to acquire new prospects and clients. But the questions you need to ask aren’t as cut-and-dry as the previous tests. You’ll need to think deep on this.

For example, which zip code responds better to an appeal on prestige, success or fear? What neighborhood will accept a flat-out advertisement versus a more editorial style advertisement?

However, investing time in figuring out the right questions to ask will reward you well. In addition, you must experiment with just a portion of a list until you find the right combo of other factors. Once you do, then roll it out to the rest of the list.


Asking the right questions is the key to effective testing. And once you find out which list responds to the right copy, creative and offer you’ll become a rock-star real estate marketer.

Did you find this article useful? If so, leave a comment. And if you like what you read, subscribe to the Real Estate Marketing Blog.

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