Us property marketeers, like most other business folk, like to know what’s around the corner, and plan accordingly. From a little spreadsheet with all the editorial features in national press titles, to the handy social media content calendar that sits on your desk, we like to plan – it’s often the key to our success.
In 2019, national events have made planning campaigns not only tricky but at times, neigh on impossible.
Not one, but two Brexit false alarms, a change of Prime Minister, a Prorogued Parliament, a World Cup win in the Cricket, a World Cup loss in the Rugby, and now a Christmas General Election. We really have had it all!
Back in January (prior to missed Brexit date Numero Uno!) we were advising our clients to keep advertising through the Brexit noise, albeit maybe dialling down national press and news radio advertising at the end of March so as to escape the Brexit headlines. With the cyclical nature of the UK housing market, the winter/spring market represents a key time for buying and selling homes and we couldn’t let the B-word get in the way!
"national events have made planning campaigns not only tricky but at times, neigh on impossible"
And here we are, now in November, with another Brexit date missed, and a new deadline of January 31st very helpfully sitting in the middle of our key winter/spring selling period AND a December General Election to plan for!
So, what’s the best way through this?
Our experience tells us that in the month leading up to a general election, property transactions drop. One of the UK’s biggest estate agency brands, Countrywide have said they see a drop-off in activity in the months leading up to General Elections and this is worrying for those of us who prize November as the last chance saloon for getting those last few reservations away before the close of the year.
A reason why activity slows is because buyers hesitate, waiting for news and policies that might impact their move. Will the rules on Stamp Duty change? Will there be new tax rules for second homeowners? And given many transactions happen as a result of probate, what about inheritance tax? These topics are all up for debate during elections and thanks to politicians making some very enticing policy promises, why would you move until you knew who was in government?
However, all is not lost, and there is a way forward.
The key lies in:
- Our choice of message/incentive
- Our choice of media placement
Let’s talk about the message first.
We know that for first time buyers, the two big financial hurdles during the process are deposit and Stamp Duty. Given Stamp Duty is normally a politically hot potato around the time of elections, why not proactively go big on Stamp Duty messages? If the developer is paying for your Stamp Duty, what does it matter if the likely winner of the election is looking to reduce it, or even increase it?
"with a pragmatic approach, the threat can become an opportunity"
Messaging should also drive urgency and reasons to buy now. If the wider narrative is built on uncertainty then it’s important that the messages we put out offer reassurance. We know that the long-term trend with homeownership is a positive one. Economies ebb and flow, but over the long term, your money really is as safe as houses. Zoopla data shows that in 1999, the average UK house price was £70,286. Now, in 2019, the average UK house price is £224,262. The long-term view is positive and this is a powerful message to communicate to our buyers.
In terms of our media activities, it makes sense to turbo-charge the ‘Always-on/Business as Usual’ digital activities. We know there is always demand from those who need to move. So ensuring maximum visibility across Google and the property portals like Zoopla and OntheMarket makes total sense.
When it comes to offline media placements, prioritise media that we know can change behaviour and perceptions. YouTube/VOD, print and radio are fantastic channels for doing just this and these should be considered as a tool for re-aligning the narrative to why buy a new home, and why buy a new home now.
The coming weeks and months are going to be challenging (to say the least!) but with a pragmatic approach, the threat can become an opportunity.
As Focus, we have all the pragmatism you need. We know what tools are right for marketing now and in the times ahead. So get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!