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What Whitey Bulger’s capture can teach Realtors

Whitey Bulger evaded the FBI for years until the agency tried a novel approach: A targeted public outreach campaign. Knowing that Bulger’s girlfriend, Catherine Greig, had a penchant for beauty treatments, the FBI sought to reach out to a female audience, hoping someone might spot her at a salon. They began running public service announcements on daytime TV shows, including “The View” and “Live with Regis & Kelly.” Days later, Bulger and Greig were captured.

As a marketer, I had to appreciate the FBI’s creative approach to reaching the right demographic. This is a common marketing technique in many industries. After all, the challenge of any marketer is to make sure their promotions reach the right audience who is likely to be interested in what they’re offering. Whether they’re marketing a lawnmower or a Lexus, they need to target their marketing efforts to those people most likely to buy.

That’s why before a company begins marketing a product or service, they build a “profile” of their target audience. If they’re selling high-end running shoes, their ideal target market may be young, affluent, athletic people, but they need to know more than that. Starting with this information, they’ll then conduct research to determine not only how to reach that specific demographic but who from that demographic might respond most favorably to their specific brand. This increases the odds that their marketing campaigns will succeed.

Oddly, this technique isn’t used very often in real estate. Marketing outreach tends to include postcard mailers to neighboring homes and ads in home magazines. While these marketing channels do have merit, they should be augmented with more targeted marketing efforts. In a tough housing market, one-size-fits-all marketing is not enough. Real estate agents need a more finely tuned approach to marketing. This way, they’ll have a much better shot at gaining the attention of those buyers the home listing will most likely appeal to.

After all, there’s a wealth of demographic data available to us, and this can be used to personalize marketing campaigns—reaching those individuals most apt to be interested in them. There are even software companies that help marketers make accurate projections of future consumer actions, based on individual behaviors and lifestyles. These software tools help everyone from retailers to car manufacturers reach those consumers who are most likely to be qualified and interested to buy their products.

Using publicly available data sources and self-reported information, the software firms help companies hone in on their target market. Many of these predictive software tools use complex models involving thousands of data points, such as occupations, stated income, current home values, previous buying patterns and more. Culling this data across millions of households helps them make predictions about which households would be most interested in what they’re offering.

These predictive software tools are certainly not an exact science, but they’re an intriguing way to look at home marketing campaigns. If, for example, you were marketing a waterfront home in Hopkinton, it would be valuable to have a way to reach potential home buyers who a) work nearby, b) can afford the home, c) own a boat or subscribe to boating magazines. That’s really a very general example, but it provides a hint at the great possibilities ahead of us for swiftly identifying qualified home buyers.

This can be quite beneficial for those selling a home. As any home seller can attest, having your home on the market can be a trying experience. Constantly keeping the house in show condition and rearranging your schedule for home showings is no fun. If real estate agents can use targeted marketing to shorten the timeframe for identifying the right buyer, this can help make selling your home a more positive experience.

We may not be catching a fugitive, but we can use these techniques to capture that elusive home buyer.

Have a real estate question? Contact Kyle Mann to learn more about selling your home in the Boston suburbs. Mann is a Realtor with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty.