In the past few years, in an effort to build and maintain strong personal brands, attract new clients, and differentiate from local competitors, more real estate agents have taken up blogging than ever before. As it has been for many other industries and businesses, blogging can be an incredibly useful tool for real estate agents looking to make their presence known in the online space. The problem is, blogging on its own doesn’t necessarily lead to more clients and business growth. In order to see actual ROI, you can’t just publish words on a page week after week. You have to be more strategic. That’s where content marketing comes into play. When you invest your time and money into blogging, you’re focusing primarily on the act of creating and publishing original content on your website on a regular basis. When you invest your time and money into content marketing, you’re focusing on providing value in an effort to attract prospects, capture and nurture leads, and acquire new customers. Although many use the two terms synonymously, they are very different. So the question is, if the act of blogging itself doesn’t help you land more clients and grow your real estate business, what can you do to become an effective content marketer and start seeing more ROI? Here are 7 tips to help get you on the right track: 1. DON’T SELL HOUSES, SELL EXPERIENCES The first thing you need to understand in order to leverage content marketing effectively as a real estate agent is this: you aren’t in the business of selling houses—you’re in the business of selling experiences. People don’t get excited about a new house—they get excited about what a new housemeans for them and their family. Understanding this concept is a crucial part of being able to use content marketing to differentiate from competitors and attract more clients. When you focus on selling experiences instead of houses, it allows you to write about topics that people can relate to as opposed to writing about topics that you think they should care about as homebuyers. The best example of this kind of thinking comes from Movoto—one of the most popular consumer-based real estate blogs on the internet. Instead of sharing home buying FAQ blog posts and real estate industry news updates on their blog, they focus instead on experiences. To see this strategy in action, take a look at the following blog posts and notice how they’re all focused on experiences: This Awesome Portland Oregon Time Lapse Will Make You Want To Move There 30 Best Free Things To Do In Portland 21 Ways To Survive In Portland On A Budget When you focus on selling experiences rather than selling houses, you become more than another real estate agent: you become a trusted and sought after community advocate. 2. BECOME A BROADER RESOURCE In order to get more ROI out of the time and money you put into content marketing, you have to be able to build a large and loyal audience of readers and followers who can help you promote your blog posts to more people outside of your network. The best and easiest way to do it is to use your blog as a way to leverage yourself as a broader resource for would-be homebuyers. To become a broader resource means to write blog posts that cover topics outside of what every other agent is writing about. For example, instead of writing blog posts on topics that relate to buying and selling homes or trends and changes in the real estate industry, you could start to position yourself as a broader resource by writing blog posts on the following topics: How to help children manage moving to a new school district How to meet friends as an adult in a new city Organization hacks for homes with limited storage space The costs associated with maintaining an outdoor pool or hot tub How to become a more active citizen of a local community Becoming a broader resource will ultimately help you strengthen your personal brand as an agent, get your content in front of new audiences, and connect with more people who could use your help now or sometime in the near future. 3. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS To be an effective content marketer, one has to be willing to adopt and use tools that can help standardize processes, automate tasks, and scale what works. The same is true for any real estate agent hoping to get more ROI out of content marketing. If you’re doing everything manually on your own—from ideation and blog post creation, to sharing on social media and emailing out to your contacts—you have to ultimately accept that what you’re doing is simply not scalable. Eventually you’re going to get to the point where you can’t do it all on your own, and that’s where tools will help you. In my experience, it’s best to try to adopt tools and figure out how to use them before you’re desperate for them. With that in mind, here are 6 tools worth looking into now to help you build a sustainable content marketing program that boosts productivity and yields results: Facebook Ads – Use this tool to promote your content. It’s easy to use, inexpensive, and pretty effective. For help getting started, read this post by Eric Siu of Growth Everywhere. Trello – Use this tool to manage the content creation process from idea to completion. This will come in handy as you add more writers to your team. Buzzsumo – Use this tool to come up with better blog post ideas. CoSchedule – Use this tool to build your content editorial calendar and to write social media updates that promote your new blog posts. Grammarly – Use this tool to write better blog posts and to spend less time editing blog posts from other writers. ContentMarketer.io – Use this tool to connect with and nurture relationships with influencers who can help you spread the word about your content. These are just a handful of tools that you can use to scale your efforts, butthere are many more out there. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is pick tools that help you focus less time on tedious tasks and more time on strategy. 4. GO BEYOND THE BLOG POST As mentioned above, it’s not enough to simply publish new blog posts on your website anymore. In order to stand out and differentiate as a real estate agent in your community, you have to go above and beyond to provide more value to your readers and prospective clients. That means spending your time, energy, and money developing additional resources that you can include in blog posts and give away for free, such as: Helpful checklists and worksheets (like this one from HGTV) Videos or slide decks Free email courses Tools (like this one from Zillow) The best way to offer these value-add resources is by giving them away for free to your readers in exchange for their email address. The most popular and effective way to do this is by including content upgrade offers in your blog posts. To learn everything you need to know about content upgrade offers (what they are, how they work, how to add them to your blog), read this helpful blog post from LeadPages. 5. LEVERAGE YOUR EXISTING NETWORK One of the easiest ways to get more ROI from your content marketing efforts is to simply ask the people you know to help you spread the word whenever you have a new blog post that goes live. It seems simple, but it’s amazing how few content marketers actually take the time to ask their friends, colleagues, business partners, and family members for help when it comes time to promote content. As an agent, you can get more ROI out of your content and spread it further into new audiences by building your own content promotion army. These are loyal and former clients and advocates of yours who would be more than willing to help you if you took the time to ask. The easiest way to do this is to simply send emails or LinkedIn messages to people you know well asking them to help share your latest blog post with their online community. The trick here is to be authentic with your emails—you can’t send one mass email to everyone and ask for help. You have to nurture relationships 1-on-1, and that means sending authentic, well-thought-out emails. That being said, there are tools out there (like ContentMarketer.io) that can help automate parts of the outreach process. 6. COLLECT EMAILS AND USE THEM Another simple tactic you can implement to get more ROI from content marketing is to collect email addresses from people who land on your blog. The goal here is to capture email addresses and, once you have those email addresses, make an effort to nurture relationships through email in order to qualify people who could be potential clients now or down the road. Email is one of the most direct forms of communication you can have with potential buyers (second to our app), so it’s a great channel to invest in when it comes to content marketing. SumoMe is one of the easiest and best tools to use to collect email addresses on your blog. You can install it on your blog and push it live in a matter of minutes. There are a number of opt-in forms you can choose from within SumoMe, but I recommend starting with the Welcome Mat. As soon as you’ve started collecting emails, you need to actually do something with them—so make sure you have an email nurturing plan in place. For example, you could loop them into your blog RSS feed and send them emails each time you publish a new blog post. Or, you could loop them into a free email drip course about buying or selling homes using a tool likeDrip. The key is to not let the emails you collect go to waste—the people who opt-in to receive updates from you are likely your warmest leads! The best thing you can do is continue to provide them with value and build trust so that they think of you when they’re in need of an agent. 7. SET GOALS AND TRACK PROGRESS The final tip you should implement in order to boost content marketing ROI as an agent is to set clear goals and track progress along the way. You can test different topics and different tactics on your blog all day long, but if you’re not tracking or setting goals to work against, you’re not learning anything or getting ahead at all. Think about the short-term and long-term goals you want to set for your real estate business. Do you want to use content marketing to drive traffic? To boost your personal brand? To capture more emails? Convert more blog visitors into clients? Whatever your goals may be, make sure you’re taking the time to clearly define them and assign milestones or metrics that allow you to track progress along the way. For more help on this topic, read this blog post from the Content Marketing Institute. William Harris is the CEO & Growth Marketer of Elumynt, LLC., VP of Marketing and Growth for a top 700 online retailer and former head of Marketing for When I Work, a VC backed SaaS company. William is also a contributor to leading publications like The Next Web, Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today, and Sellbrite and a speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, search engine optimization, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding. Follow William on Twitter (@WmHarris101), LinkedIn, and Google+.