Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

Real estate is a business involving mountains of money. It’s also a business in crisis. Put these together and it means ka-ching if you know how to make the phone ring for realtors.

1209-MemoYou ought not be surprised that I know how to make phones ring. What should surprise you is that I’m willing to tell you… for free.

Here’s how to Make Magic in real estate:

1. Ask the realtor to show you an unusual house. More often than not, you’ll want the house to be in the price range an average person could afford.

2. What makes this house quirky or weird or memorable isn’t really important. What matters is that it has something distinctive about it.

3. Visit the house. Ponder the distinctive feature until it triggers the memory of a cultural icon.

4. Pull the icon into your ad copy. Radio works best, but this technique also works well in newspaper classifieds.

5. Always mention the price of the house.

6. Never mention the square footage, the number of bedrooms, or the address.

Let’s say it’s a white, frame house with a front porch, the kind that blanketed America during the first half of the 20th century. Older parts of every town are littered with these. The only thing this house has going for it is a giant tree in the front yard.

ANOUNCER: Telling your friends how to find your new house will be easy.

FEMALE ON PHONE: “We’re the house with the giant tree in the yard. You can’t miss us.”

ANNOUNCER: That big tree is begging for a tire swing. Will yours be the family that finally hangs one from that massive branch? Add a white picket fence and it’s the house of Tom Sawyer. Here comes Becky Thatcher down the sidewalk. This is the house of a Norman Rockwell image. In a minute you’ll see Andy and Barney cruise past in the patrol car. Aunt Bee is making a pie in the kitchen. This is a house for celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. A home to come home to. And just two hundred and nine thousand dollars makes it yours. Want to see it? Call Kathryn Nelson at 555-5555. She’s not one of those big hair, lots-of-jewelry realtors. She’s regular people.

REALTOR: Kathryn Nelson. Small hair, modest jewelry. 555-5555

 Okay, that was easy. Let’s try again. This time it’s a house begging for a remodel. The appliances are a weird color, the sinks and bathtubs are pink porcelain and the bathroom tile is checkerboard black and white. The light fixtures are strange.

ANNOUNCER: Did you ever see Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Distinctive. Avant-guarde. Sophisticated. Straight out of The New Yorker magazine. This is the house of Holly Golightly. Ridiculously retro. Definitely not for everyone. But absolutely adorable. And it has a driveway built for a sportscar. There’s only one and this is it. Two hundred and twenty-nine thousand. And the shrubbery! I’m not even going to try to describe it. Listed by Harvey Rich Realtors, of course. Harvey Rich has all the interesting houses.

REALTOR: Boring houses are for boring people. Harvey Rich has interesting houses. And I’d love to show you this one. 555-5555 Harvey Rich.

Now let me make this clear: The goal is to make the phone ring. Whether or not the caller buys the advertised house is unimportant. The realtor just wants to meet folks who are thinking of moving. He or she wants a shot at listing their current home. If the respondent doesn’t like the home you featured, the realtor will happily drive them to see some other ones.

 NOTE: If you yield to temptation and add any of the typical “3 bedroom, two bath” real estate language, it’ll kill response deader than a bag of hammers.

 The Cognoscenti will recognize this technique as a variation of Being Perfectly Robert Frank: 1. Selected Details. 2. Interesting Angle. 3. What to Leave Out.

This is a Wizard of Ads signature technique. Consequently, it requires an advertiser bold enough to believe that every other realtor is doing it wrong. These people are harder to find than you think. Most advertisers secretly believe in conformity to the norm.

Jason Embleton is a Cognoscenti graduate of Wizard Academy and a used car dealer. Here are a couple of radio ads Jason wrote recently:

A Chevy pick-up with a sunroof. Four doors. And the back seat along with the wall behind it folds down to create the longest, roomiest cargo space of any vehicle on the road. Yours for $19,995. It’s the Swiss Army knife of trucks. Jet black with dove grey leather. It’s a weird, cool truck for a weird, cool person. See it for yourself at Embleton Auto, where the only pressure is in the tires.

Recognize the technique?

It’s a car you’ll want to drive forever. Just nineteen thousand, nine hundred dollars. A limited-edition Mini-Cooper with a factory-supercharged BMW engine. Black with a charcoal hood scoop and wrap-around racing stripes. Six speed transmission. It doesn’t just look fast. It’s a bullet-on-wheels that corners like a Formula One racecar. See it for yourself at Embleton Auto, where the only pressure is in the tires.

Keep in mind that no one is looking for a realtor. Everyone is looking for a house. And no one is looking for a used car dealer. Everyone is looking for a car.

 My mother taught me this ad-writing technique when I was thirteen. My dog’s accidental puppies were ready to wean when this ad appeared in the paper: Authentic Precious Pearl puppies. Free to good homes. 555-5555


“What kind of dog is a Precious Pearl?”

After we got through telling them all about Pearl, our dog, every caller wanted a puppy.

The secret is knowing how to make the phone ring. And now you know how.

 Aloha and Aroo.