How Digital Ads Helped a Rookie Realtor Sell 100 Homes in 2 Years

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Thanks to RE Technology for sharing this story of success!

Kevin Johnson, the real estate agent who shut the door on open houses and uses adwerx advertising

Realtor Kevin Johnson has never held an open house, never mailed a postcard, and never door knocked–yet he’s closed nearly 100 homes since he started selling real estate in August of 2014.

“I’ve never done any of the things that all the training programs tell you that you should do,” Johnson says. “When I first got into real estate, I was like, why would I do that? The largest block of buyers is Millennials and they’re not going to open houses, they’re not checking their mail, right?”

Rather than rely on traditional real estate marketing practices, Johnson leverages a more modern form of lead generation to grow his business–digital advertising. He says that this method brings him three to four leads per day.

Johnson used digital advertising in his previous career in hospitality and was already familiar with its benefits. But it was serendipity that introduced him to the advertising tool that he uses in his real estate practice.

“When I came into real estate, Century 21 had just started their partnership with Adwerx,” he says. “I remember getting an email from Century 21 about it and thinking, ‘God, this is ridiculously cheap compared to what it takes to go out and hire a digital agency.’ So I started with them and it has worked out amazingly well.”

Lead Generation Success with Adwerx

So what is Adwerx, the tool that Johnson attributes his success to? Well, perhaps you’ve noticed that certain ads seem to follow you online. You visit a website once, and then you see that brand’s ad on various places across the web for days or weeks after. This is called retargeting and it’s one of the most effective forms of online advertising available today. Adwerx offers this kind of advertising to real estate pros.

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Adwerx offers four types of retargeting ad campaigns–listing ads, zip code-based branding ads, sphere ads, and agent recruitment ads for brokers. Johnson utilizes all four for different purposes, and estimates that he has a total of 10 to 12 different Adwerx campaigns running at any given moment.

“I use the zip code ads to generate initial interest in an area that I’m trying to farm,” he says.

Next, Johnson uses Adwerx sphere-of-influence campaign to target his database of 6,000 people. “I take my sphere campaign a step further by breaking up my database into buckets of buyers, sellers, and rent-to-own leads. Then I target those people with different ads and different calls-to-action based on which bucket I’ve put them in.” He updates the contact list he uses in his sphere campaigns every week, and adds tracking codes to the URLs so he can better measure his results, which, according to Johnson, “have been great.”

And though Johnson is mostly a buyer’s agent, “for the listings I have had, I’ve used the listing campaign, which is an awesome tool,” he says.

Johnson also recently started his own brokerage with United Real Estate, and has been using Adwerx’s recruiting ads to market to top performing agents in his area (see his sample ad below). The ads are targeted only to agents whose contact information Johnson uploads to the Adwerx platform.

Best Practices for Effective Campaigns

During our interview, we got Johnson to spill a few of the secrets he employs to get the most ROI out of his Adwerx campaigns. Here are his top tips.


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Keep an eye on your visuals and call-to-action. “This is so critical,” Johnson says. “Realize that your ad is going to appear on a website like CNN or MSNBC or Forbes where it’s going to blend with a lot of other things. So think about what color will make your ad pop yet not be offensive.”

Once your ad has caught the attention of a lead, it’s crucial that it tells the viewer then next step they should take–whether that’s checking out a listing, searching for homes on your website, or downloading a free buyer’s or seller’s guide. “Make sure that your ad sends consumers to a specific landing page–not the homepage on your site, but a clear, concise landing page that’s tailored to the ad’s call to action.”

Realize that your landing pages are the difference between success and failure. Is your ad getting clicks but no leads? That may be a sign that “your landing page sucks,” according to Johnson. “Your landing page should allow visitors to do only one thing–and that’s give you their email address.”

Johnson uses a psychological design trick to help make sure this happens. “On my landing pages, I’ve removed the navigation on the top and the bottom so literally the only thing you can do is sign up or search for homes.”

As we mentioned above, Johnson sends consumers who click on his ads to a landing page tailored to that specific ad’s call-to-action. “My ‘search homes’ ad takes them to the IDX sign-up form, so they actually have to sign up to search homes on my website,” he says. Another landing page offers bullets summarizing his rent-to-own program and a short form that leads can fill out to see if they’re qualified. “It’s little things like that–download my seller guide, download the buyer guide, etc.–that make all the difference.”

For landing pages that offer a free download, Johnson recommends displaying a message after leads submit their information that tells them to check their email for a download link. “That way, you know you’re getting a valid email,” he says. “If you just say, ‘Okay, great, here’s a download now,’ there’s no incentive for them to give you a correct email address.”

Johnson says it doesn’t matter to him whether or not he can get a lead to respond to an email. His main purpose in collecting email addresses is being able to remarket to them via Adwerx sphere ads in the future. “I have a separate sphere ad campaign running just for people who downloaded the buyer guide.”

Periodically update your ads to optimize performance. Johnson scrutinizes his ads after a month. “Am I getting the right clicks to impression ratio that I want to see?” he asks. “If not, I need to tweak my ad, and keep tweaking it until it works. And I refresh them; it helps a lot.”

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Johnson has simple advice to agents and broker who may be considering Adwerx for lead generation: Just do it.

“It’s the easiest thing ever,” he says. “In all seriousness, you can’t afford not to do it. Think about running one Adwerx campaign. It’s 10,000 impressions per month. Can you, for that $50, $60, or $70 per month that it costs, mail that many postcards out? You can’t, that’s the answer. Even if you could, there’s no way to track anything. With Adwerx, you can track your messaging instantly.”

But perhaps the most profitable thing that Adwerx does for agents is increase the visibility and prestige of their personal brand at an affordable price point. “I had someone at Starbucks just a couple of weeks ago, go ‘You’re Kevin Johnson, right?’ I’ve seen your ads. You’re always on CNN. You must be really successful to be able to advertise on CNN.com,'” Johnson says, laughing. “I said, ‘Why, yes, I am.’

“A lot of people think that running your Adwerx campaigns on sites like CNN is really expensive, so that adds to your stature as an agent.”

Johnson says that Adwerx is a 24/7 reminder to your audience of who you are. Even if a prospect is not ready to buy now, that consistent exposure to you and your brand will ensure that you’re top of mind when the time comes for them to choose a Realtor.

“That’s truly the key to it,” says Johnson. “If you want to capture mindshare, stay top of mind. I was top of mind with that gentleman at Starbucks. He saw my face, my face was in my ad, and he knew who I was because he sees me on CNN all the time.”

Johnson has one final piece of advice for his fellow agents: “If you want to be successful in the future, you cannot do what agents have done all these years. Rick Davis at Century 21 said that the next super agent wasn’t in our business two years ago. And the reason being is that they’re not hindered by the rearview mirror. They don’t know how it’s supposed to be done. They’re going to go out and chart new paths, and it’s going to be successful,” he says. “And that’s what I’ve tried to do. If I want to stand out, if I want to be above average in my income, I can’t do what everyone else is doing. I’ve got to make my own swim lane and do my own thing–and Adwerx has helped me do just that.”

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