How we used savvy audience targeting to save two floundering real estate marketing campaigns

Client Story: Bringing Luxury and Affordability to Nanaimo

As a property developer, our client envisioned reshaping the landscape of Nanaimo, BC with two landmark projects. One – a soaring waterfront jewel in the heart of the city’s downtown core (Development A); and the other – a slice of modern, attainable living for first-time home buyers located a stone’s throw from Nanaimo’s vibrant University District (Development B).

But what began as a straightforward path quickly became one that was filled with obstacles. The provincial government introduced a foreign home buyers tax that dampened the real estate market, local residents expressed opposition to the developments, and the cost of building materials skyrocketed.

Attempting to overcome these challenges, the developer initially sought out the services of another digital marketing agency, but the desired results never materialized.

With no buildings and little interest, the property developer was in dire straits.


1. Build Local Consumer Awareness

As real estate interest from abroad waned, we needed to drive local interest in each development. Since each development had its own audience and positioning, that meant creating separate awareness campaigns for each one, then delivering consistent messaging that would resonate with each development’s target market.

2. Convert Awareness Into Unit Sales

Building awareness was only the start – once we’d generated interest in the developments, then came the challenging task of converting that interest into sales leads. To do that, our focus shifted to using a selection of digital channels to gradually nurture our target audience along the path to conversion.

3. Address Concerns from Local Residents

While most external factors were beyond our control, there was one factor we could address: the attitudes of local residents who saw the new developments as unwanted fixtures that would damage the character of their communities. Using social media, we would need to moderate the conversations around our developments and shift them in a positive direction.

Real Estate Marketing: What We Did

It Starts with a Single Question

All of our efforts were guided by one question: why would someone choose to live in this development? That simple reflection helped us understand who our target audiences were, how the developments would appeal to them, and which channels we could use to reach them. From there, we were able to focus on driving awareness and conversions. For instance – by knowing who our audiences were – we recognized that Facebook would be a better platform for Development A to generate leads, while a display campaign would more effectively produce leads for Development B.

We weren’t trying to sell people on square footage or amenities. We were planting ideas: an indulgent and picturesque waterfront living; the realized dream of home ownership in a young, exciting community; those ideas were nurtured into the leads our client wanted.

1. Develop Websites that Sell a Lifestyle

When we jumped onboard with these developments, Development A already had a website, but it wasn’t living up to its luxury positioning. Development B didn’t have a website at all. We enhanced Development A’s website with immersive virtual viewings, while building a user friendly, on-brand website that helped Development B communicate its image and values.

2. Bring in Cost-Effective Leads

Armed with a solid understanding of who our target audiences were, we put our marketing chops to work, using email marketing, display ads, and paid social advertising to generate cost-effective leads.

3. Guide the Conversation

By monitoring social media and responding to critical comments with positivity and understanding, we were able to directly address residents’ concerns and limit the spread of negative views towards the developments.

The Results

So Close, Yet So Far

This is a self-published case study, so surely that means the project was a resounding success and everyone lived happily ever after, right?

Well…not so much. Despite our best efforts from a marketing standpoint, construction costs continued to rise to the point that continuing with the projects no longer made financial sense for the property developer, leading to the cancellation of both developments.

But as disappointing as that ultimately was, it doesn’t detract from the results that we achieved. At the beginning of our engagement with the client, we set out to bring awareness to their projects and funnel in sales leads, and – as the numbers bear out – that’s precisely what we did.

Success by the Numbers

Despite a very tepid real estate market in 2018 and 2019, our efforts generated 3,155,933 impressions for Development A and 2,823,259 impressions for Development B. For the former, those impressions turned into nearly 1000 sales leads, while the latter obtained just over 1300 sales leads. Compared to the previous agency, that represented a 43% increase in leads.

But we didn’t simply splash the cash to pull in leads – we did it efficiently. We can say that thanks to Wordstream’s cost-per-click data for 2018/19, which tells us that the average cost per click in the real estate industry was $1.81 on Facebook and $2.37 on Google.

By comparison, our costs were $0.74 and $0.29 per click on Facebook and Google, respectively, for Development A, along with costs per click of $0.43 per click on Facebook and $0.44 on Google for Development B.

Development A




Sales Leads


Facebook Cost Per Click
($1.81 average cost per click)


Google Cost Per Click
($2.37 average cost per click)
Development B




Sales Leads


Facebook Cost Per Click
($1.81 average cost per click)


Google Cost Per Click
($2.37 average cost per click)
Overall Increase in Leads


Reflection: It’s All About The Process

Following the ElementIQ tradition of drawing parallels with the world of sports, this project evokes the type of game where a team makes all the right decisions, executes the right plays at the right time, but still loses the game because the referee blows a call.

Even though we didn’t have the satisfaction of marketing these developments to completion, there’s still a lot we were able to learn from the process.

Some key takeaways:
1. Plan for the future

Working on these projects helped reinforce the importance of optics management why it’s important to anticipate and plan for community impact in a marketing strategy.
2. Identifying issues

External forces had a severe impact here, and we need to understand how we can do a better job of identifying such issues prior to engaging with a client.
3. Strong approach

Strong performance numbers validated our team’s processes. It wasn’t the end result we wanted, but we can be confident in our approach on future real estate projects.

Work with us.

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