The 3 step real estate sales funnel: how to build a lead generation system

Welcome to our three part series on running digital advertising campaigns that get you more listings! Branding campaigns (campaigns that advertise your agents or your agency) are an important part of your agency’s long term marketing strategy. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Part 1: what the real estate marketing funnel looks like, the goal of targeting prospects at each stage of the real estate funnel and some ad ideas to get you started;

Part 2: the subject matter that’s going to have the biggest impact on your audience at each stage of their journey and some campaign ideas to try; and

Part 3: our top tips for running branding campaigns that leave a long-term impression in the minds of your audience.

At the end of this series, you will have a repeatable process you can use to effortlessly generate and nurture prospects into leads and referrers. It’s about working smarter, not harder.

So, let’s get started.

Why (and when) you should advertise yourself, in a nutshell

There are some obvious peripheral benefits of vendor paid advertising for your brand. Any publicity is good publicity and all that. However, most people who read your listing ads, letterbox drops and other listing marketing efforts are buyers. So, naturally, their focus is on the listing and not the brand selling the listing.

If VPA is all the advertising you do, you’re banking on buyers remembering your name when it comes time for them to sell in 5, 7 or 10 years…

In order to build brand awareness and make sure buyers eventually come back as sellers (more particularly your sellers), you need to run campaigns that promote your agency and agents in a way that is most relevant to your clients at their specific stage of the property journey. Read on for your primer on the real estate marketing funnel.

The 3-step real estate sales funnel

A ‘funnel’ is a framework for placing potential customers or audiences in a hierarchy, defined by their personal needs at each stage of their journey towards working with you as well as the length of time between when you’re marketing to them and when they’ll need your services.

The concept is quite old. It was first proposed in the book Bond Salesmanship by William W. Townsend, in 1924. He described it as:

“the forcing by compression of a broad and general concept of facts through a funnel which produces the specific and favo(u)rable consideration of one fact.”

Broadly, the idea is that you can move a person from the awareness stage (when they initially learn about the existence of your services), to the consideration stage (where they consider your services as an option), through to the decision stage (when they decide to use your services, over another agent’s). It looks like this:

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Source: Britannia Press
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When it comes to real estate, the funnel is a long one. It takes about five months, on average, for a homeowner to decide that they want to sell their home. To make sure they think of your name when it’s time to sell, you need to be targeting them at every stage of the funnel.

Advertising without the funnel context results in ads that are:

X less effective (i.e. more costly)
X poorly planned, with no clear overall strategy
X not targeted on any one area of the sales funnel

Usually, what happens to agencies who ignore this context is that they only target the bottom of the funnel, where the hot leads live. This means they’re competing with every other real estate agent and their dog for the same leads.

In this blog post, we’re going to outline the objective of each stage of the real estate sales funnel and give you real concrete examples of the messaging, targeting and ad content you could use to move your audience to the next stage, and the next, until they invite you for a listing presentation.

Top of the funnel: Dreaming stage

The people in this part of the funnel are the furthest away from becoming a seller lead. Perhaps they don’t have enough equity in their home to sell now, or maybe they are waiting for their kids to move out of the house before pulling up stumps. Whatever the reason, it’s going to be some time before they seek out your services.

The goal of advertising to these people is to create awareness (and eventually, build trust and familiarity) that will increase demand and grow leads lower in the funnel, at a later point. By the time they’re ready to sell, your audience should feel as if they already know you.

Traditional tactics to target people in this stage of the funnel include garage sales, food drives and the like. The modern day tactic is a branding campaign, designed to get your image and brand in front of your audience on a consistent basis. Think hyper-local competitions and giveaways.

Here are the channels, ad content, targeting methods and budget you should be using at this stage.


Awareness is built by multiple touchpoints. It’s crucial that the people in this part of the funnel receive a unified, relevant message across multiple channels: Facebook, Instagram and the Google Display Network. You could direct these ads to click through to your website homepage or About Me.

Ad content:

Here’s an example of a Facebook ad you could create, targeted at sellers in the dreaming stage, to boost your brand awareness.

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Because the people in this stage of the funnel aren’t currently looking to sell, they’re probably not giving any indicators you can use to target them specifically. So, keep it broad and target these ads specifically at the local neighbourhoods you are farming.


Your budget could be as low as $150 per month, so long as the campaign is ongoing. Consistency is key — people will likely need to see your ads a few times before they remember your name.

Middle of the funnel: Research stage

The people in this section are closer to potentially becoming a lead. Perhaps it would just take a special opportunity or situation to get them to act. For example, they may sell if they found out that the value of their home was greater than they thought, so they have enough equity to upsize.

The goal of advertising to these people is to keep your brand top of mind. You do that by increasing traffic to your website, and then nurturing those leads into potential prospects via retargeting while constantly delivering value (without asking anything in return).


Again, it’s important to keep a multichannel approach: Facebook, Instagram and the Google Display Network.

You could direct these ads to click through to a market update on your blog or your testimonial page, as your audience is already familiar with your brand.

Ad content:

Here’s an example of an Instagram ad you could create, targeted at sellers in the research stage, to keep your brand (and services) top of mind.

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Again, your farm at a minimum. But this where you can start getting smart, and target people based on their online behaviour. Then, retarget them with more, different ads. This is key. Retargeting keeps your brand in front of your prospects, even if they don’t read your emails or come back to your site.


Your budget for campaigns targeting this level of the funnel should be higher, because these are lead acquisition ads. Some digital gurus suggest $400 a month, but it’s completely up to you. You can always change it later!

Bottom of the funnel: In the market

The people at the bottom of the funnel, the smallest section, are actively looking to sell; they are ready to act now and need an agent.

The goal here is to capture hot seller leads. It’s where all your hard work targeting the top and middle of the funnel pays off!


If you use one of Spoke’s suggested campaign budgets, your ad spend will be split evenly across the Google Display Network and Facebook / Instagram networks.

However, you also have the option to set a custom budget. This functionality allows you to not only scale your budget, but also to set a specific budget for each network. For example, if you’ve run a few Spoke campaigns and noticed that your Facebook or Instagram ads perform better than your Google Display Network ads, this may indicate that your audience are avid social media users. So, you may want to create a custom package that includes a higher spend for Facebook ads.

Ad content:

Here’s an example of some Google Display Network ads you could create, targeted at sellers in the decision stage, to help you win the listing.

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You should target people whose online activity shows they’re ready to sell. Spoke’s smart categories do this for you! Just tick the ‘Sellers’ category when setting up your ads.

Suggested budget:

You’re trying to capture real leads here, so your budget for these campaigns should be higher again than campaigns targeting the middle and top of the funnel. Larger budgets drive better results. How much are you paying for a lead through the portals? How much do you think one genuine hot seller lead is worth?

Perhaps you’re wondering why we haven’t mentioned frequency or duration. Well, how long you should run your branding campaigns for is up to you. It makes sense to run branding campaigns until you start seeing results (i.e. an improvement in the number of properties you’re listing) or until you reach market saturation. However, as a general rule, you should always have a branding campaign running. Just make sure to change your ad copy and images at least once a month, so your audience doesn’t get bored of your ads and stop paying attention.

This funnel is meant to be repeatable. Once you have things set up, you can use the same tools, tech, and strategies again and again. However you must have the right web presence and tech in place.

These are just some basic ad ideas. Now you know how the real estate marketing funnel works, as well as some of the messaging, targeting and ad content you could use at each stage of your audience’s journey, you’re ready to start brainstorming branding campaigns. Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series, where we take explain the subject matter that’s going to have the biggest impact on your audience at each stage of their journey and give you some campaign ideas to try.

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