Smart Marketing Strategies An Expert Q&A with Marketing Manager Mary Jackson


by Heather James

This blog is a forum to curate expert commentary, opinion and thought leadership resources. In the past we’ve talked about and profiled topics including real estate cyber insurance issues, RESPA compliance best practices, tax implications and ramifications for our industry, and communication issues that can impact a closing. Today, we’re talking marketing with Mary Jackson, our ace director of marketing here at Cook & James.

HJ: You are responsible for helping to expand the Cook & James presence and elevate our status, but you’re also tasked with being a resource for our many colleagues and collaborators throughout the real estate industry. One of the components in our goal of providing superior customer service is teaching relevant classes and hosting informational lunches on the topics that matter…are there any questions or themes that crop up over and over? Any common threads as people tap into your unique marketing knowledge?

MJ: Beyond the typical traditional marketing knowledge share – like asking about vendors for collateral material, graphic designers, photographers and other best practices and industry contacts – overwhelmingly, people have questions about social media. How do you position and promote your business? How do you get more followers? How do you communicate your niche expertise? How do you create advertisements that generate leads? Where do you find the time to do all that?

HJ: A-ha. Yes, I get it. Especially that last one – social media DOES seem to take on a life of its own, looming ever and ever larger. What do you tell people?

MJ: Well, with the time drain, I always recommend finding tools to help you streamline and there are lots out there, many of them even are free for limited features, like Buffer. Beyond that, it depends what platform a person is specifically asking about. For example, here’s what I tell people about marketing themselves on LinkedIn.

Mary’s 4 Tips for LinkedIn Success

#1 Use a custom URL

Each LinkedIn user is assigned a unique URL, generally the name of the individual or company, followed by a set of numbers. I always recommend people go in and change that (go to profile < edit public profile and URL < change it to whatever you like). A custom URL is helpful not only because you remove the number gobblety gook and streamline the URL for business cards and websites, but you can also add keywords to improve your search engine optimization (SEO). When adding keywords, I always suggest people use industry-related words or a tagline such as MaryJacksonMarketing to help a profile come up more quickly on search engines and generate increased page visits.

#2 Use Your Page

It sounds obvious but complete your entire profile and post items weekly. LinkedIn users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to be chosen for business opportunities! Again, seems a no-brainer, but use a professional headshot (no selfies!), a headline, your work history and education, and a bio with strategically placed keywords to improve your search-ability and demonstrate a streamlined brand. Then solicit reviews and recommendations from colleagues, friends, and customers to solidify your prowess in your business. People should always remember when sending a message to never use the generically-provided one...always make it personal by writing your own message.

#3 Make Connections

The more the merrier (aka better!). Once you reach 500 connections, LinkedIn will stop showing your connection number, which makes you look better-connected to the professional world. (It takes a minimum of 50 connections to activate your profile.) When you invite people to connect, make your message as personal as possible, and don’t use the generic prompted message. Tip: you can even post on Facebook asking people to connect with you using your new custom link. Also, remember that your “headline” is the first impression, so make it a good one. I recommend adding something that hints at your occupation, but spicier than “Marketing Manager.” For example, “The Marketing Guru You’ve Been Searching For” which communicates that 1) I am in marketing, 2) I have a playful personality 3) I consider myself to be excellent at what I do.

#4 Activate

Simply having a LinkedIn account doesn’t do any good unless you activate your account and you can be found. Activating sounds like a button you may find on the page, but it’s actually an algorithm based on the activities performed on the network. Sending at least one in-message per week, posting one post each week, using the LinkedIn mobile app, and making connections on a weekly basis will activate your account and help put your profile on people’s radar.

HJ: Whoa, that’s a lot of information! I’m glad I have you in-house for all the LinkedIn outreach at Cook & James. Any other topics that people regularly ask you about?

MJ: Yes. I get a ton of Facebook questions. Most people are pretty good on Facebook because most have been dabbling for a while personally. But what I see often is when an agent, say, decides to up their game and gets serious about using the platform as the powerful marketing tool it can be, it quickly becomes overwhelming. Here are a few best practices about photos on Facebook landing pages – because, like they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words.

Mary’s 3 Ways to Optimize Facebook Photos on Business Landing Pages

#1 Create something custom (2 Free Tools)

Your Facebook banner is truly the first image that your potential client will see on your Facebook business page. Do looks really matter? You tell me. Does a house have to be presentable before you agree to show it? Exactly. So put time and thought into choosing an image that speaks to your brand. Avoid grabbing a generic image of a house from your search engine and uploading it as is. By not creating a custom banner, not only do you risk having the exact same banner as another real estate professional, you could be stealing someone else’s image. This can hurt your brand and expose your lack of savvy in digital marketing and advertising laws. I always recommend finding free tools to use when creating custom banners. Canva is an example of a design tool that allows you to easily create custom images— there are templates, fonts, images, shapes and colors, all free to choose from and extremely user friendly. Another tool is Unsplash, a free photo website. With Unsplash, you don’t have to worry about stealing someone’s image. All photos are free and can be used for commercial and noncommercial purposes with no permissions necessary.

#2 Include your professional branding

I recommend agents use an industry-specific photo such as a beautiful kitchen (there are some killer kitchens in Unsplash), home, landscape, or development with your brokers logo and/or your personal tagline. This is a great way to immediately tell your viewers who you are, what you do, and what brand or brokerage you represent. I also stress the point of having a clean image – do not include every last bit of minutia about yourself – save that for when people jump to your business page. It’s definitely overkill to have website, phone number, email address, mother’s maiden name and blood type on a banner!

#3 Size matters

Make sure you have created a banner image that is the correct size for Facebook, to avoid losing viewers due to load time, blurriness, or overall de-ranking on a search engine. Remember, if your page or image takes longer than 2-3 seconds to fully load, you've lost the viewer. The correct dimensions are: 820 pixels wide and 312 pixels tall for desktop, 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels tall for mobile. If the image you choose or create is too small, Facebook will stretch the image on your page, producing a blurry or fuzzy picture. Again, this is where creating something custom on Canva can come in handy, since you can create a custom size. A note on size: every social media platform has different size requirements, so make sure you always check each platform and adjust your image as needed to get the most out of the platform.

HJ: Thank you so much, Mary, for sharing your wealth of knowledge. I really think your detailed expertise and tips for best practices and free tools will help our Cook & James collaborators and colleagues.

MJ: Great! Maybe next time we can tackle website landing pages or YouTube.

Mary Jackson’s vast marketing experience and leadership skills made her the perfect fit to lead the Cook & James marketing team. She was drawn to the firm because of the culture, where she can work with other passionate, innovative and gregarious people like herself. She’s also drawn to the outdoors -- her ultimate goal is to hike through every national park which she’s working on with her husband and two dogs.

Mary leads ongoing educational opportunities for Cook & James professionals, colleagues and collaborators and has offered classes in YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, advertising, and a variety of traditional marketing strategies and techniques. Contact for an updated schedule or to learn about bringing these classes to your office.

MarketingHeather James