Copywriting for sale

by Tom Albrighton 4 March 2013 Copywriting, Copywriting reviews

I recounted in my last post how ideas often come to me while running. Well, sure enough, one did the other day. To wit: why don’t estate agents do more with ‘for sale’ signs?

Here’s one from a leading local agent, William H. Brown, which is typical of the style.


As a piece of marketing material, this could hardly be more basic. It indicates that the property is for sale, identifies the estate agent involved and, by including a phone number and/or URL, issues an implicit call to action to those interested in finding out more. And that’s it.

What it doesn’t do is convey any information about the product being sold. At this stage, all prospective buyers have to go on is the location (which is crucial, of course) and the look of the property from outside. If pimping your crib on the street has any value, it’s surely worth throwing the passing punter a bit more of a bone – not to mention hitting them with a more in-your-face call to action.

Here’s an attempt at doing just that (completely unofficial, see disclaimer below):


Now, you’re probably thinking that the average seller won’t want that stuff publicly on display – particularly their asking price. But all this data is freely available at the agent’s office, in the local paper and, most immediately of all, online. Interested house-hunters with smartphones can be looking at the info in seconds, even while they’re standing outside the property. So why put them to the trouble when you can use the features to draw them in at the outset?

Furthermore, with a little sprinkling of information design, we can communicate the key facts more economically, leaving more graphical real estate free to describe other features that might be more attractive to buyers:


Now, as any copywriter will tell you, benefits are more powerful than features – you should always sell the sizzle rather than the sausage. In this context, I’d suggest that means giving the audience a vivid picture of what it would be like to live in the property. Because we’re not selling a house here, we’re selling a lifestyle. So a more adventurous version might look like this:


But why stop there? Once this approach becomes industry standard, as it surely will, a bog-standard tone of voice will no longer cut through. Forward-thinking estate agents will want to stand out from the crowd – and what better way to do that than with some Innocent-style wackywriting?


OK, that might be a step too far, but you take the point. With just a little extra cost and effort, these signs could be working a whole lot harder to close a sale. Estate agents, put your house in order!

  • The images in this post are for entertainment only. They have no official connection with William H. Brown and were not commissioned, approved or endorsed by them. No copyright infringement intended.
  • A French translation of this post appears at Stereotexte.

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