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Real Estate Digital Marketing Strategy -The First Group (Dubai) How to Audit, Plan and Strategize (A Research Paper)

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Real Estate Digital Marketing Strategy -The First Group (Dubai) How to Audit, Plan and Strategize (A Research Paper)

Real Estate Industry stands mostly upon “Direct Response Marketing” i.e. Lead generation, this report is constituted taking a case study


The First Group – needs a digital transformation strategy which can enhance sustainable revenue for the entire group internationally i.e. Prospecting & Client Connection – [Hybrid Marketing Plan]


This document/blog will primarily focus on audit and analysis of the website & company’s current marketing activities (external) i.e. what the group is doing. Identifying the GAP AREAS i.e. what are the areas of improvement and then strategize what can be done to achieve their objective.


[*The research & recommendations will be based on external data gained via public information available on the internet and will just focus on Digital Audit & Marketing]

Process Integrations required:


  1. Digital Integrated Process Flows [Macro Level]
  2. Departmental Integration I.e. Integration of (Marketing, Legal, IT, Operations, Finance, Alliance, Corporate etc.)
  3. Branding Activity Integration (Which can influence Marketing & Sales in any sense) includes all channels Digital, Event, Database etc.)
  4. Channel Integration
    • Offline: Print/Press/TV Media, Events like Trade Shows, Property Fairs, Partners & Agent Network
    • Online: Digital including all channels i.e. Organic, Display, Search, Video, Social Media, Email/SMS, Referral & Direct




Please note data & metrics used in this report are pulled from 3rd party professional tools. Data pulled from these tools is not so reliable, it might not be even close to the actual metrics, but it helps to give a direction & perspective to audit, keep in mind no’s can always be replaced, but what you are learning is the strategic approach to attain the objective.



  1. First Group – Who are they? – 4
  2. Website Audit – 5
  •  Traffic & Domain Analysis
  • Technical Audit (SEO/SEM)
  1. Social Media Audit
  2. Facebook & Instagram
  3. YouTube
  4. Advertisement Research
  5. What is the group selling? And how digital can support?
  6. Customer Journey for real estate industry
  7. Hybrid Marketing Plan – 18
  • Process Flows
  • Budgeting and Conversion Data
  1. Digital ATL & BTL Techniques
  2. What exactly will escalate the results i.e. aka Sales?
  3. Conclusion


The First Group – Who are they?


In today’s information age, if you need authentic information about any company or an organization you simply rely on “ZMOT (Zero moment of truth)” and if the information is coming from “Online Encyclopedia – Created by Curators” trust factor is immediately established, oh yes am talking about “Wikipedia”.


If you claim to be big then it is a mandate to be on WIKIPEDIA and if you are not, then better be… In my initial research, I was not able to find “The First Group” on Wikipedia.


Well, I researched more and was able to find just below information about the “Type of Business Entity” [in disclaimer section]


The Real Estate Registration Section of Licensing Administration has certified M/S TFG Real Estate L.L.C., as a registered real estate broker under registration No.642 in the brokers’ registry – subject to By-law No.85/2006 concerning Real Estate Brokers.

TFG Real Estate LLC

Trading as The First Group


Above information ideally should be on “About Us” page as in real estate everything is about “Trust”. People need a clear understanding on the business entity before investing.


I pulled some info [via various tools] which again need to be authenticated via original source:


  • Established 2005
  • 500 – 1,000 employees
  • $50M – $100M annual revenues
  • Presence in below countries.
  • USA
  • IRAN
  • OMAN


To my understanding “The First Group” is a broker/marketing partner with luxurious hotel projects in Dubai. Giving you access to the highly profitable world of hotel property investments, providing individuals the opportunity to earn income from purchasing hotel rooms and suites.


Website Audit:


Traffic & Domain Analysis


Let’s audit where are they standing in terms of current traffic and the strongest channels, because this will create the base of their DM strategy.




This is an estimated traffic from all over the globe. The numbers are completely hypothetical, actual nos. can only be gained via “Google Analytics” or any other server-based analytical tool which they might be using. (but for the sake of direction we will consider these nos.)


Inference: They were aggressive in advertising in 2nd & 3rd quarter of 2017 but drastically reduced the budgets as conversions/results were not imperative to their expectations.

They have recently started some campaigns targeting India, we will cover that later in advertising strategy in this document/blog.


Below Geo-locations are the major source of traffic and most of the visitors are coming from UAE and KSA.






Search result report compliments this because most of the ranking pages are in Arabic on brand keywords so it makes sense that people using browsers with native language as Arabic are searching for the brand name “The First Group”.




The above traffic volume is not huge, but as the data is not filtered, it is possible that most of the searches are made via internal assets [employees/agents/partners etc.] of the company, the point is marketing focus is specifically on ÄRABIC individuals.


Inference:  Within UAE mostly LOCALs or ARABIC community is targeted, focus on other expats is diluted, this could be well understood after auditing internal campaigns. This is certainly a gap area which would be later covered in Advertising analysis.


Technical Audit. [Key to digital transformation]


In direct response marketing or lead generation your main digital engine is your website, so when you are creating a digital eco-system to generate business leads for you, your website should be “FERRARI” or else you will lose money big time.


One of the core DM channels are “Search Engine Optimization “and “Search Engine Marketing”. Their smooth execution relies on the website and its stability.





I crawled 14077 pages and total website health score is 38%, now this includes more than 100 factors which is beyond the scope of this article.

Inference: A comprehensive audit must be done and then a project with all the listed issues will be created.  “DM & IT “departments must religiously work with each other to get the website in a good shape.




Around 9956 pages have low speed i.e. if your “CAMPAIGN PAGES” do not have optimum loading speed score on Desktop & Mobile you will lose nearly 83% of your marketing spend. (I could infer the Ad Spent loss in 2017)


Social Media Audit:


Facebook & Instagram


They have nearly 590K+ (half a million) fans and after analyzing their top 100 posts, I figured out that only 202 people have engaged with their content which brings engagement ratio to 0.03% only [Close to nothing]


Important missing components on FB PAGE:


  1. Company Overview
  2. Mission
  3. Products


FB Post Analysis:






Users have the attention span of 0.3 seconds/ post on Social Media and the first thing which catches their attention is the image, if you are unable to engage them on image level battle is lost. In this post I can see “Dubai Skyline” – oh great view, what’s next?


If a caption on the image says (pre-event) “Are you ready for First-Ever ARAB LAND CONFERENCE?” or (post-event) “Do you know what happened in the First Ever ARAB LAND CONFERENCE?”


The image should be more relevant


Content dispersion strategy should be in place


[i.e. Auto boost the post (if received >10 likes in 24 hrs. to Audience: CEOs living in UAE using iPhone 6]


*Nearly 90% of users don’t read post description till the time they are engaged with the Image itself. (i.e. Brand communication or marketing message should be clear in the image itself.)


Same applies to Instagram:




See the image (just image) above and think what messaging it is giving to your subconscious mind. And does it relate exactly to #experiencedubai???



Ok just have a look at a simple post by Herald Land (UK), do you have to guess what they want to say?


Inference: They are clearly missing the content & marketing strategy part i.e. how a viral content is created with proper messaging as per the targeted audience. What takes to engage the viewers.

Even if a normal user doesn’t fall in the category of a buyer, he/she helps to elevate the brand recognition which eventually attracts HNIs.




The channel boasts 1.5k subscribers with some good branding videos, am not going to audit technical aspects (views/engagement) as they are beyond the scope of the blog/document.


Content basically costs a lot of time and effort and before even content is produced the strategy should be crystal clear on the reach. (getting more eyeballs)


I.e. say company hired “Sunil Gavaskar” as the brand ambassador of The First Group in India with good endorsement videos. Do you have a strategy in place to monetize from those videos? i.e. how would you get the maximum eyeballs from the targeted audience?


But before everything you should be well versed with the technical know-how of the platform & how to create a compelling marketing message.


Can you tell me the difference between the above thumbnails? Which messaging is clearer?


Inference: A clear integrated marketing strategy is missing. DM Plan and strategy with clear KPIs should be in place before investing in the collaterals i.e. [Videos, Images etc.]


Advertisement Research:


Let’s now take a closer look at the ads they are running from past 1 year and then we will talk about what could be the right strategy.



Till now they have created around 377 ads published on 1.2k websites via Google AdWords, their first ever ad was encountered on 20th Jan 2015. Anyways they were aggressive on ads in 2nd & 3rd quarter in 2017 and now again in March 2018 they are investing money on “DISPLAY NETWORK”.


Mainly targeting “India” as their investment market as 70% of ads are shown in India.



They are using “Google AdWords” display network to publish 3 ad types i.e.


  • Media (Mostly Image)
  • HTML (Animated)
  • Text


Now let’s have a look at the creatives because they will decide the “CTR” of an Ad and then we will move on to the landing page.


Media Ads (Images)


HTML ads [Animation]



Text ads




Inference: I went over nearly 30 ads and concluded that ad creation team is novice, whosoever is managing the ads is randomly creating it, lacks strategic vision, proper planning, communication of effective messaging through images [as demonstrated in social media also].


  1. Square ads are running in horizontal banners i.e. Ad Space dimensions 470 by 200 and running ad dimension might be 350 by 280
  2. Html Ads created without homework – It’s like kids are learning basics of Display marketing.
  3. Text ads are not recommended on Display network due to low CTR rates
  4. Using same old banners from past 2 years


I was expecting some dynamic ads as I saw “Adroll” tracking pixels (below image) on the website but when I audited the campaign landing page, I understood that they are experimenting just with ADWORDS.




Campaign landing pages are not responsive in the true sense as the page content is not visible on the mobile have a look:

Click here [campaign landing page], I bet conversion rate would not be exciting.


What is the group selling? And how Digital can support?


I have done the audit and identified the GAP areas, also given recommendations but still, we must strategize a full proof plan which can create an eco-system of continual lead generation.


What is the group offering?


The First Group is uniquely positioned in the Dubai market to offer a hotel investment opportunity that allows our owners to profit from the booming hotel industry. We build landmark hotels in high demand areas and sell rooms and suites to private individuals. We then partner with leading hoteliers to optimize rental rates and occupancy levels which in turn provide our hotel investors with great returns.


Customer Journey for Real Estate Industry


Customer Journey is simply a journey between product and the customer, and a marketing message is a concept which effectively presents “The Product to the right Customer” (and between this lies the art & science of marketing)


Below is a broad example of “Real Estate Digital Customer Journey”



There are no thumb rules of Customer journeys and there could be 100s of permutations and combinations. To create an authentic marketing plan, we must use historical data to map the customer journeys of top 100 clients and create a hub of client personas. Based on that a statistical model can be formulated which will guide us to an effective “Hybrid Marketing Plan”


Hybrid Marketing


Hybrid Marketing is an integrated form of both online and offline marketing, where both online tools and channels work in conjunction with real time traditional methods of marketing i.e.


  • Agents Network
  • PSEs (Property Search Engines) (I will cover this sometime later in another blog)
  • Digital Supporting Events
  • Digital Supporting Trade Fairs


I created this page on Wikipedia (Moments of Truth) in 2015 and this goes hand in hand with Hybrid marketing as below:



Above plan gives you an overview as of how to integrate traditional business development/sales/ marketing departments with digital marketing at each stage of Marketing.


But to make above work you must nurture and develop organizations work processes and deeply integrate DM in each activity with dependencies.


Process Flow


To make Hybrid marketing work first thing you need is a process flow because without it the whole DM would be directionless, once you have the product and objective on the table, you need a complete process flow to guide your organization i.e. collaborate with different departments to execute the campaign and then digitize everything using solutions offered by Adobe, IBM, Salesforce, Sap, Zoho…or inhouse tools etc.


Below is a simple example,


  1. Marketing [1st Swimlane] – Generates the requirement and define the offline activity for the product sales, passes on the requirement to DM.
  2. Digital Marketing [2nd Swimlane] Planning – Tactical Plan of How the product will be marketed, what channels will be used, defining no of ads, PRs, Organic Posts etc. required.
  3. Content [3rd Swimlane] – Create blog/Pr | Ad copies | Titles, headlines, descriptions etc
  4. Creative [4th Swimlane] – Create graphics needed for all the channels in all required dimensions
  5. Digital Marketing [2nd Swimlane] – Deployment Plan I.e. Campaign and Content Calendar
  6. Analytics [5th Swimlane] analysis of data and collection of Conversions [Data analytics will further guide as of optimization in content/creative is needed or not], Leads collected will be passed on to CRM
  7. CRM [6th Swimlane]- Will pass on the leads with details to Telemarketing
  8. Telemarketing [7th Swimlane] will book the meeting with consultants
  9. Sales [8th Swimlane] close the sales.


I can include a process flow map as well, but it is beyond the scope of this blog, plus process flows are always custom as per departments and headcounts in a company.


Budgeting & Conversion Data:


*I am not including the budgeting and conversion funnel because The First Group might not be following structured budget allocation in terms of DM, so a standard allocation of the budget on Digital won’t be applicable in the current scenario, budgets would be approved on per campaign basis. For a better understanding on standard budget implications (@Digital), you can study my previous research on EMAAR


Digital ATL & BTL Techniques [+Grey area]


Every industry has its own marketing and selling propositions, and real estate marketing is not a mass marketing arena, you must push the right triggers in the targeted segment (who can afford) and then nurture the lead to conversion. In the non-digital era, properties were sold by “Word of Mouth” and “Trust”, but now with the advent of digital, you can easily amplify this process.


Digital has its own Pros & Cons, I had started my digital journey in 1998 while I was studying, and black hat was the major zone of attraction then, to be true it is till now 😊. It is good to be ethical but if you are well versed with Black Hat techniques you can always find a way around to get quick results.


Every digital platform is evolving and so are we, this is a continuous journey with lots of loops and holes, if understood you can easily profit from them.


For E.g. “Data Mining” or Scraping, this is a grey area which is somewhat in between the legal and authentic industry as laws also EVOLVE.


Consider the target audience as below,


CEOs of companies having more than 10 years of experience with head count, above 100 employees. [If there is a way to fetch this data from cloud with a grey process to contact them, can you escalate your marketing reach and conversion?]


Exporters/Owners/Founders with more than 100 employees having with revenue above $50 million/annually [AEPC|EPCH] [Again if you can fetch this data, can your sales team escalate the targets?]


What exactly will escalate the results i.e. aka Sales?


Please be clear on the part that I am not “Harry Potter” and I don’t have any “Magic Wand” which can “ABRA KA DABRA” your sales instantly. That’s the reason I prefer relying on data-driven decisions.



*Above chart shows optimization and ideas related to content on the TFG website, which can increase the organic traffic drastically.


We will quickly summarize:


  1. Develop trust with the better branding of the company on Wikipedia, Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com etc. [Everything is possible], needs proper planning and strategy to make things happen.
  1. Objective oriented DM plan is needed i.e. XXX marketing budget allocated to DM. E.g. 10% on content, 10% SEO, 35% media buying(SM/DM), 20% Branding, 15% (news jacking/events) 10% (email/SMS etc.)
  1. Work on conversion optimization i.e. multiple funnels as per CDJ. The website needs to be optimized for better results in terms of lead generation i.e. direct response marketing.
  1. English campaigns targeting expats should be experimented on SM channels and retargeted via display Inventory.
  1. Credible Content Marketing (integrated with PR) is needed in paid campaigns i.e. Campaign targeting India.
  1.  “As Featured in Times of India & Hindustan Times. The most profitable Hotel investment group in DUBAI is offering …. “
  1. As per the audit, SEO & Website needs a lot of work to be at the optimum level of performance. Mobile first should be the objective and credible content as the long-term conversion strategy.
  1. Brand & Message i.e. content communication strategy should be clear & focused on SOCIAL MEDIA, following the thumb rules which create better engagement on social media. [Process needs to be developed following the brand guidelines and value statement]




*A planned approach (target & objective oriented) on social media with proper approvals.


  1. Campaign/DM should be targeted as per country as per the Hybrid marketing plan taking all the events and PRs into consideration.
  1. Using ATL/BTL grey hat techniques to support traditional offline marketing and escalate the marketing output in real time with complete tracking. This will provide sales team enough leads to nurture and get results fast.




I can keep on researching and writing for ages as Digital Marketing for real estate industry is not something, I can pull down in 3256 words, plus out of sheer curiosity, I invested around 5 days with approximately 60 hrs of Input in researching, auditing, strategizing etc. It was fun for me and truly speaking I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it was exhausting too, as I didn’t take breaks after my work hrs.

I hope you enjoyed reading this piece, any questions query and comments are welcome as they inspire me for my next crusade :)… (which are not very often though…)

Gaurav Agarwal

<p>Gaurav is the most powerful Digital Marketing Consultant in the world serving SMEs and Fortune 500 companies across the globe, he has been the founder of 4 companies and has experience in E-commerce, Finance & Real Estate. Some of the companies he has worked with are WALMART, KIPCO, DHL, TATEOSSIAN, ROLLS ROYCE, OGILVY</p>