Laura Petrolino

Effective Marketing from Bob the House

By: Laura Petrolino | January 22, 2015 | 

Effective Marketing for Boring IndustriesBy Laura Petrolino

I know this house named Bob.

That’s right, Bob.

My friend. He’s a house.

That’s not a metaphor. Bob is an actual house.

A house for sale in Illinois. According to Bob’s Twitter bio, he’s in a very family-friendly neighborhood.

I honestly never thought I’d be friends with a house. I’m not against being friends with buildings and structures, but we just don’t generally run in the same circles (unless of course they are on a cul-de-sac and I run around the circle, then I guess we would…but that’s not the same thing).

But I’m certainly glad I became friends with Bob because he is a fantastic case study in effective marketing. 

A House that Tweets

I met Bob on Twitter one day last week. He read my latest blog post about the importance of community, and that launched us into a larger conversation.

Here are a few snippets from it.

effective marketing

As you can see, Bob the House is a family man, working hard to keep his family together and happy after his unfortunate split up.

Bob is also hilarious, and the man behind the moniker is a very clever marketer.

Bob’s profile is engaging and unique. He interacts with people and companies that can help spread the word about him as an “available house.”

He’s taken an industry that often uses billboards and bus signs for marketing and made it the talk of the town!

With an extensive background in sales, Bob the House’s creator told me he started the Twitter account because he was having a difficult time trying to sell the house through traditional methods, and figured he might as well try something a bit different.

It seemed homes were selling based on one component—price. Because that had never been his sales strategy in his other work, he wanted to shift the equation when it came to real estate sales, as well.

Effective Marketing from Bob the House

So what can you learn about effective marketing from Bob the House?

1) There are no boring industries, only boring tactics. Effective marketing is about finding the “click.” It’s about placing the right messages in the right places that resonate with and engage your target consumer. It’s about putting yourself in front of them in a way that tells a story about who you are and what you stand for.

Every industry has stories to be told and ways to tell them to help you stand out from the crowd. Don’t let yourself fall prey to thinking you have a boring industry, one that consumers won’t engage and connect with. 

Don’t know where to start?

Sit down with your team and start making a few lists:

  • Why did your current consumers choose you?
  • What makes you unique?
  • In what ways do you make your customers’ lives easier and better?

The answers to these questions will form the basis of the stories you have to tell.

2) Think outside the industry box. Often, what happens in an industry is a certain marketing trend will become popular, say SEO or webinars. And so, all of a sudden, every brand in the industry implements this single tactic, often unrelated to anything else they are doing or with no real strategy behind its execution. Obviously, as you can imagine, this copy-cat style marketing often doesn’t end well.

Instead, be like Bob. Don’t do something because everyone else is doing it. Understand your consumer and the message you are trying to provide and develop your strategy around those facts.

3) Be bold. Don’t be afraid to stand out…that’s sort of the point. Bob admits not many of the other houses tweet, since they can’t type. But he took a leap of faith, and asked the neighborhood school to teach him how to type so he could get in front of the potential buyers. Summon your inner Bob and go for it.

4) Measure, measure, and measure. As much as you do need to be courageous to try new things (with a sound strategy behind them of course), you also need to make sure you know how effective those tactics are, and how you can adjust to improve upon them. Measure so you know what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be changed.

We might all not have a house that tweets, but we can learn some very important lessons from Bob the House about effective marketing campaigns, and how to keep them engaging, unique, and effective, no matter what product, service or industry we serve.

BONUS: Bob is going to be joining us in February to speak more about the importance of sales and marketing working together for effective business results, and to provide a more detailed case study of his Twitter campaign.

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

  • I just could. not. get. through. this post in one read. I had to a) tweet you about my excitement over Bob having his own feature and b) tweet him (as the Optimism Light) because yes, it does take gumption when you are an inanimate object incapable of typing … to put yourself out there in Twitterland. Can’t wait to hear what Bob has to say in February. And, on a more serious note, loved this post – there is a lot of truth there. Kind of makes me with the social media position at a local company that makes gate openers had worked out for me. I mean THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES I COULD UNLOCK!

  • They like me! They really like me!

    Laura, thank you so much for taking an interest in me and my family. I shared this with my daughter and a path was immediately made through the snow from her to me. My stepson, who obviously is not a fan of winter because he doesn’t get used much, started talking about the excitement of a new family living in us come springtime and playing on him. They both had been so discouraged in who the traditional methods of marketing had not been working to help us find a new forever family.

  • BobTheHouse1303

    ginidietrich lkpetrolino thank you so much! I’m just a ranch-style house trying to make his way in the world. Who knew I’d generate buzz!

  • Bob! When is he joining us? I miss all the important news. (I guess that problem will be even worse come February … hmmm  …)

  • Your first point is spot-on. Doesn’t it seem like the best examples of marketing always take place in an industry that many would perceive as boring?

  • susancellura

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I love this post. I’m in hysterics. Why? Because it didn’t surprise me at all that @lkpetrolino had this conversation. Seriously, though, this is a GREAT marketing campaign.

  • I fear we’ve created a monster. No. Wait. TWO monsters. 😉

  • belllindsay *makes note to self that Lindsay probably doesn’t want my list of cool inanimate things to follow on Twitter

  • It’s ok belllindsay, kids thought there were monsters in the basement but I can assure you there are none.

  • bradmarley I just want to be clear, you are saying that real estate is boring, correct? I mean, I’m a tweeting house, what’s more exciting than that!?!

    The reality is that there is very little innovation in real estate, so many people who “sell” houses simply rely on price. How many things do YOU buy where you look for the cheapest one? 

    I was talking to a friend of mine about how frustrated I was with the whole sales process. I’ve had a sign stuck in my front lawn for a while now, and that hurts! He mentioned, what about going to Twitter? I was a little concerned, not being able to type and all, but the school behind me was a great help. So far so good!

  • susancellura tell a friend! 🙂

  • BobtheHouse1303 belllindsay Has this been verified? I feel like we need some sort of official “no-monster” paperwork here Bob. It’s quite the lofty claim!

  • BobtheHouse1303 susancellura Haha! Thanks Susan! Our entire team has had quite a good time chatting it up with Bob.

  • BobtheHouse1303 I’m surprised real estate people (let alone houses-for-sale) don’t use Twitter or Instagram (or some other social platform) to help sell houses. Seems like it wouldn’t be that difficult to take pictures of a house you’re trying to sell and post them to your social account.

    I mean, that just makes too much sense.

    P.S. I was saying real estate is boring. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 belllindsay you know I’m always happy to show you my paperwork!

    I had renters in me a little while back who tried to watch Monsters Inc. so just to be safe, I blew a fuse!

  • bradmarley, you are correct, however what I have learned from this experience is that, while it is easy to take pictures and post them to the traditional real estate sites, social media requires a level of interaction. I would think that realtors would find this fun because it allows them to give personality to the houses they represent. 

    My name is BobtheHouse1303 because I was born on Robert Drive. On a real estate listing, I may look just like a lot of houses, however as you get to know me, I think you find out that I am pretty family friendly (I back up to a school and am not on a busy street) and a place where you’d feel comfortable moving your furniture and family into. 

    I think, at the end of the day, those are bigger selling points than simply square footage, and something that real estate professionals can really use to do their job most effectively.

  • BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino Lots of monster homes here in Toronto. #brrrrr

  • belllindsay BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino This is why you should move to Mt. Prospect. I’m a monster free zone and compared to Toronto, it is down right balmy.

  • This is hilarious. Laura you´ve outdone yourself. Can´t wait for February now. 
    I love this: “There are no boring industries, only boring tactics.”

  • BobtheHouse1303 bradmarley I’ve worked with real estate clients before, social is an area they are just starting to explore and is still a bit foreign. It’s one of those industries that while their work could be majorly supported by adopting digital marketing (I mean, think about all the stories you can tell around homes?), many are so use to doing things the way they’ve always been done they are scared to shake the boat. 

    The “buyer’s market” that digital has created has affected real estate more than almost any other industry in a lot of ways. It’s gone from a place where real estate agents really held the info and cards to one where buyers come to an agent having already done their own research in most cases. The industry is still trying to figure out how to deal with that.

  • Eleanor Pierce Hahah! Oh, pff…you won’t be working in February, it’s not like you’ll have better things to do than stalk us! Please!!

  • BobtheHouse1303 YAY!!! I hope we find you a great family! I can’t think of anything better than having a Spin Sucks approved family come to live in my good friend Bob!

  • biggreenpen ohhhhh…possibilities!!!

  • Corina Manea BobtheHouse1303 Haha! Thanks Corina!! Bob is one of the funniest friends I have. He deserved his moment in the spotlight!

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 bradmarley What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

    The real estate industry has not changed a whole lot in years, even when the market drastically changed. Agents kept doing the same thing while prices went down on me and my friends no mater what we did. 

    Can you imagine how that makes me feel? I sit here, relying on agents to talk up all of my good points but all I would hear are the same stories. I wanted to say to families “pick me, pick me!” but if you think a typing, tweeting house scares some people off, imagine what would happen if you were a inside of me and I started talking?

  • LauraPetrolino Corina Manea BobtheHouse1303 Thanks to you both and Corina, nice to meet you. 

    Laura was kind enough to give me a moment in the spotlight, which is nice. I had a friend who was in the spotlight once, only to find out his kitchen was on fire at night! 

    This is much better. I don’t need my granite countertops going up in flames.

  • BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino Corina Manea “I had a friend who was in the spotlight once, only to find out his kitchen was on fire at night!” 

    Oh my…how tragic! We are certainly glad to give you this spotlight instead (although if you do ever catch on fire, please feel free to hook your good friend Laura up with any handsome, single firemen who might stop by…just saying…it’s what friends do Bob).

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 Corina Manea Story of my life. I can keep you warm at night, cool you off in the heat, make you dinner, draw you a nice bath after a long day; yet I still lose out to a man in uniform.

    You also realize that in your scenario, something bad has to happen to me for something good to happen to you. I feel like that first person to get killed in a horror movie!

  • Wait, hold on a second. So susancellura, let me get this straight, you were ok with BobtheHouse1303, who is a tweeting HOUSE, but it was LauraPetrolino, a PERSON, talking and befriending a house that was potentially cause for surprise?

  • BobtheHouse1303 susancellura LauraPetrolino Bob, Laura talking and befriending anyone or anything does not surprise us. Not one bit.

  • BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino Corina Manea Fine Bob, think of yourself. A little third degree burn never hurt anybody…but fine…whatever!

  • biggreenpen BobtheHouse1303 susancellura LauraPetrolino Bahahaha! Good point Paula!

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 Corina Manea I’ve definitely been burned before. Remember I mentioned my ex-wife, the split level?

  • lkpetrolino

    florianeisele Right? Who would have thought a house would be so savvy? 🙂 (cc: BobTheHouse1303 SpinSucks)

  • @lkpetrolino florianeisele BobTheHouse1303 SpinSucks Houses are more clever than you think. Do you think we aren’t listening when the kids are doing their homework or the parents are watching Jeopardy? I also spend a lot of time being mentored by the school behind me. My Radon levels are too low to be measured, but my IQ is pretty decent.

    Is it street smarts you are looking for? My property also is right on the street so I pick up a ton of information from him, not to mention gossip. You’d be surprised about some of the stories I hear about the houses down the block!

  • BobTheHouse1303

    Thanks florianeisele! I’m just a house looking for a family. lkpetrolino and SpinSucks really took my story and ran with it!

  • BobtheHouse1303 florianeisele BobTheHouse1303 SpinSucks oh dear…..soon you’ll be starring in your own TV show “the real houses of Chicago”

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 florianeisele SpinSucks That Bethany woman has nothing on the house down the street. I don’t like to spread rumors but let’s just say they call her 7-11 because her doors never seem to close!

  • BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino florianeisele SpinSucks I hear about her! Her daughter’s the town bike!

  • @BobTheHouse1303 This is so awesome & amazing I don’t have words…except maybe AWEMAZING!  Also, not the least bit surprised that LauraPetrolino is friends with a house! xoxo

  • BobtheHouse1303 belllindsay LauraPetrolino But, but, but *healthcare*!!?? #pinkocommieCanuck

  • Thanks, lizreusswig. Come visit anytime you want, bring a friend who has been pre-approved for a mortgage too!

  • belllindsay BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino florianeisele SpinSucks I like that the houses on my street are known even up in Canada. That means one important thing to me…Increased home value!

  • belllindsay BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino With the number of times Gini fires you, you are all set for free healthcare down here too!

  • BobtheHouse1303 lizreusswig Wow! “AWEMAZING” status is kind of a bit deal!

  • BobtheHouse1303 belllindsay LauraPetrolino florianeisele SpinSucks This is the best thread ever!!! HAHAHA!

  • This is hilarious. And you should make a t-shirt of needlepoint pillow with this phrase: “There are no boring industries, only boring tactics.”

  • This is absolutely amazing. I’ve never met Bob but I am already in love – with the marketing strategy, of course! Humanizing a house is a genius idea I would have never thought of. As a former TV news reporter, I always tell companies to find stories that evoke emotions – and Bob certainly does! I was laughing while reading the entire article and comments. His hilarity makes him memorable – and it turn makes the home memorable. What I love the most is that he never breaks character! 

    This is just a wonderful read! Thanks for making my Friday a bit brighter, Bob!

    <a href=””>Rivers Agency</a> PR Executive

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 lizreusswig Oh, I know it is and I appreciate it. I’m feeling the love but truth be told, I’ll trade my 15 minutes of fame to be able to share my love with the right family and watch their kids grow up.

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 belllindsay florianeisele SpinSucks I am happy to contribute to your other posts too, whenever you’d like. I can give the houses point of view, which shows all sides. I’d offer to have you talk to a few cousins I have in California too, but they work on movie sets so their views are pretty one sided!

  • RobBiesenbach So what’s my commission on sold t-shirts?

  • Rivers Agency Seriously just when I think Bob is going to run out of clever, punny comebacks…he out does himself. I’ve been cracking up at the comments!

  • BobtheHouse1303 RobBiesenbach Haha! I love it! And yes, Bob, we will donate a portion of the proceeds for some nice landscaping for you. Or maybe some really flashy Christmas decorations.

  • Rivers Agency I realized a long time ago that you have to be comfortable with who you are and accentuate your positives so the right people will love you. You don’t have to try to be all things to all people. 

    I went out on a bind date with a house in a new neighborhood once and it just didn’t work out. We had nothing in common. I mentioned how I was excited when one of the ’85 Bears once came to visit me and she said “85 bears visited you? Are you near the zoo?” 

    I then went to online dating…big mistake. I went out with a house from Skokie who usually dated houses on the North Shore. She ended up being a real gold digger. I still have holes in my backyard from that one.

  • BobtheHouse1303 LauraPetrolino belllindsay florianeisele SpinSucks BOOOOOM!!!!!!!!! #onesided

  • LauraPetrolino BobtheHouse1303 RobBiesenbach That sounds great, thanks! I used to get really decked out for Christmas with lights all over the place. My owner even put in an extra circuit breaker for more lights. It used to make me a little scared though. I’m not too far from O’Hare Airport and I’d worry that a plane would try to land in my driveway

  • I had a chuckle when you introduced your “homely friend”  on Facebook, I failed to appreciate the uniqueness of Bob as a marketing strategy (no offense Bob).   Wonderful case study, certainly looking forward to hearing more from Bob in February.

  • Homely, Digital_DRK? Marketing strategy? I have feelings too you know. If you leave my doors open in winter, do I not get cold? If you don’t turn the faucet off, do I not drip? 

    The major issue with houses is that, because for years realtors just threw an arbitrary number on us that was not based on our personality, we lost a little confidence in ourselves and our value. We are a pretty introverted group to begin with and often wait for someone else to toot our horn for us. 

    I play the extrovert pretty well but, just by nature of being a house, it is a challenge.

  • BobtheHouse1303  A house that know’s Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice at that, most impressive!

  • Digital_DRK BobtheHouse1303 Mt. Prospect may not be Stratford-upon-Avon, but it is still a nice place to live!

  • lkpetrolino

    CraigMcBreen thanks Craig! Happy weekend!

  • CraigMcBreen

    lkpetrolino You too!

  • RoxanaG1

    coledouglas7 BobTheHouse1303 Neat way on how to approach home buyers.

  • BobTheHouse1303

    coledouglas7 I think it is most important to show all sides of you, otherwise you just look like my cousins, the movie props.

  • BobTheHouse1303

    RoxanaG1 coledouglas7 Thanks. I got tired of just reading about parts of me on the web so I figured, love me, hate me, but get to know me

  • coledouglas7

    BobTheHouse1303 RoxanaG1 well we are loving how you are sharing and getting everyone to know you!

  • BobTheHouse1303

    coledouglas7 RoxanaG1 You’d be surprised how few people take the time to know a house. We are really quite a-door-able…& I have several!

  • AshleyElaineS

    Such a unique find on social media! While I don’t think the “Bob the House” approach can be replicated as effectively (say, “Cindy the Cottage”) for all house marketers, this is still a great example of being creative with everyday tactics paying off in the end.

  • AshleyElaineS Wait, tell me more about this Cindy the Cottage? Is she a single family? I split from a split level about 7 years ago and the dating world is not easy.

    I understand that it is not easy for all houses to tweet. Many of us are shy. I got used to the spotlight from the Christmas lights my owner puts on me. Other houses just don’t want to put in the time to learn to tweet. I happen to be very lucky in that I live next door to a school who was kind enough to help me learn. 

    I’ll admit, like anything important, it is an effort. Some people still compare me to other houses down the block who took a few pictures of themselves and posted them on the real estate sites. While I am happy with my looks, I want people to know I’m not just a pretty facade. I want that potential buyer to see themselves living in me. I take that responsibility very seriously. I’ve seen many kids grow up in me and it is my job to give them a place where they know they are safe and warm and happy. 

    So far, the results have been pretty good. 6 families braved the cold weather to visit me this past weekend, and all of them had conversations about where they would put couches, chairs, and which kid gets what room. While I wanted to give them ideas, but people are just getting used to a tweeting house. I figured I’d better hold off on talking until they move in!

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  • Katherine21

    Very interesting! I might as well give name to my apartment in <a href=””> Queue Point Dubai Land</a>.