By Jonathan Hiltz

Hanlon Realty’s community bus.
Hanlon Realty’s community bus.

It’s not easy being a needle in a haystack. You have the confidence that your skills to sell real estate are sharper than a number two pencil, but still face challenges getting the word out there amongst a sea of competitors.

Real estate salespeople everywhere try traditional marketing like city bus ads, bench ads, radio, TV and everything in between. Others, however, look at the marketing landscape and decide to think outside-the-box to attract attention.

Case-in-point: Hanlon Realty in St. John’s Nfld., where owner Wayne Hanlon bought a bus and wrapped the vehicle in his company logo. He then gave it to his agents to use at local events in the hopes of getting some exposure.

“Wayne was trying to think of some things that he could do to help out the agents – to have something to use as a marketing tool,” says Debbie Hollett, a 20-year veteran with Hanlon, in an interview with REM. “The way the market is now, (it’s) so expensive for advertising and the agents can only really do so much.”

Hollett says that Hanlon bought the bus at no cost to the agents and said they could use it to market their services. “We formed a committee and we’ve already done quite a few things over the past few months.”

The bus participated in a Santa Claus parade and a Halloween event as well. And, says Hollett, “We are in the middle of doing a fundraiser for a local food bank and that’s really snowballed for us.”

She attributes their success not just to the unique marketing techniques, but to the community minded, grassroots events they have attended. That one-two punch has led to business for the company.

“We’re salespeople so obviously the intent is to make some money, but we like to give back to the community that’s given to us,” says Hollett.

Although Hanlon Realty is a perfect example of successful outside-the-box marketing, there are many other ideas that are being used by agents.

For example, one post on Pinterest says to add a solar-powered light on your for sale sign, so it can be visible at night to potential buyers. The same post also said to donate recycling and composting bins with your company name and phone number on them to new homeowners, so your business will be advertised every time it’s recycling day.

You could also write a weekly column in the local newspaper that talks about real estate trends and lists the hot properties of the week in the local area. Or perhaps making friends with the HR department at a large local company that hires people and relocates them to the area you’re selling in would pay dividends.

No matter what the technique, the game is to get your name in the public eye as creatively as possible, whether it’s advertising at a local community event while fundraising and getting involved, wrapping a bus in your company logo or some other attempt to show the community that you can sell property.


  1. What a great idea. Unfortunately this would be against the law in Toronto. We are not allowed to compete with the TTC even in areas not being serviced by the TTC. Lets make sure we vote everyone back into city counsel and the Ontario liberals to protect our TTC.

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