The Onion Principle: Making Your Campaigns Effective

Finger touching a screen with marketing buzzwords

When very large companies develop marketing plans, they don’t just rely on one form of advertising. From soda to computers, most companies rely on a combination of advertising media to get in front of their end clients. With multi-million-dollar budgets, they can easily place ads on TV, in the newspaper and magazines, the radio, put up billboards, and even make a splash with online ads. They can set up advertising displays inside stores, send targeted mail, and even coordinate a product sale through national retailers.

Why all the different types of advertising? Each of those advertising types takes a team and research to get the message and the strategy just right, so why bother? Because savvy marketers know that repetition and sending a marketing message in different ways is effective. I liken this to layers of an onion. The onion is more potent and flavorful the more layers it has — and it is most likely to be noticed in a dish (hey, I’m Greek… we like to cook). Although we all wish we had multi-million-dollar marketing budgets, you can apply this Onion Principle to your marketing plan to maximize effectiveness.

Marketing Layers

The first step in creating a campaign is to determine what layers are available, what might resonate with your audience, which are in your budget, and which will be the best for conveying your message and call-to-action. There are plenty of options out there once you get creative! Below are just some of the different types of media and connections that can be incorporated into a campaign — great onion layers:

  • Postcard
  • Newsletter
  • Enewsletter
  • Letter
  • Notecard
  • Additional information to be sent in a package
  • Brochure that can be picked up in a rack
  • Brochure distributed by a local professional (like a doctor)
  • Magazine or Newspaper Ad
  • Online Ad
  • Social Media Ad
  • Billboard Ad
  • Park Bench Ad
  • Car Wrap
  • Visitor Guide Publication ad and/or information
  • Business Listing on Chamber of Commerce website or other local business site
  • Business Networking Group Membership (live interaction)
  • TV ad
  • Radio ad
  • Podcast
  • Guest on a radio or TV show
  • Video
  • Live or Recorded Class
  • Webinar
  • Trade show booth
  • Event or Team Sponsorship

Quite the list, isn’t it? There are likely dozens of additional media and ideas to spread a marketing message once you start thinking about your options and getting local.

The next step is to consider the types of information that will appeal to the target audience and the most likely avenues to get that information in their hands.


Who is your audience and how do they consume information? It is important to think about this so you spend your marketing dollars wisely. Marketing to seniors effectively is going to take a different approach than marketing to first-time Millennial homebuyers. Likewise, a target market of out-of-area homeowners will have different marketing opportunities and message than owners of a condo building. Before choosing the marketing layers, first consider the audience to determine their marketing media preferences as this will make quick work of narrowing down the list of available options.

For example, let’s consider a broker who wants to specialize in equestrian properties. A broker with this specialty may already have local connections with equestrian vendors — why not put those connections to work? There may also be a local equestrian newsletter that can run an ad and/or real estate content that pertains to those readers. First see if there is a type of media already in place that is the quickest and most-established way to get in front of the target that will build instant credibility.

The second step when considering an audience is to think about the budget. Oftentimes brokers prefer to think about the ideal size of the audience first, but effective marketing means consistent connections over the long-haul. The last thing you want is to have to stop marketing because the funds have dried up.

Message Drives the Media

Next, consider the message. The simplest advertising, that which gets a company name out there similar to what you might see on a banner at a ballgame, should still include a call-to-action. Other, more-complex marketing tools such as reports or classes, are better-suited to different types of media. For example, postcards are not suitable for lengthy annual reports and a 16-page booklet is likely too much for an invitation to an open house.

Putting It Together

Once the audience, media types, and message is identified, it is time to put it all together into a campaign. The campaign is simply a plan that identifies the frequency, the media, and the content.

For example, here is an example of a one-year geographical farming campaign that applies the Onion Principle and establishes the frequency, media, and content:

marketing campaign example schedule

In the above campaign, the broker has employed:

  1. A Quarterly Report/Annual Review template (a good size is 11 x 17)
  2. A Market Update template (good sizes are 8.5 x 11 flat or folded)
  3. HOA Meeting Attendance — a live layer
  4. Drive-By Pie Grab — a live layer with a gift

Plus, this broker adds additional activities as part of their listing process to create even more layers:

  1. Open Houses along with special neighbors-only time
  2. A series of letters that go out when the home has listed, pended, and sold.

Those are six great layers and this broker has put the Onion Principle to work to make this a very effective campaign!

Just as each of us have preferences in how we consume information, so do buyers and sellers. Apply the Onion Principle to your campaigns to increase effectiveness and to encourage buyers and sellers to pick up the phone, send an email, attend an open house or a class, or visit a website.


Denise Lones

Denise Lones is President and Founder of The Lones Group. With almost three decades of experience in the real estate industry, her expertise in brand development, strategic marketing, business systems and processes, and lead generation make her a go-to resource for real estate brokers and brokerages who want to grow their businesses. In addition, her background in new construction sales, training, strategy, and research are invaluable to builders and developers.

Information on The Lones Group’s brand and system development or coaching and strategy services can be found at

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