Back when computers hummed like refrigerators (and weighed just about the same), real estate technology was exclusively a tool for bigger firms flush with funds. Over the past few years, however, we've seen the democratization of real estate technology, which has opened the door for firms of all sizes to leverage the power of tech.
For instance, our contact management program, Moxi, has been a real game changer. We use it to track our agents' hot and warm lists, distribute neighborhood news, send out new listings to VIP clients, and help organize yearly neighborhood reviews. We also developed Moxi Present to provide sellers with professional listing presentations, helping them nail down pricing. And Focus 1st shows our sellers buying patterns, average price per square foot, and odds of a 30-day sale for any given neighborhood.
That said, the biggest digital disruptor in the real estate industry is the ability for agents and real estate companies to buy leads (both buyer and seller). Relying on third parties to provide the next generation of leads, however, can set companies and agents down the road to financial ruin. Shaping a business plan around buying leads is a shortsighted strategy. Case in point: These leads will be less inclined to refer friends and family to the agent because their relationship is inherently transactional, and referrals are an integral part being a successful real estate professional.
As you can see, this technological shift has affected real estate in a multitude of ways — both good and bad. But using new technology effectively isn't a matter of flipping a switch. If you don't know where or how to get started, you may lose more than you gain. But with a bit of coaching, anyone can make the most of the tech revolution.
Fitting Tech in a People-Focused Business
Real estate is a people-first industry. Agents are at their best when they’re face-to-face with clients. They excel at teaching, relating to, and showing empathy for people.
Ultimately, it's that dedication that can hinder tech adoption. Most agents would rather hire assistants who possess the tech skills they lack. And even younger agents may find they're more successful when they step away from their screens. To truly capitalize on the newly available tech, firms first need to choose between implementing it themselves or hiring a consultant.
Like most decisions, both options present pros and cons.
When it's done in-house, agents have more control over their database and have the opportunity to learn for themselves. After all, getting in the weeds is sometimes the best way to learn a new skill. On the other hand, the learning curve could be high, and there’s no definitive time frame for improvement.
Outsourcing this task takes the burden off agents, but it also comes with costs — an idea agents aren't always keen on. Rather than pay a third party, they may decide to take on the work themselves. In reality, though, agents are salespeople at heart, and chasing the next transaction leaves little time for back-end marketing and data mining. Before long, the firm’s investment in the technology may go to waste.
Whichever option you choose, you can ensure that you get the most out of your investment with these tips:
1. Define your ideal client and organize your leads.
You can’t market anything without knowing your audience, and that’s especially true in real estate. For instance, Millennial buyers are often considered big-city dwellers who want to be close to the action. Yet as Millennials age, they're beginning to settle down to start families, becoming "move up" buyers who need larger homes with family-friendly amenities.
Once you understand who you want to reach, you can decide how best to reach them. Leverage your customer relationship management (CRM) system to organize the contacts in your database and determine who meets the profile of a move-up buyer. Then sort your contacts by where they are in the buy cycle (e.g., just beginning to browse, researching options, or ready to sign on the dotted line).
By systemically organizing your contacts in such a way, you'll spend less time firing follow-ups into the abyss and more time nurturing promising leads with personalized messaging, responding quicker to new prospects' time-sensitive inquiries, and staying in touch with past clients to generate valuable referrals.
2. Find your niche and amplify it through social media.
Tap into one of your personal passions and ask how it lends itself to your ideal client. Then use social media marketing — an important part of any technology strategy — to amplify it.
Let's use our move-up buyers as an example — say you're passionate about baseball. Get involved at the community level, perhaps by coaching a T-ball team. Families that participate in T-ball have children who need room to grow, hit, run, and create chaos. They're your ideal demographic, and through your involvement, you can expand your database of potential clients.
Then use Facebook and other social media sites to promote your niche. For instance, you can take pictures (with parents’ consent) of your T-ball team and share game announcements through a closed Facebook group. Keep the social aspect of it going by interacting with clients through commenting and sharing their posts that genuinely speak to their interests.
The digital revolution brought technology to the fingertips of any real estate firm, no matter its size. But more is not always better, and sorting through all the tech options can quickly become a nightmare. Take the guesswork out of upgrading by sticking to these steps in each campaign you launch, and if possible, seek help from a consultant to make sure you’re maximizing your return on investment.
Jeff Thompson is managing partner at Windermere Group One, a real estate network comprised of 300 offices and more than 6,000 agents throughout the western United States. Jeff is truly passionate about helping build companies by building their people. He leverages his 25-plus years of experience in real estate to coach other managers and brokers. Jeff credits much of his success to hard work and a willingness to partner with good people.
Dee Boyle, Windermere Marketing Specialist