Notes From A NAR Newbie. Brand Awareness, Finding Customers, Engage and Measure
If there is one positive thing about being stuck in bed for five days straight, it is that I can finally digest the six pages of notes I made while attending The National Association of Realtors convention in Orlando in mid November. So, why am I in bed? Well, I am now a card-carrying member in the very exclusive club of individuals who have been hit by a car while riding a bike and lived to talk about it. Truth be known, he didn’t exactly hit me, I crashed into him but really…..tomato, tomato. I’m just trying to stay positive.
If you have never been to a NAR convention, it is worth going…..at least once in your life, if only to see what 20,000 realtors in a room looks like. It is a pretty amazing sight. For four days straight (five if you count REBarCamp), 8:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon, you attend break out sessions on just about every topic related to real estate. While there are some professional and engaging speakers, others are hit and miss. For the most part, the speakers are working for free, but try to sell you something afterwards. Books, training and coaching services, speaking engagements, etc, etc. You get the picture.
I spent many days pouring over my notes before I realized that it was nearly impossible to condense it all into one post, so I thought I would concentrate on the few overriding themes of the week that pretty much every speaker touched on; defining your corporate or personal brand, finding the right customers, engage with them, and measure your success. Whew. Four topics that I’m particularly fond of.
As we know, the period leading up to the US real estate meltdown were great times for many Realtors. I think it is fair to say that this didn’t help our industry’s reputation all that much. People were lining up to buy properties so Realtors didn’t have to work that hard. Then, in a blink of an eye, the market changed. While many folded their tents, the smart ones took the opportunity to reevaluate and rebuild their businesses. I suppose it didn’t hurt that the birth of social media happened right at a time when the rebuilding was going on. Fast forward. Today there are distinct signs that the market is moving in an upward direction. The agents I spoke to are decidedly upbeat about their futures. So the question remains, what was learned in those four years?
First, today’s agent wants to connect with the right consumer, build a trusted relationship, and keep them for life. As one speaker said, we have one dentist, one lawyer, even one barber for life. Why can’t we have one agent for life? This is definitely the kinder and gentler “Realtor Age” where the overriding goal is to create a good experience. NAR recently reported that customers told, on average, 8 people if they had a good experience, BUT 18 people if the experience was bad.
Second, customers want to know that your “brand”, whether personal or corporate, stands for something. While building your brand can take years to fine tune, when used in conjunction with a hyper-local marketing strategy, it becomes evident that you can dominate a market quicker than many. As one speaker said, the outcome of your brand message should be for people to “Like you, know you, trust you, pay you, refer you”. Therefore, your website or blog should provide clear and concise answers to the public’s biggest questions; how is the market? and what is my home worth? Many speakers told of the importance of video as the clear winner in building relationships. Video gives consumers an opportunity to meet you BEFORE they meet you. Many spoke of a need to have testimonials on your site because 90% of consumers trust peer reviews.
Third, agents recognize that social media may be an exciting new way to reach potential customers, but it only works if it is a mutual, meaning that engagement is a huge part of relationship building. Social media is about consumers finding you, not about you finding them. As we move into a “one screen world” there is much more focus on mobile technologies. Consider that mobile use is dominated by the 25-35 age group. We are seeing a revolution in mobile and texting. On Christmas day 2011 over 7 million smart phones were activated and over 240 million apps were downloaded. 64% of mobile phone time is spent on apps and 61% of customers will leave a site if it is not mobile friendly. NAR reports that 63% of people using mobile to search for homes are connecting with agents at the same time. Powerful statistics.
Finally, agents recognize that there is no gain in the shotgun approach to marketing. They refuse to spend oodles of money on newspaper ads, billboards, and flyers because they don’t have the money to spend on something that doesn’t work. One may argue that they help build brand awareness, but are you connecting with people who want to work with now or in the near future? Everyone agrees that technology offers you a new way to do old stuff (and do it better) but I was amazed to find out that the best in the business are mastering the metrics, that is, looking at their results carefully to see what is working and what isn’t. Take Quantum Digital Cards as a prime example; an agent can list a home and within 24 hours of the signing he can have individually addressed postcards sent out to a targeted neighbourhood. Each card has an individual QR code on it so that the agent can know who clicked through to get more information. The order process and tracking capabilities can be done on your smart phone.
Over the past few years, US Realtors learned some valuable lessons in relationship building that will serve them well as their market rebounds. I plan to take most of these lessons home with me and continue to reinforce the message that there is a better way to show our value as Realtors here in Canada.
Also happy to meet The Lorax at Universal Studios!