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Consumer Engagement: What Really Works

Brokers Reveal Which Tools and Strategies Yield Results at RISMedia Forum

Building strong relationships with clients and prospects is priority one for any good real estate professional. But in today’s digital world, making real connections with consumers has become complicated and often elusive.

Midyear17_moderators_panelistsThis topic was explored in detail during RISMedia’s Power Broker Forum at the National Association of REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. this past May. Co-moderated by RISMedia Founder, President and CEO John Featherston and NM Management Inc./CENTURY 21 New Millennium Founder and CEO Todd Hetherington, the panel featured: Scott MacDonald, broker, owner and president, RE/MAX Gateway; Matthew O’Connor, COO, Terrie O’Connor REALTORS®; Burke Smith, chief development and learning officer, Realty ONE Group; and Verl Workman, founder and CEO, Workman Success Systems.

As the panel agreed, today’s consumers are more sophisticated than ever before and it’s incumbent upon real estate professionals to keep pace with modern methods of engagement. “My perspective has changed through the years,” said Hetherington. “My oldest daughter is one our newest licensees. Her perspective as a 27-year-old is different from mine as a 53-year-old.”

In striving for consumer engagement, MacDonald stressed that it’s critical to begin with the end in mind. “You have to have a plan of action and know what you’re trying to accomplish,” he advised. “Have a plan, then implement the plan so you’re not doing things randomly, but on purpose.”

“We have to be intentional about our connection as opposed to being accidental,” agreed Workman. “Agents are quick to spend money but don’t actually measure the results. I want to know that I’m getting a minimum of six times return on my investment. If I can’t quantify it, it’s just noise to me.”

“You can’t save your way into profitability but you can spend yourself into oblivion,” said O’Connor. “There are so many ways to spend money and so many things sound good and appealing, but how many of our agents have significant negative ROI? We need to help our agents measure that.”

When it comes to social media and marketing campaigns, Smith advised keeping the 40/40/20 rule top of mind: 40 percent of your success involves knowing and targeting your audience; 40 percent will be based on the value of your message; and 20 percent will be the look and feel of your message. “The days of figuring out whether you can get dogs and sunsets in the same picture are over,” he added.

It’s All About the System
Whether it’s Facebook, YouTube or an automated content program, panelists agreed that no platform or tool by itself is a silver bullet for generating business. “It’s not as much about the source,” said Workman, “as it is about the system and process you have in place to convert leads.”

O’Connor has focused on putting just such a system in place at the brokerage level. “Last year, I started automating to social media every new listing, every sale, and every open house, tagging the agent throughout. That immediately became the No. 1 traffic source to our website. It dwarfed everything else.”

MacDonald stresses to his agents the importance of recording numbers and tracking metrics using whatever methods work best for them. “When people ask me what systems do we tell our agents to use to track and measure their results, my short answer is, ‘the one they’re going to use.’”

According to Workman, there are several free options for brokers to use when it comes to tracking results, such as Google Drive lead tracker. He requires agents to record a lead on the first contact. “If it’s not done on the first contact, it means they have too many leads and we turn off their lead flow.”

Video: A Must-Have
MacDonald is a strong proponent of using video to engage consumers. “We’re tracking where we’re getting the most readership from and it’s videos,” he reported. “We’re doing 1-3 videos a week. You have to have a broad selection and appeal to the audience you’re going after in multiple ways.”

Despite its huge popularity with consumers, Smith reports that only 12 percent of agents are actually using video. “Video has the highest perceived value from the search engines, and the highest interaction from the consumer. Don’t worry about having a bad hair day or the sound of your voice—people just care about the information.”

O’Connor also uses Facebook videos to build target audiences. “I can follow up with everyone who watches a video for more than 90 seconds. I get those stats from Facebook and it allows me to create a custom target audience.”

Of course, the content of your videos, and social media posts in general, is extremely important. Workman uses the FORD method: “25 percent about family, 25 percent about your occupation, 25 percent about recreation and what you’re doing for fun, and 25 percent about your dreams. People will connect with you personally if you’re not shoving real estate down their throat.”

MacDonald concurred. In addition to his local real estate reports, he also posts “cooking videos and videos of my daughter swimming—I get just as many comments on those as my market reports.”

Smith also underscored the importance of correctly tagging videos. “Videos that get views are tagged and described with keywords about what it’s about and where it is,” he explained.

The Human Touch
Of course, any good real estate professional’s consumer engagement strategy must involve personal contact. In fact, to underscore the value of marrying today’s digital strategies with the tried-and-true practices of relationship building, Heatherington offers his agents an all-day class on how to become “tradigital.”

“Technology should be a supplement, but the digital side is growing,” said O’Connor. “This is still a belly-to-belly business and that’s probably one of the reasons why we haven’t been disintermediated.”

“You can’t shake hands with a Facebook page,” agreed Smith. “Everything you do offline has to have a call to action to drive people to where you’ve invested online.”

Parting Gifts
In closing, Featherston asked panelists to leave the audience with a few words of wisdom. Here’s what they shared.

O’Connor: “Fail early, fail often, keep iterating and try new things. ”

MacDonald: “You look like you look, you sound like you sound—make videos. ”

Workman: “What you focus on matters. Begin with the end in mind and intentionally create the business you want. Your return on time is more important than your return on investment. ”

Smith: “Technology won’t replace agents, but agents using technology will. Pick one or two technology strategies and get out there and own it. ”

Hetherington: “Just get out there and do it.”

Featherston: “You learn by putting yourself out there. Be engaged and learn from the success of others. If you have a plan and a system behind you, you can win.”

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at maria@rismedia.com.

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