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High-Tech and Human Hustle: CENTURY 21® Expands Its Reach as a Real Estate Force

While other companies and franchisors are working toward earning the attention of the industry, a growing number of real estate professionals looking for a new place to call home are seeking out the iconic CENTURY 21® brand, which is known in the market as a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who ideate and share best practices. Century 21 Real Estate LLC is coming off its best growth year in a decade, in terms of the number of new offices affiliating with the brand, with many of the new brokers coming into the CENTURY 21 System citing it as the best platform for their sales professionals, their market, their growth and long-term success. In 2016 alone, 657 new offices proudly waved the CENTURY 21 flag in local markets around the world. These growth numbers follow last year’s announcement that in 2015, the CENTURY 21 System welcomed 497 new offices globally. All totaled, Century 21 Real Estate LLC currently has approximately 7,400 independent offices worldwide, making it a global leader in residential real estate.

“It’s exciting to know that we now have 7,400 residential offices worldwide, but more importantly, we have real estate entrepreneurs coming to us wanting to know more about the C21® story and how we are helping their peers increase agent productivity, recruit the best professionals in the market and enhance marketshare,” says Greg Sexton, chief operating officer of Century 21 Real Estate LLC. “Based on the number of prospective franchisees coming into our Madison, N.J., headquarters, and those attending our live events to experience our value proposition first-hand, we’re confident that we will continue to be the first choice for industry professionals and consumers looking for a new place to call home.”

Overall, the “we’ve got your back” culture at C21® of collaboration and shared ideation, growth-oriented technology tools, learning, and multi-channel marketing communications, coupled with the peer-to-peer community of like-minded entrepreneurs who support one another’s growth and long-term success, has helped the global franchisor raise its affiliated agent base almost 10 percent year-over-year to 111,531.

“Agents are gravitating to the CENTURY 21 System because they want to be a part of a culture of purpose-driven professionals who earn the trust and affinity of homebuyers and sellers better than anyone in the business—and the three-peat sweep of J.D. Power helps to affirm that,” adds Cara Whitley, chief marketing officer of Century 21 Real Estate LLC. “Our Platform supports entrepreneurs by providing access to tools and technologies that help to facilitate human-to-human connection, augment their skills and abilities to help better serve the consumer, and deliver insights that other agents who are considering a move, and consumers with life-changing real estate decisions, demand—and deserve—from a real estate company.”

When you ask the new brokers affiliating with the brand why they chose CENTURY 21, they reference the many ways the brand is helping their “most valued assets”—their agents—grow their business and close more transactions via lead generation, learning, and personalized technology offerings, like Realogy’s proprietary Zap® platform for brokers and agents, in addition to its suite of data analytics and mobile-based technologies.

The differentiator, adds Whitley, is the philosophy of the 111,500 agents worldwide who approach each other and the market as a collaborative community that shares best practices on how best to combine technology with a personalized “human touch” to build long-term relationships, attract new business and drive per-person transaction growth.

“CENTURY 21 agents are our heroes, and when it comes to helping make dreams come true, they are the best in the world,” says Whitley. “They are a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who support one another’s growth and long-term success, who never stop hustling, and will not sleep until all parties in the transaction are satisfied.”

In a world where people and professionals have hundreds of choices to make every day, including which real estate company they feel is best for their unique, individual needs and wants, the CENTURY 21 System is increasingly earning the reputation as the “go-to” company for both real estate consumers who seek the best of both tech and human experiences, and for industry professionals wanting more growth-oriented support.

“Over the last five years, CENTURY 21 Affiliated has grown substantially, with over 100 offices, 2,000 affiliated sales professionals and, in 2016, we sold 17,923 homes, and we certainly would not have had this type of growth without the ongoing support from the CENTURY 21 brand,” explains Dan Kruse, president and chief executive officer of CENTURY 21 Affiliated, with offices in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Florida. “We’re a proud franchisee of the CENTURY 21 system. Their innovative thinking embraces our strategy for new market growth, and supports our overall business model.”

Those affiliated with the CENTURY 21 System receive a great many benefits—both directly and indirectly—from a collective culture that values human interaction to a platform that supports individual growth. For example, new sales professionals are able to learn from their more experienced peers, broker managers are able to lean in and grow with others in similar roles, and companies that choose to affiliate are not only welcomed with a comprehensive, year-long onboarding process, but they also have access to other long-running independent franchise owners and operators who openly share the secrets to their overall success. The foundational principle of the collaborative culture at C21® is simple, yet powerful: support someone else’s success and you support their lives and the countless lives and communities they touch along the way.

“After 14 years as an independent brand, I decided to get into franchising, and after an eight-month journey dissecting all available options and business models, the choice was clear: affiliate with CENTURY 21,” explains Terry Swanson, president of CENTURY 21 Results Realty in Cumming, Ga., serving the Atlanta metropolitan region. “In doing so, not only do we now have access to the tools and services necessary to thrive and grow, but I can turn to any number of broker managers like myself across the world to get their ideas and discuss strategies that are helping them overcome business challenges and concerns. Now that’s powerful, and that’s the new CENTURY 21.”

Sexton believes that the System’s continued focus on quality over quantity is helping the organization drive innovationn and disruptive change while proactively adapting to a consistently altered business environment. The CENTURY 21 Zap platform is the perfect example of how the iconic brand owns its role as an innovator. In fostering a “we” versus “them” mentality, Zap is truly a team approach. Zap combines best-in-class real estate websites and apps with centralized access to a customer engagement platform that builds strong, long-term relationships between agents and their customers, driving agent efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

Unlike other platforms in the sharing economy that isolate people from each other in business dealings, the magic behind Zap is in bringing together all parties. It facilitates sharing between brokers and agents, agents and their clients, and homebuyers and sellers, while providing feedback to their C21 sales professional.

“Zap is getting results for our agents who use the platform regularly,” says Kevin McRobbie, chief operating officer of CENTURY 21 North Shore, with 27 offices throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. “In fact, Zap users are doing more business than those who choose not to engage with the platform.”

This is even more promising news for the global franchisor whose work repositioning and contemporizing the C21® brand has helped it to become the real estate company of choice within the real estate industry and with homebuyers and sellers. Just last year, for example, the CENTURY 21 brand announced that it received all four industry-leading customer satisfaction awards in the annual J.D. Power 2016 Home Buyer/Seller Satisfaction StudySM, sweeping the awards for the third consecutive year across four customer satisfaction segments in the study, including: First-Time Home-Buyer Satisfaction, First-Time Home-Seller Satisfaction, Repeat Home-Buyer Satisfaction and Repeat Home-Seller Satisfaction.

Sweeping all four J.D. Power customer satisfaction awards alone is significant, since no other real estate company has accomplished this feat once, let alone three times consecutively. Adding to that distinction are third-party voices and peer recommendations pouring in from clients and customers C21 System members interact with each and every day. Through its partnership with RealSatisfied, a leading customer satisfaction and brand management platform for the real estate industry, as well as its in-house Quality Service Pinnacle Awards, CENTURY 21 System members are proving that real estate professionals can not only better understand their clients’ needs and work tirelessly to exceed client expectations, but do so while maintaining superior production.

“As a real estate professional, I know that relevance is given by those we interact with, and remaining relevant is critical if I am to remain successful in today’s consumer-centric world,” says Eric Riviere of CENTURY 21 Richard Berry & Associates in Louisiana, a Quality Service Pinnacle Award winner in only his second year with the brand. “I’m proud of these ratings and my affiliation with a company that helps me engage with homebuyers and sellers where they live, and better serve them both in-person and across multiple digital channels.”

“The importance of earning quality service ratings is unquestionable, as they help validate our day-to-day focus on providing best practices in client care,” adds Fernando Semiao, president of CENTURY 21 Semiao & Associates in New Jersey. “The positive feedback we receive helps us leave a lasting impression on the people we interact with, create a foundation of trust, and ultimately, it separates us from the competition.”

In a separate but equally impressive third-party citation, the 2017 Millward Brown survey of real estate consumers found that the CENTURY 21 brand also ranked highest in total brand awareness for the 19th consecutive year in Millward Brown’s ad tracking study. Diving deeper into the research, the study also found that both the Latino community at large and Hispanic millennials endorse Century 21 Real Estate significantly higher than the competition. When presented with a list of real estate agencies, total awareness of the iconic CENTURY 21 brand among the Hispanic community was 91 percent, significantly higher than the nearest competitor at 69 percent. For Hispanic millennials, total awareness was at 88 percent, 24 percentage points higher than the next closest competitor. At 45 percent, Hispanic consumers also selected the CENTURY 21 System as the most recognized name in real estate, significantly higher than the nearest competitor at 32 percent.

Together, the brand’s efforts have greatly increased the profile of their affiliated sales professionals with this increasingly dynamic segment, but more importantly, the brand has helped its System members better understand and serve the unique needs of Hispanic homebuyers and sellers. A list of initiatives that specifically address the many people and cultures within the overall Hispanic community that the C21 brand is delivering include:

  • Spanish-first marketing programs and digital advertising spots, proprietary online tools and targeted sponsorships.
  • Proud sponsor of one of Los Angeles’ premier Latino events—Posible L.A. 2017, a curated event dedicated to Angelino entrepreneurs
  • century21.com: the site just completed a major overhaul to focus on the data and knowledge Hispanic buyers prefer and seek when searching for real estate information
  • Partnership with Pólvora Advertising as the brand’s Hispanic marketing agency

“Serving multicultural homebuyers and sellers is no longer a niche,” explains Sexton, who notes that the brand is also active in the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the Asian Real Estate Association of America and the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. “Serving diverse markets is good business, and another sign that our System is committed to reflecting all of the faces of the consumers it serves in local markets across the globe.”

In today’s digital world, where all citizens by and large are media creators, businesses, especially service-oriented real estate companies, need to foundationally be prepared to respond to disruption, communications and innovation.

“What we have created is a meaningful community of like-minded real estate professionals whose collective work matters, and while it may not be for everyone in the business, those that affiliate with C21 are delighted with how expectations are exceeded, and they openly share the experience with others,” adds Whitley.

And if the CENTURY 21 philosophy needed additional credibility, the brand can look to the unique mind and brilliance of Seth Godin, recognized as the premier marketing and consumer guru, who, at a C21® brand-sponsored event called “Agents of the Future,” so aptly said: “All of us are smarter than any of us.”

“At the end of the day, the power of human interaction is irreplaceable when it comes to buying or selling a home,” says Whitley. “The combination of a broker- and agent-centric value proposition and a focus on one of the company’s core values of delivering the highest standards of quality service throughout the consumer’s decision-making journey has helped to make System members a top choice when a real estate need arises.”

There’s no denying that the new look and feel of CENTURY 21 is a modern brand experience, one where their strong foundation and internal culture of collaboration and shared ideation is growing a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who share common values and goals in an authentic and transparent manner. In doing so, the brand is earning the trust and affinity of industry professionals and homebuyers and sellers around the globe who are in the market for a new place to call home.

For more information, please visit www.century21.com.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

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