If you've spent much time on social media over the last few years, you've probably seen this answer to branded content. It's a snappy retort to what many see as the increasingly unctuous and unwelcome expansion of corporate narratives into social spaces, leaving us subject to advertising seemingly every minute of every day.
To a growing number of people — including many of your future customers — the idea that Wendy's is our wisecracking hipster friend or we're "in this together" with Toyota or United Airlines isn't just unconvincing: it's downright nauseating. The more brands clamor to sound just like us, the more robotic and intrusive it all feels.
Many internet users are covering their ears and averting their eyes rather than engage with it.
Into this world of "corporate personhood" run amok steps the real estate agent or broker.
It's a well-known fact that many real estate agents get a substantial quantity of their leads by promoting their listings on digital channels, especially social media. Some experts have estimated that out of all professional industries, real estate experts are the most active on social media.
Going without a robust online presence simply isn't an option. The question, then, is how you can humanize your digital business. Luckily, you have some natural advantages that can serve you well.
The Human Connection Just Comes Easier for Real Estate Agents
Luckily, you have the potential to go right where so many others go wrong.
Real estate professionals stand out from the pack online for a variety of reasons:
With all of this in mind, you should get excited about the huge potential the digital world holds in store. Your consistent, trustworthy online presence is an extension of your in-person relationship building. Over time, that online activity provides the momentum that brings a steady stream of leads to your door.
That's crucial to building a lucrative, sustainable business that offers work-life balance.
Let's look at some of the ways you can ensure your digital brand has the human touch:
Marketing automation technology doesn't get in the way of relationships; it helps you manage and deepen them. Contact us to learn more.
It's no exaggeration to say that client communication is the key to success as a real estate agent. Every client has their own needs and approaches real estate from their own unique perspective. No matter how much you know about local real estate markets or how much experience you have helping clients with real estate needs, your ability to share your expertise in an accessible, relatable way is crucial to building trust and developing productive, long-term business relationships with clients. We've got some tips to help you improve client communication, save time, and earn more referrals.
Listen, Ask Questions, and Understand Client Needs
While there are always commonalities, every client is ultimately coming from their own unique place and has their own communication needs. A first-time homebuyer will naturally have different needs and questions than a client who has been through the process of buying a home multiple times in their life. That's why it's so important to listen intently, ask the right questions to find out where the client is coming from, and develop a deep understanding of what each client needs. The more you learn and the more you listen, the easier it will be to communicate effectively.
Make Yourself Available on a Variety of Communication Platforms
Availability is almost as important as honesty for effective communication, so make yourself available! Some clients prefer to communicate through traditional means, some through technology, and some with a mix of both. Whether a client wants to communicate by phone, video call, text, email, or social media, it's important to make yourself available seamlessly on the communication platforms that your clients prefer to use.
Lean on Your Real Estate Expertise to Make Key Concepts Relatable
Your real estate expertise and all of the experiences you've accumulated throughout your career should be major assets when communicating with clients. You can use that experience to help explain challenging concepts to clients and show them that you understand their needs. Sharing stories is a reliable way to build rapport while helping clients understand what to expect when buying or selling a home.
Keep Track of What You Learn About Clients
Your real estate CRM should be one of your biggest assets for improving communication with clients. It's the place to store all of the information that you learn about each client, which will help you to better understand their needs and ensure that you always have key information available when you're communicating with a client. With a powerful all-in-one solution like DeltaNET™6, you can easily store, organize, and access all of the data that you need to better serve each client.
Know When, Why, and How to Automate Your Outreach
When a client is deep into the process of buying or selling a home, most of your communication is likely to be direct and personalized. But when you're communicating with a client who's still in the exploratory stages of buying or selling a home, automation can help you save time while effectively managing relationships. The right real estate CRM will provide a variety of options for automation, like drip email campaigns, newsletters, market reports, and targeted content to help clients understand their real estate options.
Learn to Get Key Information Across Quickly, Concisely, and Accurately
Your clients are busy and so are you, so it's helpful to learn how to get information across as concisely and accurately as possible. This is especially important when you're communicating via email or text. When sending a message in any text-based format, try to cut out unnecessary words, keep information as specific as possible, and explain concepts in a concise, accessible way. You don't want to leave anything important out, but clients will appreciate it when you make it easy for them to digest key information quickly.
Remember That Communication Doesn't End When the Deal Is Closed
It's so easy to turn your attention to the next client once one deal is closed, but your satisfied clients should be among your best sources of referrals. That can only happen if you keep the lines of communication open after the deal is closed. In the beginning, that communication may take the form of handling any leftover details, and asking clients for reviews/testimonials. In the long term, a mix of automation and personal outreach can help you maintain productive relationships with past clients.
The Process of Improving Communication Never Really Ends
The most successful real estate agents know that the process of self-improvement never really ends, and that's certainly true when it comes to improving communication skills. Make communication a priority by keeping up with the latest tools, tips, and tactics for effective communication. Better communication builds stronger relationships and ultimately makes your job easier as a real estate agent.
Instagram, now owned by Facebook, has enjoyed a steady rise to prominence over the last few years.
While most people might not think of Instagram first when they list the top social media networks, now is a good time to reassess that opinion. In fact, Instagram IS one of the biggest: since January of 2020, it consistently logs 1 billion monthly active users. This makes it around three times larger than Twitter.
Facebook is still the largest at 2.8 billion. When you dig deeper and look only at users in the United States and Canada, however, Facebook comes to around 259 million compared to 120 million for Instagram. In short, the audience most U.S.-based real estate agents need is right here on these two platforms.
If you are using Facebook now, it only makes sense to extend your efforts to Instagram.
In fact, there are clear similarities between the two. If you know how to use, optimize, and market from your Facebook account, virtually all the lessons you've learned will also apply to Instagram. Plus, there are special features that make Instagram especially valuable in the real estate world.
Why So Many Real Estate Agents Swear by Instagram for Lead Generation
An increasing number of real estate agents are turning time and attention toward Instagram.
Unlike all the other social media networks, Instagram was built to be highly visual. That makes it one of the best places to showcase all your breathtaking real estate photography. On top of that, its streamlined interfaces and interactions mean it is much friendlier to new users than some other platforms.
Just as crucial, Instagram offers far more user engagement — some sources have estimated it as high as 15x the engagement of Facebook and 20x the engagement of Twitter. Many platforms are designed to limit the reach of businesses unless they pay for advertising, but Instagram hasn't developed in that direction (yet).
Getting followers on Instagram tends to be easier, too. While it may take months to reach your first 1,000, a consistent schedule of compelling content can accelerate your gains, so you'll add 1,000 in weeks or even days.
Top 6 Tips for Getting Bottom Line Real Estate Value from Your Instagram
Getting started with any new social media can seem daunting. The most important thing is to approach it in a way that allows you to generate leads without needing to scroll your feed for hours every day. Luckily, it's very easy to put Instagram to work for you once you've invested the initial time to set it up.
Let's look at some pointers that smooth the path to success:
To learn more about social media marketing in real estate, contact us.
Are you doing everything you can to turn your agents into the best possible representatives for your real estate brand? Just by the nature of the job, your agents are always representatives of your brand because they are the primary point of contact between your clients and your brand. But there's a difference between representing a brand and being a true ambassador.
Agents who are brand ambassadors recognize that promoting your larger brand is just as beneficial to them as it is to your real estate businesses because building a trusted, reliable, recognizable brand means more business for everyone. But agents are busy, so they may simply need some guidance and a nudge in the right direction. Here's how to turn your agents into valuable reps for your brand.
Start By Making Sure Agents Are Informed About Your Brand
In order to be great promoters for your brand, agents need to understand exactly what your brand means. That means going beyond logos and branded marketing materials to help agents understand the core values, standards, and benefits of your brand. An agent with an understanding of what your brand is will be better equipped to share that brand with the world.
How Marketing Tools and Technology Help Agents Rep Your Brand
The vast majority of agents will want to be great ambassadors for your brand, but they only have so much time to devote to actively representing your brand while still handling all of the day-to-day details of their work. That's why it's so important to provide them with the right tools and technology to make representing your brand a simple, streamlined process that they can easily integrate into their busy day.
Where Will Your Agents Take Your Brand Next?
Every agent should want to be a valuable rep for your brand, but it's up to you to provide what they need to succeed in that role. With the right mix of knowledge, tools, technology, and motivation, your agents will have everything they need to be outstanding reps for your brand.
The longer a home is on the market, the less likely it will sell for list price.
Weeks on the market directly impact final sales price, with homes that take 12 weeks or longer consistently facing the lowest prices. While there are many reasons for this, buyer skepticism — the feeling that "something must be wrong" with a property that stays on the market so long — is a major factor.
Lingering on the market creates "anti-momentum" as buyers can (and do!) negotiate harder.
By contrast, homes have better odds of selling for above listing price if they go right away.
With that in mind, many real estate agents launch proactive plans to drum up buzz for a listing before it even goes live online. With the right strategy, you can channel the wave of enthusiasm among proactive buyers to exceed your customer's wildest expectations for their listing's performance.
Put First Things First to Position a Listing for Maximum Buzz
You can raise the visibility of virtually any listing by unleashing a concerted effort to draw the right buyers in.
However, you're much more likely to achieve a smashing success if a few preliminaries are taken care of.
To win the most local buzz, a property must:
Finding the appropriate price for a property is one of the most important services you can provide to any seller. Make sure you have found the right comps for the job. Explain the data and methodology to the seller to win buy-in. This is especially crucial when a seller's sentimental value is out of line with true market value.
If you need to get the process done faster or simply want to double-check your figures, you have options. The DeltaNET 6 all-in-one solution helps you by drawing in estimates from five trusted sources using the latest data. You never need to worry that while you're hunting down comps, the market is changing around you.
And, of course, a home should look its best before you start to publicize in earnest.
Work with your seller to ensure that any renovations, remodels, or repairs will be done in time for your buzz campaign. Then partner with a home staging professional to put on the finishing touches: that usually includes cleaning, decluttering, and redecorating to accentuate the positive in every space.
Then, you're ready to attract the right buyer like a magnet! Here's how:
Buzz makes listings take off like a rocket, getting you and your clients better results. For more on how digital marketing can help, contact us.
When you create a website for your real estate business, it's crucial to make sure that everyone has equal access to all of the features that your website offers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes standards for website accessibility, and following key guidelines can help ensure your website provides a reliable, equal experience for all visitors. Whether you're creating a new real estate website or updating an existing one, this guide can help you get started with website accessibility.
Why Website Accessibility Matters to Your Real Estate Business
Your website visitors will come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and some of them will be people with disabilities which makes it harder to access certain website features. With the integration of accessibility standards throughout your website, visitors with disabilities will be able to consume all of your content and use all of the features that your website has to offer. In addition to simply being the right thing to do, making your website accessible can help avoid lawsuits and liability issues that can arise when a website isn't accessible. Meeting ADA standards helps ensure that your website is up to date with accessibility and provides a robust experience for all users.
Key Elements of Website Accessibility
The ADA provides extensive guidelines on website accessibility, and those guidelines are worth reading in full. Here, we'll provide a look at some of the key standards for website accessibility that are especially relevant for real estate websites.
Adjustable Text Size
The ability to adjust text size is crucial to making sure that users can easily read all of your text-based content. And it's not just the ability to adjust the size of the text that matters. It's also important to ensure that your website still offers all of the same features and functionality, even if the size of the text has been adjusted.
Clear, Consistent Navigation Options
A clear, logical navigation layout is important for all users, and navigation is also part of ADA standards. It's important to provide the same seamless navigation options in the same locations on each page so that users can easily find what they need on your website. It's also a good idea to provide more than one option for navigating your website. This can include a website search function and an HTML sitemap, in addition to your standard navigation menus.
Captions for Video Content
Captions make it easier for people with certain disabilities to enjoy all of the video content that your website has to offer, and you can use software to provide captions even for live video content. For any pre-recorded video or audio content, you should also provide an audio description for the content, along with a link that makes that audio description easy to find.
Avoid Images of Text
It's important to avoid using images of text because the text in images can't be resized with the same consistency as regular text. Some exceptions are made for images that are essential to the website, but few images fall within those exceptions. Rather than use images of text, you can use the same text conventionally, with attribution if necessary.
Error Suggestions for Website Forms
Any website forms, like those used to contact your business or sign up for your newsletter, should have error suggestions to help people fill out the form successfully. Error suggestions can be text-based and should help with basic input errors that often come with filling out things like phone numbers or addresses.
Use Descriptive Headings and Labels for Content
Using descriptive headings and labels for content helps all users, including those with disabilities, understand the purpose of content and navigate through that content more easily. Try to make headings as simple and descriptive as possible. Also, make sure you label all elements of your website, like contact or sign-up forms.
How Our Team Can Help Your Website Stay Compliant
Worried about accessibility with your real estate website? Let our experienced team at Delta Media Group help you handle all of the key details. We strive to make every website we build as accessible as possible by providing adjustable fonts, detailed image descriptions for screen readers, forms that are not time-sensitive, testing every website with the WAVE suite of tools that helps evaluate website accessibility, and taking additional steps to ensure accessibility throughout your website. We stay up to date on the latest accessibility standards, and we make sure that your website does, too. Contact us today to learn more.
After another great experience at the LeadingRE Annual Conference, we at Delta Media Group wanted to recognize our clients who received awards this year. We take great pride in the success of our clients, and we look forward to the continuation of our current partnerships as well as new partnerships we'll make in the future.
The Most Innovative Brokerage Award honors the brokerage that demonstrated innovation through a pervasive company re-invention or a major initiative that is new and different.
Latter & Blum was founded in 1916 by two young entrepreneurs, Harry Latter and Joseph E. Blum, in New Orleans. In its early days, the company specialized in commercial Real Estate, but later branched out into residential sales. In 1986, visionary and nationally-respected appraiser and broker Robert Merrick purchased Latter & Blum, leading the organization into an incredible growth cycle. After a long and successful history in the Greater New Orleans region, the company expanded, transforming both into a regional powerhouse and making it the #1 Real Estate brokerage in the Gulf South.
Today, the company's success has attracted more than 40 real estate companies and 2,100 agents making them who they are today. Their locally owned heritage and strong market position, combined with some of the most successful real estate agents in the business, offers clients a powerful advantage in today's real estate market.
The President's Award is part of the service recognition program, which formally acknowledges contributions such as committee involvement, presentations at network conferences, and service on various advisory councils and boards.
Whitney Finn-LaCosta is a second-generation Realtor who is currently a Principal and Broker of Record for Coach Real Estate Association. Coach Realtors has provided positive, friendly, and dependable service to Long Island residents since 1954. Coach currently has 19 branch offices, and Whitney is one of the over 800 brokers, sales associates, and support personnel who continue to move the company forward. A graduate of Northeastern University, Whitney has been a top-achieving sales agent, opening and building branch offices and representing Coach Realtors at numerous national and international real estate conferences.
The Website Best Property Search is awarded in recognition of user-friendly property search that enables consumers to easily find homes of interest.
Established in 1992, AveryHess Realtors has earned the reputation as "The Local DMV area Real Estate Experts." From the Shenandoah Valley to the nation's capital, around the Beltway and beyond; the communities AveryHess serves brim with a profound sense of history and pride. With their deep knowledge and understanding of the local market and the industry as a whole, they make the buying and selling experience pleasant and build long-term working relationships. AveryHess holds regular Teal for Good fundraiser events dedicated to providing housing solutions for those in need and in partnership with local charities.
The Highest Average Agent Production Award recognizes outstanding real estate sales productivity based on the highest network-wide per-agent average for sales volume or transactions.
Since 1980, Hamner Real Estate, LLC, has provided clients with expert, superior service in the West Alabama area through individualized assistance during the entire real estate and relocation process. For agents and the broader company, this goes beyond buying and selling. Their team makes finding homes easy because they live in their local communities too — they don't just work there. Hamner agents are among Tuscaloosa's top producing agents and hold many designations. Their company listing inventory includes Tuscaloosa's finest homes with a wide variety of price ranges, and their services cover all of Tuscaloosa County.
It felt a bit like catching lightning in a bottle.
Delta Media Group™ CEO and owner Michael Minard wasn't expecting the real estate industry's very fabric to shift earlier this year. No one was, really. But shift it did, as the announcement came in late February that Zillow, the long-standing thorn in the side of so many traditional brokerages and sales associates, had acquired ShowingTime, the popular showing management platform that had been used by most of the industry for years.
Suddenly, the real estate world was different, and Minard knew it was also a call to action; for both him and Delta Media Group.
Calls were made, emails were typed, polls were written and sent out to Delta's industry partners. They all came back with a resounding response: We want another option, and Delta Media Group made sure to provide it. As quickly as Zillow altered the real estate landscape, Delta added another ripple to the pool, announcing the launch of its own service: Local Showings™.
An independent, full-featured property showing software and service, Local Showings is the culmination of years of technical preparation and the perfect mixture of right place, right time. Local Showings was designed to integrate with real estate organizations' existing technology and be used as either a standalone product or within the DeltaNET™ 6. The platform will allow agents to:
Schedule showings of any listing in their MLS
Offer a calendar view of available times
Generate seller reports
Facilitate communication with other agents.
Call center support is also included, providing agents and brokerages the help they're so used to receiving from Delta Media Group, as is a no-sell guarantee.
It's precisely what the real estate industry needs right now, a second choice and another step forward for Delta as the go-to tech partner in the market.
Getting Local Showings live — and into the hands of hundreds of thousands of sales associates, brokerages, and MLS boards — has been a labor of collaborative love for everyone at Delta Media Group. It's also been well worth it for a team and a company that has long prided itself on offering the real estate world its best choices and most effective technology. To some extent, this was the perfect storm of opportunity.
"We had the ability to do it," Minard says, "and the demand was there, where you could get a large number of clients very quickly. It's never happened to me before in business.
It'll probably never happen again. Hopefully, it does, but it was one of those situations where I even said, 'There's never a perfect time to do something like this, but this is the most perfect it could ever get.'"
Setting the Stage for Local Showings
The origin of Local Showings doesn't begin with Zillow. Or even with those initial phone calls and emails in February. Instead, rewind about 20 years to the early days of Delta Media Group, when Minard says he knew of "only two players doing showing requests online. [Delta Media Group] and ShowingTime."
It was then that an idea started to percolate in the back of his mind — building a full platform similar to ShowingTime. Still, the idea was mostly just that. As Minard explains, ShowingTime's "play was a little different than ours," and Delta Media Group turned its focus to website, brokerage management solutions, and "a bigger picture than what ShowingTime was doing, which was very niche focused to just managing showing requests."
But Minard couldn't quite shake the idea. Hosting a showing platform continued to be a looming what-if, and Delta continued to develop the infrastructure of a potential service while also growing the ecosystem of the DeltaNET™.
"Over the years, we expanded it significantly," Minard says, "to the point to where it had the ability to schedule specific showing times, regardless of what we exposed in the DeltaNET interface or in the public-facing interface, where a person could request a showing on a property. We had quite a bit of functionality built into it."
And while Minard is quick to admit he often thought about breaking into the market, especially during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic while he was brainstorming "going into other verticals," Delta never made a genuine push to challenge ShowingTime for its position.
"The only reason we never did it is I felt that they had a decent market share and decent penetration into the market," Minard says. "They had clients that were happy enough. The business opportunity wasn't worth the effort to me to try and break into that market. So, I never tried to crack into it."
That all changed in February.
As soon as Zillow announced its acquisition of ShowingTime, Minard knew the metaphorical iron wasn't simply ready to strike. It was red hot and ready to compete, and Delta Media Group's leadership team was even more prepared to get to work.
"I knew it was going to take a lot of work, but I also knew, by comparison, it wasn't that much work," Minard explains. "We had so much of the underpinnings that could power this. We basically had 95% of what was needed. We were doing almost everything that was needed to be done as it related to Local Showings in order to launch and be competitive; we just had functionality all over the place that could be brought together."
With the foundation for Local Showings already in place, Delta focused its preliminary technical framework on integrating the platform into the DeltaNET 6 framework. Delta had already invested tens of millions of dollars into building the technology that powers DeltaNET 6, and that investment allowed a quick pivot and the ability to build out the customer relationship platform. Usability, user interface, and user experience were also already customizable within DeltaNET 6, so Minard says Delta decided not to "reinvent that wheel."
"I also saw that we could do a hybrid approach where we could offer a standalone within the same DeltaNET 6-type platform and add on to our own customers, which I thought would be a big plus," Minard adds. "I saw all the opportunities, which is why we went after it."
Taking on the Competition
Throughout his career, Minard has learned to read the signs of the industry. Murmurs that otherwise might be overlooked by others are signs of looming change for him, and in the immediate aftermath of Zillow's announcement, he knew that the blowback to acquiring ShowingTime would be substantial.
Because Zillow wasn't simply acquiring ShowingTime.
In the two decades since Minard first considered a showing platform for Delta, ShowingTime had spread its wings. Over the years, ShowingTime had "gobbled up market share," Minard says, by acquiring other players, most notably Centralized Showing, which had the second-highest market share. Essentially, ShowingTime owned the market. With ShowingTime having cemented itself as the primary resource for MLSs, brokerages, and even individual agents, Zillow's acquisition left most of the industry with only one option: to continue working with a long-standing disruptor that's quickly grown to be a legitimate competitor.
For the real estate world, Zillow's announcement was the final move in a chess game some hadn't realized they were playing. And, for Minard, he knew the signs were there: People weren't going to be happy.
"The industry has woken up, and they now realize that Zillow is not a portal; Zillow is their competitor," Minard says. "They realized that they're competing in business. No real estate firm wants to fund its competitor. No business owner wants to fund their competitor."
In the last 10 years or so, Zillow has evolved, and ShowingTime was not the company's first acquisition. Over that decade, Zillow has slowly but surely encroached on brokerages across the real estate world, obtaining DotLoop as well as Bridge Interactive, the MLS system that gives direct access to listing data.
As Delta Media Group Sales Manager Franklin Stoffer explains, "Seeing ShowingTime acquired by Zillow was absolutely the straw that broke the camel's back."
"[Zillow] immediately gained access to all the additional data that the brokerages were trying to keep to themselves," Stoffer continues. "Zillow was also now a brokerage in every MLS board, which means they are a competitor to every brokerage in the country. So, you've got this large brokerage that now can see and has access to transaction data, listing data, and why agents cared so much about this is because ShowingTime had such a dominant market share. Roughly 85% of the showings being scheduled across the country were happening through ShowingTime. And the bread and butter of any real estate agent is running showings, scheduling a showing on a property, walking through it with a client, leaving feedback. Zillow got direct access to know how much interest there is in different properties."
Zillow has publicly said it would keep ShowingTime's data privacy policies in place, but the seeds of worry had already been planted and well-fertilized across real estate. And Delta was more than prepared to help mitigate those fears.
Turning the Tide
Stoffer remembers the moment perfectly.
Sitting in front of his computer, he saw the announcement regarding ShowingTime and Zillow on the front page of a popular real estate news site and immediately reached out to Minard and Aaron Geh, Delta's Head of Business Operations and Digital Marketing. Minutes later, and Stoffer says there were "already dozens and dozens of comments" below the story.
"Agents were saying, we're going to contact our local senators," Stoffer adds. "Saying this is potentially a violation, where it looks like it's creating a monopoly. I'd never seen the real estate industry so responsive. Immediately, a visceral response that this is not okay."
With so much sudden reaction across the real estate world, members of the Delta team began sending what Minard calls a "brain-dump of emails," going back and forth with ideas and possible next moves, one of which was to poll Delta's connections in the industry and determine if providing another showing platform held any interest. After all, offering another option for ShowingTime wasn't worthwhile if sales associates and brokerages didn't want one.
They wanted one. Overwhelmingly, in fact.
"The question we asked was, basically would you like to see another independent platform?" Geh says. "And it was a resounding yes. At that point, everybody was very emotional and raw. Then with the homework that Franklin and Mike were doing, we came up with a game plan from a technical standpoint."
"I didn't want to just make the announcement [about Local Showings]," Minard adds, "we wanted to make sure of who else was out there, what they were doing, what the industry response would be. That survey was an emphatic 100%, yes, you should do something. I was even hearing directly from people that Delta should do something. And even the chatter that I was getting on LinkedIn about it to me was big."
From there, it was a matter of getting in contact with the industry partners Delta already has and explaining to them what the next steps would be. Using Delta's internal call center department and established relationships with over 90% of the country's active MLS boards made it relatively simple for word of Local Showings to spread.
"We leveraged our call center to do outreach to every board in the nation," Stoffer says. "And since our announcement that we were going to create our showing product, we have presented to MLS boards that represent over 800,000 real estate agents in the country, which is 60-plus percent of licensed agents. Which is very, very significant."
Those relationships, particularly with MLS boards, are the product of 20-plus years of work, and it's the trust between the real estate industry and Delta Media Group that has led to such strong interest in Local Showings. While other startups scrambled to provide an alternative to ShowingTime, Delta Media Group didn't have to. The tech infrastructure was already there, as was the belief that Delta could provide a fully functioning showing platform. Both of those things came together to give Delta Media Group a monumental head start on the rest of the would-be competition.
"Part of the conversations that I'm regularly having and the question I'm regularly asked in the sales presentations is: 'Why did you guys decide to get into providing a showing service?'" Stoffer says. "One, we already had a platform in DeltaNET 6 that gave us 95% of the functionality and features that we needed. Two, we looked at the marketplace and saw there was nothing but new startups rushing to fill a void saying, okay, well, there's an opportunity to gain market share."
Most of those startups weren't prepared for the work a project like this would entail, either. Stoffer says there weren't many other major players looking to make moves on this project immediately, and many won't be able to bring their product to market until the latter half of 2021.
"There's a long period of time where people [would be] looking for an alternative solution, and there's not a product there, and we felt we could bring a product to market very, very quickly because of the strength of our platform," Stoffer says. "We had the MLS relationships, and we already had the platform that was built to support it; we were able to come to market and offer something within two months, within eight weeks of us deciding we were going to create this product.
"We are issuing contracts and bringing MLS boards and brokerages on board with Local Showings. So being able to bring something to market quickly was huge," Stoffer continues. "We wanted to directly leverage our independence for the benefit of our partners."
This also wasn't the first quick-shift Delta has experienced in the last year or so. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta Media Group developed virtual showing software that immediately helped lessen some of the stress sales associates and brokerages felt as they grappled with the brand-new world and its health-focused rules.
"That illustrated our ability to pivot and react to an opportunity," Geh comments. "Developing the virtual showing platform demonstrated our ability to invest and build something that is needed and be able to execute. This is the same type of deal, just with a lot larger upside."
Within weeks of Zillow's first announcement and those quick emails between Stoffer, Minard, and the rest of the Delta team, another statement was on the front pages of industry sites. Delta Media Group was ready to launch Local Showings, highlighting that it is independently owned and operated. No reason to worry about the status of data with Local Showings. Delta even went so far as to include a guarantee in its contracts with brokerages and MLSs that it will not sell out or be acquired.
"Delta Media Group is a 100% family-owned-and-operated technology company," Stoffer says. "We're leveraging that independence for the benefit of our clients, where we have a no-sell guarantee in our contracts, that Delta is not interested in being acquired by other large third-party entities like Zillow, which is the most important thing that companies care about right now. They don't want to feel like the rug is pulled out from underneath them again."
A Reputation to Uphold
As word spread of Local Showings in the last few months, Stoffer has continued his dialogue with Delta Media Group's hundreds of partners. All of his presentations begin by touting Delta's independent nature, ensuring everyone knows that the future of Local Showings is already well defined. There won't be any sudden sales, no shifts in philosophy. There will just be technology — some of which will naturally evolve, but that's a good thing — and the promise that whoever uses Local Showings has an ally in its corner: Delta Media Group.
"There's a three-fold philosophy," Stoffer explains. "Number one, the independence angle of providing a no-sell guarantee. Number two was we wanted to provide a frictionless transition for the actual end-user, the real estate agent, to be able to find a new showing solution software that did everything their previous solution provided to them. So, we didn't want them to have a loss in functionality by making a transition, which has been a huge part of the technical process. And number three was we wanted to come in at budget."
Delta Media Group hasn't taken money from Wall Street or Silicon Valley investors to get Local Showings on the market. That makes it all the easier to guarantee every facet of Stoffer's sale philosophy. Nothing about Local Showings is meant to disrupt brokerage budgets. This isn't a push for profit but rather a move to facilitate competition and provide options.
"We came in and said, we are an independent provider," Stoffer says. "We want to offer you an alternative solution you can feel good about using for the same price or even cheaper than what you are currently spending on your existing showing product because we know there's pain in making any technology migration. We're looking at this and saying, here's an alternative you can feel good about using, and it's going to be in line with the budgets you had."
By being so upfront about plans for Local Showings, and immediately taking action after Zillow's announcement, the interest in Delta Media Group's platform has skyrocketed. Stoffer adds that it's also a testament to Delta's reputation, particularly with MLS boards across the country, lauding Sean Garaux, who has helped foster those connections.
"Delta has always been looked at in the MLS world as a company that does things the right way," Stoffer says. "And we, in 20-plus years, have never come to the MLS and asked them for something from us. We don't typically sell MLS products. We're not reaching out to MLS boards to try to sell them a website or a CRM. We've always just done business with the best interests of their members in mind."
Now, with Local Showings, the MLS boards have a product they don't just want; but one they need. And, like any good news, it travels fast, with plenty in the MLS world approaching Delta about going live with Local Showings.
"They're coming to us, taking our calls, saying, 'We know who you are,'" Stoffer details. "Saying, 'You guys do great work, show us what you have.' They've all been very positive, qualified conversations, and fortunately for us, none of our competitors can say that."
Top-Tier Tech Know-How
Although the foundation for Local Showings was well-established long before
Delta Media Group made the official decision to go ahead with the project, there was still plenty of work to be done. And, much like sending out that initial poll to gauge interest from potential clients, from a tech standpoint, Local Showings began by doing a bit of homework.
Operations Manager Shane Rogal says the tech department started with research, determining what had to be built and how they would build it. They also did a demo with members of the Delta Media Group team, some of whom have a real estate license, asking them to detail how they've used ShowingTime in the past and what they'd like out of a new interface.
"From there, it was taking Franklin's lists of features that we needed, trying to figure out how they float inside the application and get anything inside the sales associate's head," Rogal explains. "So, then we really started to assemble the pieces, [programmer] Dan Hall got in and found the feature list, matched it up to stuff we already had."
More meetings and discussions led to the decision that the interface should be isolated. While some pieces of what would eventually make up Local Showings were already scattered through the DeltaNET, the finished product should, as Rogal says, be "rolled up in one location, so you didn't have to jump around."
"That made a nice clean break too," he adds, "for the MLS product of Local Showings. And then Dan just started chugging away. We brought [front-end developer] Jeremy [Schar] in, and he's been working with Dan on the UI UX components of this and trying to make it feel like a polished product. And we've been trying to make our product while maintaining something familiar with the customer."
The key throughout much of this tech-building process has been to ensure that any new customers using Local Showings aren't overwhelmed by the changes in their showing platform. Instead, Delta has built a product similar to other popular platforms, ensuring frictionless and stress-free usage. This isn't rocket science; it's an intuitive platform that will work to help make scheduling showings as easy as it's ever been.
"When [people] switch from ShowingTime to Local Showings, they won't feel as if they've been completely hijacked or say, 'Oh, this product doesn't work anything like what I'm used to,'" Rogal adds.
Perhaps more than any other project Delta Media Group has tackled in the past; Local Showings has been an exercise in orchestrating workflow. Every detail is considered. Each possibility is questioned, making sure one click leads to the precise spot it should, while another click makes sure the platform is used as efficiently as possible. In the end, it has created a user-friendly experience that will help separate Local Showings from the rest of the pack.
"Throughout the build, I'll get a message from Dan out of the middle of nowhere, saying 'Hey, you got a minute to look over Local Showings?' and then we'll just sit down and walk through the last piece that he built and say, 'This is perfect except if this thing was here, doesn't that make more sense?'" details Product Development Manager Harley Wolfarth. "And sometimes it does. We've been really good about doing this in a way that we haven't always done in the past, but we've learned a lot from.
"I think we're going to come out with something this time, that right out of the gate, the workflow makes sense," Wolfarth adds. "We'll have training materials for it. We'll have guides, we'll have videos, but the idea is that none of those will be necessary because the first person who comes in and uses it will just know how it works."
Local Showings will be available as a stand-alone product, but one of its greatest strengths, especially from a tech mindset, is that it was built out of the framework of DeltaNET 6. Not only does that give sales associates a showing solution directly inside their CRM, but it allows Delta to continue adding and improving the platform.
"[Local Showings] will continue to evolve and grow into a much better product because of the strength of the DeltaNET 6 framework," Stoffer says.
Getting Local Showings ready for launch and fine-tuning any potential tech pitfalls has been an arduous task for Delta Media Group, but it's also been exceedingly rewarding. Not only was this project a direct call to action, but it was an opportunity to create a product that genuinely affected the industry and answered the needs of clients.
For all intents and purposes, this was the full-company challenge Delta Media Group has been preparing for since it opened its doors more than 20 years ago.
"There is an emotional aspect to this, even from the tech side," Rogal says, "because right from the moment that Mike mentioned this might be something that we're doing, Dan and I were like, heck yeah, we want to do that. [The week after Zillow's announcement] we met as a leadership team like, what do you guys think? Do we want to do this? Do we want to commit to this? And most of us were just like, heck yeah, we don't get this opportunity very often. Zillow messed up, they opened up a void in the marketplace, and we're silly if we don't fill it."
Collaboration has always been a thread throughout Delta's departments, but Local Showings has provided a rare opportunity for the entire company to work together toward a final product. So, the schedules got a little busier across the board. Meetings for Local Showings were held between meetings to discuss DeltaNET updates and other tech projects. At times, it was hectic, but it was also satisfying in a way that made all the hard work worthwhile.
"This has definitely been the first time that we've had this level of collaboration as it relates to launching a new product where sales and marketing and tech were meeting weekly to evaluate and see the status of how far the project has come," Stoffer says. "Saying, 'What are we still missing?' Ops is regularly asking me, 'What new things have come up in the presentations you've done over the previous week?' Where I can then bring that to the table and say, 'Okay, we're 10% closer. Now here's the last couple of items we're still missing.' It's not just, let's make sure the sales associates have everything that they're used to using, but here's how we can also do this better."
Delta's collaborative mindset wasn't limited to internal work, either. Even in the early days of the Local Showings build, Stoffer worked with dozens of members of the industry to make sure that the platform met demands, fine-tuning the framework and allowing the platform to evolve as Delta Media Group discovered what it needed to be.
"I set Franklin in motion to go do homework because he was already having some conversations," Minard says of those initial interactions. "So then he was doing that homework, having deeper conversations, and understanding the DeltaNET 6 platform. Then I would have conversations with him: What do you think? Are you seeing anything that we aren't doing? Have you seen anything that we couldn't deliver? We're still having those conversations, and I still ping him every now and then: Have you seen anything? Those types of conversations are important."
What Comes Next
Over the last few months, Delta Media Group has worked tirelessly to get Local Showings in the hands of sales associates and brokerages. Not all of it has been easy; some of it has even resulted in near-literal hair pulling. But while the project has been time-consuming, it's also been a game-changer, not only for the real estate industry but the future of Delta Media Group.
"We made a splash," Geh says. "Everybody's aware of us now."
Adds Stoffer: "Every conversation is no longer starting, 'I know you've been around a long time.' They're now starting with, 'You guys have been working on a lot. There's a lot of buzz about you.' Which is a completely different place to start from. Rather than, 'Hey, you've been around a while,' it's, 'Hey, we know you're in the news, there's a lot going on with you. We want to know more about that.'"
Taking change in stride, seizing this opportunity, and producing a product that's easy to be proud of has drawn a spotlight to Delta, and the company has no plans of slowing down. Phase II of the project is already underway, with expanded call center support and other technical features, including lockbox integration.
There's always room for improvement. When it comes to Local Showings, and maintaining a reputation as a dependable partner in the real estate world, Delta Media Group is ready to keep reaching for what's next.
"If nothing else, even if somebody stays on ShowingTime, this will forever change the landscape because we'll be out there in the marketplace, and it's going to force them to change their system and make it better," Minard says. "Now, we have things we have to add too, and we're working on that, but Delta more than ever is on the radar of a lot of people where they're paying attention to us in a large way."
How many hours have you spent over the last year alone sifting through comps to price a client's home?
Now think: how many days have you spent engaged in this same tedious but very necessary process?
Local expertise is one of the most valuable things about your brand. But you know getting the most accurate and up-to-date information about your real estate market is no easy feat. It means sorting through information sources and putting it all together in a way that makes the answer obvious.
And if it doesn't get done quickly enough, you're back at square one!
Pricing a property is one of the most important services you provide. It makes the difference between smooth sailing to closing day and rough waters. The right price helps your customers compete even when market trends favor buyers over sellers. And, of course, it lets them get more value from their sale.
There is a solution that works for you and your customers: Automated Valuation Models.
Delta Media Group Puts World-Class AVM Within Reach for Your Real Estate Practice
You've probably already heard about AVM. Large agencies and brokerages are using it every single day.
With AVM, real estate professionals benefit from artificial intelligence that's always learning more, not only about your local market but about all the interconnected factors that influence the price of your housing stock. Crunching millions of data points, AI can find patterns invisible to human analysts.
What does this mean to you?
Less effort spent gathering data so you can price properties – get vetted insights immediately
Greater seller confidence because they can see that you're using a true best-in-class solution
On average, faster time to closing and better final sale price for all of your motivated sellers
More time in your workday to focus on the tasks that help you grow and scale your practice
Not too long ago, getting a license for an all-in-one AI-driven AVM center of excellence would cost thousands of dollars each and every year. Now, Delta Media Group is making it available to all DeltaNET subscribers. You have the opportunity to leverage dependable and stable artificial intelligence like never before.
With big names entering the real estate field, small and mid-sized practices are now empowered to excel.
DeltaNET AVM Puts You on a Level Playing Field with Your Large, Entrenched Competitors
At Delta Media Group, we believe every real estate professional deserves the opportunity to make a difference in the community. These days that means being equipped with the technology that's transforming the industry.
We've long made AVM available to our clients. Many have been using it as a supplemental resource. Now, after gathering feedback from thousands of agents and brokers around the country, we've raised it to the next level.
Here's a taste of what you get from our stable and dependable AVM solution:
Stop Using Pricey Third-Party Service and Bring AVM Home to Your Business
When many agencies and brokerages are looking for new ways to save money, DeltaNET AVM is a golden opportunity. You can simplify, streamline, and cut third-party expenses without compromising quality.
With real estate experts navigating record-low inventories, we know accurate valuation is crucial. To help you flourish in 2021 and beyond, we've re-engineered AVM from the ground up to integrate fully throughout the DeltaNET system. You're never more than a few clicks from AVM excellence.
It's easy to get started now. Contact us for the money-saving in-house AVM solution you've been waiting for.
It's all about relationships for Hunziker & Associates, REALTORS.
Growing from a basement office in the 1950s to a one-stop real estate company, Hunziker & Associates hasn't simply taken change in stride. Over the last seven decades, the company has embraced change and, more importantly, embraced the people it works with. Whether it's an individual selling their home, a recently-married couple looking to purchase their first house together, or a family ready to build their forever home, Hunziker & Associates has faithfully worked with the Central Iowa community and the people that live in it.
After all, you can't build a relationship without people, and as far as Hunziker & Associates is concerned, no relationship is worth having without a basis of mutual trust.
"One of the big characteristics that we've always had, and we will continue to have, is that our word is our bond," says President Dean E. Hunziker. "If we tell you something, you don't need to write it down. And if an agent sells you something, we stand behind whatever they sold. We're respected for that."
For nearly 70 years, Hunziker & Associates has cultivated that reputation, becoming a go-to partner for just about any real-estate venture. It's even written on their wall in large letters that line the entryway to the company's office in Ames, Iowa, touting their core beliefs and their focus on developing and maintaining positive relationships.
"We understand that this is a relationship business as much as anything," says Sales Manager and Broker Paul Livingston, "and that the foundation of that has to be trust."
Building a One-Stop-Shop of Real Estate Success
When you're in business for more than half a century, it stands to reason that your company's history will be extensive. Hunziker and Associates' story is all that and more, and it began with E.A. Hunziker's decision to build two houses in 1946 and '47. Fast forward to 1952, and, after building Don a duplex to rent, Don Furman partnered with Hunziker to start H&F Builders. From there, the business took off.
In the first year alone, Furman and Hunziker developed nine lots and built six homes. In 1954, the real estate brokerage, Hunziker & Furman, REALTORS, was added. After taking on a franchise for "National Homes," they set up the first furnished model home in Ames in 1956, priced at $9,750.
While the company continued to grow, more sales associates were added, as was an insurance division, and in 1958, H&F Builders began building apartments. Three years later, a utility installation and excavating business joined the fray, and from 1962-64 an average of 75 homes were built, and 70 lots were developed. Soon, the company was the largest developer, builder, and Realtor in Ames, with a growing reputation that established them as the consummate one-stop-shop.
"If you're going to move, you want to go work with a company that handles residential real estate," Hunziker says, "has resale homes, a large selection of new construction homes, has residential lots in case you want to build a home from scratch, and has apartments in case you need something short-term to rent. It's all right here. One stop. Numerous options."
In 1976, Dean Hunziker purchased the real estate company, continuing to work under the name Hunziker & Furman Realty. Nearly 20 years later, Erb Hunziker and Furman went their separate ways, and the company's name was changed to Hunziker & Associates, REALTORS, with four entities under the new umbrella:
Hunziker & Associates, REALTORS — 44 full-time Realtors focusing on real estate sales. Sales in 2020 were $202 million.
Hunziker Construction Services — Offering complete construction of homes, apartments, and small commercial buildings with annual sales in excess of $25 million.
Hunziker Property Management — Managing more than 1,100 units in the Ames area.
Hunziker Land Development — Developing commercial and residential lots in Ames and Central Iowa.
With so many different aspects to the company, finding consistent success comes down to Hunziker & Associates' relationships. When bringing people into the company, the mindset is simple: Look for those who align with Hunziker's philosophy and mission statement, which is "committed to developing and maintaining positive relationships with individuals and families to meet their real estate needs."
"It's embedded into our culture and the core values of this organization, as to the expectation of what we want from an agent," Livingston says. "That they're ethical, honest, that they have the client's best interest at heart."
The company also boasts an extremely low turnover rate by looking for those individuals who match Hunziker & Associates' values. At its core, this is a family business, and it's that personal touch that affects every aspect of the company day in and day out.
"It's well-known what our expectations of our agents are, and we follow that through in our meetings," says Director of Business Development Becky Barclay. "Then, with the building company, if you're buying an HCS house in Ames, you know the quality you're getting. There's no question about that. We've always maintained high standards of the people we have working for us and the product we put out."
Hunziker & Associates prides itself on the care taken with every interaction, with every partnership, with every client who walks through the office doors. Treating everyone with respect is second nature, simply because that's how any family would act, and Hunziker & Associates considers itself, really, one big family.
"One of the biggest things that we've always stressed is professionalism," says REALTOR Molly Neal-Wong. "Our goal has always been to have the most professional agents, be the best at pricing and customer service, but professionalism is always right at the top."
Recently, Hunziker & Associates restructured its training outline for all incoming agents, streamlining the process and ensuring everyone understands the company's collective mindset from their first day on the job.
"It depends on the person, but we all take part in the hiring process, so we feel like that person will fit what we're looking for as a company," says Lisa Nady, who oversees recruitment and training. "Then, with training and hopefully enough experience, they'll start their careers and get going."
Contending With COVID-19
Staying in business for almost 70 years requires a certain ability to contend with obstacles. And while the COVID-19 pandemic was something unlike anything Hunziker & Associates, REALTORS faced in the past, that initial training for agents, as well as the company's collective experience and standing in the community, ensured it continued to find success last year.
In fact, Livingston says, Hunziker & Associates really only saw its sales shut down for three weeks early in the pandemic before getting back on track for "an outstanding year."
Masks and gloves became the new normal in 2020, as did new office and open-house procedures, plus a more digitally focused mindset, with Zoom meetings and what Hunziker called "an altogether different learning curve."
Still, Hunziker & Associates, as always, kept its focus on relationships, particularly in-house.
"We spent money, as early as February and March, working on our software systems so that folks could adapt," says General Manager Chuck Winkleblack. "So they could access their data and have the information that they needed from home. And then working our way through the Zoom process, and quite honestly, I think we're seeing better participation now in Zoom than we were in some of our other agent meetings."
Hunziker & Associates' one-stop-shop model also allowed clients to make one point of contact for all of their potential real estate dealings throughout the pandemic. And the "Buy Before You Sell" program, which helps clients make a purchase before they sell their home, made it that much easier for customers to feel safe during what can be an exceptionally stressful time in even the most normal of worlds.
Says Neal-Wong: "I've been to people's homes where, even recently, they've said, 'You're the first person that's been in our home in over a year.' So, getting a family to feel comfortable having you into their home and talking about, 'Okay, how do we do this safely?' That's something we've all learned."
Part of the Neighborhood
Hunziker & Associates' reputation is built on providing the sort of service clients can't get anywhere else, but the cornerstone of that success comes from being part of the community itself. As much as the people who move into the houses Hunziker & Associates builds or the families who purchase their homes from Hunziker agents, the people who make up the company also make up the neighborhood they live and work in.
Hunziker, Livingston, and Neal-Wong were all raised in Ames. They know the city's ins and outs — from the quietest streets to the parks with the best potential for summer picnics. They serve on community boards, greet their neighbors by name, and suggest the best restaurants to brand-new residents. "The larger point is, our agents are part of the communities in which they live, work, and play," explains Barclay.
Living and working in the same community also makes Hunziker & Associates ideally suited to give back to it. And give back, they do. The Margaret Hunziker Garden House at Reiman Gardens, DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College) Hunziker Campus, Hunziker Sports Complex, Auditorium in the Ralph Olsen Building, Ames High School Football Field, and many more projects were gifted through Hunziker & Associates. The company also sponsors an ISU scholarship and funded the College of Business, Masters of Real Estate Development degree in fall 2019. Hunziker & Associates supports the United Way, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Ames public library.
"You'll notice most everything we're doing is youth-oriented," Hunziker says. "We touch a lot of people's lives through giving back. And that's a very, very important thing to this organization. If you're earning a living here, you should be giving back here."
Livingston also notes that of the 44-plus agents Hunziker & Associates, REALTORS currently has, nearly all of them are "engaging the community" in some way.
"Whether it's a church or rotary or at the country club or a bowling league or wherever it might be, we have to stay connected," he says. "Many of the agents are very charitable, very giving of their time and money and talents. And again, I think that's embedded in the culture of the organization."
Taking the Next Step in Technology
Throughout its history, Hunziker & Associates has worked with plenty of other companies and, nine years ago, it added another to the list: Delta Media Group®. In that near-decade of partnership, Delta has helped Hunziker automate and elevate, providing SEO and website tools, as well as a CRM that makes everything the company does just a little bit easier.
"[Delta continues] to improve, keep up with changes," Barclay says. "And when we make suggestions or other companies make suggestions, [Delta listens] and tweaks and keeps making improvements.
"There are so many different options out there, and every agent has their favorite that they like to use, but a lot have started to use Delta Media and the CRM, and it's been a good thing for us," Barclay continues, "and when we changed and updated the look, [Delta] worked with us on that. So through the years, it's been a positive experience. [Delta] listened and worked with us."
Marketing Director Chelsea Adams, who joined Hunziker & Associates in December 2020, echoes the sentiment, saying that she noticed "right away how intuitive the backend of the website is to use."
"I have some familiarity with other website platforms, but I had never used DeltaNET®," Adams explains. "And when I came in, it was very easy to begin using. And what I loved was agents using the templates, them being optimized for us. Agents can have their own branding and have their own style, but still be part of the Hunziker family, still be recognized as a part of the Hunziker family and be able to have their own identity as well, which is nice."
What's Next for Hunziker & Associates
When it comes to the future, Hunziker & Associates plans to look forward by first looking back.
"We set goals in the previous year for the coming year, and last year we had a set goal of 660 transactions as a company," Livingston explains. "And I think we had 719. So, that even exceeded our stretch goal of 700. We then set a goal for this coming year, and I think we will be right on track to hit our target again. Our goal is 770, and we should be on pace for that."
At the end of March of 2020, Hunziker & Associates had 205 transactions under its collective belt. By that time this year, 255 transactions had been completed.
"That's a 30% increase," Hunziker says, "now who knows what the rest of the year is going to be like, but it's certainly encouraging, starting off there."
Even with those early-year numbers, Hunziker & Associates isn't taking anything for granted. Success is borne, as it always has been, from relationships, from providing a service people not only want but will come back to. Nothing is ever truly set in stone, and after seven decades, Hunziker & Associates is excited to see what comes next.
Diversifying your lead generation crucial for maintaining a steady, reliable supply of leads for your real estate business. With so many marketing tools and networking opportunities available, there's never been a better time to find new ways to generate leads. In addition to trying new things, it's also important to make sure that key lead generation tools like your real estate website are updated for a modern audience. Take a closer look at these 7 ways to diversify your lead generation and find new ways to earn leads for your real estate business.
With so many new tools and places to market your business online, the process of diversifying your lead generation never really ends. Keep an eye on the latest trends, experiment to find the best lead generation tactics for your target audience, and don't be afraid to try something new when marketing your real estate business.
Jim Napier likes to tell this one story about his dad.
In the early days of what would eventually be Napier Realtors ERA, his father, Oscar, who founded the company, originally Napier and Savage Realtors, with Bernard Savage in 1958, always kept a handful of clip-on ties in the top drawer of his desk. Fabric with a variety of patterns and color choices sat in that drawer, ready to be pulled out at a moment's notice or whenever the elder Napier believed one of his agents needed to spruce up their look a bit. But, this wasn't a fashion show; it was a matter of establishing Napier's reputation.
With his business growing, Oscar knew that the first step toward success was dressing the part. So, he filled his drawer, handed out clip-on ties whenever he had to, and began building from the ground up, making sure every facet of the company looked its, literal, best for whoever came in the door next.
"That's what he stood for," Napier says of his father, "being honest, being ethical, and being professional. I always remember a friend of my father's, he said, 'Your dad is honest above and beyond the call of duty.' That's what we've tried to carry through."
And while there might not be a drawer filled with ties any longer, Napier ERA has grown from that single office on Richmond's south side to a four-office firm with over 130 agents. Some things, however, have stayed the same: Still family-owned, still a respected part of the communities it serves. More than anything, Napier boasts people who, at their core, want to look their best and do their best every day for as long as they possibly can.
"We never aspired to be the largest firm or have the most agents or do the most closings," says Mark Joyner, Executive Vice President, Partner, and Managing Broker of Napier's West End Office. "We always wanted to have the best people. And you have the best people by starting with great people, then making sure they're educated, having a good time, and hitting their goals."
The history of Napier Realtors ERA doesn't begin with houses. Instead, it starts somewhere rather unexpected: a local grocer. Growing up in West Virginia, Oscar Napier's family owned a grocery store, and after serving in World War II, before turning his attention to real estate, he opened his own store, serving his community in the late '40s and early '50s by helping feed it. Simply put, he wanted to help people. So, it only made sense that he kept that mindset when he shifted careers.
No matter who Napier is working with, the company wants to help. And that philosophy has led to success.
Even with its humble beginnings, Napier was the number two firm in market share after opening its doors, leading to growth that came quickly and sparked a new era of the company's history. Napier and Savage went their separate ways in the mid-70s, and it was around that time that Jim and his brother joined the company. Then, in the late '80s and early '90s, Napier expanded its market: west to Powhatan, north to Henrico County, and, most recently, to the Tri-Cities, Petersburg, and Colonial Heights areas.
As Napier continued to evolve, it also took on a somewhat youthful mindset.
Jim Napier was only in his late thirties when he took over the company in 1990, and Joyner says, "having a young president like that set the stage for Napier to grow." In fact, Joyner is one of Napier ERA's youth-focused success stories, running the Henrico office in 1998 when he was 29 years old.
"I thought [Jim] was looking to bring me on with the company because I had a fairly strong real estate business role," Joyner recalls. "And he said, 'No, no, no.
I'd like you to run my west end, our Henrico office.' I looked at him, and I said, 'Jim, you've got agents in that office that have been doing business longer than I've been alive.' And I'll never forget. He immediately fired back. He said, 'And you know what? Those are the agents that need you the most.'"
Finding a balance between youth and experience has been one of Napier ERA's strengths for decades. This has helped create an inclusive atmosphere that draws people to Napier ERA and makes them want to keep working. In fact, according to Director of Information Systems Jeff Hardy, the average tenure of Napier's agents is around a decade. That's nearly double the average for other companies.
"From top to bottom, we try to include everybody in the company and make conscious efforts to bring new people in," Joyner says.
One of those people, actually, was Hardy, who was hired in 2004. Not only did Hardy's arrival allow Napier ERA to expand its tech offerings, but it gave agents a built-in support system for all their technology needs and questions. Few local companies offer anything similar, and it's that commitment to helping their people that continues to separate Napier ERA from the rest of the real estate pack.
Taking Technology to the Next Level
Buoyed by their tech prowess and virtual know-how, Napier ERA didn't stumble during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Napier settled into its new normal, staging the same virtual tours they've been doing for years and posting YouTube videos for all properties.
"We didn't have to rebuild the wheel," Joyner says. "We shifted gears and focused more on resources we already had."
"Within a week or two weeks of the shut-down starting, we were doing virtual town halls with our agents," adds Hardy, who says the majority of agents attended. "It ended up being a great forum that we were doing weekly at the time."
Napier ERA's tech-focused mindset is also evident in its longstanding partnership with Delta Media Group®. For nearly two decades, Napier ERA and Delta have worked on a suite of products highlighted by websites and agent pages.
"Our franchise provides web pages for agents, profile pages basically," Hardy says, "but we wanted to provide that extra level of service for our agents and al- low them to distinguish themselves from other agents in our marketplace."
The key to Delta and Napier's collective success is the give-and-take nature of the relationship. Change has always been part of Napier's makeup, and Hardy says it's the ability to suggest changes to Delta that's helped cement the partnership.
"If I need to pick up the phone and call [Delta CEO] Michael Minard or [Del- ta President] Noel England, that's what I do," Hardy says, "It's nice to have [a vendor] that's customer-focused and still provides a path to get to the top people when that needs to be done.
"Delta has grown a lot since we joined them, and there are times when I can feel that a little bit, but not as much as you might expect," Hardy continues. "Because I know Delta has companies that are a lot bigger than we are, and have a lot more agents, and are bigger fish in the sea, but we still get treated like we're at the top of the list."
A Pillar in the Community
From Napier ERA's beginnings in an entirely different industry to focusing the company's collective attention on Central Virginia's housing market, one thing has always remained true: Napier wants to help the people it does business with. As far as Napier is concerned, to be a business is to be part of the community, and that means giving back.
In its more than 60 years, Napier ERA has only expanded on that belief, supporting dozens of initiatives and organizations.
Most recently, Napier ERA has teamed with Tech for Troops, the USO and its airport cafe, Toys for Tots, the Richmond Christmas Mother Fund, and Backpacks of Love, which puts together backpacks with food and school supplies for area students.
Joyner says the company also "jumped headfirst" into working with the VCU Massey Cancer Center in Richmond in the late 90s, and it didn't take long for Jim's life-long love of music to evolve into what is now a summer concert series to support the Center and its patients.
"We did some other things, and people would do golf tournaments or this or that, well, I don't play golf," Napier explains. After noticing one of his favorite bands was playing in Virginia, Napier adds that he reached out to their representative and, "We worked a deal out. It very quickly morphed into: let's do it as a benefit for the Massey Cancer Center."
From there, the event has only grown, and in the last 15 years, Napier ERA has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Massey with artists like Bruce Hornsby, Amos Lee, and Lyle Lovett performing.
"We wanted to bring an event to our community, where people come and have fun, raise awareness about the Cancer Center and have those funds go to something special," Napier says. "In this particular case, all of our funds go to the Connor's Heroes Pediatric Cancer Fund at the VCU Massey Cancer Center."
Health protocols kept the concert from happening last summer, but Napier still found a way to give back amidst the pandemic, focusing on COVID-related issues and sponsoring area restaurants to help provide free meals for first responders.
The idea actually came from one of Napier ERA's town hall meetings.
"One of our agents said something about, 'Why don't we drop a gift card, or give the restaurant an envelope of cash or a credit card number for a window of meals for any first responder that shows up,'" Joyner says. "A week later, two weeks later, we had tabs running at six different restaurants for our first responders."
Adds Hardy: "We were trying to acknowledge all the people that were on the front lines of this pandemic and what they've had to deal with and how they've kept us all safe."
Napier ERA's charity work has never been about the accolades or the acknowledgment, but they came, all the same, this year. For the second time in the company's history, Napier won ERA's Circle of Light Award for Community Leadership, chosen from approximately 3,000 brokerages and 30,000 realtors.
"We hadn't thought about it, honestly," Joyner says of the award, "but our ERA representative came to us, and she said, 'You guys need to submit.' And we said, 'No, it's COVID, we didn't do as much.' She goes, 'Trust me, you might not see it, but you guys did more than you think.' So, then we did the video, and we had a couple of our employees jump in and start putting things together. And we were like, 'Whoa, we probably did more in 2020 than we've ever done to support the community.' When you step back and look at it, we did pretty good. It was a good year."
Taking the Next Step
After six decades in the real estate industry, Napier ERA has no plans of slowing down. In the second half of 2021, Joyner says Napier is looking to "double down on our dedication to our relationships, to
our clients and community." Buying or selling a house is as big and emotional a moment as it's ever been, and while there aren't as many agents wearing ties — even ones tossed to them from desk drawers — there's still a need for personal connections.
"You need somebody who's been trained, who understands the market as a seller," Joyner says. "And as a buyer, you need an agent who can, one, weed through the market, and two, go to bat for you. That's what we're going to focus on."
"We've made a decision as a company that we'd rather still be the full-service brokerage that provides all the tools to the agents and better exposure to customers who list their homes with us," Hardy adds.
As competition with companies like Zillow and other disruptors also grows, Napier ERA's connections with neighborhoods and individuals remain the difference-maker. One they hope will last another 60 years.
"We deal with a lot of people in our business, and I've been doing this for 45 years," Napier says, "and I always hear, 'You have the best people. Your people are knowledgeable. They know what they're doing. I love doing deals with your team.' That's the validation of all the things that we have tried to bring to the table all these years."
Social media is one of the best tools for real estate agents to build a stand-out digital brand. Research shows real estate professionals are some of the most active voices on social media. Some acquire 30% of their online leads or even more from social channels.
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It's easy to get off on the wrong foot with social media when you feel you need to watch it like a hawk.
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