When two real estate companies that share the same goals and values come together, there is nothing they can't do. Living proof of this is one of New England's finest real estate companies, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty.
Crystal clear lakes, majestic forests and breathtaking mountains. Luxury ski resorts and snow lodges. Biking, hiking and kayaking. All of this can be found in the beautiful region of New Hampshire that Badger Peabody & Smith Realty is lucky to call home.
Serving residents and travelers in New Hampshire, the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and Western Maine, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty has agents and offices scattered throughout New Hampshire: in Berlin, Bretton Woods, Franconia, Holderness, Jackson, Littleton, North Conway and Plymouth. The firm offers full-service real estate services. They are dedicated to ensuring the process of buying or selling a home is as simple and painless as possible for their customers.
With properties in some of the most magnificent parts of the region, much of Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's business is with second-home buyers. Given the abundance of ski resorts in the area, many people come looking for a seasonal home during the coldest, snowiest months of the year. And for those who don't enjoy winter sports, they can still travel in the summer to visit the lakes and mountains and experience the various biking and hiking trails.
Badger Realty, originally located in North Conway, NH, was founded in 1965 by Dick Badger. It was a family business from the very beginning. A community icon, Dick Badger helped transform the town of North Conway into the ski resort and tourist destination it is today. Dick loved what he did. He practiced real estate until the month before he died in his early '90s.
Formed in 1993 by Andy Smith and Jere Peabody, Peabody & Smith Realty covered the western part of the White Mountain National Forest. Like Badger Realty, they had a big market for vacation and primary-home buyers and those looking to escape the stress of urban areas.
The two firms covering different territories of the White Mountains ultimately merged to become one. In February of 2021, the two officially came together to form Badger Peabody & Smith Realty.
Blending two organizations isn't easy, so it only makes sense to do so if the companies and their core values align. Thankfully, Peabody & Smith Realty found that they shared similar values with Badger Realty, making their merger much easier.
"We had a lot of similarities growing up and raising both our companies and our families in our respective communities," says Andy. "We always wanted to be part of the local community, and as I got to know Dick as both a competitor and a colleague over the years, we had very similar philosophies and mutual respect for each other's company."
They also each placed value on the hard work of their agents and knew that the key to success was doing whatever they needed to help their agents succeed.
"There was a high ratio of staff to agents, and a high level of support in both companies and that philosophy has continued and made the merger even easier," says Andy. "It wasn't going from one business model to another."
Jessica DiPietro, VP of Operations at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, felt similarly that Peabody & Smith Realty aligned with Badger's values.
"I feel like it was a long time coming; it was meant to be," says Jessica. "It was a long courtship dance of going back and forth, but I think even years ago, we all knew it was going to happen. I know Dick knew it was going to happen before he passed away. The merger and transition were very easy culturally and value-wise."
Building a New Brand
When you create a new company, you need a new brand. So, despite each organization holding its own distinctive identity, merging meant it was time to start from scratch and rebuild.
When building a brand, one of the most important things to consider is who you're trying to attract. Being located close to mountains and lakes, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty knew it needed to appeal to a demographic of people who love the outdoors. So, with mountain ranges and natural-looking colors incorporated into their logo, they chose to target their ideal audience directly.
The logo design needed to be more progressive yet still look modern for years to come. So, they worked with a branding firm to create a logo not only unique to their newly established brand but one that's visually appealing as well. This image is important because it's on every sign, business card and piece of merchandise the company distributes.
Along with the visual aspects, a good brand always has a clear, well-stated message. To refine theirs and their logo, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty worked alongside branding expert Steve McKee from McKee and Wallwork in Santa Fe, NM.
Although a modern brand is what they wanted, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty aimed to keep the integrity of both brands while creating their new one by using the design elements from their previous logos. They felt it was important to acknowledge where they came from and continue each company's legacy.
"We've done high-level brand marketing and all sorts of things, including a new logo, clothing and more. Andy continues, "But I think, overall, we've wanted to maintain the integrity of both brands. That's been important."
They also wanted to have the right technology to market their new brand. That's why, when merging, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty gave their tech a refresh. They created a new website through Delta Media Group® and established a new and improved online presence through Delta's SEO and digital marketing tools. They introduced the world to their new brand using social media, eblasts in the DeltaNET® and traditional print media methods.
While it may have been a long process, Debbie Anderson, Marketing Director at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, cherishes the opportunity the marketing team was given to reinvent the brand, start with a clean slate and build entirely from the ground up.
"We literally have reinvented ourselves," says Debbie. "It's such a dream job, from my perspective, to be able to be involved in something like that."
On Dec. 1, 2021, the firm hosted an internal rebranding event. During this, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty announced their new name and debuted their new web page and logo design for all the agents and staff. The event was held over brunch at Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, NH. They gave out swag bags, journals, holiday presents and branded Yeti tumblers. Although they would not introduce the new brand to the outside world until over a month later, this was an exciting day for Badger Peabody & Smith Realty as it marked the beginning of a new chapter.
Although Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's merger was ultimately a success, that doesn't mean it came without challenges — some of which they were prepared for and others they weren't.
First off, getting the agents up to date and answering their many questions wasn't easy, but the staff from both teams came together and made it work as effectively as possible. One thing that made the transition easier was the agents in both companies were already accustomed to using DeltaNET. Plus, the staff could do most of the reworking in the back end, making things far less complicated for them.
"We ran parallel, and we did it behind the scenes," says Jessica. "Most of the time, our agents didn't even know anything was going on or was different, so they were not interfered with on a day-to-day basis. Our goal was to do everything and try to get those pieces aligned and connected as much as possible and get everything flowing before we made any tweaks or changes that would interfere with their lives."
While the plan to merge had been in motion for years before making it official, most things did not go as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team had to meet virtually instead of in the offices and rely solely on technology.
When speaking about the impact that COVID-19 had on the merger, Jessica says, "I think it prolonged a little bit of the personal connection, not so much with the management team because we kind of still saw each other, but with the agents. It's hard to connect on Zoom."
For Andy and the rest of the team at Peabody & Smith Realty, going remote wasn't much of an issue considering they were 100% paperless and used technology for most of their work already.
"We put all that technology into place so when we couldn't come into the offices and we had to do closings in the parking lot, we were able to continue along pretty well from a functionality standpoint," says Andy.
But for the staff at Badger Realty, it was a bit more difficult. They hadn't quite reached their technological goals prior to going remote, thus finding it more challenging to navigate at first. However, instead of letting it set them back, they used it as an opportunity to lean into the technology and virtual resources they had available to them and get on the same page as Peabody & Smith. In the end, they were happy they did so.
The pandemic also deeply impacted the economy as people were told to stay home and stay put. When the first shutdowns occurred, big cities like Boston and New York took the biggest hit. Luckily, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty saw the perfect marketing opportunity as most of their properties reside in more off-the-grid areas, ideal for social distancing. As people all over the country were fleeing big towns and cities, they were there providing a safe destination filled with peace and quiet.
"We're a second-home resort area for Boston and the Northeast feeder market in the White Mountain National Forest, both to buy for summer and year-round recreation," says Andy. "So, during COVID, we were the safe place to rent and buy, and our sales volume went up tremendously."
Onboarding New Agents
During the merger, both firms maintained their current staff, and with the opportunity to expand, there was room to hire new agents. For Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, while they wish to grow in some regard, it's not about bringing on as many agents as possible but rather finding the right ones. This is something else both companies have always aligned with.
"Both firms always looked for career-orientated agents. It was neither one of our goals just to have the biggest amount of agent licenses hanging on the wall," says Andy. "We had a commitment to a very high level, well-qualified client service. We always have and will continue to believe this is a career that requires good, educated full-time agents giving the very best level of service."
Instead of looking at numbers like years of experience, Badger Peabody & Smith Realty prioritizes finding a certain personality. They feel that the skills can be taught as long as an agent has the right mindset for the job.
"We are looking to grow, but that's not our first driver. The first driver is to find the right match with our existing agents," says Andy. "We try to hire on the personality and the skillsets they bring, not necessarily real estate experience."
Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's extensive onboarding program lasts about 60 days. They use the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE®) training platform, and they provide a mix of internal, staff and management training. For agents stepping into the industry for the first time, they offer a valuable mentoring program in which a new agent gets paired with a more experienced agent to learn the ropes.
When speaking about the training program, Andy says, "It's a combination of everything depending on what the new agent needs. They may be a very experienced agent that just needs to get up to speed on our tech stack or a brand-new agent who needs full-service mentoring."
From a technology standpoint, they are excited about DeltaNET Academy and how that can help improve their tech training process.
Supporting Their Team
The support doesn't end after an agent finishes their training — it's only the beginning. As previously mentioned, supporting their agents is one of the top priorities for Badger Peabody & Smith Realty. Support means providing and assisting agents with using all the right tools and resources to succeed.
"Both companies have been focused on providing agents with the tools, resources and support that they need to best do their job," says Jessica. "We have staff members who assist the agents with the paperwork and putting listings in the MLS. We have our closing coordinators help with the closing process. We have our in-house marketing team, which is amazing because they can do projects that if we outsourced it, we wouldn't be able to do."
Supporting their agents also means supporting them as human beings, not just as talent. That's why they ensure agents are taking care of their mental health. In a time like this, in a pandemic where buyers are tired and listings feel few and far between, this is especially important.
"There's a buyer fatigue, and there's an agent fatigue; they're trying so hard to do right by their buyers and despite how hard they work, they can't do anything about it," says Andy. "I try not to use the word work-life balance because, in this industry, it's a balance of everything. You live and breathe real estate seven days a week if you're successful in this, but it's balancing all of that and understanding you just need to be able to encapsulate and walk away from it and take care of your own mental health."
The support at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty includes not only the staff supporting the agents but also the agents and staff supporting each other. And that support goes beyond the office.
"From a cultural standpoint, we rally to each other's causes and support each other professionally and outside the workplace," says Jessica.
The real estate company has found this support not only fosters a great work environment but also provides excellent results for agents.
"Our average agent in 2021 did 24 sides, so certainly higher, much higher, than the industry average, and of course, we have some that do three times that," says Andy. "For the most part, everybody shows up and takes their career very seriously, and we want to always provide them with the highest level of support so that they can do 20, 30, 40 sides."
Although supporting your agents certainly goes a long way, showing appreciation can be highly valuable too. That's why Badger Peabody & Smith Realty makes sure to let agents and staff know they're appreciated on a regular basis. While that can simply be done through daily praise or words of affirmation, the company holds several annual events to show its appreciation for its agents and staff on a larger scale.
Each year, they hold a gala to celebrate their success from the previous year. This February, they held their annual gala at the Omni Mt. Washington Resort in the grand ballroom. Everyone got dressed up; they had a delicious dinner, a photo booth and a raffle to win prizes. During the event, they gave out awards to agents and gifts to the staff. Since they had just recently launched their new brand and firm, they wanted to make this year's event extra special for everyone, and it was.
In addition to the gala, they had a company event at Mt. Cranmore over the summer, where everyone got to socialize and take a ride on the chair lift overlooking the mountain. This was a great way for agents and staff to catch up, get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
Badger Peabody & Smith Realty doesn't only believe in showing appreciation for those who work for the company but for their customers too. Another annual event they host is the Customer Appreciation Barbecue. They've been hosting this event for almost 20 years. This year, they brought in a food truck to offer free meals to customers.
Connecting as a Community
Before the merger, both teams were made up of people who believed in serving their community and maintaining a community-oriented approach to their business. So, when the two came together, engaging with the community was a top priority for everyone.
One way they support the community is through providing sponsorship and donations. In 2021, the company gave over $35,000 to local community organizations. Some of the organizations they have supported include Pope Memorial Library, Good Neighbor Food Pantry, the Boys and Girls Club of North Country, Holderness Historical Society and the Colonial Theater.
Merging Has Its Perks
Aside from working well with one another, there have been some obvious perks to Badger Realty and Peabody & Smith Realty joining forces. First off, they can now expand their reach, covering more area. Before merging, although they worked within the same region, they never really crossed paths. They each had their own territory, and they stuck to that. Now that they are working together, the team has more space to explore.
"Covering such a large service area with the two companies together has been wonderful," says Debbie.
Also, with the merger, they are seeing growth on all sides. By combining referrals, they have been able to expand their customer base. This has allowed them to hire more agents and even add some new and necessary staff positions — such as a Manager of Agent Success. This position, held by Gaige Pequeno, has made a huge impact on keeping agents engaged and informed in all processes.
"We were both in the 30-agent range independently, which is a good size for the kind of rural area that we're in," says Andy. "But it still wasn't quite big enough to do some of the things we thought we could do if we joined forces and then it would just maintain our competitive advantage, and it certainly has done that so far very well."
Another benefit, particularly for the Badger team, was becoming part of Luxury Portfolio International®, the luxury division of LeadingRE. While they were always in that second-home and vacation market, they weren't part of Luxury Portfolio International, which Peabody & Smith Realty was. So, by merging with them, they could offer a luxury affiliation for clients and customers. With Luxury Portfolio International, they can now market globally, allowing them to advertise in higher-end magazines and on global websites for the first time.
"Although we could market locally and nationally, joining forces and being a part of Luxury Portfolio International has given us advertising opportunities that as a smaller company, just the budget allowing for that kind of marketing was difficult," says Debbie.
Couldn't Have Done it "With Anyone Else"
Badger Peabody & Smith Realty believes that Delta played a significant role in the merger's success. Jessica says, "I don't think we would've been able to do it with anyone else."
For them, it wasn't just about the technology Delta provided or the strategies. It was the dedication and commitment to helping them they valued most.
"Delta is more than just a tech platform," says Jessica. "They have been an integral part of the strategic portion, the advising portion of the merger and have been a reliable 11th-hour lifeboat throughout — providing that 'Oh my god it's 9 p.m., things are breaking down, and someone will hop on a Zoom call with me,' type of unparalleled support on more than one occasion. Plus, the fact that an agent can call the helpline and troubleshoot with a live person is unheard of these days and very much appreciated."
The staff at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty feels that Delta has consistently kept their company goals in mind and shares the same values for customer service.
"Once the agent gets that relationship, gets the lead, sells them a house, whatever it is, we want that customer-for-life relationship to be forefront all the time," says Andy. "It's a good partnership with Delta because they feel the same way, and they have helped us refine that."
There are many tools and features that Delta offers that have made both the staff and agents at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty's lives easier as well. These include being able to work within both the back and front end of the CRM, view and comment on seller reports, make customized marketing materials and send campaign emails to lifelong and potential customers. Chrissy Smith, VP/ Sales & Marketing at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, sees that the agents are happy and more productive using Delta.
"I think what's nice about the DeltaNET is the agents like it," she says. "Of all the CRMs they've used in the past, it's the easiest to navigate and to understand, and so the bottom line, the agents really like it."
Looking to the Future
Now that the pandemic is seemingly coming to an end, it's time for Badger Peabody & Smith Realty to look to the future. They are excited to be back in the office and be able to collaborate in person again. They are also excited to be back to hosting events and plan to continue coming together in 2022.
Even with all the fun, the work doesn't stop — the team is always generating new ideas. They have a few marketing and social media initiatives in the works they're looking forward to launching soon, such as a social media campaign to get to know their agents.
"It's nice because it's out there for the public to see who the agents are, but we're also able to use that internally where agents can read about each other in a more personal manner and kind of get to know a little bit of background on those agents as well," says Chrissy. "So, I think that'll be a really nice piece to help everyone learn more about each other."
While the industry will always be unpredictable, the staff at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty remains optimistic.
"I think our industry is going to survive the next couple of years in fine shape," says Andy. "We can't sustain 15% or 18% appreciation, that's not going to happen, but overall, I think the agents are going to have a good year in 2022. I think buyers that have been patient and struggled and put in 10 offers and lost, everyone will see more inventory coming in the next 60 to 90 days, and they'll be able to get into a house."
Managing to master a merger in the midst of a global pandemic is certainly something to be celebrated. The benefits of the decision are clear, and both companies' core values remain intact. With all the right tools, including DeltaNET, and their dedication to their agents, community and customers, there is nothing they can't accomplish.
We look forward to seeing Badger Peabody & Smith Realty continue to grow, and as they do, Delta will be there every step of the way to lend a hand.
Myths are everywhere in the real estate industry these days — and not just for your clients. In an industry with so many resources and news sources available, it's also easy for agents to believe some common myths about their own careers. Whether you're talking about buyers, sellers, or your own career as a real estate agent, combating myths is an important part of the job that is also sometimes overlooked. Cutting through the myths will help your clients achieve their real estate goals and can help you grow within your own career for years to come.
Common Myths for Real Estate Agents
Before we get into buyers and sellers, it's time to take a look a bit closer to home. There are certain myths about being a real estate agent that regularly make the rounds on social media, during water cooler talk, and in other prominent places. Don't listen to them. These myths can hold you back from growing in your career, attracting new business, and providing the best possible service to your clients.
Here's what to be on the lookout for:
The Real Estate Market Will Always Be This Strong
When things are good with real estate markets and your pipeline is always full, it's easy to feel like that will always be the case. Over the last decade, market trends have generally been positive for real estate agents. While we're not predicting doom and gloom, it's important to remember that the pendulum will eventually swing the other way. In order to succeed when real estate markets eventually cool off, it's critical to be prepared and have a plan.
There's Too Much Competition to Stand Out as an Agent
One consequence of the positive trends in real estate over recent years is that more people than ever are deciding to try their hand at real estate careers. NAR membership statistics seem to grow every year, and in 2021 there were more than 1.5 million members. But how many of those real estate agents are taking advantage of all the best marketing tools and doing everything that they need to do to thrive? The truth is that, according to those same statistics, the average agent worked 35 hours per week in 2021. If you're willing to put in the extra time, carve out your niche, and make the most of your marketing — with tools like the ones you can find in the DeltaNET® — there are plenty of opportunities to stand out from the competition.
What Worked in the Past Will Always Work
This myth goes hand-in-hand with the first two on our list, but the truth is that you don't have to look too far into the past to see a totally different real estate industry. Twenty years ago, the iPhone didn't
exist, social media wasn't a thing, and online marketing was largely in its infancy. What will the industry look like five, 10, or even another 20 years from now? The agents who continue to thrive are the ones who are willing to learn, adapt, and evolve with the times.
Past Clients Will Automatically Call You for Real Estate Needs in the Future
After completing a real estate transaction, the vast majority of clients say that they will return to the same agent for real estate needs in the future. They may mean it at the time, but the reality is that they follow up with the same agent far less often than those initial numbers would suggest. If you want to keep clients for life, you need to continue to keep them engaged. With email marketing, social media, and so many other tools for maintaining relationships, you have all the tools you need to keep clients coming back long-term.
Real Estate Marketing Is an Expense, Not an Investment
It's easy to look at real estate marketing as an expense, with money going out. But are you also accounting for all of the revenue your marketing brings in? If you think of your marketing as an investment, then it's also important to track ROI. Make sure that you're taking advantage of analytics and checking your metrics to ensure that your marketing investment is well spent.
Myths That Buyers and Sellers Believe
While some myths make the rounds among real estate pros, they're nothing compared to the number of tall tales that buyers and sellers believe. Helping buyers and sellers understand the realities of real estate and dispel the myths are important parts of any agent's job. When clients are equipped with accurate information, it's easier for you to help them accomplish their goals.
Selling a Home FSBO or Buying a Home Without an Agent Will Save Money
No matter how clear it is that this myth is untrue from the agent's perspective, many buyers and sellers still believe that they can save money by handling everything themselves. Maybe they've even been through the process of buying or selling a home before and think they already know everything that they need to know. Of course, the truth is generally quite the opposite, with most people losing money and gaining frustration when they try to handle the job themselves. That's why it's so important to show prospects all of the ways that you add value and help them save money in the long run.
Online Resources Provide All of the Information That Buyers and Sellers Need
Some people think that they can go without an agent because there's so much information about real estate available online. But online information can only take them so far, and there is also so much misleading real estate info online. Insights they find online might help them in many ways, but online research won't equip them with the tools and skills to handle every detail of a complex real estate transaction.
All Real Estate Agents Are the Same
Similar to the myth about too much competition that we mentioned in the agent section, some buyers and sellers believe that real estate agents are interchangeable. Of course, that couldn't be further from the truth. Make sure that your marketing helps differentiate you from other agents and that you clearly communicate the many ways that you can help clients.
Always Set an Asking Price/Make an Offer That Leaves Room for Negotiation
While it's true that leaving some room to negotiate can be a good thing, many buyers and sellers take the concept to the extreme. A buyer who always starts with a lowball offer or a seller who sets an unrealistically high asking price is only setting themselves up for disappointment. This is one area where the market knowledge of a real estate agent can make life much easier for both buyers and sellers.
Why Busting Myths Will Always Be Part of Real Estate
With how quickly the real estate industry evolves for agents and how many varying sources of information your clients have access to regarding real estate topics, there will always be myths that need to be dispelled. Staying on top of the accurate information and discarding the fake facts will serve any agent well, whether you're helping a client or thinking about ways to advance your own career.
When it comes to email marketing in real estate, looking at the numbers can help you determine what works and what doesn't.
At Delta Media Group, we service brokerages of all sizes across the United States. From independent agents to more than a dozen of the RealTrends TOP 100 brokerages in the nation. Earlier this year, I took the time to conduct a thorough analysis of the adoption rates, email statistics, and general website performance of some of our largest partners to get a gauge of what "true adoption" looks like, as well as what kind of email marketing was being done by some of the top-performing brokerages in the nation.
Let's start by looking at the adoption statistics because those will play directly into the volume of emails sent by these firms. All of the data in this report is from 1/1/2021 thru 1/1/2022. Of the 12 brokerages analyzed, they had a collective 12,000 agents within their organizations.
As I started to review the usage of our DeltaNET® platform, one thing immediately became clear to me. Some companies use technology regularly and have made it a part of their company culture. Other firms simply offer a CRM to "check the box" and are not actively promoting or pushing its use. In the last edition of our Real Estate Marketing & Technology magazine, I talked about the importance of building a healthy culture of technology. If you aren't talking about it, if you aren't sharing the wins, eventually, the technology will become an afterthought in your organization.
That's why "adoption" statistics can be tricky to analyze. Large tech vendors want to use those numbers to convince brokerages that they have the magical technology that agents will finally want to pick up and use. The reality is that no brokerage will ever have a 100% adoption rate of any technology. There are too many real estate agents that are just looking for a company to hold their license and are only in real estate as a part-time job. In a year, they'll, maybe, record one or two transactions. And that's okay; real estate doesn't need to be a full-time career for every agent. That also means it's okay to know you will never get everyone on the same page.
When it comes to our largest organizations, some saw a very healthy adoption where more than 80% of their agents were logging into the system on a regular basis (at least once a month) and having some type of activity within the system. That could be building a flyer, changing their website, or responding to leads. Other organizations saw as low as a 39% healthy login rate. The numbers varied wildly across the board, with the average healthy adoption rate coming in around 61%.
This falls in line with a concept I've also talked about in this magazine before — the "30-30-30" rule. 30% of your agents will rarely use your tools. 30% of your agents will probably use your tools but will need to be coached/trained/and motivated to use them. This group is where most training directors spend their time. The final batch of agents is the ones who are pushing brokerages to get these tools and will use them often.
The number of agents using the system will directly translate into how many contacts exist within these brokerages' CRM platforms. You need contacts in a system in order to market to them. We found in our data that, on average, 80% of agents inside these 12 companies had actually uploaded their contacts into their CRM. In total, 4.6 million contacts were receiving reoccurring marketing from these brokerages. That is huge! These larger firms had roughly 386,000 contacts in their pool to be regularly contacted.
So you've got agents using a CRM, you've got them uploading contacts, and the goal is you want to be marketing to these contacts, boosting your brand impressions, and providing something of value to the potential home buyer or home seller. The content they're receiving needs to be valuable. Things like new listing alerts, market updates, regular newsletter content relevant to their interests, or seller reports. At Delta, we have seven distinct channels of email marketing. Those are:
Homefinder Reports: New listing alerts that can run instantly, daily, weekly, or monthly.
Market Watch Reports: Market statistics updates that run weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
Seller Reports: Detailed statistics on how a listing is performing on the market. View counts, engagement, showings, etc. These run weekly or bi-weekly.
E-mail Drip Campaigns: Various automated touchpoints like holiday emails or buyer campaigns. They are relationship-focused and have a large variety of email volume. It could be one email a week or four emails a year. It all depends on the type of campaign.
E-cards: These are graphics-heavy emails that usually are focused on displaying information within the email and not focused on driving traffic back to a website.
Email Blasts: This is an email that is built and scheduled to run on a specific day and time to a pre-set group of customers.
My Customer For Life: Our AI-Driven newsletter contains curated content for home buyers, sellers, and general home improvement. Any contact within the CRM can receive this newsletter, which has 12 new articles added monthly. The newsletter tracks what type of content customers are engaging with and starts to become a curated newsletter of content relevant to the customers' interests.
Here is a breakdown of how these different channels of email marketing performed:
Over the course of one year, our clients sent more than 43 million emails to a total of 4.6 million contacts. On average, it appears that enterprise brokerages are hitting a contact with a little over nine emails per year. However, that number will be inflated as the home finder emails are really new listing alerts running to buyers who are actively looking for a home. If you remove those 11.5 million emails, it's really closer to seven emails per contact per year for general branded emails.
Personally, I think the best cadence for email marketing is more like 12-18 emails per year. You should be increasing your brand impressions significantly by giving these clients valuable information like our Market Watch Reports or our My Customer For Life newsletter.
Let's break down some of the findings from this data.
1 — the types of email marketing running from the DeltaNET perform extremely well compared to most online email marketing analytics. Your average open rate should be around 17%, and your average click-to-open rate should be around 6%. These benchmarks come from campaignmonitor.com. With that in mind, it's clear that there are three stand-out emails in our marketing suite that everyone should take notice of.
2 — Market Watch Reports. We encourage all agents using the DeltaNET to enroll their customers to receive these types of detailed market reports. If you have a potential buyer looking to move to a new area of town, you can enroll them to receive these reports. Or, if you're looking to keep a long-term relationship with a customer, you can enroll someone who just moved into a new house to receive these market reports. Perhaps they purchased at $240k, and a few years later, they see homes in their market selling for an average of $280k. They may be inclined to list and sell again once the price point gets high enough. These emails have a massive 65% click-thru rate. This means the customers opening these emails are almost always clicking on them to be sent back to your website. There is a huge opportunity here.
3 — Seller Reports. While this is the lowest volume of emails coming from our system, it's clear that home sellers are paying attention to them. Seller Report emails have a 63% open rate, the highest of any type of email I've ever seen statistics for. If you have active listings, your seller should receive these detailed emails.
4 — My Customer For Life. This email newsletter is clearly working. I believe it may be the magic bullet for email marketing, and we didn't even realize we had it. Our Digital Marketing team has added new content articles to this newsletter for nearly five years. To date, MCFL has more than 750 articles of content that fall into three categories: Buyer, Seller, and Home Owner. If I receive an agent's branded newsletter in week one, it will show me all three types of content. Let's say I click on a seller article. Delta tracks that. Next week when I get my newsletter, it will have two seller articles and a home improvement/buyer article. If I click on that sell article again, I am flagged in the agent's CRM as a potential seller, and now the newsletter will always contain more seller content because that's relevant to my interests.
The MCFL newsletters have a 59% click-thru rate. This is one of the best online marketing plans you could subscribe to, and the best part is that it's included in our DeltaNET platform with no extra charge. Other online marketing companies would charge anywhere from $20 to $50 per month to subscribe to a newsletter that gets that much new content each month. And it's not just for your email either. This content is also designed to be automatically shared on your social channels after you've connected your
DeltaNET to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. You get great reoccurring social content and email newsletter content automatically each week.
As the data shows, email marketing works. Our top 12 clients saw nearly six million impressions of their brand through email and drove more than 1.6 million visitors back to their websites. If you're looking to step up your game on email marketing, the first place to start is your CRM. Make sure you have agents uploading contacts to market to. Once you've got contacts to email, you should get into a rhythm of reoccurring newsletters, dynamic email drip campaigns, and setting up market watch reports for all customers. Specialized emails like seller reports and home finder reports are great for sellers and buyers. Finally, you can use tools like email blasts to send mass notifications about things like company events.
If you'd like to set up a consultation to review your email marketing strategy, please don't hesitate to reach out to one of our Software Consultants at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to training options for real estate technology, there are a few different schools of thought on what works best. Some want videos, others swear by user guides. At Delta Media Group®, we're big on easy, on giving you — the one using all of that tech — the power to transform your training into exactly what you want and need it to be.
That's why we're thrilled to announce the launch of DeltaNET® Academy, available directly within the DeltaNET CRM. With DeltaNET Academy, users have access to slideshow-based training courses that break down Delta Media Group's industry-leading, all-in-one CRM and wealth of features to their basics, making them simpler than ever to understand. Only a few clicks and admins can easily:
Custom course creation also allows admins to set the metaphorical syllabus. Building your own courses is easy: Choose what you want to highlight and assign it to your team. Then, when a course is completed, associates can take a quiz to ensure they've got a handle on all the information. Plus, DeltaNET Academy tracks who's doing what within the system, so you'll know exactly where everyone stands. Consider it a progress report — we're sure everyone will be a pleasure to have in class.
Don't forget our promise of easy, either. DeltaNET Academy provides a user-friendly, intuitive platform that doesn't feel like a hassle or homework. We're still offering videos and guides, but we're also giving our clients more options with hands-on, engaging learning that gives the power of training back to brokerages.
"When building DeltaNET Academy, we weren't looking for a tool that 'checks the boxes' when it comes to its capabilities," Director of Partner Success Harley Wolfarth says. "DeltaNET Academy gives our users control over course content, visibility, assignment, and even tests/quizzes while keeping those controls and settings in places where you expect to find them. We think we've made something that will make your life easier, not just because your agents and staff can be better trained by the courses you create, but because the process to create those courses is clear and easy as well."
Evolution is part of our Delta Media Group-DNA, so you can be sure we're already working on plans to expand the training offerings within DeltaNET Academy as well. And best of all? DeltaNET Academy comes without any extra cost. No hidden fees. No surprises. Just comprehensive training that gives you and your associates the knowledge to make real estate's most powerful CRM and tech tools work for you.
No one wants to get schooled by their tech. So, jump to the head of the class with DeltaNET Academy and learn the ins and outs of Delta Media Group's game-changing features.
"DeltaNET Academy is a platform to not only educate team members with pre-populated real estate CRM and marketing training, but it is also the platform to empower firms with the ability to create their own custom training programs for anything," Delta Media Group CEO/Owner Mike Minard says. "I'm excited to see how DeltaNET Academy transforms how real estate professionals leverage technology further as they are more empowered in their understanding of how much powerful technology is available to them today."
Just 19 miles east of historic Beaufort, South Carolina, lies a place called Fripp Island. With its slightly whimsical name and miles of pristine beaches, it's not hard to imagine that Fripp Island is a place where Southern hospitality reigns supreme, where people smile and greet you as if you're an old friend.
At just over six and a half square miles, Fripp Island is also the sort of place where the favored mode of transportation is a golf cart. Tourists — the thousands who flock to those beaches and restaurants and well-manicured putting greens — frequently rent them by the day or week.
Fripp Island is a lot of things, many of them worthy of a postcard. What some people might not expect, however, is that Fripp Island is also home to the origins of the largest and most respected real estate company in the South Carolina Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia regions. What is now Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group/Cora Bett Thomas Realty got its start on Fripp Island when partners Ken Willis and David Hornsby began developing the area in the late 80s.
Turns out, a lot of those golf carts are the product of Willis and Hornsby's work. The pair turned the area into one of the best amenity-based community developments with a marina, two golf courses, a 1,500-member club, and 450 rental units.
Since those early days, Bay Street Realty Group has grown by leaps and bounds, with highly-trained and successful sales associates and by uniting with other top brokerages, most recently, Cora Bett Thomas Realty. Through all those changes, one thing has remained the same: Bay Street Realty Group has never forgotten its start on Fripp Island. That small, picture-perfect island has served as the setting for thousands of family memories over the years, and, to some extent, the same holds for Bay Street Realty Group.
The family-focused mindset that cemented itself in the core of everything Bay Street Realty Group does began on Fripp Island. That mindset has defined the company for over four decades.
"It's all a big family feel, which is nice because that's the atmosphere that we create," Marketing Director Meg Wynne says. "Once you start, we want you to stay forever. We like to hold on to people and create that big family atmosphere."
Growth has always been the name of the game for Bay Street Realty Group. Putting Fripp Island on the map by successfully developing the area wouldn't have been possible without a predisposition and obvious enthusiasm for growth. Still, growth without purpose has never had a place in the company's plans. Instead, the focus
has been on meaningful evolution, on taking the next step because it makes sense. Not just because the company wants to keep on walking — metaphorically, at least.
It's that philosophy that influenced Bay Street Realty Group's expansion over the last few years, and in 2017, the company acquired Island Realty, where partner Todd McDaniel was a managing member and one of the founding owners. Now, Bay Street Realty Group's South Carolina team has over 150 years of combined lifestyle-based community homes sales and development experience. Together, the group also has experience in more than half a dozen markets in and around the Beaufort area, providing would-be and current clients with the sort of knowledge they can't find anywhere else.
"By acquiring and joining forces with some of the best brokerages around, we can offer more and keep our culture and mindset consistent, under one unified brand," says Willis, owner and South Carolina Broker in Charge. "We've worked very hard to bring everyone together and unify our processes and services."
That hard work has paid off, too. By Q3 in 2021 Bay Street Realty Group had boasted 555 transaction sides in the Beaufort Market. But success is not confined to a single area. Or state, for that matter.
In 2019, the company took its next step philosophy up a notch and jumped into the Georgia real estate market with both feet. Partner Will Thurman was placed as Managing Broker for Georgia, and Bay Street Realty Group acquired Southeast Coastal Property, Bob and Reba Laramy's successful Savannah-based real estate company, with 35 new agents. It was that acquisition that initially opened a conversation with Cora Bett Thomas Realty, a long-time market leader in the Savannah/ SC Lowcountry region. Talks progressed quickly, and by early 2020, the acquisition of Cora Bett Thomas Realty was announced.
Suddenly, Bay Street Realty Group had 85 new agents, who collectively produced $291 million in sales in 2019. And they haven't slowed down. In November 2021, the Savannah market saw listings spend an average of just 53 days on the market, down more than two weeks from the previous month. It's those acquisitions and growth, seizing opportunities as they arose, that has quickly turned Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group into the largest agency covering both the SC Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia. It's also ensured that the company has settled into its reputation as a trusted real estate partner, providing unparalleled service.
"Our exponential growth in the Lowcountry displays the strength of our leadership and the trust and knowledge of our expert agents," says Thurman. "We promise trust, integrity, stability, longevity, and the highest standards of work."
Georgia on Their Mind
Combining two different things is never easy. Even the most basic recipes require a good bit of mixing to create the perfect batter, and matching prints is occasionally a fashion risk. But, more often than not, the mixing pays off and whatever comes out of the oven tastes delicious. The new outfit draws compliments and perhaps a social media post or two. When it comes to combining real estate companies, though, the technique isn't always as simple, and even the best-laid plans sometimes have to be altered in the face of an international health pandemic. Such was the case when, in 2020, Bay Street Realty Group and Cora Bett Thomas Realty joined forces under the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices umbrella.
Discussions between the two companies in 2019 were positive from the start. Progress was made, and ideas were tossed around for the collective future of the pair. What they didn't count on was implementing all those ideas at the height of COVID-19 or the challenges that situation would present.
"We went from 40 agents to all of a sudden, you have 100 agents, and you're trying to have everyone get along, work together, and it's COVID, so you can't get them together," Wynne says. "We had to do everything virtually. They were onboarded virtually. We had to turn to technology."
Throughout the acquisition process, finding a balance between the companies was key. That also included Southeast Coastal Property, which came on board the year before. Practices differed from office to office, and establishing a new baseline for everything wasn't always easy when it couldn't be done in person.
"Each office used different technologies for different things. South Carolina office was Google Suite heavy, whereas the Cora Bett Thomas office was not. The Southeast Coastal Property office had different processes and different technologies," recalls Lindsey Nix, Digital Director. "So you were taking everybody's day-to-day systems and saying, 'Okay, well what's working? What do we want to keep? If we want to change something, how do you change it without offending or disrupting?'
Of course, bringing Cora Bett Thomas Realty into the fold wasn't simply about streamlining a single organizational system. Agents had to be quickly brought up to speed on their new normal, as well.
"That took a good year of shifting things around and also people and job roles and saying 'Hey, we value you. We don't want to lose you, but things are going to look a little different,' Nix details. "Everybody did a fantastic job. Sometimes I feel like we're a whole different company a year and a half later.
"You're trying to get everyone together," Nix continues, "and that's not always easy, but, like Meg said early on, we focused on keeping that family mentality because that's what is most important to the partners and staff."
Zoom meetings became more than a trend throughout those early 2020 weeks. Bringing agents together required the technology, packing schedules and sparking introductions, even when it wasn't always the preferred method of communication.
"That was a hard thing because in the South, I mean, it's all about connections and talking face-to-face with people and who you know," Wynne says. "We had to remove that part almost, which did make it hard to get to know the agents, but over time it's all worked out."
Among those things that technology helped work out was adding an almost surprising sense of scheduling ease to the entire endeavor. Yes, Zoom meetings meant less in-person communication. What it did do, though, was, as Nix details, allowed the companies to "hold things more frequently, hold training more frequently."
"If we were doing something with all 100 agents or encouraging all 100 agents to participate, we didn't have to worry about finding a venue that would accommodate that," Nix adds. "There were some pros, definitely, of having it done virtually. Of course, with COVID, in the beginning, that was a big concern. We didn't want to jeopardize anybody's health or put anybody at risk. It made it easy for us to maintain speed, but take into account what was happening in the world."
Despite the myriad of challenges and, sometimes, surprising victories remote work presented, the acquisition did have two rather prominent silver linings. First, this was a move borne of collective desire, with both Bay Street Realty Group and Cora Bett Thomas Realty striving to ensure it happened. Second, it came with the bonus of Cora Bett Thomas' incredible real estate reputation.
"Cora Bett Thomas Realty left a legacy in the Savannah Lowcountry region, and instead of stifling that force and brand, we wanted to bring the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand and support into the mix," Thurman says. "We looked at the strengths and weaknesses of both brokerages and adapted what we felt was the best of each."
One of the most recognized names in the market, Thomas first came to Savannah in 1969 and immediately became active in historic home restoration before turning her attention to real estate in 1976. In 1994, she decided to start her own agency on her dining room table. Thomas has been nationally featured in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times for her luxurious listings, and it was that background that helped spark interest and enthusiasm across the board when it came time to get the companies up and running together.
"We were all very excited about it," Wynne said. "Even though you're working hard, it was fun and a great learning experience, and we gained from the strengths of those around us, as well."
Through all of the changes Bay Street Realty Group has undergone in the last few years, perhaps one of the most impactful was the decision to, in 2018, align with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerage network. Joining the network gave Bay Street Realty Group access to one of the most trusted names in real estate, with thousands of offices across the United States and worldwide.
"We're backed by one of the largest and most successful global real estate networks," Hornsby says. "When our name goes on a real estate sign, it means something. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is the name buyers and sellers trust."
With Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in their corner, Bay Street Realty Group has built up its training programs, providing agents with the latest updates and information to keep them at the top of their game. Because when they're serving a market as large as the one Bay Street Realty Group agents are, there's no room for missteps.
"All of our agents stay informed on the latest market trends and technology, ready to equip [their clients] with the knowledge [they need in their] next real estate transaction," Hornsby says. "Working diligently behind the scenes is the region's most comprehensive support staff, dedicated to assisting our agents and customers every step of the way."
And while Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices provides a global scope for real estate success, Wynne is also quick to point out the network's personal touch.
"I've felt this since the beginning, we have our family atmosphere within our brokerage, but at a larger level, we also have that," Wynne says. "[Corporate is] always just a call away. There's always someone to reach out to, no matter what the problem is. [Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices] has almost 1,700 offices now across the United States, and you think you'd be lost in that and you're not at all."
Buoyed by that confidence, training throughout the Cora Bett Thomas Realty acquisition was another victory for the brand-new collective company.
"From the Cora Bett Thomas side, we were LeadingRE and luxury portfolio, and that had great training," Nix says. "It built a good network, but I think Berkshire Hathaway offers so much more, so we were very excited about that potential. I know as staff, as well as the agents, once they learned what was available under the Berkshire Hathaway name and network, it became, 'Oh, this is going to be a better situation. This is going to be an improvement. We're going to have access to so much more.'"
Now, more than a year removed from combining forces, training remains one of the most consistent practices across the company's offices. Agents can fine-tune their approach with a host of learning opportunities, and, as McDaniel says, the company prides itself "on our agent support in both staff and technology."
"Whether an agent is new to real estate or has been practicing for years, when they come to our brokerage, it's the common trait of hard work that adds to our overall culture and success," McDaniel continues. "Being a part of such a great network, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices already offers a great resource for agent training. As a brokerage, we've taken it a step further to offer brokerage-level training and one-on-one training to ensure our agents understand all the tools available to grow their business. We have found that continual and consistent training yields the best results and growth for our agents."
From the very first day in the company's history, Bay Street Realty Group has built its success on the foundation of a strong family atmosphere. People are more than the next transaction opportunity they represent or the numbers they bring in, and every acquisition, every next step, has been a way to expand that family.
But, just like any good family, combining different traits and traditions has required a bit of balance, a hint of patience, and a little determination to see it all through.
"We have a running joke," Nix says, "Chatham County is the county we live in, in Savannah. We always say, 'Oh, well, that's just the way it's done in the state of Chatham.' Some of the things and trends do cross state lines. But sometimes, Meg and I will have a conversation and be like, 'Well that's not how we do it in Beaufort,' and I'm like, 'Well it's never going to fly in Savannah like that," so that does have an impact on our agent culture as well."
Although there are differences between offices and past trends, Nix adds that the biggest similarity is also the most important, saying, "[Everyone] is so hyper-local in a lot of ways."
Finding common ground hasn't always been easy, but Wynne and Nix have prioritized it. The family mindset hasn't changed, but the family itself has, and that's required some getting used to.
"It's almost like Savannah is a New York City compared to Beaufort sometimes, but then there's a perfect middle too," Wynne says. "It's different, but between the two of us, we have done a great job to make sure that the cultures fit together and that we have a happy medium for all of our agents, too."
And when it comes to finding agents who mesh with the Bay Street Realty Group culture, it all comes down to initiative — much like Willis and Hornsby had when they first started on Fripp Island. Bay Street Realty Group is looking for agents who want to put in the work, who understand the markets and the areas, who want to foster relationships. Because it's those relationships that make all the difference.
"People don't often realize that real estate is an entrepreneurial business. You're running your own little business," Nix says. "Of course, there's support from your brokerage, and that's why we're the best because we offer that support, but it's a two-way street. We want agents to show up. You have to produce and do things like that. For us, we're looking for the agent who wants to learn, who shows initiative because if not, there's going to be another agent who's going to come along, and they're going to have that, and they're going to be better."
Bay Street Realty Group has also welcomed the youth movement amongst its agents. Real estate is a constantly-evolving industry, so it only stands to reason Bay Street Realty Group has embraced every shift. Growth is something of a tradition within the company, after all. And by bringing in new agents, those who want to make a name for themselves, agents Wynne describes as having "the drive... the want...and the sales ability," Bay Street Realty Group has built a corps of consistent producers.
"That's one of [our] favorite things, to see when brand-new agents come in, and we get to watch their growth," Wynne says. "I'll get a text and be thrilled because it says, 'Meg! So-and-so just put $2 million under contract.' These young agents in their twenties, you watch them grow from coming in and not knowing anything to being successful and making more money than they have in their entire lives. That's one of the coolest things to see, in my eyes."
Don't forget about that family-focused mindset, though. As new agents stretch their wings with Bay Street Realty Group, they can do so knowing they have the backing and support of those who have been there for years. Experienced agents often serve as mentors and advisors for the newcomers, offering suggestions and cultivating a sense of camaraderie that's apparent in every corner of every one of the company's offices.
"We see a lot of teamwork," Wynne explains, "where we can get an experienced agent who knows the tricks of the trade, knows the language. They can mentor younger agents, but the younger agent can help them with technology or other things, and we see great relationships form that way too."
Creating a Sense of Community
Melding companies, finding similarities between first-time and experienced agents, and setting a tone that crosses state lines has been the driving force behind Bay Street Realty Group's success over the last few years. And that success is clear in just about everything the company does. Boasting a diverse group of agents — ranging from 25-75 years in age —who know the SC Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia region like the backs of their hands, Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Bay Street Realty Group/ Cora Bett Thomas Realty finished 2020 with combined sales of $320 million.
But while the numbers are impressive, this is not a company that has ever spent too much time focusing on the numbers. Instead, it's that family focus, the need to provide every client the best experience possible, and to be a constant presence in the communities it serves that stands as a marker of success for Bay Street Realty Group.
"We think long-term and want [our clients] to be our friend and neighbor, not just our most recent sales transaction," McDaniel says. "Our desire is to be your forever agent and help you for decades make the wisest real estate decisions."
Building that sort of company-wide attitude comes from years in the business and by bringing in the sort of people who share a similar point of view. Life beyond the transaction is important, as is remembering that agents are people who have interests in things outside the scope of their desk and real estate CRM.
With that in mind, Bay Street Realty Group has focused its social media efforts on more than just simple new listing posts. Agent spotlights fill the company's Facebook page, alongside posts touting the beauty and opportunities the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia Coastal region presents.
"We call [the area] our slice of heaven," Nix says. "We want to showcase that it's not just about the house. If you move here or if you live here and you don't know about some of these opportunities, how can you get plugged in in this community? How can you, again, go beyond that transaction?"
The work is important, naturally. Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Bay Street Realty Group/Cora Bett Thomas Realty has filled decades with successful work, helping couples find their first homes or families find their forever homes, working on the commercial and luxury side of the industry, and even teaming up with new developments across the 100 Mile Coast. But the work has always been the starting point, a stepping stone for something bigger and, often, better.
Because it's by doing the work that the company can build those all-important relationships and become more than a realty company. These days, it's a group of like-minded individuals with a common goal and shared beliefs.
"We still believe in showing up at the office to work, monthly sales meetings, and time together outside the office for company events," Willis says. "With four offices and two states, we couldn't achieve unification without our yearly brokerage event and holiday parties that keep the lines of communication open to all. Our agents carry that sense of family and honor over to their business relationships, and the Bay Street Realty Group local brand shines. The sense of community we've built within the office is mimicked in each transaction."
Community has always been an important facet of Bay Street Realty Group's company-wide personality. This all started by building the community on Fripp Island, and, really, the only things that have changed in the ensuing years are the location of the communities and how Bay Street Realty Group is giving back.
"Service is at the heart of real estate, or at least it is for us," Willis says. "We know it's just as important to serve our clients and our community. Between both states, we are involved in monthly community events that allow us to give back beyond property transactions. We can't live up to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand without a sense of community."
The company regularly partners with area schools, helping with athletics and school programs. This past holiday season, agents adopted a local child, purchasing items off their wish lists. Cora Bett Thomas Realty also recently served as the primary sponsor for the American Red Cross in Savannah, participating in the organization's annual golf tournament. No matter what they're doing, Wynne says the most important thing is that it's being done, and someone benefits from it.
"We engage our agents," she adds. "It's important that we don't just write a check. We want to be out there, doing what we can."
Taking Tech to the Next Level With Delta Media Group®
Bringing together two of the most prominent real estate names in the SC Lowcountry and Coastal Georgia region
during the COVID-19 pandemic required Bay Street Realty Group to depend on technology more than ever before. And with more moving pieces than ever before, Bay Street Realty Group needed a tech provider who could meet its every need, for every office, in two different states, as soon as that need arose.
That's where Delta Media Group came in.
Before the acquisition, Cora Bett Thomas had worked with Delta, Nix says, while Bay Street Realty Group was partnered with a different company. When the two joined forces, both providers were looked at, as the company's newly-melded leadership team examined what sort of tools and products each offered.
"We said, 'Okay, which [company] is going to serve our new mass?'' Nix recalls. "Somebody was making a transition, one way or another."
In the end, it was the Delta CRM, DeltaNET® 6, and website offerings that stood out. The easy-to-use technology within the DeltaNET gives Bay Street Realty Group agents a stress-free way of staying top of mind with clients and providing current listing information to prospects. And Nix adds that the "pairing of a website and a CRM" has been especially beneficial for agents. No matter what their experience or tech know-how may be, DeltaNET 6 gives them a one-stop shop to maintain all their information, allowing them to take stock and tackle to-do lists with ease.
Training has also been key, with both Nix and Wynne utilizing Delta-provided resources, as well as Tech Tuesday videos and YouTube how-tos, to get the entire Bay Street Realty Group on the same page.
"We take time on an individual level with each new agent to make sure they know the in's and out's of the CRM and website," Thurman says. "With a wide variety of technology skills within our brokerage, agent adoption ranges, but Delta does a great job of providing something for every skill set. Agents are becoming more and more accustomed to using technology in their everyday business."
And, should an agent encounter a problem or a tool they aren't quite sure how to use, Nix credits Delta's industry-leading tech support for answering the call. Sometimes literally.
"That constant communication was a big pro for [Delta] versus another third party company where they were like, 'I don't know, I haven't talked to so-and-so. I don't know how to do this,'" Nix details. "[Delta has] more internal resources."
Change has become a habit for Bay Street Realty Group, and with one of its biggest changes — acquiring Cora Bett Thomas Realty — came another: Redesigning the company's website. Updating the site was, as Nix detailed, one of the main reasons Bay Street Realty Group opted to partner with Delta, and, months after making that decision, the company has never second-guessed itself. Filled with new features and designs, the site embraces Bay Street Realty Group's need to showcase everything the company offers. From history to property searches, relocation resources, and the company's blog, the retooled site gives would-be, past, and present clients everything they're looking for.
"When Delta Media shared some of the new features and design updates, we were quick to make sure these changes were implemented on our website," McDaniel says. "Not only are the new changes going to improve our overall look and feel, but they will also make the user experience better, which is most important. We want our clients to feel at ease navigating our website."
Staying current with their tech is always Bay Street Realty Group's goal, and, with Delta, that's easier than ever. Just like Bay Street Realty Group, Delta has long embraced that family focus and families often share. Even the tech-based ones. Because if a certain update can benefit more than one client, Delta is quick to implement it for everyone.
"One of the things that I've always loved and still love today about Delta Media Group is when a thought process from one brokerage comes out, and it can make the site as a whole better, Delta adopts it for all," Nix says. "It's not, 'Oh, we're just going to give brokerage A this neat thought and this custom whatever. We're going to make it where we take that, and we put it into all of our websites or all of our CRMs because it's going to better the whole real estate industry.' That's one of [Delta's] better qualities."
There are plenty of ways and words to describe the last few years for Bay Street Realty Group. Growth, of course, immediately springs to mind. Change, too. Occasionally hectic, with jam-packed schedules and brand-new mindsets, using tech in brand-new ways — those all fit the description bill. But there are good words, too. Decidedly positive ones like exciting and new and plenty of opportunities.
Together, all those words make up a mindset that is as focused now as it was during the early days on Fripp Island. Because while the markets have expanded and the world itself has changed, Bay Street Realty Group is still a company built on the idea of family, on offering the best possible real estate experience for clients and a professional home for agents to flourish.
And that won't change anytime soon.
"Beyond the obvious answer of keeping up with and exceeding our sales records, we want to continue to find more opportunities to aid agents in their marketing efforts and community involvement," Hornsby says. "Agent success is ultimately what creates brokerage success!"
When you're searching for a service provider, business, or product online, how
do you decide which one to pick? If you're like most people – including real estate prospects – then online reviews likely play a starring role in informing your decision. It's difficult to overstate the importance of online
reviews, especially as young, tech-savvy people continue to grow into the largest demographic of real estate clients. Whether you're already familiar with the concept of social proof or you're just getting started with online reviews, now is the time to take advantage of this powerful tool for growing your business.
Why Social Proof Is So Important to Your Real Estate Brand
Word of mouth has always been one of the most powerful, reliable ways to generate highly qualified leads, and that remains true in our modern, digital world. The difference today comes in how the word is spread — via social media, online reviews, and testimonials. Social proof is like word of mouth for the social media era, and it's one of the most important tools you have for attracting new business.
Online reviews, especially on websites that aggregate large numbers of reviews, are a quick, easy way for prospects to see that you're trustworthy and learn about how you serve clients. Testimonials are a more personalized, narrative-driven form of social proof, perfect for sharing on your website and social pages. And reviews on social media offer an interactive, engaging form of social proof.
No matter what form they take, online reviews have so many benefits. As we'll get into shortly, though, you can't automatically expect your clients to provide reviews and testimonials. Acquiring that social proof will often require a little effort on your end, but the payoff is more than worth it.
Knowing When and How to Ask for Reviews
While some clients will take the initiative and leave reviews on their own, many will require a little nudge from you in order to take that crucial first step. Naturally, you will want to wait until after the client's real estate transaction is complete before you ask for a review. But, once you have reached that point, the general approach to asking for reviews is pretty straightforward.
You can frame the request for a review in a variety of different ways, but remember that it's important to ask for specifics. Ask the client about how happy they were with your services, what they liked, and what feedback they would give on the overall process. Let them know why online reviews are so important to your business, and direct them to popular review platforms like Yelp, Facebook, and Google. Of course, you'll want to let them know how much you appreciate them leaving a review.
Testimonials Are Like Gold for Your Real Estate Marketing
Testimonials are all about showcasing the positives of how you serve your clients, which is why they should be featured front and center in your real estate marketing. A client who was happy with your services may be willing to provide a testimonial that can be featured across your digital marketing platforms.
Just like with reviews, it's important to ask for specifics from clients who are willing to provide a testimonial. In order to get those specifics, it's helpful to have some questions prepared that your client can answer in their own words.
Always encourage clients to be authentic. Prospects are used to encountering inauthentic or flat-out fabricated testimonials, which they'll quickly tune out. If possible, ask your client to provide a photo so that you can pair a name and face with their testimonial. This step alone will significantly boost the credibility of the testimonial in the eyes of prospects.
Once a testimonial is ready for the world to see, you'll want to showcase it as much as possible across your online platforms. Put the best testimonials on the homepage of your real estate website, and create a page where website visitors can find even more testimonials. Highlight testimonials on social media, and integrate them into your marketing materials.
How Video Reviews and Testimonials Change the Game
We've already touched on how pairing a face with a review/testimonial adds major credibility, and putting it in video form takes that concept to the next level. Video reviews provide a level of authenticity that a text-based review can't match and help the viewer form an emotional connection with the reviewer. Video content is also incredibly popular online and more likely to be shared on social media. People simply trust video content more for reviews and testimonials.
So if a client is comfortable in front of the camera and willing to go the extra mile, then you should do everything you can to help them create a video review or testimonial. You can even consider running a contest or giveaway to encourage clients to leave video reviews by offering the chance to win a prize in return for their effort.
How to Handle Negative Reviews
Let's be honest. No matter how well you typically serve your clients, every real estate business will receive negative reviews on occasion. Maybe the client is hard to please, maybe their real estate transaction didn't work out how they had hoped in a challenging market, or maybe they simply have some genuine concerns about the process. No matter the reason for a negative review, the last thing you want to do is panic or ignore the review.
The best thing that you can do is respond thoughtfully. Start with a public response, where you address their review in a general way and let them know that you will be reaching out privately to discuss their concerns directly. In addition to showing the reviewer that you care, this public response shows anyone else who encounters that negative review that you're proactive about addressing client concerns.
When you reach out privately, remember to be courteous and listen. Learn the specifics, and do everything that you can
to solve the issue. If you're able to remedy the situation, ask if the client is willing to update their public review. When a prospect discovers a review where the client had some concerns that you ultimately addressed in a positive way, that reflects well on your business.
In some cases, the person who left a negative review won't be happy no matter what you do to address their issues or won't bother to respond at all when you reach out after they leave a review. When that happens, it's generally best to move on and let it go. As long as you serve your clients well, your positive reviews are likely to far outnumber the occasional negative feedback.
Make Reviews and Testimonials Work for Your Real Estate Brand
No matter the size of your real estate business, your market, or your target demographics, online reviews and testimonials should be a critical element of your marketing mix. Make sure that you're taking all of the necessary steps to encourage clients to leave reviews and testimonials. Then make it as easy as possible for prospects to find that social proof when they're researching your business.
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the February 2022 issue, click here.
Talk to any business coach, consultant, or leader, and inevitably at some point, your conversation will turn to talk of business culture. Although, sometimes the culture conversation isn't direct, and, sometimes, the word itself might not even come up. Things such as core values, mission statements, the interviewing process, the employee review process etc., etc., etc., might dominate the discussion, but, still, at its core, what you're talking about is culture.
And there's no way to undersell just how important culture is — both in your real estate business and beyond.
In the past ten years, my CEO peer group has often had at least one well-known speaker and, typically, book author, discuss business culture. This past year we had one such speaker that took a unique twist to his presentation and hit me with a line of thinking I had never considered before. During his presentation, he turned the culture-related discussion away from the usual business focus and directed it towards me and my personal life. This was a twist I had never experienced before.
During this speaker's presentation, he discussed not only business culture but family culture as well. He even pressed the family culture discussion further and asked if we had discussed our family's core values with our families or if our spouses and children also knew our family's core values. Admittedly only one peer in my group of 15 business owners could answer yes when asked if his family knew their family's core values. This line of thinking gave great pause to me and the other 13, who also said yes to having family core values. While we all actively work on culture in our businesses, 14 of us, unfortunately, had not done this yet with our families.
As a sidebar, before I bring my thoughts back to the business world, if you want to do something interesting, start trying to answer culture related questions that focus on you and your family, such as:
What are your family's core values?
Does your family filter your family's decisions against your family's core values and mission statement?
Is your family in alignment with your family's core values and mission statement...your family's culture?
Trust me, the family angle is an interesting line of questions to think through when you have time, and I encourage you to do it...but let's get back to talking about the business side of things...
The first point I want to make is that you must be purposeful in your culture. What I mean by this is that culture in your business is something that you are the architect of. And, since you are the architect, culture is something you need to take the time to think about and create. Ultimately, if you go through a culture exercise with a business coach, that coach will ask you all kinds of questions about who your team is, words that describe them, and what they value.
Two years ago, I did a formal culture exercise at Delta. The management team, a business consultant, and I spent about an hour coming up with our five core values. When we were done, we all agreed that our core values accurately described who we were and are as a team. The irony of our core values is that I have valued these things and worked towards them with the Delta team for over 20 years. However, I was not nearly as strategic then as we are today at Delta in building a team representative of these core values. Now, it's a different story as these values I've long respected have become a central theme within Delta's business.
Delta's Five Core Values are:
Get it Done — Being accountable and trusted to complete projects or tasks no matter the effort needed or how much time is needed.
Finds a Way — The answer is never "No." When we see a need, even when the platform wasn't built to do it, or it would require building something completely new, as long as it fits into our core focus, we make it happen.
Passionate — Deeply cares about outcomes. Demonstrates a winning attitude, and it hurts to lose.
Team Oriented — Excels at working inside of a team to work towards achieving a larger goal. Can clearly give and receive feedback about tasks to better the team. Is driven to make sure the entire team succeeds, no lone-wolf attitude.
Do What's Right — Through wisdom, honesty, and compassion, we take the path that will have the greatest positive impact on the current and future health, growth, and prosperity of our company, our team members, and our customers.
It has become much easier over the past two years to make hiring and firing decisions and business decisions by having our core values clearly defined and agreed upon within our management team. Core values are part of our formal interview process and part of our quarterly employee review process.
The second point that I want to make is that the leader ultimately feeds the culture they want by what they focus on with their team.
Last December, at our annual two-day planning meeting for 2022, the management team did an exercise where we each shared two things with every other member on the management team: What is the one thing most admired about the person by you and what is the one thing that you would most like that person to stop doing or start doing?
What the team shared with me that they most admired about me gave me clarity into some of the ways that I have fed the culture at Delta. They shared that they liked my ability to inspire, my honesty, my optimism in adversity, my work ethic, that I am down to earth, and that I am approachable. Now, before you begin to think that I am trying to build myself up with a list of accolades, I should point out that I have another list of things I need to work on that I won't share: My stop doing and start doing list. But, for now, let's focus on the most admired things list...
It is important that each of us as business leaders is modeling that which we desire; that we exemplify the culture, core values, and mission statement of the company we run and the team we lead. I can take each of the items shared with me during the exercise that people admire about me and tie them back to at least one core value. Unknowingly I was living out the core values of the business for the past 20 years, not always to perfection, but I was living them out, and others noticed.
What we need to do as business owners is foster in our lives what we want in our businesses and be intentional about it. To close out my thoughts, I put together a shortlist of questions that you may find helpful as you think through the culture in your business, and maybe even the culture within your family:
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the February 2022 issue, click here.
Listing photos are among the most important collateral in selling any property – and they have only gotten more vital with time. These days, customers have the power to browse dozens or even hundreds of properties in a single hour. Yet, a breathtaking photo is what makes them stop scrolling.
You've heard the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. To some extent, that's true. Even when it comes to real estate listings. Pictures draw eyes and initial interest, but virtually no homes sell solely on the basis of photos alone. Instead, it's up to the real estate agent to weave a cohesive narrative around the home.
Of course, that can be a challenge. Real estate agents come from all walks of life, and while some enter the industry following other careers, few are former photography pros or authors. As a result, new agents often come to one or both of these aspects of the job with trepidation. But you don't have to be a world-class expert in either field to give your listings a winning advantage.
Listing optimization is a skill you can learn with practice. And when you start off with a few best practices in mind, you drastically decrease the time it takes to elevate your work to the top 20% in your area.
Real estate is never a matter of "perfection" – it's about improvement. There's always more to learn and do. Start with confidence that you can improve your listings, and the skills you need will grow.
Let's break listings down further and look at the simple steps you can take to achieve superior results.
Your Listing Photos: The First Impression of Every Property
A buyer's interest always starts with photos.
On a page of mixed text and graphics, it's all but impossible for someone to notice text before visuals – that's simply how human attention works. Even if they are looking within a narrowly defined area, they will see a photo, feel a spark of curiosity, and then double-check to ensure the address suits them.
So, listing photos are a crucial "hook."
You already know your photos should be of the highest resolution possible and take advantage of natural light. If you can only photograph at one time, choose early afternoon on a clear day. Additional photos in different lighting conditions are greatly appreciated, but daytime photos are the foundation.
Let's expand on those basics to do more with your photos:
Remember: Decluttering Is Always Step One
Fully staged homes tend to sell faster and at better prices. The first step in staging is decluttering, which often requires some enthusiasm from the seller. Clarify, simplify, and organize whenever possible. Remove large, bulky furniture pieces to open up spaces before you snap them.
Go from Decluttering to Staging
Once decluttering is done, build on your momentum. While some real estate agents work with home staging professionals, many pick up the tricks of the trade themselves. Think about the story of each room – how it impacts the owner's lifestyle – and arrange items to highlight that desirable narrative.
Plan Out Which Photos You Need
There are some types of photos you simply can't do without. These include wide-angle shots of the bedrooms, curb appeal shots, the backyard, and at least one photo of each other room. Use your best judgment to decide what else you may need and which rooms you prefer to emphasize.
Deploy the Latest Photography Equipment
You can do some tasks with your trusty smartphone, but listing photos require a professional-grade camera. Once you know your way around your camera, enhance your results by using a tripod and a wide-angle lens. These two simple items unlock all kinds of creative possibilities.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
When you arrive at a property ripe for listing, it might feel like you need to get everything done as fast as possible. Slow down and take your time – and plenty of pictures. Get used to taking more than you need, so you'll practice choosing the best, which will translate to a better "photography instinct."
Get Feedback on Your Work
Although you might not have a gallery showing in your future, it's still a wise idea to connect with feedback on two levels. The first is photography pros, who may be glad to advise you on internet forums. The second, of course, is buyers. They will be more than willing to tell you precisely what they liked!
If in Doubt, Partner with Experts
If it seems like you simply can't get the hang of the photography game, don't despair. From small towns to large cities, communities are packed with professional real estate photographers. You'll often be able to work out a very affordable agreement, and their talent will contribute to higher commissions overall.
Unleash the Power of Your Real Estate Photos with Excellent Listing Descriptions
Once you develop confidence with listing photos, it's time to fine-tune your descriptions.
For maximum impact, listing photos and descriptions work together. Ideally, you'll start thinking about how your description should read as you take your photos. Have a convenient way to jot down notes as you go from room to room – an old-fashioned notepad is often faster than a phone app.
Here's how to boost your listing descriptions to another level without having to become the next Hemingway:
Focus Plenty of Attention on the Opening
Just like sending an email, the opening line is the critical factor in whether a viewer reads on. In your introduction, you need to tackle two questions with an economy of words: "What am I looking at?" and "Why should I keep reading?" Do this in one sentence, and you're on your way!
Sell the Story and the Features
The features are the specific attributes of the home, such as the spacious backyard. The story is how those features better the lives of buyers. For example, many younger buyers look at a big yard as the perfect place for Fido to play. Know what motivates your target audience and weave it through your listing.
Beware of Industry Jargon
Real estate shows are more popular than ever before. Unfortunately, they can give buyers and sellers alike a misapprehension of how the whole process works. Avoid jargon terms like "TLC," "quaint," or "fixer-upper," which such buyers may have learned to react to with disdain.
Don't Forget a Call to Action
A call to action (or "CTA") is an essential part of any text meant to persuade. It should tell the reader precisely what to do next without demanding too much. For example, your listing might end with "Call now for more information," which is a smaller request than "Contact us to book a showing."
Implement these tips, and you'll be on your way to better-performing listings. And, just as importantly, you'll be able to approach the process of designing your listings with greater ease and confidence.
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the February 2022 issue, click here.
It started with an opportunity.
And perhaps, just a hint of hope. Hope that purchasing a small real estate company in Northeast Ohio was the right choice. Hope that the venture would succeed. Hope that all the work would turn into something wonderful. Turns out, all that hope was well placed. More than 50 years after Ardis DeHoff decided to buy what would become DeHoff REALTORS®, the North Canton-based company continues to thrive.
"[She] decided that this'll be fun, let's try it," President Linda DeHoff says of her mother-in-law's initial decision. "Then my father-in-law, who was with the Hoover Company for many, many years, decided that choosing between Hoover and his wife, no problem. So, he joined her, and the two of them built the company. We were so blessed to have the right foundation."
At DeHoff REALTORS®, that foundation has rested on the principles of uncompromising ethics with a dedication to serving every client, customer, employee, and sales professional the company interacts with. This is a local, family business, yes — and it likely always will be, but there is more to DeHoff than its name. There is always the next opportunity, the next chance to provide exemplary service, and it's the drive to seize both that has defined the company for generations.
"The brand, the name, has been built, is known, is respected, and it works," says Dave Maltese, General Sales Manager. "It's who we are. What we do, how we do it, and how we're connected to our community so much, it works because it is local. We think local, but still are global in our outreach."
"[CEO] Robert DeHoff uses that quote a lot," Technology Coordinator Ty Colucci adds. "Live locally, think globally, and I'd say that's on point with our brand."
Setting a Foundation
Quality is key when it comes to DeHoff REALTORS®. Whether it's maintaining the company website, designing the FOR SALE signs that sit on lawns across the greater Canton area, or even deciding how to bring new agents into the fold, the dedication to quality is persistent. In fact, it's right there in the company's mission statement:
"To provide high quality, ethical service to you, our customers, and clients that exceeds their expectations."
Building a brand and a company-wide culture is never easy. Changing with the times is a prerequisite for success — especially in an industry as constantly evolving as real estate. What might have worked in the early 60s wasn't feasible in the 80s and is little more than memory now. But what doesn't change, at least for DeHoff REALTORS®, is that commitment to quality service, striking a balance between a local real estate office and big-scope business. And while the line can be a fine one to walk, DeHoff has managed to, all while maintaining a focus on the inherent humanity of the real estate industry.
Because, at its core, real estate is about people.
"Can a big corporation have the core values of a small family company? Yes," Linda DeHoff says. "They don't have to be different. If we think about them, they're the same. It's just the mechanics of it all."
"It's in the DNA of who we are," Maltese adds. "Our core values have been around since the start. We haven't strayed from those. We're always looking to do the right thing, be involved in the community, and encourage our agents to be involved. It's about doing the right thing."
Finding agents who mesh with that DNA has made all the difference for DeHoff REALTORS®. As Linda DeHoff explains, "this is not a headcount company."
And, of course, it always comes back to quality.
"We look at quality characteristics, and I think because of who we are and our reputation in the community, we attract those types of people, and it's a nice blend," Maltese says. "We're a large company, but yet still a family company."
Part of DeHoff's family feeling comes in the form of training — the kind that Colucci says is "constantly evolving."
"We are always reviewing our training, talking about our training, if we're fitting the needs of our agents," he adds. "And so, that training process is constantly evolving with the industry."
Much like DeHoff itself — striking that blend of family and far-reaching — the company's training is a well-balanced mix. New agents can shadow those more experienced, getting a hands-on look at the ins and outs of the markets DeHoff serves and how best to interact with clients. By the same token, more experienced agents, those who didn't start their careers with technology as it is now, may get some tips and tricks from DeHoff's burgeoning real estate stars.
"We provide a lot of different levels [of training]," Maltese says. "Which is also the way the consumer likes to receive it. We have consumers that are going to want to see a piece of paper and sit down and talk, and then we're going to have the other spectrum where it's like, can you email me that, and I'll sign it electronically, I'll get it back to you, and I don't need to see you today. So, we as a company try and deliver those same services to our agents so that they can, in turn, do it to the consumer."
From the Ground Up
Ardis DeHoff used to have something of a motto; one Linda recalls she would share with her quite often. She'd say, "Linda, don't worry. You get the car and worry about the garage later." What did that mean, exactly? It meant that concerning yourself with where to put your new car wasn't the most pressing issue. First, you had to get the actual car.
The same held true for real estate and, in the case of DeHoff REALTORS®, growing that real estate business. Since first opening its doors in 1962, DeHoff has embraced growth and change in stride, but the key to successful growth came from a natural progression. Much like the company's beginnings — needing a new owner before Ardis purchased it — DeHoff's view on growth is a mix of organic and opportunistic.
"Growth, oftentimes, comes not just organically, but from a need," Linda DeHoff says. "Somebody will come to us and say, 'There's a couple of people that want a certain product here that we are not delivering yet,' and that's almost how we grow. By people coming to us and saying we need this or need that. Obviously, we're looking out for opportunities too."
From its beginnings with only a handful of agents and a brand-new name, DeHoff REALTORS® has grown with, as Maltese details it, "quality in mind," adding that "we've adapted along the way to market factors." In addition to buying and selling residential homes and consistently bringing in new agents, DeHoff has also developed 20-plus residential neighborhoods, plus apartments, and shopping centers, while offering multiple real estate services, including buying, leasing, and investing.
Offering so many services to so many people not only allows DeHoff to become a one-stop-shop for clients' real estate needs but cements the company's reputation as a partner and presence in the community. For years, the DeHoff name has been synonymous with the Northeast Ohio real estate world, and that's only become more obvious with DeHoff Developments. Currently, the development division has about half a dozen people who work on commercial and residential projects.
As part of those residential projects, DeHoff has literally been on the ground floor of single-family houses, condos, villas, apartment complexes, and assisted and independent living centers. Working on these projects offers DeHoff the opportunity to be part of the communities and neighborhoods from the very start. Same goes for the commercial side of the division; these buildings will become businesses that all those people in all those homes will visit.
And for as much as it's been a natural part of DeHoff's growth to venture into development — including over 3,000 acres of land in Stark County the company developed for neighborhoods — it isn't an opportunity taken lightly. There's a certain responsibility that comes with building; one DeHoff is more than willing to shoulder.
"I give the DeHoffs a lot of credit because they give thought to their developments: sidewalks, street trees, street lighting," Maltese says. "You go through a development that's ours, it has a look and a feel, and they, over the years, have looked at what characteristics people like. It almost goes back to, well, we're not just building a development, we want something that we can be proud of that is going to serve the community well, and it's going to be here a long time."
DeHoff developments also add to the Northeast Ohio community in a way that some may not expect — with job development. Someone has to build those buildings, after all.
"Even in the residential realm, it creates jobs," Colucci says. "Then when you get into industrial parks, and they're putting up these buildings, they can say, 'Well, listen, this is going to bring 600 jobs to the area. This is going to bring 900 jobs to the area.' So, I think that goes back to the community deal, and it's cool to be part of job creation in the local market."
Those metaphorical people who come up with clichés say that home is where the heart is. For DeHoff REALTORS®, the cliché might be true. Home is where the heart of the company is, and that home is a 20,000 square foot corporate center in North Canton, Ohio.
Built about 20 years ago, the office came from a need for a centralized space, one that allowed everyone associated with DeHoff to work side by side, building relationships, and that all-important company -wide culture. Executive offices are few and far between here, and if they do exist, their doors are often made of glass. Open floor plans create a sense of community as soon as someone crosses the office threshold.
"When this [space] was developed, we did a little research and found that salespeople, in general, tend to be social,"
Linda DeHoff explains. "We developed that. And you'd never know necessarily the number one agent by where that person is positioned.
"We did a lot of observation, and we have four rooms that are for conference centers. And one of them has an attached children's room," she continues, "so this room is attached with all kinds of things to play. The other rooms were developed in other styles. And the lobby was designed so that everyone is welcome. Agents see each other by means of the design. We wanted it to be friendly. It's developed by style and not production."
The DeHoff office provides plenty of what Colucci calls "congregation areas," making it easy for anyone to sit down, start a discussion and form some sort of plan. What that plan centers around is constantly changing, but the most important part is that it's being talked about and worked on together.
"This is not an 'I'm going to come in here and sit down at my desk, and I don't want to talk to anybody' place," Colucci says. "Part of the magic here is that we all can communicate. We all hang out together and talk business, and I think the development of this building allows us to do that."
With so much going on, DeHoff's office allows the company to keep everything on track. Clients can be brought in to detail their real estate transactions, agents can work as a collective unit, and the DeHoff leadership team is only a few steps away.
"Linda, Robert, and President Dan [DeHoff] are all in here every day, so if you have something that you need to go to them with, they're here," Maltese says. "It's not like we have a hundred offices, and Linda's here once a month, and we've got to wait for her to reply, so it certainly has a family atmosphere."
The office is also another way DeHoff can give back. Opening the corporate center to the public simply made sense, with two conference rooms that area non-profits use as often as three to four times a week. And it's not just organizations using the space, either — one of DeHoff's agents recently hosted his family's Thanksgiving meal there.
A Pillar in the Community
For decades and multiple generations, the DeHoff family and the business that bears its name have become synonymous with Northeast Ohio and the communities that make up the area. Service, as far as the DeHoffs are concerned, is simply another facet of the real estate industry. To some extent, it's the company's invisible partner, and the company has long made good on that partnership.
"We've said meaningfully that the career is an excuse to do what we're supposed to do anyhow," Linda DeHoff explains. "In many ways, certainly financial, [the career] helps us keep these lights on, but we're compensated in other ways, as well. By friendship, by support, by seeing that the family's happy, if it's a client in retail, that they're successful.
"It's not an obligation; it's an opportunity," she continues. "We feel an opportunity to support those who helped us become who we are."
DeHoff agents and leadership team have lived up to that mindset for years. A survey of those agents found that over 90% were involved in not-for-profits, either participating by giving of their time or money. As a company, DeHoff REALTORS® also regularly works with the United Way of Greater Stark County and Arts In Stark, which uses the arts to inspire local children, create new jobs, and establish healthier communities.
"We've been successful raising funds for the United Way through our agents and staff," Colucci says. "As long as I've been here, 100% of [DeHoff has] given something to the United Way."
In addition to Arts In Stark, DeHoff's corporate center is home to its own art gallery, showcasing the works of Lowell Ellsworth Smith. The 50 or so original paintings showcase the greater North Canton area going back almost a century, providing a window into the area's history.
No matter how DeHoff is giving back, the crux is that the company is giving back. Service has always been part of the company's very fabric, and that isn't about to change anytime soon.
"We care about people, and it starts there because we can teach [agents] how to sell real estate, we can teach them how to do certain things, but you can't teach people to care," Maltese says. "And if you have your heart in the right place, things are going to evolve in the right direction."
Tandem Tech: DeHoff & Delta Media Group®
Live locally, but think globally has been DeHoff REALTORS'® unofficial rallying cry for years. It's also one that Delta Media Group shares. And that's what ensured the duo's technology partnership has worked so well for over a decade.
"Delta has continued to expand their services with the real estate community," Maltese says. "They're real estate focused, and we're real estate focused. It started with a website many years ago, and then they've added client follow-up and call services and showings and everything else. They're progressive, and we feel we're progressive, and that has blended well."
Together DeHoff and Delta Media Group have paired up on the company's website, providing detailed information on everything DeHoff offers prospective and current clients. The DeltaNET® 6 CRM also provides DeHoff agents a simple, user-friendly way to organize and maintain all the information that goes into a successful real estate career. And with Delta's regular updates, DeHoff REALTORS® is confident the technology it's using is as good as can be.
"We get the updates in our emails from [Director of Partner Success] Harley [Wolfarth]," Colucci says. "And occasionally I'll call [Dave] like, 'Do you see that new thing that they put in there?' So, I think one of the key things for us is that they're constantly evolving and upping their game."
Growing with the technological times is more a necessity than anything else these days, but DeHoff, as usual, takes the twists and turns in stride — especially when it comes to social media. With a diverse group of agents, there's plenty of know-how to share, and that's led to plenty of success.
"It's formed this unique partnership [between agents]," Maltese details. "On the surface, way back five years ago, it seemed like, well, that may not work, but then it does, and we embrace it, and we figure out how to leverage it to grow our business and service."
Taking the Next Step
Looking to the future of DeHoff REALTORS®, there is no specific plan. No blueprint for what comes next. After nearly 60 years in business, the best way to prepare for what comes next is simply to embrace it. Because, at its core, DeHoff is a people-focused business, and while anything else may change, that certainly won't.
"It's about relationships, absolutely," Linda DeHoff says. "But maybe all businesses, if they meet their potential, are relationship businesses."
In the end, it's not about the money. Not really. Or the business cards handed out. Or the social media interactions. It's about providing something for someone to call their own — a home, a business, whatever the case may be. It's about building, sometimes from the ground up, and giving dreams a bit of a shape with the four walls around them.
"We had a campaign once, called buying a home is like falling in love, and it is," Linda DeHoff says. "There's a lot of parallels that go with that, and no one, I bet, has ever looked back and said, 'Oh, I had such a big family room!' That's not what it's about. It's not the mortar but the neighborhood. It's the memories. It's all the other things that go along with it."
TikTok became a rising star in social media at the start of 2020, and it has been going strong ever since. With more than a billion active users, it has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, and creative real estate teams have found many interesting ways to integrate TikTok into their social media marketing. If you're new to TikTok, consider this your introduction to the platform and your guide for how to get started.
Introducing TikTok, the Newest Social Media Sensation
Before we dive into the details of how to use it, we need to answer one important question: What is TikTok, exactly? In short, TikTok is a social video-sharing platform focused on short-form content, which allows you to create, edit, and share quick video clips. Originally the platform allowed you to post videos up to 15 seconds in length, but the limit has since increased to three minutes.
TikTok was first established worldwide in 2018 and surpassed two billion downloads for the first time in late 2020. Today, it ranks behind only Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube in terms of active users for social media platforms. The fact that TikTok videos are short, to the point, and easy to share has made the platform especially popular among younger users. So if you're trying to do more to reach Gen Z and Millenial clients with your real estate brand, TikTok is an excellent place to be seen.
While mastering TikTok takes time, its popularity also comes from how relatively easy it is to get started. You can quickly shoot videos on your phone, use editing features within the app to customize your video, and post it to the world. Video content is already such a great fit for real estate marketing, so TikTok is a natural place to invest some of your social media efforts.
Want to Build an Audience? Start with Consistency
While TikTok hasn't been "figured out" to the same extent as Facebook or Instagram, we do know some things about how the platform's algorithm works. For example, one of the most critical factors in growing your audience is posting content consistently.
Like with many social media platforms, it's helpful to create a posting schedule. This might mean posting a video every day or posting a few times a week. Whatever schedule you establish, try your best to stick with it. Consistency doesn't mean overnight success, but it's a big key to growing your audience over time.
Keep It Short and Sweet
While the video length limit was expanded from 15 seconds to three minutes, the most popular TikTok content is still short, sweet, and to the point. The length of each piece of content that you post will naturally still depend on the topic. For complex topics, a longer video may be more fitting. But for most content, shorter is better.
There are a few reasons why shorter videos tend to be more popular. First, TikTok started as a platform for sharing concise videos, and that's how many users still see it. But there's also the simple fact that your audience is more likely to watch a short video to the end and engage with the content. As you make more videos, your analytics will tell you more about which lengths work best for your audience.
Be Authentic and Show Some Personality
Whether you're browsing TikTok or watching a commercial about the platform, it quickly becomes clear that TikTok is all about self-expression. That means celebrating the authentic version of who you are, and many of the most popular TikTok accounts do just that. Put another way, it's hard to succeed on TikTok by pretending to be someone you're not. So, don't be afraid to show some personality, give people a peek behind the curtain at what life is like as a real estate agent, and be authentic with your audience.
Make Complex Content Relatable
Educational content is quite popular on TikTok, but users aren't necessarily looking for long, complex content that overwhelms with detail. The most popular real estate TikTok accounts tend to break down those complex ideas to make them as relatable as possible for their audience.
YouTube might be the place for a 15-minute deep dive on a real estate topic, while TikTok is the place where you take the same idea, break it down to the essential concepts, and explain it in a quick, accessible way. While the shorter length of TikTok videos makes things easier in some ways, it can be challenging at first to break down big ideas into relatable concepts. Practice, check out what other agents are doing on TikTok, and experiment to see what types of videos work best for you.
Experiment with Themes and Series to Keep Your Audience Coming Back
No matter how well you break down a topic, some big ideas just won't quite fit within the 3-minute limit for TikTok videos. And that's okay! Creating a series of short, relatable videos about the same topic can be a great way to educate your audience and keep them returning to your account to check for fresh content.
Themed posts are another powerful way to grow your audience while making it easier to stick to your posting schedule. For example, you could post advice for buyers on one day, home improvement posts on another, highlights of local attractions on another, and fun, personality-driven videos to cap off the week. The possibilities for themes are nearly endless, so it's well worth experimenting with and researching themed post ideas for real estate.
Use Relevant Hashtags to Help Interested People Find Your Videos
Now that you have some ideas for how to make great TikTok content, we'll close with a topic that will be familiar to any agent who's dipped their toes into social media marketing. Like with most social platforms, TikTok is big on hashtags. By tagging your posts with relevant hashtags, you can reach people looking for content related to those hashtags.
Relevant is the key word there because you're trying to connect with people interested in real estate content. Using popular hashtags that aren't related to the actual post may provide an initial, artificial traffic bump but won't result in people sticking around to see what you have to say.
The Bottom Line for TikTok Success
One of the biggest themes of our TikTok advice is that it's crucial to experiment and find out what works for your brand. This is because TikTok is still a relatively new platform, but also because authenticity and self-expression are such integral elements of TikTok success.
Of course, the agents who have already found success on TikTok are also excellent sources of ideas. Don't be afraid to check out their content, discover what works for them, and adapt the best ideas to fit your needs. By carving out a TikTok niche, you can ride the wave of the most popular new social platform in years while building connections with the Gen Z and Millenial audiences that are quickly becoming the largest demographics in real estate.
We hear the term constantly — company culture. Building it, honing it, creating something that defines a company is often at the crux of that company's success. But while they're familiar words and sentiment, we still have to ask ourselves: What is company culture all about?
In many other industries, "culture" is everything a business does to motivate its employees outside of paying them what they're worth. Trying to build a culture that values the team on a foundation of cut-rate compensation is saying one thing and doing another. Naturally, actions speak louder than words.
In real estate, however, company culture is a totally different ballgame. Because commissions are the norm for agents and brokers, everyone in the office brings some intrinsic motivation to the table.
Like other sociable, sales-driven industries, you will meet plenty of colleagues driven by the fact that they are the biggest factor in their own success. Every agent in an area faces the same housing stock, local economy, and "lake" of clients, though they might choose to fish in different spots. Company culture is a massive differentiator in how individuals make the most of these resources – and whether they stick around long-term, look elsewhere, or go solo.
The worst thing you can do is let culture happen by accident!
Some kind of culture develops any time a group comes together for any purpose. Really! But even if your culture has been on autopilot, it's not too late to change for the better. By focusing on supporting your people – with technology and humanity – you can create a culture that works.
There's no better time to do it than now. New year, new outlook!
Wrapping Your Mind Around Company Culture
The idea of "company culture" has been used a million different ways by a million different businesses, many of which use "culture fit" when looking to fill open positions. For this reason, culture can seem devilishly slippery. If it's something that bends to every definition, is it all really just hot air?
Company culture can be discussed in a way that's superficial and, ultimately, not very helpful. But there truly is something to the concept. Once you get a sense of how it affects your tangible business results, it becomes much easier to see how you can change it for the better.
There are two big things company culture is not:
• Company Culture Isn't Just a Package of Perks
Company culture doesn't just mean free coffee or a foosball table in the break room. The idea you can boil down culture to a certain idea of fun – one that's wacky and zany within carefully prescribed limits – comes largely from high-tech startups. Companies like these aim to recruit recent college graduates who haven't necessarily developed healthy boundaries or expectations around what work asks of them.
• Company Culture Isn't Just Your Company's Values
These days, companies of all sizes are being asked to articulate their values around various subjects. Millennials and Generation Z are growing their share of the economy, and they want to know they are spending their money in harmony with their worldview. But, while culture can spring from a clear statement of values, the values are only the beginning. They are not the whole story of what culture is.
So, then, what is company culture, exactly?
Company culture can be described as "the unwritten rules," the way things are done in an organization. It is less about written policies and more about how, whether, and when they are followed. Since it is more an art than a science, it is best understood through analogy.
You might want your culture to reflect a positive orientation toward learning and growth. But mistakes and oversights are often made along the path. If a manager's response to mistakes is punishment and scorn, that person values perfectionism and rules-following, not growth.
Luckily, it's simpler to understand how to fine-tune your culture to realize one specific goal, in this case, agent retention. And since company culture is very responsive, all you have to do is commit to a more intentional stance around culture and start taking some of the right actions. Positive change will follow, and then it will be easier to chart a course forward.
The Seven Best Ways to Create a Culture that Values, Cultivates, and Retains Agents
Equip Agents to Succeed with the Right Technologies
It was not that long ago when the average agent needed to dedicate hours every week to ensure they were on top of the latest changes with their prospects, leads, and customers. These days, Customer Relationship Management software centralizes all these functions in one place. A real estate CRM, like DeltaNET® 6, offers complete visibility and may even help you know when to follow up using artificial intelligence.
Remember: Priorities Emerge from Values
While values aren't all there is to company culture, they do matter. Values act as the North Star that everyone can consult when choosing between two conflicting priorities or courses of action. For example, a company that upholds compassion as a key value might make customer care a top priority and would choose to help the customer feel heard over handing calls off as fast as possible.
Encourage Support and Mentoring
Teaching others is often the fastest way to sharpen your own skills. With that in mind, it's wise to spark an interest in mentoring within your office. Allow junior team members the opportunities to think through their challenges without having to reinvent the wheel. As a result, genuine relationships are built that help you to integrate your company into the wider industry community and thus attract top talent.
Success happens every day, on both an individual and team level. Of course, when the team reaches its goals, it's cause for celebration. But personal milestones are also important, assuming the individual consents to have their story heard. So whether it's the big sale or a firstborn's birth, don't be afraid to cheer others on.
Create an Inviting Work Environment
Many agents and brokers are more productive when they have a quiet, enclosed space where they can do blocks of focused, uninterrupted work. That said, you can create opportunities for collaboration by setting up plenty of common areas where ideas can be shared. That makes for the best of both worlds.
Retention all comes down to whether someone feels valued. Agents and brokers often have a dozen other opportunities right in their own backyard, so crafting a retention-focused culture is crucial. These seven tips will put you on the path to long-term retention and the outstanding results it can lead to.
I think I am like most entrepreneurs. I'm constantly looking for opportunities to do something new or to improve what is already being done. You are probably a business owner yourself, or you work for someone that is constantly pushing for improvements in technology and marketing to grow the business you are involved in, so you understand.
Because of that mindset, I like to take time at the end of every year to review the past 12 months: What worked, what didn't work, what was learned, and what is the plan for the coming year? So, for my article this issue, I am doing an abbreviated version that I can share with you as it relates to Delta Media Group. Hopefully, it will inspire you to do the same, and hopefully, it will give you more insight into Delta Media Group® as a major provider to the real estate vertical.
What are the Highs of 2021?
Building and Launching Local Showings™
The industry was rocked by the sale of the most widely used property showing management platform this year. The day that the announcement was made, I, with the support of Delta's management team, decided to launch Local Showings with a no-sell guarantee. As I sit here at a local coffee shop thinking about this decision, a short eight months later, we have our first MLS launched with more to follow. This rocked the industry so much that we are actively talking with three-quarters of the industry. Local Showings is a huge success for Delta and the real estate world.
Search Engine Optimization Success
We undoubtedly have the best SEO in the industry, and it got even better in 2021. Our sites are quicker, our blogs are deeply integrated into the property and local market data, and our SEO ranking has improved. In a year full of significant SEO ranking changes, this is a huge win, especially as I see the success of our business partners. This is the result of paying attention to SEO for 20 years, a fantastic platform, and an even more amazing team at Delta.
Buying and Remodeling a new Office Building
Undoubtedly 2020 was a year of change, and it changed how I viewed Delta's workforce and Delta's office space, so it was time for another shift in 2021. I purchased a new office building, completely gutted it, and remodeled it specifically for a telecommuting hybrid workforce. Next month the new office will open complete with a three-thousand square-foot cafe and large outdoor patio. Ten years ago, I would have never imagined having an office with such a large cafe and a large outdoor patio where team members could come and work the entire day in either of those areas. It seems almost bizarre to me, but I consider this a huge quality of life win for Delta's team members for 2021.
Expansion of Deep Integrations and Automations
The Delta team massively expanded our technology platform integrations this past year. For some major industry technology and marketing providers, we have the deepest integrations available right now from anyone in the space. This makes me proud because of how this benefits all the DeltaNET® users.
The Best Support in the Industry
We have the best support in the industry. But, more importantly, the high of 2021 is that the entire Delta team is working hard to make our support much better. The management team is not happy with just being the best when compared to other providers; we want to achieve an even higher level of support satisfaction.
Deploying a New Server and Storage Infrastructure
This past year we deployed a new server and storage infrastructure for the DeltaNET and other platforms. For over five years, we have enjoyed 100% uptime, but we knew we had to make significant changes to support our growth in the future. It is shocking that we currently peak at around 100-million sessions per month, and that is massive. I am proud that our team executed this deployment with minimal hiccups.
Launching Three Technology Advisory Committees
Saying that we listen to our customers is not just marketing, and this year we launched three technology advisory committees composed of dozens of our top partners. As far as I know, we are the only technology company doing this at this scale. We share what we are working on, we listen to their business, technology, and marketing needs, and we respond! But the biggest thing that I have seen come out of these committees is how groups of companies can work together within their advisory committee to benefit and grow their specific technology and marketing eco-system, especially with franchise groups. This is a massive win for 2021 for Delta and our partners.
Implementing EOS at Delta
I was and am hyper-paranoid of continual improvement as Delta experiences massive growth, so in 2020 I introduced EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) to the Delta management team. As I type this, we have EOS fully implemented at Delta. This has benefitted not just Delta but Delta's partners (customers) as well, which is a huge win.
What are the Lows of 2021?
I was reluctant to share some of Delta's lows for 2021, but I think it is good that I am transparent. So as I share the lows, I will come from the perspective of what was learned in the situation.
Not Having an Office Building to Use While We Remodeled it
In hindsight, that was a huge mistake. I, and the management team, assumed too many things with a telecommuting work model, especially when adding so many new team members throughout the year. I will never make this mistake again. We are more intentional on team culture in a telecommuting model and more intentional on team training. Not having an office building to use for six months has been painful, and it had a negative impact on the business.
Creative Studio™ Pains
In 2021 we launched a new marketing platform called Creative Studio, and it was a huge win and a huge failure that we then had to turn back around into a win. Creative Studio made it more complicated for the sales associates to create marketing pieces when it originally launched, and we will work diligently to make sure that mistake never happens again. With the sales associates, we have one opportunity to win them, and we need to execute perfectly from the start. As a result of this failure, we instituted the following changes for all products: An ongoing monthly management team product review cycle; intentional product development with an emphasis on user experience along with technology; intentional product Quality Assurance processes; and earlier involvement from our partners through our monthly technology advisory committee meetings.
Not Meeting our Internal Support Metrics as We Grew
Honestly, this was frustrating and very disruptive to Delta's overall operations. Even though at our lowest, we still had the best support in the industry, our business partners were so accustomed to phenomenal technical support they noticed the decline. This will never happen again. As a result, we had to make the following business improvements: Proactive technical support metrics, so we are proactive in staffing rather than reactive; ongoing platform and career development training with technical support; intentional career development within the technical support team itself, so it is a career path on its own and not just a conduit into other departments.
Having Hiccups as we Deployed our New Server Hardware
Sometimes when you experience success for so long, you get caught off-guard, and that is what happened with our new server hardware deployment that was also a high for 2021. The reason it was a low for 2021 is because while we still met our uptime commitments, we could no longer tout the 100% uptime that we had achieved for the five years before this. In hindsight, we delayed moving to new infrastructure management tools for too long. Unfortunately, we also delayed this upgrade for too long, and this will not happen again. We already have plans for working on our next major upgrade in 2022, so we are no longer caught like this, and we can once again tout 100% uptime.
What are we Doing for 2022?
Note: These are only major highlights that I can share publicly!
Massively Staffing Up and Training Up Our Support Staff
At Delta, we are working to raise the bar even higher for quality of support. We are very focused on this for 2022!
More Search Engine Optimization Improvements
Work is already underway to improve our SEO platform. When you are #1, you can only go down, so we are pushing hard to be even better at SEO.
Solidifying Our Telecommute Work Hybrid Model as We Continue to Grow
Telecommuting is here to stay, and at Delta, we are intentional in making this model work. Our team members love the fact that they can work from anywhere, and I love the freedom it gives them. We will be even more intentional in developing this model to the benefit of our team members, the business, and our partners.
Yep. You heard it here first. DeltaNET 7 is already in the works. While DeltaNET 6 is the most advanced CRM in the market, in my humble opinion, we are working to further the customization of the DeltaNET with version 7 and bring massive simplification to it as well. More will come out soon, but we are already excited about the direction of DeltaNET 7 and what it will do for those using it.
Pushing Open Standards in all Products (DeltaNET, Local Showings)
I have been pushing Delta's integrations since 2015. Right now, we have hundreds of integrations, a flexible SSO platform directly within DeltaNET 6, and very robust APIs for all Delta services. This is why we are the business hub for all of our large clients today. Massive expansions are already in the works, especially in the area of open APIs. They will become much easier to use and manage and more robust in 2022, especially for DeltaNET 6+ and Local Showings.
CMA / Presentation Product Launch
We have been working on a CMA product that, quite honestly, will also double as a presentation product. We took what we learned from the Creative Studio launch, and we have been working on polishing up the product before launch. By the time you read this, it will either be launched or be very close to launching, and we have big plans for this in 2022.
Training and Resources Center
Another new product that is very close to launching is our new Training and Resources Center. This has been in development for quite some time and may also be launched by the time you read this. The most promising part of this platform addition is that it is built in such a way that our business partners can utilize this to power their own unique training and continuing education. We also have big plans for this in 2022.
Work hard, play hard, and give back.
Simple and straight to the point, the words, and the meaning behind them, have served as a guidepost for Coldwell Banker American Homes' company-wide culture — particularly this year. Because before this year, Coldwell Banker American Homes didn't exist. At least not in its current form.
Following two and a half decades of success in the Century 21 system, as Century 21 American Homes, co-brokers and owners Michael Litzner and Thomas Gallagher, in April, announced the acquisition of Coldwell Banker Realty, a residential brokerage in New York owned and operated by Realogy.
Suddenly, two of the top 10 companies in one of the nation's most competitive markets, Long Island and the New York metro area, were one. Coldwell Banker American Homes was born, and with it came plenty of changes. More than just the name. Agent totals nearly doubled, with more offices across Queens, Kings, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, giving Coldwell Banker American Homes more opportunities than ever to provide clients with the best real estate experience possible.
"We took two of the top companies and put them together, which is no small feat," Litzner says. "We went from 650 agents to [over 1,100] agents in 24 locations overnight. And here we are, learning and growing and continuing our path in real estate."
Through all the headline-making changes, not one of their agents lost sight of the end goal or the simple words defining the company. And it's that mindset that's continuing to inspire the entire Coldwell Banker American Homes family as it settles into its new name and new position in New York real estate. Because culture is still culture, no matter what the name on the office door is.
Even when there are two dozen offices.
"We have a fantastic leadership team, and I think they do a fantastic job of extending those values into the local offices and bringing them down to the agents, the admins, the support staff," Litzner says. "So it's in every fiber of the company. It's okay to have fun while working; as long as you're not so busy having fun, you take your eye off the ball. The work hard always comes first, so we have a culture of hardworking people."
The opportunity to merge two of the most prominent real estate names on Long Island only comes once a certain amount of work has been completed. Decades worth, really. In this case, Coldwell Banker American Homes began when an 18-year-old Litzner started taking classes to obtain his real estate license and, in 1983, began his career at a small independent company in East Meadow, New York.
A short train ride from midtown Manhattan, East Meadow is still suburbia through and through, but it was more than enough for Litzner to get his real estate feet wet. Fast forward a year and a half, and Gallagher joined the company. As time went on, it became clear that the company's owner was looking to retire, and it didn't take long for suggestions to come regarding what should happen next.
"One of the guys said, 'Why don't [you and Gallagher] buy the office?'" Litzner recalls. "That's how it started. We bought the first office in East Meadow, New York. I was 23. And we were learning the business, and we were pretty good producers, still growing into our roles and were now office owners."
From there, the partners continued to hit their stride, buying a second office that Litzner calls "the big pivot" in their careers.
"As we continued to find our legs and work our way through," Litzner says, "we started to generate a certain level of activity that caught the attention of a lot of the brands."
One of those brands was Century 21. At the time, the company had been part of "a loose affiliation of brokers under this banner called Home America," but the chance to join their two offices under the Century 21 name was simply too good to pass up. With the move came a new name, Century 21 American Homes, and all the tools provided by a nationally recognized brand.
"We got a lot of support and insight, many friends and fellow brokers that we've networked with over the years," Litzner says. "When you join a brand, you can have access to its branding tools. It could be technology; it could be training; it's numerous things, especially over the years. It's a matter of taking the best pieces of what they offer you and applying them to your company."
With 10 offices and more than 650 affiliated independent sales professionals, Century 21 American Homes had grown into a dominant presence over its 25 years, but, once again, an opportunity presented itself that simply could not be ignored. Bringing together Century 21 American Homes and Coldwell Banker Realty made sense, a significant move not only on Long Island and the surrounding New York areas, but across the country. Combined, the two companies boasted 5,096 transactions and $2.7 billion in sales in 2020.
Now, with two impressive names combined, Coldwell Banker American Homes is on the precipice of unparalleled success, with agents and a leadership team who are determined to stay at the top of their game. From October of last year to the end of this September, a 12-month span, the numbers were an astounding 5,975 sides and $3.5 billion. As of this printing, the 2021 year to date is $2.6 billion and 4,330 sales.
"It's critical to have trust, loyalty, committed professionals as part of the whole team," Litzner says. "And we've exhibited or enjoyed the loyalty and commitment of many long-standing professionals in our company. I think two of our agents, or two of our management leadership team, have been with Tom and me for over 30 years now. That's a big part of it."
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. That's what they say about New York, after all. One of the world's most competitive and constantly evolving real estate markets, New York and its surrounding areas present a distinct challenge for sales associates and the companies they work under. The same holds for Coldwell Banker American Homes.
To find success in a market like New York, the key is to use every tool at your disposal.
Training at Coldwell Banker American Homes begins by making sure agents understand what their job entails. It's not just about helping a client buy a house. It's about helping a client find a home they love, about finding a foundation, both literal and metaphorical, on which they can build the rest of their lives.
"We talk extensively about our tools, system, and support," Litzner says. "I need agents to be the most productive, with the most professional reputation. We often say the easy business for an agent to convert is the referral business, and referrals happen by design, not by accident. So again, part of our core value is it's a service industry."
No matter where an agent is working, from the most competitive markets to small towns across the country, real estate has always been a deceptively human industry. Sure, there's plenty of money to be made. Properties to be bought and sold, too. But, at its core, real estate is an opportunity for people to help people. To be a partner in one of the biggest moments of their lives, and for Coldwell Banker American Homes, it's that opportunity that continues to be the driving force in everything the company does.
"It's not about trying to sell [clients] something they don't want," Litzner explains. "It's about understanding what's important to them, and help them wade through the choices in the marketplace, and help them find the house that best meets their needs.
"It's a rewarding business in many ways, economically, but also emotionally," Litzner continues. "When you're helping people, and you see the excitement when they buy their home or the relief when they sell a property. When you see that come to fruition, closings happen, and it's rewarding on many levels."
Of course, there's more to Coldwell Banker American Homes than simply ensuring everyone's operating with the same mindset. That's where Coldwell Banker American Homes' comprehensive training program comes in. With support at all levels for both new and experienced agents, the company covers everything from the fundamentals of a career in real estate to deep dives into technology offerings and the ins and outs of the market.
Coldwell Banker American Homes provides agents with marketing and technology-driven productivity tools, including those offered by Delta Media Group®, as well as professional mortgage and title services. No agent is left on an island to understand those tools, either. Support comes from the management and leadership team, assisting agents every step of the way as they find their niche. So, whether an associate wants to pursue residential or commercial sales, leasing, business brokerage, property management, branch management, new homes sales, or relocation, the opportunity to tailor their career to their interests is there.
"The goal that we have for all of our tools, systems, and support, including our training, is to give our agents the highest rate of return on their investment, which is their time," says Chief Technology Officer and Associate Broker Chris Manteria. "That's their biggest investment at the end of the day. I don't care how much money you put into this business; you can't generate more time. You can generate more money. You can't generate more time."
And training doesn't end with those initial instructions. Coldwell Banker American Homes' Educational Program offers multiple classes, allowing agents even more chances to learn and fine-tune their approach in the real estate world. From Agent Success, a weekly 2-hour module for both newly licensed and experienced associates, to commercial training and coaching, agents never have to worry there isn't an answer to whatever questions they may have.
Soaring to Success, a 10-session program written by National Real Estate Coach and Speaker Debra J. Asher, now a member of Coldwell Banker American Homes' leadership team, is also a top-rated course and one that's relevant to agents with every sort of background and success level.
"As an experienced agent, I took it after being in the business already [for many] years," Manteria says, "and I was able to capture a lot of different pieces of the puzzle that I had missed before, or it changed my thought process on how I presented information to my customers and clients, which allowed me to have a higher rate of return."
In addition to company-wide training offerings, managers also do trainings in their specific offices. It's that sort of unique training that cements Coldwell Banker American Homes' support and allows agents to interact one-on-one with those they work closest with.
"There is a very personal touch, a high touch in all of our offices," Manteria says. "Every single one has a full-time non-compete manager, who takes the agents by their hands and walks them through the process. No matter what level they're at, whether they're a brand-new agent, experienced agent that needs to get to that next level, or the top agent that comes in or has been with our company for a long time, that just needs support. Those managers are there for them. I truly believe that our leadership team is top-notch."
Litzner echoes the sentiment, adding that it's the ability to connect with agents that makes training all the more impactful.
Providing that specialized focus, taking the time to truly understand what agents want out of their careers — that can make all the difference.
"Where the rubber meets the road is on application," Litzner says. "So, by having centralized training, we can control the messaging, the information, the flow of information to our agents in scale. It's having those high-level professionals in our office work with those agents, saying, 'What did you learn? How are you going to use that in your business?' That's phenomenal."
SUCCESS IN A NEW YORK MINUTE
Ask any person what they imagine when they picture New York City, and the odds are pretty good that you'll hear conjured images of Times Square. Flashing lights and yellow cabs, bumper to bumper traffic, and sidewalks covered in pedestrians and tourists. And that's true; Times Square does look like that. But that's far from all New York and its surrounding areas is.
With so many different characteristics to define so many different boroughs and neighborhoods, every area Coldwell Banker American Homes serves presents its own distinct opportunities and challenges. In Brooklyn, clients may be looking for brownstones, or condos and co-ops, while Queens generally runs a bit more residential and rent-prone. Then, take a drive out on Long Island, and depending on what town or village you stop in, you'll find distinctly different real estate markets. Nassau County is full of suburban living, but keep going east out the Long Island Expressway, and you'll quickly find farms, vineyards, and the beaches of the Hamptons.
"We have such a diverse marketplace," Litzner says, adding that the acquisition has only increased that scope. "We've acquired offices in some of the highest-priced, global luxury markets. So we have this North Shore/South Shore dynamic now that we didn't have prior. We also have unique markets. Like we have the leading REO guy on Long Island as part of the company.
"We also have probably the top rental person," Litzner continues. "We have relationships with management companies that we control thousands of units of rentals and represent them in that end of the market."
Learning what works and what doesn't in any given micro-market is crucial to an agent's success. Each area comes with its own idiosyncrasies, both good and bad. Understanding what clients expect and want when searching for a real estate partner in Brooklyn won't always be the same as someone in Suffolk County. Coldwell Banker American Homes' associates understand that, and thanks to the training they receive as soon as they join the company, as well as the individualized and hyper-focused information from their specific offices, those same associates have proven time and time again they're ready for the challenge.
Then, of course, there is also Coldwell Banker American Homes' Commercial Division. What Litzner calls "a very different discipline," from working in residential real estate, the Commercial Division operates under Coldwell Banker Commercial AMH as "a separately licensed office with separate tools and systems." And while the Commercial Division adds another bullet point on the list of everything Coldwell Banker American Homes offers, it's also another chance for the company's agents to truly specialize their careers.
Ultimately, no matter what an agent decides to do or where they decide to do it, Litzner says two defining factors will determine someone's success: Personality and passion.
"They hold true in every single market," Litzner says. "Having the right commitment to professionalism. Do they attend training classes? Do they learn the tools and systems? When you partner with companies and vendors like Delta Media, who support us with their suite of websites, company, office, agents, the CRM at the center of their Open House App. It doesn't matter which one of those markets you're in; the fundamentals hold."
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE COMMUNITY
Since first deciding to partner together, Litzner and Gallagher have made it a priority to provide every opportunity for anyone looking to begin their careers in real estate. With the Recruiting America's Heroes initiative, that also includes United States veterans.
"It's about helping provide benefits to America's heroes," Litzner details. "That's the people that have served our country, and so it's about helping them transition back into a life and explore career opportunities and essentially the entry-level to a real estate career."
Getting into real estate can sometimes be seen as an easy career move, but Litzner is the first to point out that there are a handful of steps that can quickly become obstacles. Thanks to the Recruiting America's Heroes program, however, those obstacles are a bit less intimidating for those who have previously served, ensuring veterans have a structured plan for the next phase of their lives. Complimentary continuing education courses are offered, as well as first-year registration for the Global Conference, a multi-day event that brings together some of the top Coldwell Banker names from around the globe, in addition to discounts on pre-licensing and new agent materials.
"The concept was a way to thank the service members who are transitioning back, to try to reach out and offer them the ability to transition into a new career," Litzner says. "And they say that discipline, the service-minded mentality that service members have, translates well into the real estate business."
Recruiting America's Heroes is just one instance of Coldwell Banker American Homes' core values in action. Work hard, play hard, give back. Those were never hollow words and, over the years, the company has made sure to place a clear emphasis on the last two in particular.
"We've always been a service-minded company," Litzner says. "My business partner and I have been in our local Chamber of Commerce [for years]. We're very, very involved in the Kiwanis organization, a non-denominational charitable organization."
Through their past affiliation with Century 21, the company frequently donated to Easterseals, a charity focused on responding to the needs of people with disabilities, their families, and communities, with a variety of services. Coldwell Banker also fostered a strong relationship with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Giving back has long been one of the fundamental building blocks of the company that is now Coldwell Banker American Homes. Still, although Litzner says it's fantastic to work with national charities, the company's presence across Long Island and in the New York metro area makes it ideally suited to give back at home. Because Coldwell Banker American Homes helped thousands of people buy those homes. So, about four years ago, the Heart of American Homes Foundation was formed through a collaboration of like-minded individuals, both agents and brokers, who were working under the Century 21 American Homes umbrella at the time.
"[The charity] is fully housed within our offices," Litzner says. "There are no paid employees, and a hundred percent of the money that we raise in that organization goes back into our local communities."
The Heart of American Homes Foundation continues to host multiple fundraisers throughout the year, all with a specific hometown focus. For example, lottery fundraisers are held, as is the annual Night at the Races, and company-matched donations whenever an agent contributes a certain amount from their closed transactions. This year alone, Litzner says, Coldwell Banker American Homes has matched agents with $50,000 in donations to various causes — all as a result of closing transactions.
Deciding which causes to highlight and how to give back is also a true company-wide effort. Each Coldwell Banker American Homes office elects an agent or office member to sit on the Heart of American Homes Foundation board of directors, so, as Litzner explains, "they all have ownership in it."
Each member of the board has taken that ownership to heart with different programs and causes supported each year. Not every initiative has to be a $50,000 donation, either. Sometimes it can be as simple as putting in handicapped ramps or as impactful as helping people afford life-saving medication and assisting with funeral costs. So long as it benefits the community — the same one Coldwell Banker American Homes has helped so many find a home in — the company wants to ensure it happens.
"It's had a profound effect on the agents and the culture of the offices," Litzner says, "because one hundred percent of that money goes back, and they see it. It's something that I'm proud to be part of. I believe every member of the American Homes family shares that sentiment."
Coldwell Banker American Homes still regularly donates to those national causes, of course, but being active and present in the communities the company services, in the neighborhoods that, although so strikingly different from one end of Long Island to the other, are home to so many clients, is something that cannot be overstated. Nor can the impact this mindset has had.
"The agents, since this has started, have entirely changed their engagement," Manteria says. "They've increased their engagement tremendously because [they] do want to give back to their communities. When we have fundraisers, we'll have a couple of hundred people at a fundraiser, and 90% of them are from our company."
THE NEXT STEP IN TECHNOLOGY
Bringing in hundreds of new agents and combining the long-term successes of two dominant real estate companies may have become official seemingly overnight, but the path leading to the creation of Coldwell Banker American Homes was a much longer one than some may assume.
"Realistically, we've been on this path for about a year and a half," Litzner says. "Something of this magnitude, you don't just wake up and say, 'I think I'll buy a billion and a half dollar sales company in the morning.' We took a long, hard look at our company, where we were, what we were doing, how we were doing it, where we wanted to go, and said, 'What's our vision for our company in 10 years?'"
While preparing for the future, Litzner says the company that would eventually become Coldwell Banker American Homes also realized it needed a technological facelift. Calling their previous platform "outdated," Litzner adds that the tech "didn't communicate well; everything was separated. And we said, 'You know what, this is not good enough. We can do better.'"
So, much like preparing for its headline-making acquisition, the company took all the necessary steps to find the perfect tech fit. Researching multiple platforms and vendors, Litzner says certain factors were "non-negotiable, and Delta Media Group® was one of them that checked every one of those boxes." Still, nothing was decided on immediately. Instead, a committee was formed, including Litzner and Manteria, and about 15 demos were held between a handful of companies to ensure that every aspect of the platform was worth the effort to implement, integrate and ensure adoption with the company's agents; what would be all 1,000-plus.
Because, as Litzner put it: "If you do all this and the agents don't use it, what's the difference?"
Luckily, Delta Media Group continued to stand out throughout the process, a platform that wasn't only an excellent fit for the company when it was still Century 21 American Homes but one that would be there every step of the way through this next stage. Combining companies is as challenging as it is exciting, and with Delta Media Group in its corner, Coldwell Banker American Homes knew it had a tech partner in the truest sense of the word, one that would operate within the framework of the company and assist, rather than hinder, throughout the hectic nature of the last year.
"Since we've implemented our relationship, [Delta has] continued to work with us on further integrations," Litzner says. "We've laid out a wishlist, our roadmap, and Delta's at the center of it. Delta has been a partner that's developed their product to play nice, to communicate well with all the other technologies we're able to bring in. So we've been able to develop our own technology that works for us."
Delta worked with Coldwell Banker American Homes to function with its Just Engage Today (JET) Platform, a company-provided turn-key productivity platform meant to propel agents directly into a profitable real estate career. With all of Delta's best features directly at their fingertips, agents have tech tools that are undeniably real-estate focused, something that hasn't always been the case.
"One of the things that I've often found myself saying is that in the past, we knew technology would come in, but a lot of the technology came in, and it didn't work the way we work," Litzner says. "What we feel we've been able to do for the first time, through this transition, is get the technology to work intuitively and follow the natural transaction pattern that an agent goes to when generating a customer or client to converting that client, to signing up contracts to mortgage, title, closing. Delta has been a great partner."
Ease of use has been a major factor in Delta and Coldwell Banker American Homes' partnership over the last year or so. Often, Manteria says, multiple agents work with the same client, and Delta allows them to do that without "any sort of cross-contamination."
"[It doesn't lock] out the agent from being able to work with [clients]," Manteria adds, "and the open architecture, the ability for us to bolt on other technologies into it and have data transferred back and forth using APIs made a lot of sense."
With so many agents operating in so many different markets working on so many different transactions, DeltaNET® 6's one-stop-shop format has also proved crucial. Instead of bouncing between X or Y to do multiple tasks, Delta has integrated almost everything an agent needs in a singular spot, allowing them to focus on the task, not the technology.
"Let's be honest, our agents are good at selling real estate," Manteria says. "They shouldn't be worried about being technology experts. It's not their job. And Delta is the closest technology out there that lets our agents use their natural workflow and allows us to integrate multiple tools to work together."
Manteria also commends Delta for its willingness to work with Coldwell Banker American Homes. If the company wants something new, Delta does its best to make it happen, a trait that isn't always true of other tech providers.
"The reality is, we needed a partner in this and [Delta has] been a great partner," says Manteria, who also serves on Delta's Coldwell Banker advisory committee. "I can't tell you how many times I call [Product Development Manager] Harley [Wolfarth]. [Vice President of Sales] Franklin [Stoffer] hears from me all the time, looking at how we can make Delta better because the better you become, the better we become, the better it is for us. So the fact that [Delta] looks at this as a partnership, as opposed to a vendor-client relationship, that alone sets it apart."
WHAT'S ON THE HORIZON
This has been a year of change for Coldwell Banker American Homes. Of embracing new and building on a reputation that was already impressive. It is also a jumping-off point for what comes next. With sights set on the future, Coldwell Banker American Homes has no plans of slowing down. How can it when the company is so firmly entrenched in the markets it serves?
Listing Concierge, a new program that allows agents to access new marketing tools and professional photography for their listings, is already underway. Lessons learned during COVID-19 won't soon be forgotten, as agents took their marketing and engagement games to the next level even from a distance. In fact, throughout the pandemic and 2021, the shift to virtual has been a success, particularly when it came to things like training.
Manteria credits Coldwell Banker American Homes' local leadership for keeping the company on track recently, "because many of them were quasi-comfortable with some of the technology going into COVID, but they stepped up, and they embraced the technology, and once they did, they were able to get that extra engagement from their agents."
Having a manager for every office location provided personalized leadership and assistance that has become the norm for Coldwell Banker American Homes at a time when nothing was truly normal.
Whether it was changing franchises or contending with an international health pandemic, every single person with Coldwell Banker American Homes on their business card was still able to work with confidence, thanks to the support they received.
"We have engagement with a leadership team that cares about their agents," Manteria says. "And at the end of the day, everybody agrees that giving our agents what they need is what this comes down to. Having that support that you won't get in other companies, having that training, having that company culture, where we give back to all of our local communities."
Getting the best of both worlds can sometimes seem like an impossibility when combining companies, but Coldwell Banker American Homes has made it a reality: Providing agents with the sort of professional home that inspires growth, backed by decades of experience with leaders who embrace the company culture every single day. And that won't change any time soon.
"We are taking the best and picking and choosing and bringing it into the new ecosystem," Litzner says. "So I think our opportunity is to improve our company and transform it into something that is best in class. I'm excited about where we are and our opportunity to go forward. I think we hit it out of the park. And honestly, if I do say so myself, I'm excited about what the next 10 years bring."
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the December 2021 issue, click here.
At Delta Media Group, our mission statement is literally: "Automate to Elevate Life," so it should come as no surprise that 2021 was a year of constant innovation for our team. Of course, this challenges us to constantly look for ways to automate processes within our business, and more importantly, automate processes for the agents and brokerages that utilize our all-in-one CRM & website platform, the DeltaNET®. With this in mind, I wanted to look at some of the biggest technology updates we saw in the real estate industry and what to expect in 2022:
First and foremost, I believe that automated marketing tools are the biggest time saver offered to a real estate agent. Building high-quality marketing designs for things like new listings, "just sold" postcards or multi-page brochures can be a huge time sink. Earlier this year, we officially launched our Creative Studio™, which allows agents to quickly gain access to dozens of flyer designs, postcards, multi-page brochures, and more.
The initial launch of the system brought new functionality with integrations into third-party printers, like Xpressdocs, giving agents the ability to see dozens of beautiful designs, select one, and then check out and order their print through a third-party printer. One of the biggest benefits of marketing systems like the Creative Studio within the DeltaNET is the ability to automate your marketing completely.
REALTORS® are busy, and even finding the time to take five minutes and choose a flyer to send off for something like an open house doesn't always fit into the schedule. So, we launched our "Automation Wizard" that allows a real estate agent to pre-select their favorite designs for categories like "New Price," "Just Sold," "Homeowner Anniversary," "Client Anniversary," and more. This means within minutes of new listing data being pulled from the MLS; a beautiful flyer design can be automatically built and sent to a group of prospects. At Delta, we typically pull in new MLS data incrementally every five minutes or less.
We've also continually made refinements to the Creative Studio over the last year. With automation in mind, we made it even easier for real estate agents to quickly select any prebuilt flyer design in the system and automatically have their company's colors and logos applied. We even added a dynamic "disclaimer" system for the designs, so in states like New York, where disclaimers are required, our NY-based clients could still use the designs. This has been a game-changer for the agents.
One last note I should add is that your marketing system should also have the ability to import Adobe InDesign files. Most marketing departments already have professionals who build amazing designs in InDesign, so we added functionality that allows you to build a design in InDesign and then import it into the Creative Studio. As a result, we have seen clients with more than 200+ options for different market flyers for their agents to use!
Going in a different direction, I believe 2021 was the rebirth of the traditional mobile apps. What was once a trend back from 2012-2015 had quite a bit of a renascence this year. Years ago, we provided dedicated mobile app versions of our client's websites so they would encourage their clients to download and use the mobile version of the site. At the time, we noted across many different mobile apps that the usage rates simply weren't there. Even if the consumers downloaded the apps, we saw less than a 5% usage rate, so we deprecated support of those apps in 2016 and thought that would be the end of that.
Five years later, the mobile app space within the real estate world has started to boom. It's not the consumer-facing website apps that are popular, though; it's applications for the real estate professionals to use to automate their business even further. In just the last two years, we've launched two dedicated agent-centric applications to great success.
The first app, launched in 2020, was our Open House Connector® App. This application allows real estate agents to seamlessly run an open house where the attendees can register, receive updates about other upcoming open houses, and leave feedback for the seller/real estate agent regarding what they thought of the property. As the app launched during the pandemic's peak, we offered "contactless" registration for open house attendees, where they simply scan a QR code to sign in and answer survey questions.
This open house app ties directly together with the agent's CRM, where they can have dynamic follow-up campaigns based on how the attendees answered different questions. For example, if an open house attendee said another agent was already representing them, we wouldn't import that customer as a contact into the agent's CRM. In another example, if an attendee said they were looking to put an offer in on a property in the near future, they could be automatically enrolled into a "potential buyer" follow-up action plan/ drip campaign available within the agent's CRM.
The second app we launched just a few months ago. For the first time, our mobile-responsive CRM system, DeltaNET 6, was now available in the form of a mobile app in the iOS and Android app store. By having a CRM that supports a traditional mobile app, it opens the door for many additional notification updates that were just not feasible with a strictly web-based CRM.
For example, let's say I'm an agent with a great website that has lead capture forms built-in. That website is automatically tied into my personal CRM, so whenever a customer fills out a form or saves a search, I get an email or text notification. Thanks to the power of mobile applications and their real-time push notifications, we can do new things like automatically notify the real estate agent whenever a customer is currently active on their site and looking at properties. We could also send a notification directly to the agent's phone if a customer has just signed up on their site or even clicked on an email they had sent. It allows the agent to get instant insights into which of their clients or prospects are truly active on their site and with their marketing.
Another significant step forward for CRM technology in 2021 has little to do with automations. Still, it is one of the more important things that brokerages should be looking for in any tech stack they may be evaluating. Beginning in 2021, the DeltaNET platform officially began customization of our actual backend tech stack. No longer was the CRM an "off the shelf" offering. Brokerages can now build dynamic dashboards, workflows, and even white-label the entire system to be EXACTLY what they want their agents to have in front of them.
I like to use this analogy to describe the importance of this type of functionality: Typically anyone can find a good-looking suit, and take it off the shelf and make it work. However, the feeling of getting a suit tailored and wearing a suit that was specifically fitted for you is a totally different feeling than just putting on something off the rack. The tailored suit will last longer, will feel better, and will look better. That's the power of customizing your CRM for your firm's unique needs.
Our thought process was simple. We build great technology, but we're not REALTORS®. Each business operates differently, with different cultures and skillsets. Rather than force every brokerage to play in the same sandbox, we gave brokerages the ability to put unique dashboards together that can differ from company to company and even office to office within the same organization. Our clients can change their navigation and brand the entirety of the system to look like it's an in-house tech system and not something built by a third party like Delta.
This has been huge, especially for our enterprise partners, as they can take our DeltaNET framework and have a beautiful tailor-made CRM solution that their agents feel like they can ONLY have with their current broker. It's become a great retention tool because even if the agent left the brokerage using the DeltaNET, they wouldn't be able to purchase that same version of the system provided by our brokerage client.
This is a perfect segue into what I feel brokerages will need to have in their business in order to stay on the bleeding edge in 2022. As it relates to customization of your backend systems, Delta is planning to massively up the ante next year. All of the great tools we have internally to build unique versions of our CRM platform will be put into the hands of our clients and brokerage admins to build and dynamically change their own system on the fly. By putting these tools in the hands of our clients, they will have even more flexibility to listen to their agents' feedback about usability and apply their feedback to the system in real-time. We feel this will boost the adoption of the system and make it easier to use.
What else is needed to stay bleeding edge in 2022?
An Intranet/CRM system that you can build for your company
Built-in learning management functionality
Cutting edge automated CMAtools
True video marketing that is more than automated slide shows of listings
I also see the future of these "all-in-one" systems adopting more training and learning
management type functionality. One of the most exciting updates we've been working on at Delta is our Training and Learning center that offers dynamic course creation, out-of-the-box DeltaNET training classes, built-in quizzes, and more. It will allow our clients to make the DeltaNET a critical piece of their new agent onboarding, as they can take assigned courses right in the software.
Of course, integrated all-in-one systems should have a built-in CMA builder as well. So in early 2022, we will be launching our much-awaited DeltaNET CMA tool. Unlike many other systems in the all-in-one space, we want to offer this as an integrated tool, not a paid add-on.
Finally, I expect to see more and more push for video content marketing. While video marketing is nothing new, I believe we will see a bigger call for even more tools that sales associates can use to integrate automated videos into their marketing packages. We've provided our automated listing video product, Properties in Motion®, to thousands of agents since 2014, and have been working on some incredible updates to that platform that I believe will blow our users away.
Many automated listing video services today include dynamic photo slideshows, feature the listing agent's information, and perhaps automatically post to places like Facebook or YouTube. Historically these products didn't offer much in the way of customization and were usually nothing more than a glorified vTour. That will change in 2022, as products like our Properties in Motion system receive updates that will allow agents to upload dynamic photos or video snippets into the automated video, have unique animations, upload their own voiceover scripts, and more. The goal is to take the static automatically generated video and give the agents tools to bring it to life.
To conclude, I'm excited about the advancements that have been made to real estate technology over the last year, but I'm even more excited about where things are headed in 2022. As a sales professional who uses these tools in my own business, I can't say enough how important these types of automations are in giving me back time in my day to focus on the more human-to-human relationships that matter so much to a salesperson.
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the December 2021 issue, click here.
If there's an exception to every rule, then, sometimes, the cliché isn't true: Everything isn't always bigger in Texas. And that's a good thing.
At least when it comes to RE/MAX Capital City.
For more than two decades, RE/MAX Capital City has been one of the premier real estate brokerages in the greater Austin area. Buying and selling homes is a success story waiting to be written for RE/MAX Capital City agents, and while there has been plenty of growth since opening in 1994, owner Jeff Osborne says, nearly three years ago, he realized it was time to "refocus the company."
So, RE/MAX Capital City shifted its collective approach to real estate: Working, more than ever, directly with agents and making sure those individuals receive all the hands-on help they need to take their careers to the next level. Accomplishments are no longer measured in just facts and figures but in what each agent can do when they have the backing of an entire company behind them.
"Everybody wants more agents, lots of agents, virtual offices, and virtual offices can mean virtually no service, sometimes," explains Osborne, a broker since 1989 and two-time winner of the RE/MAX of Texas Broker/Owner of the Year Award. "So I decided we needed to be a different organization, specializing in supporting top-producing agents that share our values."
RE/MAX Capital City's new norm is a strong culture, a host of training opportunities, and a leadership core that not only takes its roles seriously but enjoys working closely with agents. Things are more focused and, sometimes, a bit smaller than they've been in the past. What used to be a three-office operation is now two. Recruitment has evolved. Even the company's technology offerings have changed since partnering with Delta Media Group® earlier this year.
No matter what else has changed, though, those values haven't. The desire to provide the best real estate experience — for agents and clients — is as true for RE/MAX Capital City now as it was on day one, and in almost 30 years of business, that's made all the difference.
"The four pillars of our success and my commitment to RE/MAX Capital City are vision, leadership, guidance, and inspiration," Osborne says. "Having the right support staff is key; I can't stress that enough."
CHANGING THE CULTURE
Honing the sort of support system RE/MAX Capital City wants to provide begins at the top, with Osborne as the driving force behind the shift in mindset since its inception. And while his experience in real estate makes him an incredible source of information and inspiration for any aspiring agent, it's something else, something a bit surprising, that's allowed him to be so involved. He retired from selling real estate in 2002.
Having an owner who is knowledgeable about the market without actively selling real estate gives RE/MAX Capital City agents a unique advantage. Because, as Digital Marketing Manager Jennifer Dorr explains, "this results in a full-time commitment to supporting agents and producing an optimum work environment for them to prosper and grow their own business."
In other words, his sole focus is on helping. Providing agents with every opportunity to achieve their goals is the goal of RE/MAX Capital City. And with Osborne taking such a personal approach to cultivating the company's culture, it's easy for the rest of the leadership team to follow suit. Whether it's providing compliance assistance, offering training classes, detailing everything agents can do within the DeltaNET® 6 platform, or managing the Cedar Park and Round Rock offices, Osborne calls the staff a "huge part" of what RE/MAX Capital City does.
In addition to providing as much on-site support as possible, RE/MAX Capital City also offers what Osborne calls "direct support services to our agents from human resources."
"We help them find their assistants, manage their assistants, take care of a lot of that," Osborne says. "We're always finding ways to help people that could be doing much better and doing things for them that are otherwise preventing them from moving ahead."
Once agents have that help in place, it's only a matter of time before they hit their stride. Getting up to speed with systems like DeltaNET 6 or learning the ins and outs of the greater Austin real estate market is suddenly simple because agents have the resources to contend with any potential bumps in the road.
"It's been a good strategy," Osborne says. "I love working with people that are committed to making a lot of money, being successful, having abundant lives."
This goes hand-in-hand with the company's long-held mission statement, "RE/MAX Capital City is dedicated to Maximum Professionalism, Outstanding Customer Service and Individual Associate Success."
SETTING THE CURVE
Finding the right people, those who mesh with RE/MAX Capital City's culture, is a process that's grown and evolved as much as the company itself. Whereas in the past, agents may have arrived from other companies or as a product of active recruitment, now, Osborne says recruitment is far more organic.
Current agents often bring other people in, suggesting names and individuals they believe are a good fit. Having that personal connection from the get-go is a perfect foundation for new agents to build the rest of their careers. They already know someone within RE/MAX Capital City and, by extension, know what the company expects of its associates.
"This helps to get the kind of people we want joining RE/MAX Capital City," Dorr says, "and keeps the culture supportive and positive."
Of course, simply knowing the right people isn't all it takes to get the RE/MAX Capital City name on a business card or in a Twitter bio. Potential agents meet with Osborne before they're brought on board, and Operations Manager Shelby Meyer is quick to point out, "it has to be a good fit, and they have to fit in with our culture."
"Sometimes people get into this business for the wrong reason," Osborne adds. "I like people that are committed to delivering the best service and the best support for their clients."
Once an agent is brought in, though, the real work begins. New associates sometimes come from other fields, and while Osborne credits them for "very impressive former careers" and "the work skills and disciplines and drive to succeed at their second career," getting the right training to make sure that can happen is crucial.
"We have two-hour training classes with new agents, direct hands-on," Osborne says. "We have classes on agent proficiency that are well attended. It's fun to have people turning out and feeling like what we do is valuable."
More often than not, one of the biggest training struggles for new agents is getting a handle on all the technology available to them. Because, while agents are, as Osborne puts it, "really good salespeople," occasionally they "are not as strong with technology."
"We try, with many agents, to get them engaged with what [technology] does and what it can do," Osborne says, "and find out what they want to use it for. And then that's, again, a lot of direct staff support. We implement those things for them. We get their website, their CRM, their database running for them if they can't get it kicked off. They can't get off square one if they have to do all of that administrative input work and set up."
By taking the time to work with agents, to understand their wants and what they need both in the field and in their office, those same agents have blossomed under the RE/MAX Capital City banner.
"The numbers this year have been phenomenal," Osborne says. "We have several agents and teams on the precipice of making the RE/MAX Chairman's Club this year, which is an astronomical height for a RE/MAX agent or any agent. Then, 55, 60% of our agents will make the RE/MAX 100% Club, which in the RE/MAX system, that's a $100,000 year. Those are some big numbers for a real estate brokerage."
TAKING TECH TO THE NEXT LEVEL
RE/MAX Capital City has made change a habit. From evolving training to fit agents' needs to learning the best ways to work with those agents and their clients, embracing the idea of something new is a fundamental part of the company. So, it's no surprise that RE/MAX Capital City was once again willing to try something different with its technology.
Enter: Delta Media Group.
Dorr spent much of the summer last year examining new tech options, looking for a platform that would help RE/MAX Capital City achieve everything it wanted to accomplish. Each option was demoed, with all available features examined and discussed, and out of all the choices, Delta stood out. Not only for everything the DeltaNET® 6 platform can do, but because of the personalized support RE/MAX Capital City received during the initial process.
"[That was] one of the things that tipped me over the edge," Dorr says. "[Holly Christiansen] came to do a live demo for us, and that was awesome. And then through the whole onboarding process, just getting things set up, the constant meetings to make us feel at home. This was the best decision for us."
As soon as RE/MAX Capital City partnered with Delta Media Group, the task then became getting agents acclimated to a new system. Naturally, there are still challenges associated with that, but, as it has for the last few years, RE/MAX Capital City made training a priority, and with Dorr leading the charge, ensured that it was as easy to understand as possible.
"I show them what [Delta] can do," Dorr details. "We have some agents that are working in there every day and coming to me with recommendations. And Delta is very open to making the system as best as possible, taking that feedback and growing the system. We've already seen some of those changes implemented for our agents, and that makes them feel that we made the best decision for them.
"Over the years, we've had a lot of agents say, 'Well, I'm looking for this,'" Dorr adds. "And our previous tools didn't have those features. It's great to be able to say now, 'Oh, you want to do that? Well, here's how we can get that going.' So that's awesome."
Delta workshops are now regularly held, with standing room only attendance as agents want to get a handle on the technology that can so clearly help them. Agents learn how social media automations take the hassle out of posting, and should an agent not be entirely comfortable using social media, RE/MAX Capital City staff can easily go into the DeltaNET to help set everything up. It's what Dorr refers to as a more "concierge-type service for our agents," allowing them to "focus on real estate."
"We've also had agents that were not so tech-savvy," adds Cedar Park Office Manager Letty Cantu, "but after we go in and complete quick tasks for them like creating an Open House flyer or registering them for an upcoming training class, they will often then give me a call saying, 'Hey, send me instructions on how you did that so I can do it myself next time.' So [Delta has] helped them grow their technology skills and strengthened them as an all-around agent."
Blog content provided by Delta Media Group also guarantees agents can post the sort of local information that's appealing to clients, while My Customer for Life emails make it easy to stay in touch with everyone in their system.
"Some agents were paying for that service through other companies," Dorr says. "Now, it can be offered to them for free, and it's a set and forget it type of thing."
Of course, with any new system, nothing will be entirely perfect. Osborne admits that when RE/MAX Capital City first partnered with Delta, there were a handful of things the company didn't like. Delta didn't flinch. Instead, change once again took center stage, as each question was answered, each request honored, and each problem fixed. Even now, months after onboarding, Dorr continues to meet monthly with Delta to discuss what's working and what isn't and to forecast what's next on the technology horizon.
"It's been phenomenal," Osborne says. "We have a lot of things we want to improve, and the work goes on all the time with Delta, but everything that we've looked to get implemented so far is there. [Delta] is on top of it."
Keep Austin weird — and wonderful and growing. Especially growing.
Over the last few years, Austin, and its surrounding areas, have become the much-desired landing point for everyone from Millennials to families, business professionals, and retirees, all flocking to the city in a way few other locations can compare to. And despite the differences in their descriptions, each group of brand-new Austin'ites has one thing in common: They need somewhere to live. That's where RE/ MAX Capital City comes in.
"We're focusing a lot on the fastest growing suburban county, which is Williamson County, just north of Austin," Osborne says. "I don't think there's any county in the United States that has experienced the kind of price appreciation that we have here. We have to adapt every week, every day, strategically, and for our agents to have excelled so well in the last 12 months, particularly with that market reshaping going on, that I think it is a real tribute to the people we have."
All that growth often comes with an uptick in housing prices, and although that can mean good things for agents, Osborne says those working with RE/MAX Capital City are hoping to see the curve flatten out soon. Big-budget transactions are always good for making big waves in the real estate world, but they aren't always what drives a RE/MAX Capital City agent.
"That's one thing my agents like, is helping people, making a difference in their lives," Osborne says. "We're starting to see some first-time buyers back in the market, and that's been good."
Real estate has long been a distinctly human business, particularly at RE/MAX Capital City. Most of the company's leadership team has strong Texas roots, living and working in these communities for years, and it's that family feel that has impacted the company's culture for the last 25-plus years.
"Agents that join us feel like they're part of a family, and they know we've got their backs," Meyer says. "Many of our staff and agents have kids at the same schools, attend the same churches, and we run into them around town. There are a lot of connections between the staff and agents and the agents and each other, not just working at the same office."
Building off those connections and a desire to do good, RE/MAX Capital City's reputation for giving back to the communities it serves has grown with Austin. For years, RE/MAX Capital City worked with Children's Miracle Network, the nationwide RE/MAX charity, but about eight years ago decided to turn its attention to local organizations, donating, initially, to Hope Alliance, a shelter in Williamson County.
"We promised $25,000 a year for five years, and we surpassed that goal," Meyer says, "and it allowed them to secure other types of grants and loans and other types of funding. They're doing amazing now."
In the last two years, RE/MAX Capital City has also opened up charity options to its agents with a new initiative called "Bottomless Charity." Any nonprofit agents want to work with; the company will help facilitate donations. Overall, Meyer estimates that RE/MAX Capital City now donates to 10-15 charities every quarter.
A YEAR OF CHANGE
The end of any year always brings with it some reminiscing. For RE/MAX Capital City, that means looking back on the adoption of a brand-new tech platform, of taking advantage of everything the DeltaNET has to offer, and, perhaps most importantly, of continuing to provide the best opportunities and most comprehensive support system for real estate agents in the greater Austin area.
Guidance and support are at the crux of everything RE/MAX Capital City does, and now, as the calendar flips, optimism is high for what's next. More tech, more agents working with Delta Media Group, and an expanded commercial division, which began early in 2021, are all on the docket for 2022.
"I look to the future of this evolving and ever-improving company, knowing we have great things to come due to our dedication and willingness to progress, to keep a positive mentality and open-mindedness throughout," says Osborne. "With a reputation built on integrity and professionalism, our unique group of highly successful REALTORS® has laid the foundation for continued success at RE/MAX Capital City."
To view past Real Estate Marketing and Technology articles and read more from the December 2021 issue, click here.
I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell you that, at Delta Media Group®, we learned a lot this year. We learned that deer will go out of their way to climb onto an expressway and jump in front of your car even in broad daylight (maybe only I learned that). We learned that working remotely really does work, but it's not for everyone. We learned that when big hedge funds are involved, the stock market looks a lot like a casino. Lastly, and most importantly, as far as this article is concerned, we learned that simplicity is one of the most important elements when it comes to making something that people want to use.
I don't mean to make things simple at the cost of functionality. It's more about knowing how your clients will use whatever it is that you're building so that you can know what functionality to put right in front of them, and what can be tucked into the background. It's also about recognizing — and, in some cases, eliminating — any unnecessary steps in a process. There's little more frustrating than performing the same task repeatedly, being asked the same question as part of the process of completing that task, and answering it the same way every time. The easy remedy is to just use that answer automatically so that, in 99 out of 100 tries, it's already correct, and the user gets to skip a step. For that 1 out of 100 anomaly, there just needs to be some alternative way to change that answer in that single case.
This has all been pretty abstract so far, so let's look at some specific applications. In the DeltaNET®, it's possible for an admin to customize what buttons appear on the landing pages and Welcome page for their agents. If you can predict the most common actions, your agents take when logging in, you can add the necessary buttons to develop a workflow there that will take them where they need to go in the least amount of time. For example, let's say that the thing your agents do most when logging into the DeltaNET is add a customer and send them a "Happy to be Working With You" e-card. You can put an Add Customer button at the top of their Welcome page, so that's the first thing they see when they log in. They need only click it and enter their customer's information. You can put a Send e-card button right next to it that will take them straight into Creative StudioTM so that they just need to choose their template and click send. The button that links to Creative Studio could even take them to a page that's already filtering the templates to those in the category of e-cards they're most likely to want to use.
The same principle can be applied to every landing page in the DeltaNET. If users are usually looking to create or modify their custom pages when they click on the Website tab, why not give them a button right on top that takes them straight there? If they're generally interested in adding a blog article every time they click on Marketing, give them a shortcut there. You get the idea.
The other side of that coin is to avoid presenting a lot of extra buttons and options that the majority of users won't be interested in using. Of course, you still want those things to be available, but putting them right at the same level as "Add Customer" is going to add clutter, distraction, and sometimes even confusion. Fortunately, the DeltaNET allows you to make something called a Tile Collection. It basically allows you to put a button on the Welcome page that simply opens a modal that contains other tiles. With this, you can put your Add Customer, Send e-card, Send Email buttons on the Welcome page, then have a single, additional button labeled something like "Advanced Features" or simply "More...". Clicking on that would then pop up a window that contains tiles to the other equally valuable but lesser-used features. This allows you to cater to the power users while keeping it simple for everyone else. The easier you can make it, and the fewer distractions and extra options the user needs to read through to get to what they want, the more everyone will use it. This, in turn, leads to more agents sticking around for the tools that make it easier for them to run their business.
This really translates to the public website side of things as well. At Delta Media Group, we have ongoing projects to assess the usability of various features of the public websites that are shared throughout the system. However, especially when it comes to the individual sales associate websites, there's a lot you can do to make it a more friendly experience for clients that are coming to your website to search for properties. Nobody knows your clients and your market better than you do. As a real estate sales associate, you're the expert there. So why not use that expertise to drive your clients' experience on your website? Your quick search stays front and center for those users that know what, or where, they're looking and want to jump straight into the results. For those that might not be so sure, you could put links to common searches right on your homepage or in your top navigation. Maybe there are some popular school districts or subdivisions in your area. You could put obvious links to search results pages for those areas right on your homepage. You can even go a step further by creating dedicated landing pages for those areas. This has the added benefit of setting your website apart (for those clients and search engines) by adding some valuable, unique, market-specific content to it. You can put a search results section right on that page as well. That presents customers with a single page of dedicated listings in the area they want that gives them information and highlights about that area as well as a display of all of the available properties there.
Just how a well-structured and intuitive DeltaNET helps with agent adoption and retention, a user-friendly and intuitive website leads to better client adoption and retention. Your expertise in the markets you know gives you an edge over all the big portal sites by allowing you to make a website and real estate search experience that really caters to those interested in your market. If you can provide those clients with the superior experience, they'll keep coming to your site. They may even tell their friends, thereby driving more traffic and leads to you. It's all about providing the best and easiest experience.
Let's face it, the reason people are lined up around the block for the small, locally owned, one-room restaurant instead of heading to the nearest big chain restaurant is because that local place does it the best. The best food and the best experience. In real estate, you can't do much about the "food," but you can provide the best experience, and that's what's going to get them to come to you instead of the portal sites.
At Delta Media Group, we're taking these ideas to heart. It's good to be driven by the feedback of the vocal, power users that make up the minority of the user base. But while that feedback is very valuable, if that's all you look at, you can lose sight of keeping it simple in favor of adding the newest great idea. The key is in adding those features without distracting from the simplicity that the other 99% want and need to run their business every day. The DeltaNET needs to remain as robust and powerful as ever, and we will always endeavor for it to be your one-stop shop for all of the tools and resources you need to run your real estate business. However, right on the surface for day-to-day use, the things that you need most, and most often, will stay right in your face so that you don't need to go looking for them or go through a dozen clicks, pages, or windows to use them. This year, we learned about "easy," and that's a lesson we're going to keep with us from here on out. We hope you do the same.
Meet Abbey Parsons.
A North Dakota native and University of Utah alum, Parsons' journey toward finding a professional home within the real estate industry has been one filled with ups, downs, trials, tribulations, and even a few pirouettes. Parsons was once a professional ballet dancer, you see. And a hotel manager for Marriott. But while she's donned plenty of metaphorical hats throughout the years, something clicked in 2013 when, two years after initially moving to Spokane, Washington, Parsons joined Coldwell Banker Tomlinson.
Working with her clients to help them find their forever homes also helped Parsons feel at home herself, settling into a career that's become more than simply successful. One of Coldwell Banker Tomlinson's top-producing sales associates, Parsons has established herself as a go-to real estate partner, relishing the opportunity to make lifelong business and personal connections. How does she keep those connections flourishing, though? Even after a transaction is completed?
Simple. She uses every tool available to her — including everything Delta Media Group® has to offer.
Utilizing DeltaNET 6 is part of Parsons' daily routine, starting each day with a quick look at her CRM and client database. By taking advantage of all the tech Delta provides, Parsons has leaned into time-saving automations and taken her engagement to the next level with out-of-the-box marketing that's gotten visible results. Parsons took some time to speak with Real Estate Marketing & Technology, sharing how she uses the DeltaNET and her best tricks for getting the most out of your real estate tech.
What initially drew you to use the DeltaNET as your CRM?
I was [originally] going to go all-in on DeltaNET because it's included [with CB Tomlinson], and I don't have to pay anything. But it has everything that I need. I know lots of CRMs. I like to do research, and every CRM has its flaws; one's not perfect. [And] when I started selling, I knew the value of [DeltaNET] because I trained on that...so I went all in, and I started with my past clients, putting them in there, putting them on the Market Watches, putting them on the monthly market reports. And then, as I started to get more leads, I made it a priority, every Thursday, I updated my database, and I was disciplined about that.
How did you start, and how do you continue to organize all your clients and leads within the DeltaNET?
I probably started with like 30, honestly. It wasn't very big because my past clients, if they sold their house and left, I didn't really have them anymore. So I started... and I think now I have somewhere like 500 or so, just growing it. And, honestly, I'm still getting used to it, like using it daily, and I started by organizing my homepage. Like, what do I want to see first when I log in because that was something that I would log in and I would get distracted. I'd be like, 'Oh, shiny thing. Cool. Let's click on that.' So I made it so that my customer list is the first thing I see when I log in so that I can see who I need to follow up with that day.
What are some of the DeltaNET features that stand out to you? What do you find sparks the most interest and engagement with clients?
All these different coaching programs, they say the same thing, 'You have to have a system, you have to have a program, you have to send a Market Watch.' It's not even an option anymore. All of your clients want to know what their home is worth on a monthly, quarterly, whatever it is basis. You have to automate that. And so, that's a big one because there are, of course, competitors to DMG, but what I love about the DeltaNET is that I don't have to go out and search for all these tools. I just log in, and it's there in one place. I don't have to pay for it [either], and it's automated. So, I don't have to go out and look for all those individual different tools. They're all right there for me.
As a one-stop CRM, how much time does using the DeltaNET open up in your schedule?
What I love about it is you can say, 'Okay, if a lead comes in, it looks like this, do this with it.' And so it automatically happens. There still is, for sure, some human interaction that needs to happen, but if I'm on an appointment or if I can't [work] right that second, at least they're getting a response, and then I can follow up with them later. So, that's what I do like. Like I'm going to do an online lead today, and I'm going to be flying [later]. And I'm like, 'It's fine,' because I know that if I'm in the air, if I'm in that half-hour where I don't have service, they're still going to be followed up with. Otherwise, I might not have placed that ad today. I might wait and then think, 'Oh, what's the perfect day for me to do a lead?' Well, that's not a good business practice, to put your life on hold so you can do a lead form. So it definitely gives me peace of mind that people are being communicated with, but it's not necessarily me having to do it all the time.
Knowing when and how to follow up with clients can sometimes be a challenge. How much does the DeltaNET help with that, and how have you used automation to your advantage on that front?
One thing that I started doing just a couple of weeks ago is to go in and see who's interacted with my website or the emails in the previous week or two, depending on how long it's been. And I see who's active. Oh, they opened that. They clicked on that. They opened their Market Watch; they clicked on it. They wanted to know more. So that person is subliminally saying, 'I want more information.' And so those are the ones that I focus on, talking to those people, communicating with them saying, 'Hey, how's it going? How's your family? What did you think about that Market Watch?' It allows me to see what they're doing and that they are somewhat interested. So I started doing that to start warming up those people, [and] that's how I'm prioritizing who I contact.
With such a focus on technology, particularly over the last two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, what features in the DeltaNET have proven to be a game-changer for you?
I thought QR codes were gone. I mean, I was like, 'That is such a thing in the past, you have to have an app.' Then COVID happened, and every menu in the world is a QR code, and everybody's camera automatically does it now. So, I said, 'I want to create a QR code' and [our marketing team was] like, 'Oh, it's already [in the DeltaNET]. So I started combining that with direct mail, and I started farming out of state owners during COVID.
I thought, if they're thinking about selling, maybe this is the time, and I want to be in front of them because I want listings. So I started mailing to them and then putting the QR code on there that says, 'If you want to know what's going on in your neighborhood, sign up for the Market Watch.' And they'd scan it, and then it would take them to the Market Watch where they could fill out their information. Or I did a specific zip code, and I did a blog post on zip code 99212, what's going on in that specific zip code, and then I made the QR code point to that blog post, so then there was a video and some stats. So I combined today's technology with the old technology of mailing, and about half of my business this year is from out-of-state owners. It worked. I mean, it definitely works.
DeltaNET 6 is easily customizable to fit every agent's specific needs. In what ways have you used customization to make using the platform easier?
One thing that stops agents sometimes is they're like, 'Oh, well, I want it to look like this, instead of like that.' And so what really helped me is knowing that the homepage is customizable; you can edit the tiles. Knowing that you can customize it to be exactly what you want to see was a game-changer for me because I wanted to see my people first. I didn't want to land on the landing page and then try to find which tab it is. So, that really helped me. Knowing that it is customizable, I think, is important because so many people get stuck in the mindset of 'Doesn't look exactly how I want it to look. So I'm just not going to do it.' So I think that's big.
Delta Media Group offers plenty of support to make sure clients get the most out of the DeltaNET, do you use anything specific to spark your ideas and creativity?
I love Tech Tuesdays because I learn something, or I just go to the YouTube channel, and I type in, like, QR codes where I just wanted to learn myself. And so I used Tech Tuesday and the YouTube channel a lot to just learn some more about the tools.
With a fully customizable website that highlights your personal brand, how have you used that platform to jumpstart your business, and how did Delta Media Group help?
It's good not to have to fumble around. I started in 2013, and I built my website with [another] creator that was terrible. I was trying to deal with code and like, 'What am I doing?' And I didn't want to pay somebody. [With Delta, you're] able to be an agent and have this website set up; you don't have to do anything to it. It's just there, and it's like your backbone, and you can direct people to it. You can work on your blog. There are so many different angles you can work. Having that puts you at another level. When you get your license, you already have a website. It's already done. Instead of having to create it and reinvent the wheel and say, 'What website are you using and how much does it cost?' and paying for the IDX feed and just that headache, not having to do that as a new agent is huge.
Brokerages currently face a real estate paradox: 90% of sellers and buyers say they would use their agent again, yet only about one in five home buyers and one in three sellers actually used the same agent a second time.
It's not because these "orphaned" clients are moving out of the market. On the contrary, Pew Research found that most Americans (57%) have never lived outside their home state, and more than one in three (37%) have never lived outside their hometown.
The fact is that when most people move, they don't move very far. So why aren't they using their original agent? And for those moving to another state, why aren't they getting a referral from their agent?
The most likely cause of lost repeat business is also the most avoidable: Agents are not staying in touch with their past clients.
To some extent, this is understandable. When you're a busy agent, it feels nearly impossible to find the time to fit in the tasks that will build new business when working a pipeline of active buyers and sellers. Closing transactions puts income in your bank account today. Reaching out to prospects does not.
However, over time, unless agents stay top-of-mind, clients will no longer feel connected to the original agent who helped them buy or sell a home. This makes clients open to another agent's direct solicitation of their business.
Automatically Staying Top-of-Mind
Today, agents no longer need to struggle to stay connected to past clients. When brokerages use DeltaNET® 6, agents benefit from a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform fully integrated with easy-to-use automated marketing programs.
Agents can select from an array of Delta-provided email and text drip campaigns that help them consistently stay in front of their sphere of clients, prospects, business acquaintances, family, and friends.
Delta's "My Customer for Life" newsletters are designed to keep agents connected with their client list so that when they are ready to buy or sell, they reach out to the agent they've worked with in the past. Other Delta Media Group® marketing tools, such as Social Connector, Market Watch Reports, HomeFinder Reports, and Seller Reports, also help keep agents top-of-mind.
Using Delta's automated listing videos is another way to streamline your marketing tasks to have more time to reach out to your sphere.
Staying in touch is crucial. According to the latest National Association of REALTORS® research, a stunning 77% of recent sellers contacted only one agent before finding the agent they eventually worked with to sell their home. And the percentage of buyers who interviewed only one agent during their home search? An astounding 73%.
But all client outreach starts with an up-to-date CRM.
CRM: Now More Important Than Ever
The most valuable and cost-effective source of new business for a real estate agent comes from their sphere. A study by Buffini & Company showed that 82% of all real estate transactions come from repeat and referral business.
The study also found that for one in four agents, half of their business comes from repeat clients. One in five agents gets more than half their business from past client referrals. So why do agents pay $200 or more for an online lead when there is a goldmine in their own database?
Real estate is and always will be a relationship-driven business. The critical tech tool that manages agent relationships is a CRM.
A CRM's value cannot be overstated. Many top-producing agents find that nine out of every 10 referrals come from their sphere of influence, including past clients, friends, and family. Moreover, agents who earn $100,000 or more in gross commission income are more than twice as likely to use a CRM than agents who earn less, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
Agents potentially will be spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month on advertising and promotion to reach new prospects — but their most significant source of future business is the people they already know.
A Brokerage Provided CRM
Brokerages provide more technology than ever to their agents, yet almost every tech tool — from CRM software to transaction management programs — feels and looks the same, regardless of the brokerage.
Many brokerages struggle to showcase their character and individuality through their tech offerings, so when it comes to recruiting and retention, nothing really stands out. Non-franchise brokerages, meanwhile, are usually independently minded. They want to provide tech tools that differentiate them from their competitors while also helping their agents grow their business. Unfortunately, what's often missing from that approach are the tech tools that can set the brokerages apart.
All that changes with a CRM solution from Delta Media Group. Delta is offering an industry first: CRMs that can be customized for every brokerage. The color, style, look, and feel of the Delta-provided CRM makes it your own. It also draws in agents who are able to see a customized product that is unlike anything else in real estate. With tech that's one-of-a-kind, agents will be inspired to do one-of-a-kind work as well.
Automation = Adoption
Real estate brokerages know that the best CRM is one that an agent will use. Yet, adoption remains the single most challenging barrier towards universal CRM usage.
To accomplish universal CRM usage among their agents, brokerages need their CRM to do a lot more than it does now. That's why Delta is integrating the newest technology into our easy-to-use platform, providing one-stop-shop tech that offers everything from automation and artificial intelligence to machine learning.
Automation is what will drive universal adoption. Take out any unnecessary steps, free up agent schedules, and suddenly, it's easier than ever for those same agents to accomplish everything on their to-do list. And as intelligent marketing tools are integrated with the DeltaNET CRM, the benefits for agent adoption will be universally compelling.
There are two keys for a brokerage CRM to be successful. First, every custom CRM that Delta Media Group creates for a brokerage must be easy to use. Second, the CRM also must reflect the independent brand of the brokerage.
Delta-provided CRMs are at the core of every agent marketing activity. Future innovations will make them even more robust. And when an independent brokerage uses a customized CRM, it helps that brokerage differentiate its brands.
Delta is building even more innovative marketing tools that will be fully integrated into every CRM we provide. These new tools will drive more social media connections and deliver more highly targeted direct marketing, email, and text campaigns that offer the right message to the right audience at the right time.
Everything will connect to one's CRM, and once independent brokerages can provide a unique CRM from their competition, we will move closer to universal CRM use.
Your neighborhood is at the heart of your business and at the heart of each buyer's decision-making process when they're considering where to purchase a home. Whether the buyer is part of a family looking for excellent schools, a retired couple looking for the ideal place to spend their golden years, or a younger buyer who wants to be close to the best local attractions, every one of your clients is looking for specific things from their neighborhood. Becoming a neighborhood expert is ultimately key to your success as a real estate agent. It's a great place to focus your energy and put yourself in a position for success as we turn the page to 2022.
Become a Neighborhood Expert
Why become a neighborhood expert? It starts with smart business. If you work in a big city, then focusing on one neighborhood can help you become the go-to, most recognized resource for real estate needs in that area. If you're in a smaller community where you cover multiple neighborhoods, then knowing the ins and outs of each makes it easier to help buyers find the perfect neighborhood to live, while allowing you to market homes for sellers more effectively by showcasing the perks of the neighborhood where each home is located.
Becoming a neighborhood expert also makes it easier to develop and focus your marketing. Integrate local SEO based on your neighborhoods to help your brand stand out where it matters most, send newsletters concentrated on specific aspects of the community, showcase your expertise on social media, build connections with local businesses, and become the face of real estate in the area. And that's just the start! When you're ready to become a neighborhood expert, here's how to get the job done.
Learn Everything You Can About the Neighborhood
The first step to becoming an expert is learning everything you can about the neighborhood. Some of that will come from online research, which helps you form an overview of the neighborhood. The rest comes from visiting in-person to learn all about the people and places that make the neighborhood special.
• MLS Data and Demographic Research
Start with the basics, learning all about the types of homes in the neighborhood, the value of local homes, and how long properties spend on the market. Then move on to learning all about the demographic data of the neighborhood to discover who lives there, who might like to move there, and how to shape your marketing.
• Exploring the Neighborhood and Connecting with Residents
There's no substitute for exploring the neighborhood on your own, starting conversations with residents, learning about the neighborhood from people who live there, and letting them know what you do for a living. Listen carefully to what residents have to say, and learn what they love about the neighborhood.
• Building Relationships with Local Businesses
Connecting with local business owners is a great way to learn more about what the neighborhood has to offer, build mutually beneficial relationships, establish your real estate expertise, and eventually earn referrals from key members of the community.
• Getting to Know Local Attractions and Key Services
Buyers will want to know what they can do for fun in the neighborhood and where they can find all of the critical services that they'll need. Learn all about the local amenities, along with school districts, parks, and other locations that will be of interest to clients.
• HOA and Town Council Meetings
Suppose you're focused on selling homes in specific housing developments. In that case, attending HOA meetings can be a powerful way to build relationships and learn more about the things that matter most to each development. However, if your eyes are set on a larger neighborhood, then attending town council meetings can help you accomplish the same goals.
How to Showcase Your Neighborhood Expertise and Boost Your Marketing
Now that you've got a handle on what makes your neighborhood special, it's time to put all of that knowledge to good use! Your real estate website, social media, and online marketing are all places where you'll want to show off your neighborhood expertise.
Email Newsletters with Neighborhood Info
Keep your clients up to date on all of the latest neighborhood news by sending regular email newsletters. These newsletters can cover the latest real estate trends in the area, provide advice for local homeowners, or feature fun and lighthearted content focused on the latest neighborhood happenings.
Giving Back to the Community
Becoming part of the neighborhood also means giving back to the community. Hosting local events like barbecues or block parties is a great way to show your love while presenting plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your real estate expertise to residents. You can also set up food drives, toy drives, or other events to give back to community members in need.
Take the Plunge and Live in the Neighborhood Yourself
While you can undoubtedly learn tons about a neighborhood and make yourself a known, trusted face in the community even if you don't live there, calling that neighborhood home can really help you take things to the next level. Becoming part of the community is all about building relationships and making yourself recognizable, which is much easier to accomplish when people see your face every day.
For new agents, this might be as simple as focusing on the neighborhood that you already call home. If you're an experienced agent and you have your eye on a neighborhood that you want to "own" for your real estate business, then it might be time to move there full-time. When you live in a neighborhood, wear branded gear, start conversations, and make sure everyone knows what you do for a living, you can become the resource that everyone in the community trusts when they have real estate needs.
Set Yourself Up for Success in 2022 with Neighborhood Expertise
New year, new you... new neighborhood? Whether you're starting fresh with a new neighborhood where you'll focus your energy or redoubling your efforts in your current location, now is the time to formulate your plan for a successful 2022. With so many ways to become a neighborhood expert and so many benefits to doing so, the only thing left to decide is where you'll plant your flag this year.
Achieving what you dream of in real estate takes more than believing you can do it.
But if you believe you can't do it, you might well never reach your goals.
No matter what your background, your unique perspective can help you succeed in real estate. And given the diversity of interactions and skills you'll need to practice, it's not unusual to find some aspects of real estate fit you better than others.
Of course, you want to build your skills and address your weak points over time. It's also important to remember that few people achieve rock star status overnight.
That means being ready for plenty of learning experiences and relatively few "mastery" experiences. Understanding that can be intimidating, especially when it seems like you are doing all that learning in the public eye, in the highly visible position of marketing yourself as a local real estate expert.
When it seems like too much to handle, that's when it's time to look at what you're telling yourself:
"Maybe I'm not cut out to be a real estate agent."
"If I try this approach, I'll just embarrass myself."
"I don't know how I'm going to close this deal."
Negative thoughts like these will change your center of gravity. Instead of looking for all the useful and effective things you can do out in your world, they will run you in circles. And while hyping yourself up with positivity you don't believe generally won't help, neither will dwelling on these thoughts.
They have nothing new to tell you – and they won't help move you forward, either. At the end of a year, real estate agents need to be particularly alert to what narrative their thoughts are spinning. If you had goals for the last 12 months that didn't pan out the way you wished, you could get knocked off track by that thought – or recognize that January 1 is a new day and keep pursuing them.
The key is getting out of your own head. Let's explore how to do it.
Motivation Means Focusing on What You Want, Not What You Don't Want
Each of us only has so much time, energy, and focus in a day.
Negative thoughts are tiring and disempowering. But what, exactly, do you replace them with?
In effect, you need to focus your attention on what you want. This can take some imagination. The key skill of staying motivated is to direct your thoughts from what you don't want to what you do any time you find yourself worrying, complaining, or criticizing your own performance.
That can be tricky, and it takes practice. So, set up your environment to be conducive to it.
Here are some ways to do that:
• Make Plenty of Time for Yourself to Recharge
The first year of a real estate agent's career can be hectic, and it's not unusual to lose sight of what a healthy set of work hours looks like. As time goes on, you define repeatable processes and win back time using technology. But you can – and should – start that process at any moment. Set boundaries so you aren't answering client questions at 2 a.m., and be sure you are getting full weekends off!
• Foster Human Connections Every Week
Scheduling real face-time is getting harder, both in business and among the people you care about. If you're working from home, it's extra important to make sure you aren't isolated. Networking groups can be a big help here, especially if the members share a compatible vision. If you're at the right stage, also consider how you might delegate more tasks by bringing on a virtual assistant or another staff member.
• Understand What Keeps You Inspired
"Inspiration" can seem like something that's hard to gauge or define, but it can be simple. It's a positive emotional experience that makes you feel the power and potential of your ideas. You don't have to wait for inspiration to strike on its own: You can think about what inspires you and get a burst of energy by listening to podcasts, watching videos, or partaking in any other content that aligns with those desires.
• Define YourDeeper Mission
Many of the most successful and long-lasting businesses are defined by a mission with values that go beyond making money. This works especially well for real estate professionals. In everything you do, you are helping someone reach one of their biggest goals in life. So give yourself credit for all the ways you make a positive difference in the lives of others, and it will help you get through the tough days.
Three Big Excuses You Can Get Rid of Right Now to Achieve More in Your Business
Sometimes, getting stuck in your own head comes from certain habits of thought.
These habits arise from preconceptions about how much you need to know and what you need to do to be a valuable partner to your customers. They are particularly challenging for perfectionists. Even the best real estate expert doesn't know everything, and everyone makes mistakes.
"What if?" thoughts are especially burdensome. They always represent a place where your knowledge is necessarily imperfect. There's really no way to answer a "what if?" in advance, and trying to is a waste of energy – you have to get out there and work through it as it happens. Those are learning moments.
Here are some examples of excuses you can drop in order to do more:
"What if I don't know the answers to customers' questions?"
One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle when it comes to a real estate agent's brand is their knowledge of the local area and communities. But no matter how hard you work, you will still get questions you don't know the answer to – including those you never thought of before. Learn to take those in stride, get the information, and follow up promptly. Everyone does it, even the biggest successes out there.
"That [method, software, whatever] won't work for my people."
Many new real estate agents shy away from things like email marketing, social media, and even basics like following up because they believe the people they know are (or aren't) a certain way. But all of these techniques have been used effectively by thousands of real estate agents. They exist because, on average, they do work. Trust in the process, and you will find yourself moving forward. It's that simple.
"I don't want to put myself out there like that."
Unfortunately, Google and antiquated rules about what constitutes "public information" have already put just about everything there is to know a few clicks away – address, age, and much more. If this feels like a nightmare to you, you're not alone. But you still have plenty of control over what you post on social media. If you don't want to share what you had for breakfast, you don't have to.
The good thing about being in your head is that you can get out whenever you wish. After all, you can only do one thing at a time, and that includes thinking. Commit to focusing your attention where you want it to be. That will influence your day-to-day, then your strategy, and ultimately your career.
Every decision starts with an emotion, then gets a helping hand from logic.
And while there's plenty to look forward to when buying or selling a home, the entire process can be one of the most stressful anyone will face in their life. When stress runs high, emotions tend to as well.
Ambiguity – about things like financing, the logistics of the move, and whether it will be worth it in the end – triggers heightened states of tension. There's no way to know in advance how everything will play out, so these feelings can't be resolved completely.
But the emotional component of real estate isn't just about distress.
The full spectrum of emotions plays into decision-making.
Let's look at it from the buyer perspective:
• There can be a great deal of excitement about the potential to become a homeowner
• There can be apprehension and emotional conflict about whether one is "really ready"
• They may be getting supportive or not-so-supportive feedback within their social circle
And now, from the seller perspective:
• Depending on their relationship with their existing property, they may need to mourn
• They may be moving under positive (new job) or negative (death in the family) circumstances
• They might feel a strong attraction toward some future options but not know what to pick
All these possibilities and more swirl around every transaction. It's up to each real estate agent to get a fix on the emotional tone of the transaction their clients hope to have within the first few conversations, if not the very first one.
The better you understand your clients' emotions, the better you can serve their needs.
Should a Real Estate Agent Be a Therapist?
In many customer care roles, representatives feel like they must "be a therapist" to those they're working with. Please do not, in your role as a real estate professional, try to be a therapist.
If early conversations leave you feeling that there are intense emotions or highly charged circumstances you are unprepared to deal with, you can choose to pass or refer that client elsewhere. You aren't obligated to take on any client, no matter their story. Outside of those situations, what are real estate agents called on to do? What are some of the best ways to help your clients work through the myriad of emotions they'll inevitably feel when buying or selling a home?
The answer is simple: Be empathetic, but stay grounded.
Clients don't need someone to ride out all the highs and lows of their emotions with them. Instead, they need a trusted guide – someone who understands what they're going through but will focus on keeping them steady throughout their journey. That's where you come in, and this mindset gives you a much more focused set of goals with which to work!
Providing the Right Level of Emotional Support to Real Estate Clients
What "emotional support" looks like varies based on the stage of your transaction.
While not all clients need lots of support, all should have the chance to use that support should they require it. Your initial investment of time in putting the right resources in place might be formidable. Still, the work is worth it. Once those assets are in place and optimized, you:
• Spend only modest time fine-tuning processes and will rarely rebuild them from scratch
• Deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience to everyone who works with you
This begins with the basic "DNA" of your business. Then, individual client interactions deepen it.
Start with Clarity in Your Real Estate Website
The vast majority of your future clients will find you on the internet. They often visit your site at a time when they haven't made a commitment to buy or sell. It's likely they do not know any real estate agents or brokers personally. At this stage, there is a lot they don't know, and they're not sure who can help.
Ambiguity is the name of the game here, and that's true for both buyers and sellers. Reducing ambiguity is a valuable emotional service that guides leads to contact you. Since your website reflects your authentic voice, it has the potential to do much of the work.
• Provide Helpful and Informative Content Aimed at Your Ideal Clients
Buyers and sellers have common questions and issues they struggle with. It may seem you're writing the millionth article on specific topics, but infuse them all with local knowledge and insight into your customers, and you'll create helpful resources that make life easier for them.
• Make It Simple to Contact You and to Schedule an Appointment
Understanding others' communication preferences is a vital part of being emotionally present. Not all clients want Facetime to pop up and start a call when they click "Contact us." It's wise to be available in several forms, including phone, email, text, and social media.
• Introduce Yourself, What You Do, and Who You Do It For
It's not always easy for people outside the industry to differentiate one real estate agent from the other. A dry list of credentials won't do it. One of the fastest, most powerful ways to make a human connection is to record a video that introduces you and answers questions in a relatable way. Once a lead becomes a customer, leverage that early trust with further support:
• Practice Active Listening
At its core, "active listening" means listening closely to what others say rather than waiting for your turn to speak. Clients will often give you all you need to know about their motivations, perceived limitations, and hot-button emotional issues. Prompt them with open-ended questions, then really hear them.
• Set Expectations for Each Stage of the Process
Each step in a transaction asks something different of your client. They'll need to align themselves with those requirements emotionally. Get used to explaining each fork in the road in a clear, calm way—as well as "why" things are done that way. Many people need this piece to feel confident.
• Provide a Logical Basis for Decision-Making
Emotions can drive clients to act in hasty, sometimes self-defeating ways. Bring data into decision-making whenever possible so clients have a factual basis for their choices. This is especially crucial in helping sellers set their asking price. A thorough comparative analysis is indispensable!
• Check-In On Clients' Feelings at Key Junctures
It's rarely inappropriate to ask "How are you feeling about this?" when talking to a client. That's extra true when unexpected news (good or bad!) has just presented itself. Sometimes, negative emotions can be nipped in the bud by "giving permission" for clients to be open and forthright.
At its heart, real estate is about relationships. Relationships can't exist without emotions, and rapport is created when the other person feels heard and understood. By watching for opportunities to respect and validate clients' feelings, you can help them manage their buying or selling odyssey without feeling like they are trapped in a pressure cooker. That brings you both peace of mind.
Take a drive through Wichita, Kansas on any given day, and there are a couple of things you're bound to notice. Bustling businesses. People ducking in and out of shops or grabbing a quick bite to eat at local restaurants. Homes those same people are anxious to get back to after a long day of work. And, of course, J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. signs on lawns throughout the city.
Whether those lawns sit in front of residential or commercial spaces, it's impossible to miss the presence J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. has throughout Wichita. For over a century, the independent, family-owned and operated, full-service company has exemplified its promise of meeting The Standard for Excellence, serving its community, and racking up accolades. That includes nearly three straight decades as the top real estate company in Wichita, according to RealTrends.
"You can't drive anywhere or very far without seeing a J.P. Weigand sign in Wichita, says President and General Manager Joshua Turner. "And because we do commercial and residential, we're so present. You drive down a residential street; you're going to see a J.P.Weigand sign. If you drive down any major thoroughfare, a business district, you're going to see a J.P. Weigand sign. It's a household name. Everybody knows that J.P. Weigand is real estate in this part of the state."
And while real estate has undoubtedly changed in the last 100-plus years, Weigand's commitment to its clients has not. With leaders who know the neighborhoods in Wichita like the back of their hand and agents who constantly strive to get the best results possible, Weigand's ability to make anyone the company works with feel like family is a trend as dependable as spotting signs on lawns. Because, really, this is a family business and every interaction just adds another member.
GETTING TO KNOW J.P. WEIGAND & SONS
To understand J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. now, it's important to understand J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. then. Then being 1902 — when J.P. Weigand himself first arrived in Wichita. Traveling from Illinois in a covered wagon, it didn't take long for Weigand to realize there was something special about the area, a potential that he was determined to grab onto. So, he subleased desk space and got to work.
Less than a decade later, Weigand's certainty in Wichita's potential proved true as the city's population boomed, bringing with it a need for the sort of real estate company that could help that population turn the area into homes. In 1912, Weigand expanded his business, leasing a one-room office, and while he remained the lone staff member, tracking his transactions on scraps of paper he kept in his suit pockets, the company's growth matched the city's. Joining Weigand a decade and a half later was his son, Nestor R. Weigand, Sr., truly making the company a family affair as those living in Wichita began to define real estate with the Weigand name.
His reputation expanding, Weigand's dedication to Wichita never wavered. In fact, one of his business cards in the late 1920s read:
I am for Wichita. Wichita is the Indianapolis of the Southwest. The greatest commercial and financial center of its size in the world. 15 lines of railroad radiate into a territory with 700,000 people within 100 miles of Wichita; wherein the future will live 1,000,000 people, with Wichita as their metro point. Population now 45,000; will soon have 100,000. Watch us grow.
Grow, they did.
Since those early days, with J.P. Weigand walking his way across the city because he never actually drove a car, the company now boasts over 200 associates offering services from seven locations across South Central Kansas, with more than $500 million worth of real estate sales annually. Family is still at the center of the company as well, with Nestor Weigand, Jr. serving as CEO and Chairman of the Board. It's a presence that, despite more than a hundred years between the company first opening its doors and now, keeps its roots as strong as ever, with a sense of pride in its Wichita heritage that has never once waned.
"One of the things that has impacted me about this company is the way that people are treated here," Turner says. "People are treated with respect. They're treated well, and that's all part of that standard of excellence. We treat people with excellence, also."
PUTTING WORDS INTO ACTION
For J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc, The Standard for Excellence is not simply a tagline. It's more than a motto. More than a string of words, even. It's the foundation on which the company has built itself; a promise made every day by every person working for Weigand. Excellence is a guarantee, ensuring that whatever transaction Weigand might be working on, it never forgets the human element of real estate.
"We always put our clients first," Turner says. "Nestor [Weigand, Jr.] often says that integrity is more important than the deal. We always want to be handling things with integrity. And our reputation is very important to us."
Providing clients with the best possible experience begins well before any deals are made or a single dollar bill changes hands. In order to foster that familial mindset, Turner says Weigand has to bring the right sort of agents into the fold. Finding those agents who mesh with Weigand's culture and understand the company's collective goals begins in the interview process.
Whereas other companies may allow agents to simply sign up and get into the field, Weigand takes a far more personal approach. Potential agents meet with Weigand's leadership team and, once hired, go through additional training above and beyond simple licensing.
"We put every potential agent through an interview process to ensure that they are a quality person, at least as best we can, and make sure that people are going to be engaged and that they're going to understand what our standards are," Turner details, adding that any additional training Weigand offers is free for agents.
"[Training is] a requirement from us," Turner continues. "And so it's about making sure that [our agents are] somebody that's going to fit into the culture and making sure it's somebody who will provide a quality product. And if they don't provide a quality service to our clients, they don't stay here very long."
One of the keys to finding agents who will truly gel with Weigand's culture goes back to those ever-present "FOR SALE" signs so easily spotted throughout Wichita.
For so many people living and working in the city, Weigand is an almost omnipresent company. The name is synonymous with real estate, and so, as Arlan Newell, the Managing Broker of Weigand's Newton and Hutchinson office, explains, the majority of people looking to jumpstart their careers with the company are already well aware of who they're joining and what that means to the community.
"It seems like the ones that kind of mesh their way to us are the people that have already known our company for many, many, many years," Newell says. "And maybe they're coming off of a second career or a change of career of some kind. A lot of those people end up gravitating towards us because our name's been in the market for so many years. The integrity of the company leads them to come to us."
Bringing in those agents — whether they're looking for a new direction with Weigand or simply hoping to get careers off the ground — throws the importance of training into stark light. It's a process Weigand doesn't take lightly and one that's grown and evolved as much as the company itself over the last century-plus.
Once they're hired, agents go through a two-week-long training course, touching on everything they can do now that they're part of the Weigand family. It's a crash course in everything from Weigand's technology offerings, including the tools provided by Delta Media Group®, as well as instructions on how to handle contracts, open houses, and everything in between. Armed with all that information, agents have a perfect jumping-off point as they hit the ground running with Weigand.
"They get a lot of training in their first few weeks on the job," Director of Marketing Abby Parker says. "We try to give them as many tools as possible to set them up for success."
As an independently-owned company, with such an obvious and long-standing reputation in the community, Turner says Weigand's ability to localize its training also helps set it apart. By focusing classes and training on South Central Kansas, agents offer the sort of area expertise that can make all the difference in real estate.
"Companies have these national training platforms, even international training platforms, but you don't conduct real estate transactions in Wichita, Kansas, the same way you do in San Diego or in New York," Turner says. "So our training is provided by local experts that have been in the business for 15 to 35 years, and that know how business is done in Wichita, and they know the people in Wichita. One of the key components of what we do is making sure that people understand Wichita and the way we do it here."
A PILLAR OF SUPPORT
Building a business with a family atmosphere like J.P. Weigand & Son's means giving agents every opportunity to succeed. But in order to succeed, those agents need someone in their corner — no matter what they're working on, where they're working, or who they're working with. In addition to training and the various classes offered, particularly to new hires, Weigand's support system is unparalleled, ensuring agents know there's a safety net to fall back on.
And it just so happens that safety net comes with over 100 years of real estate experience.
"We invest a lot in having staff that's trained, and that knows how to deliver the product and help the agents deliver what we expect," Turner says. "So the agent is not out there trying to do it all on their own. That also gives those agents a leg up on being able to handle more volume themselves because they're not doing every step on their own."
On the residential side, Director of Operations Leslie Myers sets the tone for Weigand, running, as Turner details, "pretty much everything that happens kind of behind the scenes to support the brokers and the staff in each of the offices and bring continuity and cohesiveness in the way we do it."
So whether it's assisting with marketing efforts or double-checking compliance and regulations, Weigand's support staff lives up to its name day in and day out. By giving their agents that extra assistance, Weigand takes some of the pressure off its agents.
"Our sales support staff does everything for our agents," Myers says. "They input listings; they do contract compliance, they set up their transactions for them. They get them from contract to close, everything that needs to be done."
It's not just those hired to the support staff making everything run smoothly for Weigand, though. Beginning with Chairman of the Board and CEO Nestor Weigand, Jr., the entire structure of the company is built with the best interests of its agents in mind.
"Mr. Weigand treats people with respect and dignity," Turner says. "He doesn't act like he's better than anybody else. He engages his employees. And that helps maintain that family value of the company because of how people are treated like family. And when something comes up, or somebody comes up, and they don't treat people like that, they get rid of them. And that's the expectation."
Real estate is often a stressful industry. Buying and selling homes is a monumental moment in anyone's life — including the agents. It's also an industry undergoing near-constant change. What worked 50 years ago doesn't always translate in today's market. Now, there's always more to do. More phone calls to make, more social media platforms to master, another open house to market. Still, Weigand has found success in both eras, and that's a testament to the people that make up the company.
In short, its agents.
Turner says that Weigand's longevity comes because "We recognize that the agents are our clients. They are what makes the company work.
"Without them, there's no reason for sales support. There's no reason for marketing. There's no reason for operations managers or a president without the agents," Turner adds. "And we focus on supporting the agents and allowing them to be successful because our success is connected to theirs."
When the people working for the company also turn to the company in life-changing moments — like buying or selling a home — it stands to reason that those people would be best suited to continue Weigand's tradition of success. Over the last century, Weigand's reputation has only grown. More and more people think of Weigand whenever they're looking to make their next real estate move, including those who call the company their professional home. So, Turner says, Weigand has done everything possible to make sure that professional home provides all the comfort and support it can.
And with that support, it's rare that any agents leave the home they've helped build for themselves at Weigand.
"We have agents that have been in the business and been with our company for 35, 40 years," Turner says. "And it's because we take good care of them, and we recognize even when there's a mistake, because this is a human-driven business, J.P. Weigand has proven that we can get through those types of mistakes and get past those turbulent times because we've been around for 120 years."
When a company exists for more than a hundred years, it's no surprise that the company will also grow with the times. Over the last century, J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. has evolved into a full-service real estate option with multiple divisions, all of which maintain The Standard for Excellence that's at the company's core.
Residential Division: With offices in Wichita and the surrounding areas, Weigand provides the best possible home buying or selling experience in South Central Kansas.
Commercial Division: Since opening, Weigand is Wichita's largest commercial real estate brokerage firm representing buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants, investors, and developers with professional services, including office leasing and sales, industrial leasing and sales, retail leasing, and sales, investments, consulting, auction services, farm, and ranch sales, land sales, site selection, corporate services, and tenant/buyer representation.
Relocation Division: A member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World Relocation Network, this division sold over 1.3 million properties valued at over $296 billion last year.
Auction Division: Weigand's auction team works throughout Kansas and Oklahoma, utilizing auctions for a wide range of properties, including agricultural land, farm, and ranch, as well as commercial and residential.
REO Division: Weigand's newest division was created to better serve the needs of the lenders in the area and the increased number of real estate investors in the market.
Balancing so many divisions could be challenging, but Weigand has worked hard to keep everything organized and successful. Parker says communication is one of the most critical factors in that consistent success, ensuring that no matter what division someone is working in, they know how it fits into the rest of the Weigand model.
"From my marketing perspective, communication boils down to letting agents know what we have available and what our other divisions can do so they can help each other out," Parker details. "It's a one-stop shop for their client, and we can do everything their client needs in a transaction."
Adds Turner: "We have good, strong, experienced leaders in every division. We don't experience a lot of [issues] because between our training and our staff to support the agents and our leadership, they're able to keep things rolling the way that they're supposed to. And we won't put somebody in a leadership position that isn't equipped and hasn't proven that they're equipped to handle those types of things."
Six different brokers manage Weigand's residential offices, including Newell, all of whom, as Turner says, "have experience and the knowledge to make the decisions and to determine which direction we should be going with certain things." Meanwhile, Turner often takes the lead on the commercial side, with agents who, cumulatively, boast 560 years of experience. Weigand is also affiliated with Weigand-Omega, a property management company, adding even more knowledge to the collective tank.
"The guys that run that company have been in the business for 50 plus years," Turner says. "It's a lot of experience, and people want to work with us and want to do business with us because we make sure it's right and there's not a lot of headaches."
Despite so many moving parts, Weigand consistently avoids crossing signals or stumbling into obstacles, anticipated or otherwise. Backed by that same communication Parker touted and the confidence that comes from years of working in the industry, Weigand's multiple divisions only serve to make it that much more appealing to clients, giving those in South Central Kansas the chance to work with one company for all of their real estate needs.
J.P. WEIGAND & DELTA MEDIA GROUP
So much of the world has changed since J.P. Weigand first arrived in Wichita. Technology has become the driving force for achievement in real estate, something that wasn't even fathomable 50 years ago, let alone at the turn of the century. So, as the industry continues to evolve, it's imperative that Weigand found a tech provider it could depend on.
Turns out, Delta Media Group® fit that bill to a tee.
After years spent with Booj, and vetting other providers, J.P. Weigand & Sons opted to take the tech plunge with Delta Media Group. Working with Delta has given Weigand a partner in the truest sense of the world, not only making the transition from Booj simple, but ensuring every piece of tech supports the company's collective goalkeeping pace with the rest of the real estate world, just like it has for the last century.
"[Delta is] always evolving," Myers says. "[Weigand is] improving all the time, so what Delta has and is moving forward with was something we wanted. All of the automations for the agents on the CRM is huge. A lot of that stuff we were already doing, but manually, so we were thrilled to learn about all the ways we can help our agents save on time. And we were also impressed with [Delta's] tech support and the fact that the agents can reach out personally, and they're very responsive to them. That's huge for us."
Of course, transition is a process, and any project, whether it's building a house or a custom website, will face its own handful of obstacles. Getting everyone up to speed on a new CRM was a challenge Weigand expected, but with DeltaNET® 6, agents could pick things up quickly, easily moving contacts and information. And Turner is quick to applaud Delta for its communication throughout Weigand's transition, providing support whenever necessary.
For Weigand — which prides itself on the support it gives its agents — that sort of response makes all the difference.
"The quality of a company is measured by how they deal with problems but after the sale," Turner says. "We've run into snags. We expect that. But Delta has stepped up and done everything possible to correct those issues."
Newell echoes the sentiment, adding: "I'm a working broker, and I probably know the system on the backside as well as anybody does that uses it day to day. And anytime I had an issue, I can get an answer. I get a, 'Thanks for that. We'll work on it.' And then I get a follow-up when it's up and done and correct. So I appreciate that. It's a kudos to Delta."
In addition to getting everyone on Delta's platform in the last few months, Weigand has also worked on a fully custom site. The project gives clients and agents alike a singular spot where just a few clicks can give them readily available information, the kind they need to ensure any transaction goes off without a hitch.
More than simply providing information, however, a good website can be a marketing tool as well. Ease of use, simple navigation, and a straightforward company story, all give consumers — or in this case, potential real estate clients — a sense of confidence that makes choosing Weigand feel like the simplest of choices.
"When I check out companies I want to buy from or look at, if their online presence or their website is not easy to navigate, and I'm not finding the information that I need out of it; why look any further?" Parker says. "We have all the information that [clients] could ever think of finding [on our site]."
Weigand's site also makes it simple for would-be clients to find the company via internet search. Just a few decades ago, clients would see one of those Weigand signs and call the number on it. Now, while that still happens, it's more likely for would-be clients to grab their phone to Google the agent's name instead of making a phone call. So, it's crucial that Weigand immediately pop up in any of those quick searches. Thanks to Delta's industry-leading SEO and all of the work Delta has put into Weigand's website, those search engine results aren't just a want; they're a fact.
"That was a big key," Newell says.
By embracing fresh, new ideas — including, Turner says, "creative and talented people on our staff" — Weigand ensures it never finds itself behind the times, and partnering with Delta has made it simple to maintain that tech tempo, allowing the company to ask its agents what they want before turning to Delta to make sure it happens.
"Everybody's open, and the truth is there have been times throughout the legacy of this company that we have fallen behind in the technology role, but because we also listen to our agents, and we try to find the solutions that the agents need, that's changed," Turner says. "And when they're saying, 'Hey, we need a better website, or we need a better CRM.' We listen, and we have constant contact with our agents. It's one of the real advantages of having a broker and a manager in every office. They work hands-on, directly face-to-face with the agents."
Staying competitive with the rest of the real estate world, particularly when so much of that world is made up of larger or national companies, requires Weigand to take every suggestion agents make regarding their tech to heart. They know best what they need, after all. But, sometimes, offering all those tools can be a daunting and expensive task. Not with Delta. Delta gives Weigand a way to provide for its agents without breaking the bank, while the technology remains as cutting edge as it is simple-to-understand.
"This transition with Delta has helped us catch up to providing the tools," Turner says. "Working with Delta has allowed us to provide a product that is the same quality as what these national companies are providing at a cost and a scope that works at a smaller level."
PART OF THE COMMUNITY
As long as Weigand has been in business, it has been a part of the Wichita community. J.P. Weigand learned the city by walking it, creating a foundation for relationships that have stood the test of time and become the lifelines that keep Weigand as successful as it's been for the past century. Of course, over that same century, especially with the growth of social media, Weigand's relationship with the city it calls home has changed just a bit.
Simply posting about homes or properties on social media is no longer enough. Parker, who joined Weigand in April 2020, says the company's Facebook page, in particular, is "Wichita-centered," meaning that it's not just an advertising platform or even a place for clients to find updates on properties, but a place to learn more about the city itself and everything it has to offer.
"I'm sure you follow brands that all they do is sell, sell, sell, and you don't want to follow them anymore," Parker says. "So adding in things that people can do in Wichita that
the agents can share and their clients can see it and get engagement from those is better than just posting about houses that are for sale. It's great that we have such beautiful homes for sale in Wichita, but we want to be involved in our community. That's one thing Weigand's great about is being involved in the community and participating in community events.
"We're a local company," Parker continues, "and Wichita is really big on buying and staying local. So we want to encourage that to our followers and agents as well."
Turner adds that, through Weigand's commercial division, the company also works with plenty of area businesses and often shines a light on the companies that make Wichita run. Hosting lunches at local restaurants, ordering catering from businesses Weigand helped purchase a storefront for, or posting on social media about the latest updates for area companies is the new norm. Not just to help get word out about those businesses, but because, as Turner puts it, "That's our bread and butter and [those businesses] support us, so we support them."
Weigand has also long been a significant contributor to various charities, initiatives, and events since it first opened its doors. Wichita and Weigand have genuinely grown together, and that sort of relationship makes giving back to the area as natural as anything.
"Invest in the success of others, and we in turn will be successful," says Johnathan Weigand, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Weigand's Commercial Division.
"We give back a lot to the community, probably to the tune of over a hundred thousand dollars a year," Turner says. "We strongly encourage our employees and agents to engage in community committees and community outreach events. There isn't a real estate company in Wichita that's been around longer than we have. And Wichita has built this company, going on fourth-generation leadership. And it's really good to see the response that we get from the community."
TO THE NEXT 100 YEARS
More than a hundred years ago, J.P. Weigand arrived in Wichita with a simple desire: To help people find the same home he found in this city. Now, although plenty has changed in Wichita, with more cars on the streets and buildings that are quite a bit taller than they were in 1902, Weigand's mindset hasn't shifted an inch.
Home is still the ultimate goal, providing the Wichita community with a sense of comfort and belonging that ensures every Weigand client feels as if they're part of the family, too. And as Weigand turns its attention toward the future, growing that family is the expectation. But how does Weigand achieve that? Same as always: Embracing change, encouraging evolution, and working with trusted partners. On the tech side, that means continued work with Delta Media Group.
"We need [Delta] to be our forward thinkers," Newell says. "Our world is buying and helping people sell houses and fulfilling their dreams. Your world is this technology world that is continually evolving. What we need is for you to be our forward thinkers for us on where we need to go."
Wichita has long been at the center of everything Weigand does. The city sets the tempo of Weigand's decisions and, for over a century, that's led to unquestionable success. Turner doesn't anticipate that changing any time soon, but what he does hope is that, with Delta's support and the sort of game-changing tech the real estate world is embracing, Weigand's continued evolution will help the company jump the line, so to speak. No more waiting for trends to migrate in from the coasts. No more waiting on updates. No more curves to sit behind.
With another century ahead of Weigand, the company wants to dictate what comes next, looking to become a trend-setter in the industry.
"What I want for J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc. is to set the bar for the future of the real estate industry," Turner says.
Five Star Real Estate Lakeshore was built to be different.
Initially owned by David Gritter, Terry Brinks, and Don TerHorst, Five Star Lakeshore opened its doors in April 1999 with a singular purpose: To provide Western Michigan a real estate option made up of the best agents in the area. With those agents in its corner, Five Star Lakeshore quickly built a reputation of quality service, integrity, and professionalism -- all without working under the umbrella of a national agency.
"[Five Star Lakeshore] started because the three original founders were at a different brokerage, and they were tired of the higher fees," explains current owner and partner David J. Arnoldink. "So, they just said, 'Hey, we think we can do this a little better.'"
Five Star Lakeshore's offices are locally owned, staffed by people who are familiar with the West Michigan area. These are people who know the ins and outs of the community, giving clients a local edge when buying or selling a home.
No matter how many years pass or what else changes — like Steve Grilley joining Arnoldink and Brinks as partner — Five Star Lakeshore's agent-focused mindset has helped the company continue to color outside the usual real estate lines. Five Star Lakeshore prides itself on offering an efficient and high-value option for agents and clients alike, buoyed by the strength of a branded franchise without the overhead and control of a bigger organization.
This is a company focused on its people. On what agents can do when given the freedom to do it, because Five Star Lakeshore, at its core, wants its agents to succeed as much as its clients.
"This is the way it was set up from the beginning," says Agent Development Leader Kimberly Ryan. "We're definitely more agent-focused than brokerage-focused."
A FOCUS ON AGENTS
It's easy to claim that a business model puts a spotlight on agents. Plenty of real estate brokerages do that every day. But at Five Star Lakeshore, that spotlight shines a little brighter, allowing agents the power to forge their own real estate paths while still giving them the confidence that the company name on their business cards is there to support them every step of the way.
Since opening, Five Star Lakeshore has evolved without losing sight of its agents and what they're looking for out of their careers. For Five Star Lakeshore, agents are the star of this particular show, and the goal of every transaction is to receive a standing ovation, metaphorical as it may be.
"When it comes to how we're making decisions, whether it be something cost-wise or a website or anything else, we're trying to focus on what's best for our agents versus what's best for the brokerage," Ryan says. "The name Five Star Lakeshore shows our reputation and the backbone of who we are, and we want to have that be a nice umbrella that our agents are comfortable being under. They have the reputation, but they also know the focus is on them and that they can go out and promote their businesses."
"We don't have a corporate number or an office number on our signs," Arnoldink adds. "Our signs are big and bold with the agent's name and their direct line. We want the listing agent to get the phone calls on their own properties. Reward those who are getting the listing themselves."
Real estate can be a tricky business. Buying and selling a home is one of the most important moments in anyone's life, and Arnoldink admits that in a "commission-based business, that's scary for a lot of folks," particularly these days. That's why finding agents with the innate drive to succeed is at the crux of Five Star Lakeshore's company-wide mindset.
After all, Five Star Lakeshore began with three people looking to carve out their own real estate niche. Now, agents are building on that legacy. First-time agents, especially, have found Five Star Lakeshore an appealing landing spot, the perfect jumping-off point for the rest of their careers. With Five Star Lakeshore, agents are in control of their day-to-day life. No one is "breathing down their necks," Arnoldink says, or "telling them they have a task list." As the public faces of Five Star Lakeshore, even things like marketing are left up to the agents to fine-tune and use as they see fit.
"We don't do brokerage marketing very much," Office Manager Diane Wolters says, "because [agents] are the ones that the clients are working with."
When someone is thinking about working with Five Star Lakeshore, the goal, more often than not, is to have them think of working with an agent. Because for as obstacle-filled and nerve-wracking as real estate can be, it's also a distinctly human business, and agents provide that personal connection between Five Star Lakeshore and the communities it serves.
So, now, whenever Arnoldink and Ryan meet with potential agents, they're looking for that specific personality, that desire to be the best they can be and to represent Five Star Lakeshore's decades-long reputation whenever they get a new listing.
"Ambition is a huge key," Arnoldink says. "We try to provide the structure, the umbrella, a good culture for them to work under, but they have to go out and do it themselves."
While Five Star Lakeshore wants agents with self-motivation and the drive to create their own circle of influence with the sort of local relationships that drive business, the company isn't leaving its people entirely on their own, either.
Training sessions are offered as soon as agents are brought in, educating associates on what it takes to succeed in the area from both an immediate cost standpoint and to help them plan for the future.
"Over the last eight years, we've been focusing on education so our agents can grow, not only in their skill sets but in their commissions," Ryan says, adding that Five Star Lakeshore saw record commissions paid to agents earlier this year. "We're focusing on education for our existing agents, as well as our new agents."
In addition to training sessions, Five Star Lakeshore also offers a mentor program, spearheaded by Ryan, who says it gives new agents "a chance to get into a career that they might not have had guidance in before." Working with existing agents, many of whom have a background of multi-year success, Five Star Lakeshore's most recent hires get an inside look at what works and what doesn't in Western Michigan, giving them a solid foundation to build the rest of their careers. The program beings with Jumpstart, meeting several times a week over three months to cover goal setting, buyers appointments, listing appointments, understanding the purchase and listing agreements, and technology pieces from using a CRM, the MLS, to pricing a property.
Following each session, agents receive homework to, as Ryan details, help "build not only their knowledge but their confidence before working with clients."
Through the program, which got its start, in part, as a response to the Great Recession, every agent also receives a syllabus detailing the local market, a resource they can keep with them for as long as they stay with the company.
"Agents can refer back to their previous lessons and use them for future reference," Arnoldink says. "We've had a lot of success with it. We also started offering some split programs, better, stronger commission splits than a lot of our competition, and more education."
Ryan adds: "The mentor program follows agents as they work on their transactions. They have constant access to me to call, text, email, or meet and get answers to their questions. Since no two transactions are the same, it's helpful to have an experienced agent focused on helping our newer agents. No question is a 'dumb question,' and I would rather hear it all so I can walk side by side them in their transaction.
"As time goes on, the agents start to feel more comfortable, and usually after a year or so, they can handle it on their own and 'graduate' from the program," Ryan continues. "I'm never far away and sometimes have an agent reach out even a few years afterward to discuss a question they haven't run into before. I love helping our agents build their businesses faster and stronger than if they were in a traditional program. We feel like this unique approach is a major piece to our past and future growth and shows them how much Five Star Lakeshore cares."
With the mentor program flourishing and more opportunities than ever for agents to thrive, Five Star Lakeshore has doubled its agent total, bringing in and retaining more and more people looking to take their careers to the next level. And it's that continued growth within the company that's helped Five Star Lakeshore increase its footprint across Michigan.
Most recently, Five Star Lakeshore added offices in Grand Haven and Zeeland and merged with a smaller company, WestEdge Realty. Arnoldink says the growth has "come organically," but it's Five Star Lakeshore's stature as a company with dependable associates that consistently gets the ball rolling on expansion.
"It's been connections that we have in our area, and we've been approached, or we've approached somebody and said, 'Hey, you'd be a great fit,'" Arnoldink says.
FIVE STAR LAKESHORE & DELTA MEDIA GROUP
There'll be no partying like it's 1999 when it comes to technology at Five Star Lakeshore. At least not anymore.
Just a few years ago, while working with a small, local tech provider, Arnoldink admits that Five Star Lakeshore wasn't significantly "involved with technology." So, when Delta Media Group® came into the picture, Five Star Lakeshore wasn't all that knowledgeable of its new tech partner. It didn't take long for that to change. Suddenly, the tech sky was the limit, and Five Star Lakeshore was anxious to make the jump toward that horizon.
DeltaNET® 6 gives agents a suite of tools and, most importantly, provides them with cutting-edge technology to stay at the top of their game without breaking the bank.
"[Agents] keep more dollars in their pocket to allocate where they best see fit," Arnoldink says. "We've started to look inwardly and say, 'Hey, you guys, here's the set of tools.' We know a lot of your business comes from your relationships. Here's a tool to keep track of that in a better way, manage that in a better way."
No matter what their expertise with tech is like — from agents who grew up with a phone in their hands to those who are a little warier of recent changes — the DeltaNET's ease of use gives Five Star Lakeshore agents confidence every time they turn on their computer. Today's real estate world doesn't often afford extra time to learn a brand-new platform, but with DeltaNET 6, Five Star Lakeshore doesn't have to. Instead, agents have an intuitive system that makes sense for their busy schedules and even helps take some of the stress out of their everyday workload.
"Because we're not a national corporation and we're independently owned and operated, we don't always have the marketing background to know what to do," Ryan says. "So we rely on Delta to help us. And the communication that we've had has been awesome to allow us to put those pieces together."
These days, not only does Delta Media Group provide Five Star Lakeshore with the industry's most powerful CRM, but the duo is working on a large-scale website refresh. Moving away from individual agents sites, Five Star Lakeshore's main site will provide clients with an informational hub, giving them all the knowledge they need before buying or selling a home.
"In this revamp, we wanted it to tell a different story on who we are," Ryan says. "As far as what agents are looking for, our website tells a story about us."
When originally coming onboard with Delta, Arnoldink says Five Star Lakeshore's site was "so blatantly templative; it was crazy." Without the ability to customize, the site didn't give clients a sense of what Five Star Lakeshore was truly all about. Now, from the first click, users can learn Five Star Lakeshore's history, while also finding the perfect agent to work with.
Through it all, Arnoldink says the communication between Five Star Lakeshore and Delta has been "smooth," making the entire redesign process seamless. But that's nothing new; open communication is tradition for Five Star Lakeshore and Delta, with regular meetings and updates regarding brand-new tech.
"I check in once a year, at least, and say, 'Hey, what new changes do you have? Are we offering everything we could or can?'" Arnoldink says. "And [Delta] always says, 'These are the couple of changes we've got going on.' They listen and recommend options for some of the things we've taken advantage of or some of the things we haven't, and it's been a good fit for us."
Five Star Lakeshore's tech focus has centered on its site refresh recently, but the advent of social media has also required attention. As agents move away from individual sites, social media gives them an avenue to continue marketing themselves and hone their brand, something Five Star Lakeshore, with its reputation of providing agents the leeway to bolster their careers, loves to see.
Social media also allows agents to flex their creative muscles. They're not just selling a property. They're selling their ability to sell that property. Posting photos on Instagram is as important as any other marketing strategy and might even work better to help create relationships with the community.
"As a company, we're letting the agents go out there and do what they're comfortable with," Ryan says. "So we have agents that are using TikTok regularly; they're using Instagram. They're not only showing the public what they have for sale and what open houses are coming up, but they're showing them who they are as a person. And we feel that that's so important because we know that the public's going to work with the agent because of who they are."
By putting not only their name but their personality out there, agents make themselves more approachable, more dependable, and a real estate partner in the truest sense of the word. It also helps create a sense of community, something Five Star Lakeshore has encouraged in the last two decades.
"In our sales meetings before COVID, we would consistently ask all of our agents, 'Where does your business come from?'" Arnoldink details. "And probably 90% would come back and say, 'It's from my sphere of people.' So we want to look more inwardly and offer these tools that [agents] can nurture their sphere. We're hoping it makes a big difference for them."
Building on those relationships also means giving back to the area. In those same interviews where Ryan and Arnoldink look to find self-starting agents, they're also looking for people who want to better the communities where they live and work. Teaming with agents, Five Star Lakeshore supports a handful of organizations and events every year, including Habitat for Humanity, as well as local initiatives like the Mount Baldhead Challenge to support the Boys and Girls Club.
Says Arnoldink: "As far as the community goes, it's everything."
WHAT'S NEXT FOR FIVE STAR LAKESHORE
As Five Star Lakeshore turns its attention to the future, the drive to succeed won't change. That drive is built into the DNA of Five Star Lakeshore, from the company's opening day to this very moment. And with the hopes of seeing agents' continued success while growing teams and expanding into new offices, Five Star Lakeshore is more confident than ever in its structure.
There are no plans to slow down. No plans to back down from any challenge. Only the desire to provide Western Michigan with a dependable real estate pro, led by agents who do their company proud.
"The future of Five Star Lakeshore is to continue to find ways to support those teams, to continue to bring new agents in, educate them, build loyalty with them through the mentor program," Arnoldink says. "And to continue our community involvement and hopefully even grow that."
If you have seen any of the sales or training presentations I've delivered to REALTORS® in the last 12 months, then you'll know I've been beating the drum that the industry needs to "BE DIFFERENT." That's because there's growing disruption within real estate that's not going away anytime soon. In particular, we have continued to see massive movement from industry juggernaut Zillow over the last 12 months.
This is old news, but Zillow has been a licensed brokerage inside of every MLS in the country for months now. They also strategically made an acquisition of popular showing service "ShowingTime" in early 2021. I don't believe they are finished making big-time plays this year, as they also made the switch to power their property search on zillow.com with true IDX data, making it even more accurate and faster than before.
I bring this up because while Zillow's moves present clear challenges, there are specific things that both brokerages and real estate agents can do to prevent their business from being impacted by major industry players. Ironically, many of these things have been at your disposal for years. But, as the saying goes: The best time to make a change was yesterday; the second-best time is today. The change I'm referring to is fully leveraging the business automations available on the market NOW. Either with your current CRM/all-in-one solution or by taking a look at companies such as Delta Media Group® to see the impact that can be made in your company nearly overnight.
I believe very strongly in the following five concepts, which should be top of mind when looking at fully adopting your current technology or while evaluating other options. First and foremost, you want to find a technology firm that can help your brand BE POWERFUL.
What does it mean to be powerful in regard to real estate technology? There are a few answers to that question. Number one, you need a website platform that makes your brand stand out online. Something that doesn't feel cookie-cutter, something that truly speaks to your brand identity, and that you would feel proud to showcase online. There is immense power in a strong brand and a website that can fully tell your story and deliver an incredible experience for your customers when they find your site.
The second answer to the question of "being powerful" online is by having a website platform geared toward SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Having a beautiful, powerful website means nothing if nobody is visiting it. There is a major misconception in real estate that nobody can compete with the big portal sites for rankings online. Delta has been competing with and beating portal sites for phrases like "Homes for sale in
There is power in being present and dominant in the search engines. The battle for getting traffic to your site can't be won by spending tens of thousands of dollars on paid advertising, but it can be won by focusing on search phrases that truly matter in your market and getting customers to engage with you without forcing them to register on your site. Remember, Zillow is a powerful national brand, but they don't have the power and local name recognition that your business should have.
The next element you should consider is how technology can help you BE EFFICIENT in all aspects of your day-to-day operations. A phrase I hear thrown around a lot in online webinars is, "What do you have more of? Time or money?" I've consistently recognized that your time is the most valuable resource you will ever have. At Delta Media Group, our mission statement is "Automate to Elevate Life." Every day, we're looking for ways to deliver the most powerful real estate software ever built, designed to automate away the things you just don't have time to do.
When we talk about being efficient, I'm essentially talking about getting your business automated. After all, Zillow is immensely efficient at deploying new initiatives and executing them. The DeltaNET® 6 platform offers dozens of automations that any sales professional should use in their business. Here are just a few of the key highlights any CRM solution you're looking for should offer:
• Automated Drip Campaigns
(not just email, things like automated texts, automated calendar notifications, and more)
• AI-Driven Newsletters
• Automated Social Media Posts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter
• Automated Tasks lists created each day based on your clients' behaviors with your website or emails
• Automated instant notifications to your customers related to new listings, market activity, and more
Something else you should be able to squeeze out of a technology platform is how you can BE CREATIVE.
In my opinion, I don't believe the major portal sites have been able to create a clear identity for themselves. There is something to be said about the human element and being able to tie yourself to your business in creative ways that help you feel like a local business rather than a large corporate entity.
Within the DeltaNET, you'll find our Creative StudioTM, which offers hundreds of designs ranging from single-page flyers, multi-page brochures, printable postcards, e-card designs, and so much more. New designs are constantly added to the platform, and all of them are completely customizable with options to match your brand's identity from the first click. I've never seen such an easy-to-use system display or such incredible high-quality designs. It also supports integrations with Adobe InDesign and even print fulfillment through third-party printers. Other "all-in-one" solutions typically offer this type of creative marking center; however, I don't know of any that offer it at the base price like we do inside the DeltaNET. That's right, our entire suite of marketing materials has no additional cost, and as I mentioned earlier, the entire e-card piece can be completely automated.
The fourth "concept," I feel, is probably the most important. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a 2020 case study analyzing data over the real estate market (and REALTORS®) for 2019. One of the many things revealed through this data is that an "experienced" real estate agent — which NAR defines as someone who has been in the business for 16 years or more —gets more than 39% of their business from repeat business. Additionally, another 29% of their business came from referrals from people they had worked with in the past.
So that's more than 68% of your business coming from the clients you've already worked to help.
Here is the other interesting element of that data. Directly after a transaction has been completed and the client has moved into the home, more than 90% of customers said they would work with their real estate agent again in the future. That means, despite those earlier numbers, in reality, real estate agents are losing nearly 50% of their future business opportunities for one reason or another. I believe the biggest reason for this is because real estate agents do not do their best to stay top of mind with a client after they have helped them move into a new home. You may feel that your clients should use you again in the future because you've done a great job with them, but the truth is those clients are getting bombarded by your competition to work with them. You have to continue to show your clients you want their business.
That is why we believe any technology platform you are looking to deploy needs to help you BE RELIABLE.
Why would a customer work with you again in the future and give you their business? Ideally, it's because you were a reliable expert who helped them navigate the largest transaction of their lives. However, your job isn't done when the commission has been paid out. You have to continue to provide value to those clients with things like real-time market statistics detailing what is going on in the neighborhood your client has now moved into. You have to provide them with automated home estimates about what the value of their home may be. Finally, you should continue to give them information about what's happening in their local community and the real estate industry as a whole. Never be stagnant.
Ultimately this brings us to the final phrase we want to impress upon you. I feel strongly that if you are POWERFUL with your brand, if you are EFFICIENT with your time, CREATIVE with your marketing, and RELIABLE for your clients...it will help you BE DIFFERENT in your business strategy and prevent your business from being impacted by the disrupters that are constantly trying to change the status quo.
At Delta Media Group, we believe that technology can empower your business and supplement all the great things you're already doing to be a leader in your marketplace. If you are looking to have your current technology solution audited or evaluate other options on the market, we have a team that can offer you a free consultation. Please don't hesitate to reach out!
A leading real estate brokerage in Southwest Florida generates nearly 200 visitors a month from a single blog post that provides reasons to move to the area. Another blog post filled with fun local facts from last April continues to drive nearly 100 visits to another Sunbelt-based brokerage.
So, what's their secret sauce? They are all benefiting from the value of coupling content with SEO. Content is a crucial component of any SEO program for real estate. By providing content that attracts traffic to their website and engages visitors, brokerages can leapfrog local competitors in traffic and lead generation. Without a complete SEO and content strategy, you miss out on driving more prospective local home sellers and buyers to your brokerage website.
That's why real estate brokerages benefit when they think like news veterans to drive more targeted and quality traffic to their websites. News publishers understand that nothing connects better to their audience than local news and information that provides value.
Avoid Being Yesterday's News
While you don't have a team of seasoned journalists who create content like big-time newspapers do, you can learn from how they do what they do.
About a third of all traffic to one of the country's largest-circulation newspaper websites comes from search traffic, according to Alexa. In addition, the paper's reader engagement is off the charts at more than double their competitor's average. So, it is clear that newspapers care deeply about SEO and the insights it provides.
For example, Search Engine Land notes that, often, data tools help shape editorial decisions. Newspapers closely monitor online reader behavior, which allows them to improve their content strategy, and, in turn, builds more trust with their readers.
Newspapers don't think about SEO as a one-hit-wonder for their sites. They know building trust with their readers takes time, and rather than try to sell to their customers, they focus on informing them. Today's newspaper world offers content that connects, and readers keep coming back for more.
Benefits of Content in Your Overall SEO Strategy
Google likes websites that offer new and engaging content. The more frequently your content is updated, the more Google crawls and indexes your website. As Google begins to see your website as being authoritative, your ranking in Google searches improves.
It's essential to provide fresh and frequent content that is distinct. Google does not like duplicative content. If you are repurposing the same content that Google is finding elsewhere, Google is less likely to come back and index your website. Google also will come back less frequently to a website when the content is stale. So you need to give search engines like Google something new to find.
Delta Media Group® regularly provides local content for brokerage websites that is distinct, with topics that spark curiosity to attract and then engage readers and helps ensure they spend more time on the broker's site. Examples of hyperlocal blog content include "Top 5 Picnic Spots in Dayton," "Pet Parks of Portland," "Best Bookstores in Boise," "7 Fun Facts About the French Quarter," and "9 Reasons to Move to Naples." These are the type of evergreen posts that can drive more traffic to a website for years.
In some larger markets, it is difficult for a brokerage to rank high in a Google search for a general home search, such as "Homes for sale in Miami." But by specifically building out hyperlocal blog content for these markets and optimizing these blogs for search, brokerages can increase their chances of ranking for the more competitive search phrases over time.
Delta also provides industry-leading SEO software that automates the process of optimizing a brokerage's website. As a result, it helps brokerage websites grow immensely, creating tens of thousands of pages from MLS listing data – content a brokerage otherwise would not have. Plus, Delta's software provides Google with clean, more descriptive URLs for each page it creates, making it easier to index.
This includes market landing pages, pages for local neighborhoods and subdivisions, school districts, brokerages, IDX listings results pages, and more — all optimized and updated for search engines automatically. Without this software, a brokerage would need a team of folks to manage this process. Combined with the regular blog posts Delta provides, there's always plenty of new content for Google to come back and index.
Right Time, Right Content
Real estate brokerages can leverage automation tools and deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. While you may not field a team of content creators like a major newspaper, the good news is that Delta Media already has one in place for you. Creating content of interest that is relevant and valued is what Delta does best, generating thousands of visitors to our brokerage clients' websites each month.
For example, manually creating and maintaining social media channels, email marketing campaigns, and a blog can be challenging. Many brokerages don't dedicate the resources needed for an effective content marketing strategy because it can be overwhelming and often not deliver a return on one's investment of time and money.
Delta Media Group helps brokerages overcome this hurdle by providing a robust content marketing strategy that leverages automated drip marketing email campaigns and social posting tools as well as hyperlocal blog content. Everything you do as a brokerage in leveraging content should be easy and help you better connect with the communities you serve. By delivering content that matters to your community, you can turn online prospects into closed transactions.
For example, in New Hampshire, a monthly email that targets 22,000 individuals showcasing new listings, price changes, and a real estate article generates 53% of their website traffic and 33% of their leads.
To drive more website traffic, major regional brokerages in North Carolina and Long Island, New York, deploy automated marketing tools, including Market Watch reports, new listing alerts, push notifications, and the My Customer For Life drip marketing email campaign. As much as 10% of their total traffic comes from these automated tools.
In fact, a brokerage can derive more than half of its website volume and a third of its leads from a well-crafted email campaign when the content is hyperlocal and seen as valuable. While the brokerage provides the content, the email goes out on behalf of agents to each agent's client and prospect database.
Agents benefit from this strategy, as they don't have to lift a finger to touch both past and potential clients. They appreciate their broker giving them this type of marketing support that helps them grow their business. Over the years, one broker's email campaign has built an almost cult-like following, with recipients looking forward to their weekly email blast.
Building Traffic and Leads
Real estate SEO is a lot different than how SEO works for most other industries. Regular SEO typically is trying to build and drive traffic to products or services that remain the same. In real estate SEO, the product — a property listing — is turning over all the time, and every new home listing is a new product. A lot of brokerages struggle with SEO for this reason.
But SEO done right can help brokerages dramatically increase traffic and generate more "ready to transact" leads. When compared with most other real estate marketing activities, SEO triumphs by delivering a stellar ROI, as it is one of the most profitable ways to market your brokerage website.
And SEO isn't just for national brokerages or ones with million-dollar marketing budgets. SEO is achievable for brokerages of all sizes. Best of all, the audiences you reach on your website with the right SEO program are buyers and sellers who are more likely to transact sooner rather than later.
Because Delta Media Group delivers the "under the hood" work that SEO requires, brokerages don't have to do the heavy lifting. As a leading real estate website and lead management developer, Delta has the programmers, system administrators, content creators, and web designers to help with the necessary website adjustments, maximizing the SEO of a brokerage site.
Delta works within your real estate website, including the back-end code, to make the necessary programming adjustments, helping brokerages avoid using the services of a third-party SEO company. In addition, copywriting is done by a team of professionals so that SEO-based content creation is by writers who include graduates from top journalism programs and many former professional journalists.
For SEO to remain effective, it also needs to be monitored and adjusted. Having a professional team that has your back gives brokerages peace of mind. Delta makes sure that your SEO investment continues to deliver traffic and leads through tracking and monitoring online behavior. As a result, brokerages get ongoing insight into their website traffic and lead generation because SEO transparency is paramount for its long-term success.
The Big Takeaway
It's a myth that SEO is only for the biggest brokerage firms, and SEO is anything but dead in real estate. The fact is SEO can provide one of the most significant returns on investment of any marketing expenditure by a brokerage.
The right SEO and content marketing strategy can be a brokerage's secret sauce for driving more traffic and building more leads. When a brokerage thinks like a publisher by delivering hyperlocal, relevant and timely content, they will drive more traffic to their website, generate more actionable leads, and delight their agents.
You're working too hard. But then, I don't have to tell you that, do I? What you might appreciate me telling you is that you don't have to.
Automation is taking over the world. You can use smart home products to turn on your coffee maker in the morning and turn on your bedroom lights when your alarm goes off. You can use your phone to wait on hold for you and have it ring when the other party picks up. Complaining about your phone bill has never been easier. So why not use that technology to help you maintain relationships with your customers too? Of course, there will always be the need for your personal touch here and there, but when it comes to informing your customers of new listings when they come on the market, keeping them up to date on market stats, and just generally staying in touch with relevant information and articles, save yourself the time and let the machine do it for you.
If you're just diving into the world of automating some of your marketing and customer communications, there are several features I can suggest that make it easy to get started. First, go turn on the Market Watch Report automation. It basically amounts to flipping a switch. Once activated, every customer that asks for information or a showing on your website will automatically have a Market Watch Report created based on the listing they made the request on. The system will then send them an email once a month with data related to that market.
E-card automations are equally simple. You can turn them on independently for new listings, open houses, and listings that have just sold. When you list a new property, schedule an open house, or sell a property, respectively, an e-card will be sent to whatever group of customers you choose. That means you can focus on that actual property listing while the system handles telling your customer database that it's on the market.
In addition to sending e-cards automatically when something happens with one of your listings, you can trigger e-cards on holidays or even customer-specific dates as well. We all love getting birthday and Christmas cards, but not everybody loves sending them. Even if you do, time is our most precious commodity, so free up as much as you can by having the DeltaNET® remember those dates and send them for you. The DeltaNET will remember, and can work with, some less obvious dates, too, as long as you enter them into your customers' accounts. Purchase anniversary? Sure, that one's easy. How about a wedding anniversary? It can handle that. Pet birthday? Now that's the fun one. You can bet that I'm going to remember the name of any real estate agent that sends me an e-card on my dog's birthday. I don't even know what day that is, so I'm impressed if you do (actually, you could probably just make up a date, and I'd believe you). Just being the name that pops into a person's head when they think about real estate is most of the battle, after all.
Another easy one is social posting automation. You can now have the DeltaNET automatically post your new listings, blog articles, customer reviews, market watches, recently sold listings, and about a half dozen other things to your social media accounts on your behalf. We're not just talking about Facebook, either. It can now post to LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter too. It's not always easy to maintain a social media presence, so the more of your posting that happens automatically, the better.
Some of the less obvious but equally easy to set up automations are the Behavioral Alerts. When activated, these will send an email or SMS message to your customers when they perform certain actions on your website. For example, if they visit your website for the first time in a couple of weeks, it can welcome them back. If they view enough properties on your website in a day, it can ask them if they need help. If they view the same property more than once, it can ask them if they'd like to get a showing scheduled.
The My Customer For Life system is another one that essentially just needs to be turned on with very little additional configuration. Just switch it on, set it to work on all new and existing customers, and let it run. It will send emails to your customers as frequently as weekly, though it can be configured to go out much less often, and the best part is that you don't even have to write the content for the articles it sends. We take care of all of that. It's even smart enough to keep track of which articles your customers click on when they get the email so that it can send them more similar articles each time it emails them. The result over time is that every customer receiving messages from your MCFL system gets a message that is uniquely catered to them. Simply getting your name in front of them is beneficial, but then associating your name with content they're really interested in, that isn't purely informational, like a saved search email, is that much more powerful when it comes to customer retention.
Those are just the automations that can be turned on with little to no actual configuration. They only scratch the surface of the automation tools available. You can also save searches for your customers (or they can save them on your website themselves) so that they're automatically notified when new listings they might like come on the market. It takes a little configuration to define precisely what your customer is looking for, but what's a prospective buyer more likely to respond to than an email telling them their dream house just came on the market?
Campaigns are another powerful tool to stay in touch, not only through email but via text message as well. Our prebuilt campaigns are often all you need, but if you want to go down the road of creating custom campaigns, you can really tailor the messaging in a way that speaks to customers based on how they came to know you or what they're looking for. You can segment customers into groups based on the general area they're interested in buying in, then add them to a campaign populated with messaging specific to that area. You can have a campaign pick up on the fact that the customer came into your database from a request they made on Zillow (it's a dirty word, I know, I'm sorry) and send them messages that are sensitive to that fact. You can even have a campaign that automatically sends only to customers that were added to your database because they signed on using Open House Connector at an open house you were hosting. It's not quite the same as a personal message sent directly to a prospect, but it's pretty close and, once you complete the initial configuration, you don't have to spend any time on it.
If you haven't gathered it yet, we're all about automation around here. The most important thing you can do in the name of customer retention is to make sure those you've worked with in the past don't forget about you. Sometimes, however, that can occasionally create a bit of a roadblock for growth. If you spend all your time trying to stay in touch with past clients, when will you prospect new ones? When will you pick up new listings, let alone market those listing and get them sold so that the current clients remain happy clients? The answer is automation. Not just form letters either, but real, intelligent automation. Form letters drive people to the 'unsubscribe' button. Automations that provide valuable, relevant, and even just interesting information drive people to become repeat customers.
Don't let that headline fool you. Despite the title of it, my article for this issue of Real Estate Marketing and Technology doesn't focus simply on technology itself or what's available to you and your real estate company these days, but rather on the management of technology.
With so many options on the market and seemingly more appearing constantly, getting a handle on everything tech-related can be an occasionally daunting task. Try not to let it all overwhelm you. Putting all your tech-ducks in a row doesn't have to be a challenge, and, sometimes, it can even be a marker of your company's evolution.
So was the case with Delta Media Group®.
Twenty-one years ago, I was one of the primary software developers at Delta Media Group, a role I remained in even as my overall job with the company grew and I took on the position of President. Many of you can relate to this as you have grown your own business. At one point, in your yourself being active as a salesperson, accountant, secretary, and even janitor at times. Basically, you do what you have to do to make your business work, and I did the same at Delta.
However, as Delta continued to grow in size, I ultimately evolved into the role of CEO and Visionary of the company. From this perspective, I am still actively involved in the development of the products but at a much higher level. Needless to say, today, I no longer do any software coding.
I share all of this because, in the past two weeks, I found myself, as CEO and Visionary of Delta Media Group, playing with various aspects of our technology offerings. I wanted to personally experience our technology as a user and see if I felt that the technology was delivering what I thought it should be delivering or if things need to change in order to serve our clients better.
Using various aspects of DeltaNET® 6, just like any brokerage or sales associate would, I found myself with two persistent and prominent thoughts. The first is that I was amazed at how much functionality exists today in the system and how mature the technology is. The second is that there are some small things that needed to be addressed, in addition to the large things, that would make the experience so much better. By working my way through the tech, I noticed little things that could be improved, all of which could come together to create a much better product on a much larger scale. I was thinking of good to great and cool to amazing!
And, this brings me to the subject of this article: Getting the most out of your technology. I have a thought for you and a suggestion.
But first, in order to understand that thought and suggestion, I want to consider our approach to rolling out our technology. Today we spend time primarily doing two things for sales associates when we train them during our onboarding process.
The first thing we do is spend about 30 minutes getting them excited about their new technology stack. Most of this presentation centers around all of the cool things that are now available to them; from a CRM standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, from a social media standpoint, from videos to customizable flyers, and all the automations. None of this presentation is a "how-to" type of instructional session. Instead, it is full of visuals and focuses on running a business as a sales professional. It is as far away as possible from a presentation about technology because the sales associates are tired of hearing about technology. Instead, they want to know what they can do with it.
The second thing we do is spend about 30 minutes showing the sales associates how to customize all their settings and set up all their automations, so they are custom-tailored to each one of them. The whole idea is that sales associates today will spend about 30 minutes configuring all their "stuff," their "technology," and from that point forward, it is doing the work for them, saving them time, and helping them actually run their business.
The reason I outline this training is because this training has been massively accepted and endorsed by the sales associates since we implemented it about a year ago. They like it so much because it is all about their experience in their own business coupled with configuring the tools to do exactly what they want them to do for them. In addition, customizing the tools for their business allows sales associates to manage their technology without feeling as if they're stressing over it.
So, my overall thought for you is this: When was the last time you, personally, experienced the business side of your business? I'm talking about the experience of your customer, your sales associate. What would it be like to put yourself in their shoes for a moment? And what do they want when they use the technology your business offers?
I ask this because to get the most out of your technology, you have to make sure that your sales associates are able to do business in the most efficient manner possible, using the technology solutions being provided to them by you.
I would suggest that you need to do what I see most, if not all, of our large firms doing. They spend an extensive amount of time, generally on an annual basis, combing through their technology, cleaning it up, automating it, upgrading it, connecting it, and personalizing it to their market and their sales associates. Taking the time to truly examine your tech — and determine what else you need or what changes need to be made — is a crucial step in helping your business grow.
I suppose I will close this out by saying that while it's easy to see tech as a daunting foe, the purpose of good technology is to assist your day-to-day life. In business or otherwise. So, take a moment to look at it all from a different perspective. To consider what's working and what isn't and keep this in mind while you do; a little bit of advice I remember hearing from Zig Ziglar when I went to see him speak 20 years ago: Inspect what you expect.
So many tasks, so little time. It can all feel a little overwhelming, especially as a new agent, and that's totally natural, but time management is ultimately a
skill that can be developed. Working on ways to use your time most effectively should be a top priority as you establish yourself in the real estate industry. The good news is that there are plenty of valuable tips and powerful tech tools to help you maximize your time — and reduce your stress level in the process.
Successful people in every industry feel the pressure of time management and have developed helpful techniques for getting the most out of each day. As a real estate agent, you should also have access to a variety of industry-specific tools that can help you save time without compromising on generating leads or growing your personal brand. Here, we're going to take a closer look at how you can do just that as a new real estate agent.
Set Goals and Block Out Time Each Day for Key Tasks
Setting goals is one of the most important things you can do as a new agent, both in terms of big-picture projects that help grow your career and smaller objectives that help you manage your time more efficiently each day. So, before the work week starts, take some time to lay out your goals for each day and block out time to complete the tasks that help you achieve those goals.
As a new agent, it can be very helpful to ask other more experienced agents on your team how they block out their time in order to get some guidelines for setting your own weekly schedule. See what works for them and learn how to incorporate their habits into your routine. Over time, you can adjust your schedule and learn how to block out time in a way that best suits your needs.
Learn How to Prioritize the Tasks That Matter Most Each Day
Within each day, it's important to prioritize the tasks that matter most. The Eisenhower Matrix, which is made up of four key categories, can help you prioritize tasks more effectively:
Urgent and Important Tasks
These are the most critical tasks within the matrix and should be your highest priority each day. If the urgent and important task is also unexpected, then you may have to move other items on your schedule in order to get it done right away.
Less Urgent but Important Tasks
These are the tasks that are important to your success, but don't face the same time crunch as urgent and important tasks. You will want to schedule time to get these tasks done within a specific time limit, but won't need to get to them right away.
Build Flexibility and Short Breaks Into Your Schedule
Building a schedule for each day is so important, but knowing how to adjust on the fly is also key to making the most of your time. Sometimes, tasks will take a little longer or shorter than expected, and that's okay! Part of time management is knowing that things won't always go perfectly and planning ahead by building some flexibility into your schedule.
While it may seem counterintuitive, building short breaks into your schedule can also help you be more productive in the long run. There are countless studies showing that, for many people, taking periodic, 10 to 15-minute breaks throughout the day can lead to better focus, more productivity, and less stress.
Choose the Right Real Estate CRM
The right real estate CRM — like DeltaNET® 6 — can literally save you hours each day and make it easier to earn new business in the process. Your CRM is a repository of information on all of your clients and leads, as well as a suite of tools that allows you to complete key tasks as efficiently as possible. Investing the necessary time upfront to learn how your CRM works and exploring all of its features will save you so much time in the long run.
How Automation Saves Tons of Time on Marketing, Outreach, and Lead Generation
Marketing automation is one of the biggest timesavers that your real estate CRM has to offer, and it's a great way to generate fresh leads. For example, an automated newsletter is an effective way to stay top of mind and deliver valuable content, while automated buyer/seller reports are powerful ways to keep clients updated on the latest trends. Features like My Customer for Life emails, available within DeltaNET 6, can also save you time each day while still providing content for your clients. But it's not just about automating the content you send out. Automated lead segmentation makes it easy to ensure that the right people are always getting the right content at the right time.
Make Sure You Have a Great Real Estate Website and Strong SEO
An attractive, easy-to-use, information-rich real estate website is a must-have for both time management and lead generation. Your website makes your job easier by organically attracting new leads, making it convenient for them to search for homes, and providing key information about the markets where you do business.
It's also the perfect place to showcase your real estate content, share social proof from satisfied clients, and integrate SEO to make sure you're generating as much organic traffic as possible. Local SEO is especially important in real estate because it helps you stand out in the markets where you do business, and Delta Media Group® prides itself on offering the best SEO on the market. With a great website that helps you accomplish so many important goals, you'll have more time free for other tasks throughout the day.
Use Paid, Targeted Advertising in the Right Places to Generate Quality Leads
Paid advertising is a powerful, time-saving way to boost your lead generation, especially when you're just getting established as an agent. Advertising in search engines can give your visibility a boost while you build up your SEO, and social media advertising is excellent for reaching specific demographics of real estate clients. Pay-per-click advertising is relatively easy to set up, with price points that can fit any budget. Even as your other lead generation channels grow, paid to advertise is a potent tool for supplementing them that won't take much time from your busy day.
Bottom Line: The Right Tech and Time Management Techniques Will Help You Thrive
So much of time management is about finding the right balance, learning tactics from more experienced agents, and experimenting to see what works best for you. In terms of technology, the best-performing agents tend to rely on many of the same tools in order to thrive. By taking the time to learn your technology and experiment with different time management techniques, you can find an overall time management strategy that allows you to fit everything into your busy day.
As a very visual, community-based social network, Instagram is one of the best places online to promote your real estate brand. Of course, that also means that there is plenty of competition for attention on Instagram, which is why it's so important to have a plan for earning new followers and generating meaningful engagement. Instagram hashtags are a great tool for accomplishing those goals, and using hashtags correctly can really help you jumpstart your social media presence.
What Are Instagram Hashtags?
Instagram hashtags are words, phrases, or even emojis preceded by the # symbol, which you will often see in the caption or comments of an Instagram post. They're used to categorize content, make it easier for users to find content that they're interested in, and help users discover new content that's relevant to them. When you click on an Instagram hashtag, you will be taken to a page that shows posts tagged with that hashtag, along with other information relevant to the hashtag. Users can also conduct hashtag searches in order to find more content that's related to their favorite hashtags.
Why Are Hashtags So Important to Real Estate Social Media Marketing?
Hashtags are important because they help you expand your reach and connect with people who aren't following you (yet) but may be interested in the content you have to offer. When an Instagram user clicks on or searches for a hashtag, they can easily find recent posts, top posts, and Stories connected to that hashtag. Instagram users can also choose to follow specific hashtags, so your post may appear in their feed even if they aren't following your account directly.
How Many Hashtags Should You Use for Instagram Posts?
The right number of hashtags can differ depending on what you're posting and what type of audience you're aiming to reach. Instagram also imposes limits for how many hashtags you can use on a regular post (30) or an Instagram Story (10).
No matter what hashtags you pick, focusing on quality over quantity is the way to go. Take some time to pick hashtags that are relevant to the post you're making, and avoid adding extra, unnecessary hashtags. In general, it's good to choose between five and 15 hashtags for each post, though it's okay to exceed that range as long as the hashtags are relevant to what you're posting.
What Are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid with Instagram Hashtags?
Using the same exact combination of hashtags too often can be counterproductive when you're trying to expand your reach and can also get you penalized by Instagram's algorithm. That being said, you will likely be using similar, real estate-related hashtags on different posts, and that's okay. Just avoid copying and pasting the same list of hashtags to every post, and look for opportunities to integrate new hashtags whenever possible.
Since creating hashtags often means mashing multiple words together, it's also important to make sure that you're not accidentally creating an offensive word or phrase when combining multiple words. We'll let you use your imagination, but there are plenty of examples out there of brands creating PR issues because they didn't check their hashtags carefully enough before posting.
Finally, try to avoid using hashtags that Instagram has banned. Often, Instagram bans hashtags that are associated with inappropriate content, even if the hashtag itself isn't an offensive phrase. So it's a good practice to check any hashtag you plan to post and make sure it hasn't been banned.
What Are Spammy Hashtags, and Why Should You Avoid Them?
Experienced Instagram users can spot spammy hashtags from a mile away and will often see your content as less valuable if you use these hashtags on your posts. Hashtags such as #like4like and #follow4follow are considered spammy because they don't generate any meaningful engagement. Use creative, descriptive, relevant hashtags instead, and you're more likely to attract followers who are interested in your real estate services.
How to Find Great Hashtags for Your Real Estate Social Media Posts
There are quite a few different ways to find new, engaging, relevant hashtags to use with your Instagram content, and it's worth exploring a variety of avenues in order to find the hashtags that resonate best with your audience:
SCOUTING THE COMPETITION
There's certainly no shame in taking a look at other successful real estate Instagram pages and identifying hashtags that may be appealing to your audience. While you don't want to copy a competitor's entire strategy, this is a reliable way to find new hashtags.
SCOUTING YOUR AUDIENCE
If you want to find out what types of hashtags your audience likes most, why not go straight to the source? Taking a look at the hashtags that followers who are interested in real estate are using gives you a window directly into the interests of your followers.
RELATED HASHTAG FEATURE
The related hashtag feature, which you can find near the top of any hashtag page, is a great way to find hashtags that are relevant to the ones that you're already using. This is an excellent tool for finding hashtags that are popular within different niches and discovering hashtags that you may not find in other places.
Hashtags to Try for Your Real Estate Business
• #realestate – A simple, useful hashtag to let people know what to expect from your content, but also very competitive because it's so broad.
• #justsold, #justlisted – Let your followers know when a home has successfully sold or when something new and exciting is
hitting the market.
• #hometype – Substitute any type of home architecture, like #victorian or #colonial, to reach followers who are searching for a specific type of home.
• #neighborhood/city + realestate – Combine a neighborhood or community name with phrases like "real estate" or "homes for sale" to highlight communities where your listings are located.
• #neighborhood, #lovewhereyoulive – Showcase the things that make the neighborhoods where you sell homes such unique places to live.
• #realestatehumor – Have something fun or silly to share? Use this hashtag to reach people who are looking for a real estate-related laugh.
• #starterhome, #dreamhome – Use these hashtags to reach followers who are looking for (or dreaming about) a home that suits specific needs.
The Bottom Line on Instagram Hashtags
Finding the right mix of Instagram hashtags to boost your social media takes some research and experimentation, but it's more than worth the effort. Hashtags make it so much easier to find new followers, connect with your audience, and expand the reach of your account with every post.
Americans are exposed to somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements every day. But, here's what most advertising and marketing professionals don't want to admit: Most are unwelcome.
Watch presentations from folks deeply involved in this advertising glut. You're sure to hear, "It isn't that people don't like ads! They just don't like irrelevant ads!" From a consumer's perspective, however, the facts tell a different story.
These days, most marketing and advertising happens online. People know going about their business means they will be sold to. In some cases, they are the product being packaged for advertisers. So, no surprise, more than 763 million people were blocking digital ads by the end of 2019.
The average person is exhausted of ads and increasingly wary of brands, especially those who want to cozy up on so- cial media. Historians looking back on 2020 might note the speed with which "we're all in this together" went from a rallying cry to a hollow cliché.
There's a reason why "Silence, brand!" is one of today's most prolific memes. People increasingly regard their attention as their property. And they are putting a fence around it.
Into this challenging landscape steps the real estate professional. Agents and brokers have two distinct advantages compared to so many other brands:
• Each one has a unique blend of skills and an experienced, personal perspective
• They are intimately involved in helping clients achieve major goals in their lives
No matter how hard a company tries to give a wisecracking hipster voice to its brand, it won't change the taste of its hamburger. But real estate is something wholly different, an industry that flourishes on personal relationships. One burger may be just as good as another when you're hungry, but there is a right real estate agent for any job.
Your brand exists to signal to your ideal customer that you are that person.
A brand is in some sense an abstraction – and exaggeration – of your best qualities. Just as a corporation isn't you but confers tax advantages on your activities, your brand is a shorthand for the experience you promise to provide to your customers. It represents you, but it will never be exactly the same thing as you.
When the difference between the real you and your brand is low, we call that "authenticity." When the difference is high, it's jarring – and people unfollow, block, or change the channel.
In Real Estate, Your Digital Brand Can Be a Truly Authentic Extension of Your Values
Big businesses know this, and they struggle to square the circle of making their brands seem "human" by giving them values, a mission, and more. When a robot appears human-like but is "off" just enough to be disturbing to look at, it's called the Uncanny Valley effect – and this is where many modern businesses end up.
Luckily, real estate agents don't have to assemble a brand from a collection of focus-group-tested parts.
Done well, your brand can spring organically from your interests, skills, personal values, and the needs of your ideal clients. The communication that comes from that kind of brand is naturally appealing and worth listening to.
Marketing automation enhances this effect by ensuring consistency. You can't be everywhere at once or talk to everyone individually, but your digital brand can. Build your brand on a solid foundation of humane, one-to-one communication, and the right technology can scale your messaging as you grow – without losing the human touch.
Here's how to expand your digital reach without sacrificing what matters:
• Choose Your Face Over Your Logo
There's an instant difference between seeing a face and seeing a logo: A face is a fellow human being; a logo is a transaction! Use your face whenever possible, including profile pictures, masthead images, and thumbnails for video. Larger images can incorporate your logo, but people or properties should take the starring role.
• Make It Easy to Connect in Real Time
Strive for a seamless transition be- tween clients reading your website and contacting you directly. A live chat interface is fast becoming the most popular way to do it, but text and social media can also work. Responding in minutes when a lead expresses interest demonstrates you genuinely care about their time.
• Incorporate Texting into Your Marketing
Texting is useful in other ways, too. Many people, especially under 30, regard it as more intimate than email. It's fast, convenient, and lets you show personality. Texting a quick follow-up after an open house or first meeting shows interest. Most people will also respond rather than leave a question unanswered, helping to foster those lines of communication.
• Be Part of Your Community
In real estate, digital and offline brands can blend in fascinating ways. For example, you might decide to post on your blog about local restaurants and attractions. Allow yourself to be part of the action and build ties with others – that can only benefit your clients, who'll be guided by your insights as a local expert.
• Use Video to Forge a Connection
Video was already gaining popularity, but now it is more important than ever: It is the next best thing to being there. A working knowledge of virtual tours and virtual open houses is a must. Be ready to videoconference if clients can't make the drive, and make video an ongoing part of your digital marketing plan.
• Embrace the Power of Storytelling
Storytelling is one of the things that unites. Across all of human history, everywhere in the world, people have told stories to make sense of their lives. For your real estate brand, stories of your clients, in their own words, are powerful social proof. They help visitors see others "just like them" succeeding thanks to you.
• Get Involved in Online Conversations
Old-fashioned brands talk "at" people; modern digital brands talk to and with them. Responding to others' social media threads lets them know you are there for a real give-and-take. Always aim to answer all replies to your social content. Browse relevant hashtags so you can find discus- sions where your input may make a difference.
• Stretch Your Online Brand Offline
Your online brand can pleasantly surprise people by meeting them in the real world when they least expect it. You know you need to follow up with past clients, so why not send a handwritten card or a small, meaningful gift that recalls your time together? That adds more "oomph" to your email marketing.
Digital marketing technology enhances, amplifies, and expands what you bring to the table – but it can never, and will nev- er, replace you. With these tips, you keep the human element center stage in your digital branding.
Michael Walls was walking through what he thought was, at the time, a totally normal showing when things took an unexpected turn.
Walls, who recently took over as Technical Support Manager at Delta Media Group® and is also a licensed real estate agent, said he felt "something strange...and one of the guys [at the showing] was being somewhat aggressive toward me." Luckily, Walls didn't have to worry about defending himself.
A sixth-degree black belt with nearly 40 years of experience teaching self-defense, Walls knew he had the situation well in hand. But while nothing came from the moment, Walls also knew that others in the real estate industry might not be so lucky. So, the wheels started turning, and an idea began to piece itself together.
No stranger to teaching the fundamentals of self-defense, Walls has welcomed students of all ages and abilities to his school, Canton Community Martial Arts School, since it first opened. With that experience in the back of his mind, Walls began to formulate a plan — teaching basic self-defense to real estate agents in Ohio's Stark County. Now, four years after that initial idea, Walls and the program are still going strong, helping area sales associates feel safe and confident no matter where they go.
The class meets once a month, with about 15 to 20 people attending each time, and Walls hopes to post instructional videos online eventually. It's also offered as a CE class, meaning sales associates who come get credit, which Walls says is another benefit. With REALTOR® Safety Month in September, Walls took some time to speak about the importance of his classes and how every sales associate should take steps to protect themselves.
What was the thought process behind starting the class?
As kids, you're taught don't get in a car with strangers, don't go anywhere with strangers, but then you get into real estate, and you're going into a vacant home with a stranger. So I said, "We need to start doing self-defense training or some kind of awareness training for real estate agents. And I'm sure it's been going on around the country, but we didn't have anything like that locally in Stark County. So I got with Collene Burgess, who was the head of Stark County Association of Realtors, and she told me that they were having safety classes and asked if I'd like to do it. I said, "Sure."
What's a typical class like? What do you start with? Especially if there are novices in attendance?
The first half-hour, I talk about certain safety things, and then we go over some self-defense moves. Most of it probably won't be remembered, but the things that I want them to gather are not the physical aspect of it but the awareness part.
A lot of times, your gut is your true instinct, and I always tell them, "If something doesn't feel right, don't ignore it. And if you happen to be wrong about that feeling, that's fine. But if that gut feeling is telling you something's wrong and you ignore it, you could be dead wrong." I come up with training tips for when you enter a home: not to turn your back, how you confront, how to stand if someone does get aggressive with you.
Learning the full scope of self-defense techniques, of course, requires more than one class, so are there little things sales associates can do to keep themselves safe in the field?
We work on those things, and we talk about safety tips that they can use on a day-to-day basis. When you open the door, your back shouldn't be turned to the person. When your client pulls up, get a picture of their license plate, get a picture of them, send it to a friend. You can do it from inside the house. Just take a picture, and they know who you're with.
Then we go over some statistics of what makes you vulnerable. And after that, when we've done that for about a half-hour, we'll go into basic strikes, self-defense strikes, basic stances, not to turn your back because...we show instances where you're backed into a room, and someone starts charging; the first thing people do is turn their backs. But if you've got long hair, [someone's] going to grab your hair. So, we work on hair grabs; we work on using different tools that we carry on a day-to-day basis.
I don't try to make it too difficult because they'll forget as soon as they walk out of the room. I try to make it as simple as I can.
Do you find that a lot of sales associates are surprised that self-defense is something they need on the job? Or is it more like, "Oh, I've been waiting for something like this?"
A lot of times, when they come there, they say, "Okay, it's a great course," but they have that sense of, "Well, it's not going to happen to me." And maybe that's a way of them not being afraid to do their job because if they thought about it, they probably wouldn't do it, and I think they push that aside. But I think that overall they enjoy it, they like it, and they're receptive to it.
What does it mean, especially with your real estate background, to have this course, teach it and impact people?
For me, I want to build safety awareness. Growing up with a single mother, I've always been protective of women, and I know that a lot of women are in the industry. What I hope they take from it is, like I said, being aware of their surroundings and being in tune with their instincts. When something's wrong, listen to your gut. And if you get into a situation, here's the best way to handle it.
Real estate is such an immediate sort of industry. You get a listing, and you have to jump on it. Knowing that, is there a sense from sales associates that, once they have a listing, they don't want anything to affect them from selling it? Even if they might be in danger?
I totally believe that because the industry is, "If I don't do it, someone else will. I lose my opportunity." I think sometimes they put the safety part on the back burner. Until something happens, then, it's like, "Uh oh."
Even if a sales associate never actually uses these self-defense techniques, how important is it to have this knowledge in your back pocket?
I think not only as an agent, just as a human being, period; it's super important to have enough confidence to know that you have the bare minimum to survive if you're attacked. A lot of people say, "It's not about winning the fight. It's about surviving. Going home to your family." That's how I teach it because a lot of times, people get in their head, "Well, I'm this 120-pound woman. I'm going to beat this 300-pound man up." No. That's not realistic. So, I teach them techniques to survive, to draw attention until help can get there. And that can happen just going to the mall, going to the grocery store, any little thing. So, I think it's very, very important.
Real estate has always been a family affair for Sheryl Chinowth.
A second-generation REALTOR®, Sheryl began her career working for her father's business, which opened its doors more than 75 years ago, and quickly became a top producer, mentoring associates and managing offices. And while success has long been the name of the game for the Chinowth family, Sheryl wasn't content to simply rest on that same family's laurels or its reputation. Instead, she wanted to do something of her own. That's why, in 2004, Sheryl partnered with Lee Cohen, then one of the top commercial realtors in Oklahoma, to found and open Chinowth & Cohen REALTORS.
What began as a single-office operation with only 25 associates has since grown into the largest independent real estate company in Oklahoma. In nearly two decades, Chinowth & Cohen has established itself as the most trusted option for anyone in Oklahoma looking to make their next real estate move. The regular recipient of some of the country and state's most distinguished honors, including RealTrends #1 real estate company based on organic growth among independent privately-owned firms, Chinowth & Cohen has also become a figurehead in the communities it serves, sponsoring and supporting dozens of initiatives each year.
Still, Chinowth & Cohen's consistent success hasn't changed the company's collective mindset or altered the goals Sheryl first established when she decided to forge her own real estate path. At its core, Chinowth & Cohen is a family business, and every agent, every client, is part of that family. It's only that the family's gotten a bit bigger over the years.
Get to Know Chinowth & Cohen
When opening Chinowth & Cohen in Tulsa in 2004, Sheryl had a particular idea of what her company would look like: Serving as a true partner for any sales associate who worked under the C&C umbrella. This would be a company that provided agents with all the tools they needed to accomplish their own goals in real estate, no matter what they might be. Almost 20 years later, that way of thinking hasn't changed, even as C&C has grown by leaps and bounds.
Since those early days with a handful of agents, Chinowth & Cohen now boasts more than 825 agents and 16 offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and the surrounding areas. Last year alone, Chinowth & Cohen recorded over 50% growth in new business, expanding the company's footprint across the entire state. Doing over $2 billion in sales is the new norm.
President Leland Chinowth, who sold a record $11 million in his first year as an associate, explains how Sheryl's initial desire to create a company that fostered partnerships with its agents has allowed Chinowth & Cohen to keep those agents long-term and how, in turn, those agents have helped facilitate the company's continued growth.
"[Sheryl] always wanted to start a company that brought a lot to the table for realtors," says Leland, who's spent nearly 15 years mentoring and training agents. "And at the time in Tulsa [when Chinowth & Cohen first opened], the culture of real estate companies was more like: here's your phone, here's your desk, and go make money. So, she'd had success working in those companies, but it felt like [agents] would benefit from a lot more support from the brokerage.
"The biggest factor in our growth has been retention over the years," Leland continues. "And, I think that has been our focus. We want to create an environment where our biggest recruiters are our realtors. We don't spend a lot of staff time pushing recruiting. We spend a lot of staff time focusing on supporting the agents where they then want to bring their friends to work here."
All About The Agents
Providing agents with the best tools to achieve success is at the core of everything Chinowth & Cohen does. In fact, it's the responsibility of more than a few people.
Onboarding new agents and getting them all up to speed is a process that's undergone its fair share of tweaks and changes over the years. Evolution, however, has ensured that same process is now a well-oiled machine, with every aspect of Chinowth & Cohen playing a part. HR provides new agents with a folder full of resources for their particular market before agents are put in touch with C&C's
Education Director and IT department, giving them access to all of the company's best tech.
"The day [agents] come on, they have access and the phone numbers to every person on staff, every management team, and they immediately can plug-in," Sheryl details.
"But we also don't just leave it up to them to make the calls, to get things going. We say, 'Okay, your HR has contacted you. Now, you're done through the state. Now, here's education, here's IT, here's your broker to meet.'"
Chinowth & Cohen also has nearly 30 paid administrative assistants and agent assistants on staff whose job is to support agents as much as possible. Teaming together, agents and assistants work on a plan to capture that next big listing or take their career to the next level. Really, they're there for whatever comes next. It's a built-in, company-provided support system that Leland says he doesn't believe "anybody else in the state is doing."
"The support systems are huge," Sheryl adds.
Of course, reaching any sort of success marker, even one that's self-imposed, isn't an easy task for every agent that walks into one of Chinowth & Cohen's offices. Nor does C&C expect it to be. Real estate is a constantly evolving industry, and what might have worked to sell a three-bedroom in Tulsa in 2006 might not be the best choice in 2021. With that in mind, Sheryl says C&C currently offers more than 50 classes and training opportunities, with trainers and coaches on staff, all to help keep associates as sharp as possible. One of the most popular classes, particularly among newer agents, is Circle of Excellence, which, as Sheryl explains, helps "dissect everything on every new contract, every listing agreement, how to get the listings, how to work with your clients."
Chinowth & Cohen's First 60 Days in Real Estate course is also popular with newer agents looking to get their careers off the ground and is taught as part of the company's training. No matter which classes they choose to take or who's taking which classes, Chinowth & Cohen's wealth of options ensures that, as Leland puts it, no agent "feels like [they're] on an island."
"An agent can very easily take three or four free classes a week at several different offices," Leland says. "And what we hear the most from our realtors is our classes are more meat and potatoes than classes at other companies. That's because our trainers, like our managers, have all been in the trenches. They also have a lot of real estate experience and can speak from that experience."
Chinowth & Cohen's marketing department also plays a significant role in helping agents get their names out into the Oklahoma real estate world. With 19 employees on staff, the department assists agents with everything from social media campaigns to more traditional marketing, like flyers and pamphlets, and fine-tuning their webpages, working with Delta Media Group® to get the most out of their tech tools.
"It's a lot of hands-on and one-on-one with our agents and coaching and making sure they get whatever they need," Sheryl says. "They're great agents, and they are really, really good people, but they're not always good flyer-makers, photographers. Most agents, their best talent is dealing with people, with buyers and sellers.
"So, we've got automated systems for them, a lot of technology that they can plug into," Sheryl continues. "It's all about having massive support with the actual people. It's one thing to say you're a tech company when we've got the best there is in technology, but you can't just be a tech company because real estate is about relationships."
Support doesn't begin and end with those folks Chinowth & Cohen has hired, either. Sheryl says she, Leland, Cohen, and Vice President Taylor Chinowth make sure to be available whenever they're needed, ready to provide suggestions, an ear for listening, or simply serve as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.
"We work every single day, and we're available day and night for agents to call us," Sheryl adds. "And we work hard at making sure that they know we're available. Plus, we've got a great management team. We hire people with strong backgrounds in our brokers and our offices."
Learning what works and, on some occasions, what doesn't, in Oklahoma's real estate market is as much a necessity as it is a challenge. And that rings true for everyone at Chinowth & Cohen. Whether it's an agent getting the latest tips and tricks to catch a potential client's eye on Instagram or Sheryl and Cohen staying abreast of changes in the industry so they can be a knowledgeable source, the desire to constantly be better is a key factor in Chinowth & Cohen's success over the last decade and a half.
Because it's those tools, and that collective drive from top to bottom, that's made Chinowth & Cohen such a desirable landing spot for agents. Putting Chionwth & Cohen on their business cards or in their Twitter bio gives agents a sense of confidence that helps differentiate them from the rest of the Oklahoma real estate pack. And clients aren't worried about what they'll get working with a Chinowth & Cohen agent, thanks, in large part, Leland says, to the work the company has done in "maintaining our brand and our image."
"We have guarded that and made sure that's consistent, and I think our realtors know a lot of clients come to them based on the company image and the brand,"
Leland adds. "I think maybe a lot of companies have lost sight of that. We've continued to focus on it. And sometimes, that also attracts the realtors that want to be part of something that the public is recognizing."
Creating a Culture to Cultivate Success
Chinowth & Cohen doesn't require its agents to meet any sort of sales quotas. Every sale is fantastic, naturally, but the best marker of success, for both Sheryl and Leland, is always in regards to culture and what it means to agents and Chinowth & Cohen as a whole.
"We were using 'culture' before it was the buzzword it is now," Leland says, "and we look for people whose normal day-to-day personalities are positive, and they look to help other people in the company."
Numbers often steal the show in real estate. Buying or selling a home is a monumental moment in anyone's life, and, occasionally, staring down the number on the FOR SALE sign can cause an understandable sense of anxiety. For the client and the agent alike. But Sheryl says it's Chinowth & Cohen's sense of culture, of those relationships the company starts to foster as soon as it brings a new agent into the fold, that can make all the difference.
"A lot of times, it's the biggest investment of [someone's] life, especially first-time homebuyers," Sheryl says. "But we don't want them to be intimidated by that. We train [agents] to teach them to work with their clients as if they're working with a relative and to realize that they're not just buying the biggest investment of their life. They are putting people on the foundations that they're going to build their lives on and their memories on and raise their children on."
It's that thought process — and the company-wide culture it's inspired — that's attracted so many agents to Chinowth & Cohen. And it's those agents who will continue to help C&C grow as they ensure that families across Oklahoma find their forever homes.
Growing With the Times
Change is a natural progression for any company, and for Chinowth & Cohen, change often means new faces, new markets, and, most recently, a new website URL. Switching from cctulsa.com to ccoklahoma.com may not appear like a big-time switch at first, but take a second glance and make sure to notice that Oklahoma means the entire state. This is a change that showcases everything Chinowth & Cohen has accomplished since it first threw its hat into the center ring of Oklahoma's real estate market. When a would-be client clicks on the site, they know they're partnering with a real estate pro who is an expert in the entire Oklahoma market.
Keeping things simple is also a marketing strategy of sorts. After all, buying up domain names to highlight every market Chinowth & Cohen serves is an exhausting idea, both for those within the company and potential clients. Multiple sites only breed confusion and, as Sheryl explains, when Chinowth & Cohen began working in Oklahoma City, the decision was made not to "buy every little town or city that we're going into."
There was no need. Instead, Chinowth & Cohen's move to ccoklahoma.com immediately conveys a sense of cross-state work and, by extension, success. Seeing the state name in the URL is a confidence boost for clients looking for a real estate partner to help them, no matter where they might currently be living.
"The biggest motivator for [the URL change] was that it just better reflects our service area," Leland explains. "We feel very comfortable in selling homes and placing agents with clients anywhere in Oklahoma. Pretty much all four corners of the state are well covered. So I think that's the biggest thing we wanted to reflect; we didn't want it to be specific to one market."
Chinowth & Cohen's move into Oklahoma City also included the company's acquisition of Churchill-Brown & Associates, one of the most respected and high-end real estate brokerages in the city. With a similar company culture and agents Leland describes as "extremely professional," the two companies quickly meshed as Chinowth & Cohen has "retained virtually everyone that we started with [there]."
"We've been able to add a lot of services," Leland continues, "to their business that I think they appreciate. We've been very fortunate that they've hung in there through the transition with us."
Of course, the decision to move into Oklahoma City wasn't taken lightly. Building a dependable reputation in Tulsa has been one of Chinowth & Cohen's most obvious victories throughout the company's history, and there's always some wariness in spreading those imaginary wings. Still, Leland says Chinowth & Cohen approached the move just as it does everything else, taking it in stride and building on personal relationships.
"We had agents from Eufaula, from Bartlesville, from Tulsa that, for the last few years, had kind of been begging us to open in Oklahoma City," Leland details. "They wanted to be able to go seamlessly between the cities and sell and have the same office, support, and services."
Expanding into new markets has become something of a trend at Chinowth & Cohen, and agents sometimes spearhead it. Prior to the Oklahoma City move, Leland recalls an instance where 20 agents in Sand Springs approached Chinowth & Cohen about opening an office in the Tulsa suburb. It all happened over lunch. So, with that sort of organic growth and the clear support of agents across the state, Chinowth & Cohen's strategy of highlighting those agents, promoting them and their business, has grown and evolved as well.
Elite Magazine showcases listings at no cost to agents with print copies available at 525 locations throughout Oklahoma, as well as a web version on Chinowth & Cohen's site. Social media and other print marketing campaigns are the norm these days, and C&C is one of the largest clients of the local newspaper. More often than not, Chinowth & Cohen accounts for nearly half of the World of Homes, real estate section, in the paper.
"Those still bring people to open-houses and still help us sell houses," Leland says of traditional print marketing.
Finding that balance between old and new, looking for new cities and areas to move into, without sacrificing the relationships Chinowth & Cohen has built, is, perhaps, the ultimate accomplishment for everyone within the company. Because, no matter how big Chinowth & Cohen gets, real estate continues to be one of the most personal industries out there. It's a fact the company has never lost sight of.
Chinowth & Cohen and Delta Media Group
Finding a tech provider who is also a true tech partner, one who can consistently keep up with Chinowth & Cohen's ever-growing presence across Oklahoma, hasn't always been simple. In fact, it's one of the more significant challenges the company has faced in recent years and, last August, required C&C to turn back the clock, in a sense.
After originally partnering with Delta Media Group® in 2006, Chinowth & Cohen opted to change providers in 2017. Taking "a big lead from [its] agents," Sheryl says, before making any major decisions, she adds that a handful of issues late in Chinowth & Cohen's first stint with Delta led to agents looking for other options. And while that move worked for a little while, ultimately Delta's platform, with some of the most powerful and easiest-to-use tools in real estate, was enough to bring Chinowth & Cohen back in 2020. The decision to re-partner with Delta was made, in large part, Taylor Chinowth says, because of "the accessibility, how intuitive [the product] came across to an agent."
"Since we've signed back on, coming up on a year ago, that's been the feedback that we've gotten," Taylor continues, "was that it's just more intuitive. It's written more for an agency. The programs and systems seem to be written more from an agent's perspective than a lot of other systems. And so, that was a big factor for us."
The customization options available through the DeltaNET® 6 are also especially appealing to Chinowth & Cohen. Working within the system, C&C's marketing department, the same one that takes all that time to assist agents throughout their careers at the company, can use Delta's tools to provide additional templates and personalization options. And it's those little things, the individual decisions and choices agents can make while using DeltaNET 6, that help them stay out of the competition's shadow.
As soon as agents come on board with Chinowth & Cohen, they get a crash course in DeltaNET 6, learning the ins and outs of everything the CRM has to offer. Chinowth & Cohen's website designer walks agents through the backend of the DeltaNET, showing them the first few steps of getting their page up and running. The key is making everything as user-friendly as possible, something that Delta has excelled in throughout both partnerships with Chinowth & Cohen.
"The CRM client management aspect of it has been well-reviewed by our realtors," Leland says.
Sheryl echoes the sentiment, adding that the ability for agents to be "interactive with their sellers, where they can actually send data and information from the Delta site directly to the sellers" is another appealing aspect of Chinowth & Cohen's second round with DMG. Automation has also become a crucial part of C&C's tech outlook. With so many moving parts across so many different markets throughout Oklahoma, allowing agents to schedule updates, posts, or email blasts through the DeltaNET helps free up their schedule while still maintaining those personal relationships that are the core of everything Chinowth & Cohen does. In this case, tech is a tool that helps keep people connected, but also doesn't require them to sit in front of a computer screen all day.
And while Chinowth & Cohen is happy to be back with Delta Media Group, getting into the full swing of things has encountered a few bumps. Some projects are still being worked on, but Leland quickly points out that Delta Media Group Vice President of Sales Franklin Stoffer has been instrumental in keeping everything on track.
"[Franklin's] always been very responsive and with almost 20 people in [the marketing department] that focus on all this stuff [within DeltaNET 6], we've got a lot of questions and edits and really want to focus on building up our website," Leland says, "and we need somebody that's on the ball to help us do that quickly."
Chinowth & Cohen in the Community
Real estate has always been a distinctly human business for those at Chinowth & Cohen. Buying and selling houses is about more than the walls, windows, and floors that make up a space. It's about learning what a family wants out of their home; about knowing what a couple is looking for out of their first place together. Relating to clients, building those relationships, and that sense of trust is at the center of everything the company does. So it should come as no surprise that Chinowth & Cohen wants to be a driving force for philanthropy and service across Oklahoma. And in the last decade and a half, C&C has made more than good on that pledge.
"That's our core focus," Leland says. "The four of us [owners] have taken a personality test where they say, 'What are your true motivators?' For all four of us, we were a hundred on humanitarian efforts. I think that's our core of why we get up in the morning, and it's easy to say, but over the years, we've been extremely involved, and we focus a lot on our local community and charities that are local."
Since starting Chinowth & Cohen, Sheryl has led the way in the company's charity efforts, supporting dozens of causes, and was recognized by Who's Who of Luxury Real Estate with the Extraordinary Philanthropists Award. From The Junior League to the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brother/Big Sister programs, to working with area hospitals, police departments, public schools, and food banks, Sheryl's generosity is the foundation on which Chinowth & Cohen has been built.
And she's made sure to pass that drive onto everyone in the company.
Whenever Chinowth & Cohen brings on a new agent, one of the first things they're asked, after all of the training and tech tips, is if there are any charities or initiatives they're interested in supporting. With over 800 people, that answer can occasionally create some scheduling nightmares, but, once again, the company has a plan in place for just that occurrence. Rachel Keeley served as Chinowth & Cohen's event coordinator for the last three years, working with agents throughout the company to coordinate charity events, sponsorships, and everything C&C does to give back to the neighborhoods it's worked in. Rachel Goodwin took over the position in early June, but the focus of it all remains the same: Get out there and help.
"Sheryl's outstanding about educating everyone on: This is our standard Chinowth & Cohen," Keeley says. "This is what we do as Chinowth and Cohen agents. She's very vocal about this. And she's good at making sure everybody is taken care of in whatever they want or feel passionate about."
Requests come in regularly from agents working in all of Chinowth & Cohen's offices, and Keeley says she went through every single one. Each request gets researched to, as Keeley explains, find out, "Is it new? Is it established? Is this something that we've done in the past? Do we have any agents associated with it?" Naturally, Chinowth & Cohen wants to give back as much as possible, but there's also a desire to spread the love, so to speak. Different events are sponsored every year, and new scholarships and fundraising efforts are regularly added to Chinowth & Cohen's repertoire.
"We want to do different things," Keeley says, adding that there are still events Chinowth & Cohen participate in every year. Namely, the company-wide toy drive each December.
"Everyone takes all their toys to the Salvation Army, and we do a huge press release," Keeley recounts. "We have photographers, [the Salvation Army] brings their president, the [Chinowth] family's involved, several agents and brokers are always there."
COVID-19 presented a challenge to plenty of Chinowth & Cohen's plans last year, but Keeley says one event still stood out in 2020, supporting a Native American Alliance in Catoosa, with Sheryl serving as chair. That event will happen again this year.
With so many different ways to give back — and so much interest from agents and staff members — event coordinator at Chinowth & Cohen has quickly evolved into an essential position.
Leland explains just how important Keeley, and now Goodwin, have been to ensuring all of Chinowth & Cohen's philanthropic efforts go off without a hitch: "[They help] us manage our budget and manage the support because what we had noticed and what Sheryl had noticed, is that sometimes you get involved and share something and your real estate business just drops. And so it was worth it to have a staff person helping those agents manage those events so that they could keep rolling on with their business. They could do both and not feel like 'Just because I'm doing this great thing for the community, it's all a sacrifice on business.' It helps them excel at both fields or activities."
No matter how busy everything gets or how many moving parts go into making an event, Keeley calls Chinowth & Cohen's efforts "incredible," particularly when it allows her and her coworkers to be part of so many different outreaches. And despite massive growth in recent years, there is still a sense of care that makes itself evident in everything the company does. Hundreds of people call Chinowth & Cohen their professional home, so, by extension Chinowth & Cohen is determined to help foster that same sense of home across Oklahoma, keeping a firm hold on the roots that led to the company's success.
Because, really, real estate is about people. All of them are searching for a sense of comfort that can only come from a sense of belonging. And Chinowth & Cohen has made it its mission to foster all of that.
"On your own, I don't know if very many people would be able to do this," Keeley says. "But since it's presented, and it's here, and it's available, they help. They'll keep on doing it forever, and corporately, we will too."
Taking the Next Step
The future is bright at Chinowth & Cohen.
With more growth on the horizon, including a recently-opened office in Owasso, schedules remain jam-packed across the company. Still, there's no ironclad plan for expansion or evolution, only the desire to seize every opportunity as it comes, to provide the best tools the industry has to every agent, and continue building those relationships that have come to mean the most to Chinowth & Cohen. There's the near-palpable drive to be better each day, to serve as a partner in the community, and, really, to be the best version of themselves.
"We're always busy," Sheryl says. "It never slows down. There's so much growth going on and continually going on that we just kind of wait and let it come to us; we have enough opportunities to just wait and see."
Chinowth & Cohen continues to set goals, of course. Increasing the volume of sales per agent, maintaining top-dollar per agent volume across markets, and adding new training and coaching, are all on the table for the rest of 2021 and beyond. As far as Chinowth & Cohen is concerned, the sky's the limit for what comes next. And even then, that's more a symbolic limit than anything C&C is actually interested in.
What matters most is taking it all in stride, embracing change as a fundamental aspect of success, and continuing to improve the lives of everyone who works with Chinowth & Cohen.
"I heard this podcast that said, the companies that have the most success following their mission and the mission statement or their motto, are the ones that actually tweak it most often," Leland says. "It's not sticking to this one thing, and our [mission] has evolved and changed over time. And we've been fortunate to have the growth we've had because of that."
Michael Jordan. Tom Brady. Wayne Gretzky.
Toss out any of those names, and most people will immediately know who you're talking about. Better yet, they'll know exactly what those names did in their respective fields. Take it a step further, and call any of them the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)? Sure, you might get some debate about who deserves the moniker most, but few will argue just how influential those names have been over the last few decades.
And while it's easy to highlight the heroes of recent sports history, it might be even easier to shine a spotlight on the real estate G.O.A.T. serving the nearly 130,000 people in America's premier 55+ community in Central Florida.
With over a decade and a half of experience as a REALTOR® working in The Villages®, Sally Love has topped the list of go-to real estate stars.
Less than two years ago, Sally decided to open her own brokerage. Since opening the doors of Sally Love Real Estate, Inc. in November 2019, the company has grown exponentially as Love's philosophy of "putting customers first" took center stage. In 18 months, co-owner Jeff Beatty says Sally Love Real Estate has "gone from six agents to about 70 agents, and is doing about a quarter of a billion dollars a year in transactions and growing every month."
"[Sally Love] really is the G.O.A.T.," Beatty adds. "The company is less than two years old but has had tremendous growth, and we attribute that to Sally and everything she did in the preceding years."
Sally says, "Let me share a metric I am extremely proud of. If you look at the list of the top 25 Agencies selling Real Estate in The Villages®, we have 16 Sally Love Agents who, on the basis of their own production, would earn a spot as a top 25 Agency in January through May of 2021."
*Data Extracted from Stellar MLS 01/01/2021 - 5/31/2021
An Overnight Success, 15 Years in the Making
Sally Love began working exclusively as a REALTOR® in The Villages in 2006. For over 15 years, she achieved #1 agent status of all MLS Companies in The Villages and, while working at Realty Executives, built what Beatty calls "a really great team around her," with Cindy Wise as her business partner. The pair worked together for eight years, recording even more growth, and, in 2013, Love created her own support team of assistants to help continue her work.
Then, about two and a half years ago, Love and Beatty crossed paths. The pair began discussing the industry, working in The Villages, and how, for years, people had encouraged Love to open her own agency. Suddenly, it seemed like the perfect time to do just that, and Sally Love Real Estate, Inc. was born.
Of course, starting a business is never easy. Even with Love's reputation in The Villages, Sally Love Real Estate started with only a handful of agents and, on opening day, sat last in production among the 140-plus companies doing business in The Villages community.
It didn't take long for that to change.
Buoyed by Love's experience and her already strong relationships with those in The Villages and the surrounding areas, the company hit the fast-forward button on its growth. In less than two years, Sally Love Real Estate is ranked No. 2 among companies doing business in The Villages. This year, the company expects to record transactions on approximately 1,000 units.
"[Sally Love Real Estate] has a reputation as a very agent-friendly place," Beatty says. "There's been a migration of excellent agents who decided that they had enjoyed working with Sally before and would like to work with her in her agency. And while Sally's name was the initial draw, what has impressed people and helped hold them here and created a buzz about getting more people to come, are the people that are part of...our leadership team."
With so many great agents looking to jumpstart their careers at Sally Love, it's no surprise that the company's reputation for success has only continued to grow, particularly when selling homes. After all, the numbers don't lie.
In 2020, Sally Love Real Estate, Inc. boasted the highest average sales price, nearly $30,000 higher than the next closest competitor, and the fewest days on the market at 36. How long did homes sold by the number two sit on the market? Forty-five, more than a full week longer.
*Data Extracted from Stellar MLS 01/01/2020 - 12/31/2020
Establishing a Mindset of Success
Helping the community within The Villages and beyond find their forever homes is what Sally Love Real Estate is all about, and while the growth has skyrocketed, the focus hasn't simply been on numbers. As Beatty says, "growth that happens too quickly, without adequate support can fail." That's why Sally Love Real Estate has also worked to establish a strong foundation, full of knowledgeable agents and a leadership team whose goal is to make sure those same agents can do their jobs to the best of their ability.
"We put the plumbing in place, if you will, first," Sally explains, "We hired the support team, and we went through the machinations about hiring the right people. We also experimented with promising technologies. We had two previous Web and CRM providers before we found and locked into Delta Media Group®. We needed to make sure that when those migrating or new agents arrived, they were going to have outstanding support. That's a big factor for the success of balancing the growth without a big stumble."
Assistant General Manager Julie Gordon, an experienced agent before joining Sally Love, also runs the Jumpstart Program, a five-class program to provide agents insights on the best ways of working in The Villages.
Gordon adds that making sure agents are knowledgeable about not only the market, but what it takes to be successful in it, is one of the biggest undertakings for Sally Love. By keeping agents informed, up-to-date, and ready to help customers, Sally Love is living up to its promise of being "The Smarter Choice" in the Central Florida real estate world.
"Training is incredibly important, for us as agents, but also for us as management and the support staff," Gordon says. "We have to constantly learn. It takes a village to make everybody successful, and it all starts from the top and works down.
"We've built our brokerage around an amazing person and an amazing name," Gordon continues. "And that comes ahead of everything else, that everybody knows that reputation. It's up to us to continue that."
Sally says, "We've had great people who were brokers in Illinois, brokers in Massachusetts, or elsewhere, who are now here, and our 'Jumpstart Program' and other training, helps them get spun up very quickly on how to do business in this particular micro-market."
That internal support and constant drive to be better makes Sally Love one of the most appealing destinations for agents. From extra training courses to celebrating every career victory and advancement, Sally Love offers a camaraderie not often found at other agencies.
"We add that personal touch with an agent," Gordon says. "We know their kids' names; we know their dog's names. [Manager of Digital Operations] Taylor [Morgan] spends time helping them navigate the technology and supports them that way. [Assistant Manager of Digital Operations] Madison [Guinn] supports them on the social media side. It's adding that little extra."
"They know they can call us at any time," Morgan adds. "When a Sally Love Agent gets a listing and needs help with advertising or marketing, they can call us. We'll sit down with them, walk them through some things and help them market, advertise, and make sure they're up to date with all the technology."
When Sally Love first began mulling over the idea of opening her agency, she opted to do so as an Independent MLS Agency. With no connections to any national franchises, Sally Love agents aren't required to pay annual fees to a national organization. That means they're able to focus that money on advertising clients' homes and, as Sally Love's philosophy says, "putting customers first." Instead of being beholden to big-name brokerages, Sally Love can focus, quite literally, on its own name and, by extension, its reputation, especially in a community as close-knit as The Villages. Sally says, "I don't rule anything out in the future, but if we ever associate with a National Brand, it will have to be because that brand brings the ability to significantly add to the bottom line for our Agents."
Gordon explains: "Everybody around the world knows some of those name brands. But once you step into the small individual market, that is The Villages, I don't know that anybody's reputation is better than Sally Love. It becomes personal. We pride ourselves on being more personal instead of just a number or another check box. We build personal relationships with the people that we work with."
Welcome to The Villages
Maintaining those personal relationships with clients has become part and parcel of the Sally Love experience and separates the company from the rest of the pack in one of the country's most interesting markets. A collection of retirement neighborhoods in the heart of Florida, The Villages is one of the fastest-growing master-planned communities in the country. Home to one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the United States, The Villages boasts more than 20 veteran groups and organizations. Over 50 golf courses, plenty of shopping and dining options, and recreation events also make The Villages one of the most bustling communities in the state. And while Sally Love Real Estate doesn't work exclusively in The Villages, relating to those who live, or want to live, within the area is crucial to the company's continued success.
It's also required a bit of evolution over the last few years.
"I used to work in other places where it was important for you to mirror the demographic of the population you serve to be more effective in serving them," Beatty says. "Here, we're dealing with the 55+ community. So we started with a population that almost mirrored that in terms of agents. Since then, though, we've brought in a tremendous cadre of younger agents and are covering the waterfront.
"We have numerous agents in their twenties who are just kicking it," Beatty continues. "They're doing great, but I think we started with a core, and we built out from there. We started with the No. 1 and No. 4 realtors of all time in The Villages; they were among our first six agents at Sally Love. So, people flock to that."
Working in The Villages means understanding the community. As the real estate industry has gone predominantly digital, Sally Love has kept pace while still finding a balance between the old and new. That means weekly newspaper ads are just as normal as social media campaigns to drive people to Sally Love's website.
"We don't want to be a one-trick pony," Sally says. "You have to be able to reach folks who use all different types of media. With the team we have, we're able to do that."
Of course, it's not all work for Sally Love. Building meaningful relationships requires meaningful action, and Sally Love isn't interested in one-and-done real estate transactions. So, whether it's supporting local soup kitchens or food drives or sponsoring Team America, which captured a championship its very first year in The Villages softball league, Sally Love is a major part of turning the neighborhood into something more than simply homes and well-manicured front lawns. Even the Sally Love office plays host to community events, and this summer, they plan to hold an adopt-a-pet day.
"We're a soft-touch, really," Sally adds, "when the community comes to us and says, 'Can you support something?' We do."
Sally Love & Delta Media Group
As Sally Love continues to expand its real estate footprint, one of the most important factors is having a dependable tech partner, and they've found it in Delta Media Group. After working with two other providers in the early days of the company, it didn't take Sally Love long to realize Delta provided, not only the most bang for its buck, but a platform agents thrive on.
"When we bring potential new agents through, and Madison and Taylor give them a technology orientation, sometimes I've said to Taylor, 'Okay, demonstrate to them how responsive Delta Media's help desk is,'" Beatty says. "It's just seconds when Delta Media's support team has popped up and said, 'How can we help you?' And we say, 'Don't need anything, this was just a test.' But that means a lot to the agents to know that not only in here but also on our Delta Media platform, they have great access to really responsive support."
Utilizing the industry-leading tools within the DeltaNET® 6, Beatty adds that Sally Love agents have been quick to praise everything the CRM offers. In fact, he says, "probably one-third of the agency came on board, in part, because, even if they didn't know Sally that well, they learned what kind of support we had. That's what Delta Media provides us."
Tech tools and a powerful CRM aren't all Delta and Sally Love have teamed up on recently. After Guinn geo-fenced the 105-plus neighborhoods within The Villages, Delta worked to provide a game-changing search function for the company's web- site, giving would-be clients the ability to search by location. If they want to live only in the village of Duval? Easy, they simply have to click on it.
Morgan lauded Josh Endres, Delta Media Project Manager and Tech Support Specialist, in particular for his work on the project, calling him "patient and able to work with us to get exactly what we needed. It was fantastic working with him and Delta."
Sally Love has also integrated third-party technologies, including LeadGen, directly into their CRM thanks to Delta's tech know-how. And in a market as competitive as The Villages, being able to depend on their tech has helped Sally Love grab leads quickly, effectively turning them into profit and, more importantly, another jump in success.
"The Delta platform makes it easy for us to post social media ads from our website to Facebook, to direct customers back to us, resulting in more leads," Guinn says. "And the lead quality is measurably better."
What's Next for Sally Love
Soaring to the top of the real estate market is no simple feat; that's why Sally Love is far from satisfied. Despite everything the company has accomplished in its first few years, the push to be better is felt from top to bottom.
For Sally Love, success is borne from a willingness to change. To know what works and what doesn't, and embrace the market as your own. Turning to the future, it's those things that Sally Love believes will help continue to make all the difference and ensure the company continues to be "The Smarter Choice."
"We have to reinforce what works. We have to discontinue what doesn't work," Beatty says. "And we have to constantly anticipate the environment. Not just be ready for what's there today, but be ready to dominate in this marketplace a month, six months, six years from now. That means staying abreast of technology, staying abreast of trends, continuing to educate ourselves. And you just can't rest. That's the bottom line."
You've read the headlines — "Inventory Shortage Sends Home Prices Soaring at Record Rate," "Housing Inventory Shortage Leads to Most Bidding Wars Ever," "Explaining Today's U.S. Real Estate Inventory Insanity," and "It's crazy. There is no inventory," — and are all too aware of how low inventory in your market is impacting your business. But did you know that low inventory is also causing your brokerage website traffic to plummet?
Every website featuring property listings is experiencing lower overall web traffic because of record-low inventory. Even brokerages with top-notch SEO programs — like the SEO Delta Media Group® provides — are experiencing big drops in overall web traffic as their IDX listings fall. For brokerages in some markets where listings have dropped as much as 60% over the last few years, web traffic has also dropped upwards of 60%.
This is not a coincidence: this is pure cause and effect. So, let's dig into this deeper and see what you, as a broker-owner, and your agents need to know about declining web traffic volume, how SEO is needed now more than ever, and what you need to do next.
Real Estate Web Traffic is Down Everywhere
Research from both Zillow and realtor.com shows that their property listing inventory is down about 50% nationally.
According to Zillow, 1.788 million homes were listed for sale as of August 31, 2019. Fast forward to April 30, 2021, the most recent number available, and the total U.S. homes listed for sale according to Zillow was 949,788 — a decline of nearly 50%. Realtor.com's weekly inventory tracking reports say that total active listings as of early May were down 52% year-over-year.
When leading brokerages look at their total web traffic numbers, they are likely to see a decline in overall traffic that closely matches the decline in local listing inventory. Delta Media has seen this happen for clients across the board, nearly without exception.
But here's the silver lining. Despite the decline in web traffic, search ranking for Delta brokerage clients has not changed. In some cases, rankings have improved. This is because Delta's Search Engine Optimization or SEO and content services continue to drive traffic to broker websites, making sure brokerages continue to get their share of real estate-related web traffic.
Understanding the Cause
By digging deeper into the cause of traffic decline, analytics show that traffic landing on property listing detail pages — which are crucial to successful SEO — has dropped in tandem with the drop in the number of local listings.
Let's look at the math. A single-listing detail page for a property can generate a handful to hundreds of visits. If the average listing generates five visits and you have 1,000 active listings in your market, you are getting 5,000 visits from listings. If your average listing generates 20 visits, you are netting 20,000 visits from the listings in your market. If you average 100 visits to an active listing, that's 100,000 visitors to your brokerage website.
If your active listing inventory in your local market declines by 50%, it's likely you are going to see a comparable drop in traffic.
But don't throw in the towel and give up on SEO because your web traffic is down.
That's happening across the board. Staying with your SEO efforts is key to long-term success because SEO does a lot more than generate website traffic.
Impact of SEO
One of the misconceptions in the real estate world is that websites can't rank for IDX listings. That's simply not true. With the right SEO, traffic is generated from all the listings on a brokerage's website.
The best response by a brokerage to website traffic decline should be to stay the course with SEO. That's because, despite the declines in overall traffic, SEO still drives 50-80 percent of all organic traffic to a Delta broker's website. Additionally, more than 50% of their leads are coming from SEO.
Keep in mind that organic leads — created by ongoing and effective SEO efforts — generate both the lowest cost leads and the most ready-to-list and ready-to-buy leads. The cost per organic lead is just $5.41 for Delta Media's clients overall. For large brokerage clients, it averages $4.56 for a ready-to-act lead and $4.98 for our mid-sized brokerage clients.
SEO ebbs and flows. The key is to remain steadfast with your SEO efforts.
Why? SEO is like a company's reputation: it takes years to build and, with one misstep, minutes to lose.
The blunder that many brokerages make with their SEO happens when they switch brokerage website providers. If the proper steps are not taken by your new tech firm, you could lose all the SEO equity that your website took years, sometimes decades, to build.
We have witnessed past clients — who see greener grass — switch tech firms to handle their websites. Their web traffic falls off a cliff almost universally. During the migration process, they lose the brokerage's SEO mojo. More critically, organic lead generation from SEO efforts also takes a massive nosedive.
Most surprisingly, the tech firms they switched to are well-known website vendors. But none of these firms offer the SEO acumen that Delta does.
SEO is one of Delta Media's superpowers. It's why many of these brokerages return as clients. We know how to manage website migration without negatively impacting your SEO.
Changing website providers does not have to cause you to panic. With the right approach, you can keep all your SEO equity. But you need to work with a highly skilled website provider that understands all the steps that must be taken to correctly replicate your website's content.
The Power of SEO
The beauty of Delta Media provided websites is how well they rank for both the brokerage's listings and IDX listings. Therefore, it makes sense that the web traffic declines brokerages are seeing are most significant in the hottest markets, where the brokerage has a dominant market share. As IDX listings have dried up, so has overall traffic.
Looking further into what is happening at the brokerage level, we make sure nothing else is happening that would hamper traffic. SEO remains key to helping brokerages maintain their overall ranking, despite overall lower web traffic numbers.
SEO also can help a brokerage compete against the portals. The more dominant a brokerage is within a local market, the more favorable Google will view them when they deploy the right SEO efforts.
Google loves fresh content, and that's one of the essential services that Delta provides brokerages. We do all the heavy lifting by creating the kind of new content that Google wants.
What Else is Influencing Web Traffic?
The pandemic has had a massive impact on internet traffic. As America locked down, web traffic shot up. The New York Times reported that Facebook traffic almost immediately spiked 27% higher, with YouTube and Netflix jumping over 15%.
Studies by The Internet & Television Association show that with a surge in people working from home (WFH), peak internet usage swung from the evenings to the daytime. As a result, online retail sales were up 39% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2021. From January 2020 to March 2021, Zoom experienced over a 2,000% increase in traffic!
However, over time and as America begins to reopen coast-to-coast, the overall surge many companies experienced in web traffic has started to decline. Even mighty Google, which is still ranked No. 1 in website traffic, sees lower website traffic today than in January 2020.
The key to any successful SEO program is to remain committed, as the most effective SEO takes time. While there certainly are best practices that can help you shorten the timeline for SEO success, it cannot happen immediately. So if anyone is touting an SEO solution that promises to catapult your brokerage to the top of Google rankings instantly – walk away quickly.
Having a better understanding of why your brokerage website traffic is lower and that SEO does more than drive traffic to your website is vital to maintaining the course. The best and lowest cost organic internet leads should give you plenty to cheer about when it comes to using SEO.
If you are not satisfied with the SEO effectiveness of your brokerage website, Delta Media Group is ready to show you how we can help.
When it comes to "Technology Adoption Rates," I have seen a plethora of articles from technology vendors as to what should be expected from brokers/owners. Some vendors in the marketplace boast an eye-popping 90%+ agent adoption rate for using technology tools. Other vendors settle for adoption rates as low as the 30% mark. After years of analyzing trends and data from brokerages utilizing the DeltaNET® tools, I believe that I can share what should be the honest, realistic answer.
First and foremost, we must address what the definition of "adoption" is. In the context of technology adoption, the definition provided by Merriam-Webster is "the act or process of beginning to use something new or different." The reason I bring up this definition is because you will find an abundance of varying opinions when it comes to technology vendors advertising their adoption rates. I am choosing to follow the worldwide accepted definition of adoption for this article.
I have found throughout my tenure educating real estate professionals that the word "training" has quite a strong negative connotation. Nobody wants to sit through another 2-plus hour training course detailing the latest technology being deployed by their brokerage. The fact of the matter is that real estate agents endured a bevy of technology rollouts over the last 20 years, all of them driven by dozens of factors. Asking your agents to sit through another new technology class to learn something new is an uphill battle. Our philosophy at Delta Media Group® is that technology needs to be intuitive, and it needs to work for you. The question isn't "How do I use this technology?" but "What does this technology do?"
Inside the DeltaNET® 6 CRM, which is the underlying technology I will share adoption numbers for, we've focused on innovating how agents think about technology tools. Most CRM trainings focus on the step-by-step process of conducting various aspects of the platform: Click CRM, select customers, select add new customer. Within the DeltaNET 6 CRM, that 3-step process is accomplished simply through our patent-pending "Quick Actions." Rather than the agent needing to know HOW to add a customer to the system, they can simply type into the quick actions bar "Add Customer," which will bring that feature directly onto the page they are working from. It transforms our training from a "Here's how you do
The other differentiator I wanted to share before I dig into our true adoption numbers is that our CRM is not a simple "what you see is what you get" solution. We designed our entire intranet platform to be customizable for each unique brand and brokerage partnering with us. That means if you want to "white-label" the DeltaNET to look and feel more like an internal tool developed by your organization rather than an out-of-the-box third-party CRM, that is possible. As just one example, one of our partners, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group, based near the Chicago region, launched the DeltaNET as the "Galaxy" platform. Their agents don't just have the DeltaNET CRM; they have a version called the "Star CRM." This type of customization encourages agents to utilize the unique tools provided by their brokerage as they won't find that same experience elsewhere.
So what is a realistic and accurate adoption rate for new technology being implemented throughout a brokerage? In my experience, the vast majority of brokerages follow what I call the "30-30-30 rule." 30% of agents are begging for new tech and tools to use. They are usually a part of the younger crowd and are the people who should become your champions of tech, pushing how amazing it is through the rest of your organization. This is the group that should be primarily involved in the decision-making of any new tools you are looking to bring into your suite of services.
The second 30% of users are what I call the inbetweeners. They could really go either way. Any adoption/training strategy should focus on getting as many of this group on board as possible. They are the career real estate professionals who fall right in line with NAR's standards for a real estate agent. They do a healthy number of annual deals and are committed and focused on improving their careers. Your job as a leader should be focused on getting this core group of users excited about your tech tools, as they are the crowd that focused training strategies will really resonate with.
The final 30% of users are the group that you are better off leaving to their own devices. Even as I write this, it sounds harsh. Still, any professional in a leadership position within a brokerage understands that the reality of running a real estate company means you will have a group of agents that just will not use the technology or marketing services offered by your firm. This group of agents is primarily made up of those holding a real estate license more as a hobby than as their career. They may have a handful of transactions each year, but they are not really focused on growing their own business. Being an agent is a post-retirement career or a second job for many in this group, so taking time out of their day to learn a new technology tool just isn't appealing. You likely won't ever get them to engage.
That last observation is not in any way meant to be disparaging to those agents or to display a defeatist attitude. I believe in business there is no better way to convey an open and honest conversation than by trusting the data and having a dialogue about what it shows. Logical thinking often wins out on emotion in the realm of business.
Something that I often hear in my "30-30-30 rule" conversations is a question regarding the remaining 10% I haven't already discussed. What I've found is that the remaining 10% of agents typically fit into one of those three categories I mentioned above, but where they fit changes based on the culture of the brokerage. Many smaller boutique brokerages have a stronger technology adoption rate because they have technology spread within the company's DNA. It's a part of their recruiting efforts. Many legacy independent organizations have a lower adoption rate because the top producing agents in the organization have been using a strategy that has worked in their business for 30-plus years, pre-dating the modern tech trends.
So what is the healthy and realistic adoption rate for a new technology offering within a real estate brokerage? Our data shows that 60% is the magic number you want to push your team to achieve. If you can get 60% of your agents logging into your technology platform and taking advantage of the services you provide, then that's a win. Many CRM's on the market have key automations built in that can help all agents capture more business, but we believe automation should be defined as "the process of using something new." Our automated technologies, such as automated newsletters like our My Customer For Life campaign, automatically-generated social media posts, automated task lists driven by agents' clients, and more, all qualify as something new.
I'll conclude with some real data from one of our brokerage partners that has been using our technology within their organization for the last three years. This firm has more than 600 agents in its company and ranked in the top 150 brokerages within the RealTrends Top 500.
In the seven days before this article was written, 455 out of 653 agents logged into the platform and performed CRM-related actions (70% of total users). In the previous four weeks, 567 of their 653 active agent accounts logged in and interacted with the technology tools within DeltaNET 6. That is 86% of agents regularly engaging every month with their brokerage-provided CRM/lead generation system. Do you see those types of numbers within your toolset? If not, please consider reaching out to me for a consultation.
SEO. You hear it all the time, and for a good reason! You want to attract committed leads and increase your conversion rate, but that's not always easy to achieve, at least not on your own. Good search engine optimization is key to unlocking the full potential of your online business. After all, why would someone take you seriously if they have to tab through five pages to find you?
Here's the simple solution: Delta Media Group is #1 in the industry for SEO, and we have the stats to prove it! These clients have seen the following results over the last year:
Listen to what they have to say — "We have set record sales within our firm and we know that we owe a huge thank you to Delta for helping us make that happen. The Search Engine Optimization has helped us to stay on the forefront of lead generation and the Mobile Platform has opened the doorway to more web traffic than we ever anticipated."
Don't be outperformed by your local competitors. When it comes to SEO, Delta Media Group has a proven track record for delivering more than empty promises, but RESULTS.
Contact us today to learn how you can organically find better, qualified leads for less money.
COVID is over! Well, maybe not completely over, but I went to the grocery store without wearing a mask the other day, so we must be getting close. At least close enough that it's time for us to start thinking about life after COVID and what that means for marketing our listings.
It's tempting to see all of this as "getting back to normal" and immediately go back to handling things the way you did in 2019 — as if the whole pandemic amounted to nothing more than a year and a half hiatus. Avoid that impulse. Because, despite all of the hardships, we really learned a lot too.
Speaking from a real estate marketing perspective, some of the technological solutions built out in response to the pandemic — like virtual showing request functionality and virtual open house presentations — continue to be valuable tools even when there aren't any mandates keeping us at home. It always made sense to adopt these kinds of solutions. The pandemic just acted as the catalyst to get them developed right away. Likewise, it was a catalyst for us to learn about new ways of using streaming video and remote conferencing technology to meet with clients we couldn't talk to in person.
There are still plenty of valid-use cases for being able to handle virtual showing requests. Keeping those options available post-pandemic allows you to provide remote personal showings for clients whose schedules may be too busy to accommodate an in-person showing. Especially in a market where homes are selling so quickly, you can hardly wait for schedules to align. There's also a use case for clients that are interested in relocating or buying a second home. For someone moving from Chicago to New York, for example, it might be much more convenient for both of you if you walk them through some properties using Zoom or FaceTime instead of them flying out to see it in person. It just makes sense to continue to allow them to request that you show them the property that way.
Virtual Open Houses still have a place as well. As it stands now, real estate agents can record themselves walking through and presenting one of their listings to the unseen guests on the other side of the camera. They can then define a date and time that that video will become available and present that information, and a link to the video, on the listing detail pages on their website. It may have been the pandemic that drove the need for us to add that functionality to the DeltaNET®, but the idea of creating a video like that and presenting it to prospective buyers on your
website was nothing new. Even though we can perform traditional, in-person open houses again, there can still be a lot of benefits to recording a video like this, setting up a time for it to premiere on Facebook or YouTube, then promoting that premiere on your website and through social media. Anyone unable to make it to a physical open house can still benefit from your walk-through video. Even if there's nobody there to watch the video when it goes live, you have one more piece of marketing material you can use to promote that listing. It doesn't hurt that viewers can sign up on your website to attend the virtual open house, either, allowing you to capture their contact information as a lead as well.
Another thing the pandemic got us used to was live-streaming and virtual conferencing. Those two things aren't really the same, but they more or less serve the same purpose when it comes to promoting a listing. It's all about a live presentation of the listing through a medium in which you can interact with your viewers in real-time. When the pandemic started, there were a number of agents out there already using this kind of technology with some real success. It's particularly nice when presenting listings for second homes or vacation homes, as those buyers tend not to be local, but there's a place for it when promoting any listing. For example, maybe I'm really interested in your listing, so I'd like to attend an open house and ask you some questions about it before thinking about a personal showing, but I'm not able to attend an open house in person. If you're live-streaming a virtual open house of that property, I can "attend" it on your website, ask my questions, and get live answers in real-time. It's just another way to extend your reach to those that might not have otherwise been able to be present and extend that listing to as many potential buyers as possible.
Live streaming and pre-recorded videos can also have the added benefit of building out content on a YouTube channel. That's just another social media channel for you to build a presence to ultimately build your brand and your business. Besides, what better way to find out if your true calling is that of a YouTube content creator? You could be internet famous before you know it. Even if that doesn't work out, at least you're driving more traffic to your website and your listings in the meantime.
This last piece of technology didn't seem to get as much of a push during the pandemic as I would have expected, but I still feel like it deserves an honorable mention. That would be 360 photos and video. It came to the forefront for some because a potential buyer with a VR headset could use it to view one of these photos or videos as if they're actually standing in the property and looking around. Even those without a VR headset can still use their phone or tablet to "look around" within one of these photos or videos. This is the closest thing we have now to actually putting a potential buyer in a property when they can't physically be there. What's more, as the adoption of VR continues to grow, this will only get more and more important. So the more you can learn about using it now, the better.
COVID has taught us a lot. We learned that it's nearly impossible to wear a surgical mask for any significant length of time without your glasses fogging up. We learned that we don't wash our hands often enough, or for long enough. We learned interesting and unexpected things about the availability of toilet paper in a crisis. More importantly, we learned how to run a Zoom meeting, host a Facebook Live video, and present a property to a potential buyer via FaceTime. Now, let's try not to forget.
In 2021, and most likely going into 2022, you need to be very intentional and have a strategic approach to getting new listings. In some of my previous articles, I've focused on more passive methods in getting new listings. The passive methods I described in those articles are still good methods for an ongoing strategic approach, but with the current state of the industry, you need to be more aggressive in getting new listings.
If you are in management at your real estate firm or you are a team lead, I am a firm believer that you need to take a proactive approach when it comes to attracting new listings right now. Because, unfortunately, if you wait for your sales associates to do something on their own, you will find that the majority of your sales associates will do very little. That's in the best of situations. And, if you are a sales associate reading this article, do not take offense to my perspective on this as it is purely data-driven. Instead, pause and think about why I am saying this and what you can do, or should do, to be more enterprising when it comes to attracting new listings.
One of the best methods that I have seen real estate firms take in the past year in getting new listings is by proactively reaching out to past clients. At Delta Media Group®, we have helped multiple real estate firms load their "old database" of past customers into the DeltaNET® CRM for the sole purpose of farming those past customers via email marketing and phone marketing.
An excellent first step that you can take in getting new listings is email marketing to customers that you have done transactions with in the past 10 to 15 years.
A simple approach to doing this is generating an export of your customers from whatever databases you have, such as transaction management platforms, or your financial software, etc. Pull from all sources that you have and upload those customers into one specific customer group within your CRM. If you are uploading from multiple databases, make sure your CRM can "merge contacts" as you upload them so you have one master database that you can use. This will take some time, but it is well worth the effort it takes to create this master list.
One thing I should mention is that most firms that I have seen do this typically don't add the customers that have done transactions in the past two to three years or so. In most cases, you shouldn't be marketing to customers that have transacted with you recently, prompting them to sell their property.
Next, you need to create an email campaign that fits your brand and your brand's messaging with specific verbiage and calls-to-action that also accurately reflects what is happening in your marketplace right now. Keep in mind that a campaign can be as complicated or as simple as you want. Here are two quick examples of how you can strategically approach your campaign:
First, you could build out an entire campaign that spans multiple months and load that campaign into your CRM. The downside to this approach is that it takes some time to build out because you have to think through everything up-front and build the entire campaign for the coming weeks and months. The upside to this approach is that once the campaign is created, it's finished; since all the work is done upfront!
Second, you could take the approach of doing a manual campaign that is assigned to a person with pre-set dates of when you will be sending out your emails. Then, on those dates, that person can send out an email blast to that group of past customers. The upside to this approach is that you can be more flexible in your process by watching how effective each email is and then making strategic changes in messaging on subsequent emails. Another upside to this approach is that markets are changing quickly, and we really don't know what the real estate industry will look like in the next three to six months, so building each email just prior to sending them may be significantly easier. The downside to this approach is that you have ongoing work to do, and this approach is dependent on a person.
Regardless of which approach you choose to take, you are going to have to work on the content of each email.
To best catch your recipient's attention, I recommend having a particular, short and precise subject, or title, to your email. The title could be as simple as "We Need Your Listing," or "Now is the Perfect Time to Sell," or "Thank You for Being a Past Client," or "Should You Sell Now?" I think you get the idea. You need to be creative, not misleading, and to the point.
As far as the content of the email itself, I recommend using one image or graphic that fits with the content of the email. Try and think through your brand's image as you use imagery. I also recommend being very precise in the choice of the words you use in your emails. This is where you can really stand out. As you write your emails, always remember that fewer words are better. Always strive to convey your message in the fewest words possible. I have seen some emails where there were only two or three sentences that were very effective where you thank the person for being a past client and tell them you would love to talk with them if they are thinking of selling.
Finally, every email needs to have calls to action and contact information. Make sure someone is monitoring the email address that these messages are being sent from. Also, make sure that the email signature has a phone number and that there is a link back to the contact form on your website. In some cases, you may also choose to build landing pages that you want to link back to.
I'll close out my article with one last observation, challenge, and action. I see very few real estate firms being intentionally active in farming their past clients, and those that do are having good success in generating listing activity. My challenge to you is that you start doing this and make it an ongoing part of your marketing plan. And, what I ask, is that you share your success stories with us, with me, so we can hear the good things that you are doing with your email marketing!
How much is your best customer worth to you?
Depending on your market, you may make anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 on a single transaction, which is nothing to scoff at. But, if you focus on developing a rapport with your clients and maintaining that relationship, you might ultimately earn many times more than that.
The key is engagement – building a connection that makes your clients see you as "their" real estate agent.
Unfortunately, real estate pros often have a problem with engagement and the repeat business it offers. Research suggests that most real estate experts are going about things backward, especially early in a career.
The real estate industry spends more money than any other on new customer acquisition, estimated at around 20% of all real estate marketing dollars. By comparison, customer retention gets a paltry 3% of the budget.
And this isn't because former clients are unwilling to use the same agent in the future. According to the National Association of Realtors, 91% of customers surveyed say they would use their agent again.
In the long run, however, only 12% actually do! So, in short, the relationship is allowed to wither on the vine.
Customer Engagement's Role in Building the Real Estate Practice You Really Want
It's been said again and again that new real estate agents need to shift as quickly as possible from chasing cold prospects to drawing warm leads to their door. Digital real estate marketing, combined with the right digital marketing automation, makes this process easier, more effective, and more affordable.
And while you shouldn't have to pound the pavement 24/7 to meet potential customers, your existing customers are in a class by themselves. Since they know, like, and trust you, the effort you need to invest in winning their business a second or even third time is a fraction of what it takes to nurture a new lead.
Let's go back to that earlier question – "How much is your best customer worth to you?"
While you can only have one best customer, you can have many ideal customers. These are the people who fit your style like a glove. Your value proposition resonates with them, allowing you to exceed their expectations while meeting their every need. At the same time, you feel energized by working with them.
Now, we all know that people don't often move – in fact, many will put it off as long as possible.
If you earn $5,000 working with an ideal customer at the start of your career, that could lead to $10,000 more in about five to seven years. If you're in real estate for life, the relationship can yield another $10,000 later on. In effect, one single customer has provided you with a lifetime value of $25,000.
However, it really gets exciting when you consider how that customer can influence your referral business.
It's common to follow up with former customers four times throughout the year – a week after closing, a month, three months, and at the end of the year. That said, some agents have found great success getting referrals by following up every month – with the goal of getting one referral per customer per year.
Just like that, the lifetime value of that same ideal customer skyrockets to about $275,000!
When your most satisfied customers become a lasting part of your business, their ongoing contribution means you spend even less time drumming up new business. That means you can focus more attention on sharpening your skills, delivering exceptional customer care, and experimenting with new ways to differentiate.
By reducing the effort it takes to get one referral, you "create" both time and money.
Designing Customer Experiences to Foster Engagement and Raise Lifetime Value
If 90% of customers say they would use the same real estate agent again, it might seem like a very low bar to reach. The question, of course, is how you can make sure none of your customers become the 88% you'll never see again.
The answer isn't just follow-up. It's about creating the best possible experience for every customer. When they have an amazing time working with you, they are much less likely to consider looking elsewhere in the future.
It might seem like there are endless ways to stand out and no clear guidelines on what matters most. But after working with thousands of agents and brokers all across the country, some methods come up again and again.
Here's where to focus your energy to make the biggest difference:
• Create a Concierge Pre-Move Experience
The closer you can get to orchestrating an all-in-one pre-move experience under one roof, the better. Mortgage, insurance, closing, and home warranty are all pain points. What if you're a solo act? You can still coordinate with third-party vendors to provide white-glove moving services, taking one worry off clients' plates.
• Share Useful Content After the Move
The biggest reason so many customers don't use the same real estate agent over and over is simple – they forget! Keep your name and story fresh by continuing to provide content on homeownership and other topics that matter to them. Maintaining a real estate blog is great for your brand and raises your online visibility. My Customer for Life emails, provided by Delta Media Group® through DeltaNET® 6, are also an easy way to stay at the forefront of client's thoughts.
• Help Your Past Customers Save Money
Saving money is on everyone's mind, so make it easy for your customers. Reach out with personal reminders through email, social media, or even text, letting them know about refinancing opportunities and tax savings that could apply to them. This reminds them you're looking out for their interests!
• Leverage Trusted Local Services
New homebuyers tend to go pretty quickly from their real estate success- es to the next big thing on their list ... home improvement! Creating a solid network within your community allows you to refer customers to local brands they can trust. You can also end up getting referrals directly from your commercial partners.
Effective real estate agents always treat customers as relationships, not transactions. The most successful go the extra mile, maintaining those relationships for a lifetime – and you can, too!
With so many digital marketing tactics available today, it can be easy to forget about more traditional tools for reaching your clients and potential leads. But when used correctly, tools like direct marketing can still hold significant value to your real estate business!
Direct marketing is a great way to re-engage older leads, keep in touch with existing clients, and reach people who might spend less time online, all while also diversifying your marketing plans. As always, any marketing success depends on understanding who you're trying to reach and offering real value to clients and consumers. So, it's crucial that you know exactly what to do – and, more importantly, in some cases, what not to do – when it comes to direct marketing campaigns. Let's take a closer look at the most common do's and don'ts of direct marketing, with tips that can help you maximize your return on investment.
Getting the Most out of Your Direct Marketing Campaigns
The Do's of Modern Direct Marketing
• Know Your Audience and Have a Plan for Reaching Them
Direct marketing works best when you have a plan for who you want to reach and know how you can capture their attention. A postcard or flyer that's too general is unlikely to make an impact. If you're trying to reach buyers, it's important to include information that appeals specifically to their needs. The same goes for sellers. It's better to create a variety of direct marketing materials than to take a one size fits all approach.
• Make Sure That Your Direct Marketing Always Offers Value
While there are many elements to consider in order to maximize the appeal of your direct marketing, offering value matters most when it comes to a return on your investment. So, how do you provide value? Provide informative content that shows your audience what they can expect when choosing your real estate business. Help them understand their local real estate market, how their home fits within that market if they're planning to sell, or the types of homes that are available if they plan to buy. In addition to capturing the attention of your audience, offering value also helps demonstrate the expertise of you and your agents.
• Avoid Clutter to Make Your Direct Marketing Content Easy to Consume and Absorb
The right mix of text, images, logos, and colors makes a big difference in how easy your direct marketing content is to consume. And when you make your content easier to consume, your audience is more likely to follow through by reading it all. There are plenty of ways to approach the layout of your direct marketing, so the real key is making sure that the page isn't too cluttered with information and images.
• Use Localized Information That Focuses on Specific Markets
If your direct marketing relies upon general, statewide real estate data, it's likely to end up in the junk pile before it even gets a cursory glance from your audience. That means it's critical to focus on specific markets with localized information that's relevant to the recipient. You can showcase a list of homes that an agent has sold, comparing the sale price and initial price. Or feature homes sold in a specific neighborhood, with accompanying photos and location information. For buyers, a list of historic home prices in a particular neighborhood that highlights recent trends in value can be a great way to add appeal. There are a ton of different ways to provide valuable information, as long as you remember to keep it as local as possible.
• Use Calls to Action to Encourage Your Audience to Take the Next Step
Providing contact information so your audience can connect with your business is essential, but it will take more than just basic info to achieve your direct marketing goals. That's why it's so important to include a specific, targeted call to action that actively encourages your audience to take the next step. The call to action should clarify what those next steps are and should be tailored to build upon the valuable information you include with your direct marketing.
What Not to Do with Direct Marketing Campaigns
• Don't Use Low-Quality Images
As with most types of marketing, capturing attention is crucial to success when you're sending postcards, flyers, or other direct marketing materials. You wouldn't use fuzzy, low-quality images to promote a listing, and you shouldn't do it with direct marketing, either. High-quality photos will make your direct marketing look more professional, appealing, and intriguing, so it's worth the investment to use professional-quality images for your campaigns.
• Avoid Getting Too Fancy With Fonts
While it can be tempting to use a variety of different fonts to highlight different parts of the text on your direct marketing, it's better to resist the temptation. Too many different fonts can make the text difficult to read and make it harder to focus on what you're trying to convey with your marketing. For a better chance of success, pick one or two fonts to use for each piece of direct marketing, then customize those fonts with bold, underlined, or italic text when you need to make something pop out from the page.
• Don't Overwhelm With Too Much Text
It's important to include valuable information with your direct marketing, but too much information can be overwhelming and leave your marketing sitting at the top of the trash can. When the recipient of your direct marketing sees a wall of unbroken text packed into a postcard, they'll be less likely to read it. Instead, use shorter copy in larger type, and break it up into easy to consume segments with clear headlines that help guide the reader. The easier you make it to read your content, the more likely you are to generate results.
• Don't Forget to Integrate Your Direct Marketing with Your Real Estate CRM
Direct marketing may be an old-school tool, but that doesn't mean that you can't use new-school tech to get it done. Your real estate CRM, like DeltaNET® 6, can help you choose who to reach through direct marketing and keep track of your results. The DeltaNET can also help you automate your marketing plans, meaning that's one less thing you'll have to worry about during your already jam-packed days.
How the Right Marketing Mix Can Help Grow Your Real Estate Business
Direct marketing can become a valuable part of your overall marketing strategy, so long as you have the right plan in place. It's essential to have a variety of ways to reach clients and cultivate leads because every person you're trying to reach has their own unique preferences. Even for people who do most of their research online, sending something via direct mail can help your business stand out from the competition and remain at the front of would-be client's minds when they start their next real estate search. The trick is finding the right mix of marketing tactics for your business in order to maximize both your audience and your potential for converting leads.
An important transformation takes place in the career of any real estate sales agent around their third year in the industry.
The first year is all about learning the ropes, and the second helps you focus on discovering your niche – both what you enjoy doing and who your ideal customers are. During those early years, you may find yourself putting in extra hours and spending lots of effort building a successful referral business.
From there, as your business continues to grow, it's often easy for agents to fall into a pattern of "chasing down" new leads.
To an extent, this makes sense. And it works for a while. After all, you need time to find yourself and define what your brand is all about. You won't be able to go after what you want with laser focus until you can decide what it is you actually want. While others can advise you, nobody can choose for you.
Soon enough, though, it's time to change how you approach lead generation.
• Instead of chasing leads, you need to establish ways to entice them to come directly to you
• Instead of a single transaction, you should build lead relationships to provide recurring value
Luckily, you can achieve both goals by consistently using the proper communication techniques. At its heart, expanding any business relationship comes from following up diligently and adding value consistently. The right real estate marketing automation technology makes this easier, like the features in the DeltaNET®, even with a busy schedule.
This transformation is essential for scaling and growing your business.
As you build a reputation in your community, you'll come into contact with more people who can benefit from your expertise. At some point, creating the business you want means shifting from quantity of relationships to quality. If you stay on the offensive, always chasing more, you may burn out.
Deepen or rekindle your existing relationships, however, and you'll always have opportunities to pursue.
Who Counts as an Old Lead?
Old leads come in two flavors:
• Those who became customers and had a successful transaction in
• Those who showed promise but didn't commit and dropped off your radar
Remember, just because a lead fades from the spotlight, it doesn't mean he or she rejected you. On the contrary, many leads talk themselves out of taking action because of changing conditions in the market. It's no reflection on you, but you still have the power to make a difference in what happens next.
If you're using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, like DeltaNET® 6, it's very easy to see where leads stand.
At a glance, you'll be able to see precisely where you first connected with your leads, the whole history of your interactions, and what their status was the last time you were in contact. This can give you the insight you need to choose the right timing and tactics for getting in touch.
In an ideal world, real estate pros would have the time and energy to follow up with every lapsed lead, to see if they have any ongoing needs, and check for the possibility of referrals. With a limited pool of focus every day, though, it's a good idea to optimize the process. There are two elements to that:
• Making sure you prioritize the leads most likely to generate real business value
• Using the correct follow-up techniques to match with their communication style
Seven Ideas for Reconnecting with Old Real Estate Leads
Let's look at some of the best methods for getting old leads back into the game:
• Develop (or Revisit) Your Customer Persona
Who is your ideal customer? Buyer or seller? What are their biggest challenges? What hopes and dreams drive them into the real estate market, and what holds them back? Focusing on your ideal customers has advantages for both of you: You'll each enjoy a longer, more beneficial relationship with fewer issues along the way. Once you define your perfect customer, look over your old leads to identify the closest matches, then reach out.
• Put Your Brand Promise into Words
A "brand promise" is a single, concise statement of what sets you apart from the rest. It's the central experience you strive to deliver to everybody who chooses you. By crystallizing your goals this way, you are putting your unique skills and values into action – and doing so in a way that's easy to remember and act on. "I make the home-buying process simple and stress-free for first-time buyers" is one example. What's yours?
• Forward Useful Blog Posts to Your Leads
Once you know precisely what leads are out there and who your brand promise might resonate with, it's time to get in touch. Adding value is the secret to positioning yourself as a trusted advisor, even when it takes weeks or months for leads to dive in. Don't just send a message to "see how they're doing" – link a relevant post from your blog with a re- minder about a past conversation, then ask if their needs have changed. Delta's My Customer for Life emails are a great way to accomplish all of this with just a few clicks.
• Use a Follow-Up Email Message
One of the best ways to manage a large number of old leads is to get them onto the right segment of your email list. A segment is a list-within-a-list whose members receive exclusive content. Most real estate agents have a segment for leads, one for current customers, and one for past customers. However, nothing is stopping you from writing a personal message to catch up with your missing leads any time you wish.
• Ping Your Leads on Social Media
If your leads follow you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or even Twitter, you have an immediate "in" by sending them a direct message. Leads usually don't leave their DMs untouched, so you're likely to get a reply within 24 hours as long as they are still active on the platform. It can be a good idea to set your notifications so you can respond to their answer as soon as possible, potentially starting a 1-on-1 conversation.
• Check Up on Expired and FSBO Listings
Sadly, sellers who decide to strike out on their own usually wait longer for success and earn less money. If one of your leads went down this path, check up on expired and "For Sale By Owner" listings to see how they did. After the stress and disappointment of the DIY method, they are much more likely to take your expertise seriously. The sooner you can get them re-listed with appropriate guidance, the better!
• Ask Questions with Text Messaging
Did your leads opt into text messaging? Text offers you an even more intimate (and much faster!) way of communicating than email or social media. You'll be sur- prised how quickly lapsed leads you haven't heard from in months might pop out of the woodwork with a text message as simple as "Hi [Name], are you still looking for a home in Walnut Creek?" Since they only take seconds, many brokerages use SMS texts as a first option.
No matter what methods you decide to use, following up is the name of the game in real estate. Backed by the right real estate marketing technology, you can cover more ground and capture more business from contacts who might otherwise slip through the cracks. With these tips and a good CRM, you are on your way.
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."
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.
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,