We all admire forward thinkers: people who envision what others are incapable of seeing.
When I think of forward thinkers, I think of people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and Elon Musk, just to name a few. I still remember back in 1997 when Steve Jobs put an end to the Newton. I loved the Newton but didn't like how it had to be docked to a computer to synchronize all the data. Later on, when Steve Jobs opened up about why he put an end to the Newton, which was very popular at the time, he said that it was because he envisioned a device that could be connected wirelessly and synchronize wirelessly in real-time. And, since the Newton couldn't do this, it didn't make sense to him. That sounds funny today, but in 1997 it was crazy thinking, and Steve Jobs got blasted for getting rid of the Newton. We now know that he was envisioning something much bigger. That something ultimately turned out to be the iPod and then the iPhone. It was certainly forward thinking in 1997.
So, what does forward thinking mean to you and me?
For me, forward thinking is about all aspects of my business, including the products we develop and the market we serve. For you, I want to focus on forward thinking about our market: the general real estate market.
I recently had a conversation with someone I know that's in the real estate business, and we discussed how he believes that home ownership has dramatically changed for Baby Boomers. We also talked about how it will have big effects on the real estate market for the next 10 years because of all the conveniences available today. Think about someone in their 70s or 80s. Just five years ago, if they couldn't get around very well, they would most likely sell their home and move into some sort of assisted living facility. However, today, with the ability to have groceries delivered, see the doctor virtually, have medication delivered, meals delivered, etc., their lives are very different, and they have choices they didn't have just three or four years ago.
So much has changed in how people live, and those changes have lasting effects on the real estate industry.
I used to joke a few years ago that I'm not sure that homes will continue to need garages because of self-driving technology. Someday, I'm not sure exactly when, but someday when self-driving technology gets mature enough, many people will choose to no longer own vehicles because there will be ride-share services with self-driving cars. So, when this day comes, does it mean that the average suburban home no longer has a three-car garage and only has a one-car garage for the "classic" non-self-driving weekend vehicle? Will the homes have more living space?
Who would have considered that people would become interested in homes with two offices two years ago? Yet today, it's quite common for people to want a home with one formal office and another room (usually an unused bedroom) that acts as the second home office. This is because two people now work remotely instead of from office buildings.
I could continue giving examples, but what you and I need to do is look at all the changes going on around us and think about how these changes can affect the real estate market. Even though you may not be able to predict the future, just thinking about it on a regular basis makes you more prepared for the changes when they come.
To close out my thoughts, I challenge you to envision home ownership in the year 2030. What features does the home have? What services do the homeowners want? At what age are people buying and selling homes? Envision all aspects of home ownership in 2030, then envision what kind of business you need to have to serve the real estate market and how this may change the scope of your business.
One thing is certain: things are changing.
Nearly 40 years ago, a school principal took a leap of faith and started a small real estate firm in Mansfield, Ohio.
They say it's never too late in life to switch gears and try something new. While many people talk about changing their careers, very few actually do it once they get comfortable. Arnold Haring, an Ohio elementary school principal, started selling real estate as a side business in the late 70s. A decade later, in 1983, Haring Realty was born. Now, nearly 40 years after the firm's conception, Haring Realty is led by Arnold's son, Peter, and is still operating in Ohio. Arnold's courage to make the change led to success for both himself and his family.
"My dad started the business. He was an elementary school principal, and he decided he wanted to earn a little extra income," says Peter. "And before he knew it, it took on a life of its own, and he decided to throw out a shingle and get started."
Over the past 40 years, Haring Realty has grown substantially. The company now has three office locations along with a welcome center in Mansfield on North Main Street. Haring Realty provides home buying, home selling and relocation services for their clients. They offer well-developed, strategic programs to bring buyers and sellers to the top of the market. They also do commercial real estate.
"Where Caring is Key"
The staff at Haring Realty feels that caring for one another and their customers is of utmost importance. That's why their motto is "where caring is key."
"Caring is kind of in our DNA," says Peter. "My dad had that kind of mindset of caring for the customer. And so, we try to hire people that have a servant's heart or a servant's mindset."
Everyone at Haring is considered part of a family, and they believe that "a good family is on the same page." That means being a team player, which comes with certain characteristics.
"I read a book a while back called the Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni, and in it, he suggests that the ideal team player has three characteristics," says Peter. "Team players are hungry, humble and people smart. So, if we want to have a cohesive family, we all need to be team players."
Hunger is the willingness to go after business, and humility is the willingness to learn and listen to what the customer wants. At Haring, they consider humility "key," therefore, it is what they look for most when recruiting new agents. People smart refer to interpersonal skills and a person's core values. Haring Realty has a specific set of core values they practice and instill in their agents. These values are respect, thankfulness, reputation, community, productivity and excellence.
"While Haring Realty is not a Christian business, my faith in Jesus Christ has greatly influenced me and my organization's core values," says Peter. "So, one of our first core values is respect. And that's because everybody is made in God's image. And so, we hold our customers in high regard, and we hold our coworkers in high regard, so they're important people."
At Haring Realty, they foster these values at their weekly sales meetings. They also build on this culture they are creating by hosting "lunch and learn" sessions, where they will come together to develop proficiency with their technology platforms, like DeltaNET®, or work on their selling skills.
When speaking about the lunch and learns, Peter says, "We'll bring in some pizza, and we will not just have a training presentation, but we will actually workshop, work on some of our technology tools, practice the use of those technology tools and learn from each other."
The Power of Marketing
According to Peter, entrepreneurship seemed to run in the Haring family. His grandfather was in the meat business; he was the owner of Haring Meats. As a business owner, he always stressed the importance of marketing and advertising. Because of this, when Arnold started Haring Realty, a marketing manager was one of the first positions he hired. This focus on marketing was key to the initial growth of the company and one of the reasons the company is so successful today.
"One of the things my grandfather always preached was, you want to make your sign as big as possible." Peter continues, "And he always preached to my dad and his siblings when laying out the meat in the meat cooler that it's all about merchandising and setting that up to look really attractive when a customer walks in the door."
Due to his grandfather's advice, having stunning photography and video to appeal to clients was a big part of Haring Realty's marketing strategy from the very beginning.
"We decided a picture's worth a thousand words, so we always did color photography. And we were the first company in our market to think we had to have good photography."
That being said, Peter mentions that his mother was their first-ever photographer. He recalls a time before everything went digital, and photos still had to be developed.
"She was our first photographer, and I remember her making trips to Walmart every day to develop stacks of photographs," says Peter. "Since that time, we've had professional photographers take our photos."
Peter believes that one of the key components of good marketing is rolling with the punches. Whenever there is a shift in technology or a shift in the industry, Haring shifts with it. For example, they were one of the first real estate companies ever to have a website in the late 90s. None of their competitors had them, which gave them a huge advantage in the market. They were also one of the first companies to have a magazine to advertise their listings. These were distributed through the mail and in local stores. Aside from making their own, they advertised in other real estate publications such as Harmon Homes.
"As the market changes, our culture is changing, and the profile of our buyer is changing. We also have to change, and we have to be relevant," says Peter. "So, we've always tried to identify, okay, are there any new tools or approaches that more effectively reach today's customers? Where are the opportunities."
Tapping Into Tech
As mentioned before, Haring Realty tends to move with the times and quickly adapt to the new way of doing things. This is also true when it comes to technology. They have found that with Delta Media Group® they are always up-to-date with the latest technology, which has been a great benefit to their real estate business.
"We tend to be an early adopter of new technologies and different marketing techniques." Peter continues, "For years, we included floor plans with all of our listings. We were the first agency in the Mansfield market to start using Matterport 3D virtual tour technology. Today, we include Matterport with most of our listings, and because it is increasingly imperative that we effectively interact with our clients digitally, our relationship with Delta Media has become more critical."
There are certain features in DeltaNET they've found particularly useful in retaining and seeking out new clients.
"Something that we were able to quickly adopt for everybody in our organization was the My Customer for Life Program," says Peter. "And through that, we're not just sending our past clients or sphere of influence a newsletter, but we're sending them relevant content that's of interest to them individually."
Even with all the issues and changes they face in the uncertain world of real estate, Haring Realty always makes an effort to stay positive. For them, it's not just about looking on the bright side but being a calming force for their clients.
"As we think about serving our clients, it's about being the calm in the midst of the storm," says Peter. "There's a lot of provocative news out there regarding the real estate market, sensational news. And if we can remind our customers of the long view, we essentially can be the people walking on water in the midst of the storm."
When thinking about this, Peter recalls a situation he once found himself in on a flight returning from Hawaii, a situation in which he could have certainly benefited from some positive thinking.
"I remember I was on a flight from Hawaii one time. I'd never had this kind of turbulence before. There's got to be six people throwing up around me, and this lady I haven't spoken a word to, she's gripping onto my wrist like we're going to die," says Peter. "I'm looking up at the flight attendants, thinking, 'Okay, is this normal?' They were nervous, and you could tell they were freaked out. And so, all of a sudden, consequently, I'm more freaked out. So, it always reminds me, as we're serving our customers, to make this a positive experience for them. We have to be the calming influence in that transaction."
The Future of Haring Realty
As they approach their 40th year, Haring Realty looks to continue its growth and success. The first way they plan to accomplish this is by using their technology tools, primarily through Delta, to generate growth and professional development for their support staff and sales team.
"We want to be more effective at using DeltaNET and some of the technology tools we already have to serve both our sales team and our clients more effectively through better communication from contract to closing," says Peter.
They are also implementing several new marketing initiatives, one of which is promoting their properties' communities.
"Each property we're selling is in the context of its community," says Peter. "We have a big emphasis this year on promoting and providing better community information for each of our listings and telling the story of each of our communities as buyers look to where in particular to locate."
Improving their multimedia content for listings is another priority for them. After all, top-notch photography, copywriting and video are all essential to good advertising. Along the lines of enhancing its brand, Haring Realty also plans to upgrade its facilities this year as they continue to meet with more customers in person.
Arnold Haring's leap of faith started this wonderful company back in 1983, and the core values that came with it remain at the forefront of everything they do today. With their positive outlook, care for their customers and unmatched marketing and technology, there is no limit to how high Haring Realty can fly.
They say that family is the heart of the home. And for MJ Peterson Real Estate, a family business serving the Western New York region for over 91 years, that certainly rings true.
In the early 1930s, following the Great Depression, Marvin Peterson and his family moved from Detroit to Buffalo and started building houses. What began as a simple home-building venture ultimately became one of the most successful real estate companies in Western New York. With Victor (Pete) Peterson III being the current owner, four generations later, the Peterson family still owns and operates the business they started many years ago.
For over 91 years, MJ Peterson Real Estate has been serving the Western New York region. The company saw a huge expansion and achieved substantial growth during that time. Today, MJ Peterson has eight office locations and over 200 agents. They have over 3,300 units for rent — including apartments, condos and houses — along with residential properties, commercial properties and new construction for sale.
"With the Peterson family, we really take people all the way — from getting college kids into their first rental, to their first condo, to their first home, to their golden years home, and then downsizing," says Bret Llewellyn, General Manager at MJ Peterson.
What Makes Them Special
"At MJ Peterson, we do more than list and sell houses...we make our client's dreams come true," says Pete Peterson.
Since the company was founded, MJ Peterson has built more than 6,000 single-family homes. They developed some of Buffalo's oldest neighborhoods and have contributed to HUD-sponsored moderate and low-income housing developments. Following World War II, MJ Peterson built starter homes in Tonawanda and Amherst. They also built luxury condominiums, family and senior housing developments and commercial properties, such as office buildings and retail shopping centers.
MJ Peterson's efforts were recently recognized by community organization Buffalo Business First with a 2021 Family Business Award. The honor highlights "multi-generational and family businesses in Western New York for overall excellence, innovation, ethics, philanthropy and strength of the region."
Unlike most other real estate companies in the region, the work at MJ Peterson doesn't start and end with renting and selling properties. The organization's long list of services includes new home construction, property management, domestic and international relocation services, land development, lease option and trade-in programs, property appraisals and mortgage placement.
Partnering With the Community
MJ Peterson offers so many services because of their incredible partnerships, one of which is with Premium Mortgage. MJ Peterson strives to work alongside their clients to help them move forward. In cases where people have been renting for two or three years to save up for a home, MJ Peterson will pair them up with Premium Mortgage to assist them with credit counseling and help prepare them to buy. Once they are ready, the company will release them from their lease and automatically pair them with an agent to help them find the perfect property to buy. This partnership is not only useful and educational for clients, but agents appreciate it as well.
"I think that's a good model. It keeps our tenants engaged in the process of homeownership versus renting," says Terri Campbell, Branch Manager at MJ Peterson. "It gets them some credit counseling with our mortgage partner, and it keeps some of our agents on their toes."
For MJ Peterson's unique building division, they work with local builders. They have been partnering with Chris Tucker of Tucker Homes for over 30 years and have since added several other builders. According to Campbell, the building division has made a huge impact on the company's growth, considering "if you've got the land, you've got the listing." This is especially important in the current market, where inventory is particularly low. At the moment, they have about 250 lots in Lancaster, NY.
MJ Peterson has also established an effective partnership with Robitaille Real Estate, which was acquired in 2018 to form MJ Peterson – Robitaille Relocation LLC. That same year, Mike Robitaille, former NHL defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres, signed on as VP of Public Relations.
Thriving in the Digital Age
It's no secret that technology has changed the way we do just about everything in our lives, and selling and buying real estate is no exception. What was once accomplished through direct contact or putting an ad in the local newspaper is done almost completely digitally now. With websites, social media, email and third-party real estate apps like Zillow and Redfin, there's nothing you can't accomplish with the touch of a button.
"If you're going to survive, it's got to be in the social media aspect. It's got to be in the IT at this point," says Llewellyn.
At MJ Peterson, the staff understands the importance of adapting to the digital age, that the days of print ads and yard signs are behind us. The company recently hired its first-ever Social Media Director and has a skilled IT Director on staff, Bill Trautman. Bill is there to help the agents at MJ Peterson with all of their technological needs, whether that be with DeltaNET® or something else.
"Now that we have the internet and the wonderful opportunities that we have through programs like DeltaNET, it's a no-brainer," says Campbell. "And sometimes I think that teaching old dogs new tricks is difficult, but I will tell you that Bill Trautman in our IT department will sit one-on-one with any agent in the company and get them up to speed."
Finding the Right Agents
There is a lot to consider when it comes to finding the right agents. For instance, some recruiters look for industry experience, while others have no problem hiring someone new to the real estate game as long as they fit in with the company culture.
For MJ Peterson, it's the latter. When hiring a new agent, they consider qualities like community involvement and likeability. Whether they have experience in the business or not isn't the issue; it's whether they have the skills and the right personality for the job.
"I like recruiting people from other aspects of business in this town, and two of the very successful, rising stars in one of our offices that we were able to recruit, one is an attorney who works in the trust department at the local bank," says Campbell. "The other was a branch manager of a bank for 20 years and then was an office assistant in a legal firm. These are the people you want. These are people who get business in town. They know a lot of people, and this is a great opportunity for them."
When recruiting new agents, they also seek out those who exemplify true passion and motivation. They believe this is particularly important in an industry like real estate, where you won't necessarily have instant success, and people tend to weave in and out.
"I really like to go ahead and start out with an agent that's been in the market a year or two who is doing that $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, because taking somebody from that $2 million to $4 million or $6 million with the right tools is much easier," Llewellyn remarks. "And it's like we want to go ahead and know that they have the motivation and they have a passion for this because nine out of 10 new agents are gone after year two because they don't want to pay their dues, because they only sold two houses."
Training New Hires
Once an agent is welcomed aboard, the training process begins. At MJ Peterson, they have a comprehensive program that allows new hires to quickly and effectively get up-to-date with the industry and the company processes. MJ Peterson has a "Leap into Success" program, which is a five-week course. During this program, participants have the opportunity to listen to various speakers on different subjects.
For new agents, training also includes learning the technology and setting up their custom website, customer database and digital marketing campaigns through DeltaNET. Overall, the training process is meant to cater to each agent's individual needs. At MJ Peterson, they believe that this is the best approach, considering every agent is different and has a unique set of skills and experience.
Once an agent completes the onboarding process, the training doesn't end there. MJ Peterson offers continuing education courses throughout the year. One of their favorite events is the Breakfast of Champions, a Q&A series with the more experienced agents where they discuss topics like luxury living and how to survive tax season over coffee and pancakes.
Maintaining a Family Culture
"We remain committed to never lose[ing] sight that our business is people," states Pete Peterson.
MJ Peterson may have grown quite a bit since its early days, but that doesn't mean it doesn't strive to maintain the same family culture that the company was founded on. Pete Peterson prioritizes instilling the same values in his current staff that his family had when they first arrived in Buffalo and began building houses. One way that Peterson does this is by having an open-door policy that allows agents to stop in at any time. Whether they want him to attend their event, give his two cents or answer a question, he's always there.
"If anybody ever needs anything, Pete's always available. His door's always open. He'll address whatever your concerns are and make sure he takes care of you," says Trautman. "So that's one of the good things about coming to a family company, and that's why I'm here. I've seen both sides, family companies, and I've seen corporations where the family company is far better because you're out one-on-one with the owners, and it's a first-name basis."
Being located in a smaller city like Buffalo also helps MJ Peterson maintain that family feel. Having a more tight-knit community enables them to use a community-oriented approach and achieve a sense of trust and community among agents and staff.
Addressing the Issues
Shortage of inventory. Inflation. Interest rate hikes. These are just a few of the issues that may come up when working in real estate. That said, it's important always to stay ahead of the curve.
For MJ Peterson, that means a lot of things. First, during a time like this, when inventory is low, they can rely on their rental properties to keep things moving. They have more rentals than just about anyone in Western New York, and they are close to the University of Buffalo, meaning young adults are constantly moving to the area looking to rent. Their building division also helps prevent a shortage of inventory from becoming a problem because if you build houses, you will always have houses to sell.
When it comes to navigating issues like interest rates and inflation, it helps to ensure that clients are educated and prepared financially. Hence, they're ready to buy in any climate. That's why MJ Peterson's partnership with Premium Mortgage is so essential. These partners will come to their offices, sit down with a client and work out a path for homeownership that works for them. So, when the time comes, whenever that may be, the client has what they need to buy, and the agent can make a sale.
Another way they keep momentum is by making sure they are placing their offices in the right locations and that those communities continue to thrive. MJ Peterson recognizes the importance of seeking out clients in areas with profitable, growing businesses. For example, in Buffalo, there is an M&T Bank that is currently hiring over 2,000 new employees. This growth has paved the way for a surge of new homebuyers to settle in the area. MJ Peterson is also centrally located in Amherst, which happens to be the second-largest city in Western New York, providing them with a vast pool of potential clients and businesses.
"They're Here Because of Delta"
MJ Peterson believes that working with Delta Media Group® has had a huge impact on the success of their company. They feel that Delta is why so many agents want to work there and why they stick around.
"I've talked to so many agents that [have said] they're here because of Delta," Trautman says. "They don't have the technology anywhere else. And then once they see everything that Delta has to offer, they love it."
One of the main reasons they love Delta is its impact on recruitment. This is largely due to Delta's patent-pending SEO, which puts agents on the map.
"Google your name and then google your competitor's name and see where you land in the search results. Every time we're in the top two," says Trautman.
Another game-changer provided by Delta is how simple it is to find sales leads. At MJ Peterson, they have found that over 50% of their leads are generated through Delta. They have also noticed that Delta is particularly beneficial for new agents when finding their first leads, enabling them to hit the ground running.
The staff at MJ Peterson is also very fond of the digital marketing tools Delta offers, such as blog posts, email campaigns and electronic postcards. They've found that these resources assist them both with finding new clients and retaining current ones.
Where Are They Going?
Over the past three years since using Delta, MJ Peterson has brought in over $140 million in new agent business. And in the past three months alone, $45 million. They feel confident that with Delta, they can continue to grow even more.
"We're planting seeds out there. We're growing them. We're going ahead and watering them," says Llewellyn.
The company plans to expand to have nine or 10 offices in the near future. However, they plan to stay local. Their ultimate goal is to become the person to go to in Western New York, not to extend to places like Syracuse or New York City that have completely different markets.
Over the past 91 years, MJ Peterson has come a long way. The previously small family construction business is now one of the top real estate organizations in the region. It has so much more than just building and selling homes to offer. It's an organization that people in the community want to work for and work with. But despite seeing tremendous growth, MJ Peterson's original vision remains the same: to build strong neighborhoods based on family values.
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.
Your sphere of influence should be one of your greatest assets for generating leads as a real estate agent, but only if you make the effort to maintain and utilize it. Thanks to online marketing and social media, your sphere of influence can now expand much further than it would have in the past. That's in addition to your more traditional sphere of influence, which of course includes friends, family, and everyone that you connect with in your community. By utilizing your sphere of influence and taking advantage of the tools available to make your life easier, you can generate a steady, sustainable supply of fresh, highly qualified leads as a real estate agent.
How to Define Your Sphere of Influence
Your sphere of influence starts with the people you know best but should also expand far beyond that group. Think about all of the people who you interact within your community: small business owners, community organizations, volunteer groups, sports leagues, places of worship, service providers, former colleagues, other parents from your children's school, and any other group that you connect with on a regular basis.
Now, add in your online sphere of influence, which reaches beyond the communities where you work and live. There are people you connect with through your social media, real estate website, the content that you create, and the leads generated by your online marketing. When you add it all up, your sphere of influence likely extends much further than you'd guess at first glance.
Consistency Counts with Your Sphere of Influence
It's a mistake to think of your sphere of influence as a "set it and forget it" source of leads. Instead, think of it as something that you consistently have to maintain and nurture in order to generate the best results. The more effort that you put into building and maintaining relationships with the people in your sphere, the more business you can expect to generate. That means reaching out at the right times, being a trusted source of advice, connecting on a personal level, and being as consistent as possible with maintaining relationships.
Use Your Real Estate CRM to Segment Leads and Plan Your Outreach
Utilizing your sphere of influence is much easier when you have the right tools for the job, and your real estate CRM is at the top of that list. Use your CRM to organize your contacts, keep track of vital information about each connection, segment your leads, and ensure that you're reaching out to the right people at the right time. Take advantage of tools like drip email campaigns and AI-driven newsletters to stay in touch while lightening your workload, thanks to automation.
Stay Active and Engaged on Social Media
Naturally, your social media presence is one of your best tools for growing and nurturing your sphere of influence online. Social media marketing can help you build new connections, and engaging with your social connections is key to generating leads from your sphere of influence. When you share content, get involved with the conversation that it generates. Join social media groups where you can share your real estate expertise, and build connections with your community. Be mindful of how you interact with people, show genuine interest in their needs, answer questions, and be helpful.
Use Real Estate Content to Share Your Expertise
Your real estate content is a great way to grow your sphere of influence, provide valuable advice, demonstrate your expertise, build trust, and help convert leads that come from your sphere of influence. Whether you create real estate blog posts, video content, or a mix of both, make sure that you're sharing your content where your sphere of influence can see it.
Showcase Your Social Proof
Even people you already know may need a little extra push to trust you with their real estate needs, and integration of social proof is the perfect way to provide it. Make sure that you're asking clients for online reviews and testimonials after they've used your real estate services. Showcase those testimonials on your real estate website and your social media pages.
Do Some Good, Old Fashioned Networking in Your Community
Near the beginning, we mentioned some of the many groups within your local community that may be part of your sphere of influence. Getting out and networking in person is a dependable way to maintain your connection with those groups while bringing new people into your sphere of influence.
Your Sphere of Influence Is Always a Work in Progress
If there's one thing to remember, it's that utilizing your sphere of influence is a constant process. Investing consistent effort and utilizing the right tools to make your life easier will allow you to maximize the lead generation potential of your sphere of influence.
Most homeowners would be glad to work with their real estate agent again — but they never do.
It's true. The average homeowner will own three or four properties in a lifetime, with most purchases spaced out between three and seven years. But even when they are thrilled with the service their real estate agent offered, they often end up using a different one for every transaction.
How can this be?
Some of the reasons are purely logistical. If someone is moving across the country, odds are they connect with a real estate agent in their desired area as one of their first steps. But there is a bigger reason: traditional real estate marketing is focused on customer acquisition, not retention.
Customer acquisition can be an all-consuming part of any real estate agent's first year on the job.
After that, it's important to start building referral business. This means you can spend less time going after that next client and more time building the long-term assets you need for the kind of firm you really want. In the long run, retention is easier than acquisition, which can cost 25x more.
Long-term engagement is the key. And it can start with the clients you have right now.
Long-Term Engagement Turns Customers into Allies for the Life of Your Business
According to research from 2018, real estate agents are among the least trusted professions in America.
In fact, only 11% of respondents consider real estate agents trustworthy, placing them above only politicians and car salespeople. Responses varied by region, with those out west feeling most suspicion of the profession.
That's bad news, of course. But it means that when someone finds a real estate agent they trust, they don't really want to start over again from scratch. By recognizing and working with that reality, you can create lasting loyalty. That, in turn, has the potential to multiply the value of every customer relationship you hold.
Getting more transactions from a single customer is an obvious example. You could double or triple lifetime value from your customers if they keep coming back to you every time they're ready to buy a new property. But that's not all: you can also get dozens of referrals from each customer over the lifetime of your practice. From that perspective, having even a handful of strong relationships could drive your revenue goals for years.
After all, long before you have the opportunity to meet a client-in-waiting, that same person is expressing their desire to buy a home. . . to their family, their friends, and to just about everyone they know other than you.
Referral business is a hot ticket, letting you be the very first real estate agent to talk to any buyer or seller. That positions you to build trust and continue the cycle, helping more people while growing your business.
Set the Stage for Long-Term Engagement with Digital Marketing and Smart Follow-Up
Real estate digital marketing becomes easier than ever when you adopt the right technology. Good technology doesn't get in the way of relationships; it makes them easier — allowing you to check in with people in helpful, meaningful ways without wasting lots of time on data entry.
Here's how you can strengthen client relationships into real bonds of trust:
Contact us to learn more about how digital marketing fuels better relationships.
Any sound business starts with a plan. But what is a business plan, exactly?
A formal business plan can be comprehensive, investigating many aspects of the business and how they work together, or it can go deep into a single subject: most successful real estate agents have a marketing plan, for example. But if you've never written a business plan and have no idea where to start, it's not too late.
According to Harvard Business Review, you should spend no more than three months working on a business plan. Developing a business plan has a tangible effect on your results, making your practice much more likely to grow — but you don't need three months. In fact, you can get started in a fraction of that time.
Five steps get you the basics of a business plan you can continue to expand.
Step 1: Write Your Summary
The executive summary provides a capsule view of the problem your business was formed to address. It must be specific enough to demonstrate your basic market positioning. It should also include the basic strategic goal that you want to achieve with your business and the timeframe for reaching it.
For example, a real estate executive summary might say:
Next Nest Realty is a Nebraska-based real estate firm specializing in downsizing and retirement homes for retirees and those preparing for retirement, aged 55+. Next Nest simplifies the process of selecting, closing, and moving into a single-family residence for retirement. Sales are projected to reach $500,000 in Year 1, $1 million in Year 2, and $2 million in Year 3.
From the perspective of an investor or other reader, this establishes:
You understand precisely who your business will serve and how
You can translate your real estate insights into tangible goals
You have considered what products and services will be successful
Naturally, your text will vary considerably based on your interests and specialties. But giving deep thought to your market niche will help you hit the ground running with marketing and advertising that resonates with your ideal clients. That helps you stand apart from other real estate pros in your area.
Step 2: Define Strategies and Tactics
Strategies describe your overall objectives and the messaging and audiences that relate to those goals. Tactics are the specific initiatives that you use to realize your strategies. (All tactics can be broken down further into business projects and processes — but these are too granular for a standard business plan.)
If your strategy is to improve brand recognition among your target audience, your tactics might include joining a professional association, attending networking events, and launching your first marketing plan. Within that plan, you would then need to decide which methods are most likely to connect you with your target audience.
As more Millennials buy their first home, the vast majority of new home searches are starting online. Adoption of digital technology continues to rise among older buyers and sellers, too. So, no matter what kind of client you're targeting, it's a wise idea to include digital marketing in your plan.
For example, if you wanted five warm leads to contact you through your website each month, that strategy would be backed by tactics like SEO, blogging, video marketing, and social media.
Step 3: Assign Deadlines
Sometimes, deadlines may feel stressful. But deadlines aren't the enemy — in fact, they're your allies.
That's because deadlines are what turn wishes and hopes into action.
Assigning a deadline to a goal gives it a sense of urgency. Since many tactics are process-based, however, it is not always easy to know what a reasonable deadline might be. In cases like these, following the process is more important than using a specific amount of time — for example, publishing one blog post per week on your blog.
Step 4: Estimate Costs
Calculate projected income and expenses as best you can for the four quarters after your business plan goes into force. Not only does this help you get the best return on your business investments, but you will also hone in on areas where you need more information on cost versus value before you make a purchase.
Step 5: Measure Results
Measuring your results can take several forms. In the most basic sense, check in with your goals every week to ensure you are following the right processes. This helps you stay aware of results as they develop and course-correct if you get off track.
In some cases, as with digital marketing, measuring results might mean using analytics software to see how your campaigns are affecting your online visibility, including visits to your website. DeltaNET 6 is the powerful real estate solution that makes it faster, easier, and even fun. To learn more about making marketing a strategic priority, contact us.
After a year that seemed like it would never end, 2021 is already steaming ahead. Before we know it, the holiday season will be just around the corner once again. But is your year off to a strong start? It's a question all real estate agents must ask themselves. There are dozens of proactive measures real estate agents can take to ensure that they're moving in the right direction — but there are also a few pitfalls that should be avoided.
4 Do's & Don'ts of 2021
Even though we're into January, it's not too late to start the year off on the right foot. There are plenty of realistic and attainable goals that you can achieve if you start working on them now. Here are a few tips for making sure 2021 starts off strong.
No one knows what the real estate market will look like this year, but one thing is for sure: there will always be a need for a real estate agent. People from all walks of life will continue to buy and sell houses. The best way to increase your likelihood of having a successful year is to start putting in the time and effort in January. By acknowledging your agency's strengths, identifying its areas for improvement, and being receptive to new ways of pursuing your goals, your brokerage can begin laying the groundwork for a successful year.
Franklin Stouffer, Delta Media Group's Senior Key Accounts Consultant / Sales Manager, sat down with Jeff Kennedy, Director, Sales and Business Development for Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, in an interview during their Brave New World webinar series to discuss "What We Can Do Today to Set Ourselves Up for Success in a Post Quarantine Market."
Listen to the webinar now.