The pathway home sellers take to select an agent has dramatically changed and evolved since the 1980/90s.
In the olden days, consumers only had the newspaper, radio and TV to rely on for information.
Today, before buying anything, people want more information about that product or service simply because there is more information – on the web and elsewhere.
Here’s the reality:
- Forrester Research reports that some 65-90% of the buying (in your case, the agent selection) decision today is made by consumers before picking up the phone to a company/salesperson.
- According to Google, 71% of those decision-makers begin their search, not on specific webpages of vendors, but with a general web search.
- Hubspot report that some 77% of consumers carry out extensive research before consenting to speak with a salesperson.
What does this mean for real estate agents?
Traditionally, salespeople have played a much bigger role in the early stages of the agent selection process. All the information about real estate resided in the four walls of a real estate office so that made sense.
But more and more today, salespeople have become the destination, not the starting line. And this is the case in every industry, not just real estate.
This reality is one of the reasons why review platforms exist today.
Agents have lost the race to the ‘evaluation’ stage (see chart above) and the rise of online rating and review websites is only making it harder for agents to stand out.
These days, by the time a home owner has decided to sell, they have already:
- Read a few articles on renovation and how to get the most value when selling (without overcapitalising), or have gone to open homes in the neighboorhood to check out the competition, and have then undergone a few touch-ups at home or a major renovation
- Researched what similar properties in the market are selling for
- Researched the different methods of sale and whether they should auction or go with private treaty
- Researched what the costs are when selling a property
- Used an online tool with the vast number of websites today that can provide an automated AVM (it doesn’t matter how accurate you think they are, these tools are widely used by potential vendors)
- Researched whether they should buy or sell first… among many, many other things…
They have likely then gone to Google and typed in ‘real estate agents your suburb’ or they’ve jumped onto one of the various agent review/rating platforms that they heard about on TV or online.
By this stage, they’ve already performed 65-90% of their decision making process we spoke about earlier and here’s the thing… they performed the majority (if not all) of their research on platforms and websites that don’t belong to real estate professionals. Why? Because the answers to their questions simply don’t exist on any real estate agency or agent website, even though real estate agents are the best people to be answering their questions.
The only thing left for them to do now is pick from the batch of agents in their local area with good reviews.
For the most part, real estate is marketing like it’s 1990. We’re shouting the same message we did back then, just on a different channel.
What should you do about it?
Over the past five years, we’ve been fortunate to have worked with some of Australia’s leading GCI agents and advise them on their marketing strategies. If it’s anything I’ve observed that they do differently to others when it comes to marketing, it’s this… they’re better at building and fostering relationships much earlier in someone’s real estate journey. By the time someone is ready to sell, they are the only (if not, at least one of the) agents being considered.
They spend less on advertising, less on flashy profile videos and less time on social media.
How each of these top performers goes about building relationships in their community is somewhat different, but they are all actively, deliberately, strategically cultivating relationships well before someone has the need for an agent.
Make no mistake, these top performers are ruthless prospectors but instead of interrupting what people are interested in like many other agents in their marketplace, they have become what people are interested in.
I recently read the book Marketing Rebellion by Mark Schaefer – an amazing snapshot in time of consumer trends today and how they’ve changed in the past 100 years.
Here’s a summary from the book itself about where we’re at today:
- We can’t buy our way into these conversations, We have to earn our way in with a new business approach that appeals to constant human truths.
- The businesses of the past were built on advertising impressions. Today, they are built on human impressions that help customers believe, belong, and find meaning.
But it is one line of the book that really stood out for me:
“You can’t be ‘for’ the city. You must be ‘of’ the city.”
Let me relate this to a scenario some agents will resonate with.
An agent decides, or they’ve been told by a marketing guru, it’s a good idea to sponsor the local football team because it’s ‘good old community-based marketing’.
The agent has handed over some dough in return for their face or logo on the jersey or the billboard around the oval. But they never show up to games. They never get involved in club events. They don’t know the names of any of the parents and worse, those parents wouldn’t have a clue who the agent is.
These agents exist and I’ve met a tonne of them. They are ‘for’ the city.
But the agents who consistently show up to games, maybe coach one of the teams or run the sideline, or man the bar, or run the sausage sizzle, or run the charity auction for the club’s annual fundraiser or help support the club in various other ways other then just giving them cash for a logo on a jersey… these agents are ‘of’ the city.
Featured Agent Profile: Paul Miles, King Heath First National
When a family from the local footy club or school is thinking of selling, which agent do you think they’re going to think of first? The one they’ve seen actively involved in the community or the one who only shows up to negotiate next year’s sponsorship fee?
You can’t be ‘for’ the city. You must be ‘of’ the city.
Offline vs. Online
Being physically seen in the community is limited to how much time you have but cultivating relationships online is only limited by your knowledge of how to use the internet and other tools to create content that people actually want and taking it to them on the channels they prefer, when they want it, consistently – and with minimal time out of your day as an agent.
Featured Agent Profile: Jason Boon, Richardson & Wrench Potts Point
If you’re asking yourself ‘Which is the best platform for generating leads in 2019?’, you’re asking the wrong question.
Today, you need to be asking…
- What content can I produce that will tell locals something they didn’t know about our community and/or real estate?
- What are the things people in our community are talking about right now?
- What is happening in our community that people are talking about?
- Who and/or what businesses in our local community are doing amazing things?
Produce stories about these things. Put them on your website. Share them across social media and email getting people back to your website. Do this consistently but with no expectation of getting a lead right away. Spread your ideas, your stories, your perspective, and people will come to you when they’re ready.
Don’t fall victim to what I like to call “engagement derangement syndrome” (EDS).
This is where an agent sees how many followers and engagement another agent has and seeks to copy everything they do because they think this is what you should do as an agent – the ‘just sold’ thing, the perfectly executed Instagram shot (actually taken by a professional photographer) thing, the ‘look at my latest suit’ thing… You get the point.
The problem with this strategy is that the overwhelming majority of that “popular” agent’s followers (and engagement) are other agents. Consumers could care less.
These are simply my observations from having worked with some of Australia’s top performers and the activities they perform to establish themselves as somebody’s agent before they need one. They are ‘of’ the city. It’s not to convince you to stop doing what you’re doing, that is if it’s working for you. If it’s not, it might be time to rethink your approach.
In an industry that is one of the least trusted of all industries, I fundamentally beleive the future of marketing in real estate, and becoming someone’s agent before they need one, is community.
Or, as Seth Godin puts it…
“Marketing is not for “everyone” anymore, but rather for “people like us”. This is the only way to build a “tribe”: a group of people who have a shared sense of meaning and connection. If your brand can create that kind of meaning and connection, you will see your customers speak up on your behalf.”