One of the top challenges brokers face today is attracting next gen consumers and agents. Brokers need to grasp expectations for both groups while balancing needs of their established ranks.
This was the topic of discussion at our debut Beta Broker Hangout earlier this month.
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate President and CEO Sherry Chris hosted two brokers, Vanessa Bergmark of Red Oak Realty in the San Francisco Bay Area and Leighton Dees of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Generations in Mobile, AL.
During the hour-long discussion, the brokers talked about interesting ways they’ve engaged agents and consumers and what has worked for them.
What is “Next Generation”?
Leighton pointed out that the term is not necessarily defined by age. Rather, it’s more of a mindset.
“This group of people have been influenced by technology and use it in their everyday interactions,” he said. “And because of this, they’ve grown to expect it in all facets of their lives, including their communication and transactions.”
They also value collaboration and new ways of thinking.
Both Vanessa and Leighton operate what we call “next generation” brokerages. While Leighton’s brokerage is fairly new, technology-centered and made up primarily of younger agents, Red Oak’s story is a little different.
Red Oak was already an established local brokerage in the San Francisco East Bay Area when Vanessa and her business partner took over the company in 2010. Since then they’ve created a blended culture of old and new.
“We have about 77 agents right now, and about 35-40 of them have been with the brokerage for 20-35 years,” Vanessa said.
One of the things Vanessa’s team did to harvest this culture was create an open workspace.They moved one of their main offices to a new space and literally knocked down walls.
As a result, the Red Oak office has become less of a quiet, working zone and more of a meeting and collaboration hub.
Leighton also has a new workspace at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Generations. The office has more of an open coffee shop feel than a standard office setting, he said.
In this scenario, more collaboration is inevitable, which helps foster new ideas that lead to positive influence and efficiencies that can bring the industry forward.
For recruiting, Vanessa said she’s found that her agents are her best recruiting tool. When your agents are happy, others will notice. The environment you build will attract the right type of agent.
Leighton has turned most of his marketing attention toward agents rather than consumers. “Focusing on them has given us more results in the end,” he said.
Specifically, he’s looked for ways to make agents feel special. In a recent marketing campaign, he featured individual agents as the stars of the ad. “We brought on about five new agents after that campaign,” he said.
Leighton also uses social media in his recruiting. He’s created various groups on Facebook, which have become effective ways to reach people. However, he made it clear that social media should not replace, but rather enhance interpersonal, one-on-one communications.
Position Your Brokerage as Next Generation
Red Oak has had a lot of success with public relations (PR) this year as a method for reaching consumers.
“We actively seek to get our brokerage in local market news stories,” Vanessa said.
And it’s working. Red Oak was recently featured on CBS and has received a lot of additional press highlighting the brokerage’s insights on local trends.
That extra effort to try to relate to the consumer and help them understand what is happening in the California and local markets has made a big difference. It helps to build trust for a group that’s been highly suspicious since the downturn in 2007.
PR also gives a brokerage the opportunity to show consumers that there’s still an art to what real estate professionals do, Vanessa added.
PR is one of the best ways to position a brokerage as experts at what they do. And the cost associated with it is minimal in comparison to advertising.
At Red Oak, Vanessa’s team has pulled a lot of responsibilities off their agents’ shoulders to instead create solid resources they can take advantage of in-house.
They have an advisory team that meets every month to go over what their agents need to serve customers in the best ways possible.
Red Oak also conducts surveys at the end of every transaction to discover what they did right and what they could’ve done better.
Leighton’s team consists of an in-house staff that focuses on producing assets for agents to help them get their job done, and done well. For example, they produce a video for every listing and send it to the agent who can then send to the client directly.
“It makes clients feel special about their listing,” he said, as they do this for every home regardless of size or value.
The next generation is the future of the real estate business. We received some great success strategies and tidbits from the participating brokerages. We’ll continue to post on this topic and others related to growing and evolving with changing times.
Join us for our next Beta Broker Hangout Monday, July 1, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. ET/ 11:00 a.m. PT on Winning Mobile Strategies.
For more information on the Beta Brokerage Project, see NextGenBrokerage.com
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