Create a brand that drives real estate referrals

Real estate agents are undeniably a great source of referrals for brokers, but getting the best of the industry to work with you takes more than a phone call and a handshake.

Create a brand that drives real estate referrals
Real estate agents are undeniably a great source of referrals for brokers, but getting the best of the industry to work with you takes more than a phone call and a handshake.
 
John Seroka, principal of specialist brand development firm Seroka, offers five questions every business owner should ask themselves before looking at any real estate relationships.
 
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1) Is your brand understood by your internal and external audiences?
 
If you have your doubts, then this is the perfect time to find out. What you don’t want in a fiercely competitive purchase environment is brand confusion internally or externally as you spend good money developing campaigns and putting ‘boots on the ground’.
 
To start, I recommend conducting a Brand Insight Assessment (BIA). This exercise can be completed in fairly quick fashion by developing a few key questions - multiple choice and open ended - and then sent off through SurveyMonkey to enable quick response time. The questions should be designed to assess overall awareness of your brand, what it stands for and where you stand competitively.
 
From this assessment, you can discover gaps in understanding and how well internal and external audience perceptions of your brand are aligned with each other and your intentions. If the results show gaps exist, you can now take action to close those gaps.
 
2) Are your brand’s unique selling points (USP’s) clear?
 
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Be able to articulate clearly and confidently why real estate agents should do business with you. If you feel your USPs lack strength, are too commonplace or not backed up by any real proof that they’re true, now is a good time to reevaluate them.
 
If you find yourself struggling with this piece as many do, you may need to enlist a brand consultant to walk you through the necessary steps to help you become clear on what your USPs are and how to properly communicate them for the best audience impact.
 
3) Do you have a communications strategy in place that targets real estate agents?
 
Your communications strategy for driving referral business is much different from that which you use to drive refinance business.
 
Many are used to marketing by the numbers through mail, broadcast and the internet. Models have been honed to drive predictable levels of response from each.
 
Your strategy for driving real estate referral business must be more comprehensive and leverage seminars, speaking engagements, networking events, realtor-specific sales materials, a blog, social media, testimonials (agents and home buyers), media relations and much more. Your goal needs to be expert positioning of your brand in the real estate community.
 
All activities should be organized into a schedule that identifies what you will do month by month over the next year. As your exposure begins to increase, beware of publications you've never heard of, video production companies that will get you TV spots on airlines or at obscure times on cable channels and other vendors that will come out of the woodwork trying to convince you that if only you spent some of your budget on their service, business would beat a path to your door. Evaluate them very carefully. Many can't keep the lofty promises they make…there’s no magic bullet.
 
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4) Does your way of doing business accommodate the needs of realtors and homebuyers on deadline to get deals closed?
 
You may want to assess your business communications and processes to make sure they’re congruent with being effective in a purchase environment. For example, how easy is it for referrers and home buyers to get status updates? Can they get them via the web or an app, or do they have to call and leave a voice mail message and wait for a call back? Is your company ‘set up’ to close loans within a reasonable time frame?
 
If you don’t feel like you’re quite ready from a communications and process standpoint, this should be an initial area of focus. If you mess up here, word spreads far and fast.
 
5) Are your employees true brand ambassadors?
 
It’s a fact that not everyone who works for you today should still be a part of your team tomorrow. Some of your employees may not have what it takes to move forward with your company for a variety of reasons - attitude, skill set, inability or unwillingness to change, etc. This is especially true for brokers who’ve built their careers over the recent past based on a flurry of refinance activity…they just may not have the skill or desire to work in a purchase market where it’s all about building relationships.
 
These pointers should help put your thought process for winning in a purchase market in the right direction.
 
Your brand must clearly state and provide ongoing proof of your desire, ability and focus on real estate agents.
 
Do you work with real estate agents in your business? What are the most effective ways to build a strong referral relationship? Share your thoughts below.