Leader of Leaders: The Rise of Leanne Pilkington
Leanne Pilkington has been in real estate for a long time. In that time, she has accumulated prestigious awards, setup organisations and established herself as a leader and role model. She is the president of REINSW, Managing Director of Laing+Simmons, and Founder of Real Women in Real Estate (RWIRE).
For someone so accomplished, Leanne Pilkington is down-to-earth and candid. As a woman I look up to, I was honoured to sit down with her to discuss how she got to where she is today, and the bright future she’s continuing to forge for herself and all women in the real estate industry.
Origins of a Real Estate Icon
A twelve-year old Leanne started out answering the phones at her dad’s real estate agency and would go on to become one of the most influential people in Australian real estate.
“It was never a burning passion,” Leanne says, talking about how she fell into real estate after graduating.
“Honestly, I went to Schoolies like everybody does, and I ran out of money. Dad said, “Yeah, all right, I’ll send you some money, so long as you work for me until you go to uni.’”
Leanne would work for her dad for eight years, learning her way around the industry.
“Working for dad wasn’t really ideal for me because I would give him too much of a hard time. I wouldn’t take directions from him. Typical teenage girl,” she jokes. “I recognised that I needed to get out of that environment if I really wanted to grow and develop a career.”
This knack for pushing herself out of her comfort zone is something that has defined Pilkington’s career. For a period, she even made a move into other industries before returning to real estate in the 90s, when she would join Laing+Simmons.
Leanne has been there ever since. In 2015 when she was named Managing Director, she was the only female managing director in NSW, and one of the few across the country. From there, she has gone on to become the president of REINSW, where she wields tremendous influence in NSW residential property, an industry which turns over $107 billion annually.
Leanne Pilkington: Advocate for Technology
Pilkington says that in all her time as an agent, the biggest changes to real estate have come from technology.
“I think that in my first 25 years of real estate, nothing has really changed,” she told us, “the only thing that would change would be the market conditions. But now there is so much money being poured into technology, and although I don’t think we’ve really seen a disruption yet, it’s coming.”
Leanne is working to turn Laing+Simmons into the real estate brand of the future.
“We’re working on a lot of really exciting technology at the moment. I’m really pumped to see how that makes a difference in helping agents better personalise their communication, better manage their databases, have better information about what’s going on in their market.”
At the core of Laing+Simmons new platform is a CRM that is empowered with robust business intelligence, artificial intelligence, and virtual agents. Leanne says that this is a strategic move, with “much better information for our agents about what’s going on in the market and just better consumer insights.”
Already Laing+Simmons is seeing results. The virtual assistant alone has improved conversions off enquiries by 13 per cent.
“All of our marketing will be automated so that we can have a much better brand compliance,” she said. She emphasised that this would make it “much easier for agents to roll out the campaigns that we develop for them, across all of their different platforms.”
Far from being pessimistic about the disruption that technology will bring, Pilkington is eager to embrace it. She does not imagine a dystopian future where the robots take over. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“I don’t believe for a minute that it’s going to be the end of real estate agents. I think that the relationships are still really important. But agents need to get smart about how they utilise the technology.”
Leanne says that agents should get smart by thinking about how they can serve the customer.
“The reality is that consumers have changed as a result of technology. Their expectations have changed. The way they research things has changed. The way they want to buy things has changed. And so we’re going to have to change with it.”
Leader of Leaders
As the founder of Real Women in Real Estate (RWIRE) and nominee for three REB Women in Real Estate Awards, it might surprise you to learn that Leanne Pilkington was initially a reluctant hero for women in real estate.
It all started in 2015, when some of her colleagues were urging her to throw an event for women in the industry. Leanne resisted.
“I didn’t personally need something like that, so I didn’t understand that there was even a need.”
Leanne eventually caved in and the event blew up.
She got triple the number of attendees she expected and women were flying in from out of state. Leanne realised that there was a need for this kind of event and threw herself into the project that would eventually become RWIRE. Now, RWIRE has spread to 11 locations across Australia, to New Zealand and even LA. In June it will host its 50th event.
“It’s been much more successful than I ever expected. I didn’t understand it to start with, but I do now.”
Part of the popularity, Leanne thinks, stems from an absence of women in leadership positions and on stages at conferences and events. To combat this, RWIRE has a focus on outreach and education, including a new podcast, Courageous Conversation, which launches on the first of June.
“It’s about the conversations that we all have, not just women. But it’s really to encourage women that don’t like those difficult conversations around leadership, to be game enough to approach it and realise that good things happen on the other side.
When asked about all of the different advocacy projects she’s working on, she stops for a moment.
“I sound really busy when I’m talking about it like this, don’t I?” she remarks.
I acknowledge that she must get up early in the morning
“I do, yeah,” she laughs. “You’re quite right.”
For a person to become a multi-award winning Managing Director of an acclaimed agency, President of powerful industry institution and founder of a global organisation, I imagine Leanne Pilkington must get up very early indeed.
Seventeen Appraisal Requests in 24 Hours: The Story of Ray White Sandringham
Implementing new technology in an office, group or brand level is never an easy feat for the poor tech officer in charge of facilitating its rollout. Once they’ve convinced those up top that the product will return a solid ROI, they then face the mammoth task of persuading a bunch of notoriously time-poor agents to not only spend precious hours learning the system but to maintain momentum once the initial push has subsided.
Sammie Johnson, the Systems & Technology Trainer for City Realty in New Zealand, is all too aware of the difficulties.
“Being in the Tech Team, we sometimes find it hard to push technology that I know will improve their business. You have to pitch it to them in dollar format, and generally most won’t get onboard…until they see someone else making money or progress from it.”
After seeing the results ActivePipe was generating for other Ray White agents, Sammie insisted that her group of offices sign up too. Expecting inevitable pushback, she couldn’t believe what happened next.
When her Sandringham office tentatively switched on the platform one Wednesday afternoon, something magical occurred. By the next day, they’d secured a whopping 17 appraisal requests and excitement was in the air as the team realised that this was just the beginning.
“It’s just a huge game changer for us. These are crazy numbers! Plus, it’s really simple and user friendly,” says Sammie.
No one in the office was more excited than Susan Woods-Markwick. In the first 30 minutes of ActivePipe she’d landed 7 appraisal requests. The multi award-winning agent is already known as a powerhouse in Auckland but now she had access to a system that was only going to skyrocket her business further.
“It’s exciting and liberating! Keep it coming!” she says.
Susan’s principal, Phil Horrobin, knew that it was going to change the way he ran and trained the staff in his office.
“It’s going to be a significant part of our business, you know. I mean data is so readily available now that we see agents growing their databases like it’s a kind of obsession. Actually being able to manage and communicate with them though is a whole other level. So, now with ActivePipe you could have an agent with a database of 10,000 people but they’ll actually be speaking to the right people, at the right time, as opposed to sitting down and making ten cold calls from that 10,000. So it’s going to be a big change for us”.
Do you remember Sammie’s initial concern about getting agents onboard with the platform? Well, after seeing the results in Sandringham, the other offices under her technological gaze couldn’t be more eager to follow suit.
“It’s a big step forward and a big game changer for our growth. It’s great, we’re very happy about it. We love ActivePipe!”
So, success all round for Sammie Johnson and the team at Ray White Sandringham.
How Many Emails are Too Many Emails?
I love training new ActivePipe users.
I get a real kick out of how excited they get as we work through the platform together. It’s like skipping straight to the tearjerker at the end of the movie, when the lead character realises that after all these years and all these hardships, their life is about to make a drastic change for the better.
It might sound extreme, but in my experience, that’s the power of this platform.
As I’ve finessed my skills as a trainer, I’ve found that the number of questions I’m asked during a session is diminishing. There is one regular though that consistently rears its head and is deserving of some explanation.
How Many Emails are Too Many Emails?
I hear this all the time.
No one wants to be a ‘spray and pray’ marketer and BSOs are rightfully wary of the term ‘automation’. They know that how often you send affects engagement rates and as a result, how many listings you land.
So how many are too many? How many are not enough? Should an agent put on the brakes or step on the throttle?
At the end of the day, there is no ‘magic email number.’ You’re better off focusing on a few simple rules which will guarantee that your emails are well-received and bursting with value.
Here’s what I recommend.
Content, Content, Content
Before you send anything out, you need to ask yourself, “What value will my audience gain from receiving this message?”
Many email automation providers simply send the same email to everyone on a list. Naturally, this means that for many receivers, the emails are going to be ‘low-value’ and you’ll notice open and click-through rates drop whilst unsubscribes soar.
This is where intuitive software like ActivePipe can help. Because the content of your emails tailors to the requirements of each individual in your database, you know that they’re only receiving information relative to their needs. Voila! High-value information equals high-value engagement.
An Out of Control Database
The cleaner your database, the better your emails will perform. It’s as simple as that. Database maintenance may feel like the last priority on your to-do list but the truth is, an agent is only as good as their contacts. If your list is clean and you’re only sending properties to interested parties, 9 times out of 10, they’ll be salivating for your next move.
The presentation of your email is paramount. If it’s poorly arranged, the images aren’t crisp or your fonts are dated and tasteless you’re in big trouble. If an email is unpleasant to look at, it doesn’t matter how great your listings are, you’re going to look unprofessional and ultimately end up in the dreaded trash can.
Are your emails not producing many inquiries? Make sure that your CTAs are in check. By making it as simple as possible to get in touch, you’ll encourage anyone who’s sitting on the fence to get in contact with you regardless. Capitalise on people’s laziness.
So That’s the Secret!
At the end of the day, it all comes down to value. If your emails contain relevant information, are easy to read and include a clear call-to-action, the number of emails you send out isn’t that important. With a little trial and error, you’ll naturally find your own ‘magic email number’ and there’s no better number for you than that.
If you’d like to speak to someone about how you can create and automate emails bursting with value, get in touch with Ebany and the team here.
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Buxton: Hyper Relationships through Boutique Singularity
In my journey to understand the inner workings of Australasia’s best real estate brands, I’ve been captivated by the concept of utilising technology to curate personalisation en masse. Successfully integrating automated systems into an industry that relies so heavily on interpersonal interaction isn’t easy and many brands have suffered through the teething process of trying to perfect the balance between efficiency and providing a service that maintains real estate’s integral personal touch.
One brand that has seamlessly mastered this domain is Buxton. Through smart database setups that allow each agent to build hyper relationships with their clients, Buxton is changing the way we think about email automation and its often misconceived perception as a vessel for impersonal spam.
I sat down with Buxton CEO, Nathan Jones and Operations Manager, Fiona White to find out how this boutique brand has positioned itself as one of Victoria’s most personal real estate groups.
At ActivePipe, we are driven to personalise the email communication experience for real estate customers whilst giving agents the ease of intuitive automation. You have taken it to the next level at Buxton. Can you tell me about how you’re achieving this?
Nathan: We’ve set up our database so that every contact in the system is only ever hearing from one agent. The difference between our database and other brands is they have all these siloed databases whilst we just have one. This means that no matter whether a contact has gone to different agent’s OFIs or bought property off someone else, they are still the client of that original agent.
We just wanted to make sure that we never had a scenario where two Buxton agents were sending eDMs to the one person with the same properties or even different types of properties. Relationship singularity is extremely important to us.
We’re trying to build the hyper relationship between the agent and the client through these eDMs and ultimately that came down to us making sure that we weren’t competing with ourselves.
How did ActivePipe help you achieve this?
Nathan: In terms of building out the customer journey, we had been running with a couple of ideas for a few years but the system we were using was a bit like a dumbwaiter. There was no feedback and no intuitive AI behind it to tell us to send out another communication after someone had engaged. It was just, ‘On Thursdays this email goes out’ or ‘On Fridays this email goes out’. We still had that one-on-one contact but there was nothing smart about it. So the ultimate leap for us was taking it to the next level with ActivePipe.
So in terms of your nurture program, imagine that I’m a dormant lead and haven’t spoken to someone from Buxton for a significant period of time. How do you trigger off a journey?
Fiona: We send out ActivePipe’s Data Discovery Surveys once a quarter. That’s just if they haven’t interacted with any correspondence from us. They’ll also receive monthly ‘Sold’ reports for their desired area. So, regardless of whether you’re interacting or not, you’ll always get an email from us once a month and then quarterly with the Data Discovery Survey.
This leads perfectly into my next question which is around clean data. The Data Discovery Surveys are so effective at keeping a well-maintained database, which Buxton agents are great at. What are some of the benefits you are leveraging through this information?
Fiona: It’s so easy to forecast behaviour when you use the dashboard properly. You can see people’s home address, where they’ve been searching and you can see that they’ve been self-appraising among other things. You’ve got that next level of data rather than just, ‘Oh, I’ve got their address’ or ‘I know where they live’. Our agents are able to have a personalised conversation with their contacts.
Nathan: The piece of data that I’ve always found missing on real estate databases which I find slightly comical is a property address. We’re in the business of building relationships and transacting on properties, so it would be handy to know where people lived. If you know where someone lives, what you can do is pretty limitless in terms of the information that you serve them. Without it, you’re fighting with one arm tied behind your back. That is the importance of clean data, of quality data. If you don’t have it, you’re going to struggle.
I want to know more about how you’re helping create better experiences for your customers. How receptive are they being to the automated comms being sent to them? Are they receptive it or are you getting pushback?
Nathan: We’re not having pushback at all. People want customised marketing. They don’t want generic, impersonal communication coming through. If people shop at Country Road, it asks them to put in their size, height, shape and all of a sudden they start sending comms featuring appropriate clothes. It’s the same thing. People don’t have to time to sift through hundreds of messages to find the two that make sense. They just want the two that make sense. That’s the beauty of what I call the pre-framing process with ActivePipe.
I’m particularly interested around branding and how you maintain brand integrity. How can an agent maintain their individuality without jeopardising the Buxton brand?
Nathan: So for us, it’s all about freedom within boundaries. We create the boundaries of the email templates, and some are tighter than others. With ActivePipe we’ve been able to lock down as much as we feel we need to in terms of branding and logos. In terms of content, we create an absolute truckload of it on a daily basis that we encourage people to use. We don’t limit or cap how much or how little agents use but at least they don’t have to go out there and try and create it themselves. We have a range of blog posts, social posts, local business interviews, photography and trends. Anything you can think of, our social and media team create. Then it’s up to the agents to drag-and-drop what they want.
There’s so much to talk about in terms of technology and training your agents around this technology that we will talk about in our next catch up. Is there anything more you’d like to finish off with today in regards to personalisation and the methods you’re implementing to ensure it?
Nathan: Just that in all honesty the number of non-direct inquiries to our website has been significantly reduced post-ActivePipe, even though our traffic volume has drastically increased, thanks to clicks from the properties and content in our ActivePipe emails. The communication is so targeted that without knowing it, our agents are building a one-on-one relationship with clients and when these clients are clicking on emails they’re just going straight to the agent.
We deliver both automated and customised content, so irrespective of individual agent time constraints, we know at a minimum that we control a certain level of communication with our clients and contacts. Every single email comes from the individual; i.e. John Smith at Buxton, not an impersonal ‘no reply’ at Buxton. It’s as simple as that.
Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for part two of my interview with Nathan and Fiona.
If you’d like to speak to someone from ActivePipe about how you can personalise your communications and increase website traffic, get in touch here.
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Reece Prewett: Recruitment, Retention and the Power of the Database
Reece Prewett is the proud business owner and principal of Ray White Papakura, New Zealand. A master of the corporate world, Reece’s career has seen him in senior executive positions spanning four continents and nearly twenty exceptional years. His ability to drive global teams through significant growth and transformation makes his insights into the benefits of ActivePipe incredibly valuable.
We were lucky to catch up with Reece to chat about the improvements he’s seen in his business and in his agents since joining the ActivePipe family.
AP: Hi Reece, thank you for taking the time to chat today. Even though your office is pretty new to ActivePipe you’re already seeing some fantastic results. Can you tell me a little bit about how are you using the platform and how you are finding it so far?
RP: We’ve had the immediate benefits of appraisal requests and loan market requests coming through, which is fantastic! But the real juice is coming from those who mine the data in the ‘Hot Leads’ category. It’s the people who are clicking on properties multiple times, revealing their intentions about buying and selling and putting their details in through the website. We are loving that.
AP: Do you find that the information that is coming through is allowing your agents to have better conversations with these leads?
RP: It’s giving direction. You may have 1000 people in your database but when it comes to 10am Monday morning, who are you going to call? You want to start your day by making ten calls and what ActivePipe does is make those ten ‘hot calls’ as opposed to ten ‘hit-or-miss’ calls.
You’re making the right calls, at the right time, to the right people.
AP: How does AP help you train and manage the agents in your office?
RP: We have 25 agents in our office and ActivePipe helps us to work out which of those need some support. In my experience, agents can be highly effective at their jobs but not run a good database. The truth is, they could make twice as much money and have twice as much leisure time if they utilise the platform to maximise their database. They might even get their weekends back for themselves.
I’ll give you an example.
Our Number Two salesperson has 500 people in his database but it’s not well constructed. ActivePipe has allowed us to see that this is a problem and we’re now able to use it as an opportunity for him to improve his business. The guy’s already getting really good numbers so we wouldn’t necessarily have noticed his mismanaged database but he could be doing so much more and in half the time!
AP: How do your agents feel about using this new platform?
RP: I’m now using ActivePipe as my recruitment tool! This is because agents want leadership, support and something to help them deal with being so time poor. A lot of agents are time poor, so if you told them you’d organised a PA for them, they’d literally grab you with five arms, give you a hug and say, “Where do I start”?
That’s not a particularly cost-effective thing to do. With ActivePipe, I’m effectively giving them half a PA for free and it does all that work for them in the background.
For example, I’ve just recruited one prospect who was sold by the platform. At first he was going to wait until next year to join us but he ended up saying, ‘‘Yep – I’m done”, and he literally joined us the next week.
AP: Let’s talk about the technology side of things. Has there been any resistance to learning the new system?
RP: Absolutely. People just don’t like change, right? People who say that they like change are bullshitting you.
I think the young, smart agents coming through know that they don’t need to be tech-savvy but they do need to be using technology wisely and properly. The good thing about ActivePipe is that you don’t need to be an IT savvy individual, you literally just have to walk up to it, turn it on and make the phone calls.
Once you’re in and swimming around it’s like ‘Wow’.
AP: So you obviously think that technology is important for the future of the industry but do you think it is, specifically for your business?
RP: I think it’s important for every business. I think other small to mid-sized businesses out there won’t embrace it and that’s good for me because I know those people will drop off over time.
You don’t have to be that far ahead of your competition. It’s just like running away from a cheetah – you just need to be that little bit faster. So whilst ActivePipe is a great recruitment tool, it’s just as much a retention tool. Once they’re in and setting up their stuff each week and checking their database it’s almost like they can’t leave. How could they?
AP: So it becomes a very sticky product?
RP: Yeah, but in a good way, right! If you can have steak at home why would you leave and have hamburgers next door.
AP: You’ve had some really good appraisal request numbers coming through your account. Has that helped in terms of numbers of listings?
RP: Has it improved our business? Yes, absolutely. For example, since we’ve started my Top Agent has received two listings through the platform which equates to $30-40,000 NZD that’s coming in the front door. It’s probably paid for ten years worth of ActivePipe!
AP: So, it’s actually giving you as a business owner the chance to not only help your agents but to improve your business as well?
RP: It’s a total win-win. With ActivePipe, you’ve got recruitment, you’ve got retention and then you’ve got the ability to squeeze the juice out of a lemon. You’re presented with another money spinner by being able to generate leads that are not being managed and because they’ve been presented the way ActivePipe does, it’s very easy for the company to pick that up.
AP: Thanks Reece. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
RP: I’d just like to say that we were a bit timid about turning it on but you’ve just got to jump in the cold water and have a swim. ActivePipe has made a real impact and it’s a really positive one. I can’t think of any downside.
Ray White: Customer Centricity through Innovation
As a marketer, I’m fascinated by how brands seek utopia; a technology led, customer-centric approach with a frictionless experience that leaves a customer saying quite simply, ‘Wow’. In my pursuit of knowledge, I decided to start close to home, with Ray White, one of our biggest clients and a brand that is synonymous with the property and real estate industry throughout Australasia.
An industry leader and a force to be reckoned with, the Ray White group includes footprints across Australasia, Asia and the Middle East and is supported by an incredible 13,000 employees. I was lucky enough to sit down with two of Ray White’s leaders; Mark McLeod – CEO of Growth and Jason Alford – National Technology Manager, to discuss how being at the forefront and embracing technology is enabling Ray White to create seamless customer experiences. It was an eye opening and thought provoking conversation, to say the least.
Guys, thank you both for taking the time. There’s so much to talk about, I’d like to jump right in and start the conversation by looking at the current trends you are seeing in technology and across the industry.
MM: I guess the biggest thing we are seeing is the use of AI and machine learning (ML), which allows us to offer customers a much deeper and richer experience than what we were seeing in the past, as well as customer identification earlier in the process. This is what’s going to enable us to get ahead of our customers’ expectations.
Technology, for us, is designed to do one thing, and that’s to put more of our Ray White people in touch with more prospects, at the right time. It’s AI and ML that are going to allow us to do that in a way that’s going to enhance the customer experience.
Mark, you often speak of the 80/20 split. 20 being the percentage of elite agents who make up the ecosystem. How does technology enhance those elite agents and help them to achieve peak performance?
MM: We’ve been on this journey for well over ten years now.
Many of our people are using this technology today without even realising that they’re using technology. It’s just a part of their life. Even the way we’ve integrated ActivePipe is ‘business as usual’ for many of our offices. They’re not thinking about how it turned up and they’re not thinking about it as this ‘wonderful technology’. It’s like our mobile phones. Nobody thinks about their mobile phones as great technology, they’re just here now.
For example, when we first got ActivePipe, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing but now we talk about it like it’s an auction or a sole agent. It doesn’t matter if you’re an elite agent or not, it’s just part of our DNA now.
That’s an interesting point. I believe the smartest technology should always be working in the background for you and incorporating itself into your life in a seamless, almost unnoticeable way.
JA: We just keep slowly infiltrating technology into our agents’ lives and they just keep on integrating it without any push back.
That’s allowed us to get better analytics, which allows us to make better decisions, which allows us to get better optics on the path we want to take. That’s because the data now shows us patterns, which allows us to keep going on the journey.
One of the strategic benefits of partnering with ActivePipe is the Profiles and the Intent features, along with the data that your system is capturing. It’s moving our agents’ behaviour towards what we call the ‘full service offering’.
Ray White is one of the only franchisors which offers loan market and financial services, a concierge offering a full suite of services, as well as our Home Now service, which offers utility connections. ActivePipe has allowed us to have richer conversations that allow us to offer our full suite of services.
Changing direction, how do you train your agents for success and those richer conversations?
MM: A number of years ago we created a training program called Accelerate, which was the first program to fully integrate the art of selling real estate with our full technology suite. The moment that an agent actually enters our world, they are greeted with, “Here’s the art of how you list and sell a home,” as well as, “Here’s how you list and sell a home under the umbrella of our technology suite.”
It’s fully integrated from the moment they enter our network.
JA: We also have 12 digital Business Development Executives (BDE), whose full time job is to go into our network and fully integrate our tech offerings into the daily lives and processes of our offices. They monitor the use of our technology suite, office by office, so that we can get a lens on any given stage of implementation and see which offices are falling behind, and with what tech application. Then the BDEs can be deployed to go out and support them.
Integrating new technologies within a business is always a challenge, particularly when there’s an upheaval of change. How receptive are your principals and what lessons have you learned?
MM: How long is a piece of string? Of course, there’s a wide range of responses but contextually I think that our network is very encouraged by our advancements and the direction of our company. Many of them feel very comfortable that there is a dedicated team and resources to steer our way through the technology future.
We’ve made some mistakes, which is part of it. We learned from these, but they trust us to work with them to focus a lot more on the future. By and large, that’s worked fairly well. We are going to be faced with some enormous challenges in the next period of time, but our belief is that what we are creating is tech-enhanced agents. We believe that an agent should always be at the centre of a transaction and we believe that agents who use technology more will be at the centre of technology more often.
How do you keep Ray White on the cusp of the next big thing?
MM: For the last four years we’ve been taking a dedicated team over to America for Inman. While we’re there, we make time to catch up with various parties that we identify with, such as analysis companies and AI and ML types. We benchmark core application platforms and keep a running product matrix of CRM providers. We also have a strong research team that makes sure that when we are making these bets and investing capital in that technology, that it’s not without risk management and understanding.
From a customer centric viewpoint, what’s in your pipeline?
MM: We’re working towards fully frictionless workflows for our sales people and compressing transactions to make it easy for someone to list their home with Ray White, and to make it easy for someone to choose Ray White.
JA: This will allow us to provide a better customer experience. We are a very big believer that it is all about our vendor and creating competition. We believe we can create competition by leveraging the scale, size and reach of our group. You’ll see that the amount of buyer inquiries that we receive on a monthly, daily and quarterly basis is second to none across the Australian real-estate landscape.
Are we leveraging that to its full potential? No, we’re not. Is that the journey that we’re on? Yes, it is. It comes down to ROI. Am I going to spend $200 a month on a bit of software if it is bringing me leads, listings or revenue, or saving me time, productivity or efficiency? Yes I am.
Final one, what role do you see ActivePipe playing?
MM: I think ActivePipe will play a significant role for us. It’s really opened much our networks’ eyes to the fact that targeted, customer centric comms get engagement. I think showing our network that they can provide a service for a customer, earlier in their real estate journey has been a really good thing.
As a group our whole focus is on connection. There’s the digital connection that ActivePipe plays a role in, but it’s how we use that digital connection to create a physical connection. We believe our core product is trust and we believe that trust is built from relationships. We have a saying in our company, “Make a list of all the people you have a relationship with that you’ve never spoken to.”
The answer to that question is that you don’t. So we use those tools to open up that relationship channel through to our core product.
Amanda Stinton: The Queen of Green Real Estate
The pursuit of innovation drives everything we do at ActivePipe.
We take pride in always placing one foot firmly in front of the technology and real estate curve but we also believe that the protection of our environment must go hand-in-hand with this innovation. We believe that working with mother nature, rather than destroying what she so graciously gives us, is the key not only to our success as a business but the future of our global economy.
As such, it was with great excitement I was able to meet Amanda Stinton, the Director of Sustainability and Green Designation for the National Association of REALTORS® during one of the mentoring sessions I attended as part of the NAR Reach® Program, which ActivePipe has been honoured to be included in as part of the 2018 class.
Amanda is responsible for the growth and strategic direction of NAR’s Sustainability Program and works tirelessly to position NAR as a leading voice on sustainability in the built environment. She helps realtors across America feel confident in guiding their clients through the benefits of sustainability, green homes and communities.
Put simply, she is the Queen of Green Real Estate.
I was lucky to reconnect and catch a moment in Amanda’s schedule to discuss why it’s so imperative that real estate and business work together and why it doesn’t have to cost us the earth, or our profit margins.
“Research tells us that real estate consumers are requesting more information about the sustainability aspects of their purchase,” she tells me.
“Homebuyers are looking for lower maintenance homes that cost less to run and operate and this is driven largely by millennials who are after sustainable lifestyles”.
Through their network of over 1.3 million members, Amanda and her NAR colleagues are able to record and analyze an unprecedented amount of data on consumer wants and behaviour.
“61% of REALTORS® from our nationwide survey said their clients were interested in sustainability topics and the benefits that sustainability provides, such as comfortable living space, access to frequently visited places, and reasonable operating and utility costs.”
She is adamant that green education needs to be offered from the corporate level, and says that executives need to be just as aware of the changing eco-expectations as the agents who are selling these homes out in the field.
“First and foremost, get educated. As the percentage of millennial homebuyers continues to grow, it’s important that real estate professionals can answer the questions that are important to buyers. At NAR, we offer a Green Designation program as an added professional credential to help teach agents about new developments in sustainable building, as well as an in-depth understanding on how to value, list and market homes with green features”.
This is where I get excited. I want to know exactly how the big industry players are reconciling ethics with economics and getting the right properties in front of the right prospects, to ultimately meet a consumer need.
Ironically, the answer lies in the ever-onward march of smart technology.
“We’re now able to search for MLS listings based on their green features. A client might not even know that they’re asking for a ‘green’ home but because they are searching for the trademark benefits, such as lower utility bills or connected technology, standardized datafields allow these features to be accessed by agents in the same “language” regardless of their market,” she says.
“Appraisers can now assign value to green features or certifications on properties and once this data is entered, it “lives” with the property, allowing future buyers to better understand the home’s operation and performance”.
MLS systems are also incorporated with a ‘green’ category to make the process easier for agents.
Pretty cool hey?
It seems that the same “smart” upgrades that consumers are seeking for their homes, such as smart thermostats, renewable energy systems and wellness spaces are being used by the industry to better market these sustainable homes to the growing population of buyers that want them.
According to Amanda, the journey has only just begun. Business leaders have plenty to look out for, so can’t afford to become complacent if they want to stay relevant and in tune with the needs of their customers.
“Well, our Centre for REALTOR Technology is keeping a close eye on trends related to smart homes, the internet of things, and healthy indoor environments, so stay tuned”.
There’s no doubt that we have a lot more to learn from Amanda and her team as we continue our progression through the NAR Accelerator Reach® Program. I very much look forward to sharing with you what we discover.
Green is good, for you and your business.
Shane Colquhoun: A Winning Principal
Shane Colquhoun is the principal of LJ Hooker Nerang, which was recently crowned ‘Regional Sales Office of the Year’ at the 2018 Real Estate Business (REB) Awards. He believes that cultivating team longevity through individual coaching and exceptional office culture are the principles behind a winning principal. At publication, his office has generated 122 appraisal requests through ActivePipe.
AP: Congratulations on your real estate success this year, what does it mean to you to see your office getting this type of recognition?
SC: It’s a reflection and an appreciation for all the hard work that you do over the years and it’s a big tick for the culture that we have here. It’s nice to be recognised with awards but it really assists with the culture.
AP: Is there a particular highlight from the last year that you’d like to share with us?
SC: Moving into the new office was definitely a massive highlight. After years of having the goal of giving the team a better working environment, having it come together was something very special.
AP: What are the qualities that you believe got your team to the top?
SC: I’d have to say that working as a team and having team longevity helps. Recruiting and training are a big part of a business but when you’ve had people here forever the business will improve every year. It’s nice to bring people in who become part of the turning cog in a machine and working well, so it’s easy for new people to start because there’s a lot of long-termers here.
AP: Tell me about the everyday routine of your agents. What are the little things they do each day that sets them up for success?
SC: Everyone is coached individually. At the end of the day, everybody has a strength and a weakness and it’s about highlighting the strengths rather than working on the weaknesses. If someone has been working in real estate for ten years and has a weakness, I think it’s always going to be there, so we support in the weakness and grow the strength.
AP: Your office has generated 122 appraisal requests through ActivePipe, which is huge! How do you make sure that ActivePipe is incorporated into the daily routine of your agents?
SC: It’s a non negotiable. We have it in the office and you have to use it, whether you’ve been here for one day or for twenty years. It’s one of those automated tools that makes people’s jobs easier.
AP: What advice do you have for agents who are just starting out in the business of buying and selling homes?
SC: God help them!
No, I’m joking. I was actually driving to work today thinking just how lucky all these new agents are with the technology on offer. They need to utilise the technology but also remember that it’s all about talking to people. Too many agents rely only on the great technology and believe its going to be the answer to all of their wishes but at the end of the day, you still have to talk to people. You have to build relationships over the phone and touch base as regularly as possible. I look back at when I was a successful sales person and I didn’t have any technology, I didn’t even have an email address, it was all about knocking out 30-50 phone calls a day.
If you did that many phone calls today, with the backup of this fantastic technology there’s no excuse for anyone joining the industry today to not make it work.
AP: What mistakes do you see other principals making that are inhibiting their business?
SC: At the end of the day, it’s growth. It’s not putting on enough sales staff or failing to grow your property management team.
AP: What would you say to agents who are thinking about giving ActivePipe a try?
YES! But, remember that you can’t rely just on the technology. If a contact is in real estate mode, they’ll open your emails but if they’re not they’ll probably click out of them, so for those times you have to have other things in place to stay front-of-mind.
Rising To The Top With Glen Coutinho
When it comes time for REB to announce their ‘Top 100 Agents in Australia’ each year, the ActivePipe office is always abuzz. Our agents consistently place in top positions, so as you can imagine, we can’t wait to get our little mitts on the prestigious list and congratulate these real estate superstars for their outstanding achievements.
2018 did not disappoint.
Of Australia’s top five agents, three are ActivePipe users and we couldn’t be more proud of them. Taking out the number five spot this year is our friend Glen Coutinho, the Director and Senior Auctioneer at RT Edgar, Boroondara. With 33 years experience and a whopping $340, 529, 700 worth of sales under his belt in the last twelve months alone, he’s an undeniable powerhouse of the industry. ActivePipe was lucky to catch him for a quick chat and to pick his brain for the secrets to his success.
AP: Hi Glen, thank you so much for speaking to us today and a huge congratulations for being named the number five agent in Australia. You’ve had an incredible year, what’s been the highlight for you?
GC: The highlight for me is that I’ve been able to achieve all this whilst still having three and a half to four months off for the year. I was able to travel to America with my family and manage my customers whilst I was away, which means that the system works well for me.
AP: So you managed to achieve that elusive work/life balance?
AP: What are the qualities that got you to the top of the real estate game?
GC: I believe my greatest quality is loving people. My biggest strength is spoiling my customers. From birthdays to wedding anniversaries, I just always make the effort to acknowledge the success of all my clients. I spend most of my time with people and I just want to spoil them.
AP: Tell us about your everyday routine. What are the little things you do that sets you up for success?
GC: I start my morning between 7:30am and 8am on social media. I wish all my clients happy birthday, acknowledge special dates and all those types of things. I do this by 8am and then send out some gifts to my clients and get on the phone. I make 30-40 calls a day to past clients and I’ve done that consistently for 33 years.
AP: How do you incorporate ActivePipe into your everyday routine?
GC: It’s an important part of my routine because ActivePipe is the touchpoint for all my customers that are on email. I’ve got almost 30,000 customers and a lot of them get sent an ActivePipe email every week. It’s especially important for the local and overseas contacts that I can’t keep in touch with. It means they can get an email with my face on it and an update on the market.
AP: Do you think this has helped you in your pursuit to be one of the top agents in the country?
GC: It certainly has helped! I meet so many people that the sheer volume can be hard to keep up with. If I forget to ring someone, ActivePipe is like my backup. Say I’ve been chasing someone for twenty years and I forget to ring them for six months, they’re still getting my face in front of them every week. Each Thursday, ActivePipe puts my face in front of 5000 people and most them think that I’ve written the emails individually, so it really works in my favour.
AP: How important is embracing technology like ActivePipe for the future of real estate?
GC: Look I think it’s critical, especially if you’ve been in real estate for a long time. The younger guys are doing it but people in their 40s to 60s think they don’t need to. Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that you do. It’s a critical part of business in the 2000s and will continue to be moving into the future.
AP: What advice would you give to agents who are just starting out in the business?
If you’re just starting out, you need to be in the office and at your desk by 8am. You need to consistently make 40 to 50 calls a day and you need to make ActivePipe a critical part of your business. If you want to make the best of ActivePipe, you need to get it in front of 1000 people very fast. If you’ve got 1000 people getting one of these emails every week, you’re in the game. By the time you get to 10,000 contacts, it comes down to sheer numbers. You can’t lose.
How to Use ActivePipe to Start Your Day on the Right Foot
Another day, another inconvenient meeting scheduled. You have a thousand things to do but you’re stuck in the office as your colleagues go around the table telling each other what they have on their to-do lists.
Your mind wanders as you question whether any of this will make a difference to your commission. Would you miss out on anything if you slipped out early and went down the road for a sneaky caffeine hit?
I doubt it….
What if I told you that with no extra effort ActivePipe could shorten your sales meetings, provide relevant content and fatten your commission cheque at the end of each month?
If you’ve been part of the ActivePipe family for a while now, you’ll know the platform works by communicating with your database on a regular basis. It sends automated property emails that invite interaction without an agent needing to lift a finger.
That’s great but do you ever pay close attention to what your customer’s interactions are saying about their real estate interests?
There is way more to ActivePipe then simple email automation. We’ve got data that will turn your meetings from drab time-wasters to seriously efficient motivators. All you have to do is follow these simple tips:
Pay Attention to Your Dash
Let’s start with your ActivePipe dashboard. Think of this as the Ferrari of property reports. At a glance you can see who’s been interacting with your listings the most, these are known as your ‘high value contacts’. You can also check out your ‘up and coming contacts’ and your ‘most popular properties’. Take note of these stats before you come into your staff meetings and you’ll know exactly who you should be calling and what properties you should pitch.
Discuss Reports at Every Meeting
Now that you know who’s clicking on what, it’s time to check out your individual campaign reports. This will tell you exactly who’s opened your emails and what links they’ve been interacting with. This is a ready made piping hot call list! It’s been handed to you by the real estate gods, all you have to do is make the call.
Organise Follow Ups
When a new contact enters your database, they are sent a survey that asks them about their real estate intentions. You’d be a fool to let this opportunity slip by. They are taking time out of their day to answer personal questions which you can then use as a conversation starter. These are the easiest calls you are going to make. No more cold calling for you!
Preparation is a Dirty Word
The best part of all this is how simple and fast it is to access such game changing information. By adding a few ActivePipe dashboard clicks to your pre-meeting routine, you’ll not only save time but you’ll also set yourself up for a kick-ass, money making day!
The Surprising Benefits of Going Green
Does driving across town for client meetings, writing a million contracts and spending hours on the phone negotiating a selling price when you’re meant to be on annual leave sound familiar?
Life as a real estate agent is indisputably hectic, so it’s fair to assume that the last thing on your mind is worrying about the impact your job has on the environment.
Last week, we spoke about the growing popularity of eco-homes and how house hunters are looking towards a green future. Today we are going to talk about how real estate agents need to get on board, practice what they preach and start implementing sustainability practices into their everyday routine.
Going full rainbow-warrior is daunting and unrealistic, so we’re going to talk about the small, daily changes you can make around the office. If everyone gets involved and implements these simple strategies, you’ll be doing your part for the environment and saving some cash along the way.
Get your green thumbs ready, here are our top tips for an environmentally friendly workplace.
If you can’t reuse it, refuse it
The key message of this year’s World Environment Day was to ditch single use items such as plastic cutlery, straws, shopping bags and take-away coffee cups. These days there are thousands of affordable reusable options out there, so there is no excuse to keep buying a new water bottle every morning.
Your local discount store has plenty of stylish utensils so why not stock up the office kitchen with products everyone can use. As an added bonus, many local cafes offer discounts for those who bring reusable coffee cups, so have some fun, branded ones the whole team can use!
Change your printing habits
Gone are the days of flyers, mailouts and OFI pamphlets; the marketing world has gone digital and so should real estate. Invest in some office tablets. They are incredibly versatile as you can email on-the-go and even use it to register attendance at an OFI. If you absolutely have to print, make sure the default setting is ‘double sided’ and you only use recycled paper.
Greenify your office
Leafy ferns aren’t just pretty, they filter pollutants from the office environment and clean up the air. Research tells us that work spaces which embrace plants and natural light boost morale and increase productivity. So take the team out to the local nursery and choose some gorgeous greenery to spruce the place up.
Be mindful of the way you transport
The reality is, agents need their cars to get around so we’re not suggesting that you ditch the wheels five days a week. To offset your emissions, consider teaming up with a work buddy and car-pooling every couple of days. Sharing the vehicle will save on fuel and toll costs, and might even encourage you to dust off the old bike and peddle your way to work and optimal fitness.
Remember you are what you eat
Our idea of what qualifies as food has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. Sadly, it is one of the world’s most wasteful industries but it’s easy to make a stand by buying fresh produce that supports local farmers. Not only is organic food more nutritionally beneficial than that from the supermarket, it’s far less likely to come wrapped in plastic and transported from the other side of the world. Don’t buy your lunch each day, bring it from home in some funky tupperware and you’ll save money and improve your health.
Embrace energy saving tech
Have you ever thought about how much electricity is running through your office? Lights are on, heaters are in full-force and everyone has their computer plugged into a wall. These are things that we never really take notice of but make a huge difference to the energy bill at the end of each month. Turning off your computer when you go home and installing some energy efficient light bulbs is a great place to start. As a rule, turn off any appliance when it’s not needed.
Take one step at a time and don’t be disheartened if you slip into old habits occasionally. So long that your hearts in the right place and you can get a conversation around sustainability happening in your office, you’re already on the way. You’ll save money, improve your health and be surprised at how much fun being a greenie can be!
Prioritising Authenticity In Your Business
In a world driven by fake news, social media and an unrelenting 24-hour internet cycle, it’s not surprising that consumers have pushed back and demanded something more authentic from business.
The age-old saying, “the customer is always right”, has led marketing teams around the world to search for a more personable story that resonates with heart.
Some get it right. Dove is a great example of a corporation that’s replaced “corporate” with “human” and made millions of dollars telling women that they’re beautiful, no matter what their perceived flaws are.
Adversely, we see those who get it really, really wrong. You might have heard about the recent Pepsi debacle where millionaire reality star Kendall Jenner fronted a tone-deaf campaign that tried to connect Pepsi with the longstanding racial equality movement. The ad was subsequently pulled and Pepsi had to apologise for their distaste.
So how can those in real estate cultivate their authenticity and let their personality shine through in a way that isn’t cringe-worthy or tired?
Identify your core values
The key is to work out your ‘why’. Research shows that ‘why’ driven communications are the strongest and longest lasting. Your ‘why’ comes from working out your purpose and why you’re driven to do what you do everyday. If you need some inspiration, check out our blog on why it’s so important to build your brand story.
Engage with your customers
Once you’ve determined your core values, it’s time to find a fresh way to communicate with your customers. In real estate this means not being afraid to show your flaws! Why not use the Facebook live stream feature as a means of publicising your latest OFI success. Leave the bloopers in! Have a laugh at yourself! Consumers really appreciate this and will feel like they can connect with you on an authentic level.
Show the moments that happen behind the scenes. Maybe it’s a co-worker’s birthday, so you get a cake and get the office to sing “Happy Birthday!” Don’t miss out on this opportunity to show your softer side and let your local community into your little family.
Drop the jargon
Quit throwing around complex real estate terms that the everyday person won’t understand. This will only alienate potential customers because they will feel intimidated and are therefore less likely to ask for your help. Instead, make an effort to explain things clearly and simplify the often daunting process for them. Using inclusive language is ideal for social media as it helps people feel like they’re part of your family. For example, “Thank you to our friends in Smithville. We love being part of your community”.
Explaining the problem you set out to solve
Every business exists to solve a problem. In real estate, you are working hard to help people find the right home at the right price. To discover the core of your business’ authenticity, you need to very clearly define the problem you set out to solve and outline how you do it. Are you a high-end brand dealing with luxury properties or do you specialise in helping families on a tight budget find a nook to call their own. Case studies are a great way to demonstrate your success without tooting your own horn.
Show your passion for real estate in everything you do. Whether that’s having a warm smile when you welcome someone into an open home, getting involved at the local footy club or sharing real estate tips and tricks with your followers, if you believe in what you do, people will want to work with you!
‘Why’ It’s So Important To Build Your Brand Story
Imagine if your favourite brands were people.
What would they look like and what would they have to say?
Would they drink beers at the local pub or spend Friday nights swilling fancy Burgundy at a fine-dining restaurant?
Companies can be so caught up developing features for their product that they often forget to tell the story of who they are. But humanity was built around storytelling and it’s in our nature to look beyond facts and figures and find an emotional hook.
Some companies get it right and that’s reflected in their tribe of loyal supporters and healthy market share. Others do not and whilst they may find some business success, they’ll never be remembered as inspiring or an innovative powerhouse in their industry.
If you are happy to plod along making mediocre sales and average commissions that’s fine, but if you are looking to take your business to the next level and be an agent others look up to, you’re going to have to find your “why”.
Why are you in real estate?
Is it simply to make money or do you have a passion for helping people move into their dream home? Are you a competitive person who loves the thrill of the chase or did you just fall into real estate by chance?
No matter how you got to where you are right now, you can and should make it into a compelling story. One that resonates and comes from the heart. That might sound like an overused cliche but in real estate, trust is everything and the only way to build trust is through authenticity.
How to build an authentic story
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Start your narrative by thinking about where you came from as this will shape the rest of your brand’s personality. If you used to play club footy and fancy yourself a bit of an athlete, it’s probably your competitive spirit that defines you and your business style.
If you’re a mum with a handful of kids, chances are you know a lot about backyards, storage space and local schools. This is a great asset for young families and you’ll be much better suited to helping them than the ambitious footy player we spoke about earlier.
Combine your back-story and your unique selling proposition to define your why.
What happens after you discover your why?
Let’s look at our athlete as an example. We already know that he has a competitive personality and likes to hustle.
This means his ‘why’ is the desire to get the best possible price for his vendors.
He should communicate this by marketing himself as a bulldog who doesn’t let go until he gets what he wants – the perfect price.
Consistency is key so this message should permeate through every piece of marketing he produces and every touch point he has with his clients.
Get your brand story out however you can.
These days good agents are thought leaders as well as salesman, so create a blog or start a Facebook page.
It’s a completely free tool to get your brand story out there and show your contacts that you are a real person with a real story to tell.
Remember that you are your brand and great brands inspire hope. They sell ideas, not services so whether you’re a one man show or a team of 10, get everyone next to a white board and start brainstorming a concise and creative brand story that forms your why.
You won’t look back.
Embracing Innovation in Real Estate With Sherry Chris
When I last caught up with Better Homes and Gardens(R) Real Estate (BHGRE) President and CEO Sherry Chris, I was thrilled to get an insight into her career and what has driven her success so far.
This week, I want to shift our focus to the future.
Sherry Chris is renowned for her innovative approach to business and for finding solutions to problems that agents don’t even know they have. As such, she is the perfect woman to chat with me about the future of real estate and what’s in-store for the technology that supports our industry.
In our conversation, she spoke of three key areas agents should keep in mind to make the best out of the ever changing technology landscape.
As you can imagine, we were pretty quick to get on the topic of social media and how important it is for staying relevant.
“It’s how we connect with one another, both personally and from a business perspective, but when I look across our industry, no-one is really doing it effectively.”
BHGRE made a strategic decision to align themselves with the wider Better Homes & Gardens brand, which includes a magazine with over 40 million monthly readers. As a result, their consumer channel has exploded, and they are able to share design and decorative ideas that help their brokers and agents connect with the consumer on a different level.
“Through the magazine, we have access to a huge database which we can market to directly and use for predictive modeling. This implementation of social media and technology has been very kind to us”, she says.
“I’m very active on social media. I manage two Facebook pages as well as one Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter page. This means I personally connect with thousands of people in our industry every day.”
It might take a little creative thinking, but there will always be ways an agent can leverage the power of social media and use it to drive the success of their business.
“The key isn’t a secret at all, you just have to be authentic and always keep the end consumer in mind”.
When it comes to tech, Sherry says it’s all about moving with the times.
“We continue to build technology, we continue to partner with technology. What we look for are the very best end-to-end solutions for our brokers and agents”, she says.
Three and a half years ago BHGRE’s parent company, Realogy, made the decision to buy ZipRealty, which they recreated into Zap, a technology platform that helps their affiliated agents and brokers stay in sync with their customers, grow their business and thrive in today’s real estate landscape.
“We build our own internal technology, including our digital marketing center, CRM and all of the tools and products that attach onto those. This helps our agents be more productive and connect with the consumer at a deeper a level”, she says.
So where do BHRGE’s savvy tech-heads want to go next?
“The buzzwords out there are AI and machine learning, both of which we are working on diligently”, she says.
These days, data is everything and Sherry’s team wants to effectively utilize the huge amount that they’ve amassed throughout the years.
“We are working on how to use data to predict when people are most likely buying and selling a home, and to get out in front of our competitors and be the ones who help them move into the next phase of their lives”, she says.
There’s nothing groundbreaking in the concept of keeping your customer front-of-mind, but as real estate moves forward and technology embeds itself further into our lives, it can be easy to forget that at the end of the day, this industry is about people.
What’s the point in building fancy new systems if they don’t improve the experience that your clients have working with you?
“I wanted our company to stand for something and that’s why we launched a values driven brand that celebrates Passion, Authenticity, Inclusion, Growth and Excellence (P.A.I.G.E.).These are our core values and they really mean something special to us”, she says.
“It means sending a handwritten note, picking up the phone and thanking somebody or doing something before you’re asked”, she says.
When I reflect on everything I’ve learned from Sherry, I feel grateful that she shared her time and wealth of knowledge with me.
I also feel incredibly proud to work for ActivePipe, where so many of the values Sherry spoke of are values that are hard-wired into the everyday running of the company. Hard-work, customer-centricity, and a focus on creating strong culture are the cornerstones of this business’ success.
When it comes to technology, we’re continuously striving to be at the cutting edge of predictive analytics and we are harnessing the power of data to enable customers and agents to have conversations that enrich both of their real estate journeys.
It seems we are on the right track and if we continue looking to Sherry Chris for inspiration, I’m sure we’re going to do just fine.
Check out part one of our interview with Sherry; “The Sky is the Limit” here.
The Email Marketing Metrics You Should Be Measuring
How’s your email marketing going?
What metrics are you using to measure its success?
Traditionally evaluating an email marketing campaign was a marketer’s job. A real estate agent would provide the content and forget all about the EDM being sent.
We want to change that.
Understanding the result of your communication will help develop strategy. Knowing what your contacts are interested in will lead to better conversion, stronger relationships and smarter marketing decisions.
Here is a breakdown of the most important email metrics to evaluate.
An open rate measures the percentage of people who open your email relative to the number of emails sent. In real estate the average open rate is 13-15%. We’ve proven you can double that with personalised customer journeys and intriguing subject lines that capture your audience’s attention. Here are eight that work really well.
We’ve also discovered that emails sent on an agent’s behalf result in a much higher open rate than those sent from an office. In some cases the difference is over 100%.
Your Click-Through Rate
A click through rate measures the percentage of people that clicked links in your email relative to the number of people who opened it.
This is the metric most email marketers use. It is particularly important to real estate agents as it unveils the number of people who have been directed to their website. This is equivalent to the number of people who have viewed their property stock, increasing enquiry on their listings and potentially speeding up the sale of their homes.
The Conversion Rate
A conversion is achieved when a person completes a form after receiving email communication that asks them to do so.
The most common call to action in real estate is an appraisal request.
When you send out an email you should always have a specific objective to measure your result against.
Here are some poor indicators you should NOT be using to measure your campaign’s success:
The Number Of Emails Sent
Emails are sent to everyone in your database. The number is massive and shows no indication of engagement. Don’t let this be your benchmark.
The Unsubscribe Rate
People unsubscribe for a number of reasons. Some of them have nothing to do with the emails you send so don’t beat yourself up about them. Here are some things that could be motivating your contacts to unsubscribe.
The bottom line is there is no use spending time, money and manpower on something you don’t measure.
Routinely check up on your campaign reports and make sure your email marketing is helping you meet organisational goals.
An Ex-Real Estate Agent’s Perspective of ActivePipe
You may have seen me present on stage at your latest conference or heard my voice on the other side of a product demonstration. You might even recognise me from this blog.
Today, I want to share my story. I want to tell you about how my experience as a real estate agent has shaped me into the person I am today and why I believe the company I work for is about to change the way we buy and sell properties around the world.
I was a high performing agent for about 16 years. I loved chasing business, marketing properties, working with vendors and helping buyers move into their dream home.
In 2015 I was introduced to ActivePipe via the company that I was working with. They needed an agent with experience in innovation and tech to ‘translate’ between the two companies and within minutes, I understood that this was a product that would change the way agents communicate and build relationships.
In real estate, the value of relationships is often undersold. Business owners are so entrenched in chasing a deal here and now, that the value of building long-term relationships is overlooked.
When I saw that ActivePipe offered a genuine service that would deliver some great insights, leads and capacity to agents – I knew I was in love. It is tech that leverages an agent’s time and enables them to build better relationships, take control of their database and make money. It’s not just a no-brainer – it’s really exciting.
Often the biggest hurdle for an agent is autonomy; freedom is literally the biggest killer. They have all this time on their hands to make decisions and maintain direction – but in the end they bunker down in the menial tasks, the cold calls, the door knocks, the repetition and eventually the debit gets the better of them and they are forced to work their ‘business’ like its a ‘job’ and all the life is sucked out of them – and they turn into these blobs that clock on and off and the results tell the story.
This is the same world-wide.
ActivePipe is the closest thing to a utopia, it’s simple, it’s clever and it delivers all the juice that agents are looking for. It enables them to really quickly identify who they should be talking to today, tomorrow and 6 months from now so they can be busy with the high level/high paying tasks, bringing their energy and focus back where it counts.
ActivePipe starts by plugging into an agent’s database and their property list and creates beautiful, simple, effective and automated emails that are scheduled and delivered automatically.
It surveys clients and asks for that extra information that many enquiries lack including names, numbers, residential addresses etc – which means the agent has context for follow up discussions, making them easier and more relevant.
ActivePipe also identifies if ‘buyers’ are in fact – potential sellers. Every ‘seller’ appears in front of an agent dressed up like a buyer.
The ‘buyer’ will have sent an enquiry asking “how much is this house on the market for” or “just wondering what 1 smith street sold for” or “can you please let me know about houses as they come up for sale in my street or neighbourhood”.
An agent’s first reaction is to offer them lists of new houses and sales without identifying first if they are selling, and even if they do ask – most potential sellers won’t tell the agent because they do not want to be harassed. ActivePipe delivers tailored content that is specific to buyers and sellers intentions.
Based on the clients interactions and behaviours ActivePipe can tell you “these guys are sellers, they are up-sizing, shopping for a free standing house up to $500,000 – these other guys are downsizing, this fellow is an investor – this family are self appraising, this lady is looking for her first home.”
It means an agent gets an insight into all the hidden details of their database, before other agents know – allowing the agent to reach out with better, more relevant information. This will help them provide a better service, beat the competition and make more money.
The most exciting thing about ActivePipe at an agent level is when they call me and say “you wouldn’t believe it, I checked my ActivePipe dashboard and found out that little old lady that never returns my calls is on the move, she clicked on all the 2 bedroom apartments last month – I door knocked her and offered to show her through a new single level development we are marketing – she said it was perfect, and now I am selling her house next month – I would never have known about her thinking of selling if I had not checked”
Agents get excited about being two or three steps ahead of the competition – they feel energised by learning something that allows them to shine, to do better and to impress their audience. Everyone wants to stand up and be the best they can be and ActivePipe gives them this boost.
From selling a 1 bedroom apartment in Kanahooka for $42,250 in 2001 to talking on stages around the world with the best agents in the business is a real joy. Helping people succeed has been and always will be my primary motivator.
The challenges that agents face in the cities and townships in Australia are the same for an agent in London, or the USA or anywhere in the world. Long hours, hard hours, difficult negotiations, working weekends and forever asking “where is my next listing or hot buyer walking through the door” are questions that are asked the world round.
Being part of the team and the solution that provides benefits for all these brands and agents looking to make a mark in the world is thrilling.
Right now, the challenge for me is growing a sales team around me that is as in love with the product as I am. Seeing the DNA of the business grow in my own team is immensely satisfying and ActivePipe is now in the position to make changes in markets around the world. Seeing so many agents and their clients benefit from using ActivePipe is amazing, it makes the hairs stand up on my arms – it’s an amazing thing to look forward to.
Using Video to Make Your Office Stand Out from the Crowd
People are going to jump online and do their research before they put their most valuable asset in the hands of an amateur.
When someone requests an appraisal, they have already sprawled the internet to gauge an agent’s selling power and local expertise. With hundreds of talented salesmen in the area, it’s not just the tidy headshot and carefully scripted bio they’ve looked at, it’s reviews, selling records and Facebook pages too.
With a market like that, agents have to do something different to get ahead.
I spoke to Renece Brewster, the CEO and Co-founder of video production company, Visual Domain about how agents can use multimedia to cut through the noise, engage audiences, sell homes and win listings.
When Renece started Visual Domain with her business partner almost ten years ago, she wanted to make what was then considered hard and expensive, simple and accessible.
“We had a goal of trying to get 5 videos out a week. It doesn’t seem like much now, but at the time, you may as well have said 500. It was a ridiculous number when the technology was so new”.
“We now have close to 100 staff across Australia, producing, on average, 200 to 300 videos a week. We are exploring live streaming, VR, interactive and personalised videos and are always pushing the boundaries of technology in the niche that we love.”
Why use video?
As a medium, video is both visual and audio, making it incredibly engaging and memorable. It is also one of the most emotional types of communication. This is important in real estate because you want to build trust and help people get to know who you are and what you’re about.
“The agents that do it well comment that everyone knows them from their videos. Results from social media may not be direct, but that awareness element is always there and the community feedback is great for your brand.”
Renece says you don’t need fancy equipment to make compelling content, what’s really important is making sure it’s appropriate for the distribution channel you choose.
“One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the last 12 months is the movement towards tailored video content for each channel. Instagram is very emotive and visual whereas Facebook is all about a clear call-to-action. These nuances make a huge difference to how a video is produced. You might need to cut your video four ways instead of one to make sure you are effectively engaging your audience.”
Here are some compelling video ideas to get you started:
Agent Profile Videos:
Get someone to film you speaking about who you are, your background and area of expertise. Getting in front of the camera helps potential sellers see your passion and get to know you as a person, rather than just another walking suit.
Rather than having a testimonial, capture a moment and tell a home ownership story. Talk about the results, what obstacles you overcame and how you made them feel. Buying a home is an emotional transaction so imbue it with touching moments of impact.
Photos can be deceiving. Videos are a much more lifelike representation of what a home looks like and can help you showcase it’s most unique features such as an epic master bedroom or a perfect lawn. You can even live-stream these in short, authentic snippets to engage your audience in real time.
People buying in a new suburb need to know about the local community they are going to embrace. Showing local schools, parks and businesses will highlight your understanding of the local charm and flavour of the area.
Whether you want to comment on the First Home Owner Grant, the promotion your office is running or the auction results from last week, videos are a great tool for sharing your expertise and positioning yourself as a thought leader. It helps you get the message across quickly and is easy for your contacts to consume.
Key takeaways from Renece?
Don’t think about it too much – just go for it.
The trick is to stay honest and to keep it under 30 seconds. If you be yourself, people are going to forgive your video for being a little rough around the edges and it’s going to help you look a lot more authentic and real.
The more practice you get, the more natural it will become and you’ll be winning local hearts in no time.
There’s help out there:
Visual Domain is here to help you create compelling video content and social media experts Tiger Pistol will help you distribute it to build your brand.
Carmel Kellett Talks About the Importance of Switching Off in Order to Recharge
I have been working with real estate agents for the past two years and have never met a woman as determined, endearing or down to earth as the CEO of Hodges Real Estate, Carmel Kellett.
This businesswoman and mother of two has forged her way through several leadership positions at some of Australia’s largest finance, construction and real estate franchises, exceeding growth projections by over 300%.
As Hodges first female CEO, Carmel joins the ranks of high profile female executives who are leading the way in property’s diversity challenge.
According to a report by Ernst and Young, despite filling more than half non-leadership roles, women only hold a quarter of the industry’s leadership positions.
Carmel confirms this imbalance saying “I’ve certainly been involved with a lot of companies and boards that are male driven. In fact, I don’t recall having a female in a position above mine in the last 10 years.”
When she looks back on her life, Carmel recognises that she is very fortunate to have had the upbringing and role models she did.
“My father was one of the most hard-working people I have ever met. He didn’t do lazy. I don’t think he had a sick day in his life, and that ethic and determination was something that was built into me from a young age.”
“One of the things we tend to do as females is become super critical of our own abilities and judge ourselves very harshly. To be a leader in a business doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, it just means that you have to work hard and always have your mind focussed on solutions.”
Every year Carmel has worked at Hodges, a new female director has been added to the franchise group, and that is something she is very proud of.
“I think one of the biggest deterrents for females in the industry is the perceived lack of work-life balance. I have two grown up boys at home. One is 21 and the other is 22 so I know exactly how painful the guilt of being a working mother can be.”
“Both my boys have learnt how to cook their own dinners, wash their own clothes and make their own beds, creating an environment where everyone contributes to the household. Whilst I am a businesswoman, a wife and a mother, I am not a servant. I am not expected to be wonder woman and removing that pressure has helped me build a very balanced career.”
Another way Carmel has learnt to protect her home life from the ravages of real estate, is not to talk about work when she gets home.
“I have very clear lines between my work life and my home life and I’m really quite protective of not melding the two together. It gives me time to switch off and let’s face it, everyone needs to recharge to give 100% in the office.”
At the core of Hodges franchise is the ambition to give their customers more and Carmel believes this customer-centric approach, driven by technology will help real estate agents fulfil their mission.
“Technology continues to evolve and become more sophisticated. As a business owner, it is my job to look into the future and ensure that we are always on the forefront of new trends.”
“As real estate professionals, we are people that need to manage relationships. If we leverage technology to help us engage and connect with our customers, it frees up time to make us more productive. Technology helps us effectively balance the demands of our professional and personal lives.”
So what have I learnt from Carmel Kellett?
I learnt that as women, we are too hard on ourselves and that you don’t have to be perfect to lead a team. I learnt that everyone needs time out to recharge and that using technology to automate time consuming tasks is a great way to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
We must always look to the future, embrace technology and focus on long-term goals if we are to fulfil our career ambitions.
I hope that when I look back at my career in 30 years’ time, I can do so as proudly as Carmel can.
Check out more exclusive interviews in our ‘Women in Real Estate’ series here.
The Sky is the Limit for Sherry Chris
There are few names in real estate that command respect more than Sherry Chris and if you’ve worked as an agent in North America in the last twenty years, there’s no doubt that you’ve been influenced by this powerhouse CEO and the company that she leads, Better Homes and Gardens(R) Real Estate.
Renowned for its exceptional culture and value-driven approach, the BHGRE(R) brand wouldn’t be where it is today without a hell-of-a-lot of hard work and a guiding hand from its vivacious and determined leader.
Sherry Chris doesn’t mince words, so it was with great pleasure that I got to spend time discussing her formidable career and the factors behind BHGRE(R).
She starts by telling me how standing proud and staying true to her core values are key to the business’ success
“We don’t hide behind ourselves. We want to make the industry as a whole a better place which might sound idealistic, but it’s not. It’s a way of doing business that allows you to walk out of the building every night feeling good about yourself”
Sherry’s real estate career began in Canada nearly 30 years ago when she was a young banker looking to buy her first home.
“I was in my twenties and thought I could probably do this better than the agent who was helping me. So I got my licence and started selling real estate.”
She quickly realised that her skillset was better suited to helping other agents sell property, so she soon had her broker’s licence and was managing a group of offices.
“All my life I have helped people and I’m a strong believer in, no matter what you do, exceeding customer’s expectations; surprising them, delighting them and being what is referred to now as a ‘servant leader’, where your mission in life is to serve and hopefully teach others to do the same. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, you can put this into practice.”
Eventually she moved to the US and In 2008, she launched the BHGRE(R) brand.
“There were a lot of bumps along the way but I look at them all as learning experiences. Everything that I did, every accomplishment and every learning experience prepared me for BHGRE(R). We were a pure play start-up: we had no customers, no revenue, no listings. I was employee number one. I had to build a team, build a value proposition, find some franchisees and launch the brand.”
And launch it did. Today, BHGRE(R) has hundreds of offices and thousands of affiliated real estate agents located across North America.
Despite this tremendous achievement, it’s quality of service that drives Sherry, not the size of the brand.
“We’re never going to be the largest brand in real estate. What we aspire to is being the best! It’s having a group of people that align with us because they believe in what it is we’re doing. You can accomplish anything by taking a group of people who believe in a certain way of doing things and who believe in standing for something and giving back to the world.”
In looking at what I can take away from my chat with Sherry and lessons that I can apply to my own career, the most resounding traits to me are those of strong work ethic, tenacity and remaining humble in success.
She finished with some great words of advice for all of us looking to carve out our own opportunities and make the most of what we have.
“There are many people who go through life, saying ‘I didn’t get this’, or ‘I lost this listing,’ or, ‘I didn’t get this job.’ We all have the same opportunities. You just need to get out in front of those opportunities each and every day.”
“The sky’s the limit. If it’s going to happen, it’s up to you and you alone.”
Check out more exclusive interviews in our ‘Women in Real Estate’ series here.
Getting The Culture Right In 2018
According to a survey by SEEK Learning, less than half Australian workers are happy with their jobs.
That’s a pretty damn sad statistic for our country.
As we roll in to 2018, I encourage you to think about the culture in your office.
Is it one you are proud of?
Is it a place you wish you worked when you were younger?
In the last twenty years of leadership I have learnt that a business is only as good as the people within it and that creating the right culture is important for retaining staff and attracting the best talent in the industry.
This takes work.
Listen to your staff:
I have learnt that each team member has their own unique value proposition. It doesn’t matter if it is your receptionist or your most senior salesperson, listen to your staff. There are some amazing ideas hidden within your team and it’s up to you to make them feel like they can contribute.
Support their growth and development:
You shouldn’t just consider your staff’s careers objectives; you should prioritise them. Sitting down with team members to discuss where they want to be in five years’ time will show that you are on their side. I have found that my staff value training and development and that investing in their skill set is investing in our company’s future.
Are KPI’s Dead?
Being a salesperson with constant, unachievable KPIs hanging over your head is exhausting. Not reaching them leads to stress and an unnecessary perception of failure. Getting the right culture creates an obligation to perform because team members don’t want to let their team down; they genuinely want the company to succeed.
Most managers only give feedback when it is negative or corrective. Giving positive feedback will make your team feel appreciated, reinforce their value and ensure they know their work is actively contributing to your business’s success. I believe publicly recognising individual achievement is a great way to build culture in your team and make sure each person feels like they belong.
It pays to be nice.
From Kitchen Hand to CEO: 8 Things I Learnt on My Rollercoaster to Launch
My first job was at Taco Bell. I was a kitchen hand scrubbing pots and pans in a dish-pit. I’d work until my fingers throbbed and I’d come home afterwards reeking of sour guac.
I had no idea that I’d be CEO of a company then, I was 15 years old and I’d just dropped out of high school. As far as I knew, I’d pick up a trade when I was old enough; I’d become a motor mechanic and fix cars for a living. Hell, I would have been happy with that.
Things turned out differently for me but I will never forget what it was like to scrub dishes for eight hours a day. I will never forget how tiring it was; how unappreciated I felt or how much I loathed walking in those doors at 8am every morning.
That background was probably a little different from others in my position but I don’t regret it; it’s an understanding I appreciate; an experience that shifts my corporate objectives.
You see, it’s not just about external influence and economic growth anymore. It’s about a team who feel energised at work, who know they are valued and who love what they do.
Here are a few things to help you out on the rollercoaster to launch:
- Be clear about the industry you are servicing. Learn what their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are and make sure your products offer a solution. If it isn’t making a difference, it isn’t worth engineering.
- Take every lost client personally, get feedback on why they bailed and make sure the fault doesn’t repeat itself. You should be innovating to improve your product constantly. There is always going to be someone coming along with something better.
- Create a unique culture that you love and a brand that reflects who you are. People respond to authenticity so if you don’t want to wear a suit, don’t.
- The most important part of that culture is the people within it. Handpick team-members with talent and turn them into champions of your product; people who believe in your vision and work as hard as you do to pull it off.
- Take notice of their work and give them credit for it. People who feel appreciated will always do more than is expected and those who want to work will always work harder.
- Maintain intellectual humility. It’s easy to get tunnel visioned with your objectives but it’s important to give your employees an opportunity to input. Their feedback should always be welcome, who knows their ideas may be genius!
- Make your goals and targets incremental rather than inconceivable. There is nothing worse than working towards a progress point that is so far in the distance you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere.
- Make it fun and get everyone involved. Whether it’s a futsal table in the lunch-room or trivia on Wednesdays, put some laughter in the office. It’s team building that confirms each person belongs, that motivates them to band together and get some serious shit done.
Email Marketing: The Real Estate Industry’s ‘Kodak moment’
Kodak has gone down in history as a global company that failed because it couldn’t adapt to new technology.
The digital camera revolutionised the way everyone took pictures and film went the way of the dinosaur. Kodak knew the change was coming, but they were stuck in the headlights, too afraid to make a change to their core business.
In Australia, we are now starting to see the market leaders in real estate step-up to a new level of email marketing. Even the term ‘email marketing’ is becoming out of date.
‘Automated life cycle marketing’ is changing the way real estate agents manage their email campaigns, and can help you:
- Drive sales and generate new listings
- Profile clients and gather intelligence
- Maintain customer engagement
- ensures standardised communications across a diverse workforce.
- Save time and money
- Produce intelligent reporting
Additionally, these new ‘smart’ email campaigns still remain the most cost-effective marketing tool available.
Agencies that fail to step-up to this new technology run the risk of experiencing a ‘Kodak moment’ – without the happy memories!
Come on a journey with ActivePipe and see the massive benefits that automated life cycle marketing can have on your real estate business.