- The millennial generation is the most connected generation and represents the bulk of home buyers.
- Agents must adapt to the ever changing digital landscape to be competitive and stand out.
- Leveraging technologies like websites and display ads will help you convert lookers to quality leads.
I’m often asked how I been able to achieve the success that I have in real estate. I’ve only been selling residential real estate since August 2014 and in May 2016 I will surpass over $500k in gross commissions. Before I explain to you what I do, let me explain to you a little bit about my background.
A Career Rooted in Hospitality
I began my professional career in the hospitality industry as a night auditor for a Hampton Inn in Slidell, Louisiana (pictured on right). That is where the hospitality “bug” bit me and I realized I had a passion for serving others. Not long after I moved to Orlando, Florida to pursue my dream of working for the Walt Disney Company. I had a great time working for Disney in roles that ranged from quick service food and beverage, to concierge, and eventually I was offered a position with Guest Relations at the Magic Kingdom Park. My time at Walt Disney World taught me many amazing skills and service related principles. The biggest one I learned there was the guest always comes first. This principle of putting the guest first in rooted in everything Disney does and is in all of their training programs. One shining example of this is how they address guests with disabilities. Many businesses, and people in general, will refer to someone as handicapped, but not Disney. They are “Guests with Disabilities.” You see, at Disney, the guest always comes first and that includes coming before a disability.
My journey of learning the importance of putting guests first continued when I left Disney and went back into hotels. I was working as the General Manager of a Hilton Garden Inn trying to help the hotel turn around their financial and guest service results. I was having dinner with my VP of Operations one evening and he mentioned to me a phrase that has stuck with me to this day, “always make great guest based decisions.” All to often in business (and yes this includes real estate) we make decisions that are good for us but might not necessarily be great for our customers. He shared this with me as he contributed the hotel's struggles to my predecessor cultivating a culture of staff based decision making. This led to disenfranchised guests who rated the hotel poorly on surveys, online review websites, and ultimately never returned. I worked hard to change the culture to one that was guest-centric and the results were staggering in every measureable category.
Closing the Door on Open Houses (and much more)
When I started my career in real estate I went through the standard training that we all go through when we get started. It was pounded in to my head that we need to hold open houses, mail postcards, and go knock on doors. You hear it from your franchise training programs, from your brokers, and senior agents. While yes, those methods can work the results they yield for the effort are horrific.
Let’s take a look at open houses. Recently the National Association of REALTORS® came out with several safety suggestions in the light of recent violent crimes against REALTORS®. Some of these included meeting new customers at the office and getting a copy of a driver’s license so that your peers and office leadership know who you are with and where you are going. These are GREAT guidelines to follow and I follow them to the letter and more. Yet, as REALTORS®, we throw those guidelines to the wind when we hold open houses. We open the doors to our customer’s home and invite anyone and everyone into the home. We don’t know who is coming into the home and what their true intention is. Additionally, the percentage of people visiting the home that are qualified buyers is statistically very low. Lastly, I can count on one hand the number of agents I have talked to that have sold the house they are having the open house at to a buyer that they first met through the open house. The decision to hold an open house is a great agent-based decision, but a bad customer-based decision.
The Millennial Generation
We all know the term “Millennial” right? The term millennial is typically used to describe those people born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s. They are poised to overtake the baby boomers as the largest generation and already make up the largest block of home buyers. The millennial generation is also the most connected generation we’ve ever seen and technology is never far from their hands. According best selling author and keynote speaker Erik Qualman, 53% of Millennials would rather lose their sense of smell than their technology. It is also a fact that more people own a mobile device than own a toothbrush (eww). These are the facts and the trends will only continue to grow and more millennials enter the home buying market. This leaves the question, if the millennial generation is the most technologically connected generation ever, why are real estate agents trying to market to them using techniques developed in the 1970’s?
New Marketing for a New Generation
Now that you know my background a little bit more as well as some facts on the millennial generation, you’ll better understand why I abandoned the “traditional” approaches to real estate marketing and wrote a new marketing play book. How did I earn over $100,000 in commissions in my first 90-days and a half-million in less than two years? Digital Marketing.
The first thing I did was hire a website designer to design and launch a website, a real one not one of these $29/month waste of money websites. I spent $1500 and hired AgentFire.com to develop me a website that would have hyper-local content that I would update with regular, original content that was relevant to my target audience. I wrote blogs and shared them on social media pushing traffic back to my website. I made sure that I watched as many YouTube tutorials as I could on how to write great web content that users would like and that Google would love. I installed Google Analytics (free) on my website so that I could track my traffic and see which pages on my website were not engaging my visitors so I could change them or get rid of them. The result is that my website now gets an average of nearly 300-unique visitors a day from my local area and around the world.
The next thing I did was take the money I would have spent on direct mailing and other print advertising and invested that into digital advertising including targeted demographic Facebook ads and display marketing in my farm areas through Adwerx. Both of these platforms combined account for over half of my business and I am so thankful for the product and service they offer. As my business grew so did my advertising budget. I now advertise on other websites, in expanded areas with Facebook and Adwerx, and have added additional social media advertising to my portfolio with great success.
The results have been amazing. Thanks to my strategic partnerships with companies like AgentFire.com, Adwerx, and Facebook, my business is booming and my website is flourishing. On average, we self generate over 200-leads a month from my marketing and website. The results of been so amazing that I no longer participate in my office’s lead distribution program and my average sale is nearly $60,000 over the median home price in our area.
As an industry, we have been very slow to react to the changing digital landscape and the major brands are the biggest anchor in this area. It is up to us, the individual agents, to push our brands, our brokers, and ourselves to not just think outside the box, but to throw the box away. Step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to take risks. A real estate agent is a self-employed entrepreneur and it is time we think like one. Every single business needs a well thought out business plan, marketing plan, and above all a marketing budget that puts our business where the customer is, not where we are comfortable.
About Kevin Johnson
Orlando REALTOR® Kevin Johnson is an award-winning, top-producing real estate agent with CENTURY 21 Roo Realty in Orlando, Florida. Kevin’s dedication to his clients and his peers has been recognized by CENTURY 21, his brokerage, and his local board. His honors include being named a 2016 Orlando Style Magazine 5-Star REALTOR®, 2015 CENTURY 21 Centurion®, 2015 CENTURY 21 Quality Service Producer, and 2015 National CENTURY 21 Top Producer for the Home Partners of America program. Kevin is very active in his community and is currently a Board Member for the Osceola County Boys and Girls Club.