I tried to explain to my 8-year-old the other day why I was working from home and why he and his sister were being homeschooled for the unforeseeable future. He understands, in the best way that his young life experience will allow, what Coronavirus is and how it is spreading. He’s heard the latest numbers about the United States – over 40,000 confirmed cases and deaths in 34 states – but I could tell he just wasn’t grasping the gravity of the situation. So, I said, “You don’t understand. I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime.”
To which I had to pause and remind myself. I truly have never seen anything like this.
The real estate industry, our communities, and the country have all had to transform the way we do business overnight as we face one of the most challenging and uncertain moments in our lifetime. We’ve set up home offices, our children are jumping into Google Classrooms, we’ve ramped up virtual conferencing and softphones, and we’ve scribbled together guidelines for this new remote workforce. Our day-to-day culture as we knew it simply vanished.
Like every pandemic before it, Coronavirus will end. What will define us, is how we embrace this moment of rapid change and whether we seize the opportunity to accelerate down a path we were all already on – virtualized business operations. When social-distancing ends, one thing is for certain: those forward-thinking leaders that leaned into real estate technology, virtual communications, digital marketing, and redefined roles and workplaces will emerge on the other side leading the pack to a much closer future.
Leaning Into Real Estate Technology
Make no mistake, showings might be down. Listings might be stalled. But everyone is at home, which means online searching is alive and well. Buyers are still seeing properties – just differently. The technology landscape has made it feasible to instantly communicate, view 3D video tours of properties (via tools like Matterport or BoxBrownie), perform lifestyle searches of the surrounding areas, and even close transactions from the comfort of your home.
If you already have the proper real estate software in place, now is the time to squeeze every last drop of value out of them. If there are gaps in your tech stack, now is the time to fill them. These efforts will serve you both during this new reality and far beyond. It can feel overwhelming to know where to begin- especially in the midst of so much existing turbulence and process change. A good place to start is to align your strategy with the Brokerage Consumer Sales Funnel. How can you implement, or enhance, digital tools for each piece of the buyer/seller journey? Your consumer needs are ultimately your agent needs, which are ultimately your brokerage needs.
Quick Wins for Success During Coronavirus
Top of the Funnel – Capturing leads
Tools needed: Lead Generation and Website
Now is the time to build your pipeline. Not having social commitments, a commute, or many of the usual distractions means more free time. Update your listings and make sure they are promoted on social channels, portals, and your website. Take the time to really make them shine with great multimedia content like videos and 360 virtual tours. Refresh and ramp up your paid advertising. Most likely, you will need to tweak the language on ads you currently have running or create new ones that are more relevant during this time of social-distancing.
Review your website’s call-to-action buttons. Do you need to update them to something more appropriate for our new reality like “Request a Virtual Tour?” Challenge your agents to update their agent profiles. Challenge your brokerage to enhance the content of your neighborhood and community pages- these are important pieces of the SEO puzzle and will help drive traffic to your site.
Middle of the Funnel – Turning Leads into Clients
Tools needed: Real Estate CRM, Marketing Automation
If you don’t already have a great real estate CRM that is connected to your website, now is the time to get one. Having marketing automation will be key during this time when it’s all about getting in front of potential clients wherever they are sheltering-in-place. Capture those new leads and make sure they are launched into marketing nurtures from day 1.
We are encouraging Propertybase clients to use this time to refresh the automated nurtures for all their groups of contacts- from new leads, to buyer clients, to sellers, to past clients, and beyond. It’s also never been more important to set up a regular email stream with agents and staff to help foster your culture and community while everyone is spending more time apart.
One more thing I can’t stress enough: clean up your database. Encourage agents and your team to get leads and contacts into distinct, clean lists, so it will become easier to target them with hyper-local and relevant messaging. Delete out the junk. Set up the reports that will help provide important visibility during this time- website analytics, agent engagement with your technology platforms, and lead tracking.
Bottom of the Funnel – Closing the Transaction
Tools needed: Transaction Management, eSignature, Document Management
It certainly has become trickier these days to close, but agents are out there doing it. With the right digital tools in place , from form creation to eSignature, it’s possible to close a real estate transaction without the signing parties all coming to a real-life table. A friend of mine in Southern California closed on a house last week and set a private appointment for the notary to come directly to his house. I have another friend in D.C. closing tomorrow who was asked to BYOP- bring your own pens. Many states are defining real estate as an “essential service” freeing brokerages, insurance, and mortgage companies from having to shut down completely. There are barriers, but it can be done!
Another back office tool that should probably win the MVP award during this time is a tried and true intranet. It’s an easy way to foster connection and collaboration while your team is apart, keep them updated with the latest news and guidelines, and manage scheduling and calendars from a single location.
People and Culture are the Backbone of Resilient Companies
All across the real estate industry, people are coming together like never before…and in creative and innovative ways. Technology vendors are offering services for free or at reduced costs. Brokerages are reaching out to see how they can help the most vulnerable of the communities they serve. Yes, technology will drive this time of virtualized business operations. But the brokerages that emerge better than before are the ones who seize this opportunity to keep their people energized and engaged (be it agents, employees, or consumers) and make culture their north star.