Slaying Giants: Keeping Your Clients in the Age of Big Tech



You can’t out-market a billionaire. This is a growing acknowledgement in the conversations I have with venture capital-driven technology companies throughout the real estate industry.

The numbers don’t lie. Most real estate brokers and brokerages are at a severe disadvantage when competing with the marketing arms of the newest advertising platforms in the industry. Billion-dollar entities ply consumers with flashy incentives, promises of instant gratification, slick calls-to-action, and highly-targeted content in email, app, and digital advertising campaigns.

The individual real estate broker can still rely on hyper-local knowledge to stand out with unique marketing campaigns. Marketing with focused, targeted messaging to local markets still provides value. Yet it must be acknowledged that going head-to-head on brand marketing spending versus companies whose budgets seem limitless is foolish for most. Brokers need to plant their flags on another playing field.

The usual list of defensible broker techniques might cue your cliché meter: build personal relationships, get belly to belly, make an actual phone call, knock on a door, write a note. These will always be at the core of best practices to retain your sphere of clients. There are new technologies, though, which can optimize these tried-and-true outreach techniques.

Personal relationships may have always trumped other prospecting techniques, but that doesn’t mean that 3x5 cards are still the best way to organize and stay in touch with clients. We all have a sphere of influence that needs to be nurtured, but it also needs to be segmented and analyzed to bring out the most efficient outreach plans.

New CRM and contact management tools help organize, analyze, and optimize your contacts. They make your day-to-day follow-up efforts more productive by focusing you on your relationships with those most likely to refer or transact business with you. They just might surprise you by pointing out some of your brand ambassadors that you hadn’t previously identified.

This isn’t just for the tech-savvy. If you can use a smartphone or fill out an Excel spreadsheet, you’re qualified.

Tools like First.io and Contactually help you with focus and accountability. Upload your contacts and let these systems connect to massive consumer databases and social media platforms that will know so much more about your sphere than you do. The predictive analytics in these tools will tell you when to follow up with the clients most likely to transact, and remind you to make contact with those customers who may have slipped through the cracks. 

Job changes, life changes, financial changes—our clients don’t always tell us. Missing those opportunities to connect and help clients through a transaction can be discouraging. These new technology tools can greatly reduce these near-misses that cause so much heartburn for hard-working REALTORS®

If you’re not faint of heart, you can even have these tools tell you how many listings you missed in your sphere within the last six months. Sometimes you take your vitamins in the form of negative reinforcement. The data doesn’t lie.

You don’t even need to give your sphere to a technology vendor to better prioritize your outreach efforts. If you regularly farm your local market, tools like SmartZip and Flipt will allow you to hone your marketing budgets down and provide a more focused outreach. You select the territory that you specialize in and these tools will direct you to the buyers and sellers in your neighborhood who are most likely to transact in the near future. 

The shotgun approach of farming a neighborhood can certainly bring long-term brand visibility. The simple nudge from a predictive tool to go knock on a specific door or write a personal letter, though, is putting technology to its best use as a personal interaction instigator.

As a real estate broker, your core advantage has always been the personal contacts and local knowledge that you have in your marketplace. Don’t let that inhibit you from leveraging technology to amplify your ability to connect with the right people at the right time. 

The biggest technology companies in the world are competing for your clients’ eyeballs, and they’re accessing this same data. They know when your clients are ready to be contacted. When you can leverage the same information, the playing field slants back in your favor.

Sam DeBord
Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth and was the 2017 President of Seattle King County REALTORS®. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and BellevueHomes.com.

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