There is a storm of confusion surrounding the Zillow-Trulia merger, especially when it comes to how the alliance will affect agents. You have to wonder how brokerages, MLSs (multiple listing services) and individual agents who feed listings into the two big portals are feeling about the idea that the leads from their own data are being sold back to them.
Zillow and Trulia have combined into a mega-monster of consumer-facing real estate search functionality, and one could argue that they aren’t just selling your leads for your listings — they are slowly selling you back your own brand, too. This is why many top agents around the country don’t tell their clients to go to Zillow or Trulia if they are curious about homes in their area; instead, those agents suggest that their clients check out the agent website, which has a custom IDX (Internet data exchange) feed, or realtor.com, where the data is generally more accurate and up-to-date.
I had the chance to sit down with top South Florida agent Liz Caldwell this week and discuss what she thinks the merger will do for (or to) her business. “Nothing,” was the response I got. With close to $45 million in annual volume, I thought that surely the changing landscape of real estate searches would affect her, but I was wrong.
Here are a few reasons why Caldwell — and agents like her who have been playing successfully in the game for a long time — won’t bat an eye at the merger.
1. She has a strong brand. Caldwell has been an agent for almost 20 years, and has been positioning herself as both a trusted source for real estate information and as a local expert in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She does a lot of direct mail marketing; she has a presence on social media; and she offers her own mobile app. Like other top agents, she doesn’t need to be a “Zillow five-star agent” to build her brand. A strong personal brand is built one successful, beneficial relationship at a time, and it cultivates the most important motivational element in buying and selling: trust.
2. She values referrals over leads. Caldwell does a whole lot of business, but she doesn’t spend a dollar with Zillow or Trulia. In 2015, how is this possible? Top agents like her don’t need to buy leads; they grow them from their network.
Step one for Caldwell was having an amazing vendor list. Having a comprehensive vendor list to hand over to clients before and after closing the sale helps position Caldwell as a local expert who provides a much-needed service to her clients. This also keeps her top of mind. Her vendors know that she refers them business … and who do you think they refer their clients to for any real estate needs? Top agents stand out by leveraging an extensive network of vendors to grow their business, because they understand that it is five times easier to retain a client than acquire a new one. Providing this service to your clients is easier than you think.
3. She leverages the right technology. Caldwell leverages a technology stack to help make her business run more smoothly and maximize efficiency. She uses Rezora for her email marketing, Top Producer as her CRM, and ShowingTime to coordinate, schedule and track all of her showings. Using this technology stack means that she doesn’t lose track of her clients, and she doesn’t miss inbound leads.
This stack might seem small for a top agent, but efficiency is paramount, and Caldwell subscribes only to technology she actually uses. This small stack paired with a stellar vendor network and happy past clients generates leads organically. For many top agents, it’s not about buying Web traffic or paying for Zillow leads; it’s about leveraging the right systems within the right network.
4. She’s part of a small team with big success. Another big key to Caldwell’s success is her intimate team. She has two buyer’s agents on her team and a full-time assistant. This leaves little room for tracking down online leads or wasted marketing dollars. Instead, it allows her to maintain quality control for every client, making sure they get the experience they expect when they come to her.
Top agents usually keep their operation small and efficient. There are a lot of drawbacks to a bloated team, including lack of quality control, and it can lead to issues when business slows down and online leads aren’t leading anywhere. Keeping a tight-knit group of like-minded agents is one way to make the most out of your time, and it will allow you to grow your network organically — without paying a portal.
Kevin Hopp is the vice president of customer success at Dizzle.