Should brokers spend time focusing on how to complete with portals like Zillow or waste energy worrying about what realtor.com is going to do next that could impact their business?

Zillow is spending tens of millions of dollars to win traffic to its site, while realtor.com is beginning to leverage the power of its sister media companies to do the same.

For most real estate brokers and their agents, there are easier ways to win business than trying to take on the portals. Why fight Goliath when you don’t need to?

Smart brokers today are discovering several places where one, portals can’t compete, and two, still deliver many of real estate’s most valuable leads. These areas are the domain of real estate agents everywhere and are likely to remain spaces where the portals might never play.

At the curb

The yard sign at the curb presents one of the greatest opportunities for real estate agents. Marketing at the curb is one place that the portals can’t compete and that’s what a yard sign delivers.

As an industry, it seems we are sometimes distracted by bright and shiny new technology tools and forget about the tried-and-true.

The yard sign is one of those trusty marketing tools that never goes out of style and remains vital to marketing a property. It also can be the source of some of the hottest leads in real estate.

Here’s what NAR research tells us about yard signs:

  • More than half of all homebuyers (51 percent) counted the yard sign among their most important information sources when shopping for a home.
  • Yard signs are ranked fifth, just ahead of open houses (48 percent), way ahead of online video sites (29 percent) and just shy of mobile search engines (54 percent).
  • The yard sign is still the third-most-powerful way buyers found the homes they purchased and has been for the past 14 years straight. The Internet was first (44 percent), followed by real estate professionals (33 percent).
  • According to a Google/NAR study, yard signs are the third most common online or offline source used by buyers, topping open houses and advertising, with 53 percent of those using the Internet to find a home also relying on yard signs.

So, when a potential buyer is physically in front of one of your listings, think about your engagement strategy. Something to consider: Our research shows that over 40 percent of calls coming from yard signs are going to voicemail instead of being answered by an agent.

To maximize your opportunities, remember, buyers are not unlikely to take the time to download an app, nor will they leave you a voicemail when you’re unavailable.

A yard sign lends itself best to automated phone and text information delivery, as these systems operate when an agent is unavailable.

They indicate the property of interest, the phone number of the inquiring party and their name when available for easy, subsequent follow-up. But most importantly, information is provided to the potential buyer without delay.

Agents can make the most improvements in places where they exert the greatest control over information delivery. The listing agent is in complete control over point-of-sale marketing and the curb is one place the portals will stay away from for a critical reason: They won’t risk de-syndication by getting between and agent and their business on a local level.

Print is not dead

Yoeml / iStock.com

Yoeml / iStock.com

This is another area where portals do not seem interested in competing. Advertising in local print publications (community newspapers and magazines or even social media for that matter) are simply are not an efficient spend for portals; this type of advertising on a grand scale would be incredibly expensive to manage.

According to leading advertising trend research firm Borrell Associates, there is a renewed interest in print in the real estate industry — and in particular, hyper-local community magazines.

It’s report, 2015 Outlook Real Estate Advertising, suggests that real estate agents and brokers are using print to drive both brand messaging and to create top-of-mind awareness. Local exposure doesn’t work as well online or in social media, and for this type of advertising, local print is perceived to be more effective.

Your real estate agents are the local experts, and that’s an advantage agents have when marketing locally over agents trying to capture local leads from the portals. Local agents have been in the home that is listed, while the agent who bought an ad next to an online listing often has not.

Social media

mikkelwilliam / iStock.com

mikkelwilliam / iStock.com

Everyone knows social media is a great way to network. If an agent is not posting event-driven updates such as price changes, open houses and new listings on social media, a huge opportunity is lost.

Only agents can create social media posts on their listings with their local contact info; the portals cannot. In aggregate, this can create a brokerage’s biggest source of impressions and opportunities.

For example, if 600,000 agents each have 100 followers, this equates to a potential 60 million impressions. One can only imagine the national advertising spend required to get 60 million impressions. It simply can’t be done as cost effectively.

A bonus: there are a variety of technology solutions that can automate social media posting for real estate professions from listing data.

While you’re at it, make sure your agents’ social strategy has legs to extend its shelf life: landing pages for properties work best when they are on an IDX site where buyers can continue their search.

Press the flesh

Consumers think of portals as being there and real estate agents as being here. Agents have the advantage over portals because they can meet people face-to-face. Your physical presence in your local community is another place where the portals can’t compete.

NAR research notes that nearly seven in 10 buyers interviewed one real estate agent during their home search. This gives agents who promote themselves locally and are out there “pressing the flesh,” a portal-free zone in which to compete.

Real estate is and will continue to be a relationship-driven business, and these three areas — at the curb, local print and face-to-face — are places where smart agents are focusing their marketing efforts.

Being truly local is what agents do best, and it’s where portals simply do not compete, so there’s no need to slay the giant.

Randall Standard is CEO of VoicePad and a 20-plus year veteran of the mobile phone industry.

Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.