Do you follow up on your e-mails promptly? Are you advertising using pay-per-click? Do you conduct digital transactions? Do you use transaction-tracking platform? Are your lead generation and lead follow-up systems automated? Do you know about Oodle, Trulia and Zillow? Do you use text messaging? If not, you may be on the verge of becoming a real estate dinosaur.
In the 1960s, the mantra of the baby boomers was: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Today, of course, boomers are still trying to hang on to their youth. Sadly, unless agents who are over 40 are prepared to make a quantum shift in how they do business, there’s a high probability that their style of doing business will soon become extinct.
On the other hand, the under-40s may continue to struggle with building their business because Boomers still control 54 percent of the listing inventory. No matter what generation you are in, to thrive in today’s rapidly changing environment, you must balance the best of the old with today’s technological innovations.
I recently spoke with a small group of agents whose manager had organized a training course around my book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters.” One of the young agents asked if I still recommended 800 Call Capture (IVR) systems as a strategy given all the changes in technology. She based her question on the fact that she does everything via e-mail and text messaging, and seldom uses the phone. I explained the importance of call capture in terms of tracking advertising return on investment (ROI), providing better service to consumers, and most importantly, obtaining correct contact information from people who call on our sign, print and Web advertising. When agents explain how these tools help sellers obtain the best possible price for their property, they normally will sign a listing agreement on the spot. In response to her comments, one of the more than 40 agents said that he only wanted clients who would call him. When I mentioned the importance of using new technologies such as texting or the new search-engine products, he wasn’t interested. The younger agent emphasized how that every one of her friends used these tools when they were looking for property.
This event highlights an important bifurcation that is taking place in our business. The younger the agents are, the more likely they are to use technological tools in their business. Furthermore, they are less inclined to pick up the telephone and more inclined to communicate via e-mail or text messaging. The same is true for our clients in this age group. They expect e-mail and text communication, and they also expect their agent to use the latest search and technological tools. When they inquire how you will market their listing and you respond by outlining your print advertising program in the local paper, their response is, “Why would you want to do that? Aren’t you going to advertise on Google, MSN, Yahoo and craigslist?” They expect you to respond to their inquiries instantaneously just as they do when they receive a text or e-mail message. This is difficult for those of us over 40 since we often have trouble just tapping out a single e-mail message on our PDAs.
In contrast, one of the most stunning things you may observe about today’s teenagers is how they can carry on up to 10 online conversations simultaneously. Because our younger clients have grown up with technology, it is easy for them. More importantly, if you want their business, you must be comfortable using technology to work with them when they’re ready to buy.
On the other side of the coin, older clients are often ill at ease with e-mail. Many would prefer a telephone call. In fact, many boomers will not use their PDAs to text simply because their fingers are too stiff to do so. This age group expects personal contact rather than just e-mail contact. E-mail may seem too impersonal. Furthermore, many still read the newspaper and enjoy looking at pictures in print media rather than electronic media.
Ultimately, if you want to avoid becoming a real estate dinosaur or if you want to capture the over-40 crowd’s business, you must be willing to communicate with your clients in the style that they prefer. When you work with a buyer or seller, ask them how they want you to communicate with them. If the client expects text messaging, know that quick response is critical. If you are working with someone who is over 40, he/she is more likely to demand a face-to-face meeting or contact via telephone. Be flexible.
Most importantly, however, if you plan to stay in the business for more than two or three years, now is the time to start making substantial changes in how you do business. Educate yourself on how to market using the various types of search engines. Purchase a tablet PC and go paperless. Start taking the steps today to be a technology early adopter. In the race for business, the one who has the best technology and the best systems is usually the one who wins.