It used to be that brokers took care of agents and agents took care of consumers, but that’s changing — brokers are now reaching out to consumers.

  • To get their brands out there, brokers are trying a reality TV show, hosting events and creating a mascot.

SAN FRANCISCO — It used to be that brokers took care of agents, and agents took care of consumers, but that’s changing — brokers are now reaching out to consumers.

That’s according to Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, who moderated a “Creating a Deeper Connection With Consumers” session today at Inman’s Broker Connect.

She spoke with three prominent real estate brokers about their innovative approaches to consumer marketing.

Get your own reality TV show

“We were in 2012 cast for an HGTV show that we were able to, praise God, convince them to use the name of our brokerage as the title of the show,” Matthew Beall, CEO and principal broker of Hawaii Life Real Estate, told conference attendees.

The show is now in its eight or ninth season, he said, and the firm’s sellers love it.

“We’re the largest listing brokerage in the state of Hawaii,” he said.

The show is “a ton of fun,” but internally, the brokerage doesn’t really focus too much on it, he added.

“Our brokerage has always been so consumer-focused that we don’t really hover on it,” he said.

“Our handbook says, ‘There will never be a spin-off starring you.'”

And no, the agents don’t get hung up on appearing on the show, he said.

“We’re a real estate brokerage, not a television star,” he said.

Host events

Tiffany McQuaid, broker of boutique real estate brokerage McQuaid & Company in Naples, Florida, has a marketing and events company in-house.

“We create and continue to run the largest events in our marketplace,” such as the Naples Stone Crab Festival, McQuaid told attendees.

“It’s not just a matter of my agents going and setting up booths … we create booths that coordinate with the event. Every event that we do, we’re doing one-on-one lead capture,” she added.

“I’ve been able to really build my brand on little to no money because we put the sweat equity in.”

The events are charity-based and get covered by the local media, she said.

“It’s just a different component that we’ve found works really well for us,” she said.

“It’s branded to death. Our corporate color is red, so every event that we do we have red tents.” Workers wear bright red shirts, and everything has that red color including the directional signs from the parking lot to the gate, she added.

Have your own mascot

In 2001, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers in Atlanta came up with a firm mascot: Metro Mike. He appears on the company’s marketing materials, has his own merchandise and hands out candy at city parades.

But Kevin Levent, broker at BHGRE Metro Brokers, told attendees not to forget about the basics.

“It’s helping and training your agents to deal with the consumer of today. High-tech and high-touch,” he said.

“The training of the existing agents on how to get in front of their people and how to get there first, from the first transaction. It’s the concentration on the first-time buyer in my marketplace that brings in the repeat and referrals.”

Metro Brokers is concentrating on bringing in young people as new agents, Levent said.

“We operate a fairly large prelicense school. That’s going to be our connection to the consumer,” he said.

“For us, it’s a business decision,” he added.

If you neglect the people who are going to be buying in the future by not cultivating people who serve them, you’re spending a lot of money for nothing, he said.

His brokerage has about 2,000 agents in 25 offices and has a separate marketing program for luxury properties listed at $750,000 and above, he noted.

“We don’t allow the agent to have input on how that’s run because they’ll just mess it up,” he said.

“The agents love it. They know it’s going to be done, and they don’t have to touch it.”

The agents generally don’t mind the brokerage knowing their customers because the firm’s culture is interdependent, he said.

Besides, at the end of the day, that customer belongs to him as the broker, he added.

Chris ended the session on this note: “So what I’m getting out of this panel is if you’re going to own your business, own your business.”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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