Connect the Speakers: Kim Luckie on branding and what you get for your money

"More than ever you have to have a handle on who you are and what your value is"

Kim Luckie is the director of demand generation and marketing for ERA American Real Estate; she’s handling marketing for six offices across Northwest Florida with about 110 agents. So she spends a lot of time trying to get agents focused on skills, behaviors and habits that will help them be successful — and how to get more clients in the door for them to help.

Luckie will be discussing branding — what you spend and what you get for it — at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. We talked to her about how to think about branding and where to spend your money, and she told us where she sees the biggest opportunities in real estate marketing right now.

Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?

More and more, I’m having conversations with agents about who they are and what value they bring, because the market where the agent is only the transaction specialist — I’ve not been in this industry long enough to be too much of a predictor, but what I see is that the more these things come in, the more their speciality really becomes their contract to close art, which a lot of agents are outsourcing more and more. As all this changes, more than ever you have to have a handle on who you are and what your value is, and that’s what your brand is. It’s who you are and why you’re special for them. That top-of-mind awareness branding is what we’re doing a lot more of.

I deal with a lot of young agents, and I’ve come to believe that until you’ve got 25 to 30 transactions under your belt, I don’t know that you’ve had enough at-bats to know who you are or truly understand what your brand is. Keep things simple and asking all those questions about who you are. We do a brand camp for that exact purpose.

In terms of tools, one of the things they asked me for was an entry-level tools that will help you tell that story, but above all of that is getting simple about what value you bring. And when you’re new, it comes from what you love about it — why are you so attracted to this? What’s that moment in the customer relationship that you’re addicted to and it’s worth being an entrepreneur for?

What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?

I’m going to use my buddy Paul as an example; he’s a great guy and he’s been in the business three years. The first year he was our no. 1 agent across all our brokerages, the second year he won the single-agent service award — so he’s that guy. He’s aggressive, he’s sharp, he’s always thinking, he’s hustling all the time. What he really hates to do more than anything is process. We know we need a process for the transaction; there are too many moving pieces and it’s too challenging, and until somebody innovates that for the customer, we’re going to continue innovating it for Realtors. That’s the thing: What he loves is being the guy, he likes the hustle and the sales pitch, and he likes closing. And what we help him with is process.

So let’s say you’ve figured out how to tell your story and you’re telling it simply enough to tell it over and over again — how are you measuring whether it’s effective? I have a contractor who contracts with me but agents can pay for this social management program. Paul was saying he didn’t need this program, and I pulled up one of the agents in the program and compared her stuff to his stuff, and because he had no real litmus for success — he didn’t know what he was supposed to be measuring — every time he got a ton of views on something, he thought he was killing it. And what I showed him was, the measurements that agents tend to focus on are vanity metrics. Sometimes views is exactly what you’re looking for if what you’re measuring is eyeballs, but because they don’t measure it for the year, they don’t set a target. You need to know how many people are in the area you’re targeting and how often you want to reach them.

Sometimes I think agents get really caught up in logos and taglines and sex appeal, and what I always say is that design doesn’t move your business forward; it’s consistency and repetition and engagement. So what are those things you measure and how do you do that? When someone asks me “where do I spend my money on social media,” I say “don’t get bogged down in the design, if that’s not a skill set for you, but the real money should be on either coaching to help you understand, training to help you understand what to measure, and a process to follow up with those people.” That’s another thing people don’t do — they’re so excited about their likes and shares, but there’s no process to pull those people into your sales funnel.

To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?

At 30,000 feet, I’m not sure that things are different, because calling someone back — it’s unbelievable to me how little that happens. We just rolled out First in a pilot program for agents and we’re footing the bill for it, we’ve been looking for a way for agents to understand what their past customers are doing. It’s been astonishing to me how many people don’t keep in touch because they’re so busy. Who don’t call and see how they’re doing when they don’t need you, when they’re not in that five-to-10-year window. One of the problems I see is that when agents are busy — and we’ve had some good years — the business rolls you very much into this “now” business state, where you’ve got these 10 phone calls to make because of that transaction. It keeps you in that feast or famine mindset.

Most agents aren’t in the top echelon where they have this huge team; they’re trying to do everything for themselves. So making time for real connections, I think we get really busy and when we do, we don’t make the time to really connect with anybody. And maybe learning some of the different ways you could connect quickly and at scale — that’s where our resistance to new technology is really handicapping the industry, because if AI scares you or a bot integration in your Facebook Messenger scares you, if your marketing’s working and you’re not answering digitally, that resistance to learning how a bot may help you or how a lead-scoring system helps you focus on who needs you right now, is not helping you understand the connection between technology and service. Maybe it’s an opportunity for brokers and leaders; maybe it’s up to us to stop focusing so much on what we feel like Zillow has taken because maybe that ship has sailed and maybe they figured out a little sooner than we did.

What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?

At our company, we’re focusing very much on conversion and telling our story better, so I’m looking to find ways to help agents do all of the things we just discussed. We’re very lucky because we’re in a bit of a fractured market; we have a really high-end area and a far more moderate area. Our moderate area is like 60 percent military, so our big focus this year for our company is on helping agents make those better relationships.

For me personally, the staff that I have is mostly brand-new in marketing and brand-new in real estate. They have hard skills; I hired people with some hard advertising or PR skills, but it’s a grand adventure. I love teaching people about marketing. I’m looking heavily at running marketing more like an agency. And it’ll be a big year for travel.

Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.

Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.