As the founder and principal of Kris Lindahl Real Estate, Kris Lindahl has built a reputation as a passionate advocate for the importance of branding in the real estate industry.
Now, Lindahl has co-founded the Marketing Team, a boutique real estate marketing firm, along with his childhood friend, marketing and advertising veteran Steve Soldberg.
Below, Lindahl shares his expertise and real-world experience with agents, teams and brokerages to create game-changing solutions.
(Note: This interview has been edited for length and style).
Tell us about your team’s differentiators. Let’s start with those that are not directly marketing-related.
There are several in no particular order. We’re a 100 percent brand-based model, which is very rare. We generate all of the opportunities for the agents in our company and connect with consumers in our market.
We’ve created a streamlined process that’s consistent for our consumers. A lot of real estate companies claim to be a team, but to work as a team is very difficult. What we’re looking for is a consistent, world-class experience for the consumer.
Creating a brand where everyone in the market we serve knows who we are is how we measure success. There are a lot of ways to run a real estate company. I see people buying a lot of leads from third-party companies, but if you have a brand on top of that, it will accelerate that.
If people are thinking of selling their home and they know who you are, the likelihood of them reaching out is increased. A well-defined brand can’t be taken away from you, while leads come and go.
Because I am a true visionary, what I focus on is the right people in the right seats and understanding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. I have people in the company who are very strong and working in integrator roles as I’m dreaming years and years ahead.
Often you’ll see people who are team leaders and then become brokers; but they never created a brand, and they really aren’t visionary. The result is that you see team leaders and broker-owners hand over their credit cards to portals because they can’t figure out how to create their own opportunities.
That’s why I created Marketing Team — to help companies create their own brand so that they’re not dependent on other companies. I haven’t seen that kind of dependency pay off long term in any industry.
First Uber supplanted car services, Instacart in retail, and last year, we saw a lot of small restaurants losing money delivering food because they weren’t controlling their own eyeballs and impressions. It’s just not responsible.
How has your growth been impacted by the events of the last year? How have you handled that growth?
Last year when the pandemic started, we had 60 agents, and a year later, we have over 400. That’s in one year. This year we’re on pace for over 4,000 transactions. We operate 100 percent as a team model where the company delivers a consistent experience every single time.
We have a very strong leadership team; they are incredible human beings. When everyone is headed in the same direction, you can do more than you think you can.
I find that lack of trust is a roadblock to scaling. You often see owners still selling homes. A lot of times, that’s shortsighted thinking. They don’t have the systems, processes and people in order, so they have to sell just to remain profitable, and they can’t scale.
Others can’t get to that next level because their risk tolerance is low, or they don’t know how, or they’re not visionary. Most people aren’t true visionaries that are leading teams and brokerages. A lot are ops-driven. They’re busy getting ready to get ready and are constantly trying to create process and structure.
Because they’re not visionary, they haven’t cast a vision for their company so they can’t communicate the vision to their company. When the pandemic first hit, you saw a lot of silent people in the industry who didn’t say or do anything for their people and their families.
How did you change course at the beginning of the pandemic, and how did you adjust as it went on?
Any time there’s a crisis, you make decisions quickly and respond. With everything that happened, I knew that we were set up for this. When you look at companies with strong brands, when a crisis happens, they have a platform to communicate with their communities.
A lot of brands claim to have recognition, but when you peel back the layers, they have no marketing initiatives that they are doing. The only branding is the sales signs the agents are putting in the yards.
Real estate companies couldn’t communicate when the pandemic started because they were dependent on the solopreneur agents to communicate with their communities while the leadership was silent. That’s why the teams that have brands are taking off significantly right now.
How is your team dealing with the current low-inventory, super-fast seller’s market?
I truly believe there are always challenges and ups and downs. What is really interesting about the time we’re in right now is that the value of the agent has never been higher. It’s not as easy as going on a website or app and searching for homes that are not there.
When you have a brand that everyone knows, people go to who they trust. In a time when everything’s transacting, you see homeowners reaching out to someone they know. When times get tough, they reach out to someone they trust who can get it done. We’re grabbing market share because consumers are having a hard time solving the challenges of the market we’re in right now.
What are you investing in right now?
It starts with training. We have world-class training; we’ve brought in a high-level trainer from outside of the industry. She came in and revamped our entire training process in the last year.
A lot of people are coming in from different industries. The last year has brought us people who have been questioning if they were on the right path or perhaps they were furloughed. The branding piece attracts people who want to work for you, not just buyers and sellers.
It starts with training when you have a brand because you have to fulfill the customer promise. If you put the promise out there and don’t deliver, people hear about it because we’re in a review-based society. We have to have the best training in the country, and we continue to invest in that.
We constantly innovate. Over the last year, what I’ve seen is that the consumer has changed in a really big way. You look at the different trends and the need for convenience-based solutions — everything is so much faster, so we continue to innovate knowing that is what the future would be. I always knew this day was coming.
A lot of broker-owners don’t know how to connect with the consumer post-pandemic. A lot of real estate teams are doing the same thing they’ve always been doing, and they’re starting to get stuck in neutral, and they don’t know how to get back in drive.
I went and hired my lifelong friend to start Marketing Team to create a solution to help people create a brand that could connect with the consumer. And the question is, “What’s the new normal?” I think there’s a lot of uncertainty for what that’s going to look like, but it also means innovation has increased in a short amount of time.
What are you doubling down on? What strategy or solution has really proven itself over the past year?
When the pandemic first hit, we shifted all of our marketing into humanity over business. We did all types of things to help the communities we serve. We doubled down on those efforts with no agenda except truly helping the communities that have been so good to us. It has created a massive amount of growth.
As soon as confidence started to come back, and following protocols, it started to become clear that people put more emphasis on “home” than ever before. We tripled our marketing and brand-based initiatives while everyone else pulled back and hit the pause button, and we ended up so far ahead. Way more than doubling.
I always knew that during challenging times, that’s when you find out who the true leaders are. The crisis is different every single time, there are different shapes and forms of crisis, but we have always been prepared. We can make quick adjustments because we understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses on our team. Often companies have employees who don’t truly know who they are.
What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?
I’m confident that the model we have developed and the world-class consistent client experience are the future. I’m 100 percent certain. That’s creating a brand people know, having a platform with attention, serving your communities — it’s such a differentiator.
Most places have tens of thousands of real estate agents in their market. How do you stand out? It’s through branding.
What would be your starting point for someone beginning this journey?
Spend time and reach out and learn from someone who’s done it. It might not even be in the real estate industry. A lot of the people I’ve talked to are CEOs in other industries. Success leaves a lot of clues, and you’ll make the learning curve significantly less.
The number of learning opportunities we’ve had along the way — which some call failures — means that you learn something from whatever doesn’t work. Stay focused and be committed to being a lifelong learner.
I love the collaboration you find with Inman’s events. Most people let their ego get in the way of asking for help or reaching out with questions. What I realized is the person who’s already done it, gets to learn more as they share. It’s a win-win.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.