For a lot of brokerages, marketing is inextricably linked to overall performance. Here’s how one company set up its marketing support services to meet the needs of its agents while increasing productivity and retention.

One of the ongoing challenges for a real estate brokerage is managing marketing spend. At ERA American Real Estate in Florida, we have relied on expertise, efficiency and effectiveness to accomplish high agent engagement with the company’s marketing support services.

With five offices and 110 agents, these four “E”s have been critical to our success, particularly with regard to agent retention and productivity which support market share. So, let’s break down each one of those components, how we utilize them and why they’ve been successful. 

1. Expertise

I’ve been at ERA American for eight years, but before that, I was the director of marketing at a national education firm where I was able to achieve consistent sales growth of more than 15 percent every year of my time there.

My absolute passion is to drive profitability through innovation, and during my tenure, I was able to implement many new programs that supported the company’s bottom line.

When it came time to move on to my next opportunity, I was fortunate to join the ERA American Real Estate team in that my boss, broker-owner Gloria Frazier, sought a proven marketing professional to move the needle for her firm.

This was part of her decision to make marketing a separate corporate division as opposed to being locally managed and executed. This approach was more efficient financially and has helped grow the business. It clearly made marketing a major priority for the company — every marketer’s dream.

Tips for brokers and agents:

Greatness is not about being the best at everything. Trying to be great at everything all by yourself is the quickest road to mediocrity.

We’re most productive when we operate in our strengths. Identify those areas where you and your staff are the strongest. (Here’s a hint: it’s probably the part of the business where you’re happiest, where you find the most fulfillment and have the most confidence.)

Be specific and realistic about what you need to fill the gaps between your strengths. Invest in people, tools, systems and processes that will elevate you and what you’re trying to accomplish.

2. Efficiency

I may be in the minority here, but I truly believe that the fastest way to success is to fail fast. In my pursuit of continuous quality improvement, I’m always looking for ways to better support the firm’s agents and have piloted many programs over the years — many of which have been implemented.

But if something isn’t clicking, I’m quick to quit the clunkers and continue to search for marketing innovations that best meet the needs of the team. In my experience, every failure has made me better at vetting the next opportunity. 

As a part of a full-service brokerage, my strategic approach is to provide agents with budget-neutral, tiered marketing programs that offer a complimentary version as well as several affordable options to upgrade to a premium, paid service.

These include social media management, in which a staff member generates posts and replies to comments on behalf of the agent, a program that creates automated listings for marketing to the agents’ sphere and robust buyer follow-up campaigns. 

Tips for brokers and agents:

To adopt an agile mindset to the services you provide to consumers and agents, always set usage and adoption goals, as well as traditional financial and lead-gen benchmarks.

For example, agents, if you’re investing in drone video for your listings, pay attention to where you and/or the consumers places its value. Are listings with drone footage getting more views? Do you have a better chance of closing the listings when you offer a drone?

3. Effectiveness

To create effective marketing programs, it’s important to have buy-in from the beginning. I like to check in with our agents to see what type of support they think would help them improve their business.

I then research options and present them back to the team. Typically, we get a few agents to champion the effort and work their internal networks to get enough people to pilot the program.

If the pilot is successful, I then develop the different tiers of support which include a basic free level and several premium options with additional services and enhancements. I determine how many agents are needed to subscribe for the premium level to offset the cost, making the new program budget-neutral.

If additional staff are required to support the program, that cost is worked into the premium pricing. In addition to being budget-neutral, this approach has led to high levels of agent productivity — on average 16 deals a year.

Tips for brokers and agents:

You’re in this together, and you’re stronger working together. Do you recognize an area where agents could benefit from a premium offering? Brokers, crowdsource ideas from your agents. Create a space for idea-sharing between you and the subject-matter experts from within your agent population.

For example, an agent who is rocking social media may have great ideas for how to support other agents and recommend solutions that would help you and your brokerage family move forward together.

Would your agents close more business if they’re unburdened with listing marketing? Not every service or program is about ancillary income. Budget-neutral programs can add more to agent and broker income.

4. Engagement

To ensure the programs remain budget-neutral, I regularly review usage. When a program appears to be petering out in terms of engagement, it’s important to know if the product is no longer meeting the needs of our agents or if their needs have changed and can be better served by an entirely different program.

Beyond engagement with each marketing program, engagement with the brokerage overall is a major indicator of success. As a full-service firm, our splits are not 100 percent, but we are all in on agent support — and that business model will never change.

We want to take as much work off our agents’ hands as possible so they can focus on what they are best at: face-to-face interactions with people. This has resulted in a high retention rate at our company, which means we spend less time and money on recruiting.

Tips for brokers and agents:

How do you measure engagement? It depends on the service you’re providing, but “adoption metrics” and viewing the “usage over time” will give you a lot of information about whether your program or service is still relevant.

Make sure your services, programs and processes include periodic check-ins with users. If you notice fewer agents are logging in, find out why. Don’t be afraid to ask “how am I doing” often, whether it’s one on one or using a broader media, such as periodic satisfaction surveys

At the end of the day, marketing may be a separate division in our corporate structure, but it’s inextricably linked to the company’s overall performance. It’s a big responsibility, but a disciplined focus on the four E’s as well as an inexhaustible pursuit of innovation has been a winning formula for success.

Kim Luckie is the director of marketing, business development and technology at ERA American Real Estate.  

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