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The digital experience can’t thrive without authenticity.
That was the collective message from Kofi Nartey of GLOBL Red (real estate development) and Julia Spillman, broker with Eklund, Gomes and Douglas Elliman, at a rapid-fire back-and-forth on digital business during Luxury Connect in Las Vegas.
Whether it’s over Zoom or through email, digital marketing and outreach is now the starting point of every interaction, and it has to be strategic enough to pull the prospect deeper into an eventual personal interaction.
Spillman’s team was heading toward 100 percent digital before the pandemic, she told the crowd. “We’ve always been forward thinking,” she said. “But call it luck, call it strategy, when the [pandemic] hit, we were well positioned to double down on what we were already doing.”
But, Spillman said, they’re still learning how to navigate the digital game.
“It’s hard to balance the filter of perfection and keep authenticity. People are craving that imperfect perfection,” she said.
Spillman’s team looks to keep the agent in the driver’s seat when it comes to digital messaging, but the brand needs to lead. It’s hard, she said.
Nartey, who launched GLOBL Red in May of 2020, said video conferencing tools are great ways to let the agent drive while remaining brand-first. His company does business globally, so online connections are critical.
“You can walk them through the digital experience. That’s where Zoom came in, that’s where Facetime came in for us,” he said. “We walk them through the process in person, but while online.”
Nartey encourages his team to share documents that can be discussed together through browser windows, enabling the agent to be there with questions instead of on the other end of an inbox.
Customers today are entrenched in the digital experience, but those agents who can deliver it with a human element can make the difference.
“It’s a skill,” Nartey said.
Spillman said it’s not easy for all agents to make the transition into fully digital communications and sales interaction.
“Translating personal experience to digital is the big question,” she said. “How do you find that emotional connection through different vehicles?”
Spillman related to the audience how many of them may have met online at one time, maybe over Zoom or another digital Inman event, but are now just meeting in person.
“But I feel as though I know them, so there’s that connection.”
Nartey, who has acted in feature films, said making the transition from digital to in-person is similar to the difference between stage acting and performing for television.
“Once in the funnel, how do you keep the connection? Well, it has to be taken down a notch, it’s more nuanced,” he said.
The balance of high-touch and high-tech isn’t an easy one to maintain, Nartey said.
“When you ask 50 luxury agents how they do it, you’ll get 50 different answers,” he said. It comes down to anticipating what they need, and being proactive about serving those needs.
Nartey says they’ll do a lot of little things after digital interactions, such as adding showing dates and escrow milestones to their customers’ calendars and sending them drive times from the airport to each listing for visiting clients.
“How can we take our service from A+ to A++?”
Spillman advised the audience of luxury agents to center themselves around authenticity when marketing online.
“For all of us, the first thing to do is authentically put yourself out there, what is the message you want to send,” she said. “Hone in, what is your digital presence? What do you want to articulate?”
Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.