September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. Tips for better branding and in-depth features on how to take advantage of marketing tools provided by Zillow, Redfin and other platforms are all in the works in addition to insights from experts. You’ll find it all at Inman, as well as our two-day virtual, flagship event, Your Playbook for the Fall Market, in October.
This article was last updated Sep. 2, 2022.
Learning how to communicate and market from your smartphone for agents has been an ongoing battle since the iPhone took over the mobile scene in June 2007, almost 15 years ago. The question remains for seasoned and new agents: Am I working as efficiently as possible?
When I speak with agents about what frustrates them most about mobile technology, it’s that there is rarely a sweet spot where they are completely satisfied.
The tech they need to use either completely bogs them down with too many steps and issues or the applications are not dynamic enough on their own, requiring them to use other apps to assist in completing the task. That defeats the “one-stop shop” dream that so many desire.
Communication and marketing are the two areas that agents often default to when they need to remedy a weak spot in their business. You do not need folders upon folders of apps on your phone to manage your communication and marketing responsibilities.
What you do need are some essential (and mostly free or affordable) applications that are easy to use and will not slow you down. There is no need to overcomplicate or pay for applications that you will rarely use in your busy workday.
Below you will find the essential apps you need to communicate more effectively with your clients and create simple marketing messages that connect and engage your audience.
Communication: The notification game
Ask any agent, and they will say that their phone is their biggest asset — and their largest distraction — when it comes to running their business. The secret to excellent communication? Your discipline around using the apps and following up with your clients.
If you do not know how to access all of your messages and answer them on your phone, you have a big problem. Try to limit important conversations to text messages if you can. If you have half of a conversation on Facebook, and the other half in text messages and something goes sideways (which in real estate is not uncommon), you will want most of your messages in one space.
Hot Tip: Keep a real estate communications diary. You can use a spreadsheet or a simple note-taking app on your phone but take a moment at the end of the day to reflect on what happened. Reference emails, voicemails, offers received as well as weird phone calls and repairs. This will help you remember what was said by whom and when. It’s very helpful to review if your broker asks what happened, and it makes it easy to go back to the date and check for all digital communications.
Text Messaging app tips
- Turn on “Read Receipts”
- Schedule time at the close of each business day to make sure you actually responded to all messages and didn’t just read them
- Attempt to keep clients in one platform, personal communication on another
- Back up messages in the cloud and know how to access them in an emergency
Hot Tip: Google Voice is still there and a great option for agents who do not feel comfortable giving their personal cell phone numbers out. The app works easily with your phone and can be synced with a Google Workspace to manage all your small business needs in one space.
Zillow Premier Agent and Zillow: The search is on
Don’t grab the torches and pitchforks quite yet with this suggestion. I have kept these two apps on my core list of agent communication essentials since day one. In 2020, Zillow reported over 9.6 billion visits to their site.
Estimates of their unique userbase are somewhere between 201 million to 234 million people each year. Chances are that if you are working with a buyer or a seller, they have been on Zillow to check out their home, their neighbor’s home, and homes that they can’t even dream of affording.
Even if you have your own custom website and app with IDX, there is no guarantee that the consumer will give up their Zillow account for you. It is important that you know how this application works inside and out on both the professional side and the consumer side.
Why? So you can see what your client is seeing. You absolutely do not have to give Zillow a dime, but if most modern consumers are spending time on this application, then your contact information should be up to date, and you should have a basic understanding of how to help your clients navigate facts from fiction on it.
By downloading the premier app, and the consumer app, you will have both sides of the coin of communication data available to you so that you can flip it into your favor.
Hot Tip: When you can, set up automatic listing alerts and closed reports to email clients directly from the MLS. This will help clients verify the information they are reading from Zillow, and make well-rounded decisions.
DocuSign or a digital signature document management system
Why is this an important communication tool? This is your surefire, without a doubt way to make sure that your clients and co-workers have seen, read, and can find important documents.
No more lost documents, failed text messages or buried emails. You get a coded receipt and independent online storage. This is a perfect way to manage buyer agreements, disclosure documents and multiple offers. Not just for contracts, you can use this account to send secure information that is safer than regular email.
More than just messages, this app serves as an online chat and customer service option for many agents.
Essential marketing applications
This one powerhouse tool can save you a world of headaches if you need to create fast marketing for your business. By simply watching a few tutorials, even low-tech users find the dashboard easy to use and satisfying to create content.
- Upgrade to the premium account.
- Add in logos and preferred colors to create consistency in your digital marketing.
- The app is great for quick Instagram stories and posts, but you will find more design options available on the desktop version.
- Review templates with your supervisor before posting to make sure you are in compliance with franchise, state and national guidelines.
- The key to great graphic design is to make sure the graphic is easy to read. Remember, most people will be seeing your content on their smartphone, so design for a small screen.
This basic photo editing application is great for cleaning up your selfies and promotional photography in a natural and professional way. The presets are fantastic, and you can easily create an updated headshot or open house promotion with very little editing on your part. The key is to keep it natural.
- Consider lighting and take photos from a variety of angles.
- Take your time. Do not take photos in a rush.
- Do not alter professional photography without the permission of the photographer.
- Do not alter important details or change actual colors at the property.
- Make sure you look like you.
This social media management application is a personal favorite because of its ease of use and its compatibility with Instagram. If you hate using the Meta business suite to manage your social media posts, this application is created for you and your assistant to use to preschedule basic social media posts for the week.
Social media scheduling tips
- Try to schedule a week in advance to avoid gaps.
- Do not overpost and overwhelm your audience.
- If you want to guarantee people see your posts, you will need to put a small budget on the back end.
- Keep track of your progress with a weekly review of your insights.
- Send clients mini engagement reports to let them know about your marketing efforts for their listings.
Remember the simple fact that your personality is the “secret sauce” and that simple applications are there to support you. Downloading 20 new applications to your smartphone will not guarantee success; in fact, it could be your downfall.
Keep it simple and fast, and remember that your job is to clearly communicate, advertise homes and prospect for new clients. Do not get bogged down with recreating the wheel; it could slow down your long-term goals.
Rachael Hite sold real estate in Virginia and West Virginia for seven years with a specialization in short sales and foreclosures. She has been an office manager, an agent, mortgage marketing consultant and continuing education trainer for agents since 2012. She currently specializes in private business development and digital marketing services for top producing agents and businesses in the housing industry.