I just finished a week of conversations at Inman Connect around technology. After several days talking about big data, AI, predictive analytics, augmented reality and automation, it felt like this conference (and this industry) is drowning in it. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and remember something critical about real estate: It is a fundamentally human transaction.
Real estate is fundamentally a human transaction
We talk about “leads” or “prospects” or “consumers,” but these terms really just mean “people.” People – like you and me – buy houses. And when people buy houses they need agents they trust to lean on. As Rich Barton pointed out Tuesday, For Sale by Owner transactions haven’t moved much in 20 years. That’s because this is an industry that facilitates an emotional transaction that requires expert help. Deciding where you live and raise a family is not just a financial decision. Ours is an industry built on emotions and human connection, not technology platforms.
Bringing Sensibility into Data and Technology
I’ve run a data company for almost 15 years and I can say unequivocally there is too much data. It can be tough to decide what data to collect and how to deliver it. If you start by thinking about what people actually want however, things get a lot clearer. You can discover what people want in two ways:
- Be implicit: Monitor visitors’ actions online, track what pages they view and what buttons they click to create a profile.
- Be explicit: Make a call or send a survey to find out what’s important to your network. Sometimes the most effective way to find out what’s important to someone is simply ask.
In his opening remarks, Brad Inman talked about the rapid acceleration of technology causing compression in our day-to-day lives. This compression creates anxiety with some rushing to use technology for technology’s sake. Without understanding how a new technology works in delivering on what people want, it can be a huge distraction and waste of money.
We found out this week that Zillow spends $200 million on Research and Development. They are exploring this technology at rates faster than any of us can and they will figure out. When they do, we can all reap the reward of that investment and implement what’s proven. Until then, focus on using technology sparingly and intelligently. Use it to enhance the humanity of your business.
Use technology to enhance the humanity of your business
Kala Laos grew her company from 30-250 in two years and in her 20-minute talk on creating a contagious brand, she didn’t say one thing about AI or predictive analytics. She talked about agent appreciation, creating a positive work environment, recognition, and sharing joy. Laos has been incredibly successful. What’s her secret? Building her business around human connections.
4 ways to use technology to make powerful human connections (and more money)
1. Rethink the consumer lifecycle: Agents tend to jump from transaction to transaction without much thought for maintaining relationships over a longer period. Therefore, per the National Association of REALTORS®, 88% of consumers say they would use their agent again, but only 23% do. What if instead of treating these as “transactions,” agents used technology to treat them like people? Use data to send quarterly updates on their property value, refinancing options, or new activity in the neighborhood. This is personal, relevant, and helpful information you can access and pass along. It will increase the value of your network by building loyalty and referrals.
2. Understand your network better: Every action a person takes tells you something about that person. Capture that information and use it to forge stronger connections and gain insight into future buying patterns.
- Know how many people are leaving your site without providing contact information. If 100 people come and 99 leave without leaving a name, you can start to dig into why. Changing that 99 to 96 will significantly impact your business.
- Use data to get smarter about your consumers. Data can notify you when life changes occur– a strong sign they might be moving and a prime time to make contact.
- Understand which content consumers engage with most and do more of that. Learn what type of email or page people view more than others. You now have insight on what’s resonating.
3. Your content marketing should have content Content marketing often has little substance or relevance to its recipient. The result is agents blanketing their network with digital junk mail. Start to build a profile on each individual and connect the dots between action and correlating content. In other words, if they keep going back to schools, send them notices on changes in their school district. Don’t just automate, communicate.
Don't just automate, communicate.
4. Stop thinking of online as something separate – it’s just another “place” The systems you create to better connect with your contacts should apply whether a person finds you on your website, Facebook page or at an open house. Again – they aren’t “visitors,” they are people. The systems you create should apply regardless of how someone discovers your business.
With technology advancing at warp speed and taking over our lives in ways many never imagined, it can be tempting to start implementing technology into our business to keep up. But in an industry of people helping people make emotional decisions, technology should be used wisely. It can help us create and maintain stronger connections, but before implementing anything, we must understand the problem it solves. If we do that, we all win.
If you’re interested in seeing how data can help your agents connect with their network in a smarter way, fill out the form below.