How To Successfully Sell Apps to Real Estate Agents
This is our newest blog series featuring expert opinions from Bizness Apps employees in all departments. We aim to capture emerging trends and challenges in sales, marketing, design, and product development. This blog post is contributed by our Onboarding Technician & Mobile Marketing Advisor, Cathlin Houle. Cathlin is also a licensed real estate agent in the state of California, home to one of the most competitive and burgeoning real estate markets in the U.S. For years she was the primary assistant to the #1 top-producing Solo Agent in San Diego County, which provided her experience in all aspects of selling real estate at a high volume – including managing print and digital marketing campaigns.
As a Mobile Marketing Advisor, I often speak to resellers who are interested in selling apps to real estate agents. It seems as though there’s an obvious value in this market, but putting a finger on exactly why that is, and how to succeed, might seem complicated. It’s as though Bizness Apps partners know there’s a diamond in the rough, but don’t have the tools necessary to locate or mine it. I’m excited to help break down the basics of how this market works, and why every real estate agent needs YOU to build them a mobile marketing strategy.
Why Real Estate?
In short, real estate agents’ jobs are stressful. Agents have no base income and work solely on commission. Each deal they close is, therefore, the difference of several thousands of dollars. As a result, they must be completely focused on serving the client in front of them, while simultaneously lining up the next deal in their pipeline.
Consequently, agents understand the value of advertising their services; having a solid marketing strategy is non-negotiable. But, with their attention honed in on their clients, they often lack the time or resources to research new and emerging tools. Their dedicated marketing budgets are spent advertising in newspapers, magazines, and other outdated print media with fewer readers every year. In other words, their marketing strategy is wide open for digital upgrades, especially a mobile upgrade. What they truly need is an expert to advise them on it.
Cue the Bizness Apps Reseller. As you’re prospecting leads, you can use online tools like Realtor.com, Zillow, Redfin, and other websites to find real estate app candidates. Fortunately, agents will have their contact information listed everywhere.
Remember that a real estate agent is a small business entity in itself. In other words, the agent’s reputation is their brand and they are compensated for the service which they provide to the consumer. Therefore, when you call one (and trust me, they’ll answer – each phone call could be their next million dollar deal), you’ll immediately get access to the “Decision Maker” for that particular small business.
Aside from cold calling, agents can be easy to approach face-to-face. You may be familiar with open houses but consider the “broker caravan” as a better alternative. These caravans are orchestrated during a particular time frame and day of the week for specific regions. For instance, the city of Encinitas hosts on Wednesdays from 10am-12pm. The idea is to open all newly-listed homes within a close proximity, so the local real estate agents can preview new inventory for their clients efficiently. It’s a way to quickly see what’s new on the market, and determine which houses buyers may or may not be interested in visiting over the weekend.
These caravans are completely open to the public. Unlike weekend open houses, where agents are seriously hustling to woo potential buyers, caravans are conducted during business hours. As a result, key players in the industry come to network and offer other services. As a digital marketer, you could regularly hit the ‘caravan circuits’ and pitch your solutions in-person without interrupting any agent-client interactions.
How to Sell a Real Estate App
Like any app sale, you’ll need to consider two factors:
- What is the value to the consumer? The consumers are the ones who will actually use the app and, ultimately, their level of engagement determines whether the app is successful or not.
- What is the value to your client? The client is the one who’s investing in your services and definitely will want to get something in return.
Let’s break this down:
1) The Value Of A Real Estate Agent’s App To The Consumer
Home buyers and sellers have a vast array of helpful tools at their disposition. Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com are just a few mega-companies among many. We are not here to reinvent a multibillion-dollar industry and convince users that the app is better than the existing tools. Rather, the value of the agent is to be the guide. Purchasing or selling a house is one of the most stressful periods of any individual’s life. The consumer is often overwhelmed with data and big decisions coming at them quickly. Most of a typical real estate transaction occurs within only 21 days! Thus, a one-stop shop with accessible information to guide the consumer through the process would be extremely useful.
Some key app features from the Bizness Apps CMS that could be utilized for the consumer’s benefit include:
- Around Us Feature: Incorporate information on the unique flair of local neighborhoods to help a buyer determine where s/he could become a member of the right community. It could provide a map with interactive information on great restaurants, public parks, shopping, and more. This could also incorporate locations and information on planned housing developments and model homes.
- Website or PDF Feature: Include local school districts, their zones, and ratings, as they are a huge contributing factor to real estate value and where families would like to live.
- Contact Feature: Real estate clients want to hire trusted contractors to work on their new home. So in the Contact Feature, include anything from roofers, electricians, plumbers, and painters, to interior designers, home stagers, and photographers, to lenders, financial planners, tax attorneys and more. Agents spend several collective hours (if not days!) sharing the contact information of this contractor network and updating the “master list” is in a word document is cumbersome. Instead, incorporate this information in one location that can be maintained and updated easily – it’s an added bonus for the agent.
- PDF or Info-Tier Feature: Provide guides to extraordinarily complex information such as the escrow, title, loan, and insurance process. Bonus Tip: Most of these guides already exist! Escrow, Title, and Loan officers are willing to provide a plethora of guides, flyers, and interactive courses that will walk a customer through these complex and essential processes in the real estate transaction. Therefore, agents don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to materials to put in the app.
- Website Feature: If you’re dead set on including a property search feature (even though we’ve established buyers use companies like Realtor.com, Redfin, Zillow and more), bring in an existing MLS search via a website feature. More often than not, an agent or their brokerage will already have this available on their website. As a value-added bonus, see if you can parse out Short Sales and Foreclosures. Investors love scanning this information for opportunities.
2) The Value Of A Real Estate Agent’s App To The Agent
There are two types of agents: Listing Agents (who represent sellers) and Buyer’s Agents. A lot of agents cross over both realms, but in general they tend to stick towards one or the other. They each have unique needs and the app should reflect those needs. Though in reality, many of the features I mention in this article would be beneficial to both types of agents.
Let’s start with one of the most important features for both Listing Agents and Buyer’s Agents: the Reviews Campaign Add-On. Reputation is EVERYTHING when it comes to real estate! When I worked in the industry, nearly two-thirds of our clients found us through either personal referral or review sites such as Google, Yelp, Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and others. In fact, agents with 10 or more reviews see a 300% increase in listings versus agents with no reviews. Testimonials are some of the most important parts of an agent’s marketing.
Incorporate our Reviews Campaign Add-On (Or the Website Feature) to request reviews from recent customers for the agent’s own site or a third-party review site. There’s nothing quite like completing the sale or purchase of a home and oftentimes a client is willing to vouch for the agent and share their experience with others. Consider visibly marketing a referral program in the app itself too. Sometimes writing a simple phrase asking a consumer to tell their friends, family, and coworkers about your services will initiate that action.
Now let’s get into specifics, in terms of what selling points you should focus on for the different types of real estate agents.
Many agents aspire to list homes. This is because the seller will sign a contract with one particular agent, agreeing upon a listing price and other terms. This contract ensures that if the home sells, that agent is guaranteed the commission. On the other hand, buyers will sometimes see homes with several different agents, and there is no guarantee that the agent is due any commission. The buyer may choose to work with someone else, or sometimes they’ll see homes for several months and ultimately decide it’s not the right time to buy.
Although, listing a home requires a higher upfront investment. The listing agent is expected to provide high-quality images and market the home to potential buyers. Furthermore, sellers often interview several possible listing agents before selecting the one who they think will get them the highest price. Therefore, listing agents are adamant about displaying how they go above and beyond what other listing agents offer. Possible features to appeal to listing agents include:
- Real Estate Feature: The Bizness Apps real estate feature is NOT a full search tool for all homes on the market. Rather, it’s a way to showcase an agent’s active listings. It also displays the number of other clients and caliber of luxury listings that the agent successfully works with. This assures any prospective home sellers that yes, this listing agent “knows their stuff” and has worked their way to the top.
- Bonus tip: Many listing agents like to showcase how many deals they’ve closed recently, and the high sales price they negotiated for their client. Include more than active listings by creating a “Recently Sold” real estate feature in the app.
- Bonus tip #2: Listing agents market homes for sale to buyer’s agents in an online marketplace called the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS. The MLS is managed and hosted by a local realtor association and is carefully monitored by state governments (Bureau of Real Estate) for accuracy and legal compliance. Therefore, this is where agents update content such as home status (active, pending, sold), price reductions, and more. The data you see on third-party sites such as Zillow, Redfin, etc. is pulled automatically from the MLS via an IDX Key. To reduce the amount of manual data input, secure your agent’s unique IDX key so you, too, may automatically pull the active listing information to the app.
- Image Gallery: Showcase those beautiful, high quality, and expensive real estate photos. Again, this reinforces that the agent sells high-quality homes and will provide quality photography for the seller’s home.
- YouTube or Website Feature: Many high-end agents now offer video tours and interactive 3D tours, so you will want to show these in the app too.
- Image Gallery, Info Tier, or PDF: Showcase how the agent invests in quality marketing for their customer. This may include samples of print ads in the paper or magazines, social media campaigns, email campaigns, print postcards etc.
- Events Feature: Share the schedule of open houses and broker caravans, so users know what’s coming up in the future.
- Custom Forms Feature: Title this something like “What’s My Home Worth?” and ask for details on a potential seller’s home. Listing agents LOVE to provide complimentary marketing assessments – it’s a way to secure a listing appointment with a prospect. If a client meets an agent they like at an open house, they might be inclined to fill out such a custom form.
As previously noted, buyer’s agents are constantly trying to prove their worth in order to prevent their customers from seeing homes with other agents. Therefore, the features mentioned above that are valuable to the consumer are paramount for the buyer’s agent’s credibility.
Other possible features also include:
- Custom Forms Feature: Provide an opportunity for the buyer to express what they’re looking for: number of bedrooms, type of home, general location, price point, etc. as well as the client’s contact information. It’s an easy way to collect inbound lead information.
- Bonus Tip: Agents that are well connected like to display the fact that they constantly network with other realtors, therefore keeping them “in the know” regarding exciting properties that are going to hit the market soon. Generate interest and display value by naming this feature something like “Up and Coming,” enticing potential buyers because the agent may know about properties that meet their criteria, but aren’t yet available to the general public
- Contact Feature: Make it as easy as possible for a potential buyer to contact the agent.
- Events Feature: Buyers agents often offer to hold open houses for busy listing agents, it’s a way to meet prospective buyers. Therefore, displaying a calendar of upcoming open houses shows prospects that you’re active in the real estate arena even though you may not have listings to showcase.
- Bonus Tip: Agents often use clunky “sign in sheets” and ask buyers to frantically scribble their dream home requirements. Instead, use the Promotional Flyer from the CMS and launch buyers directly into your app with a QR code. Buyers will immediately have your contact information AND can fill out your custom form.
Are there any other key players in Real Estate?
Of course there are! I briefly mentioned Mortgage lenders (they loan the buyer the money), Escrow officers (they take the money and manage the transaction as a neutral third party while the buyer/sellers do their due diligence), and Title officers (they manage the transfer of title aka ownership). These companies also work off referrals and are great targets for mobile applications as well.
Additionally, do not miss the massive opportunity to work with Brokerages. A brokerage is the parent company an agent works for. These are the Coldwell Bankers, Century 21st, Keller Williams, and Sotheby’s of the world. An agent represents themselves as a small business, but the broker is the legal “parent.” In other words, they ensure the agents are compliant with the law. The brokerage also usually provides the physical office space and overhead for agents. Typically, the agent pays a percentage of their commission to the brokerage for those services.
Therefore, brokers need to attract the best agents to their companies. They do this by providing perks such as leads, marketing stipends, office materials, and more. Brokers also attract brand new agents by providing training materials and mentorship programs. Consider the “one to many” model of selling an app to a brokerage. Not only could the brokerage have their own app, they might also purchase many apps as a recruiting tool for top agents.
I gained some valuable experience working with agents and figured I’d share a few things I’ve learned:
- Professionalism and timeliness matters. Set expectations, deliver on promises, and provide high-quality content.
- Be patient. An agent’s first responsibility is always to his or her clients, who may call at any moment. Agents are notorious for rescheduling appointments with non-clients.
- The life cycle of a real estate app’s user is short – that’s OK! Do not expect high numbers of app launches in your analytics system at a given time, and know that a client likely won’t keep your app on their phone after the transaction is over. Rather, it’s about meaningful users that may convert into closed deals and 5-star reviews.
- Market the app! Agents are always in front of people – include QR codes at open houses, in email blasts, on business cards, and so on. If you provide an extraordinary tool, ensure the agent is promoting it adequately. With adequate promotion and utilization over time, this could mean thousands of dollars for both the agent and yourself. Ensure those efforts do not go to waste!