How to THRIVE As A Real Estate Agent During (And After) COVID-19

covid 19 strategies

The world has completely changed due to COVID-19. But a crisis also brings great opportunities to not just survive but also thrive. See how in this article.

Covid-19 Hyperlocal Strategies Marketing Tips

Nelson Cuesta
Founder & CEO

The reality of the current COVID-19 pandemic is that there was a world and real estate economy that existed before the outbreak that was radically different from what is to follow. 

But the real estate industry isn’t going anywhere. That's because housing is not a luxury, it's a need.

But one thing is sure. Technology is going to play a significant role in bridging the pre-COVID-19 world to the new economy. And agents' creativity in how they use that technology will be absolutely crucial. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with top-performing clients and national industry leaders. 

My goal wasn't just to understand how to survive COVID-19, I set out to understand how to thrive during and after the outbreak. Why could I be so optimistic that such a thing was possible?

Because history shows that with every massive socio-economic event, new opportunities are created for those who seek them. And why would COVID-19 be any different?

From those conversations, I was able to put together a list of top 10 strategies and technologies that you can focus on so you can lay the foundations to be able to thrive as a real estate agent in the current economy, as well as in the post-COVID 19 world. 

focus on service not sales

1. Shift From A "Sales" To A "Service" Mindset

There's a reason why real estate agents are also known as real estate salespersons: salesmanship is of the main skills required to have a successful real estate career.

In fact, quite often you'll see that those agents that are hustling, showing off their new properties, teaching clients and prospects which home improvements would get them the highest ROI, and creating amazingly creative ads ARE the ones who bring on the most revenue.

But while there's a time and a place to show off your salesmanship skills, is it REALLY the right time to be doing that now?

Are your clients and prospects REALLY in the right frame of mind to pay attention to that?

Jared James, one of the top coaches in the real estate industry agrees. He has been preaching to all agents the need to shift from a sales mindset, to a service mindset. 

I’m a big fan of Jared’s - and since the outbreak began, he’s been all over the place hosting webinars and live streams with CEO’s from all of the biggest brokerages.

“As a salesperson right now, you need to shift your mindset from that of a salesperson to that of a service-first mentality, period,” said Jared in a recent Facebook Broadcast.

“I am hearing coaches and speakers talking to their audiences and telling them how to sell right now - and how to cold call and say the right things, and go out to FSBO’s that are expired now because nobody is doing showings, they’re teaching them, and I’m going to tell you right now, that is so freaking tone-deaf! What are you thinking? Right now is not the time to be thinking with a salesperson’s mindset.”

And I completely agree. Right now there needs to be a massive mental shift from sales to service. And it is in making that shift that you can begin to see some of the opportunities that are out there. 

Here’s one of the biggest ones: you have the PERFECT excuse to reach out to your ENTIRE CLIENT, PROSPECT AND SPHERE OF INFLUENCE DATABASE. 

With COVID-19 on everyone’s minds, you’ve essentially been given a free pass to REVIVE your ENTIRE DATABASE by reaching out with high value, hyperlocal information that is relevant to them right now. Stuff such as:

  • Updates on the virus and how it’s affecting your local area.
  • Which stores are open/closed and where to find certain essentials not found on big-box retail stores.
  • Authoritative information & personal perspectives on how this pandemic is affecting the real estate market.
  • How COVID-19 is affecting the value of their homes.
  • How people can take advantage of government assistance loans and programs.
  • Sincere offers for practical help (such as buying groceries) and/or information on how the elderly or those with special needs can be connected with those who can help them.

… and the list goes on and on. 

To put it plainly, you’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to show your ENTIRE database that YOU are the hyperlocal area expert.  

If you take advantage of this NOW, you can develop a reputation as a local real estate authority that will catapult you into the future. 

Offer to help entire database

2. Reach Out To Your Entire Database and Offer to Help

I'm subscribed to many real estate agent’s newsletters, and I’ve been blown away by some of the incredible offers that some agents have been making to help within their local communities. 

Check out this email that Joseph Arendsen from TrueLocalRealty.com sent out to his entire database (and if you don’t want to read the entire thing, I’ll summarize the key points below). 

Joseph Arendsen Letter

Here are my key takeaways from this email, which you can focus on in your communications to your clients/database

  • Relate: Joseph starts off his email with a short reminder of who he is and the sort of value that he’s able to provide (local San Diegan who has lots of helpful connections)
  • Make The Offer Real: Joseph includes his personal phone number twice (once in bold), and includes an offer to hop into a video conference. You could do the same, but why stop there? Take it a step further, and offer to personally teach your clients and prospects how to use Zoom, order groceries online, share articles and actionable tips on how to deal with loneliness and isolation, how to work-out from home, find remote jobs, etc.
  • Show Hyper-Local Expertise: Joseph predicts that his area will see more foreign money start to come in from investors seeking safer investments. 

Not only will these sorts of communications help you stand out as a leader in your community, but they will definitely not forget this kind of gesture in the future. If you’re willing to assist them in times of crisis, you can bet they will trust you with their homes once this pandemic ends.

3. Use Your Down Time To Get Your CRM Set Up And Optimized

There’s a good chance you have a ton of real estate tasks you’ve been putting off for "later", and getting your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program dialed in is probably one of them.  

Heck, if I can be real here for a second, many agents are flat out afraid of technology. But you need to get over that fear fast

Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, powerful real estate industry figureheads like Compass CEO Robert Reffkin have urged their agents that NOW is the time to take advantage of the power of CRMs. 

Here’s a summary of the top 3 key-value points in the recent letter that Reffkin sent to all Compass personnel:

  • Consolidate: CRM allows you to import your contacts to have one single database of all of your contacts.
  • Automate: Allows you to automate lead generation and client follow-up.
  • Followup: Helps to stay “top of mind” once the deal is over.

Many agents that I work with have resisted moving everything to a CRM because they “find them impersonal.” But that's not a valid excuse to avoid using them.

So what's the best CRM to use? As Tom Ferry says, that's the wrong question to ask.

All CRMs are good. Sure, some have nicer features than others, but instead of spending countless days deciding which one to get, it's far more important that you get a CRM, AND you start using it effectively.

Here's why:

10% Of Your Database Will Move Every Year

The average person moves every 10 years. That means that 10% of your database should convert every year. To put that into perspective, if you have a database of 1000 people, 100 of them will be conversions this year alone!

Even if the average person in your database moves every 15 years… do the math! That’s still a huge amount of people! 

15% Of Your Database Can Send You Referrals

If you’re staying top-of-mind within your database, around 15% of your database should be sending you referrals every year. If you continue to grow your database, and stay on top of their mind by means of your CRM, you'll eventually get to the point you no longer need to actively prospect. The clients will just come to you.

As Ferry so eloquently puts it, “be the hub.”

“Be the hub means, if they’re even thinking about selling, they call you. If they’re thinking about buying or someone they know is thinking about buying, they'll call you because you’re the hub. It’s an out of state referral [...] you’re the hub! Should I refinance my home? They should be calling you, they’re not calling their bank to sit on hold. Home value, I want that. Need a gardener, handyman, fix-it, whose the best lighting decoration person, how about investors, etc. Everything that’s real estate related, be the hub.”

So… how do you become the hub, the central pivot point of everything real estate related for every person in your database?

Every Person, Every 90 Days, a Relevant Touch

The beauty of a CRM is that it makes it easy to remember all of your contacts, and it can provide you tons of reasons to reach out to each one of them.

One of your contacts has an important anniversary, holiday, or important life event coming up? Your CRM can be automated to remind you to send these a personal message to them. 

Some CRM’s, like LionDesk, allows you to leverage video texts and emails to remain personal. 

In a conversation I had with LionDesk’s owner David Anderson, he mentioned:

He also mentioned that many of the support-related requests coming in were from users eager to ‘provide value’ and ‘let their clients know that they’re there if they need anything.’ 

Which brings us to the smartest thing that you can be doing right now… 

write a blog

4. Create And Post Helpful Blog Content Relevant To COVID-19

Blogging has proven itself to be an incredibly effective tool for real estate agents who actually do it. 

Not only does blogging regularly help your website gain more visibility in search engines (especially Google), but it also allows you to improve your reputation on your hyperlocal market as the go-to professional. 

The BEST blog content is what’s called "evergreen" content - which means content that always remains useful.

evergreen content
Examples of "evergreen" content that once created, you could potentially feature on your website for years. AgentFire Spark Sites come loaded with many different evergreen guides that you can easily adjust (to add more value), add your own unique guides, and even use our guide cover creator to create extremely attractive covers for more clicks.

There are certain questions that I'm sure you get from clients all the time. Questions such as "is it better to buy or rent?", or "which government programs can I take advantage of when buying a new home?"

Now imagine if you had a perfectly crafted resource that you could direct your clients to whenever that question came up. How much time would you save? How professional and prepared would you look? 

And if you thought blog posts were effective before, they are ESPECIALLY EFFECTIVE right now. Right now your clients are desperately seeking out information relating to COVID-19 from reliable experts. 

So what should you blog about?

Well to answer this question I sent a message over to Tyler Auerbacher, the Founder of Dippidi - a top real estate marketing agency, to get some insights. 

They’re currently seeing clicks for as low as $.08 each to articles they’re publishing for their clients… which is AMAZING. 

Dippidi campaign

Here are some general topics that they recommend:

  • How to disinfect and keep your home clean during the Coronavirus Outbreak
  • Understanding the Difference Between the Mortgage Rate & Fed Rate
  • How to Help Kids Understand The Anxiety that Comes with the Coronavirus
  • 5 Things To Keep You Sane During Self-Quarantine 

For a full list of ideas, here’s our list of the Top 50 COVID-19 Real Estate Blog Ideas

That being said, what you should really try to do is take some of these ideas and figure out how to craft content that is laser-focused on your hyperlocal areas. 

Mel Biondi, owner of the ultra-successful Biondi Soutner Realty Group, shared some great insights here:

5. Optimize Your Website

So, as the owner of AgentFire, we’ve been flooded by support tickets from clients which more or less, all have the following essence:

What should I be doing right now

Well… short answer, A LOT. Regardless of who your website host is. 

For starters - everything we’ve talked about in this article can and should be facilitated through your website. 

Remember all the way back in #3 where we talked about “being the hub”?

Your website is essentially the hub of your entire online presence. And in the new COVID-19 economy, your online presence just became a LOT MORE IMPORTANT. 

We’ll be publishing lots of content pertaining to enhancements you should be making to your website over the coming weeks and months, so if you haven’t already make sure that you’re subscribed to our newsletter here.  

Here’s a short list of changes that I recommend making IMMEDIATELY within your website. 

Update Your Messaging

If you’ve got chat tools or calls-to-action throughout your website, consider changing them up to reflect the current situation. 

adjusted messaging
Here’s an example of how you can update a chat CTA on your website to reflect COVID-19

Joel Burslem from 1000watt recently wrote an article talking about the need to quickly pivot all of your messaging to reflect the COVID-19 situation. 

In it, he mentioned that he was surprised at how many companies had quickly pivoted to show empathy and create great relevant content. 

However, on sites that haven’t updated their messaging, he described it as:

Update Your Buyer & Seller Services Pages

One of the key things your website should do is market you.

If you don’t already have pages on your website that detail explicitly all of the benefits that buyers and sellers can expect when working with you… well hurry up on and get on that!

But for those of you who do have these pages set up on your website, make sure to update them to reflect the new COVID-19 environment. 

Expert buyers agents
Make sure to update not only your homepage, but your buyer and seller pages to reflect precautions you’re taking and strategies you’re implementing!

Buyers will want to be assured that you’re taking measures to protect them from getting sick. And sellers will want to know what sort of measures you’re taking when it comes to showing their properties and getting more traffic to them via digital channels (like video tours, Facebook ads, etc). 

If you’re posting updates somewhere, make those a focal point within your website.

Many of our clients have been doing a fantastic job focusing on creating high value ‘update’ content through platforms like Facebook and YouTube. 

If you’re doing this, make sure to leverage your website to promote this content

Joseph Ardensen from TrueLocalRealty has been providing market updates via his YouTube channel. 

Every time he posts an update to his YouTube channel, he writes a blog post which includes a written summary to help with SEO. 

He’s also got CTA’s that display on all of his blog posts which encourage visitors to subscribe to his YouTube channel for more updates. 

adjusted cta
Context is sooo important! Every page of your website is different and caters to different micro-audiences, which is why CTA’s should always target the specific pages on which they’re most likely to convert. Our Engage CTA tool helps you to target every micro-audience with the CTA that’s most likely to convert.

Make your virtual tours within your listings a prominent feature

As we’ve already discussed, virtual tours and virtual open houses are going to be big in the new economy. 

Make sure to feature these prominently within your listings. If your website provider hasn’t already, ask them to modify your "schedule a showing" request to include COVID-19 verbiage. 

covid safe tour
We’ve modified our featured listings tool to include "COVID-19" verbiage to make buyers feel safer

Make sure that your CRM is integrated

This will vary agent to agent, but if you’re using a CRM, make sure it’s connected everywhere you are online. Zillow Leads, Facebook Leads, Website leads - they should all be populating directly into your CRM. 

Most real estate website providers integrate with a large number of 3rd parties - here at AgentFire we integrate with all of the big ones - and if you’re looking for recommendations, far and away our top two are FollowupBoss and LionDesk.

af lead manager
Our AF Lead Manager connects seamlessly with LionDesk, FollowupBoss, Contactually, kvCORE, Contactually, Top Producer, and many more industry leading CRM’s.

Our AF Lead Manager connects seamlessly with LionDesk, FollowupBoss, Contactually, kvCORE, Contactually, Top Producer, and many more industry leading CRM’s. 

If you’re not sure how to get your CRM integrated with your website, simply ask your website host :) 

6. Invest in Virtual Open House Technology

This is the most obvious one right now. 

Virtually overnight (no pun intended), virtual open houses went from being "popular" to being "the standard."

According to the most recent Homelight survey, The industry was already taking giant leaps with respect to virtual open houses, 32% of sellers won’t even allow open houses

The bottom-line takeaway here is that in the COVID-19 economy, interpersonal interactions aren’t just going to be fewer... they are literally being discouraged, and in some cases, prohibited

As a result, we’re already seeing a massive boost in the use of and adaptation to virtual open house tech and strategies. 

showcase idx
ShowcaseIDX have modified their online listing display to change "Schedule a Tour" to "Schedule a COVID-19 Safe Tour." They’re also now asking users who schedule open house times, to re-confirm those times with the agent prior to the showing due to COVID-19.

Shannon Jones, a Long Beach CA based client of ours, is unable to meet clients or show homes in person because of current restrictions, and here’s how she pivoted. 

“Our team held three 'virtual open houses' on Facebook live last week, promoting them via email to our database and other agents as well as on social media. Without any boosting, they had 94 views, 209 and 197 views -- more than the number of attendees we'd have been able to attract to a 'regular' open house. One of them went under contract yesterday.”

The virtual open houses that Shannon’s team hosted on Facebook live got tons of engagement in the forms of questions and shares, and lots of views, with one of them going under contract just shortly after the open house aired. 

She went on to add:

Now as far as which technology to focus on, I do think that good ‘ol video tours are still the gold standard when it comes to ‘virtual’ open houses (as opposed to 3D tours). 

While I think that video tours are still the gold standard, I do expect that we’ll see much faster adaptation to 3D technologies - And for my money, I do think that Matterport is the current gold-standard when it comes to open house technology as their platform gives the best 3D experience on the market (and for those reasons, it’s the one that we do the most integration with here at AgentFire). 

 

matterport
Matterport uses a 3d technology to create a fully interactive virtual open house experience, where users can click into individual spots within individual rooms, and then drag the cursor to look up, down, left & right, for a completely immersive experience.

Another company I wanted to briefly mention here, although I have no direct experience with them, is roOomy - who specializes in virtual staging and interior design software which let’s home shoppers “break down all visualization barriers” by allowing them to virtually stage their desired properties.  

All of this being said, open houses will of course still happen (and happen regularly) - but the entire open house experience will now change dramatically. 

… but what about Virtual Reality? 

The answer is no. Well at least "not yet" - that’s my answer, plain and simple. 

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE VR. For reference, I’ve invested over $25k into VR technology (I purchased a GoPro Omni for over $5k when it launched 🤦‍♂️)...

More than anything, I LOVE the potential that VR holds, and fully believe that it’s the future…  but we’re just not there yet.

Good and truly immersive VR headsets are pricy, cumbersome, and are simply too niche to be worth your time and effort right now.

7. Invest in Virtual Meeting Software

Let's take a step back and appreciate just how well people seem to be adapting to this massive shift - we’ve done way better than you probably realized.

When I mentioned towards the beginning article that we’re going to see an almost forced adoption to new technologies, it’s because people are literally being forced into new technologies. 

People who barely know how to operate a smartphone are now figuring out how to do things like order food and join Facebook community groups. 

I love a good handshake and face to face communication as much as anyone, but my company has been remote since day 1, and we’ve been using virtual conferencing tools forever, and they’re amazing. 

Software like Zoom, Meet, or even Skype simulate a shared working environment, allowing people to connect digitally in ways that are slightly less personal, but way more efficient. 

Inman has a great article reviewing the most popular ones here. The key not only lies in investing money into the right software, but investing time and energy into learning how to communicate effectively in this new environment. 

Even after the pandemic, the world has seen the possibilities and the future will see the use of this technology growing exponentially.

So keep yourself relevant and learn. Zoom has useful and timely material on this on their blog, which you can check out here.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Be Flexible: Zoom is probably the best overall virtual meeting software, but for as easy as it is to get running, it’s still going to be a big ask if you’re working with a client who is completely technologically illiterate. Be willing to use Facetime or Google Hangouts if those options are more convenient for your clients. 
  2. Be Prepared: Prepare material beforehand for you and any attendees. Work on your pre-listing packets and buyer books to help people follow along during the virtual meeting.
  3. Be Up To Date: Practice new, COVID-19 relevant scripts and presentations with your team.
  4. Go Next Level: Hold mini webinars for your clients on relevant topics like how to pay off bad debt, how to pick the right mortgage, which renos offer the best return on your investment, updates on the pandemic, and so on. Again, this is a chance to position yourself as the go-to expert.

Leveraging virtual meeting software is an awesome opportunity to not only keep your team functional, but to make meaningful connections with your database... To provide value, warmth, and leadership.

online document signing

8. Start looking at online document signing solutions

Finally, more and more cities are beginning to make provisions for notaries to do their work remotely. For example, Governor Andrew Cuomo passed an executive order that makes it possible to virtually notarize documents that in the past needed to be notarized in person.

While this provision is temporary for now, don’t expect it to remain that way forever. You can expect virtual notarizations to become more and more popular in the post-COVID-19 world.

In fact, “RON” (remote online notarization) was first implemented in 2011 in the state of Virginia and has been gaining traction ever since. This pandemic might be the push it needs to be a regular practice. 

This is all to say that you better get used to it!

af affiliate program
Online document signing solutions like PandaDoc allow you to easily create templates of your documents that within a few clicks, you can fire off to your clients for signature.

Fortunately, there are apps like DocuSign that have filled the gap way before we needed it as we do now. Others worth mentioning are PandaDoc (which is what I use and personally recommend) and Adobe Sign, and a simple Google search will yield many options. It all comes down to what you and your sphere are familiar with.

Notary signing requires multiple individuals to witness the contract signing, along with physical proof of identification so I’d like to reiterate the importance of #7: invest in learning how to communicate in a virtual environment.

9. Plan And Implement A Direct Mail Campaign

This one is a good one 😊.

In the past, we’ve talked about why direct mail campaigns are so effective, and why they need to be a part of your marketing strategy.

Why direct mail and not just an email campaign? Because everyone is locked at home, tons of people are ordering stuff from Amazon, and they’re paying a lot more attention to their physical mailboxes. 

Chances are you’ve already tried running a mail campaign in the past, but haven’t had the time to run another one. Or maybe you’ve thought about it, but just haven’t started one yet.

Why not use the time you’re spending locked indoors to work on one?

Handwritten
Companies like handywritten will actually study an uploaded sample of your writing so that you can ‘type’ out handwritten notes and have them sent for as little for $2.44 each!

While it may not be the best idea to push hard for a sale right now, this is a good time to score some goodwill points.

Your mail campaign should include tips on how to stay safe and sane in isolation, a small care package (with hand sanitizers if you happen to still have any), what adjustments you’ve done so that you can continue real estate operations, or how to take advantage of the recent drop in interest rates by the Feds.

If you provide real and tangible value to your audience, you’ll be able to establish yourself as a community leader and a trustworthy authority figure in the real estate industry. That way when this pandemic ends and people go back to normal, they’ll remember you when they need to buy or sell a home.

answer questions

10. Answer Questions On Real Estate Facebook Groups & Zillow

Facebook groups and forums remain an effective place for real estate agents to market their services, but they shouldn’t be used exclusively for showing your listings.

Each city has tons of Facebook communities for all sorts of things. From real estate, hobbies, events, buying and selling, etc.

Make sure you join these groups, and keep an eye out for questions where you can provide your real estate expertise.

a quick search
A quick search of [your area] will turn up loads of groups local to your area, and you can search  [your area] + real estate to find additional groups that you can join and provide value within.
Many members of real estate groups have plenty of questions about how real estate will continue to exist right now.

If you’ve got great blog content setup on your website, or video content on your YouTube channel that provides value or answers the question being asked, these are great opportunities to get people onto your website or following you on various social media platforms. 

Conclusion

The Coronavirus may have prevented you from being out there and pounding the pavement, but it hasn’t completely stopped you from providing value and building your business. 

Hopefully, this article has provided you with some ideas on what you can do to continue getting important work done while we all make it through these tough times. 

And more than anything, use your current lockdown time wisely. As Leonard Steinberg puts it:

Stay safe and use this time not just to survive… use this time to take a MASSIVE step forward!

 

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