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online_real_estateNationwide, brokers are struggling to combine their traditional operating model with the new, fast-paced online environment where agents and consumers live. Despite our rapidly evolving online culture, most real estate brokerages remain offline. I would argue it’s mainly because brokers and their management teams have been unable to figure out how to meld the two effectively. But today, a broker’s branding effort must work together to meet the demands of their consumers.

Here are a few examples of the issues brokers struggle with every day:

• We either spend a lot of money on our physical plant to project a strong and successful image, or we spend a lot of money on websites to build our brand online. Rarely do the two work in a unified fashion.

• We create events like open houses and caravans, but we don’t leverage the same effort online to solidify messaging. Our consumers spend a good chunk of their time online. The potential to capture new business through both active and passive efforts is huge. Online, real estate marketing should coordinate multiple strategies through SEO, content strategy, social outreach and social listening.

• Many brokers expect their admin to respond to a telephone call right away while their agents get away with ignoring Internet leads for hours or days. In the worst case, agents fail to ever respond to their leads!

It’s imperative that brokers take the lead from other consumer-facing businesses:

• Have you been to an Apple Store? It feels like your Apple product: cool, fresh and hip. Apple’s consistent branding and commitment to innovation have made it one of the most valuable companies in the world.

• Have you bought a new car lately? Does it have a jack for your iPod, a GPS and a Bluetooth? Car manufacturers have made it easier than ever to stay plugged in. And frequently, our smartphones work together with these smarter cars: Navigation, conversation, music and much more is at our fingertips when we travel.

• Have you travelled by plane lately? Did you book your ticket, pick your seat and confirm your departure online? Wi-Fi is now commonly available in airports and on planes, creating greater value for consumers.

Sure, you might have a fan page on Facebook, or a website for your brokerage. You may try to do other things online, but is it really coordinated with your offline presence and company branding? Your online and offline presence should present a unified brand that familiarizes the consumer with what you offer. If you are like most brokers, you probably don’t have a coordinated real estate marketing strategy to accomplish this.

If we’re going to bridge the gap between consumer expectations and industry innovations, we must address this issue. Most real estate brokerages started out as brick and mortar companies. Now, brokers must deal with the challenges a fast-paced online culture presents to their business.

I had a conversation recently with a friend who has a completely offline business: yard signs. Like brokers, he lives and dies with how much listing inventory exists. Yet, he figured out how to meld his significant footprint in the offline sign business with online tools like mobile listing sites and QR codes. He is giving agents the online tools they need to connect with consumers so they are incentivized to buy his offline product.

I often talk about creating an integrated Internet marketing strategy. That strategy begins with marrying your offline and online presence. The brokerages that figure this out have a significant competitive advantage for the years to come.

Jose Perez is the founder and chief visionary of PCMS Consulting. PCMS provides innovative solutions leading brokerages require to enhance their market position and profitability. For more information, please visit www.pcmsconsulting.com or email jperez@pcmsconsulting.com.

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