By Nick Caruso
Winning in the real estate industry is about more than making cold-calls and holding open houses. In today’s digital age, you need to be highly visible, and easy to find. In the following interview, Helen Hanna Casey, President of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Pittsburgh, Pa., gives us insight on increasing national exposure on the web.
Number of offices: 169
Number of agents: 5,700
You are the number one independent broker in your region and number four nationally. How are you using this brand presence to your advantage? Is there an advantage to being independent?
We’ve always used our brand presence to our advantage. Long before anyone knew what branding was, we were Howard Hanna, and Howard Hanna is a real person. We are always in our market and have been incredibly visible. We are real people, so we’re not just a brand or a franchise or a known shop. Do we have an advantage? Certainly there are buying powers. We can do things like partner with realtor.com® because our size allows us to. We have 25,000 listings throughout our markets, and we have the ability to be incredibly successful with syndication because we limit it.
Do you allow your listings on any site that will take them or are you selective about which places you syndicate?
We directly feed syndicators and that’s very important to our company. A company has to be willing to have internal systems for this. We now have a digital marketing director, which basically allows us to maximize what we do online.
How has working with realtor.com® benefited your business?
We have to accept that our sellers and buyers want more exposure. To me, it’s no different than when we were in newspapers, except then we controlled what our ad looked like. When you talk to the consumer, ask them where they go. We spent a lot of time interviewing our consumers and conducting studies to truly determine how syndication would benefit us. We get 14 million hits on our own website a year without any help, so our feeling was to go to the leading syndicators who were mentioned the most by consumers. We are still a multi-media marketing company. We still do print newspapers and a lot of mailers to promote our open houses. That’s a huge component of our company. To think people are just going to look on your website is unrealistic. You have to take advantage of other forms of advertising and marketing as well.
Do your sellers appreciate that you work with the national portals like realtor.com®? Do you stress to your sellers how you reach a bigger national audience by extending your listings to national sites?
Some of our sales associates stress it more than others. A majority of our agents can explain how it’s the biggest benefit to sellers. At Howard Hanna, the leads have always gone directly to the listing agent. The same holds true when it comes to newspapers, signs and online. We believe we have a responsibility to the seller to give them the best presentation of their house. For sellers, it’s the most important piece of information. This holds true for buyers, too. Why would the buyer want to be given information by someone who doesn’t know what the lot really looks like? We believe that’s incredibly important to our sellers and that component is something that our agents all use—your listing, your lead. The seller has hired you to be their spokesperson and the buyer gets better and more accurate information that way than with any blind lead.
Do your agents appreciate your ability to market effectively on realtor.com®?
We have incredible agents who choose to be with us. Not only do they value our name, our brand and our consistency, they also value the fact that first and foremost we are marketing people. I think that’s a very important thing. We’re not about recruiting; we’re about building our agents with our brand and their brand together. I think our agents use that very heavily when they go on listing appointments. You’re not just listing with Susie Q., you’re listing with a team of people.
Do you have a training and implementation plan associated with your programs with realtor.com®?
We have a lot of upcoming webinars on the new aspects of our agreement, specifically in Virginia where realtor.com® will be coming and doing live presentations. The biggest topic is how to maximize the use of realtor.com® for yourself—maximizing it for your brand within our brand. We always load everybody into the system, and when we do that we load the information we have on our page. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go in and enhance the listing with better pictures and detail.
What else would you say to an agent who appreciates branding and technology if they’re thinking of joining your company?
Branding and technology are incredibly important, but I use the word “marketing” more than technology. I don’t know how a TV works, I just have to turn it on and press the buttons. You have to learn programs, you don’t have to learn technology. For us, all of that is geared toward better marketing. I would say it’s more “branding and marketing through the use of technology.” We are marketing intensive, but we’re also labor- and people-intensive. All of the other things can change. What won’t change is that people are there to help you build your career and use the tools that we have. We find realtor.com® to be very compatible for us to work with.
For more information, please visit www.marketing.realtor.com.
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