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The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORS®. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.

James Imhoff, Jr.
; Chairman/CEO, First Weber Group, Madison, Wis.; Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR

David Boehmig
, President, Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, Atlanta, Ga
Greg Zadel
, Broker/Owner, Zadel Realty, Firestone, Colo.
Robert Bailey,
 Broker/Founding Partner, Bailey Properties, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Tracy Kasper
, Broker/Owner, Silverhawk Realty, Boise, Idaho

Jim Imhoff:  For many brokers, getting the right technology into your business is like trying to put a cloud in a basket. It’s hard to grasp, it’s always changing, and the more of it you put into place, the more there seems to be. Yet most of us spend a good deal of time and energy—not to mention a lot of dollars—trying to stay ahead of the latest tech trends. Add to that the fact that technology is available at a variety of price points. Marketing via social media can cost practically nothing. On the other end of the spectrum, some software and hardware purchases can cost a brokerage millions. So how much of an investment in technology is enough? How much benefit can we expect from social media? Our panelists today lead independent companies of varying sizes in widely different markets. David, your company serves a high-end clientele in a major market area. How extensive is your technology investment and how do you measure its value?

David Boehmig: We have quite a lot invested in technology, but we look at it in terms of making our agents’ and consumers’ lives easier as they go through the real estate process. If an emerging technology will help make something that is clunky become smooth, we look closely at adopting it. I think it’s more important to be a consistently early adopter than to be on the “bleeding edge.”

Greg Zadel: Budgeting for new technology is an ongoing project for us. Basically, I agree with David. If it simplifies the process for our agents and clients, we will very likely buy it. But we know we’re competing in the local market with larger, metro-based firms—so technology is only one piece of our overall marketing strategy. Our goal is to build and maintain relationships in ways the larger firms don’t. Social media helps keep us top of mind, but we also rely on traditional mailings, sending out sports schedules and such.

Robert Bailey: As a mid-sized company on the doorstep of the Silicon Valley, we know our clientele, and social media is a valuable tool for forming and enhancing relationships. We do the research before we invest in new technology, but we place a premium on systems that reinforce efficiency—like going paperless. But we’re always checking the barometer to balance the budget with the must-haves—and we know that no matter how much we spend, technology is not the be-all and end-all.  Our goal is to be a trusted advisor to our clients, and I agree, there’s still a place for more traditional methods.  

Tracy Kasper: We have to be out there in the social media because that’s where consumers network. Idaho is heavily regulated in terms of marketing in that space, so we are careful about our messaging. But it’s a great tool and a cost-effective way to connect with the people we want to reach. We also knock on doors and send out handwritten notes, because that kind of personal communication resonates with our customers. At the same time, we recognize the value of a commanding online presence, and so we recently invested in revamping our website and upgrading our lead capture and transaction management platforms.

JI:  Having the right technology to support your agents is paramount for us. Without a doubt, it’s our biggest monthly expense. But we no longer spend on print media, so it’s a matter of shifting dollars—and we know our agents, as well as our clients are reaping significant benefit. But clearly, social media is a way of life. The key is in how you use it. Any thoughts on best practices?

DB: In my view, a well-executed social media strategy ties together your business culture, your personal insights and your expertise in the marketplace.  It draws in clients who value those insights, and who may be drawn to a particular home because of the way you position it.

TK: It’s also important not to use a “shotgun” approach. You can’t and you shouldn’t be everywhere. Find and focus on the two or three channels that work well for you.

GZ: A good social media strategy is a great source of leads—and there are software programs to help you make the most of them. What’s important is to measure the value of everything you’re doing. That can be as simple as asking every customer why they chose to give you their business.

RB: The goal for all of us is to generate leads, enhance communication, and improve the way we manage transactions. Spend a little, spend a lot. It’s really a matter of what works for you.

JI:  This is such an important topic that NAR will focus one of its three 2015 Broker Summits on the technology,August 18-19 in Seattle.

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