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Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC, co-moderates RISMedia’s 23rd Annual Power Broker Forum at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo. (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

Staying relevant—that’s the name of the game in today’s highly competitive real estate industry, and the key to not only surviving the endless barrage of new technological trends and disruptive business models, but thriving, as well. At RISMedia’s 23rd Annual Power Broker Forum, “Compete—and Win—in a Changing Real Estate World,” held at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, industry experts weighed in on how today’s brokers can beat out the competition and adapt to the modern era of real estate.

The forum was moderated by John Featherston, founder, president and CEO of RISMedia, and Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC, which operates Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Real Living Real Estate. Lacey Conway, president and principal broker of Latter & Blum, Inc.; James D’Amico, CEO and president of CENTURY 21 North East; Whitney LaCosta, executive vice president of Coach REALTORS®; and Mike Schlott, president of Kinlin Grover, Page Taft and Randall REALTORS®, were panelists.

(L to R) John Featherston, Founder, President & CEO, RISMedia; Mike Schlott, President, Kinlin Grover, Page Taft and Randall REALTORS®; Whitney LaCosta, Executive Vice President, Coach REALTORS®; Jim D’Amico, CEO & President, CENTURY 21 North East; Lacey Conway, President & Principal Broker, Latter & Blum, Inc.; and Blefari (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

With new entrants to the real estate space commandeering attention on what seems like a daily basis, there’s a lot of noise to work through in order for brokers to make themselves heard—and this noise can distract from recruiting strategies, retention efforts and agents’ lead-generating and client conversion strategies.

“Present-day companies are looking to appeal to agents and the consumer, but there’s a threat to conventional full-service brokerages: companies that are looking to disrupt the industry’s value chain,” Blefari kicked off the forum. “We are about to see an epic battle between discount brokerages and consumers who think they are being overcharged versus full-service brokerages who believe in their core that they deserve what they earn. You’ve got to treat these guys very seriously—you don’t attract hundreds of millions in capital without having a compelling business plan.”

“There’s a lot of noise out there, and you can lose your focus,” said LaCosta. “You have to know what your value is to agents and clients, and stick to that value. Focus on that and you’ll be successful.”

Going a step above means brokerages have to make enough of their own noise to stay relevant and draw away some of the attention that today’s disruptive business models are reaping—after all, they’re primarily catching the eye of the media because they’re new and unproven, reminded Featherston. For brokerages that have a set track record and have made a name for themselves in the industry, it’s crucial they use their value proposition to make their own commotion and let their voices be heard.

(L to R) Schlott; LaCosta; and D’Amico (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

“We are making noise on a daily basis, so it’s hard to hear the other noise,” D’Amico shared. “Our new office, our new lead generation strategies, our new logo, our new tools—that’s the noise that will drown out the pestering emails and the weak recruiting attempts.”

The crashing sound of symbols dominating the conversation? That’s technology, which needs to be embraced to be able to perform and meet today’s “tap and get” consumer expectation. The competition is regularly introducing business models that use technology to target and alleviate the leading pain points for clients today.

“You have to look at your company’s history with the consumer and figure out the pain point. How can we take it away?” LaCosta posed. “If you can do that, you make the experience better for the consumer—and if you don’t take it away, another brokerage will do it for you.”

Culture also plays a significant role—there’s hardly anything as powerful as core values to attract attention and create a boisterous presence. Many real estate disruptors use financial incentives to lure agents; however, many who sign on with these initially-appealing brokerages find that the culture is not what they expected, nor an environment in which they can flourish.

Featherston co-moderates RISMedia’s 23rd Annual Power Broker Forum. (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

“Recruiting isn’t about emails or postcards anymore; it’s about contact and finding the right people that fit with the culture of the organization, and going after those people,” said Schlott.

Standing above the competition doesn’t have to mean taking in any and all agents; in fact, relying primarily on agent count can backfire on brokerage productivity. Filling the agent base with quality, professional members—who will not only bring in profits, but also market the brokerage simply because they believe in the cause and have an innate loyalty to the business—will ensure the brokerage outshines the continuous influx of recruitment emails that competitors send.

“Our managers and our agents are our best advertisers,” said Conway. “If they are out doing business and doing well, we don’t have to call around—they want to be with us. We have to do a better job of telling our story, and that’s simply about the people that make up our company—they make us what we are.”

The keys to marketing through the noise and winning in a changing real estate world?

“Culture trumps strategy—tell your story better,” stated Blefari, who also summarized four tips that can lead to a higher chance of attracting and retaining agents and clients:

  • Focus on production, rather than bodies.
  • Get your people to use and adopt technology.
  • Go where the expectations are high and deliver the next big skill.
  • Become better, stronger and more unique.

The panelists presenting at RISMedia’s 23rd Annual Power Broker Forum (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

Continuing coverage of the REALTORS® Conference & Expo to come.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark