Building your agency and agent brands is even more important, in the digital age

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By Gil Sperling, Co-CEO and Co-Founder: Flow Living

Building a brand in any industry is all about trust - but it's particularly vital in the property industry, where transaction values are high. Ignore the channels you use or the tactics you employ - achieving that trust is a fundamental foundation for success. The way the majority of us have been forced to adopt technology over the last 18 months to help perform everyday tasks has changed the way we live, interact and make purchases - but what has driven that near-instant adoption is the trust we have in the brands we've interacted with.

Proptech has disrupted the way people find homes, but because of the sheer magnitude of the transaction involved, they still want a trusted face to ultimately guide them through the process. Humans are risk and loss-averse - particularly when it comes to low-frequency, high-value transactions like property. In the US, 90% of residential property transactions over a 10 year period, happened via an agent - and it's safe to bet that that number is closer to 100% in South Africa. Agents are an essential part of the process - and the proptech revolution isn't going to change that.

A property purchase involves a years-long decision cycle for a buyer, influenced by changes in their work circumstances, the growth of a family, children changing schools and lifestyle decisions. They want someone trusted to guide them through that process. What is changing is that agents have to adapt to the digital landscape to build that trust, reputation and service level with people, in the spaces where they're relaxing, shopping and researching.

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It's still about your credibility, the stock you've sold, testimonials from previous clients and your connection to an established national brand, or indeed your local expertise. Proptech helps connect the right agents with the right prospects - and in a hyperconnected online world, it's essential to tap into those networks in a targeted way to ensure that your digital reputation matches the hard-won offline reputation which has been built over many years in your area or bracket.

Doing that requires being active on the digital platforms where people spend their time - and Facebook & Instagram lead that pack by a significant margin. The arrival of the POPI Act also removes the tool that many agents have relied on for years - purchased databases and those built up over years that people haven't necessarily consented to being part of. Targeted social media campaigns can eliminate the inefficiencies associated with the interactions driven by those ancient databases, including a low open rate for emails, low engagement rate - never mind the vast expense. Proptech solutions enable agents and prospective buyers to be matched, based on the buyer's behaviour - if a would-be buyer is looking at properties in a specific area or price range and an agent is plugged into those networks in the right way, the tech connects the two parties to proceed, based on genuine intent, rather than a 'machine-gun mail & pray' approach.

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The world of digital brand-building means that dustbin ads and billboards are inefficient and unmeasurable and our new low-touch environment means that people are less likely to pick up flyers at a traffic light. It's about a more personalised approach - but that can be hard to manage if you don't have a grasp of digital advertising and the mysteries of Facebook's algorithms.

Platforms like Flow remove the challenges of understanding those processes by automating them, allowing you to focus on building that trust, sending genuine prospects to you, when they're ready. They may still reach out via mail, call you or Google you - but it's essential that they have seen you on their online platforms at a consistency and frequency that places your brand top of mind for them, when they reach the key part of that lengthy consideration cycle.

An agent who is established as a trusted expert in the area is an invaluable partner in guiding them through the process and helping them avoid making costly mistakes in what is likely to be amongst the largest transactions of their lives. You just need to occupy the new digital world they inhabit and take your reputation online.

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