Local reputation, especially in the digital era, matters for all businesses, particularly real estate brokerages. A 2017 survey by BrightLocal found that 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. This underscores the importance of quality work that inspires clients to brag about you to their friends—and to take the time to write a positive review.
A challenge, of course, is developing that good local reputation. A bad reputation is obviously detrimental, but a lack of reputation—when, essentially, no one knows about the excellent service you offer—can also put your business at a competitive disadvantage. Here are some ideas for building your local reputation:
Reputation: Good vs. Bad
The importance of your online reputation has exponentially increased this decade. When investigating a business, consumers invariably look at online reviews—even if they’ve heard about you from their friends and families. The aforementioned BrightLocal survey found that consumers will read, on average, seven online reviews before trusting a business. Moreover, people go online to ask their networks for recommendations, thus bringing word-of-mouth into the digital realm.
Many real estate agents correctly believe an active online and social media presence enhances their local reputations, but without guidelines and training, this could backfire on the brokerage. For example, if an agent posts something political on his or her Facebook page, a potential client who sees the post and disagrees will likely look elsewhere for their real estate needs. That might not bother the agent, but your brokerage’s name is on that page, and offended customers might think negatively of the entire operation. Professional demeanor is closely tied to reputation, and ensuring agents aren’t damaging the entire brokerage is critical.
The Power of Referrals
The National Association of Realtors reports that 41 percent of home sellers use referrals to find an agent, and another 23 percent are agents’ repeat customers. For sellers ages 37 or younger, the combined number is 71 percent.
Buyers show similar numbers: 42 percent use referrals to choose an agent, and 12 percent repeat with an agent. Trust is so vital in real estate that people looking to buy or sell a home are less likely to wing it with a brokerage they know nothing about.
When someone asks their network for a recommendation, ideally, the referral they get will be someone under your brokerage’s umbrella. Agents need referrals to succeed—one oft-cited statistic pegs 82 percent of an agent’s business coming from recommendations and repeat business (the latter, of course, might have originated as a referral). Great marketing will bring in customers, but ultimately, outstanding, reputation-building work for your clients is the best driver of your brokerage’s success.
More Referrals, More Clients
Whether new clients are coming from others’ direct recommendations or favorable online reviews, referrals are essential to sustain and grow your brokerage. Ways to build your reputation include:
- Referral campaigns: If you have the happy clients and agents, there is a novel way to get them to provide recommendations—ask! Referral campaigns encourage customers to post online reviews and tell their networks that your brokerage can be trusted to deliver great service.
- Review sites: Online reviews have proliferated, and though you want good digital presence in this regard, you need to be careful not to be too spread out. That said, you also need to be on the major review sites—the ones most often frequented by people looking for brokerages and agents. Zillow, Google, Facebook, and Trulia are good places to start in building a base of reviews.
- Highlight the five-star reviews: When people conduct an internet search of your brokerage, or even brokerages in your region, you want your five-star reviews pulling up first. Promoting these reviews, as well as your entire brokerage, increases SEO and, subsequently, the likelihood of potential customers finding you first on Google.
- Don’t forget about returning clients: A repeat customer is a referral without the referral—they know the good work you’ve done for them in the past and won’t hesitate to call when they are looking to sell. And when you do an excellent job for them again, they’ll be even more likely to refer you to others.
Finally, partnering with a top-notch franchisor—one that understands brokerages and provides tools to help them succeed—can help build the reputation of your business and the agents you represent. Marketing, branding, transaction, and training tools that great partners offer their franchisees empower agents to grow their individual businesses and enhance local reputation. And as already stated, as your agents’ reputations grow, so does yours.