Forming strong connections with real estate agents is a must in any market
For title insurance agents, few audiences are more important than the real estate agent audience. Without building strong, reliable and mutually beneficial relationships with these companies and individuals, cultivating demand and growing profits becomes much more challenging. But like any target audience, successfully marketing to Realtors requires developing tailored strategies and tactics. Here are a few tips, tricks and best practices to get you started.
Build your Realtor buyer personas
Begin by identifying and building your buyer personas. If you’ve never built a buyer persona before, we have written a blog post on the topic that you can refer to here.
A good buyer persona includes much more than general demographic information. Do not merely focus on things like location or age, but also on psychological factors like hopes, behaviors and pain points. Taking time to consider these factors will make it easier to reach your target audience and connect with them in a profound way.
Remember, the more specific the better. Real estate agents are not monolithic as a group. Segment your audience and build as many buyer personas as you need to run a successful campaign. It may seem like a lot of work, but it will pay off later!
Leverage owned, paid and earned media channels
Once you have a clear idea of who you are trying to reach, then it is time to think about the owned, paid and earned media channels you will leverage to reach your audience. Let’s go through what each of these means:
Owned media: Owned media refers to any media that you own, like your social media channels, email marketing platforms, blog and, of course, your website.
Paid media: Paid media encompasses any media exposure you pay for, including search and social media advertising, as well as sponsored content placements.
Earned media: Earned media includes media mentions that are neither paid nor owned. Some examples are op-eds, press releases and guest blogging.
Meet your customers where they are with research
Understanding your available media channels is just half the battle. You must also supplement this by effectively using research to decide which channels you will use and in what way. Without doing this up-front legwork, your marketing efforts will amount to the old saying: “throw it at the wall and see what sticks.” Here are a few ways that you can start using your paid, earned and owned media strategies in an intentional and impactful way.
The online media ecosystem for Realtors is vast. Take advantage of paid (such as ad placements) or earned media tactics (like writing and pitching an op-ed) by looking into publications that are highly popular within the real estate industry.
Like pretty much every person on the planet, real estate agents rely on Google to find answers to important professional problems. By deploying paid strategies like search engine marketing (SEM), you can put yourself in front of active prospects. This is another area where your potential success with a particular media channel will hinge on research. Be sure to deploy free tools like a keyword planner and check Google Trends for valuable data on keyword search volume.
In terms of owned media, your biggest asset for attracting Realtors is likely to be your website. While nearly every company already has a website, far too many have not incorporated standard search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, which can lead to a loss in potential web traffic. Consisting of both on- and off-page tactics, SEO is a must for anyone looking to attract a specific audience such as Realtors. Refer to our previous blog post on the topic for more information.
Social media marketing is yet another opportunity to reach real estate agents in a strategic, targeted fashion. First, the data shows that 77% of Realtors leverage social media to connect with important audiences such as millennials.[i] Additionally, according to the National Association of Realtors, almost half of real estate businesses agree that the social media channels resulted in the highest quality leads.[ii] Unfortunately, social media is becoming increasingly a “pay-to-play” arena, which we have also written about previously. Yet a minor ad spend can often prove advantageous for those attempting to reach niche audiences, as the major platforms allow you to micro-target through useful criteria like job title, location, profession, industry, etc.
Find the right strategies and reap the rewards
I won’t sugarcoat it: creating successful digital marketing campaigns is not easy, particularly if you are looking to reach a specialized audience. Yet in most markets, the real estate agent audience is too important to ignore. When done successfully, you’ll be able to meet these audiences where they are and create powerful, mutually beneficial relationships on which to build a successful, long-lasting business.
Don’t miss out on this unique marketing opportunity.
When thinking about how to market your agency, it can sometimes be helpful to take stock of your “digital real estate.” It’s simple. Every company has a certain amount of media that they “own.” Some well-known examples include social media feeds, websites and blogs. In any marketing campaign, maximizing your digital real estate is key, and that includes looking for marketing opportunities in unexpected places.
One opportunity that often goes overlooked is email, specifically your firm’s professional email signatures. More than 330 billion emails get sent every single day[i], and each one of these represents a chance to create a unique touchpoint with potential customers. Here is how you can start optimizing this part of your digital real estate and get your key messages in front of more people.
Make them complete and unified
The first and easiest way to optimize your staff email signatures is simply by including all relevant contact information. Typically, this includes:
Work phone number
Company social media feeds
Of course, it is not enough to merely include all relevant information; you also want to ensure that each staff member’s email signature is formatted uniformly. To achieve this, document each element of your agency’s email signature format and circulate it accordingly. Consider working with a graphic designer on a mockup that new employees can refer to as they onboard.
Fold this mockup into your firm’s style guide. Like any other piece of digital collateral, the signature needs to be aligned with and reflective of your overall brand.
The rationale for taking these steps is two-fold. You convey a stronger sense of professionalism. You also verify that interested prospects will have all information they need to connect with you and perhaps do business in the future.
Promote, promote, promote!
While completing your signature is a great first step, it is only one part of a larger process. Email signatures can be much more than basic contact information. They can also be a place to promote your events, products and special deals.
The best way to do this is by deploying a visual element like a logo, image or GIF. Typically, these visual elements appear in a long, rectangular format, often around 700×200 to be precise. Once again, working with a graphic designer can be helpful here, as they assist you in making sure your graphic is attention-grabbing, branded and sized correctly.
Get those clicks
Perhaps the best part of optimizing your email signature is that you can embed hyperlinks to achieve key marketing objectives. For example, if growing your social media following is an important goal for your agency, include logos for each social media site where you have an account and link them back to your firm’s profiles.
Repeat this process for other objectives. Want to expand your newsletter distribution list? Place a link in your signature. Running a promotion? Include a banner image and hyperlink it to a special landing page on your website.
The data suggests that taking these simple steps can pay off handsomely – with some figures showing an increase in your email marketing CTR (click-through-rate) of up to 10%.[ii]
Don’t leave money on the table
These days, every company must be on the hunt for untapped marketing opportunities. After all, finding innovative, appealing and unobtrusive ways to message your initiatives is essential to standing apart from the competition. Your firm’s email signature represents a golden opportunity to reinforce your brand’s professionalism and competency, and message your products and services. Doing anything less is leaving money on the table.
As part of its mission to provide valuable help to title industry stakeholders, Alliant National has launched a program incentivizing agencies to report any suspected instances of fraud. Firms that do so are eligible to receive a $1,000 reward.
Since its inception, the program has proven to be a model for how underwriters and agencies can work together to prevent financial malfeasance within the industry and help lower premiums. In the past year alone, Alliant National and its agents have successfully averted over $1.8 million in liability costs.
Those results carried over into 2023 with yet another successful example of how fraud can be effectively detected and prevented when different stakeholders work together proactively and in tandem. Marion Lake Sumter Title, an agency based out of Ocala, Fla., recently noticed a potentially fraudulent transaction regarding a roughly half acre plot of vacant land valued at $20,000. As per the agency’s protocol, Marion Lake contacted the seller about the sale and instructed them to call their office if anything was amiss and if they were not, in fact, selling the property. The agency’s suspicions turned out to be correct, as the owner called back immediately, provided two valid forms of photographic identification and scheduled a video conference call to discuss the matter. Conversely, the fraudulent seller was asked for the same items and never responded.
“As soon as we received a call from the real seller, we notified our underwriter as well as both real estate agents on the transaction,” said Heather Pierport, Manager, Licensed Escrow Agent and Post Closer at Marion Lake Sumter Title, who initially identified the suspicious transaction. When asked about why fraud detection and prevention programs are important, she said, “These types of transactions are emotionally draining and can put agents in a depressive state. Programs like Alliant National’s help keep morale up when dealing with fraudsters.”
“Heather has been instrumental in keeping our underwriting team updated on both the fraudulent seller schemes and fraudulent checks they have encountered. I wish we could clone them!” said Lisa Yates, AVP, Agent Training Manager, Fla., for Alliant National, when discussing the incident.
Lisa then addressed Marion Lake Sumter’s anti-fraud efforts more broadly: “The way they strive for attention to detail and research each order is such a benefit to customers, underwriters and the title industry as a whole. Heather and her team have the best ‘trust your gut’ reactions to questionable transactions. As fraud continues to plague our industry, it is very important to double-check transaction details to make sure they all match-up.”
For her part, Heather concurred with how important it is to catch fraud before it occurs for the larger title insurance industry, taking the time to explain how continuing education and digital solutions have also made a positive difference: “We are constantly learning about the latest fraud trends. We also use Positive Pay to catch fraudulent checks that may try to post to our escrow account. This November, for example, we had almost $90,000 in fraudulent checks try to come through our account. With Positive Pay, I rejected those items, and we never lost any funds. I truly believe that solution should be a requirement for every escrow account.”
For over two years, Russell Gonzales has served as Assistant Vice President and Southwest Agency Representative for Alliant National Title Insurance Company. Although the role encompasses many responsibilities, Gonzales’ main priority has been signing policy-issuing agents for Alliant National and helping them grow their businesses. It is a demanding position, requiring expertise in agent examination, escrow, marketing and policy reconciliation. But thankfully, this is hardly Gonzales’ first rodeo.
In fact, Gonzales’ time in the title insurance field began long before 2020. He got his start back in high school when he enrolled in a cooperative education program during his junior year. The title company he worked for during this program eventually hired him as a full-time employee. The rest, as they say, is history.
Having spent his professional life in title insurance has afforded Russell a unique perspective on industry trends. Unsurprisingly, the technology associated with the field has advanced considerably, with Gonzales noting that new technology solutions have “changed the way we do business for the better.” However, Gonzales emphasized that certain qualities that make a successful agent or agency have largely remained the same and are just as important as ever: “The biggest trends I have noticed are all related to service,” he said. “Customer service and hard work really continue to pay off,” he said. He added that successful industry people always “remember to have a servant’s heart.”
Service and hard work are qualities that Gonzales is pleased to see reflected in Alliant National. The company is “positively different,” he said, discussing how the firm stacks up against its competitors. “Everyone at Alliant National knows that home ownership is one of the biggest investments someone can make.” Because of that understanding, everyone is “truly eager to help. Whether you are internal or external to the company, you will always be treated like family.”
Being able to deliver this level of personalized service to families pursuing the dream of home ownership is a benefit for Gonzales, whose own family is his greatest joy. “Outside of work, I really enjoy spending time with my family,” he said. “Having a 26-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter allows my wife Grace and I to focus on ourselves. Together we enjoy working out with our personal trainer, watching great movies and shows and building our relationship with God.” For nearly 30 years, Gonzales’ family, industry expertise and service-oriented mindset have allowed him to build an enviable career. His work in the title insurance field has benefited companies, individuals and the industry as a whole. As one of the leaders of Alliant National’s Southwest operations, he has found the perfect home to continue applying his passion for the industry and helping the company solidify its position as the premier independent underwriter for the independent agent.
It is safe to say that public trust in institutions these days is at an all-time low. According to recent reporting, only 7% of Americans have “a great deal” of trust and confidence in the news media,[i] with only about a third saying they trust the U.S. Congress.[ii]
When it comes to the business world, the perception amongst Americans is no better. Only 14% of citizens find big businesses to be trustworthy,[iii] while over 70% have little faith that brands will deliver on the promises they make. One conclusion that can be drawn from these statistics is that displaying authenticity in your marketing has never been more important. In this blog, we will talk a bit more about why authenticity matters, as well as how you can weave it into more of your marketing initiatives.
The Power of Authenticity
Why does authenticity matter? Well, because it can make a real difference in dollars-and-cents. 86% of customers are on the record stating that brand authenticity is important when deciding where they are going to shop.[iv] In addition, Gen Z, one of the most powerful up-and-coming consumer groups, wants to purchase from companies that support social and environmental issues over those that do not.[v] What is abundantly clear is that companies must put authenticity front-and-center to compete in the marketplace today and tomorrow.
How You Become More Authentic
Luckily, there are a variety of easy steps business leaders can take to start promoting brand authenticity:
First, clearly define your values. After all, being authentic means that you are what you say. But you can’t live up to what say you are until you define it. And no, that doesn’t mean simply just listing your products or services. Instead, develop a comprehensive brand story, including a “promise” for how your company will help customers live better lives.
Next, communicate your story. You have likely already heard about content marketing: a strategy for using content to draw people to your website and convert them into leads. However, you can also use content marketing to highlight your brand story and promise. To do this, reduce how often you’re hard selling and produce more educational content. This can solidify your reputation as a helpful resource rather than merely a money-making entity.
Consider reviewing and revising your brand’s image – including fonts, colors, slogans, logos and imagery. So much of how human beings perceive others depends on non-verbal characteristics. Think about what’s right for your target clients. If you want to position your business as a socially conscious enterprise that Millennials and Gen. Z. will love, then those principles must also be reflected in your brand aesthetics.
Put the human at the center of your communication. It isn’t good for companies to drift into cold, impersonal communication – which certainly doesn’t scream authenticity. Always remind your customers of the real humans working hard behind the corporate veneer, figures who are passionate about helping them solve problems. There are variety of ways you can do this – from taking people behind the scenes of your business to running employee spotlight features on your blog.
Authenticity is the Way of the Future
In our digital-first economy, customers are growing increasingly savvy, and unsurprisingly, this has changed their expectations. It is no longer sufficient to have good products or service; customers are also prioritizing companies that are invested in improving their lives and communities. Just like any other market trend, companies that don’t adapt do so at their own peril.
This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.
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The Independent Underwriter for the Independent AgentSM