Nobu Hata is the director of digital engagement for the National Association of REALTORS®. Former REALTOR® with Edina Realty in Minnesota. Geek. Alaska and Minnesota have been home. Now I'm in Chicago or on the road meeting with REALTORS® and association executives to talk about NAR, their business, and the integration of digital technologies in our industry.
The Zero Moment of Truth for Brokers
Help your agents create more opportunities that result in buyers and sellers reaching out and making contact.
April 23, 2015
There is a key moment just before each pivotal step in a real estate transaction that agents call the “sweet spot.” It’s when a seller makes the call to choose an agent; when a buyer inquires about a home over the phone or online; when a person asks a friend for their real estate agent’s contact information after hearing a rave review.
Google calls this the “zero moment of truth.” It’s the moment when an online search has met a person’s want or need. In real estate, the trick is to make sure your online marketing speaks to the needs of your potential clients.
There are two major realities about the zero moment of truth that most brokers have to come to terms with:
1. Simply marketing “3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1,200 square feet” isn’t going to lead to one of these moments. When it comes to the online marketing practices of your brokerage, differentiate from the competition (both portals and other brokerages), but keep things simple. If a buyer or seller can use Google Search to replicate what you offer, then you’re not bringing enough to the table.
Up to 40 percent of buyers and sellers won’t work with the same agent they used on their last transaction. Do your agents have a plan for capturing those people? Do you?
On April 21, Google's mobile search algorithm changed to emphasize websites that are mobile-friendly. Find out what that means for your real estate website.
Potential clients don’t need you to simply tell them the make and model of a home; they have Google and endless gobs of information online for that. Try outlining the steps it takes to buy the home, or how it compares to other houses in the neighborhood. Now that’s the sweet spot; that’s the zero moment of truth.
2. Most agents are so transaction-oriented that it’s hard for them to focus on the zero moment of truth. But that’s not their fault; brokers have trained agents to “always be closing.” It’s cool; I get it. Just know that it's unsustainable. (And the agents who do have sweet-spot marketing nailed have built businesses so big that they only look at you when it comes time to talk split, but that’s a whole different matter.)
Mini-Moments Make Up The Real Estate Journey
So what do these moments sound like in real life?
- “Can I afford to buy a home?”
- “What’s the market like?”
- “If I sell my house, what’re the options for me if I move up or downsize?”
- “How long does it take to buy a home?”
- “How does X neighborhood compare to Y?”
- “What does an inspector/title/mortgage dude do?”
- “Do I need a real estate lawyer?”
- “What’s the difference between homeowner’s and title insurance?”
- “After I buy, what improvements will maximize my investment?”
- “What’s a HUD?”
You get my drift. (That last one question, by the way, is going to be a doozy.)
These are the mini-moments that make up the digital real estate journey. While most of these questions aren’t asked from the onset, they are surely being asked of your agents during the transaction, so why not answer them now? Remember, half of all buyers and sellers last year spent six to 12 months researching real estate before reaching out to a professional, so don’t be afraid to tell people what is important. There’s nothing wrong with answering a question before it’s asked. Heck, train your agents to ask clients what was helpful or confusing to them in hindsight after the sale. You’ll find an information hole you could drive a truck through.
And don’t fall victim to the “I’ve got a prettier and more accurate home search” pitfall. Instead, focus on connecting the dots that drive people out from behind their computers and into the real world with your agents. These mini-moments are continuous cycles of action and discovery, providing answers for questions consumers have (and ones they didn’t). They are so important for building trust and affinity for your brokerage brand.
Because your agents are so focused on their current transactions, you’re going to have to think long-term for them. Consider fulfilling mini-moments for agents’ lead-gen practices or providing client contact touch points to help drive referrals. Without a doubt, your value proposition for agents is—and forever will be—evolving, so ask them what they need.
Here’s the other reality: Mini-moments end the second a consumer reaches out to one of your agents. So during that zero moment of truth, your agent better be an extension of the info-spewing, people-centric, trustworthy entity your brand has become. Train agents to be a seamless bridge from online to offline; a personified version of the endearing qualities customers connected with digitally.
Leverage your company culture, engage with agents, and empower the real estate consumer before, during, and after the sale. This will give you that sweet spot, zero moment of truth marketing campaign you need.