Editors Note: Whether you are an attorney, CPA, consultant, financial advisor or other professional services provider, you'll find the insights in this article to be directly relevant and applicable, even though it is written in the context of commercial real estate brokers.
My dad started developing self-storage units somewhere around 1980. The name of this company was AAA Rent-A-Space. About the same time, my mom had one of four or five Century21 franchises in our town. The name was Century21 A Barron Company. Both of these companies were named so they would be listed first in the yellow pages. How do you think the yellow pages business is doing right now?
One of the comments I hear most often as I engage with experienced brokers across the country is this. “These kids are coming out of nowhere and taking my market share.” They are lamenting that the presence that took them a decade or more to develop is being eroded by younger, new to the business brokers who are creating dominating digital presence.
Presence is being known – being top-of-mind. You know you have it when the most influential and connected people in your market are sending business your way. You know you have it when people are glad you called and don’t need to ask who you are.
It is no secret that commercial real estate is behind the curve when it comes to digital presence adoption. We have an industry that is dominated by white men who aren’t in their 20’s or 30’s anymore. That is just a demographic fact (though I see this changing.)
There is a reason why younger brokers are having this kind of success. What used to take a decade or more to build, can now be accomplished in a year or two. But this is not just a younger person’s game. The landscape has changed. Anyone can take advantage of this powerful aspect of building your business.
In fact, everyone in a sales or service profession should create a digital presence. Here’s why.
1. Visibility –
In real estate you have heard the three most important things are location, location, and location. The same is true online. How much digital real estate do you occupy? How visible are you? Having a solid presence online helps you become the dominating top-of-mind producer in your field.
2. Lubrication –
How many times have you made a prospecting call and been asked, “What is your name again?” “Who are you?” Or how many referrals do you receive from highly connected and influential people? Becoming known online makes everything easier. It makes prospecting easier. It makes meetings easier. It makes negotiating easier. Presence lubricates the machine of your business.
3. Authority –
Publishing content – or curating content – gives you authority in your marketplace. It allows you to demonstrate your expertise without tooting your own horn. If I publish a post about 1031 exchanges, not only am I educating my audience, I’m demonstrating that I know what I’m talking about. In contrast, buying print advertising saying I’m a 1031 expert (I’m not, by the way) doesn’t demonstrate anything except that I have the money to buy an ad.
4. Rapport –
Sharing great content online – whether you create it or curate it – helps you build rapport with your audience of prospects and potential customers. Not only do you demonstrate your expertise, but you can be personable. You can share your personality. You can share with your audience that you are likable and trustworthy (assuming you are.) You can lay the foundation for the relationship. This is so powerful.
5. Reciprocity –
Reciprocity is the concept that if I give you something, you feel the pull to give me something in return. Think about when someone you don’t know shares something deeply personal with you. Because you don’t know them well, you feel this awkward tension. The reason for this tension is you feel the need to reciprocate that personal sharing, but since you don’t have the relationship with them, you don’t want to. When you share great content and engage online, you trigger reciprocity with your audience. They are more likely to do business with you because you’ve given them something of value.
6. Reap what you sow –
When you engage with your target audience and provide great and valuable content, you are educating your future clients and prospects. Every investor on the planet did their first deal at some point. Do you think it would be valuable to help educate and mentor the next generation of business owners and investors? Absolutely! Who do you think they will call when they are ready to start? Their online mentor. That could be you!
7. First Impression –
Recently, a friend suggested referred me to a colleague. The very first thing I did was google this person. I found his LinkedIn profile and learned all about him. His profile was his first impression with me. This is increasingly the case. What is online about you serves as your first impression with future clients. You can control these sources of information. You can carefully construct these profiles to communicate exactly what you want to produce a desired result. You can also ignore this fact and miss opportunities. Or worse, you could be completely invisible.
8. 24/7/365 –
Commercials only run for 30 or so seconds at a time. Print advertising runs for a period of time and then it is done. An online presence works for you non-stop – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It also has no geographical boundaries. For example, readers from 110 countries have viewed my blog in the last 90 days.
About the author
Bo Barron is the VP of Communication and Collaboration for Hollison – a food safety technology start-up. Bo is also a Coach for the Massimo Group, the nation’s premier Commercial Real Estate Coaching firm, and a Speaker. And he is Vice President of Organization Development for Sperry Van Ness Commercial Real Estate Advisors. He is profiled in Rod Santomassimo’s book Brokers Who Dominate. Bo can be contacted by email at bo @ bobarron.com.