What Susan wants

The boardroom was full. It was hot and humid outside, but inside there was no hint of stuffiness.

Marc and I sat on one side of the table, a group of agents on the other. We were in the middle of our regular discovery process – how we kick off every new engagement with broker clients. We ask a lot of questions on these trips, but mostly we are there to listen.

This was a great bunch of agents. A wide range of ages and sexes, experience and production levels. You could tell they all genuinely cared about their clients, their businesses and their brokerage.

We asked the group a simple question: “What do you want from your company’s website?”

We went around the room and predictably got lots of ideas for features and functionality. That is until we landed on one woman. She was in her forties, a top producer that sold into the mid to upper end of the market. Let’s call her Susan. Susan didn’t have much time for apps and gadgets and technology, though you could tell she was comfortable enough with them it to be conversant.

She floored us with her response:

“I want my company’s website to make me look more successful than I am.”

Think about Susan’s statement for second. It’s pretty profound. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what she said since then, trying to parse it.

But here’s where I think I’ve landed, which is really just a evolution of my earlier thinking: what if a brokerage moved beyond property search as the focus of its site and instead put more of its emphasis on supporting its agents?

Most brokers spend tons of time, energy and money on building complex search experiences for consumers. But, as Brian wrote last week this singular focus on IDX often doesn’t give brokers much to crow about these days.

And besides, putting property search on a brokerage website is just table stakes these days – I mean you need to have it there, but it may only offer incremental value as time marches on, especially as the move to mobile accelerates.

And while the neighborhood opportunity with consumers is still up for grabs for many brokerages, I think a reinvigorated emphasis on supporting agents is an obvious strategic choice for every one.

Here’s how I think you do it.

The first way is pretty easy. Give your agents a means and incentive to beautifully merchandize their listings on your site. Add to that an easy way for them to upload additional photos and add ancillary media (video, 3D tours, floorplans etc.) to your pages that the portals won’t support. Help them dazzle their sellers.

Second, fix your agent profile pages. In most of our website surveys, the agent section of a brokerage website is one of the most neglected. It’s often a ghetto of terrible, dated photos with no consistency, replete with aborted functionality and almost no brand vibe.

And while we know most people aren’t arriving on a brokerage website to “Find an Agent”, we do know that people are Googling agent names. So if done properly, the agent profile pages on your website can be attractive points of entry into the brokerage experience, albeit through the backdoor.

There are sites that do this well: Core in New York, Turpin Realtors in New Jersey and Michael Saunders in Sarasota have figured out the right mix for their agent pages.

They have invested in professional photos for every agent, shot to a standard that is universal and consistent with the brand. They’ve included sales history both on the sell side and the buy side and featured reviews or testimonials imported from from outside sources like Zillow, RealSatisfied or Testimonial Tree. They even include little design touches that humanize the agent and present them both as a professional and a person.

Do these two things well – nail your brokerage’s listing pages and its agent profile pages – and I think you make make your entire technology investment pay back in spades through the happy agents that you retain and recruit.

Because I believe those are the things that the productive agents like Susan are really looking for.

[Disclosure: Michael Saunders and Turpin Realtors are 1000WATT clients]