Edward Smyth hasn’t been in real estate that long, and entering the industry wasn’t initially on the cards.
“When I was younger I wanted to be a professional footballer; my dad used to be one,” he laughs. “I’ve played for my country [Northern Ireland], but then my dad said that I wasn’t good enough – so he sent me to university!”
High grades at school in English Literature, Economics and Politics gave Smyth the opportunity to choose from a range of disciplines when it came time to go to university, including Law and Politics. But on 11 September 2001 the world saw an act of terrorism like never before, and Smyth decided instead to study the world of risk management and finance. This led to his first job in investment banking with Morgan Stanley, where he was once again a quick study and swiftly headhunted by a firm in London.
“Fifteen hours a day, five days a week I’d sit with eight computer screens, two phones, just staring at the stock markets – analysing and digesting the moves and finding smarter and faster and quicker ways to deliver the information through science,” says Smyth.
Making the move
After a period of time running his own derivatives trading desk, three years ago he made the move to Australia – but with clients in Europe and the Middle East, along with working in a different time zone, the days were long.
“I just lost the passion for it… there was so much terrorism going on that it didn’t feel right. If an airplane blew up I could either make my clients a lot of money, or alternatively I’d lose lots of money; neither one was sitting right.”
At a career crossroads, Smyth started selling real estate part time to see if it was the right move for him.
During that time he met his business partner, Karen Stewart, who happened to sell him a house. Stewart has been in real estate for more than 15 years so, Smyth says, their skills complement one another.
“I didn’t want to be a ‘normal’ real estate agent, because I’d get bored. I don’t cold call and I don’t door knock. But I love big data, and I love the move towards AI and I felt that there could be a fit.”
Acquiring and nurturing leads
“In real estate it’s not hard to acquire data; it’s what you actually do with it that counts. It depends on your systems,” says Smyth, with his team using REX as a CRM, along with lead-nurturing programs.
“Using these tools, we’re communicating to the database in ways that the database wants to be communicated to, whether that’s text messages, emails or phone calls.
“We’ve moved away from mass marketing and more getting into the nitty-gritty, servicing people with the information they require.”
Using these tools to their fullest extent is the domain of Operations Manager Shannon Greaney, who has set up some clever automations, tracking each lead so Stewart and Smyth know when one needs to be followed up.
But Smyth acknowledges that technology will never replace the human touch.
“Technology increases the probability and frequency of you getting in touch with more people, either face to face or with phone calls. Agents just need to make sure they don’t hide behind technology and thinking it’s going to garner the most business. It’s actually just a way to increase your opportunities.”
And more good news; Smyth also says you don’t have to make 100 phone calls every day.
“Shannon tries to get me to connect with 20 people every day and add three new people to the database; that’s my KPI.
“I don’t sit with scripts; I just get on the phone and try to peel back the onion, try to provide value and try to provide a service.
“When I say I don’t cold call, I genuinely don’t think I do. My version of a phone call might be [to] someone who came through Karen’s open home five years ago. I’ll call them up and say, ‘Remember you came to that open home? We’ve got another one in the area’… and then take it from there.”
That said, Smyth also says that if you’ve got nothing to say, don’t make the call – but with one caveat, which he delivers with a wink.
“If you’ve got nothing to say, then you shouldn’t be in real estate. There is always something to say.”
Don’t make the call if you’ve got nothing to say. But if you’ve got nothing to say, you shouldn’t be in real estate. There is always something to say.
Building the database
Although still relatively new to the industry, Smyth has already gained a reputation for getting out there to mentor and help other agents.
His advice for new agents is to keep moving with the times.
“You can’t just come up with an idea and sit back and think it’s going to make you successful. You can’t drop 4,000 flyers and think you’re going to get five listings. You’ve just got to do all of it all the time – and don’t stop.
“What’s really important for a new agent, the key to real estate, is you’ve got to match sellers with buyers. That’s it. That’s what we do really well.
“If you are a new agent, get some old open home books – everybody has old open home books, any company you ever go to – and call them. Update the database. Find out where they are at now.”
Then it’s time to start building relationships. Smyth says he is working on a project in one of his postcodes to find out exactly how many houses there are in the area vs how many were on the market. Then you can match the names and add them as Facebook or LinkedIn connections.
“I can digitally chat to these people every day, sometimes two or three times per day,” he explains.
An important part of the strategy to build the database is using Rex Pocket Kiosk App.
“What we do is, if someone comes to an open home we get first name, last name, email and phone – unless they specifically tell us they don’t want to give their email. We always ask for it.
“Once we get their email, it goes in to the Rex CRM right there and then, so the person will get an email saying, ‘Thanks for joining us. Can we get to learn a bit more about you? Are you upsizing, downsizing, investing?’
“By the time that they’ve got home on a Saturday afternoon, they have the opportunity to tell us where they are in the real estate cycle.”
The next step is to get on the phones on a Saturday afternoon or on a Monday to follow up.
“We might say something like, ‘Thanks for filling out the information. I know that you’re looking for a townhouse up to the value of $700,000. Can you tell us a bit more? Is there a kind of style, location, whatever?’”
Yes, that is a real snake in the penthouse
NGU have a reputation for their creativity in the property video arena and many of their videos have gone viral, some in a short space of time. There is an in-house team dedicated to creating videos for NGU.
“Emil (Juresic), who’s the CEO of NGU, is a big believer (as we all are) in social media, and we spend a lot of time there.
“The other thing is with digital I can retarget some of the people that have shown interest in one of our properties.
“It’s like when you look for a holiday in Fiji and then all of a sudden these holidays in Fiji keep jumping up on your screen; we’re that for real estate.”
What is really important, though, is that the marketing appeals to your intended buyer audience.
“Our rationale is that, number one, it’s not about us. You see our videos; sometimes they might be a bit provocative, with the fast cars and the girls. On the Gold Coast, we’re now moving towards more of a family-type vibe.
“The best thing that Emil does for us is he supports us in our ideas and gives us complete creative freedom. He would never say, ‘Don’t do that,’ or, ‘That’s stupid’.
“I did a video for a penthouse that Emil and I were co-listing in Surfers, and I asked the girls if we could get a tiger in it.
“We couldn’t get a tiger because we weren’t allowed, so we managed to get an alligator and a snake. But that was pretty cool!”
Once Smyth has a rough idea of the buyer demographic, the whole team get involved in the creative process. Generally, he says, they will agree with Wells Emberson (from the media team) three things about the property to focus in on. It can be as little as 48 hours between inception and launch, but as long as the client is happy that’s all that matters.
“One Friday we sold a property at 5:15 pm, which was a new record for Burleigh Heads. By 8:30 pm, I had a video to go out, which was the sold video.
“I’m lucky I’ve got Shannon, Karen and Sean with me, by my side. It’s the team that produce all this stuff to make me look good.”
Marketing property on Facebook
While Smyth spends a lot of time on Facebook, he says he doesn’t overthink it as the algorithm is always changing.
“Content-wise, I use whatever is in my head that day. I don’t have a big grand strategy or plan. If I’ve got new listings I post the video and photos and I sponsor it; but make sure you’re sponsoring ads through Ads Manager, not just boosting posts.
“I’ll run three different ad sets, as an example. One might be a carousel, one might be just the photos, one might be the video. Whichever one is performing best, I’ll add budget to that one.”
But you also can’t just set and forget. And don’t forget Smyth is an expert at data analysis from his previous career.
“I’m constantly analysing ad performance; every day I’m reviewing and managing it personally. It’s too important to outsource. If a client gives me $10,000 for Google and Facebook, all those funds go into Google and Facebook.
“If I outsourced it they might only get $5,000 or $7,000 in actual advertising, because you’ve got to pay the outside company. That’s actually one of our listing tactics, that we will manage it for you so you’ll get all your money in marketing.”
Communicating with multiple stakeholders
The rise of teams has seen the increased use of collaboration apps, and Smyth says some of his favourites are Wunderlist, Basecamp and particularly WhatsApp.
“Most times we will have multiple agents on the property, and those agents will be speaking with all parties involved.
“There’s a lot of information that can be lost in communication when you’re talking to one party and they don’t speak to each other until later in the day.
“What we like to do is get both agents and the clients in the same chatroom and then boom, we keep all the communication together. Whether that’s iMessage or WhatsApp or whatever. It means that I don’t have to turn around to Sean and go, ‘Have you updated John Smith?’ and vice versa. There is no double handling
of clients because we are constantly communicating and can see what’s happening in real time.”
Standing out from the crowd
Smyth feels that where tech is headed in real estate is more and more automation. He says his next move is working on an automated enquiry system, so when people send through a realestate.com.au or a domain.com.au enquiry there is an automatic response system that provides information about a property – including things like strata fees, council rates, size of the block and other useful information.
“I really want to automate that; that’s my next thing,” says Smyth. “How do you get to more people more quickly based on what they want?”
But standing out will be the big challenge.
“If someone has been to ten open homes, and everyone sends an automated email after the fact, that’s ten emails the potential buyer is going to get. What makes yours special?”
In fact, what will make you stand out, Smyth says, is being able to hone in on what the client wants using technology to execute your strategy.
“That’s how you win the future war. In my opinion!”