Elite AgentTECH + SOCIAL

RE professional… Marketer or Salesperson

Richie: My definition of ‘marketing’ is every activity that creates the opportunity to make sales easier. Now this can start with the name you give yourself through to how you present properties on the web. ‘Richie’ is more friendly and approachable than ‘Richard’. Everyone in my office is in uniform complete with name badges and a tie or scarf. We do that because it makes the sales process easier. It’s all about being professional. It’s how we market ourselves.

If you’re sick, your first reaction is to call your doctor. If you need legal advice, you call your lawyer. Our industry needs to move towards a mind-set that says if you’re thinking of real estate that you’ll call your agent. That comes down to marketing yourself as an expert and a competent resource in the field of real estate. You need to develop trust. The Morgan Poll of the most respected professions looks at the ranking of honesty and ethics in professions across Australia. In 2001 it ranked real estate agents at 8%; lawyers scored 32% and nurses have topped the list since the poll began with 90%. So there’s plenty of room to improve.

And that’s where marketing and long term thinking kicks in. The average agent places 70% of emphasis on sales and 30% on marketing. But this should be reversed. By placing 70% of the emphasis on marketing as a holistic approach the sales process becomes significantly easier.

You’ve mentioned the importance of a good phone number and capturing email addresses, but what really builds a strong business?

Richie: A top agent looks for new ways to connect; to develop relationships. It must be all about your clients or customers, not about you. It’s how you best build that relationship that determines how you will succeed or fail. You must establish trust for long term business growth and the development of a ‘customer for life’.

My sales staff are very focused on winning listings via a listing presentation. What they don’t appreciate is that the reason they were invited to give the presentation in the first place was due to the tremendous amount of marketing we have done over the years. If the marketing was not right, we’d never get a look in. I had an agent from another town visit and he was looking for ways to improve his game. His days were filled with making cold calls because the company he worked for did not market themselves well. My team don’t have to cold call because of the years of marketing effort.

Has technology affected the mix between sales and marketing? At first the internet was a differentiator and because we embraced it early it used to win us listings. Today, with 98% of agents listing on the web it is no longer a point of difference. I have always embraced technology and this was the first office in Tamworth to have a computerised system to manage business. It actually saved me one staff member and I was the envy of many agents in this town. I was also the first with a fax machine; even before the solicitors.

I’m always looking for ways to create a point of difference. It can be challenging to stand apart with online listings so anything that makes that listing special is worth it.

I’m now experimenting and pushing the boundaries with talking presentations on the web (we’re using SoundsReal). I can see many applications, not just property tours. We had a training session recently and one of our salespeople recorded his own commentary to market a land development we needed to freshen up with a new promotional angle. It took about half an hour and he comes across as knowledgeable and helpful. The rest of the team are excited about the possibilities for their listings; I have a rural specialist, commercial and a strong property management team so it is not limited to residential.

I particularly like the way we can use the talking shows in our email campaigns. About a year ago I printed off our prospects list and less than 5% had email addresses. Today I have built that up to about 30% but the goal is to capture every lead with an email and it’s not as hard as getting their phone number. I’m driving my sales team to build up the quality of their prospect data so we can market properties to them directly. I’ve had past clients tell me they would have bought a particular property had they known; so now we can send them quality talking tours that give them the highlights. It’s a practical and flexible strategy that will set us apart from the competitors.

What are you looking for from effective marketing?
Richie: I want more emotional buyers. I have found that buyers that come into my office are generally harder on price and are looking for a great deal. Buyers that see a property online can be more emotionally driven. Ones with emotional attachment are the buyers you love to have. That’s why I’m excited about Web2 technologies and our talking tours.

Adding voice to a slideshow gets the emotion happening and particularly residential sales are all about emotional attachment. Our commercial clients are focused on dimensions and specifics; you don’t get residential buyers getting out the tape to measure up a home. They get emotionally involved even if it’s the potential in the place that excites them. With a talking tour we can create a lot of emotion and interest even if the property is not that photogenic. We can still talk about the benefits and whet their appetite.

I also look for ways to reduce my overheads and get vendor contribution. Our personalised multimedia presentations are not too time consuming and the impact – the visual look of them with movement and sound- gives the impression of a level above what else is out there. I can then charge for it. Value for money it’s something the seller can relate to. It’s a great listing tool. There are times when it’s hard to secure the exclusive – now I go to vendors with an edge and offer them a talking show to secure the exclusive.

I also like the shows with commentary for auctions. I have capable sales staff who hate getting up in front of the crowd on an auction night. With pre-prepared presentations it’s possible to deliver a higher standard of property overview – faster and more concisely. I can see it has potential to ensure standards are met when conducting the auction process.

If you could give one piece of advice about marketing, what would it be? Richie: I’m a big advocate of getting on the front foot. Create interest. Be proactive. Think about every activity you do and ask yourself: “Will this make the sales process easier?”


Richie Thornton of LJ Hooker Tamworth
Richie Thornton is a licensed Real Estate Stock and Station and Business Agent. He has been in Real Estate in Tamworth in the same location for 19 years. Prior to entering real estate, Richie had 7 years experience in accounting and 6 years in the computer industry. Richie is an accredited LJ Hooker Auctioneer and is a member of the LJ Hooker Admirals Club (Business Development and Marketing Committee) and LJ Hooker Captains Club. He is a past President of the New England Division of the Real Estate Institute and from a community perspective has served as President of the Tamworth and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Director of the Tamworth Development Corporation. Richie was also the recipient of LJ Hooker’s highest award the “Sir Leslie Hooker Award”, in 1996 and 1997 – the only person to date to have won the award two years in a row. Richie specialises in the sale of Commercial/Industrial Property and oversees the Sales and Marketing aspects of the business. He is also the current international president of the Non Residential Specialists Chapter for LJ Hooker.

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