How to embrace innovation in your real estate agency

24 Jun 2021
Estate Agents Co-operative

Working in the property industry for over 60 years, we have heard a lot of outsiders say real estate agents are slow to adapt.

And yet, we could also tell you dozens of stories about agents we know who are leading the way with new and exciting technology.

The fact is, real estate is just like any other space — there will be people who are early adaptors, keen to stay on top of advancements, and there will be those who prefer to amble behind and see what happens.

With so many new devices, programs, platforms and apps out there, exploring every new trend and opportunity is a full-time job and can take focus from core business.

Failing to keep your finger on the pulse, however, could be the downfall of your agency, in a time when business is increasingly driven by technology.

So, how can you keep up, without wasting time, money and effort?

Does your reason for avoiding innovation actually add up?

When talking to agents, unsurprisingly, we hear many of the same reasons over-and-over again, for avoiding the latest gadgets and technology.

  • You don’t have time to learn something new
  • You don’t have money to potentially waste on something new
  • You already have something that works so why reinvent the wheel?
  • You don’t like change – the way you’ve always done things is fine
  • You want to let others try it first to see if/how it works

Do any of these sound like you?

While our strong message in response to these objections is simple: “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible” (Frank Zappa), we also understand that at times, any one of these could be an appropriate reason for avoiding a new opportunity.

But avoiding innovation all the time? If you don’t move, you get left behind!

When assessing if your decision to stay put is the right one, a simple cost-benefit analysis can help.

Weighing up the costs of trying the new technology vs the potential benefits of the technology, and likewise, the cost of not trying the technology over the benefits, can enable a more informed and strategic choice.

How can you embrace innovation better?

Change your mindset and culture

If yours is one of those agencies that tends to wait for others to try something first, then finds itself behind the eight ball – and this is an ongoing trend – a change in mindset and culture may be overdue.

Changing culture and behaviour or your natural response to new ideas is not easy.

Within a business, it involves working together to identify what needs to change, why it is like it is now, what it needs to be like, how you close that gap and who is responsible.

In terms of embracing innovation, this process might look like:

  • What needs to change? We need to be open to new ideas and trying new things
  • What’s it like now? Right now, we haven’t tried anything new in X years
  • What could we be like? New technology and processes could make us faster and more competitive
  • How do we do that? As a group, we must not discount new opportunities on face value, but will follow this process – XYZ – to consider each on its own merit
  • Who does it? Name 1 and Name 2 are our innovation leaders and are responsible for these assessments

This work takes time and dedication, and it takes everyone being on board.

If a culture change isn’t achieved, it is unlikely innovation can really ever be effectively embraced within your business.

Really consider your business’s needs

At a very basic level, your business needs to do one thing – win a listing before/over another agency that is competing for that listing.

When a new opportunity, new technology, processes or approaches present, put them in the context of this need. Ask yourself:

  • Does this opportunity address a challenge we have internally (for example, we need to get listing presentations out faster)?
  • Do we have something that currently addresses this challenge?
  • Could this new platform or tool help us to address it better? Could it make us faster? More efficient? Will it cost less?

If the new opportunity is a ‘yes’ to that last question, it may just be worth a look.

Identify any competitive advantage

The foundation of strong marketing is finding a positive point of difference and letting potential customers know all about it.

New inventions, technology or gadgets can improve the way you do business internally – which is great – but they can also make you more competitive by giving you that unique advantage.

Often, this unique advantage is available for a short time (if the innovation becomes popular) and only to those who adapt straight away. This is a good reason to assess opportunities early and quickly.

After looking at whether the opportunity will enable you to do business better than you currently do (looking internally), next look at what your competitors are doing, and if this will also allow you to do business better than they do (look externally).

If the answer is yes, and your cost/benefit shows a positive outcome, dive on the opportunity and don’t forget to market, market, market

Tell your local buyers and sellers how you have embraced this opportunity, how it makes you different, and most importantly, how it improves their experience and outcome.

Image by Alex Knight

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