When the internet became a consumer tool to search for real estate in 1996, every conference created tracks on how to maximize lead generation. Today, there are only a few dozen real estate brokers who can compete with the national advertising portals. RE/MAX Advantage, led by Gary Ashton, is one of those. At RE/MAX Advantage, their focus is on lead generation in the Nashville Real Estate region of Tennessee.
According to a special report by WKRN.com, Nashville is ranked as the third highest destination for out-of-town real estate buyers. In other words, for companies like RE/MAX Advantage and competitors like Crye-Leike and others, the stakes are very high for meeting customers who are searching Nashville Real Estate. According to the Census Bureau, 36 people per day – or 13,234 per year – are moving to the Nashville region.
I reconnected with Gary at the Gathering of Eagles event hosted by Steve Murray of HousingWire this June in Austin, TX. Gary is a different kind of real estate eagle. He is not the type that wants to get on stage (although he does contribute a lot to the industry when asked). He goes to conferences and listens, looking for a nugget of an idea that might provide a little bit of improvement to the systems that he has been developing for years.
For RE/MAX Advantage, generating online leads is the top priority for the brokerage. Today, RE/MAX Advantage generates enough leads to fuel the production of 170 agents who operate out of one work center. There is no secret sauce to how they are effective. They focus on the foundational pieces of lead generation – advertising, portal partnerships, organic traffic, retargeting, and more.
At WAV Group, our data science indicates that the size of an agent’s farm needs to be 2,500 households. The farm size at RE/MAX Advantage is about 300,000 – which works out to about 1,800 per agent. Our analysis of most real estate firms is that the average agent farms about 150 households. It’s good to know that there are 82 million households in America and more than 1 million agents.
RE/MAX Advantage operates a sophisticated system for online lead generation that includes multiple websites operated by different vendors. Gary’s strategy is not to pick one, but pick a few and let them compete. Here are a few examples – GaryAshton.com is a Ylopo site. TNrealestate.com is a Sierra Interactive site. Another one of his powerhouse sites is NashvillesMLS.com developed by Real Estate Webmasters. There are not many brokers in America today that deploy a multi-site strategy like this. Normally, firms put all of their focus on one site from one vendor.
Most of Gary’s sites rank well for the biggest keyword search for Nashville Real Estate. The searches come up on the first page and usually above the fold. Of course, like most markets in America, they are competing against paid search followed by Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin. Today, his sites rank above Trulia, Movoto, and Homes.com. Whenever you can get free traffic from SEO, it’s a win. But Ashton also partners with the portals very strategically, and very carefully.
Portal partnering has a dual impact. Sure, it generates leads (very expensive leads). But it also has the effect of choking out his competitors from getting those leads. The more leads that funnel to RE/MAX Advantage, the better. Ashton knows that generating the lead is the first, and probably the easiest step toward generating broker dollars.
The most important part of operating RE/MAX Advantage is lead conversion. Gary runs a shop that focuses on training, accountability, and follow up. It requires constant attention. Even his best people need to be reminded of the best practices, coached, and encouraged. It never ends. In a recent call, Gary mentioned that his partnership with Zillow helps. Zillow is ruthless when it comes to accountability. If you are not persistent in staying in touch with a lead – you don’t get leads. It helps set the bar high for Gary who treats all leads like a Zillow lead and holds everyone to that high bar.
RE/MAX Advantage does some effective old school advertising, too. For the last five years, he has been releasing billboards everywhere. It works. This has complimented his sports marketing and his radio strategy. The billboards, sports marketing, and radio strategy lend social proof to all of the digital strategies he deploys.
In a real estate economy that lacks supply and is challenged by higher mortgage rates, where inflation is being driven by higher wages, or builders struggle for financing, and a war rages in the Ukraine – brokerages face a lot of headwinds. Regardless, brokers like Gary press on by following their best practices and sharpening the saw of improvement.
Enjoy one of Gary Ashton’s TV Videos, “Don’t Sell Without the Intel” – click here to watch.