7 Steps To Creating a High Performing Real Estate Brand and Not Paying Franchise Fees

It started with a mission to make the real estate transaction more equitable for the homeowner. It ignited with finding people that had a similar passion. 

In Real Estate, brands such as RE/MAX, Keller Williams, Douglas Elliman, and Compass seem to dominate the conversation. Either their incumbent status or raising hundreds of millions in funds to support their growth and expansion. It makes it difficult to grow a brand, let alone one in real estate. 

You can surely purchase a franchise tag, however, you’re limited to much of the upside that comes from building a brand. Your ability to control your offerings, control the brand voice, and actually create a difference for the industry as a whole gets put away. In fact, these brands are not what they used to be years ago.

Google Trends screenshot

Many real estate businesses that have received funding have been big enough to raise funding, but not big enough to be a brand. Have you ever heard, “Did you use Flat Fee MLS, because I did?” Probably not, because that’s not how global brands work. Brands stand for something more than “Find a dream home” or “Sell your home at a discount or with a professional.” Those are just part of your menu offerings. 

AnyCurb began operating as a brokerage in August of 2020. Within 3 months, we have a pipeline of nearly $70M and are closing 10+ deals per month. This growth came with approximately $5K in monthly spend, and a mission to make the home sale more equitable for the homeowner.

In black and white: Mike Del Prete, in Orange: AnyCurb Actual + Yearly Projection

We have overtaken many incumbents in our run-rate in performance with minimum monthly spend. We are going to break down how we have built a brand thus far, and how we are going to continue building it going forward.

Step 1: Identify your mission
Our mission to create homeowner equity in the home sales process by leveraging technology came from personal struggles. Homeowners are often stuck where even if they want to move, they have to spend nearly 8% (6% in agent fees + 2% in closing costs) of their home’s price to do so. Like my own family, most homeowners are stuck. This is not a future that we saw as an acceptable one, and we set out to fix it. 

We set ourselves apart by providing a tool where homeowners can sell their homes with no fees, and professional agents stand by to answer their questions.

Step 2: Leverage what makes you unique
My background has been in founding databases from scratch, creating useful reporting, and executing those recommendations in collaboration with the entire company including the executives. My experience leading data teams at marketplaces like Gympass and Groupon was our key advantage. This data helped me see pressing issues in the existing real estate market. Nearly 50% of million-dollar homes on sale don’t have a virtual tour (which costs hundreds compared to tens of thousands in commissions). The lack of transparency in this enormous market was just a starting point. 

Through my marketing experience, we were able to select a name and a color palette which differentiates us from the rest of the pack. The name AnyCurb and the Light Salmon color tone gave us the edge that we needed to separate ourselves.

Step 3: Hire talent that sees your vision and can help with your competitive advantage
I began my recruitment efforts at Indeed, where I received free credit for 4 weeks of the job posting. We received many applications, but we were looking for a broker that shared a passion for data and analytics. Our job posting has:

Job Posting for AnyCurb

We received approximately 50 inquiries for the role, however, we were selective to bring on talent that saw the greater vision to preserve equity for the homeowner, leverage data to create a more efficient real estate transaction, and utilize technology. We found our first and second broker.

The next push of agents came from LinkedIn where we received over 100 applications. It was time-intensive to go through the agent pool, however, we rejected many as they had a lack of passion for data in their background.

In the end, we found our next two. These four brokers created the foundation of what we were looking to build. In total, AnyCurb has 6 licensed brokers including myself and our COO. I will cover the hiring process of our executive team at a later time.

AnyCurb Real Estate Brokers

Step 4: Build your pipeline by going where the buyers are
It’s no surprise that Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor dominate the market. However, these businesses are designed to sell their leads through their partner agent programs. 

https://ipropertymanagement.com/research/zillow-statistics

We started investing money in Zillow and Realtor to begin growing our pipeline and getting our name out there. It makes no sense to reconstruct the wheel, and our goal was to bring consumers into our pipeline and create incremental value for them. These strategies created a healthy pipeline but came at high costs with much-delayed gratification. Leads on Zillow cost upwards of $1K per lead, most of which would convert months from now with constant upkeep. 

We were successful with Realtor.com leads as their programs allow for agents to pay after the closing instead of the beginning. The most difficult part of their program is to get past their “Emerging Agents” program, which requires you to close 3 deals before being promoted. Typically deals allocated to you are less likely to convert or rental clients with unrealistic expectations. All of our agents came with experience and were able to get around this program.

It was important to keep all the channels open and invite as much business through our door. However, it was important for us to get our cost of acquisition lower, and focus on unique sources of traffic that could be our own.

Step 5: Start building unique sources of traffic 
Our business started by creation of an algorithm that identifies homeowners that are likely to sell their home. By leveraging this algorithm, we are projected to bring our costs to acquire a customer to $200, which is fractions below market averages ($800-$3000). Not everyone can create an algorithm, so here is what you can do:

  1. Facebook advertising with templates. We used Canva to create these templates. 
  2. Postcard advertising (we use our algorithm to deliver, you can focus on your area with EDDM). EDDM is a service by the post office and a low-cost way to send mailers at as low as .164c per piece.
Created on Canva

3. Create videos. We spent an enormous sum of money on an explainer video looking at successful companies like Squatty Potty. In the end, it did help explain the message, but a compilation of optimized individual videos could help better. For example, take this video from our partner agent Jason. This video was produced for a minimal amount but boasted a higher CTR than the explainer video. We used Applause Lab to make this easier for us as we were also building out the business. AnyCurb Video — Jason Wade

4. Leverage promotional celebrity videos. We used Cameo to find a celebrity that met our brand voice and had them produce a video. This video was produced in a week’s time and helped explain our Open Listing product with ease. The cost of this video was under $250. 

5. Build your SEO content. Google takes months to start ranking you for relevant keywords, so begin creating content and don’t stop if it’s not immediately working. Google is testing to see if you’re a “Real Business” or a “Fake Business” and if you survive the test of time, you will be happy. Try not to pay SEO agencies thousands per month, nothing can replace quality content. We started writing about Chicago neighborhoods in our blog, and continue writing every day. 

The first page of Google when searching AnyCurb

6. Optimize your website for easy contact. This includes multiple buttons of action with a phone number for instant contact. Our website also leverages Intercom which provides us early-stage access for $49 a month to have live chat with our clients. 

AnyCurb Website

7. Be hyper-local. Show up to events. Sponsor food at a baseball game. Get to know your community. Real estate is a local business with many competitors. While you won’t have the recognition of top brokerages overnight, you will start building it as you begin to grow your community and get referrals. Call your friends, talk to your family, and tell them to tell their friends. 

8. Spotify ads. If you want a voice, and believe your message is differentiated from the rest, then create a Spotify ad. The cost of having these ads play is small compared to Google ads. Google ads are expensive and you will require a significant amount of ads to convert a customer. It is recommended to use the above means instead of this for the time being.

9. Door-knock. This is the best way to get to know people and growing your reach. This is also one of the few ways that you’ll have a high open-rate. Be honest, introduce your product, and what you’re doing. Get their contact information. Follow-up. Most times people don’t want to sell today, but they will in the future. 

10. Give people the luxury treatment. This is the more costly solution, approximately $10 per card. You can write a customized message at Lovepop and send it to future clients. This will WOW them but comes with a high price tag. If you know that someone is willing to sell, and you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, this could work. High risk, high reward. 

Lovepop Card

Step 6: Be honest, and work hard
This is the most important part of any business that requires an immense amount of focus. Real estate is difficult and requires immense grind. You will vet many leads and transact a few of them. The more leads you vet, the more transactions you will get. Failure happens every day, and it’s a game of keeping your resilience up. Empires weren’t made overnight. 

Our team communicates on Slack for free. We talk about best practices, articles, the success that we’re having at a localized level. We meet every week on Zoom to talk about progress on deals and get everyone to speed on what we’re working on. The free tools are out there to collaborate. Continue to communicate all of the movement with your key team members. 

Step 7: Keep innovating
Real Estate moves slowly. You don’t have to. There are unique marketing angles that can get people in the door, looking at you for guidance. It will be the combination of marketing channels and word of mouth that will continue to bring more customers in. 

In the first few weeks, I had to explain to people in Chicago that AnyCurb was a real estate brokerage. Within a month, brokers already knew. In the next few weeks, I heard about companies talking about AnyCurb as an upcoming competitor. Now we get phone calls from clients that have heard about AnyCurb and want to use our services. We never had to pay a franchise any fees, instead, we created our own brand.

Getting your real estate license is easy, forming a brokerage takes money, but building a brand requires a lot of work. The grind continues every day, and it’s important to have a team around you that supports innovation and creating through data and technology. Eventually, you will be happy that you created a brand instead of paying franchise fees. 

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