The promise of leads can lure an agent from one brokerage to another, but to compare leads per month from one brokerage to the next can be tricky; different brokerages use different lead systems and distribute leads to agents differently, which makes direct comparisons in terms of allocated leads hard to do. So, how does each system differ, especially when it comes to leads? We asked a few Chicagoland brokerages’ corporate offices how leads are captured, how many leads per month are offered to agents, and how many leads that come through their system are qualified.
Baird & Warner
Operating with a lead generation apparatus that yields thousands of new leads annually, the Baird & Warner system is, if anything, multi-faceted. Gathering leads from the Internet, QR codes, MLS redirects and telephone inquiries, the Baird & Warner system uses the company website as the central hub of lead generation, one based on extensive market research in SEO technology and internal reviews of existing programs. And though the website generates considerable buyer interest, not all inquiries are immediately considered leads; rather, Baird & Warner’s “e-commerce customers,” as John D’Ambrogio, the company’s vice president of strategic development, called them, are sorted into three distinct categories: “inquiries,” “prospects” and “leads.” While leads represent definite buyer intrigue in a specific property, inquiries and prospects are more general and tacit, requiring added effort, nurturing and, ultimately, cultivation before they become bonafide leads.
Coldwell Banker’s main lead generation system is called LeadRouter, a system that is attached to Coldwell Banker’s website and partner sites that funnels leads for each agent and brokerage automatically. If a prospective client requests more info from a listing, LeadRouter will not only capture the lead, but also trigger an email or text alert sent directly to the agent with the listing. Chris Haran, marketing manager for Coldwell Banker, says these alerts are sent to agents automatically, because the goal is for the agent to call the potential client with more information about the listing he or she clicked on in under a minute, while they’re still at the computer.
Coldwell Banker receives an average of 8,000 leads per month, and roughly 7,500 to 7,600 are qualified leads, meaning they have valid email addresses. Though they are distributed among agents per brokerage accordingly, those numbers aren’t necessarily of converted leads. Besides LeadRouter and agent listings on Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com, Yahoo!’s real estate site or local Coldwell Banker sites, several leads come from phone calls in response to print ads and yard signage; in fact, yard signage is still one of the brokerage’s biggest lead generators.
Working with an Internet-centered lead generation system, Realty Executives produces 45 leads a month per brokerage, and then distributes them among its agents in as fair a manner as possible. Captured online and through information provided by relocation firms, the leads contain the prospective buyer’s email, phone number and the properties he or she is interested in pursuing. Though the company does not track how many of its leads are converted, Bruce Vinnick, the firm’s executive vice-president, said its relocation-company leads, which it generates via phone calls from prospective clients to its Global Relocation Center in Realty Executives’ corporate office, are the best qualified.
The lead generation system at RE/MAX, which has generated 1.5 million total leads at its Northern Illinois website alone, may utilize a variety of tools – such as Internet capture forms, widgets, strategic partnerships and an agent-to-agent referral network – and it may find leads from a number of sources – namely, the Internet, mobile phones, QR codes, and listing promotion links – but in the end, everything goes back to the RE/MAX agent who ultimately profits from the lead. Using a system methodology designed to allow RE/MAX agents to direct consumers to their unique websites, the system provides the affiliates all the necessary tools to promote their listings and drive traffic to their site.
The Weichert Lead Network, an operational national call center that fully inspects all leads before they are delivered to sales associates, is the chief reason for Weichert’s industry-leading conversion rate of at least 5 percent. With annual investments from Weichert exceeding $12.5 million in 2011 alone and a full staff of 60, the center generated 3,535 leads for the Weichert Chicagoland offices in 2011, according to Marty Rueter, president of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates. Fielding inquiries through Weichert’s popular website, which had 48 million visitors in 2011, the Network prescreens inquiries through its national toll free phone number and email “non-registration” inquiries, which are typically answered within three minutes. Callers follow a two-step process – after speaking with an inside sales consultant, who collects the caller’s name, email address, current residence and other specific information, the caller, if qualified, is transferred to a Leads Specialist, who then hands off approximately 43 percent of its leads to agents. Using this method, the Weichert Lead Network generated 248,000 leads nationally last year, ultimately sending 88,000 scrubbed leads to local Weichert affiliates.