We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Nathan Strudwick, the leading agent for Elder’s in Australia. During our discussion, he shared a number of helpful tips and insights for agents looking to improve their business by strengthening their client relationships using iRealty.
Stephan Trone – Nathan, it’s great to sit down with you today and discuss your career journey as Elder’s top agent. Would you mind briefly introducing yourself?
Nathan Strudwick – I’m Nathan Strudwick and I’m a partner at Elders Real Estate based in Shailer Park. I’m going on my fifth year in the industry, selling real estate. It’s been a long journey. Well, a short journey, but it feels like it’s been a relatively long journey.
ST – I would imagine. So, in the last 5 years, how has the industry changed and how have you changed as an agent?
NS – There’s been a lot of growth in my career, and the business has changed for me personally, but so has the industry. And what I am doing now is very different to what did at the start. You know, I wore out the shoe leather on my soles when I started, I probably had calluses on my hands from door knocking, and I blew up a few printers from printing so much. Those days have changed for me. It’s much more a team environment, and old clients have increased their trust, and they want to come back to me. So that’s what we all want to achieve in real estate, but you have to earn it first. Being five years in the industry now, I’ve seen those people come back to market with me, and it has been a very rewarding experience for me. It’s completely changed. The industry has changed from where there was a local hero that was doing it for 20 years who people trusted. For young agents, there’s much more of a willingness to give someone a go, rather than going to the local guy.
ST – What would you say caused these changes?
NS – The change in the industry is linked to a few things, but I think what we’ve seen more recently is a more professional market. You don’t go into grade 12 and look into your senior studies book and say, “I want to be a real estate agent. Where’s the real estate agent’s course?” Traditionally, people have come into real estate out of necessity, but for those changing the industry, they are choosing real estate as a career. We’re seeing lawyers. I’ve got a law degree, and accounting degree, and I’ve worked at law firms, but we’re seeing that type of person enter the market. Now it’s an industry of choice. They’re coming in with a university education, life experience, and they’re changing the industry. They’re bringing their attributes to the industry. You know, we refer to ourselves as partners in our firm, not principles, because that’s what law firms do. That’s been a major shift. And the internet is a big part of that as well. It will always change the market and will continue to change it in the future.
ST – So, back when you were pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, and giving yourself blisters, what were the challenges you faced?
NS – A lot of it was self-belief. I say to people in the industry, they shouldn’t have a plan B. Don’t have a plan B. If you’ve got a plan B, it’s easy to revert. You need to put your heart and soul into real estate, and you need to be committed to what you’re doing. It’s tough work, that doesn’t change. My work now is just as tough as in the start, but it’s tough in a different way.
ST – How have you changed with the shifts in the industry, and what have you learned along the way?
NS – When I joined Elders, what I found with them, is that they were the ones willing to change, and they were at the forefront of that change in the industry. They were doing things that the others weren’t doing. Five years later, those agencies are still stuck, doing things they were doing 20 years ago. If they could have every buyer turn up to their office, and show them homes from their office, they would. That’s changed. The internet has changed that. So, I think having the willingness to change will make you the best in the market. But, you need to be very careful that you don’t try and change the market yourself. You see some weird and wacky things in this industry, and you see people trying to say they’re industry changers. They’re not. You still need to stay within what’s expected in the market. We’ll see more change. You need to adapt with technology and embrace it. I think if you’re still doing the same things you were doing last year, you need to have a look at what you’re doing. That’s why, twelve months ago, I was selling 90 homes. Now I’m selling over 120. That’s because I’ve changed my business. I’ve implemented iRealty into my business, and that has helped it. I wasn’t doing that 12 months ago. Selling 90 homes in the market is a great statistic to have, so why didn’t I just keep doing that? Because I wanted to stay as the market leader. Next year, I have bigger goals than what I’ve got this year, so my business will change again. Even my relationship with iRealty has changed over the last 18 months. It started very small, and now it has grown, and that’s because my business has changed.
ST – I’d love to talk more about that. Specifically, how iRealty has helped you keep up with the changes, and reach more success, but first I would like to ask something a bit more personal. What is your biggest strength as an agent?
NS – Well, my biggest strength is being able to listen to clients. Not a lot of agents listen. They do a lot of telling. I am a good listener. When you listen, you understand what people need, and what they want. I’m not a teller, I’m a listener. I work in collaboration with my clients to find their outcome. I’m not the dictator, I don’t tell them, “this is the way it’s going to go.” We always work together. And a lot of my campaigns will be different, because I am willing to listen to them.
ST – Sounds like your relationships are key.
NS – They are, they’re key. Relationships change over time. The last sale for the same family may be very different than this sale, so you need to listen. You need to be attentive to their needs, and you need to act on them. “I don’t know best” is the method. I’m willing to embrace change and grow with clients. So, I’ve started with clients with 3-bedroom 1-bathroom homes, and now they’re living in million-dollar homes. This happened by working with them, and finding out what they need.
ST – So did you discover the importance of client relationships in the beginning, or was it something you learned later?
NS – Look, discovering the importance of relationships is something that I think develops as your career develops. I think when you start in the industry, all you care about is getting a form 6 signed. That’s all you care about. How many people you can meet. How many people you have coffee with. How many listings you can get, and how many sold properties you can have. But that changes. I think that relationships are important, but if you have no customers, you have no relationships. Get the customers first, build the relationships later.
ST – On top of listening, what do you do to strengthen your relationships with clients?
NS – There’s probably no silver bullet to it. I think you need to deliver. You need to deliver on your promise. Real estate is known as an industry of over promising, and under delivering. Agents have half an hour to secure their business, so they promise the world, and deliver nothing. So, I think delivery of your promise and expectation is key. It builds trust. Trust is an undervalued commodity in this market. Getting the best price isn’t always in the client’s best interest. They’ll remember bad service longer than they remember the highest price in the market. Obviously, that’s the goal, and if you’re good at providing service, you will get the best result. But, they will remember the six-week relationship prior to signing the contract.
ST – How have you embraced digital media to help you improve your relationships?
NS – Traditionally, relationships have all been letterbox dropping, phone calls, text messaging. So, my relationship with iRealty is a relatively new one, it’s been going for about eighteen months. That’s something that I never use to do. Newsletters, market reports, those types of things. And these are things people want to know. Not everyone’s in real estate mode, you see. There’s only so many people in the market that are in real estate mode: listing, selling, buying, investing, or whatever their situation. For all those other passive people, you need to be able to work with them. Start that relationship early. They can ask you questions about what you’re doing, see some of your sold properties. They are going to be your next sale. We all want to meet someone on a Saturday and list their home on the Monday. Unfortunately, that’s a change in the market. We used to meet someone for the first time, and list straight away. Those relationships have changed. As well, if you’re a young person in the marketplace, you can’t expect someone just to list with you. You first, have to make it better than any other previous relationship with another agent. It takes time. They’re not just going to drop their current agent that they’ve worked with for ten years. You’ve got to show to them that you’re going to be a better option for them. I think that relationship building can start digitally. And I think that for us as agents to just say we’re going to find our next relationship from an open home, or from a sale is not the way. There are people out there that will passively find through digital marketing.
ST – Right. It seems like the agent’s waiting for their next client to come to them are really going to struggle against other agents using digital methods to find their next listing. What tools do you use for this?
NS – Well, it’s probably important to talk about my relationship with iRealty. I first found iRealty through another real estate agent. I thought, “Geeze, their newsletters look really good.” I was doing a bit of stalking, and I thought their newsletters looked really good, and I saw at the bottom that it was iRealty that did it. So, my relationship with them started with me sending open for inspections in house to my clients on a weekly basis. That’s grown now. I don’t do it inhouse any more. My PA doesn’t do it. I’ve outsourced it to iRealty. They can produce it. It’s not a time intensive product, but if she’s not around for two weeks, who’s going to do it? I don’t have time to do it. So, we started with just the framework, and now we’ve grown it so that were getting them to do our marketing for us, do our posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter. That’s been quite helpful. It comes out regularly, and we use them to promote our business as well. I think the relationship I’ve got with iRealty in relation to marketing, it’s one where as the agent grows, so does the relationship with iRealty grow. So, I think that’s what’s been really important with digital marketing. If you’ve just sold five homes, you can’t afford a huge marketing program. But you don’t have to. It’s not expensive. You can build and grow as your team grows, and as you grow as an agent.
ST – You mentioned it was a good-looking email that introduced you to iRealty in the beginning. Obviously, branding is essential in the real estate industry, and is one of the most precious items you have to nurture and protect. So how do iRealty’s email designs help you with your branding?
NS – You need cut-through in this industry. You need cut-through. I think that if you have a fresh brand, a decluttered brand, you are going to cut through. I know my material does cut through because I’ve had clients come to my open homes, and they say, “Nathan, we just go off your list of open for inspections this weekend, we just go down the ones we want to go to.” People are using it, rather than going on Realestate.com or Domain. They’re finding my agenda for the weekend, because they know I list homes they will be interested in. Now that’s cut-through. Isn’t it? If they’re using my emails to determine what they’re going to look at over the weekend, I think that shows that the market responds well to my material. It’s not clutter. It’s not talking about how great I am; it’s talking about what information that’s important for them to sell their home. Or the important information that they need to know about, that’s happening in the market, for their sale.
ST – I think we have a similar vision in terms of delivering value to our clients and answering a lot of those common questions that people have concerning the real estate market. That’s what we hope to deliver to agents. We want them to have the product that will help them develop relationships with their clients, to ensure they stay with them, and use their services in the future. So, how has iRealty helped you nurture relationships with your clients?
NS – I think it’s regular contact, and regular content, which is really important. and it’s timely. You know, letting people know about the Reserve Bank rates is an important thing people need to know, so having that go out on the day it’s announced is really important. I think people are really scared that real estate agents are just looking to make a quick buck off them. Showing a client that you’re willing to invest in a relationship is really important. It goes to show that agents that are out there investing in a long-term relationship will get a reward for it. I just don’t want phone calls from people saying, “hey, I’m ready to list my home, can you come around?” It’s much easier, and more rewarding, when there’s a pre-existing relationship with them, if you’ve been able to connect with them. I think if you’re not doing digital marketing, then how do you connect. It’s the way of the world. I’ve seen too many people go to their letter box, then straight to their bin. Hard to connect. Hard to connect. And I think that you need to show who you are authentically, in the marketplace. People want to know that you’re not just someone who chucks up sold signs and takes pictures. Or just listed. It’s a bit boring. You need to show that you’re a person in the market, someone that they can associate with, they won’t feel tense and tight. They won’t feel like you’re their local lawyer coming around to inspect their home. They’ll think you’re a professional person. A human being.
ST – So iRealty helps you build a human connection?
NS – Definitely. Definitely. There’s a human connection with the way we strategise with iRealty. They are things we talk about when discussing our plan. “What are we going to do to connect with the market?” They don’t just lay out what works in Sydney, or Melbourne, or whatever. They will work out what the plan is to connect with the market in this month. And I think that people appreciate the thought that goes into it.
ST – One of our key selling points is our lead alerts. We detect and identify likely buyers and sellers, and deliver them immediately to our agents. Have you seen success come through iRealty’s leads?
NS – I’ve used lead alerts for both buyers and sellers. If people aren’t sure how they work, essentially, what happens, if people click on a certain property, or if people want to know about the process of selling, it lets me know. Leads are really important. There are soft leads and solid leads. Solid leads are the ones ready to go to market, or ready to buy a home, pre-approved, and then there’s the softer ones who are just doing a bit of research. One of the things that we’ve talked about, quite a lot, is how we use digital marketing to build relationships, and that’s what the industry is really yearning for, and wants. Having leads come in give me the ability to start that relationship. If you don’t do the digital marketing, you’re not going to get the leads, yeah? If you keep just letterbox dropping, and door knocking, you’ll only get those people who are actively in the market. Some people take their time to enter the market, start their research. It might be six months. I think agents out there need to address every lead and foster that relationship. And that’s what we’ve done with our team, with these leads. And we’ve converted people that have clicked on properties into sales, and we’ve nurtured relationships with people who six months ago clicked on ‘The Process of Selling a Home,’ and converted them into a sale. Some of them are instant, and some of them take a little time. But that’s what the industry wants. That’s what customers want. And you know what, as an agent, that’s what you should want as well, because you want to go into an appraisal in isolation, and not in competition, and the more that can happen for you as an agent, the better your strike rate is going to be.
ST – So have you seen definite results from your relationship with iRealty?
NS – Definitely. And the stories are pretty boring. They’re like anyone’s. But they’re not boring to us, in a sense, because they do convert into business. One thing that’s been really good for us, it’s helped us nurture relationships. We’ve sold two million-dollar properties a couple years ago, and then all the sudden we see them active again on iRealty. Now they haven’t been to an open home of ours, but we now know they’re back in the market looking for a daughter, or a son’s first home, or an investment property for themselves. Had they not clicked on properties, or let us know, or the lead hadn’t come through, we potentially wouldn’t have known. It helps us reconnect. It’s been very beneficial in that sense. It actually helps us realise what are clients’ needs are by getting the leads. Before we even know them.
ST – You’ve used a few different services with iRealty, including the standard software where you manage your email content and sends, and our DME service where our team takes care of a portion of your email and social media presence. Can you discuss how this has changed over time?
NS – One thing that’s been good about my relationship with iRealty is that it’s grown as I’ve grown. So, when I started I used Mailchimp for my weekly emails, and it became too difficult and time intensive. So, I started with iRealty sending a weekly newsletter and weekly open home list. Now it’s grown. Now I use their DME service which is great. The consistency of the message, the contents clean, and it’s great content. I’ve seen much more engagement from the people I am trying to attract, and that’s what you want. And I think it gives a human factor to the marketing. You know, there is someone on the end of the line who we can call to do a campaign to find the needs of our market. It’s not just a call centre overseas, or a bot, we’re actually dealing with a human who is running our campaigns. So, we’ve seen some great engagement from the market, more consistent messaging from us to the market, and I think people appreciate that, and we’re also offering a wider range of services that we traditionally haven’t done. I think people are pretty bored of selfies in front of sold signs, and they’re not part of the plan, because it’s not cutting through to the market. I think you need to cut through the market effectively, quickly, and get their attention so you can become the agent of attraction in the marketplace.
ST – It also effectively opens up additional channels for potential clients to find you. Have you found clients through your social media efforts?
NS – Definitely. I get engagement through Facebook. People ask me questions on Messenger based on articles I’ve got, and then all the sudden it turns into me in their front door. I’ve had a house recently in Daisy Hill, which is one of my areas where I sell, and they invited me in because the article we produced was of relevance to them. Then, I had one recently where we had a post about interest rates, and someone called me, and asked me what my position was on the future about interest rates. It created the opportunity for me to go see them, talked to them about their investment property, put it on the market, and sell it. Those happen. You’ve got to foster those leads. If you’re not doing it, someone else is going to do it, and they’re going to contact someone else.
ST – Thanks so much for your time Nathan.
NS – Love it. Thanks so much.