Fox & Roach, REALTORS®
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® harnesses Yext to help people achieve the dream of homeownership
For a residential real estate brokerage franchise network, location is quite literally everything. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® is a subsidiary of HomeServices of America, the nation’s second largest provider of total home services. "We are a large real estate broker and primarily sell financial services to customers of the real estate brokerage," explains Steve Storti, Chief Marketing Officer. "Our customer base is split into two categories, one being the obvious footprint— buyers and sellers of homes. The other customer audience is the independent contractor real estate agents as well as other real estate agents whom we’d like to become affiliated with us."
With over 4,500 independent contractors and real estate agents, 1,000 employees and more than 70 office locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® is dedicated to its mission of helping people achieve the dream of homeownership—and is currently dominating the market it serves.
Location, Location, Location!
While real estate has always been a relationship-driven industry, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® understands the internet’s increasing importance in forging those relationships. "Most consumers— buyers and sellers— come to us through a direct connection to one of our agents. They can be relatives, friends, neighbours or previous customers," explains Storti. "But people are also finding us initially through the internet now. Mobile is quite important and mobile’s use in real estate seems to be accelerating quickly. A person can go out into the marketplace with a smartphone and find out a great deal about a house that’s for sale while looking at it, right from that mobile device," he points out.
Buying a home is a significant and typically infrequent purchase, which by definition makes every sale meaningful for the brokerage firm. Storti expounds, "Unlike e-commerce where people do repeat business, our industry is more akin to the auto marketplace. People decide they want to do something and dive into the market, get intensely involved for some period of time, complete a transaction and then back out for a number of years." In today’s digital world, that intensive research phase tends to start with online local search and, for the housing industry, one customer finding inaccurate data online means potentially thousands of dollars in sales immediately lost.
Michelle Todisco, Communications Specialist, explains, "People go to Google and search for ‘homes in [an area],’ and we need for that area’s office to pop up. We have run into trouble in the past when agents create Google My Business Pages that overpower the office pages. If you searched an area you might find one particular agent instead of the office page coming up! When you have 4,500 agents, most of them in competition, that becomes an issue."
Yext provides a comprehensive yet simple solution
And this is where the advantages Yext provides Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® become apparent. The Yext Knowledge Engine enables the real estate brokerage to update and maintain digital knowledge for every office across the web, all from one comprehensive dashboard.
Rajeev Sajja, Vice President of Digital Operations, was with Storti when they first discovered the impact a digital knowledge management platform like Yext could have on the business. "Steve and I were at a conference," he recalls, "when it was obvious we needed a digital footprint, almost like putting the Yellow Pages online for our company. We needed something we could use to manage all our 65 offices. Someone in our industry suggested Yext to us and we met with one of your people right there at the conference. That is when the partnership began."
The Yext Knowledge Engine enables brands like Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® to manage the digital knowledge about their people, places and products across their websites, mobile apps, internal systems and the entire PowerListings® Network — over 100 maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems and social networks including Google, Apple, Facebook, Bing and Yahoo.
"Rajeev and I initially talked to Yext because we had a lot of disorganised and inaccurate information out there on a variety of different search sites. We wanted to be able to have some sort of centralised control," elaborates Storti. "We are a product of many mergers and acquisitions, so there were many duplicate listings for our locations. Years ago, when printed Yellow Pages were the system of record, we discovered that agents would occasionally acquire an 800 number and place a Yellow Pages ad, acting as if they were the local office for our company. We had tried to eliminate duplications and clean that ‘stuff’ up ourselves. But when everything went online, a lot of that wrong information got transferred. The information was contradictory, which wasn’t good for our business."
"Out of our 65 offices, we physically move about 10-15% of those locations annually," Storti explains. "We need to have a centralised platform for our digital footprint to be able cleanly to say, ‘OK we’ve made this change and we know it has been changed everywhere.’ To me, that is the core value of Yext."
Since word of mouth and peer reviews are so integral to the real estate business, social media can have a big influence on the reach Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® has. Through Yext, it can centralise and update social platforms such as Facebook at the corporate level, while also empowering local agents to make updates and infuse their own voices. Todisco uses the platform frequently for this purpose. "We have 65 offices and worked to have a Facebook page created for each one," she says. "Some of those pages are being managed locally by people at the offices. For all of them of course, I have the ability to post and manage through the Yext platform. That Yext lets us post to 65 Facebook pages, with just one click and then allows us to monitor all 65 office pages within one common feed," Todisco elaborates, "brings our office location pages to the forefront in this mobile-first world."
Yext’s real-time updates guarantee accurate information and provide ease of mind
Sajja is particularly enthusiastic about Yext’s API integration with Google My Business (GMB). Providing an alternative to making manual, bulk updates to Google, the integration allows organisations worldwide to make real-time updates to their information on Google’s key properties, including Google Search and Google Maps, so that home buyers and sellers browsing the world’s largest search engine can reliably find a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® listing.
"GMB impacts search engine ranking and optimisation," Sajja explains, "which is something we have been trying to get our arms around for a long time. Some of the social stuff overlaps into rankings and organic traffic to our website as well. The Yext platform is helping us to improve our organic presence from a number of angles and it fits in nicely as the foundation to our overall local marketing strategy."
"Everything we do in terms of sales is through our independent contractor network. By virtue of being a centralised platform for digital knowledge management, Yext enables an enhanced brand identity and digital presence that resonates with our customers—buyers, sellers and independent agents," Storti concludes.