John McGrath shares his thoughts on how digital media has changed us

Rapid change is happening in digital media and agents need to keep up to be a part of the conversation. You have a supercomputer in the palm of your hands – so use the tools available to you to find and serve clients.

However, balance is needed and clients still crave ‘real connection’. Tune in to hear where John McGrath feels an agent’s time is best utilised when it comes to digital.

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Click below to watch the video.

Following is the video transcript.

Melanie Hoole

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, John. 

I’m really interested in your thoughts on digital marketing for our show. Today we’re going to talk about marketing from both an agent and a marketing person’s perspective and also delve into your thoughts on digital media and social media, and the like. 

What’s your favourite social media platform and why? 

John McGrath

I personally don’t use social media for my persona, but from the business perspective – and from an educational standpoint, as a learner – I’m a huge fan of social media.

I get a lot of information from Twitter. I follow who I think are great entrepreneurs and business people and people in general. 

YouTube is probably my go-to platform. Every day, early in the morning, if I go to the gym on the treadmill or if I walk for 40 minutes, I watch YouTube for 40 minutes, generally speaking. 

Obviously the algorithms pick up the information and the style of content that you like, so it starts serving other things up to you. I listen to interviews for 20 – 30 minutes, maybe not dissimilar to this, and I pick up information and insights there. 

So, in conclusion, I’d say high-level Twitter where I get a lot of new information. Then, my daily fix from YouTube is a big one for me.

Melanie Hoole

How has the media in general changed your viewpoint over the last couple of decades that you’ve been in the industry?

John McGrath

I think it has changed more in the last few years than the previous 15. A few years ago it was suggested that things like radio and free-to-air television may not have a future which I thought at the time sounded extremist and if not alarmist.

Now, I would say I get most of my content off of YouTube or Netflix or Apple TV. Some of that’s educational and some of it is pure entertainment. 

For me, rather than just the big-screen television, I get a lot of my news off the iPhone whilst on the treadmill in the morning, or even the iPad in bed or if I’m travelling. I’ll just open up the iPad and go on to my favourite platforms and channels. 

I think that’s probably been more in the last 5 years than 20. Obviously, the Internet’s been the biggest change in the last 20. 

The REA, domain and the big platforms have really changed the way real estate is bought and sold and nowadays the way that real estate agents market themselves is also changing – courtesy of the digital channels. I think it’s all changing! 

Where it goes from here is going to be interesting because it’s changing so rapidly and I think some of the current changes weren’t even available or a ‘thing’ five years ago. 

I’m not sure where it’s going to go from here – more of the same, more digital, faster downloads, more to mobile? 

Nowadays, most of my content gets served up on the phone, even more than my iPad, just because you’ve got it with you 24/7. The phone has become everything, a photo album, a place to make calls, send messages, check emails, watch YouTube, it’s our ‘everything’ now.

Melanie Hoole

I like to call it the Swiss Army Knife. 

In fact, I quite often call it my camera rather than my phone because that’s what I think of it as mostly.

Managing communication boundaries and getting downtime

John McGrath

It’s a supercomputer in the palm of your hand, for everyone. Even people that are avid-users of technology, if they actually took stock of what they use it for, they would use it for phone calls, messages, probably have one or two apps, YouTube and emails. 

I think it’s really prevalent and I think it’s equally dangerous as it takes away the boundaries. You used to get into your car, go to work, do work, and then pack up your bag, or even your computer, then go home. But, nowadays, there can’t be any borders or boundaries.

24/7 you have the ability to check emails via your phone and take messages and whatever. I think there’s a level of discipline required to make sure you maintain some life balance. They’re both important. 

It’s great that you’re attached and connected but it’s also dangerous if you don’t have some boundaries around it.

Melanie Hoole

How do you power down? What advice would you give to the industry on being able to switch off at the end of the day and not being ‘on’

John McGrath

My phone is much of the time in “divert” mode. I have a number of favourite people, which are generally the main business contacts, and a couple of personal contacts that can ring through to me. 

You can set up a “divert” on your phone calls for anyone that is not in your favourites. So I’ve done that. So that means that there’s like 12 or 15 people that can virtually get me anytime and everyone else is going to leave a message. Because I became almost too accessible. 

The ‘communication balance’ for real estate agents

Now, if you’re a sales agent and you want to speak to a potential buyer or seller, accessibility is probably really important to you. If you’re a principal or a sales leader of a business, sometimes you actually need the space to have meetings and to deal with other issues. I think you’ve got to work out what is the right balance for you. 

Bill Maloof is one of the most successful agents in Australia. He spoke at AREC a few years ago and one of his key messages is accessibility. He said: I go to a client and I say “why don’t you ring me, anytime? Night or day, weekend, Sunday morning at 8 o’clock, 8 o’clock at night, whenever, and then ring the other agents you’re talking to and see who you can get through too.” He said most of the time that gets him a listing because they ring the other four or five agents and they don’t get back to them for a few hours, maybe a day or two, yet Bill was almost always answering his phone. 

So, how willing you are to take calls is going to depend on which role or category you’re in. If you’re potentially, but not exclusively, single, youngish, no commitments, no family and you want to be connected 24/7, maybe that’s okay. You’ve got to get sleep, and you should be doing some exercise and hopefully some socialization as well. 

But it’s very different if you are with a partner, a family, and have other responsibilities. It’s hard to turn your phone off nowadays because everything’s connected. As I’ve done with “divert” and except for favourites, I think you’ve got to try and find a way that balances things, which gives people appropriate access to you but doesn’t distract you from the other key or important areas of focus.

Leveraging digital media and video to ‘bottle’ yourself

Melanie Hoole

That’s the beauty of online media where you can bottle yourself like a genie and be available 24/7. 

If you can bottle all your insight and thoughts in a video and then have that available 24/7 it’s kind of like nurturing people to get closer to where you need them, not just where they need you. 

I find that I’m a bit of an information service if I allow myself to be. I feel I’m the ‘help desk’ on anything social or digital.

John McGrath

There’s something pleasant about the real-time real person exchange from time to time for sure and we do both here at McGrath Estate Agents. We’ve got offices up and down the East Coast of Australia. We have around a hundred offices, in four states. We still hold monthly sessions in real-time in classrooms, with new people who have joined, but we also have online content. So if someone can’t make the course we have additional content that is available.

We can’t have the same training conversation with a sales agent who has 15 vendors a month versus a sales agent who has 1 or 2. But we can send out a 5-minute video to a new starter with our values, covering what we stand for, and what we recommend. Or even to a buyer getting ready for an auction. But an agent can easily make a little two-minute video tour, by saying what auctions are coming up this weekend and “here’s what we recommend, here’s what’s going to happen, here’s the advantage of being the highest bidder, here’s how to register a pre-register”.

People and improved processes can equal ‘a sale a day’

I think the best agents going forward are going to be selling a property a day, in the very near future. Some of our agents are very close to that. Our highest is 24 in a month and if you take out one day a week (when most real estate people don’t work) that’s pretty much a property a day, and we’ve got a number of people now reaching that level. So you can’t do everything, you can’t be everywhere and you can’t fulfil every role.

The metaphor we often use here is “when you go into hospital and you have a serious medical operation with a world-class surgeon, you don’t expect them to be getting the tools ready or cleaning the operating theatre. They come in for their job and they have specialists around them that do all the other tasks.”

Stefan Bertrand, for example, one of our top guys, does 15, 16, 17 sales a month. He’s got himself, he’s got an administrative assistant that handles all the marketing and paperwork, and he’s got to two buyer specialists. So he’s developed a team of four. 

Then there’s Tommy Hector in South Australia who also has a similar team structure and he’s doing a hundred and fifty to two hundred sales per year. 

So I think you have to be able to work out, as an agent, what is your best value-add and role? If you can look over all the marketing that’s helpful, but if you have someone just as good as you to do it, you’ll probably be better in front of potential vendors and potential buyers. 

A lot of agents, in fact, a lot of human beings have trouble delegating, and sometimes it’s for good reason because they’re very good at what they do. They think they can do better than others and they probably can but if you’re trying to do everything, you’ll run out of time. 

If you want to build a business you need to be talking to the sellers and the best buyers and you need a process that allows you to focus on that rather than sharpening the utensils.

Melanie Hoole

Recently, I spoke at your momentum event. I kindly got flown around the country and that was to meet with real estate agents in your business that had reached that $500 GCI a year level. They had reached a point where they could jump up from being a ‘lone’ agent and take on either a local or maybe offshore assistant to help develop a team.

So as you’ve been talking I’ve been thinking about how the process is really important and being really clear on who does what part of the process across your team is important too. But also automation, and we can really use technology through our devices that we have in our palm of our hand and systems and more advanced technologies that are coming into the fray, now.

Thank you for your time. I really appreciate you answering all my questions.

About this video series’s video series brings together the best digital and social media minds in the real estate industry, to share the wonders of the web and magic of mobile. Subscribe to or follow us on social media (below) for free tips and tricks to grow your reputation and attract prospects, digitally.


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Written by Melanie Hoole

My team and I specialise in helping real estate and property professionals perfect their personal brand, build a first-class digital profile and implement inbound marketing activities to attract leads. If you are unsure which direction to take with your digital marketing contact me for help.

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