Established in 1981, Jays Real Estate in Mount Isa, Queensland, had been operated for 40 years by its founders, the Thinee family. John and Jacqui Thinee had built the business from scratch, and at the 23-year mark, their daughter took over and ran the company for a further 17 years.
Jays Real Estate not only sold, leased and managed residential properties, they also sold, leased and managed commercial properties. And, as a full-service real estate agency, they were one of only a handful of long-standing property agencies in Mount Isa.
In 2021, the Thinee family decided it was time to exit their real estate business, and they went about putting a succession plan in place.
Ensure your real estate agency lives on with a succession plan
To ensure that the Jays Real Estate agency would live on long after they had handed the reins to new owners, the Thinees made a concerted effort to find new owners that they felt would have the smarts and the energy to take the Jays Real Estate business to new heights.
Rather than advertise the real estate business for sale and wait for offers, they approached fellow business operators Jeff Constable and Tanya Burns, whom they knew, liked and trusted. Tanya, Jeff, and Jeff’s wife, Liz, ran two successful Mount Isa businesses; a recruitment agency that serviced the mining companies and a technology company that supported a wide range of Mount Isa businesses.
After several discussions, Tanya and Jeff agreed to take up the mantle and become the new owners of Jays Real Estate.
Bringing the Jays Real Estate brand into a new era
As the new owners of Jays Real Estate, Jeff and Tanya conducted an audit on the business and decided that although the reputation and service levels of Jays had remained in good stead, the look and feel of the Jays Real Estate brand had become dated. At this point, Jeff reached out to me, and the team at Hoole.co was engaged to help transition the Jays brand, website and marketing activities into a more modern and highly digitalised era.
The best brand and marketing plans start with a strategy
Before making decisions or jumping into action, it’s imperative to understand the who, what and why to help you determine the when and how of your brand and marketing activities. And that is determined through a marketing strategy.
There are several things that you’ll want your real estate agency’s brand and marketing strategy to uncover, and they are;
- The history, reputation and stature of the real estate brand.
- The breadth of the region or number of suburbs being serviced.
- The size of the population and the number of homes and businesses
- The life stage of the town, its population, demographic makeup, and whether it is growing, declining or remaining relatively stable.
- The number of local real estate competitors and the market share held by your real estate team.
- The culture and personality of the real estate team.
- The aspirations and lifestyle offered to residents and business owners, their interests and behaviours. Why they moved to the area, what keeps them here, and at what age or life stage they might depart.
- The style and condition of homes and business establishments. Whether the buildings are new, old (and if so, how old), well maintained or require some love and attention.
- What people look for in a home or business premises.
- How the climate, seasons and labour market affects the area.
- What investments are being made, if any, by local councils, the federal government or industry?
- Whether sales stock and prices are steady, growing or in decline.
- What the sweet spot is for the volume of home prices and rental listings.
- What the vacancy rate is, and what factors affect this?
- Micro factors such as where this particular real estate market is on the property clock.
- What economic factors are affecting the market?
- The number of sales, leases and managements the real estate business achieves or looks after annually.
- The amount of neighbourhood data held by the agency – the number of contacts in the agency database and how clean that data is with names, addresses, phone numbers and emails and last contact points.
- The brand and marketing assets, when they were last updated. Whether they still represent the brand and whether they help the agency look professional and modern or old and outdated.
- The size of the agency’s marketing audiences; across email, Google map listings, website traffic, social media pages and advertising accounts.
Once you have answered all the questions above, you can determine the next best steps for your real estate agency’s brand and marketing activities. With this knowledge, you can make informed decisions.
What I love about the Mount Isa real estate market
One of my favourite and most rewarding activities is working with real estate agency owners and taking them through my strategy workshops. It is where I help clients better understand the mechanics of the market they operate within, their competitive position, and the opportunities within their grasp.
Each time I take a helicopter view of a real estate market, be that a set of suburbs, a region, a city or a town, I gain so much insight into the similarities and differences between different parts or neighbourhoods across Australia and New Zealand.
Mount Isa has been the most diverse and exciting area to date.
Things that we uncovered about the area;
- It’s much more than just another outback Australian mining town. It has an air of self-confidence and vibrancy. It’s culturally diverse, sporty, and theatrical and has exhibits and an outback park with lagoons, waterfalls, and many fabulous fishing spots.
- The population is young and energetic; people move to the town with a short-term plan to earn and save money (because of the high wages offered by the mining industry) but often find their footing, make lifelong friends, and stay for the long haul.
- Some very famous people grew up in Mount Isa, including; golfer Greg Norman, tennis ace Pat Rafter, and actors Deborah Mailman from Offspring and Simmone MacKinnon from McLeod’s Daughters.
- It’s a red dirt town with a warm to sweltering climate, which sees homes often made from corrugated iron. The grass is a bugger to grow, but locals don’t mind and are inventive with their backyards adding firepits and sheds or using shipping containers as dongas (additional accommodation).
- The townfolk are incredibly fashionable and fun; they’ll dress up to the nines on race day. Several local fashion labels for women and men offer end-end styles, but I love the outback and western style hats worn. So much so that I went out and bought one for myself!
- From a real estate point of view, the market is ripe for the picking. Investors can find 3-bedroom homes around the $300,000 mark, with rents fetching on average around $450 a week. That’s a yield of 7.8%, which is much better than putting your cash in the bank at current interest rates (Dec 2022).
The challenge for the new owners of Jays Real Estate
Any new owner’s challenge when buying an existing real estate business is maintaining the company’s momentum and retaining staff, sales or rentals. When you buy a business, there’s no guarantee that it will perform for you as it did for its previous owners.
The previous owners not only built the real estate agency’s brand reputation over 40 years but their reputations as the people that serviced the community. Transitioning a real estate business to new owners requires the incoming people to prove from the outset that they are just as committed to their clients and staff. Something that Jeff, Tanya and Liz did tenfold.
Looking back on the first anniversary of our strategy workshops, I am proud to share that Jeff, Tanya and Liz were brave enough to invest in themselves, modernise the Jays Real estate brand and move the real estate agency into the digital world.
Their learning curve was steep. But their commitment never faltered, and looking at the sales, leases and properties under management 12 months later; they have not let the business lose a dime or skip a beat. After a single year, they are in a strong position; their agents have climbed the REA leaderboard, and their sales numbers increased, whilst other agencies lost listings and went backwards in market share.
So it’s a huge congratulations to Tanya, Jeff, Liz and the entire team at Jays Real Estate, from the Hoole team and me. Well done!
The Hoole strategy
So what did we do in a single year?
1 – New real estate agency logos
First, our brand designer Frank updated the Jays Real Estate logo. You can see the transformation from a tired and dated logo to a dual set of logos that swap seamlessly between residential real estate and commercial property services.
2 – A real estate brand overhaul
Next, Frank developed a new ‘look and feel’ for Jays Real Estate that was simple, professional and would stand out.
The Jays general colour scheme remained intact, but the colours used were brighter, and the colour palette was extended. And a more modern font is used.
The red triangle used as a logo mark, depicting a roofline, remains, but it gets used more ingeniously; as the corner piece to the logo, as an element in headings, and it’s even removable on a sold signboard. It also acts as a pattern giving the illusion of texture to many brand elements.
The new logo and colour scheme’s simplicity make it easy to use in social media avatars and remain visible on the smaller screens of mobile devices.
The brand design was incorporated into residential and commercial signage, from the real estate agency office banner to residential metal signboards to commercial core flute window signs.
Every element of a real estate business’s brand was considered, from shirt pins on staff uniforms to office mugs, hard copy printed materials to digital outputs like the sold status on the Jays website listings, and social media templates.
3 – A branded photo library
Whilst the branding was in progress, other members of the Hoole team set forth to create fresh content. This included working with Jays to commission a local photographer to take a series of work-life shoots in locations such as the office, an open home, a property auction, commercial sheds and offices, and even lifestyle shoots of the Queensland outback.
There’s nothing more pleasurable as a marketer than receiving photos from the photographer after a shoot. There’s a lot more work that you might expect that goes into a photoshoot. From creating a photo brief and sourcing stock images and collages that represent the style of photos, you want the photographer to achieve. To picking locations or organising props and then relaying on the enthusiasm and patience of your models (aka your real estate staff or friends and family) when they participate in the shoot.
4 – A new, improved real estate agency website
Next, we overhauled the Jays Real Estate website. Whilst the CRM site they had been using had served its purpose, now that business is mainly conducted online, it was important for the owners to ensure they had a custom real estate website.
Using WordPress, we delivered Jays Real Estate a unique website design (not a templated one that others would use). Their custom real estate website allows them to keep their website costs down over the longer term. They can also add new features to their website or install industry-leading software to keep their real estate agency and its service offerings ahead of the curve.
5 – A content and marketing program to increase visibility
Last but not least was the marketing content + paid advertising program. Outlining a month-by-month program with key milestones and deliverables, we set forth to do the following;
- Made improvements to staff and the company’s About information, ensuring key salespeople, including the new owners, would have highly engaging and visually beautiful search results to ensure they passed the ‘digital interview’ with prospective clients.
- Took branded imagery to curate a story for the Jays brand and its people on Instagram – a social platform popular with people in Mount Isa.
- Wrote regular content about the local lifestyle, home life in Mount Isa, tips for preparing a home for sale and insights for property investors on the Mount Isa real estate market. Giving Jays a voice beyond what they had listed, leased or sold.
- We developed a downloadable guide, a snapshot of the market, with advice for homeowners and property investors, to help capture names and email addresses.
- We ran paid ads that ensured that the Jays Real Estate business remained visible to the 19,000+ residents who would see regular updates from Jays Real Estate.
- And finally, we provided 1-on-1 training to Jays staff to ensure they understood how to use social media ad platforms (and the online audiences we had been growing for them) as part of their property campaigns.
This investment in marketing enabled Jays to ensure their new, improved Jays Real Estate brand was seen by every resident and every business owner of Mount Isa multiple times per month.
Being all in with your brand and marketing activities
There was little that the Jays Real Estate principals didn’t revisit and improve from a brand and marketing perspective in their first year as real estate business owners. And the benefit of owning other Mount Isa businesses meant that Jeff, Tanya and Liz understood the benefit of investing in your company brand and giving the business a new leash of life, with a fresh look and feel to present the company and team in their best light.