Location: Colorado | Launched: 2010 | Number of agents: 143
Blending digital know-how with high-quality agents
A solid online lead strategy was the seed that eventually grew into 8z Real Estate.
That’s not surprising given the company’s roots. Lane Hornung, founder and president of 8z, first started selling real estate in Colorado after a career in technology that led him to work at ZipRealty, one of the first brokerage companies in the country to put all listings information in front of online consumers.
From the very beginning, Lane understood how to get customers online.
While working as an agent, he launched Cohomefinder.com, a listings and blog content site, as a way to connect with consumers online and pull in direct leads. It worked – his lead volume quickly became too much for one person to handle so he teamed up with other top agents in the area.
In January 2010, Lane launched 8z Real Estate.
To this day, the brokerage is so efficient at generating online leads that agents don’t have to focus on that aspect of business at all. 8z even spun off a separate company called zavvie, which supports agents in building a hyperlocal presence online through things like neighborhood content, social media and exclusive hyperlocal websites.
The idea originated with 8z’s approach to hire a group of professional writers to create relevant, local content. Having a professional team dedicated to creating content enables the company to provide quality articles without overtaxing agents and pulling their focus from their main priority: selling local real estate.
“We rely on our agents for market expertise. They consult with the writers,” Lane said. “Some of the content is neighborhood content, and some is much more real estate-centric content.”
This philosophy initiated zavvie, which now works together with 8z to produce just under 100 pieces of local content a week.
How does 8z define success?
“We are focused on growing transactional volume, not agent count,” Lane said.
Brokerages approach recruiting in different ways. Some focus on growing agent count and take time to train new agents to get there. Others – including 8z – are more interested in grooming a smaller group of agents to produce more transactions each year.
He doesn’t recruit to fill desks; he recruits to fill a specific gap in neighborhood experience.
That’s why 8z is selective when bringing in new agents and why they like to focus on the team experience that consumers get when they work with an 8z agent.
In this way, 8z is like a peloton. “Agents at the front of the peloton are breaking the wind for everyone and everyone else is supporting them,” Lane said. “They are the ultimate customer interface and we want to do everything we can to make them capable of giving the customer a good experience.”
When recruiting agents, geographic fit is high on the list. When the brokerage sees a need for a market expert in a particular area in which they currently don’t have one, then that will drive selection decisions.
“Our whole system is designed to have agents who know a neighborhood and who can provide value beyond the Internet,” Lane said. In other words: they emphasize local expertise.
8z also aspires to elevate the perception of the value of an agent in consumers’ minds. This drives everything they do.
“From our point of view, if we can sit down with a top-notch agent on the other side of the transaction every time, then that benefits us as professionals because it benefits the consumer,” Lane said.
8z is tackling that by raising the quality of agents that work with them and not settling for anything less for the sake of increasing sales volume.