Open to residential and commercial property professionals from around the globe, the International Property Awards 'celebrate the highest levels of achievement' by companies operating in all sectors of the property and real estate industry. The Awards cover over 45 different residential and commercial categories and cover nine regions including: Africa, Asia Pacific, Arabia, Canada, Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, UK and USA. The Awards boast a highly skilled judging panel of over 90 industry experts, chaired by Lord Caithness, Lord Best, and Lord Waverley, who are members of the House of Lords in the UK Parliament. Judging focuses on design, quality, service, innovation, originality, and commitment to sustainability.
The two awards and nomination that Meridian Realty received are strongly aligned with the agency’s ability to use technology to support, enable and grow business over the past year, while giving back to its community. The company has positioned itself as a tech influencer and early adopter among estate agencies in South Africa with strong brand design, which was the vision of Antonie Goosen, principal and founder of Meridian Realty.
“I wanted to create a cutting-edge company that empowers agents with the best technology to excel,” says Goosen. He goes on to say that “The Covid pandemic drove digital adoption and innovation into high speed and at Meridian Realty we submerged ourselves in this digital evolution becoming a virtual agency, with one head office acting as a support hub for virtual agents (iAgents). I wanted to implement this virtual approach to keep up changes in the property off the back of Covid, the semigration trend and unusual market behaviour!”
Digital marketing tools that Meridian uses include virtual tours, marketing videos aimed at estate agents, social media, public relations (PR), their website, their Google Business Profile and Google suite of digital marketing tools, Meridian’s bespoke customer relationship management (CRM) system and virtual events.
Virtual tours are created using cameras that take 360-degree images of a space, creating virtual representations of a space. Meridian Realty has been an early adopter of this technology in South Africa and has been working with Matterport for over six years (pre-Covid). According to Goosen, “3D tours are becoming increasingly popular, allowing buyers from remote locations to view and whittle down properties before physical viewings, saving time.”
Virtual marketing, videos specifically aimed at selling real estate, have also proved to be a handy reference for estate agents and a go to for information, positioning Meridian and an aspirational place to work, as well as a subject matter expert in the real estate industry. Goosen, goes on to say video is a great medium that can be edited and shared via social media platforms.
Social media is useful for brand awareness and can be extremely targeted. From an agent perspective, social media can be used for personal branding and engagement. Meridian Realty has an in-house team of social media and design specialists. As a service, they manage social media for their iAgents. This includes compiling content, creating the design and the scheduling thereof.
“This enables the agents to have more time to focus on their portfolio and grow their business,” says Goosen. “We assist our iAgents with both paid and organic social media posts, of course they have input into this process, we just streamline it for them and make it easier.”
Goosen also feels podcasts are an informative way to engage the industry. “We regularly host podcasts where we invite members of the public and other agents to share the industry relevant topics that Meridian discusses,” he says.
Goosen is of the opinion that events and eventing have taken on a hybrid approach since hard lockdown subsided. He maintains that highly theoretics and informative events can still be useful and have great reach if done 100% virtually. Networking and more social events can still be face-to-face, however, the virtual element remains, with events either being streamed or recorded to share across platforms. “Those who cannot attend also appreciate a link, post an event and this gives an event longevity,” he says.
Goosen advocates that Meridian Realty also needs to market itself to potential employees: “Our employees are our most important asset and by enabling them with technology we provide innovative service to our clients and attract the best talent,” he says. Meridian uses their iAgent website for recruitment, this is backed up and amplified by iAgent social media campaigns, driving potential employees to the site.
Property portals are now the first point of call for buyers as they aggregate content from all estate agencies nationally. Meridian ensures only top quality listing on South Africa’s two property portals. Their website is also a key communication tool, acting as the hub to all things digital. Traffic is directed to the website through all digital marketing efforts, increasing traffic and measurable results on how people engage with the company digitally.
Goosen also states: “Let’s not forget the ever important Google Business Profile (GBP) how it can be used to promote the business along with Google AdWord campaigns and Google reviews placing an agency at the top local searches. It is also a good way to get reviews on your business.”
Finally, Meridian Realty has invested in a custom-built CRM system called Meridian Connect allowing marketing automation to databases of subscribed buyers and sellers. The system also boasts a seller portal where sellers can get automated feedback on viewings. In addition the system has a first of its kind offer to purchase (OTP) automation tool, whereby estate agents can input the requirement of buyers wanting to make an offer, whereafter the system creates the perfect OTP based on the buyers input. “The automated process not only ensure agents are working in a disciplined way, but also that they follow process and dedicate more time to what matters; providing exceptional service. We have personalised valuation landing pages for Meridian estate agents that is connected to our CRM system, which reduces the amount of time it takes to do a valuation and ensures accuracy and consistency,” says Goosen.
Goosen concludes by saying that: “What we did differently was use technology strategically and dovetailed all our efforts to portray a consistent brand image and provide a consistently high quality buying or selling experience to our target market and clients. We also empower our staff with cutting edge technology, making their job of selling easier. It was adapt or get left behind and that is how our digital vision came to life and continues to be executed and improved.”