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First Person

Digital Expert Laura Monroe Talks About Building Networks By Asking For Help, and Offering It

Laura Monroe engages with independent brokers and medium-sized brokerages to build out their consumer-facing websites. Some of you may know her from her stint as director of industry and social media for Inman.

She sat down with First to discuss the state of the digital world and what brokers need to know.

Among the highlights:

  • Your marketing solutions must be quick and agile.
  • Ditch the “like” button, and engage with people online by starting a one-to-one conversation.
  • Build networks by looking for people that can solve problems, and problems you can solve for people.

Rather read? Check out the transcript below.

Mike: Hey everybody. Welcome back for another episode of First Person with Laura Monroe, VP of Growth and Partnerships at Sequel. Thanks for coming on.

Laura: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Mike: Let’s start with how you got into real estate?

Laura: Well it was really interesting. My oldest was in kindergarten and I met a really great gal who was an escrow coordinator. And they needed a little marketing help. I had no idea at the time, but they were one of the top 400 on Forbes teams in the Bay Area.

Mike: Yeah.

Laura: I also didn't know that I was in one of the most prestigious markets and affluent markets -- considered a luxury market. But I really fell in love. I ended up starting to work with them because I wanted to work with this girl and learn a little bit more about real estate. But, I fell in love with the marketing and the technology side.

Mike: Yeah. Yep.

Laura: So, I stuck with that and then eventually opened my own firm doing marketing and listing coordination and then eventually social media for brokers and agents across the country.


Mike: Wow. And then, take us through a little bit of your arc in real estate. Because you've done a lot of things.

Laura: I have. Well I think that being a virtual assistant and then with opening my own company, really, the first thing I did was get online to as many networks as I could because that's where I was finding agents. Those were my customers.

Mike: Yep.

Laura: They were all just getting online, trying to figure out social media. So, I would say that was my catapult into building relationships and building the network which was ActiveRain and we were blogging together. But these relationships eventually led to me meeting Brad Inman.

Mike: Yep.

Laura: He needed some social media help. So, I interviewed for the role, got it, and spent the next three years as the director of industry and social media for Inman. Which was a lot of connects ago.

Mike: Yes.

Laura: But, always iconic, yeah. Career changing.

Mike: Absolutely, that's great. Well, tell us a little bit about Sequel so that we can kind of get what’s current.

Laura: I find myself sort of full circle. I'm back in technology and I'm kind of back into marketing, but the role that I have now is in growth and partnerships. And what Sequel does is, works with independent brokers and medium-sized brokerages to build out their consumer-facing websites as well as having a backend platform. So I sort of find myself back into the marketing and technology.

Mike: Sure.

Laura: Which has always been a passion for me. I’m really helping to bring that digital marketing presence up to an elevation that really stands out for brokers.

Mike: Well it's neat that you're in marketing, but two things I heard there when you were getting your business started, was getting plugged into the right networks. You said, building the relationships.

Laura: Yes.

Mike: Right? And then, how is that built? First, how do we foster and build the right relationships that are going to grow your business?

Laura: So, so important.

Mike: I'd love to hear a little bit more about your perspective on the importance of building connections with people. You talked a lot about social media. I'm interested in the connection of social media online, offline in that.

Laura: For me, I worked from home. And I think even a lot of agents are mobile. I did a lot of research when I was working virtually to help agents understand that you're in a mobile business. I mean, everything is computerized and digitized and your marketing needs to be very quick and very agile.

Laura: But, every single day is a very mobile business. So it's hard to sit and write notes and sit and be on the computer and sit on the phone all day long because it's such a mobile business. So, for me, it was how can I always stay connected? And, using some of the digital means was a way not only to join the networks and learn together but to continue to build the relationships, figure out what problems people were having and ways to solve those.

Mike: Okay.

Laura: It's providing value, right?

Mike: So you're listening for that. As you're starting these relationships, you're seeing, how could I help this person? How do you identify problems? How does that actually happen?

Laura: Well, I think it usually happens when people feel like they've made a connection with a group of people online, whether it's their own tribe or they're working in a group like, at ActiveRain, for example, which is way early in the day.

Mike: Sure.

Laura: Nobody knew how to blog. But this was a platform where you could have a forum to learn and have conversations. If you posted a blog post, people would read it and you could comment on it -- it was really adding comments to forums and being able to have these things online. I think my very first blog post ever was, how to put a listing on Craigslist and make it look really nice.

Mike: Yeah. Yep.

Laura: So, that stemmed a lot of comments.

Mike: So sometimes you can start with, "Hey, here's the solution to a problem."

Laura: Right.

Mike: "Here, here's my solution to a problem," then people come to you and, and ask for other things. Is that kind of what you're saying?

Laura: Exactly. So, then it's like, "Wow, so you really know about marketing." And "can you tell me more? I'm really stuck with da, da, da."

Mike: Yes.

Laura: So, that would really bring in the right kind of people.

Mike: Yeah.

Laura: I think that when you're listening and you're finding solutions to people's problems, that you're finding out about people. What's their personality? How do they approach solving problems?

Mike: Yeah.

Laura: But then you also find your mentors. You find the ones that solve problems for you. Some of my best relationships in real estate have come from people that I've gone and said, "Hey, I think you're the person that can answer this question for me." And they always, usually, reciprocate.

Mike: That's cool.

Laura: I think reciprocation is very important.

Mike: So, how do you take it one step beyond that? So, I come to your blog because you are the expert, I learn something. And as you're dialoguing, whether it's online or offline, how do you go the step further -- when does it become a relationship?

Laura: Well, I think at any moment it can become a relationship. I'm a firm believer that, as human beings, we connect very immediately. Sometimes business can get in the way.

Mike: Sure.

Laura: But I think that we always have a sense, right off the get go, if this is someone that I would like to know more about. I think that what we don't do enough in real estate--really reciprocate the 'why' behind our connections with people.

Laura: I can come into this room and I can have a conversation with you and I could just say, "See you later, have a nice day." But I'm probably going to come back to you and say, "You know what? Thank you. I really enjoyed having you take the time with me today. It was great to meet you.”

Mike: Yep. Yeah.

Laura: And, you take it one step further once you've made that connection. I think that's really important, especially in the digital world, that you tell people why. Why is this relationship valuable? Not just that it is, because that's a cliché.

Mike: Right.

Laura: Get past the clichés and be a little bit more meaningful with your conversations.

Mike: No, that's a great point. I think that one of the things you're hinting at there is you want to close off the conversation with a great follow up or with something where it shows, "I listened." Or, "Here's something that, that I want to follow on."

Laura: Well, one of the things that I love to do is use Facebook to drop those happy birthday posts.

Mike: You got it.

Laura: Right? And, to me, that's my moment to not just say happy birthday, but to actually say, "You know what? We had a lot of good interactions this year, and you are a person who, a, b, and c."

Mike: Yes.

Laura: So I like to say, not only happy birthday, but "Thank you for being this person in my life that does this."

Mike: "I was actually thinking about you."

Laura: Not just that I'm thinking about them, but, "Thank you for being the person that you are."

Mike: Yes. Yes.

Laura: "And, this is what value I find in this relationship." And people come back to me over and over again and they say, "I didn't even know that you felt that way about me."

Mike: Wow. Yeah.

Laura: You know? Because we maybe have only seen each other twice in a year. But I sort of recap that meaningfulness--what they do to the industry. How are people helping other people in the industry? Remind them of how valuable they are as people, period.

Mike: Yeah.

Laura: They really appreciate that. And I've been pulled aside a ton of times.

Mike: That's a great trick. What I mean is, I think in a world of clicking likes it's so easy to say, "I was thinking of you."

Laura: Yeah.

Mike: But you actually took the time to think about them. And think, "What is it about this person that I can say back to them that is meaningful?"

Laura: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that kills me is, especially at conferences, we'll say, "So and so nailed it on stage today." But, why did they nail it?

Mike: Yeah.

Laura: What is it about what they said?  Give us a little bit of context here. And they’ll say, "You're into the hustle." Well, that's great, but, give context, give meaning, give intention behind everything.


Mike: Well, our last little piece, I'm curious when, like you said, you'll only see them twice a year and it's been, maybe it's been two or three years. How do you spark a conversation with someone you know, you did know and you value, but how do you rekindle?

Laura: That's a challenge. It's a challenge for me, because I have a tendency to be a little bit more spontaneous. I see you, I'll say something. If I don't, I can kind of not be as intentional.

Mike: Yeah.

Laura: LSo for me, I'm starting to get into the habit of really going through Facebook all the time.

Mike: Yep.

Laura: I'm always going through to just go back and make sure that I'm going on people's walls and timelines and reaching out to them through Facebook messages and saying, "Hey, I was just thinking of you." I do that all the time now.

Mike: Yep.

Laura: But, I provide more context. For example, I’ll say, "I saw your post that your husband just had surgery. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you." And those are followed up fairly frequently, you know?

Mike: That's great.

Laura: Yeah.

Mike: So, go find context. Go bring up context and post.

Laura: Tell people why they're valuable. And reciprocate.

Mike: That's great. Laura, thank you very much for being on.

Laura: Thank you very much.

Mike: There's another episode, First Person. Thanks for watching.

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