With the downturn in the real estate market, real estate agents are looking for ways to effectively differentiate themselves from the negatives of the market and position themselves as being trusted and skilled resources to help consumers.

top5-logo3These efforts continue a long-term trend among real estate agents to improve their perception among consumers.

RIS Media partnered with former Realtor.com president Alan Dalton has launched an ambitious program to help real estate agents stand out in their local market.  The program, called Top 5, is a membership program for agent designed to help them stand out as the most professional and accomplished agents in their market.

[Full disclosure:  NCI is a key strategic partner with RIS on the program.  We’re helping RIS get the word out in local markets by running ads in The Real Estate Book and are also offering special programs to agents who sign up with RIS.]

A month or two ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Alan Dalton in New York, along with his partners John Featherstone and Daryl McPherson on RIS.  We had a wide ranging conversation: we wanted to share the results of our real estate agent research with them and they wanted to further introduce us to the Top 5 program.

Top 5 w/ Alan DaltonAlan is a hugely passionate and committed man, and real estate has been his entire life.  He’s got a real understanding of how institutions and individuals can leverage their investment in marketing to build their businesses.  He also has a unique perspective on the segmentation of real estate agents: the broad set of real estate professionals include sophisticated and experienced business people and more casual and opportunistic participants.  Alan’s conclusion, and the driving principle behind Top 5, is that consumers need to have an easy way to tell agents apart in terms of experience and accomplishment, and that agent need an easy way to signal to conumers that they are true professionals in their market.  Thus, Top 5 is born.

The program is ambitious, but on target.  Top 5 will create a powerful network of agents, help improve their education, create models for best practices, and promote the power of these accomplished agents to consumer through multiple marketing channels.

For a top agent, participating in the program lets them become part of a positive feedback loop.  And, the expense of the program (which requires a real commitment from an agent through the year)helps to ensure that only serious players will be part of the network.

One thought I have is that this program is just one interesting element of what is a rapidly shifting landscape in real estate marketing.  Scan services like Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms and you’ll see thousands of real estate agents who are using these tools to improve their connection with rapidly growing networks of people in their market.  These efforts help to create a personal credibility that has tremendous impact on their businesses, and it is outside of the conventional framework of marketing.  Right now, it takes a lot of time to do, but I think that problem is going to get solved through the interest and innovation of a lot of people.