Kids clamor for her autograph. Car-bound families sing along with her jingle when it comes on the radio. Her peers watch her intently, wondering what her next buzz-generating move will be. No, she’s not the latest teeny bopper sensation—she’s Kristie Smith, Real Estate Links REALTOR and marketing whiz.
It’s been 2 ½ years since Smith partnered with new kid on the block Radio Disney (98.3 FM) and launched her radio spots with the infectious jingle. Since that time, Kristie Smith has become a household name with the elementary school set and its parents. She chuckles at kids’ reactions to the spots, particularly those who think she helps people on the moon. (Smith’s tagline in the ads is “Helping people on the move.”)
“Kids will come up to me at events and ask for my autograph. They’re so excited to meet the Kristie Smith. They think I’m famous!” she laughs. “It’s amazing how much exposure and name recognition the Radio Disney spots have given me—it’s been a blast.”
|This ad originally ran as part of an irreverent 2004 campaign in Indy Men’s Magazine.|
A fresh approach
A full-time REALTOR for just over three years, Smith, 33, has parlayed her eight years of corporate health care marketing experience into branding and marketing herself as one of Indianapolis’ most innovative REALTORS.
“I want people to see that I’m not the typical REALTOR. I enjoy taking a fresh approach to my business,” Smith says. “Buying and selling your home should be an enjoyable—even fun—experience. Your real estate professional has a lot to do with that.”
The fun factor comes through in Smith’s advertising. In her latest Radio Disney spot, Smith directly addresses the kids in the audience and introduces her new jingle. (At least one family misses the old jingle—a father recently e-mailed Smith asking her to bring it back, stating that he and his daughter were “depressed” at the loss of their favorite radio commercial.) Smith has also run ads in Indy Men’s Magazine that challenge the typically staid real estate ad campaign. “We tried to capture the irreverent tone of the magazine in that campaign. It was fun to work on.”
In addition to traditional media, Smith has turned to the Internet to drive a large percentage of her business. A smart move, given that the majority of home buyers begin their search online. Smith markets new listings to fellow REALTORS via e-mail, and more than 3,000 visitors to her Web site, IndyHomes.com, have opted in to receive Smith’s quarterly e-mail newsletter, a quick read that includes household hints and other useful features. Advertising with the major search engines to bring users to IndyHomes.com is a key component of Smith’s online strategy. Once on the site, users may fill out online forms to request information, register for giveaways and contact Smith.
An entrepreneurial spirit
Smith, who holds a degree in marketing from Purdue University, came into real estate to satisfy her entrepreneurial itch. Through the years, she had tried everything from selling merchandise on eBay to acquiring used cars at auction and selling them for a profit. “Those little ventures were fun, but soon I was ready to move on to something bigger. Real estate gave me something to sink my teeth into. I love the challenge of building something from scratch.”
|Kristie is a huge Colts fan! She tries to never miss a game. This year, she and husband, AJ, dressed up as Colts fans for Halloween.|
Smith admits, though, that marketing can only take you so far. “Once you have those clients, you have to follow up with outstanding customer service.”
That philosophy of providing an extraordinary client experience echoes that of Mike Deck, Smith’s mentor and the owner/broker of Real Estate Links. “Mike is the reason I was attracted to Real Estate Links. The foundation of the firm is built on Mike’s faith-based principles, principles that I also believe in and try to adhere to,” Smith says. “Mike has also helped me hone my customer service skills with the objective of exceeding clients’ expectations with every transaction. Mike is a great leader; he’s the reason I’ve been with Real Estate Links my entire real estate career.”
As Real Estate Links’ relocation director, Smith has leveraged her relationships and knowledge of the health care industry to build strategic partnerships that have proven to be quite lucrative. Smith is equally comfortable chatting up newly minted residents and health care executives who are considering relocating to Indianapolis. “With all the growth occurring in the health care sector, as well as the burgeoning life sciences opportunities, Indianapolis is an exciting place to be right now for those in medical field. Part of my job is to convey that excitement and show what a fore-thinking city Indianapolis is.”
Growth… and more growth
The formula of generating leads through technology, innovative marketing and relationship building, then following up with exceptional customer service has served Smith well. Her business has more than doubled each year since 2002.
One of Smith’s overall goals is to get to the point where all of her business is generated through referrals. Feedback from one of her recent clients shows that her hard work is paying off: “After a hectic ten days, Keri and I are finally settled into our new home… I just wanted to drop you a quick line to say thank you for all of your help. We both think you are awesome. I continue to talk you up at work, and you should expect a call within the next week from a couple that I work with.”
With the growth of her business, Smith recently expanded her team to three. Christie Robertson brings more than eight years of real estate experience and serves as the team’s buyers’ agent. “Christie is just amazing. She has such a way with people and immediately puts clients at ease. She conveys a sense of calm and total competence. I’m grateful to have her onboard.” Audra Hodgin, the team’s client services manager, handles all the little details and paperwork inherent in real estate work. “I don’t know what I’d do without Audra,” says Smith. “She is incredibly detail-oriented and focuses on taking care of the little things so I can stay focused on bringing in the business and communicating with clients. She’s an invaluable addition to the team.”
|Kristie recently grew her team to three. Buyers’ agent Christie Robertson (left) and client relationship manager Audra Hodgin (right) bring invaluable experience and focus to the team.|
Smith considers marketing and business development to be her greatest strengths. To that end, she is a great proponent of networking and continuing education. Admittedly a type A personality, Smith devotes several hours of her week to networking activities and currently serves as vice president of one of the several networking organizations she belongs to. She also earmarks a percentage of her annual budget to continuing ed, traveling to seminars and conferences with the hope that she’ll learn something new that will give her an added edge.
Smith believes that continuing education is one of the keys to staying sharp in a competitive, ever-changing real estate market. Last year, she added one new differentiator to her resume—a special designation from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing that certifies that she has the skills, experience and training to meet the special needs of upper-tier home buyers and owners. “I wanted to add to my skill set and meet my goal of being able to meet the needs of anyone who seeks my service,” Smith says. “I’m one of a few Indianapolis REALTORS to have earned this certification.”
|In June 2003 Kristie joined members of her church in a mission trip to Mexico, where they built a home in one week for a needy family.|
So, how does this go-getter who’s always connected to the office via mobile e-mail and phone balance her work and personal life? “I’m lucky to have such a supportive husband,” Smith says. “AJ and I love to get away and relax when we can.” Smith, still smitten like a newlywed, met her husband in their Indiana home town, LaPorte. Married seven years now, the Smiths moved to Indianapolis in 1999 for Andrew’s medical training. The busy couple—AJ is an anesthesiologist practicing at Methodist Hospital—takes extended vacations several times a year, most recently to Hawaii. Giving back to the community is important to Smith too. Through her church, Common Ground in Broad Ripple, Smith volunteers for Jireh Sports and Central Indiana Crisis Pregnancy Center. She has participated in several mission trips as well, and does pro bono real estate work for pastors and missionaries.
“I believe we were put on this Earth to serve others, and being in real estate has allowed me to do so. I love helping people and still get a thrill when closing on a first-time home buyer’s new house or helping a family sell their home quickly,” Smith says. “What I love most about this job is the sense of accomplishment that I feel at the end of every single day. It challenges me in so many ways.”
Speaking of challenges, Smith foresees several for 2006. “We’re going to work on refining and focusing our marketing so that we’re employing the tactics that will have the biggest impact. I also want to launch a new real estate Web portal and strike some new partnerships with small- to medium-sized businesses that need relocation assistance. Additionally, I am looking to branch out more into commercial real estate, a growing interest of mine.”
Given Smith’s drive and ambition, as well as predictions that Earthlings will colonize the moon in the not-too-distant future, maybe it’s not too far of a stretch to envision a time when she will be helping people on the moon.