Real estate agents across North America are flocking to Parkbench – a new neighborhood search portal that helps agents generate qualified referrals. Launched in 2014, this innovative marketing platform turns community-focused agents into neighborhood specialists or “digital mayors’ of their farm.

To date, Parkbench includes a network of over 1000 agents serving 25000 communities across North America. They are the fastest growing neighborhood search portal of their kind.

The following case study was conducted by Parkbench to illustrate the effectiveness of their prospect-interview® system for real estate agents.

Problem: How to generate referral business in your geographic farm

Generating word of mouth referrals is critical to the success of any agent or broker. Keep in mind that word of mouth referrals account for approximately 40% of all real estate transactions in the US.

Referral leads are highly qualified because they come from peers and associates in your network who have already qualified the need for your service with the prospect. They’re also much easier to convert because 67% of buyers and sellers interview only one agent.

Knowledge of the local market is the second critical factor for buyers and sellers. An overwhelming 91% of buyers prefer an agent with in-depth knowledge of the local market in order to guide them through the process of homeownership.

Just one interview with the right business owner can turn you into a local celebrity within your geographic farm – and generate word of mouth business!

67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

Parkbench Case Study: Jody Bailey and Stephanie Cirbo

  • Realtor® Name: Bailey Cirbo Group, F.C. Tucker
  • Geographic Farm: Avon, Indiana
  • Est. Population: 16,451
  • Median Home Value: $177,816
avon indiana neighborhood data

Neighborhood Scout – Avon, IN


FC Tucker agents Jody and Stephanie were only moderate acquaintances prior to obtaining their real estate license in 2013. After her husband’s passing, Jody transitioned from selling cars to real estate in hopes of finding a greater work/life balance. While pursuing her real estate license, she met Stephanie, a kindred entrepreneur and mother with working experience in a travel agency and women’s boutique wear.

Family and community are core values for both Jody and Stephanie. As a team, Jody’s knack for administrative tasks and organization keeps them on track and focused. Stephanie excels at reaching out to first-time homebuyers and cultivating relationships with prospects through her kindness, sincerity, and dedication.

Recognized as top performers early in their career, Jody and Stephanie are multi-million dollar producers, Zillow/Trulia Premiere Agents and designate members of Avon Tri-Kappa, the NAR (National Association Of Realtors®) as well as the Indiana Board Of Realtors®.

Together, their attentiveness to client needs and intimate knowledge of the local Avon housing market has impressed a growing list of new homeowners.

But they weren’t always as successful as they are now. They struggled for the first 3 years to build their reputation with the local Avon community.

Here’s how they achieved their goal.

The First Year of Business

In 2014, Stephanie and Jody each received their realtor® license. In January 2017, after nearly 3 years with Carpenter Realtors®, they joined Indianapolis’ F.C. Tucker’s Realtor® Group in Avon.

Located in downtown Indianapolis and with 45 offices in Kentucky and Indiana, F.C. Tucker is currently recognized as Indiana’s  largest independent real estate firm in terms of sales revenue. They are also the nation’s 12th largest real estate brand.

Bonding over a mutual desire for financial freedom and their genuine love for people, Jody and Stephanie were quickly recognized as emerging star performers after only 1 year at Carpenter Realtors®.

Both Jody and Stephanie recall the obstacles they faced in their first year of business. There were 3 critical challenges:

  • lack of referrals
  • lack of brand exposure
  • low conversion rate

To generate leads in their geographic farm, the pair focused on door-knocking, cold calling and community involvement.

The biggest challenge to engaging local prospects was limited time and a lack of consistency. It was difficult juggling their personal schedules and family obligations with the time needed to network after business hours and on weekends.

Attending community events provided them with the best referral leads. But after 2 years of door-knocking and cold calling, they decided that they needed a more efficient way of leveraging their time and generating leads.

Their solution was to invest in as a way of helping them generate more leads from potential buyers and sellers.

67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

Zillow Premier Agent

While provided them with more leads, the CPM yielded a lower ROI than they had anticipated. As new agents, their Zillow profile lacked the star-ratings and testimonials/reviews showcased by more seasoned agents in Avon.

After 2 months on Zillow, Jody and Stephanie secured their first client. By the end of 1 year, the results were as follows:

Zillow Premier Agent Results:

  • monthly average spent on Zillow: $300
  • annual average spent on Zillow: $3600
  • average monthly impressions: 5000
  • average monthly leads: 30
  • average conversions: Approximately 1 out of every 30 leads provided by proved reliable.
  • total Zillow sales after 1 yr: 7

With a 6% CTR (click-through rate) and a 2% conversion rate, Jody and Stephanie realized that they were having difficulty cultivating the leads they acquired on Zillow.

cost per click for lead generation

Avg Cost Per Click Trend Analysis by Hochman Consultants (2017)

Few of the Zillow inquiries led to a meeting or in-person consultation because they lacked the type of rapport needed to build trust with prospects who ultimately chose someone they were referred to.

Although PPC trends indicate an improved conversion and click-through rate with consumers, the cost of PPC has also been climbing exponentially and varies with each zip code. Highly competitive markets cost more and require strategic lead cultivation to be effective.

Parkbench: Get To Know Your Neighborhood

Stephanie and Jody decided that Zillow provided them with leads, but did not expand their sphere of influence in the community or help them build a reputation with Avon business owners and residents.

They wanted to find a balance between community involvement and prospecting. They were introduced to the Parkbench platform for realtor®s in April 2017 after responding to an online ad on Facebook.

They were immediately attracted to the community-minded philosophy of Parkbench CEO Grant Findlay-Shirras and realtor® Amanda Newman, who developed the Parkbench platform as a tool to help realtor®s support businesses in their community and market themselves locally.

What is Parkbench?

parkbench logo


Parkbench is a neighborhood website that provides hyperlocal news content, deals and business information that anyone can access.

Local residents, professionals, organizations and businesses can post local content for free in order to generate exposure, referral and reviews.

Using a unique proprietary algorithm, the Parkbench aggregator and research team gather news from multiple data sources to provide users with up-to-date and relevant information about local schools, events, venues and many other amenities.

Rather than showcasing listings from buyers and sellers, the Parkbench neighborhood site features local information that’s helpful to businesses and residents. The information can be shared online through other social media channels and empowers residents to find local solutions for their needs.

A single real estate agent or team sponsors each neighborhood site, providing each agent with exclusive exposure for their geographic farm. Local real estate information is provided by the agent and prospective buyers or sellers can contact them directly by email or phone.

The Parkbench Onboarding Experience

Within 1 week of joining Parkbench, their neighborhood website was ready with aggregated content gathered from authoritative online sources (Chamber of Commerce, Avon Community Magazine, Avon Police Dept, etc.).

Account manager, Ray Recek, was assigned to facilitate Jody and Stephanie’s Parkbench online training.

The goal of Ray’s training was to show the realtor®s how interviewing local business owners and sharing the interview through their Parkbench neighborhood site would help these businesses while earning them valuable word of mouth referrals.

3 primary goals of the training they received from Ray were as follows:

#1. How the Parkbench neighbourhood website provides local businesses with hyperlocal exposure.

#2. How to manage their online neighbourhood website and Parkbench profile.

#3. How to interview local business owners who could be featured on their neighborhood site.

The Prospect Interview

In May of 2017, Ray coached Stephanie and Jody by phone on 3 occasions. Their first interview took place in May with the executive director of the local Avon Chamber of Commerce, Tom Downard.

They approached Tom in person on a whim, without a scheduled meeting, and were surprised to find him extremely receptive to the interview. He was so enthusiastic about their support and the free exposure they would provide, that he offered them additional exposure at a popular local event he was organizing called Ribfest.

The Ribfest event and the interview with Tom proved to be the turning point in their marketing efforts to build more local brand awareness. Tom’s endorsement earned them the trust of his many associates. They were introduced to many important community professionals, business owners and residents.

Parkbench Outcome

After their interview with Tom, they attended Ribfest where they met other important business owners who wanted to be interviewed and featured on the Parkbench neighborhood website.

The interview with Tom was posted on their Parkbench site in May and shared on Facebook. As a result, three more business owners contacted them and requested an interview.

In only 1 month of interview prospecting, the results were as follows:

  • total business interviews posted to Parkbench (May 15 – June 15): 5
  • total referrals generated: 4
  • total sales: 2

Stephanie and Jody were astonished and pleasantly surprised at how effective prospect interviewing was. They had become overnight celebrities and were receiving qualified referrals that were eager to meet them.

Their reputation for helping business owners quickly spread as a result of their interview with Tom Downard. They were introduced to prospective buyers by word of mouth, the #1 form of lead generation among homebuyers seeking an agent.

Unlike the leads acquired through Zillow, the Parkbench leads were highly qualified. They trusted Stephanie and Jody because of their intimate knowledge of the local market and neighborhood.

The Parkbench website proved to their prospects that Stephanie and Jody were experts in the Avon community who cared about their clients and local residents. Their hyperlocal focus earned them the trust of first-time homebuyers that were referred to them by trustworthy business contacts.

Key Takeaways

After 5 interviews with local business owners Stephanie and Jody realized that:

1) Paying for leads and traffic is a waste of money if the leads aren’t qualified.

2) Homebuyers and sellers value trust more than experience. They want an agent who knows the local market, resides in the local market and of course, loves the community.

3) Word of mouth referrals from peers and professionals generate higher quality leads that are easier to convert than cold leads generated through CPM or CPC advertising.

Are you a community-minded realtor®? If you’re looking for a way to engage business owners in your geographic farm, claim your neighborhood on now!