Sue ‘Pinky’ Benson, Video Entrepreneur

Making the best of virtual open houses.

THINKING PINK: Benson’s signature look is a simple, effective differentiator in the real estate field.

In true entrepreneurial spirit, Sue “Pinky” Benson stands out in a crowded field in Southwest Florida. The online video program the personable Naples Realtor already had in place proved to be a timely communication tool for showcasing real estate during the recent necessity for social distancing.

“There are so many ways you can use videos in your business,” Benson says. “If you’re not pivoting right now, you are really going to lose traction, I feel, in the future. One of the things I like to say about real estate is that if you don’t evolve, you’re going to devolve.”

As more local agents just started using virtual open houses to connect buyers and sellers, Benson has long been comfortable livestreaming video of a property. It’s not only that Benson was in the right place at the right time—she actually was ahead of her time.

“Well, I would say I’ve been in the right place for a while. It’s just now finally starting to catch up. I’ve been ready and I have been using these tools for years,” she says. “I had embraced technology years ago, doing videos from home for probably eight or nine years, long before anyone was jumping on the bandwagon. When livestreaming first came out on Facebook, I was one of the first people in the area to start using it and seeing the value of being able to showcase a property during a livestream.”

Because Benson is basically self-employed as a real estate associate, she thinks of herself as an entrepreneur. A former broadcast journalist and Realtor in Tampa, Benson relocated to Naples more than five years ago with her husband, Josh, who is now part of her local RE/MAX realty team. “Pinky,” of course, is known for her highly visible trademark—pink hair and outfits—which differentiate her from scores of other real estate agents.

Benson sees her industry changing with the times through accelerated advances in technology enabled by the coronavirus pandemic. “They’ve had the ability to do virtual tours, but they didn’t have the ability to do a virtual open house because there had not been a need for it,” she says.

Now, virtual open houses and video walkthroughs of properties for sale are becoming more commonplace and comfortable. Rather than physical open houses in which agents hope and pray somebody shows up on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., Realtors now have the ability to showcase properties all day, every day—and can better track interest and educate others internationally, too.

“Today, I had three to four virtual open houses taking place all day long from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s that perpetual open house tour on replay all day long,” Benson says. “So, at any point during the day, a client can go in and look at that video.”

Benson enjoys sharing her practical knowledge about social media tools such as Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and BombBomb video email system. In fact, she’s a three-time winner of BombBomb’s Real Estate Agent Video Influencer Award from 2017 to 2019. Because of her industry know-how, Benson has been sponsored by mortgage companies and real estate brokers nationwide to present classes. Just before the pandemic changed the world, she started doing webinars via the Zoom video conferencing platform.

“Well, thank goodness I stopped to learn this technology before everybody else jumped in. Now my presentations are from home, which are amazing, so I can teach agents across the world again,” she says. “I did one on Friday … just teaching them to edit on their phones, and I had nearly 50 people signed up. I try to keep them reasonably priced because I realize we’re all struggling here.”

It’s a definite game-changer for many real estate agents who have gotten by with what has worked for decades. Just putting a sign in the yard, uploading a dozen photos to the multiple listing service and hoping for the best is not enough anymore, Benson said. Agents are encouraged to break out of their comfort zones.

“The fear of learning new technology and the fear of putting yourself out there and being in front of the camera to showcase the property has held them back,” she says. “Now, clients are going, ‘Wait a minute, what do you mean you don’t do video?’”

Pre-pandemic, a home for sale showcased with a video had a 400 percent increase for inquiries compared to a property without a video, Benson said. “You can only imagine what they are now,” she says. “I believe the stats say that 80 percent of buyers and sellers want to work with an agent that has used video or is using video in their marketing. I believe it’s less than 10 percent of agents who are consistently using video in their marketing.”

Benson realizes that social media is being seen as more than a place to share photos of grandchildren and what’s for dinner. “It is a way that people are consuming information, and it’s important to have a real estate agent that understands,” she says. “You’re really doing a detriment to your business if you’re not embracing the technology at this point.”

On a Facebook Live video near the end of April, Benson motivated viewers to avoid delay in using new technological tools. “Don’t worry about makeup and hair, and get over your excuses,” she says. “You guys are striving so much for perfection that its distracting you from getting it done.”