But My Market’s Different!

It’s human nature to resist change. The comfort of the known and predictable is seductive. Change is often equated to chaos; something that’s thrust upon us as a result of adverse circumstances.
But planned change, change that challenges the norm as you know it, can also be the catalyst for taking your business to the next level. Story by Mark Lynch.

It’s human nature to resist change. The comfort of the known and predictable is seductive. Change is often equated to chaos; something that’s thrust upon us as a result of adverse circumstances. But planned change, change that challenges the norm as you know it, can also be the catalyst for taking your business to the next level. Story by Mark Lynch.

In my role as a franchise manager, I spend a lot of time hammering out strategic plans for agencies that want to build market share – to take their business to the next level. If you have all the Real Estate basics in place, then creating a point of difference is a way of getting your agency talked about and recommended. Creating a point of difference involves embracing change and that’s often when the business owner will pull up the drawbridge and cry “But my market is different!” No it’s not. At the end of the day, unless you are selling land titles on the moon through eBay, you have houses that people want to sell and that other people want to buy. And you have sellers who want the best price and buyers who want a bargain. You have the skills to manage that. The challenge is making sure you’re always on the shopping list of every vendor who is thinking of selling. And that requires stepping out of your comfort zone and experimenting.

Take the example of asking for photo ID at all opens. Vendors love it. You are addressing their greatest fear that thieves are either casing their joint by attending the open, or opportunists are pocketing the family heirlooms. When we proposed introducing Photo ID as mandatory at every Barry Plant open, there was vigorous discussion. “Not all people have ID.” “Some people ride bikes to opens – they won’t have their licence on them.” “People won’t want to come to our opens.” Guess what, fifteen months later there has been just one problem over thousands and thousands of opens. Our competitors adopted it too and it’s now people turn up at opens with their licence already in their hand.

Another example of a business-building change was an office in a regional area where Real Estate boards were traditionally small corflutes or, if you were lashing out, a stock board. Big boards with photos “just aren’t done in my area – the vendor’s won’t pay.” But imagine the attention that colourful photo boards with great branding would attract. We devised a two-pronged attack. One was to pay for a board on a great property on a very public thoroughfare. We also paid for professional photography to make sure the photos on the board were stunning. We then paid for professional photos of the board when it was erected to put into the marketing kits. (Guess how many vendors when shown a photo of the big board compared to a corflute or stock board wanted the bigger, better board?) We also approached all the board companies in the area to see if, in the interest of building their business in the future, were prepared to give us a sweetheart deal on photo boards. Every time our agent gets a photo board up our brand is three times larger than his competitors.

If you’re operating in an area where big photo boards are standard, consider thinking outside the square. There’s a company that manufactures boards made from reflective material, so that whenever headlights hit the board, it lights up. The same company is also marketing boards with plasma screens embedded in them that play videos showing all the features of the property. Obviously expensive but there’s always a vendor out there who has the vision and the means to say “I’ll have one of those.” The trick is to keep asking, don’t assume the answer is no. And by the way, recent research we’ve commissioned revealed that in inner suburban areas, people think that if a property just has a stock board on it the owner is not serious about selling – they are just testing the market!

A more difficult change to consider is introducing auctions into a traditionally private sale area. We know that it’s a selling method that generates publicity for the property, promotes the Real Estate brand and has proven success in getting the best price – because of the competition between buyers. But in areas where auctions aren’t the norm, agents are really reluctant to suggest them to vendors. They feel that suggesting something different is going to lose them the listing. But if auctions are going to help build your business through the greater exposure of vendor paid marketing, isn’t it worth making a change? Start with one auction and pick your vendor carefully. Choose one with a property that is beautifully presented, in a price range that’s selling well. Choose an intelligent vendor who can appreciate that he needs to invest in a marketing campaign to maximise the number of buyers interested in his property. Explain the process thoroughly and cover off any fears about no one attending the auction. Have a flyer prepared that talks about the auction process from the marketing to the type and frequency of feedback you’ll give them to the OFIs, to the pre-auction meeting, setting a reserve and finally auction day and how it will play out. And to get your first auction over the line, uses incentives. Line up the services of a great auctioneer beforehand and offer to wear the cost of his service yourself. Provide advice on setting up their home for photography and promise to be there when the photos are taken. Once you get the signature on the auction authority, take every opportunity to get your brand in front of people in your marketplace.

At OFI’s provide information to buyers on how to bid at an auction plus what deposit they will need on the day. Offer to have one of your team help them bid. And auction day? That’s show time. Get your whole team there in uniform. Get as many banners and flags visible from the street as possible. Have a ‘penciller’ writing the bids on a flipchart that everyone can see. Demonstrate professionalism, enthusiasm, care. And when it’s sold, announce your success in the local paper. Letterbox your territory with the good news. It may be a step process to get people in your area comfortable with the auction process, but it’s worth the effort when your profile is lifted by all the vendor paid advertising, when your commissions are higher and your market share is growing. And if the property doesn’t sell at auction? Well because you have formed a close relationship with the vendor, have called in on him regularly to update him on how the campaign is going, what buyers think and because you’re consulted him on tweaks to the campaign or prices – he’s going to take your advice, he’s going to trust you to do the right thing and then, if his property doesn’t sell at auction (or in the few days following) then hopefully he will say “Can’t fault so-and-so for his commitment and hard work – highly recommend them.” But don’t give up on introducing auctions to your area; try another one when the right property and vendor present themselves.

Change requires lateral thinking. Change requires persistence and commitment. Choose one area of your business to change and then persevere. Don’t make the mistake of trying an initiative once and then abandoning it if it didn’t work. Have a long term view. Building market share is about maximising the exposure that your clients get to your brand and then following up with a service level that they will talk about. So if you’re not delivering superb customer service make that the first change you make.

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Mark Lynch

Mark Lynch is the Business Development Manager for the Barry Plant Group. Prior to joining Barry Plant, Mark was a Franchise Manager with both Ray White and Wilson Pride (now Century 21). Mark also ran a successful Real Estate business within the Wilson Pride network.