You either focus on the customer or the competitor.
One will use your services and pay your invoices; the other won’t.
The real estate industry is a fast-moving, highly innovative space.
The challenge is, most of what we call innovation is the duplication of what competitors do in the marketplace.
The fastest-growing companies in any industry are the ones that can identify unmet, unidentified and unsatisfied needs of the customer and satisfy them.
As human expectations evolve with technology, we now buy brands, products and services, because of what they enable us to do.
Harley Davidson riders buy the bike because they buy freedom. When you use Uber, you gain the speed of the transaction.
Most agents compete on fee, and it’s a race to the bottom. The best in any industry compete on value – they compete on what they do for the customer.
Market leaders stay close to the customer, identifying the significant opportunities to create a competitive advantage.
Let’s look at a few ways to scale the human touch.
CUSTOMER FOCUS GROUPS
One of our clients held a property management forum where they invited 28 first-time landlords to find out about their experience and what challenges they faced.
The challenges weren’t unique, but they were liberating.
Simple things like, how do I know I’ve bought the right property?
How do I have a better relationship with my property manager?
What’s essential and nonessential maintenance?
When do I increase the rent and by how much?
What are the notice periods?
Then something interesting happened.
A landlord asked when they should buy their next investment property.
This led the facilitator to ask, by a show of hands, how many landlords would like an equity check on the home they live in?
All 28 hands went up.
Six months on from that forum, 14 of the landlords are now in the market as buyers, three have sold their existing homes and bought new ones.
The biggest market to serve is the one filled with your existing customers.
Finding out why customers decided to use you is the most valuable form of research.
Imagine an independent research team selected five vendors and conducted a one-hour interview with them.
Simple questions like, how many agents did you interview?
How long was your relationship with the agent you chose before you selected them?
Did you negotiate on price or did you proceed at the fee quoted?
When you do high-quality research like that, it allows you to tailor your pitch with real data.
Data-driven decision is what drives the speed of business momentum.
FEEDBACK – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Most look for feedback in the wrong places.
When you lose a listing, you often call the vendor to find out why. They let you down gently and never really provide useful feedback.
Instead, you lose confidence.
The shift to interviewing customers and asking one simple question changes the game.
What made you decide to use us?
The answer to that question becomes the opening dialogue to all future presentations.
They’ve just revealed the secret sauce.
JOBS TO BE DONE METHODOLOGY
Technology is used to reimagine what’s possible, by understanding all the jobs the customer gets done in and around the transaction.
Simple things like preparing the home for sale, through to disconnection of utilities.
We’re making great progress with firms setting up concierge services.
The only challenge is I link concierge with a hotel that organises tickets to a concert.
One of our UK clients renamed that department to the “moving team”.
They do everything related to moving, and it’s had a marked impact on internal and external customer recognition.
The big opportunity is to go deeper with your existing clients, finding out their needs and how you can serve them with vertical or horizontal integration.
One of our clients has 18 different service lines in their business.
The size of the opportunity is so great; it’s worth the pain of change.
Most agencies are made up of residential sales and property management, but there are plenty of other opportunities in marketing, strata, insurance, projects, finance and commercial.
If Steve Jobs had asked the customer what they wanted, they would have said a bigger CD wallet.
They couldn’t envisage the iPhone.
When the iPhone hit, we all learnt about needs we didn’t even know we had.
It’s the same in your business. Stay close to your customer, as they don’t recognise the problems they have, let alone the solutions to solve them.
The more you develop and understand your customer’s problems, the faster you can differentiate in a meaningful way and create a lasting, competitive advantage.