I love the real estate industry. There is so much opportunity for an entrepreneurial, self-starting salesperson to succeed. Unfortunately, when I look around at real estate professionals within the industry, I see many professionals who struggle.
With all due respect to my friends, colleagues, and clients in the real estate industry, one of the problems is with differentiation. Frankly, most real estate professionals seem to be the same. (I’m sure you’re NOT the same but it’s hard for prospects to always see the difference between you and the 30 other agents who are out there promoting themselves in a similar way)…
- All real estate professionals seem to claim that they’ll take good care of their customers — treating customers with the same level of service and courtesy that they would want to receive themselves.
- All real estate professionals seem to claim to do free home evaluations.
- All real estate professionals seem to send out fridge magnets or calendars or shopping list notepads.
- All real estate professionals seem to send out the same direct mail pieces.
- All real estate professionals seem to have the same business cards, billboards, bus benches, etc.
For home buyers or sellers who don’t have a pre-established relationship with a real estate professional, every single professional seems to be a clone. One seems to be the same as the next. To prospective clients, it makes no apparent difference who they work with.
As a result, there’s no loyalty. When it comes time to buy, why would they choose you over someone else? When it comes time to sell and buy a bigger house, why would they remember you (since your fridge magnet is buried under a dozen others that promise the same amazing service)?
So how can real estate professionals compete?
Through differentiation — by making yourself unique. I don’t mean just restating what other real estate professionals say but in a different way. Don’t rename “free home evaluation” to “complimentary house valuation” and think that you’ve successfully differentiated. Differentiation has to be more than that. Here are 7 ideas (in no particular order):
1. BECOME A DEMOGRAPHIC EXPERT
Pick a group of people that you like to work with and promote yourself as an expert in that group. Often, demographics are measured by age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, income, and other factors. There is definitely space, for example, for a real estate professional who exclusively serves professional women. (Obviously you’ll need to be careful here. You don’t want to present yourself as so exclusive that you are not welcoming to others. And sometimes it might not be appropriate to serve one demographic group if you are not somehow associated with that group). If you have a connection to that particular group, serve them!
2. BECOME A PROFESSION EXPERT
Different professions have different needs when it comes to housing. If you become an expert in that group and their needs, you can meet them in a way that other real estate professionals cannot, and your marketing can resonate with them in a way that other real estate professionals cannot. You’ll understand their needs and serve them more effectively.
3. BECOME A LIFE-STAGE EXPERT
This is related to the demographic expert above but it’s also tied to how people buy houses so it might actually be a better way to differentiate if you can’t find a demographic that you want to focus on. This group is sliced up by the stage of life they’re in and what kind of home needs they have as a result. First time homebuyers is good. Families with children. Seniors. I really like empty nesters as a demographic group that is under-served.
4. BECOME A HOUSE-TYPE EXPERT
Find a type of house and become an expert in it. Bungalows. Condos. Homes built before 1975. Whatever. Know these homes inside and out and know exactly the type of people who own these types of homes and want to sell, and exactly the type of people who are likely going to buy these homes.
5. WEAR A CHICKEN COSTUME
I don’t mean that you actually have to wear a chicken costume. I mean: Become known as the real estate agent who is unique in the way you act — serve your customers in a chicken costume or dressed as a clown or dressed in a tuxedo or as a pirate or in some other unique, memorable, or even silly theme. Maybe drive a fancy car. Or wear a purple suit. Or a giant hat. or maybe you’re a reformed biker who still wears leathers and sports all the tattoos and brings prospective buyers around in a loud Harley. Stuff like that. I heard that there was a real estate professional in the city where I live who used to be a chef and dresses like one… maybe they even make dinner for the home buyer in their new home? I have no idea; I’ve never seen their deal. Just using it as another example.
Confession: This is my least favorite of all of my differentiation suggestions. I think it’s gimmicky and it gets awkward, especially if you have to deal with a difficult situation or an intense negotiation — you don’t want to be doing that in a clown costume or while wearing a goofy chef’s hat. But it is memorable and maybe you can find a way to tie it all together without being ridiculous when it counts.
6. BECOME AN EXPERT ON SOME ASPECT OF THE DEAL
Lots of real estate professional claim to be experts on service but the kind of service that most real estate professionals provide is exactly the same (or SEEMS exactly the same). But service isn’t the only aspect of the deal. There are other aspects of the deal as well. Negotiation is one. Marketing is another. Speed of closing is another. Become an expert in one of these aspects of real estate. Tie all of your branding and marketing around this particular aspect. For example, become the expert in getting the fastest move-in dates, and then tie all of your marketing around that (perhaps by advertising the average move-in date of your last 10 sales). Write blogs about this. Heck, write a book about it!
7. BECOME A LOCAL AREA EXPERT
I see real estate professionals try to do this one but they try to become local area experts across the entire city. It doesn’t work that way. Pick a community and rock it. Become the only person that every homeowner in that community recognizes. Don’t just market to this community, become a true community expert. Volunteer in this community. Live in this community. Coach softball in this community. Patronize the stores in this community.
There are other ways to differentiate but these 7 (or, at least 6 of these 7!) are fast and easy to implement without an immediate, expensive overhaul of your brand.