Why should you win more instructions?
Let’s be honest – why do you really deserve to win more instructions? Perhaps a better question to ask yourself is why do homeowners choose particular agents? Some will go for the cheapest (and good luck to them) and some will use personal contacts. The remainder represents the vast majority who will instinctively gravitate towards the agent they perceive to be the best, what does best look like to the majority of homemovers who aren’t simply looking for cheapest? You may like to think they’re paying for your winning smile but in fact it’s your knowledge and experience they expect to benefit from in their homemoving ambitions.
Winning is all about owning that space in the eyes of local sellers. It’s a question of becoming the local market expert.
You might think that all local agents are experts because they’re interacting with people every day, making connections, striking up relationships and finding opportunities. But we know, by continually talking to agents, and having been one myself for more than a decade, there are some agencies whose reputation precedes them. They’ve become the de-facto choice for people looking for a professional service even if they’ve never actually interacted with them.
How do they do it? Well building this sort of reputation takes time, firstly and most importantly you need to offer a great service. Without offering a remarkable service, you won’t ensure the highest levels of repeat business and the invaluable school gate recommendations.
Beyond the service levels which are directly under your control, it becomes a question of how you position your brand. A lot of agents boast personal service on their ‘about us’ page, but how many send flowers on completion or cards on milestone house purchase anniversaries?
The way we’ve seen agents accelerate the speed at which they’re building their brands reputation is by publishing Market Research. The obvious examples to point to are Savills and Knight Frank who realised early on that research, relevant to their target market (i.e the people with houses they’d like to sell or let) was a great way to simultaneously get the attention that all marketing craves whilst demonstrating their expertise. They’re not claiming to be experts, the way every agent does, they’re showing it, and because they’re not making a claim which forces the homeowner to weigh up the validity of that claim there’s no question in the homeowners’ mind about their expertise. It’s precisely because the homeowner drew their own conclusion that this ‘show, don’t tell’ approach is so much more impactful.
This may seem like a small point but it’s significant. We would be foolish to believe that the public will take at face value everything estate agents say about themselves in their marketing, indeed every statement you make is a challenge to the reader, do I believe this? The bigger the statement the more stressful the process of discerning the validity of the information becomes for the reader (for more information about the psychology behind this effect, see Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman).
You may not be trying to compete with Savills and Knight Franks in the country homes market but you can still learn from their successes in building great brands, whom I hope you agree will immediately come to mind when their target market thinks of selling.
Who is your target market, where do they live, what do they care about. The better you can understand your customers the better you can market to them, that’s marketing 101 but it bears repeating here. If you want to increase your share in a particular residential area the outstanding local school would be a good place to start profiling your customers, young families tend to move more frequently and deal in the mid-market so the fees remain good and constant. You could put a new swing-set into the local park (with an obligatory plaque of course) and I’m positive you’ll generate a lot of good-will from local parents as they accompany younger children to the park on a regular basis. Better yet, get active within the community, why not sponsor the sports teams of the local school but instead of leaving it at logos on shirts, turn up to games and cheer them on, buy them inexpensive treats when they win (in my day it would have been McDonald’s but I’d worry that might not go down well with all parents now).
These are both great ways to anchor yourself within a community, by thinking about what that community really cares about. The problem is they’re both going to be expensive and neither has that added benefit of enhancing your perceived expertise in the local market. I’d wager if you executed either of those strategies effectively you would end up with a lot of goodwill from local homeowners and your brand recall (how many people know about you even if they’re not in the market at the moment) will increase. But I fear when they made a decision about who to use, in the face of another agent with the Savills style reputation for expertise in your area, they’re still likely to perceive the other agents’ service as better and therefore not only choose it but actually pay a premium for it.
I’m quite clearly biased when it comes to what sort of marketing works best for estate agents, we’re property market analysts after all so I’d expect you to challenge everything I’ve said in your own mind and see if it stacks up. After all, agency is 90% common sense and marketing is no different. People sometimes do seemingly irrational things, like choose an agent who consistently turns out terrible details with poor photography, but your job is to understand why people make those decisions, so you can effectively challenge them.
I wanted to share with you the very basic premise of our business, local market research is the best way we know to cost-effectively build a local agencies reputation. Increasing their reach in terms of marketing to more local people and ultimately succeed in what is undoubtedly a period of change within the industry. That’s why we started offering the local market research service two years ago and whilst now we have hundreds of monthly subscribing offices all over the country, we still have agents who have been with us since day one (and that’s without an onerous contract, just a month’s notice at any time). Why have they stayed, why have we grown? The answer certainly isn’t because we’ve got a huge marketing budget or because they’ve been tied into onerous long term contracts, I think it’s because we were correct and it’s a highly effective form of marketing.
If you’d like to find out more about the service, including how to do it yourself if you have the time and are so inclined, get in touch, you can then apply your own common sense to decide if it’s something you should be doing.