By Craig Proctor
RISMEDIA, Nov. 12, 2008-How many agents are there in your town? 10? 50? 100? More? Whatever your specific answer to this question is, the fact is that the real estate business is highly competitive. Unlike a retailer or manufacturer who has to come up with a large financial investment (for space and inventory) to start a business, real estate agents need a little schooling, a good suit, and a little bit of cash to get started. With the allure of the opportunity to make big bucks quickly and easily, it’s not surprising that so many people flock into our business.
If you own a hardware store or flower store, or if you’re an eye specialist, you might have two or three competitors in town. You still need a compelling reason for people to do business with you, but even if you don’t have one, your odds would be one in two or one in three, that people would see your ad and give you a call about your product or services.
In real estate, it’s not that easy. Your typical prospect will be bombarded daily with dozens of agents’ names and faces, all wearing the same warm smile, all offering the same attentive, superior, personal, professional, expert, knowledgeable, results-oriented, friendly, helpful, wonderful, fabulous service. For the average prospect, picking a real estate agent is like picking apples and eggs at the grocery store. You’re all lined up there looking the same. The prospect may discard a few rotten ones, and then arbitrarily choose from among the ones closest at hand. It’s unlikely they’ll dig to the bottom of the pile.
It’s unlikely they’ll spend a lot of time deliberating over their decision. What is the decision after all? Apples and eggs are pretty much the same. One Macintosh is not going to be phenomenally different from another.
Except for a few rotten or cracked eggs, they all look pretty much alike. The expectation is that the result you’ll get from using one versus another will be pretty much the same. You take your chances and find out once you use them whether you made a good or bad choice.
Don’t kid yourself. The analogy I’ve drawn is pretty much how it is when prospects choose a real estate agent. You think that because you’ve spent so much time, effort, money and emotion on the image you project to your prospects that they’ll be moved by it – motivated into action.
The truth is, you have no objectivity about it. You’re too close to the tree to see that you’re just one of thousands in the forest.
What Can I Do for YOU?
The problem for most agents is that their vantage point is entirely wrong. Instead of looking through your own eyes, it’s imperative that you look through the eyes of your prospects and clients. Instead of asking “What can I tell them about ME?” you should be asking, “What can I offer prospects that THEY want and need?” You’ll find that the answers to these two very different questions will elicit very different responses.
A very important concept that most real estate agents don’t understand is the concept of “positioning”. What is positioning?
Well, your positioning is the place that prospects and clients have slotted you in their heads. It is your “label,” the way they think about your product or service in relation to other competing products and services.
To help make this important concept clear in your mind, let me give you some examples from some other industries.
Your Positioning Is the Space You Occupy in Your Prospect’s Head
When I say Coca Cola, what do you think of? Your answer is probably something like “the original cola; authentic, true; the real thing,” etc. Pepsi, on the other hand, probably makes you think “new, modern, new generation, ahead.”
Let me give you some other examples:
When I say Volvo, you think safety
When I say Mercedes, you think prestige
When I say Rolls Royce, you think ultimate prestige
When I say Harley, you think tough, rugged, authentic
When I say Disney, you think fun, wholesome, family entertainment
When I say Chanel, you think sexy and sophisticated
When I say Levis, you think authentic, original, real, comfortable jeans
When I say Listerine, you think awful taste but highly effective
Positioning is the space you take in your prospects’ heads. It’s the equation you’ve created (or inherited) for your brand or product or service.
Most agents really have no positioning in their prospect’s mind. Every call is a cold call trying to convince your target that there’s something great about you. Talking up how hardworking you are and how committed you are and how many designations you have and how many homes you’ve sold.
Do you see what’s wrong here? Think about the examples I’ve given you. Volvo could have told me about how they set rigorous design specifications and optimal work environment, but instead, bottom line, they told me that they would ensure my safety when driving.
Chanel could have laundry listed the floral, herbal and other ingredients that make up the Chanel recipe, but instead they tell you that their fragrance will make women feel sophisticated and sexy.
In both examples, the focus is on the customer, not the manufacturer and, as a result, the consumer knows what they’re buying. They’re buying safety and sophisticated sex appeal.
How are you positioned in the prospect’s mind? Do you even have a positioning? You must ask yourself these important questions. And if you get the answer that most of you will, you must do something about it. Change customer perceptions by creating a meaningful, relevant, benefit-driven and positive positioning for yourself.
How do you do this? Well, to quote marketing guru Dan Kennedy, you do this by answering the following question in 60 seconds or less: “Why should a prospect do business with you above all other options including doing nothing or whatever they’re doing now?”
Do this right now. Answer the question just posed: Prospects should do business with me because: ______________________________________________________.
Your answer to this question is what we call your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Your USP is the unique offer you make to your prospects to set yourself apart from your competition.
For many of you, the question above will be a difficult one to answer. But if you want to succeed at real estate without the mind-numbing task of cold-calling and door knocking looming ahead of you each and every morning, you must find an answer. You must decide how you will position your business in your prospect’s mind by developing a USP which is unique, specific, relevant, believable, focused and concise.
Now don’t confuse your USP with a simple advertising slogan. It’s quite true that when you have the financial security to be able to invest in the aggressive marketing of your USP that this will be a positive step to take for your business, but your USP is much more than a marketing slogan. The positioning you create for your business (and your articulation of this positioning via a USP) will have an impact on all facets of your business, not just the marketing of it.
For example, I have tested many USPs over the years, but the one which has remained strongest and most enduring for me personally is, “Your Home Sold in Under 120 Days or I Buy It.” Yes, I eventually began to advertise this USP, and if you ask people in my town about me, they’ll say: “Oh, Craig … he’s the guy who will buy your house.” This is my positioning in the marketplace. I’m the guy who buys houses.
However, long before I had enough cash in my business to afford to effectively advertise this USP, I took several steps to try to ingrain this positioning in my prospects’ minds.
Besides structuring the right relationship with my bank, and the right expertise within my office, I talked this USP up with my prospects in listing presentations, added sign riders to my signs, etc.
Bear in mind that it can be quite costly to advertise this kind of message because you’re seeking to accomplish the big job of changing people’s perceptions about you. You’ll have to hammer this message at your marketplace pretty heavily to break through the clutter of other advertising. After all, unlike other direct response real estate advertising I teach, USP advertising will clearly be branded advertising which attempts to link your name with the positioning you’ve selected. If you’re just starting out, or don’t yet have much money to invest in marketing, do start by thinking about and developing your positioning and the way you will articulate it (i.e. your USP), but don’t start by investing money you don’t have in a half-hearted attempt to advertise your USP. Instead, take the money you’re already spending on ineffective “image” ads and budget some of it to run some of the inexpensive but highly effective under-the-radar classified and editorial ads I’ve discussed elsewhere. Then take a look at the money you have left. Is there enough left to make a loud enough noise with your USP advertising to break through the clutter?
If not, invest the rest of it in classifieds and editorials-style ads until you have so much business coming in the door that you can’t help but make more money – enough money to make a big enough noise that your USP gets heard.
“A USP, like “Your Home Sold or I’ll Buy It,” allows the agent to stand out above other competitors. It answers the question for the prospect “If I use this agent, I will get ‘x’.”
“When working to get face to face with a prospect, or a signed right to sell agreement, you must answer the prospect’s questions of ‘why should I do business with you over and above all other agents – including doing it on my own or nothing at all’. A good USP, like the guaranteed sale, has allowed me to not just attract more prospects to me, but even increase the demand for my seller’s homes. Without a unique selling proposition, I would be just like all the other agents and therefore my results would not be as effective.”
– Todd Walters, Marietta, GA
To find out more about how a USP can help you grow your business, you can visit http://www.hypertracker.com/go/cp/a38a081112/ where you can learn about my 3-day SuperConference where I train agents on a proven 3-pronged approach to agent marketing that will consistently build your pipeline of qualified prospects.
Billion Dollar AgentTM Craig Proctor has been in the top 10 for RE/MAX Worldwide for 15 years. To receive free training from Craig with no obligation, visit: http://www.hypertracker.com/go/cp/a38b081112.