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Humanization, Relationships and Likeability

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By Gee Dunsten

RISMEDIA, Aug 2, 2011—We can trace word-of-mouth marketing all the way back to 2000 B.C. when Eve said to Adam, “You ought to try a bite of this apple.” The Garden of Eden scenario represents marketing in its purest form—after all, trusted friends always trust each other’s recommendations.

Since then, marketing has embarked on quite a journey, of course. The invention of the printing press opened the door to mass marketing, which eventually came to use newspapers and magazines as primary promotional vehicles. The subsequent creation of the radio and television opened up yet another world for marketers, now able to promote their messages to a vastly increased audience.

Over the years, marketing has centered around the idea of pushing people to do something—try a new brand of soda, shop at a particular store, see the blockbuster debuting in theaters this weekend. The element that has been left out of the marketing equation for years, however, is the “feeling” aspect…the relationship aspect.

In today’s information overloaded culture, people are frantically trying to get away from the traditional “noise” of marketing. Think DVRing your favorite television shows so that you can avoid the commercials. Think getting your news via CNN updates on your phone as opposed to reading the newspaper. We want what we want when we want it. We certainly don’t want Madison Avenue telling us what we want.

That’s why marketing in the new world must center on relationships. And it must involve relevant content in order to build those relationships. People with good information are recognized as trustworthy and credible. As Gary Vanderchuk put it, “If content is king, context of relationship is a higher power still.” Context is about making sure we first care about our customers/clients, long before we ever try to sell them something.

Today, agents and companies in general need to be much more focused on the humanization of business. Ironically, our grandparents’ generation understood this. They knew their friends and neighbors, knew what they liked and didn’t like. They took the time to develop relationships and applied this knowledge to their businesses.

The Walt Disney Company is a wonderful example of a caring company. Disney does not have a customer service department; they have a “care and thank you” department. Disney does not hire people based on their skills; they hire people because they have a caring attitude. The firm believes that they can teach any employee the skills to be successful…as long as they are caring people to begin with.

Last fall, I was booked on a flight from Chicago to Dallas, only to be told by the airline that the flight was going to be delayed and I should stay in the area. After a four-hour wait until after midnight, I was told the flight was cancelled and I would have to rebook a flight for the next day. With no explanation or apology given, the airline agent walked away and I was left to fend for myself, along with 100 other frustrated and angry passengers. As someone who has flown over a million miles with this particular airline, it would have been nice to receive an email the next morning with an apology for the inconvenience and an explanation for the delay, such as “concern for your safety,” etc. How much would it have cost the company to say “I’m sorry” and “I care” in an attempt to turn this lemon into lemonade? It’s quite obvious that a caring attitude was not the focus of the airline.

Compare that experience to the one my friend and colleague, Mark Given, had while visiting Disney World with his grandchildren. After watching his 4-year-old grandson drop his ice cream cone and begin to cry, Mark was amazed to see a very young Disney employee come up to his grandson, go down on one knee and tell him not to cry, that Disney World is the happiest place on earth. The employee then cleaned the boy up and presented him with a new cone. This 17-year-old employee, working a summer job, remedied the situation on the spot…without even asking his supervisor.

The above two examples of corporate caring are not simply feel-good (or, in my case, feel-bad) stories. These experiences are directly connected to business success…or the lack thereof. Will my friend go back to Disney World and recommend it to countless others? Without a doubt. Will I—and my hundred other fellow passengers—fly that airline again? Maybe, but not nearly as often…or maybe not at all.

My perception is that caring is saleable. It is not a fad. People/companies will soon start battling on the likeability/care front in a revolution. And where will the battle take place for the most part? On social media turf.

The stage is already set: Facebook has a Like button. YouTube, LinkedIn, and Foursquare have added functionality that allows users to express their approval of content. Twitter has a “favorite” button that allows users to approve different tweets. Not to mention consumer critiquing sites, such as Yelp.

With so much competition today, companies that adapt and make sure their agents stay engaged and committed to giving their customers and clients the greatest possible real estate experience—the greatest possible overall care—will be the winners in the second half of this decade. So, it’s time to click your own “Like” button and start building caring and trust in the services you provide. As Dr. Seuss said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

George “Gee” Dunsten, president of Gee Dunsten Seminars, Inc., has been a real estate agent and broker/owner for almost 40 years. Dunsten has been a senior instructor with the Council of Residential Specialists for more than 20 years. To reach Gee, please email, gee@gee-dunsten.com.

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