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Sustained Competitive Excellence: CENTURY 21 & USA Bobsled Go for Gold

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By Maria Patterson

In 2012, the franchisor of the world’s largest residential real estate organization set out on a course to “go for the gold” to help the maximum number of consumers in their online real estate search and sales efforts. The prize for the CENTURY 21® System was establishing a best-in-class real estate search experience. At about that same time, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) team, with one of the most dynamic rosters in history, was winning races at World Cup events around the globe and thinking “gold” for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Today, due in large part to a shared focus on quality and excellence, and the desire to be the very best, both Century 21 Real Estate LLC and the USBSF are right where they want to be: in a leadership position and built to claim “gold” in the years to follow.

We sat down with two members of the C21® senior leadership team—Rick Davidson, president and CEO, and Bev Thorne, chief marketing officer—to learn more about where the company’s drive for “gold” began, where the franchisor is today on a global scale, and what CENTURY 21 hopes to accomplish in the future.

Maria Patterson: Let’s look at where you’ve been over the years…and let’s start at the beginning. When did this push for “gold” begin?
Rick Davidson: As you may know, “Gold” has been a part of our heritage since the business began in 1971. In the industry, and with consumers worldwide, it stands for professionalism, dependability, and exemplary customer service. It represents “The Gold Standard.” This global recognition and strong association with gold is unmistakable, especially matched with the locally established reputations of entrepreneurs around the world. We have the legacy and the foundation from our very inception, but we have accelerated our fervor for gold standard performance since early 2010. That’s when I put the stake in the ground to become the global leader in real estate transactions. Our System’s commitment and laser-like focus on the customers we serve every day means that, together, we are all going for the gold! And it’s clear that the industry has taken notice. At the National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco, for example, brokers and agents came to our heavily-trafficked exhibit booth (where we had our branded Indy car and USA Bobsled). The feedback that we got there and at our third annual “tailgate” party was outstanding.

MP: Bev, from your perspective, when did the push for “gold” begin?
Bev Thorne: There was a marked shift that began with the celebration of our 40th anniversary in 2011. At that time, we unveiled our “SMARTER. BOLDER. FASTER.®” campaign. The campaign was unique to us and to the industry at large, and remains so today. The strength of the “SMARTER. BOLDER. FASTER.” campaign is in its drive to showcase the capabilities of our sales professionals in front of the largest audiences, in association with momentous and iconic events, such as the Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, U.S. Soccer, and the Indianapolis 500. Most recently, we became the official real estate company of the USBSF team and we will be advertising during the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February. The CENTURY 21-sponsored sled made its debut wrapped in our signature gold at our Leadership conference in Miami this past September, where the partnership was first announced. Since that time, the C21® sled has been speeding down frozen paths around the world with stops in Calgary, Canada; Park City, Utah; Lake Placid, N.Y.; Winterberg, Germany; St. Moritz, Switzerland; Igls, Austria; and Koenigssee, Germany. While the Bobsled sponsorship helps our marketing efforts, we are also helping the USBSF team by raising funds to help defray the costs of being an Olympic athlete (see sidebar). Highly visible marketing efforts like these help us to differentiate our agents and brokers in an extremely competitive real estate market by showcasing their integrity and authenticity.

MP: You obviously have a visible media plan. Can you share with us a marketing success in the past year and how it was achieved?
BT: We are number one! According to comScore, Inc., a global leader in digital measurement and analytics, century21.com was the “most visited” real estate franchise organization website from December 2012 through November 2013, a total of 12 straight months. Plus, we offer customer relationship management tools that effectively complete the circle of real estate sales success. Think about that. That’s what we mean by “SMARTER. BOLDER. FASTER.” We have taken customer relationships beyond transactions for both our brokers and agents, and their customers. We deliver more personalized online interactions, with innovative mapping, a task-friendly mobile app, school searches and other tools that are “best in class.”

For our agents’ consumers, we offer, at no additional cost, unique property websites for every property listing. Every time a new listing appears on century21.com, a unique URL is generated that features the property’s address like 555anyst.c21.com, showcasing the seller’s individual property for maximum homebuyer visibility.

Here’s another example: We introduced a new global property listings website. With property transactions today occurring from country to country and continent to continent, we wanted to provide consumers with an effective means of searching for properties globally. In doing so, we are now a major presence in the global real estate online space. Our century21global.com site gives users access to listings from 24 countries, in 36 currencies and 16 languages. Plus, each country featured on the site has the option of including localized content for foreign buyers to assist them in making informed decisions. Consumers can also search for offices, agents, residential, commercial and land properties. The search results can be filtered by features like property type, and numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, to provide the precise listings that match the user’s needs.

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