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Last year at this time, Century 21 Real Estate unveiled a reinvention of its brand to completely overhaul one of the world’s most recognizable icons. Since that time, the CENTURY 21Â® brand continued its transformation strategy by diving head-first into today’s experience economy behind a new mission: to defy mediocrity and deliver extraordinary experiences. This paradigm shift, putting a focus on the emotional and experiential aspects behind consumer pain points and personalized journeys, is helping the brand to elevate everything it does to support its affiliated agents, brokers and consumers, and quickly leave behind the “sea of sameness” in an industry that historically fixates entirely on the transactional elements alone.
Guided by a culture of innovation and empathy, and a systemwide drive to leverage technology and data insights, the CENTURY 21 brand’s visionary and growth-oriented leaders are one step closer to solving for challenges in the form of consistently delivering extraordinary customer experiences and becoming the industry’s first real estate consumer brand.
With so much to unpack, and to gain a more meaningful picture of where the CENTURY 21 brand plans to grow in 2019 and beyond, we sat down with Michael Miedler, president and chief executive officer of Century 21 Real Estate, to get his thoughts on the mission and other relevant issues.
Paige Tepping: Mike, who better to be chief executive officer than the brand’s first chief growth officer, whose results over the years have been quite remarkable.
Michael Miedler: Thank you. While we are certainly pleased with the System’s progress to date, we are nowhere near the finish line. A lot has changed in the last 18 months and, as a result, the organization on all levels is excited by the opportunities for future business growth.
I bring to the CEO position more than 21 years with Century 21 Real Estate. During that time, I met professionals from all walks of life, made new friends and learned valuable life lessons. I’m here today not by accident, but by listening to the needs of our affiliated agents and brokers, better understanding their passion and commitment to help customers, and leveraging the advice of the C21Â® family to get things done with speed and convenience.
Growth has been, is and will forever be my mantra. As chief growth officer and franchise sales team leader, working with my team who I affectionately call “the wolfpack,” our goal was to advise new and existing real estate businesses on growth strategies and support them through the process of business planning and structuring mergers and acquisitions. We set records by capturing share in emerging and diverse markets, including the largest franchise deal in the history of the CENTURY 21 brand.
PT: What do you feel are the biggest opportunities for the C21 brand in the coming months and years?
MM: We want to have that same affinity and loyalty with consumers that coffee shops, airlines and hotels, to name a few, have with their clients. To reach that goal, the System is transforming the relationship between the real estate consumer and real estate agent from a purely transactional approach, where an agent focuses entirely on the 180-plus steps it takes to close a deal, to an experiential one, where independent C21 sales professionals go “above and beyond” and deliver an experience that the homebuyer and seller will always remember and willingly share. It’s these third-party testimonials and long-term relationships that will help the CENTURY 21 brand to become synonymous with delivering extraordinary experiences and a brand that home-buying and -selling consumers can trust when a real estate need arises. Of course, this will result in an increase in referrals to C21-affiliated agents and help drive their overall success.
That said, we will not lose our focus on delivering a comprehensive platform that provides the innovation and technology to help C21 agents deliver the extraordinary, engage and connect with consumers, and close more deals.
PT: Will you be making any big announcements this year, or will you take this time in 2019 to focus on incremental improvements?
MM: We cannot afford to focus on one and not the other. Our focus is on growth in the number of new franchisees, agents and overall closed transaction sides.
Overall, we intend to grow our brand and our franchise owners’ businesses by putting the consumer and their experience at the forefront of everything we do. We know that consumers remember their experiences with a brand more than they recall specific features of the product or service. For example, think about the last time you stayed at a hotel. Most hotels have a functioning shower and bathroom and a clean bed. That’s transactional. You pay your room rate and taxes, and leave the following morning. Experiential is the bellhop welcoming you with a smile and the front desk manager who offers bottled water as she walks you to the room while explaining the property’s features as they relate to your personal preferences. It’s complimentary high-speed WiFi throughout the hotel, including the health club. By moving to the experiential, we are overcommitting to delivering extraordinary experiences to C21-affiliated franchisees, brokers and agents, to other sales professionals looking to join the relentless, and throughout every consumer touchpoint from the very beginning of the relationship to the closing, and then thereafter until the next real estate need arises. We want to transform homebuyer and seller complacency in choosing an agent to a mindset where they expect this level of extraordinary service from their real estate professional. We want consumers to know that they have relentless sales professionals they can trust, that offer guidance with their best interests at heart, and deliver a personalized experience that is exciting and memorable.
PT: You spoke about connecting with several brokers after you were first appointed CEO. Is there a piece of advice you gave them to help them be more profitable?
MM: 121 percent wins! Overcommit to delivering the extraordinary to their affiliated agents. Agent growth and success begins and ends with a strong brokerage communityâ€”a brokerage that is dedicated to a culture that not only provides the support, training and technology necessary to grow an agent’s business and close more deals, but also one that makes agents feel valued as entrepreneurs who make a difference in people’s lives.
Lastly, I’m a big believer in the fundamentals. My parting advice was to share a mindset from my days as chief growth officer that consists of three keys:
- Behavior: Stick to a plan and work your sphere.
- Attitude: Be mentally strong; this is a tough business, andâ€¦
- Action: Always sharpen your skills and deliver the extraordinary every step of the relationship.
Together, as a global franchisor conducting business in 80 countries and territories, we will continue to invest in our sales professionals and help them connect with clients when and where they have a real estate need, create and share memorable experiences, and highlight the importance of choosing a relentless agent who defies mediocrity and delivers the extraordinary.
PT: Mike, you’ve outlined several key initiatives. If you could accomplish one thing in your first year as CEO, what would it be?
MM: There’s a quote from the best-selling co-author of “The Go-Giver” book series, Bob Burg, that reads, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” If after my first year, homebuyers and sellers, as well as industry professionals, get to know us, refer business to our relentless sales professionals and trust that our brand has their best interests at heart, then 2019 will be an amazing year for the CENTURY 21 brand. Like it did for the industry in 1971 when company leaders Art Bartlett and Marsh Fisher started franchising C21Â® offices, Century 21 Real Estate will be known as the first consumer brand. To reach that lofty expectation and be the real estate brand that is impossible to ignore, and the one that everyone wants to be part of, our new brand identity and mission will lead the way: “Defy Mediocrity and Deliver Extraordinary Experiences.”
Always Elevating: In Their Wordsâ€¦
“Our thoughts around always elevating centered on delivering a positive, uplifting closing in the office, with every touch-point customized for the homebuyer and seller, their respective agents and our company. By delivering a great closing experience, referrals are more readily abundant, and that is our ultimate goal. We found attorneys that would allow us to ensure that personalization and experience, and bring it to the clients as a ‘Champagne Closing’ experience and celebration capped with a champagne toast. I am incredibly passionate about the real estate business, the CENTURY 21Â® brand and the homebuyers and sellers we partner with. It’s especially gratifying that we can create extraordinary experiences that clients expect and deserve, and then they tell others on their social media channels about the relentless sales professionals at CENTURY 21 Results. That’s giving 121 percent and earning word-of-mouth marketing that works.”
“For us, the brand reinvention provides a clear purpose of our ‘why,’ and identifies the touch points where the ‘moments of truth’ offer the greatest opportunity to establish an emotional bond. It’s relevant to the customers and clients who walk through our doors or visit us online, and it helps our company offer a differentiation with homebuyers and sellers in our market areas. To test the relevancy of the new logo and redesign, we held an ‘Ultimate Logo Launch Party.’ The event was so successful, attendees were almost spilling out of the front doors. We brought to life the new C21 brand identity by showcasing exterior, open house and builder signage, business cards, marketing packets and a CENTURY 21 merchandising wall we called the C21SHOPÂ®,Â Â consisting of the latest top-of-the-line apparel. To deliver an extraordinary experience, attendees enjoyed a glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle champagne, a MM3 photography/Camerazzi photobooth, free C21SHOPÂ® items and a C21SHOPÂ® swag modeling shoot and fashion show. The night was EXTRA-ordinary and a complete success.”
“Culture matters to us. Our leadership team is purposeful in offering to our affiliated sales professionals a culture based on integrity, ethical behaviors, and processes and technologies that support agent training and coaching, while focusing on the unique needs of homebuyers and sellers. For example, we know every block in every neighborhood in the Urbandale area. We recently found a multigenerational home for a family who needed a mother/daughter for aging parents and a fully-finished basement area for their daughter who was attending a local university. We closed in under 30 days. The best part: We provided the family with such a memorable experience, and they then shared it on social media and with new friends in the community. In the end, we received two referrals. It’s this word-of-mouth marketing, guided by the brand’s mission to defy mediocrity and deliver extraordinary experiences, that is helping us retain our people and empower them to personalize the agent-client relationship and transform the home-buying and -selling process from transactional to experiential. This is a paradigm shift in real estate. It helps us stay ahead of the competition and win business.”
“While CENTURY 21 is a leader in brand awareness and consumer satisfaction, these accolades alone are no longer enough to drive sales growth. The new ‘look and feel’ of our brand is a visual symbol to real estate consumers that we understand the emotional aspects of buying and selling a home, and that our mission is to deliver extraordinary and memorable moments. Recently, a past client was looking to sell, and subsequently buy a larger, new-construction home. Despite encountering emotional details for a buyer on one transaction and convincing a builder to slightly adjust their standard offering on another, I was able to close both deals by being an effective communicator, negotiator and process organizer. I treat each client as if they were the only one and prioritize their needs above all else. That’s how I, as a relentless sales professional, deliver the extraordinary in every client relationship. I am always willing to take on the heavy lifting for my clients, so they can focus on the excitement and emotional aspects of buying or selling a home.”
Always Elevating: The Closing Experience
Last year, the CENTURY 21 System “put the industry on notice” when the global franchisor unleashed its first brand identity and reinvention since brokers Art Bartlett and Marsh Fisher established the CENTURY 21 brand in Orange County, Calif., in 1971. Now, the C21 brand intends to transform what is generally accepted to come with the most stress among homebuyers, sellers and the agents that represent them: the closing experience.
“We are seizing the opportunity to ‘own the closing’ and create emotional moments buyers and sellers will talk about, share online and remember when their next real estate need arises,” explains Cara Whitley, Century 21 Real Estate’s chief marketing officer. “The closing is a real opportunity to celebrate, and we are going to elevate this touchpoint to an experience that one of the largest investments most people make in a lifetime deserves.”
The CENTURY 21 brand recently unveiled its plans to lead the industry in changing the uninspiring real estate closing from uneventful to enjoyable.
“Emotional experiences are the biggest drivers of satisfaction, and they are the ones that trigger repeat purchases and long-term loyalty,” adds Whitley. “The days of the homebuyer and seller viewing the closing as stressful are numbered.”
To start, the brand will elevate homebuyer and seller satisfaction by enabling C21-affiliated agents to deliver a memorable experience with high-end personalized closing materials. Each element was designed to be unique, customizable, portable and sophisticated. The closing materials were unveiled at the brand’s One21Â® Experience in Las Vegas this past March.
“The clients and customers of the relentless CENTURY 21 agents will feel surprise and delight. They’ll leave the closing feeling inspired to share and talk about the materials online and with family and friends,” adds Whitley. “These user-generated stories and conversations about our direction to own the closing will be authentic and will amount to the best word-of- mouth marketing we could hope for.”
For more information, please visit www.century21.com. Â
Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at email@example.com.