Why some agents are like market stall holders at the end of the day (and they are trying to shift over ripe fruit)
I live in a boring little market town in the East Midlands called Grantham. Once a month I like to visit the market (on the 2nd Saturday of the month) when the Lincolnshire Farmers Market nearly doubles the size the ‘normal’ market.
I love to people watch, especially the difference between the way farmers and the barrowboy market people sell their wares with their various different marketing techniques. Their different selling/marketing techniques made me think of marketing techniques used in the lettings and estate agency arena.
What is marketing for?
One reason we market to potential landlords and house sellers, outside our aspiration to create brand awareness for our lettings and estate agency, is to communicate how and why our lettings and estate agency is different and better than those of the competitor agents.
Now it goes without saying, how our lettings / estate agency services are created and experiences are designed can be differentiators. Yet, we as letting/ estate agents sometimes fail to notice the opportunities to differentiate and more importantly … add value—especially when it comes to our marketing tactics.
Back to market in Grantham, market stall greengrocers vie for the attention of people walking by. The method adopted by most is to discount and shout. The market stall greengrocers who use this tactic change their pitch according to the time of day or how much fruit is left, so that it appeals to whatever the bargain hunter seems to be looking for. The result feels like an inconsistent, unpredictable, erratic .. almost like its an emergency - which no doubt it often is as the fruit goes out of date
Compare that with the Farmer who shows up with a small range of quality, seasonal produce. I know this because there is a framer who sells the most wonderful cheese (Lincolnshire Poacher – 3 year old cheese – strong isn’t the word!)
Our Lincolnshire Poacher farmer doesn’t discount, he isn’t shouting or badgering people as people walk past his stall. His patient, predictable, consistent approach means the same customers return each month (he always has queue and he knows people by name).
He was recommended by a friend – and I have told people when I knew they were going into Grantham, and so his faithful customer base grows over time—no shouting, no touting, no cheap deals required.
His marketing strategy is an intentional act of differentiation… but not different for different sake. His marketing is deliberate, differentiated and aligned with my values as the exceptional cheeses he chooses to make, serve and sell.
The question is, do you really think the way most agents market themselves, with cheap fee deals (discounting), landlords wanted leaflets (badgering), door knocking (hard sell touting) is deliberate, differentiated and aligned with your values as the exceptional lettings and estate agency service you chooses to make, serve and sell?
What type of agent are you?
Let me start by asking some questions. In life …
· What do you think of the person at the party that just talks about themselves all night?
· Do like to be jumped on in a store or shop with the hard sell?
· What do you think to people who try and close the sale too early?
· Do you always buy for cheapest thing? (Be that car, be that supermarket brand etc etc)?
.. be honest .. most of you .. if you were honest to yourself – would have answered in a negative way to all the questions, but that is what 95% of the lettings and estate agency do with our marketing.
It’s all look at us, we are brilliant, we have let/sold 10 houses this week, cheap fees, roll up roll up , get your cheap fees here in a market stall style.
Does dropping 10,000 leaflets with a message that says ‘Use us – You will be amazed by our Service’ really work like they use to 10 years?
Does bragging about how big your agency is work anymore?
Does telling people how many properties you have sold impresses anyone? (except your Mum and the boss)
Come on guys .. wake up .. the world has changed in the last 10 years
.. that isn’t your fault the world has changed - but has the way UK Letting Agents and UK Estate Agents market themselves changed to fit in with that new world over the last 10 years? No – it hasnt … and you need to change otherwise you will sleep walk into oblivion – like Woolworths, like Comet, like C&A, like Blockbuster.
That’s is what is happening to Countrywide, to Sequence, to LSL and most independents in the UK. Change the logo and font and every agents marketing is like the barrow-boy stall holder – ‘Get yer cheap fee deals here’, ‘Look how wonderful we are Mrs’ etc etc.
So what to do?
Easy - you need to stand out from the crowd of the other agents in your town with your marketing and not fade into the background …
1. You need to be the best letting agent otherwise you are just inferior and second best
2. You need to the different letting agent .. because the opposite of different is uniform and standard
3. You need to be a noteworthy letting agent (because the opposite of noteworthy is unexceptional, insignificant and boring
4. you need to an intriguing letting agent (because the opposite of intriguing is boring, unexciting and unstimulating
5. You need to educate – because the opposite of educate is neglect and ignorance
6. You need to be a remarkable letting agent – otherwise you are just average, ordinary and inconsequential
7. You need to be an extraordinary letting agent – because the opposite is just ordinary
Want to know the answer to survive and thrive as a Letting Agent in the 21st Century?
1. Be the best .. no landlord has every said, “I want the most mediocre agent in the town to manage my property”. It’s time to aim for excellence. Stop selling your yourself and start telling landlords what they want to hear (because people don’t like to be sold to).
2. Be different .. not for different sake .. different in a way landlords (and vendors) will care about –
3. Its not about brand awareness anymore. If any part of your marketing is about brand awareness – that worked 10 years ago – but doesn’t work now. I know many brands – but I don’t use them – and the same goes for you. Being noticed is not the same as being noteworthy. Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won't accomplish much and whilst it will get you a night in the cells at the local Cop Shop – it wont get you any new instructions. It's easy to pull off a stunt, but not useful
4. Be intriguing by making landlords and vendors want to hear what you have to say. Landlords wanted leaflets aren’t intriguing…. Would anyone miss them if you stop delivering them?
5. Be educational .... teach landlords and homeowners stuff they might not know, stuff they need to know.
6. Be remarkable .. make people ‘re-mark’ about what you say and do. And don’t forget .. remarkable doesn't mean remarkable to you (or your Mum). It means remarkable to me. Is a landlords or vendor going to make a remark about it? If not, then you are average, and average is for losers.
7. You need to be an extraordinary agent but extraordinary isn’t for everyone. So bl**dy what? Most people are ostriches with their heads in the sand. Your goal isn't to please everyone. Either your goal is to be like every other agent in your town (ie average and ordinary) or your goal is to be extra-ordinary. Please those landlords and homeowners that will actually spread the word, those want an agent who knows what they are doing
Why is this important?
I swear most letting agents went to the same ‘letting agent business generation academy’ in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s – because most of you seem to do exactly the same when it comes to your marketing.
It’s like 80% of you are reading from the same manual, and I bet it’s called ‘The Dummies Guide to getting Landlords for your Lettings Agency’ book, and after the reading the book, you all believe the accepted wisdom of how to attract landlords, is to market yourself as the local, professional letting agent, who is qualified, offers a great service. Sorry, saying those sort of things on your marketing worked 10 years ago, but doesn’t work now,
As agents, all of us need to understand the urgency of the situation because half-measures simply won't do.
The only way to grow as a letting agent is to abandon your strategy of “what I did yesterday, but better”
Be the local property expert … Be the authority on the local property market