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Friday, May 4, 2012

The end of engagement in real estate

The magazine ad didn’t do it.

The billboard was even worse.

The park bench was wooden, but not as much as the tagline.

When looking back it seems crystal clear—old real estate marketing was relatively robotic.

The thought might have been there. It might have performed its duty. But it had no human element.

Holding the telephone to the ear only made one look so talkative. A picture with a pet only made one seem pretentious. The consumers might have seen it, but they didn’t bring it up. They saw their real estate agent, but they might not have known him. He was an advertisement. His picture was modeled.

Maybe it was the evolution of media. Maybe it was the accessibility of the Internet. Maybe it was the rollercoaster of the economy. But at some point in recent years, consumers began yearning for a human element in business.

They might have had less money to spend. They might have learned to spend their money more wisely. Maybe they were burnt before. Maybe they were oversold a product or investment that under-delivered.

It might not have been the sales person’s fault, but it taught them a lesson, all the same. They grew more conservative. They did more homework. They wanted to work with someone they know; someone they could trust. They wanted to be educated rather than sold. And they wanted it to be from someone who they could relate to; someone who was human.

It doesn’t seem like much to ask for. Be yourself in exchange for one’s business. Help them with their problems and maybe they’ll help you earn your sale. And yet, it’s not always there.

Where do you start as a sales person? How do you cater to what a consumer needs when they might be more prone to research and communicate online, hidden comfortably behind their computer screens?

The first step is engagement with the customer. He doesn’t always want to be sold to, but he certainly wants to be helped. Sometimes that’s before he’ll even provide his name—he wants to know you can offer something of value before you’ll start calling repeatedly to ask for his business.

He knows with enough work and enough research he might find what he’s looking for. But he knows a true expert in the industry can better advise him on his decisions. He wants to know he’s found that, and he might not give you all his contact information until he knows he can trust you. And when he does, and you engage to grow that relationship, he’ll feel you’re the person to turn to.

Companies often claim their customer service is number one. Many of those that didn’t have great customer have faced hardships since the economy adjusted. You feel you can provide great service to your customers, but first you need customers to provide service to.

In this new real estate market, ego is last. Engagement is first. Customers are acting accordingly, and those who want their business will follow suit. They’ll look for methods to better engage those inquiries that might become leads that might become customers. They’ll look to improve their response time to best answer a customer’s questions. They’ll look to educate their customers with the information they’re armed with, so their customers trust whom they should turn to with their next real estate decision.

Engagement is key, but it will only go so far as a real estate agent is willing to take it, and work only so well as a real estate platform is willing to quickly foster communication and education channels.

And that platform—the right one that fosters communication quickly and easily and promotes engagement from a good real estate agent—will trump any billboard, magazine, or park bench in today’s new real estate economy.
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