Smart consumers and the path of opportunity

My wife typed the words “tire store” into Google. Boom — results galore. (See above).

Within 60 minutes she had run every result through Yelp. Boom — she had a crowdsourced dossier on every tire place within 20 miles of our home.

It was an hour well spent.

How consumers roll today

She discovered, right off, a simple bait-and-switch game: tire stores lure consumers in with name brand tires at low prices that are somehow “no longer available”, then suggest inferior options. This is kind of a big deal when replacing the only part of your car that touches the ground.

I wanted to use the local tire store three blocks away. The convenience of dropping the car off, walking home, and supporting a local business appealed to my sensibilities.

Lori showed me their reviews: Two stars. Overpriced. Poor service. Long wait times. Oh my.

Had it not been for the voluntary contributions of consumers like me, I never would have discovered…

Bob Brown

25 minutes away, Bob Brown’s four out of five stars appealed to Lori. The few negative reviews seemed inconsequential amid the good ones. They sold Cooper Tires. American made. The model we needed also got great reviews.

I called regarding the availability of my specific tire. Upon my word that I’d be coming, they dispatched a van to pick the tires up from their warehouse to have them ready for my arrival.

My experience with Bob Brown fit the reviews. I was in and out in 30 minutes, exactly as advertised.

Smart consumers

The Web has birthed a new psychographic known as the Smart Consumer. These are people who dig deep into the data points, content, images, video, news and reviews – the things that drive decisions.

Five or even three years ago, you might write these folks off as “outliers”, “power users” or even “kooks”. Today, with more and better information available, they’re darn near everybody.

What’s even more important is precisely when during the process this happens:

First.

The unaware consumer is fast becoming an endangered species.

Endless path of opportunity

I want to sell my rental property in Nipomo, Calif. We’d like to find a great agent who won’t bait and switch us with a wild estimate on what our property is worth or unrealistic time frames to sell it just to get the listing.

So Lori set out like she did in her hunt for tires, digging online.

A Google search for “real estate agent reviews” in Nipomo provided one solid result: Zillow.

Imagine that.

While the list on Zillow produced agents, we could see based on their profiles that most didn’t actually practice in Nipomo. That’s a bummer. But the real losers here are the brokerages and agents in Nipomo who were invisible to Lori because they don’t participate in a review process.

If this were 2001, I’d understand. Maybe. But in 2012, that’s just boneheaded.

This reality isn’t unique to Nipomo. Your market may be no different. And trust this reality: if consumers like Lori are willing to spend 60 minutes researching the best tire to buy, you can bet your next commission check that they’re digging deep for agents.

The opportunity

You want your brand to mean something.

You want leads.

You want to curtail the high cost of SEO.

You want to reward agents in your company who perform. Who get referred. Especially if you’ve been committed to recruiting and training the best agents you can.

The biggest debates in real estate business today focus on listings. These debates are important, but they tend to limit the range of vision, especially for brokerages. For when it comes to the critical decision point for both buyers and sellers – to that moment when one brokerage is chosen over others – merchandizing your agents is at least as important as merchandizing your listings.

You want to be where the consumer is. First. At the moment they decide it’s time to buy or sell.

Then be there with reviews. Proof points. Accurate information about market areas served and specializations. Data on past performance.

Perhaps you read about the launch of HomeLight last week. It’s an agent review and data site launched by a Google-funded company that went out and got brokerage licenses, grabbed MLS data… but doesn’t actually operate as a brokerage.

Brokers, this innovation is either going to be done by you or to you.

Don’t let this opportunity go. Grab it.  If you’ve got the chops, you can lead smart consumers right to your doorstep.

Just ask Bob Brown.

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