2010: The American Real Estate Brokerage

The secret to becoming #1 is simple: tap into the public consciousness and relentlessly deliver what it wants.

It helps to make your own list of the brands that accomplish that for you.

My listed includes: The Clash. The Yankees. Howard Stern. Apple. Porsche. Alembic. Vox Amplification. Peets. Paul Smith. Butch, my guitar tech. Junior’s Cheesecake. And”

The Four Seasons Hotel

I won’t bore you with the details of my holiday vacation. It suffices to say I was long overdue for some personal time off.

My travels included stays at different hotels and visits to a dozen others (Vegas). For the most part all were pleasant places that went through the motions.

However, on New Year’s Eve we flew into San Francisco and checked into The Four Seasons Hotel. When I checked out, I left inspired.

Forget the interior decor, or thread count in the sheets – things that could easily be cloned by any other hotel. It was in the nuances. The simple things that told me someone in corporate intuitively understands what people want. And cared enough to provide it.

These things include: The precise vocal timbre used by the staff  – one tuned to place you at immediate ease. The elevator that remains open and ready for you when you arrive in the lobby. The food. The bottles of L’Occitane in the bathroom. The quality of hand towels in the public bathroom. The rollaway cot placed in our suite prior to arrival for our eight year-old.

Simple things. Attentive things. Thing your spouse does without asking that makes you love them above all others. Things that tap into your psyche and make you feel great about your decision to engage a brand.

If the Four Seasons were a real estate brokerage, they would rule the marketplace.

That got me thinking.



The last three years were the best years in the history of American real estate brokerage.

They forced you to face your demons and take stock of the sprites that mischievously toyed with your value and brand proposition.

You were inundated with new ways to market your company. Instead of ignoring these things, you inquired about them. Aggressively tackled them. As a result you have been forced to think harder, faster, deeper and more creatively than ever before.  You are emerging better as a result.

I’ve noticed. As a fan of the American Brokerage, here in the bleachers where I sit, I’ve been watching the game and keeping track of your hits, RBI’s and sacrifices. That sound you sometimes hear but can’t place is my applause from afar.

But there is more work to be done. I’m sure most of you are meeting this week and setting agendas for the year. I’d like to help out by suggesting a few things you could think about and execute over the next four quarters to help get you to the top of your marketplace.

This list has been assembled from the many things I’ve seen and been a part of during 2009. Executing these things isn’t necessarily cheap, easy or simple. Then again, perfecting the simple things, the things that make the most difference, typically isn’t.

Here goes:

  • Rethink affiliates, vendors, and products you offer your agents that are there because someone paid to have them there. Instead, provide a directory of the best vendors in the world. These may not be the cheapest. Or ones cast from the mold of real estate blue. But what you loose on affiliate income you will make back tenfold by not spinning your agents’ wheels on useless junk.
  • Invest more in educating your agents on the things that are actually relevant today. Like, 1) Pricing Listings properly, 2) Marketing, branding and social media, 3) Communication, 4) SEO, 5) Business planning. Bring in the best trainers. The smartest thinkers. Not the cheapest. Or ones cast from the tenured mold of real estate blue.
  • Direct your marketing department to take a few left turns, on two wheels, then gun the engine and burn so much rubber they leave skid marks a mile long.
  • Present your vision to your company. Last year I participated in a three-day event hosted by a large east coast brokerage for their agents. In attendance where the members of the firm’s executive staff and several other creative partners and vendors. We presented twice a day, distilling the respective visions, products and services offered and fielding hundreds of questions from a thousand agents. The ensuing clarity united an already cohesive company: a Four Seasons Brokerage if there ever was one.
  • Make one promise to the public that you and every agent can commit too. But here’s the trick: make it a promise that matters. Like a return call within five minutes or less. Or fifty images for every listing.
  • Scrutinize every detail on your website – the window to the soul of your brokerage. Many of you have too much clutter on the windowpane and too much frost on the glass. Make it easier for the public to understand you. Immediately.
  • Forget doing an iPhone app. There are far better ways to spend $30,000. Contrary to what you may think, an iPhone app will not make you look cool and the 15-minutes of industry fame it buys has no ROI. For $30,000, consider a killer CRM tool. Or a subscription to market data you and your agents can use to create informative monthly newsletters for your customers. If you want to develop a mobile app, consider instead an agnostic web-based platform that works on every phone.
  • Social Media: The times demand you do it right. While many have found it fulfilling to connect, converse and share passions with their peers in real estate, the bottom line is significant business opportunities can be derived from creating a well-thought out social media initiative. It’s neither easy nor something every broker can execute on. Proceed cautiously and with clear intent.
  • Conversion. 2010 is the year you need to place a stake in the ground regarding the number of Web inquiries you must convert to make your Web-based investments pay off. This means you need a Website built for conversion. It means you need to create a team of specialized agents who understand the Web user and how to communicate with them. It also means you need someone in charge of that team who can evaluate all your Web based relationships, your listing syndication, your media assets, and tune these things in a manner that makes profit margins possible.
  • Build the largest database of local images and video possible. If not you then who? Some 12 year-old with a Flip camera and a Droid.



Arguably, The Four Seasons Hotel offers the very same things every other hotel does. But in every single instance, they present these things in a manner that is unique and understated.  They need not boast or scream how great they are – this can be felt within seconds of approaching just about any touch point.

This is not impossible in real estate. But it does seem like it hadn’t really occurred to most brokerages, which makes it all the more exciting to watch the few companies go for it and the others working hard to improve upon it.

Your 2010 can be everything you decide it to be.

– Davison