Brokers: Get out of the real estate business

There’s an interesting article in the current issue of Fast Company any broker looking to differentiate should read.

The piece documents Starwood’s successful effort to burnish the Le Meridien Hotels brand by thinking outside the bounds of what most people think a hotel should do for its customers. They got out of the hotel business and into the business of creating memorable experiences.

The program, in a nutshell: Meridien now performs the role of tastemaker and curator for its guests, presenting them with art installations, cooking classes, signature fragrances and more. The company hired a French museum director as its "cultural curator." The "LM 100", an international group of "cultural innovators and artists," fuel the program.

You may find this sort of facile dilettantism pretentious. But it’s working. Online bookings are up dramatically.

Here’s the summation, delivered by a hospitality industry analyst:

"The old-school version of this would have been to put together a
committee, redesign the hotel, and that’s it," says brand maven Addis.
"Instead, these guys are going to be perpetually curating on behalf of
— not marketing at — its audience."

Are you, or is your company, "marketing at" your customer? Does your idea of what you could and should be doing prevent you from inviting them to share a distinctive experience?

Why shouldn’t your company ride a long tangent off the tight circle of conventional wisdom? It’s not like the old stuff is just too good to let go.

Really. Get out of the real estate business as you’ve known it and start differentiating. Slash your print ad spend and put an interior designer and landscape consultant on your staff (prospects get a free consultation; clients get on-site evaluations). Run home safety and self defense classes in the room you now use for office meetings. Check out this post from Davison for more ideas in this vein.

Could you make these things work in your company? I don’t know. You know. The point is to try something different, something neither you or your customer ever expected. Do it now, while the whole industry is off balance, while consumers are jaded. While everyone else is cutting their marketing teams. A cool drink tastes better in the desert. 

Step outside the real estate business for a while.

Brian Boero