Letting it all hang out, Imperial Palace style

The Imperial Palace, Las Vegas.

It’s the type of place where you might find yourself buying a pack of Dorals – not because you smoke, but because it just feels right. Where the drinks are weak and the sheets are stiff.

I spent an afternoon playing nickel slots there with in-laws ten years ago, but I won’t be staying there when I head to town later this week.

Yet when you go to imperialpalace.com you find unfiltered guest reviews, direct from TripAdvisor.

Considering that a lot of what probably goes on at the Imperial Palace really should stay there, this is a gutsy move.

The reviews are not uniformly horrible. The place averages three stars on a five-star ratings scale, but “It is one step above prison” appears in a page-one review.

The Imperial Palace knows its customer, the value-oriented person, perhaps a senior or young party animal for whom 1,000-threadcount sheets are irrelevant. They may also have recognized a need to take a risk to gain trust.

In any case, I think this works.

“Some of our agents suck; work with us anyway!”

I bring this up because soon after I wrote last week about the Houston Association of Realtors‘ new agent ratings program, I came across this blog post from Future Now’s Jeff Sexton, in which he makes a really good point: “Customer reviews simply have more credibility than your sales copy, so they inspire more confidence in the buyer. And negative reviews lend credibility to the review process itself, standing as visible proof that the reviews are not edited.”

How true.

Consider this:

No one believes a real estate brokerage when they claim, without substantiation, that they have the “best agents.” Most designations have been gutted of meaning by years of cynicism and shameless bullshit.

What matters are the opinions of people like me, unfiltered by brands. It’s why I can look at the handful of so-so reviews of the Redfin agent in my area and be OK with them because I trust the process, trust the brand.

It’s also why I completely discount the claims on the half dozen marketing pieces I receive each week from Realtors at other companies.

A Palace of your own

Maybe you’re not the Wynn. Maybe you are the Imperial Palace: A little timeworn, but still with something to offer. That’s OK. It’s all in how you handle it.

Put reviews of your agents online. Let it all hang out: The good, the bad and the ugly. Candor can be a powerful strategy in real estate.

This is not a technology problem. It can be set up in a day for next to nothing. The procedural challenges (e.g., getting the client’s email address, verifying identity) are surmountable.

So what might you lose? A few agents who should have left anyway? A couple top producers with dubious benefit to your bottom line?

And your gain? Perhaps trust. Meaning. A brand.

Something all the chips in Vegas couldn’t buy you.