New brokerage model: from bust to boom

First published on Inman NewsJune 30, 2009

The corridors of real estate echo with the anxious cacophony of futuristic business model chatter.

Environmental branding, virtual space, marketing, social media and stemming the ooze of profitability caused by the open gash of lopsided splits are now on the gurney as the present model heads for open-heart surgery.


Today’s brokerage is dying. Its value proposition, earnings and moribund branding all are in dire need of defibrillation. Clear!

Its future hangs in the balance. A ghostly spirit invisibly hovers over its stilling life form, hoping for resuscitation and a second chance to exact influence over the marketplace.

Given the prognosis, today’s brokerage must look to the future. It needs the future. It can’t remain on life support much longer. Especially as they appear to have no influence over the masses who should be stampeding the marketplace during the greatest time in our lives to buy real estate.

To be a brokerage of the future, the brokerage of the present must undergo a complete repositioning. Starting yesterday.

Everything you thought just went boom

Repositioning a brand is no simple matter. It requires more than a new skin on a Web site, a sexy slogan or a feel-good promise.

At the onset, repositioning requires the brand to recognize the reasons for its decay. In almost all cases, decay forms when the changing needs of the consumer are not met, thus eroding the brand’s established position.

Buick understands that all too well. Their current reposition is wrapped up by their “Everything you thought about Buick just went boom” campaign. In order to succeed they must deliver on this promise or they will fail just as United Airlines, Clear Channel and others have.

The reasons for failure are simple. Failed attempts at repositioning can be visualized through a simplistic understanding of what is required to succeed. In short, to successfully reposition your brand you must:

Isolate the very reasons why your brand is eroding. Attend to only those things that are achievable rather than aspirational. Too often, a brand’s unsuccessful efforts either target things people don’t care about or they create overly ambitious goals that outstrip the brands’ ability to deliver on its promises.

United Airlines sought the unattainable with its “Rising” campaign, attempting to position the brand as the “most passenger-centric airline” in the industry. They articulated their understanding of consumer issues and hyped their solutions that effectively raised expectations, which were then deflated by their inability to deliver against promises.

Conversely, Virgin America’s success centered on the achievable — the simple things — they knew would make a difference for their guests. This set the stage for the provision of first-class seats to everyone, more leg room, ambient lighting, a self-serve mini bar and fun stuff to do while in flight.

Simple. Attainable. Targeted. They delivered.

A pulse, a passing grade and a business card

Open the brokerage up. Inside, cancer looms. Unlike Virgin America, the brokerage views its customers as leads that it captures, drips, manages and forces to convert through dubious value propositions rather than first-class comfort and engagement.

Semantics? Spare me. These words so blatantly define what the brokerage stands for to the public. It is the very reason why they resist calling you until the final leg of the transaction and then delete you post-closing.

Many of the agents who brokers recruited brought nothing other than a pulse, a passing grade and a business card to the table. Their qualifications pale in comparison to what Yelp requires for a customer-service position.

From one hand the brokerage baits through a sympathetic understanding that real estate is the most important transaction they will ever make. From the other they switch those who they lead-generate off to the least experienced in the roster who renders the largest split.

Brokerages skimp and save where investing matters most, such as your Web site and agent training, and spend irresponsibly on things that matter least, like space, content and advertising.

Brokerages scoff at social media. Or are baffled by it. Some force themselves with trivial meanderings, despite the success your counterparts experience, embrace and benefit from outside the industry.

Pipe dreams

Your attempt to attain future brokerage status will drown in the bong water if all you do is slap up a new site on WordPress, bang out a few blogs, recruit a few more top producers at 93/7 or lease a bistro like retail space sandwiched between Hugo Boss and Mac Cosmetics on Luxury Ave.

None of these things mean anything if below the surface, your brokerage is filled with the last 50 years of real estate sediment now clogging your arteries and causing your cardiac arrest.

What steps can you take to reposition your brand and become that brokerage model of the future?

– Daivson Twitter: 1000wattmarc

Part 2