“Well, I suppose nothing is meant to last forever. We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel. You get on, you have to go to the end. And then somebody has the same opportunity to go to the end and so on.” – Vivian Maier
We spend a lot of time in this industry thinking and talking about disruption. Longevity is the opposite of that, but equally significant.
It’s a topic we like to dive into with our clients. And while no one can accurately predict the future – except maybe a handful of whip smart data nerds – it’s important to think about when crafting and honing your brand story and message.
Why will you endure?
You have to be willing to be honest with your answer and push past the veil of words you typically use to describe your value.
Truth is there is no secret sauce to longevity in this business. Real estate is heavily impacted by regulation, greater economic circumstances, geopolitical events and changing technology. But focusing on the following is a good place to ground your brand in a way that also enables it to grow.
1. Know your customer. Sure, everyone thinks they know their customer. But not many really do. For brokers, agents are a customer. Have you surveyed them lately? Have you sat down and talked with them about their impressions of your brand? Have you figured out what exactly it is they want and need from you? Have you met those needs as they’ve changed?
At what point did your customer – whether that’s the agent or the consumer – trust you? And why?
2. Know your market. Knowing your market means more than knowing whether sales are up or down this year. It means knowing the things that are impacting people’s decisions to buy or sell. It means understanding your local economy. It means knowing what your competitors are doing well and what they are not doing well. It means knowing where your buyers and sellers are looking for houses before they call you. It means knowing why your agents join or leave your brokerage. It means knowing why they stay or what they need to run a successful business.
Knowing all of this dovetails into my next point:
3. Understand your place in the market – i.e., the special value you bring. When you have a clear picture of your marketplace, it’s easier to understand where you sit within that picture and what makes you different. Having a different and special value helps with resilience.
Being different could mean you have a unique company culture that shows up in everything you do. It could mean you offer top-down support on every transaction that comes through the door. Maybe you offer a consumer program no other broker in your market offers. Whatever it is, it is something you own.
4. Articulate what makes you different both inside and outside your company. It’s not enough to know your customer, market, where you sit inside that market and what special value you bring to the table. You need to make that known inside and out.
You need to show it and act it as part of the articulation. It’s more than words.
5. Be willing to evolve your story, but be strict about staying true to your brand. Great brands are living things. They evolve over time just like people. Evolving doesn’t have to mean flip-flopping, though.
As you grow, your brand story should naturally change a bit. But like a person, that change is simply a new version of a former self. It’s not like we grow older and get entirely new bodies every 10 years. It’s more like our experiences change the way we see things. Our experiences change our vocabulary and references. Our world changes our world view.
I will survive
One of the most interesting aspects of the real estate business is that so many companies and brands have endured – 60, 80 or 100+ years. When you compare that to other industries and even small businesses as a category, it’s pretty incredible.
But the point is you can’t take that for granted. You can’t say your business will endure because of its heritage. Your history plays an important part in your brand story, but it’s not going to be what carries you through major shifts in consumer demographics and behavior, or changes in the industry.