03 Sep PurpleBricks, Russell Quirk And Countrywide.
Purplebricks, Russell Quirk and Countrywide.
Well, that headline should get some attention.
But that's the problem.
Attention in't enough.
A debate I had recently on Twitter with Russell Quirk.
He'd jumped on the Sunday Times bandwagon that suggested Online Estate Agency won't break the dominance of high street agency. In his "humble opinion, it works to a market share ceiling of 10%. Works with fewer competitors. The sector is too saturated."
My response was that the market ceiling could have been raised considerably had the marketing from every online agency not been so poor. There was need, I suggested, to spread a mindset, not just a footprint. And having the name on every social media platform, together with below as well as above the line promotion, was simply creating awareness.
Because there was no marketing message, there was little engagement.
Russell's response was that multiple approaches to messaging have been tried across various proposition points: service, price, performance, tech, influencer, accessibility.
I came back that "vendors want to know who is behind the brand. Not what the brand delivers. Change brings risk. Risk brings fear. So fee isn't so much a factor as reassurance. It (reassurance) is not there."
Vendors aren't reassured by a message proclaiming perceived service benefits. Certainly not a message that features price. Nor performance. No message on tech can ignite the shift from good to great, neither instill faith and trust. Influencer marketing isn't appropriate, nor is accessibility or convenience.
"I think Sarah Beeny tried that." wasn't the answer I was hoping for when I suggested that vendors need reassurance.
More real, more human, more personal. If online agencies can't figure out how to talk to one person, it doesn't really pay to scale up their efforts to talk to thousands.
The huge customer acquisition costs are the main reason, they claim, why online hasn't succeeded. It's the same for any agency that tries to buy their way into market share with brand awareness. Yes, I've heard of you. So what?
What they seem to be suggesting is that without a huge media spend, there is no business.
What of PurpleBricks and Countrywide then?
An article on Property Industry Eye from Paul Smith.
The basis of which was that Purplebricks will likely slash media spend and even, perhaps, adopt the no-sale-no-fee approach in order to compete with the high street agents.
Here's my take.
Their brand awareness has been built on TV exposure and if that goes, along with it goes much of their credibility. Of course they're an established brand, but along with the online disruptors, consumers don't have any loyalty to the brand.
Again, because there has been no message. Other than Save Yourself Commissery.
The meaningless platitudes that almost every agency brings forth have no substance to them
'That's a smooth move.'
'Connecting people, property, perfectly.'
'We're on a mission to get you moved.'
'We've created an emovement.'
'Refreshingly Different Estate Agents.'
'Best Possible Price in the Shortest Possible Time.'
These aren't agencies that struggle to pay for exceptional creative work. They're top of the tree.
But they are agencies sadly lacking in their strategic ability to build relationships with a local community.
Plenty of awareness. But, just like the online agencies, little in the way of engagement.
So, they continue to "hustle for their worth" as Brené Brown so beautifully phrases it.
Countrywide, too, is in for its fair share of criticism from Paul Smith.
Closing branches seems to be the gripe that Paul has, along with non-existent marketing spend.
"When did you last see a Countrywide branch doing well in the search engine rankings?" he questions.
Oblivious to the fact that over-reliance on S.E.O is the legacy of former CEO, Alison Platt, and the cause of many of their problems. The answer is not to increase spend on social media, enriching the coffers of Facebook, Google and any number of social media management companies.
The answer to the problem is the same answer that I would give PurpleBricks and every estate agency that struggles. Get enrollment from the community you serve.
Enrollment, the next stage on from Awareness is achieved by sharing beliefs, values and culture with those you seek to serve. Particularly the character of the front-line troops. If you're going to create affinity, you're going to have to say something of interest.
Other than 'we are better value, more passionate, more professional, and more customer-oriented than everyone else.'
Without wishing to slate the dedicated local property experts at some companies, the best they can come up with in terms of sharing values leaves considerable room for improvement. Here's the first two that I looked at:
"About Me - Every property and motivation for moving is unique, so rather than offering a cookie-cutter service, I base it on my client's needs. My family history in property and my 18 years of sales experience mean I have an exceptional grasp of local property sales."
"About Me - I have been selling homes in the area for seven years and counting. As your local estate agent, with my knowledge and expertise in the local market, I will work relentlessly to achieve the sale of your property for the best price."
If people buy from people, shouldn't a vendor know something about the person they might instruct, other than the above vanilla vapidness? Where's the passion? Where's the enthusiasm? Where's the detail of why they do what they do? Are they human, or are they estate agents?
It's not just Purplebricks or YOPA that gets it so wrong. Nearly every agent is guilty of hiding behind a mask. A mask they all wear to overcome the fears of being transparent. Of being vulnerable. The risk of not being liked.
And so they take away all the risk by saying nothing, that might be even a little, interesting.
That's the problem online estate agency faces. The same problem that high street agency faces.
THERE IS NO MESSAGE!
You're a commodity, my friend.
Working too many hours for too little money.
The online agency model hasn't died of natural causes.
It was strategically dead on arrival.
Be thankful, if you're a high street agency, that Purplebricks hasn't come round to a better way of thinking.
Thankful that Countrywide hasn't turned itself into a media company. Hasn't shone the spotlight on those employees that work centre stage. Hasn't learnt the value of Personal Brand in the community.
Thankful that online agencies so little understand the power of words, or of message, that the likes of Russell Quirk now feel it's beyond them to grow market share above 10%.
You get paid big money for who you are. You get small money for what you do.
So, although vendors may be willing to pay more for the service they receive at the top end of the market, what they're really buying is the reassurance of a certain brand, and more importantly, the reassurance of an agent for whom they feel some connection.
" The primary wisdom is intuition. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their origin." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
MESSAGE - PLATFORM - ENVIRONMENT
First, get the message right. Share it on the right platform. And adapt the business to prevailing market conditions. You can't take the second step before you get the first step right.
If you want to earn the attention your work deserves, you will have to prove that you have something interesting to say.
Turn data into drama, if you must, but for me, the story of your life is far more interesting.
A portrait of the Estate Agent/Realtor, just being human.
Personal brand is what connects. Whether we know it or not.
There's vendors out there looking for an agent just like you.
Don't make it hard for them to find you.
That's my message.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
You'll find more details on personal brand for estate agents/realtors on my website:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. My advice is always free.