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Seven Ways to Differentate Your Service

March 22 2010

DifferentiateToBeTheNicheBusinessTerri Murphy, a leading real estate speaker, trainer and coach, is providing an excellent Tuesday Tip program over on YouTube. This is part 11 of the 52 week series. In this session, she discusses the 7 pieces of Differentiation—Product, Price, Process, Relationship, Experience, Technology and Marketing.

Today, consumers use the internet throughout their lives to become informed about products and services before engaging a company or supplier. This is especially true of real estate, where consumers jump immediately from print to the web to learn more about properties.

When we refer to Print, we are referring to all types of print—business card, yard sign, newspaper ad, magazine ad, flier, park bench, billboard, etc. Everything that you do to market yourself in business today is a path to your online business strategy.

In real estate, your Product is the service you provide to buyers and sellers. How do you differentiate your service? Good service is typically measured in terms of responsiveness and the quality of your responsiveness. Be sure to let your clients know how they can communicate with you—email, text messaging, phone calls, website, online chat, etc. Moreover, let them know the hours you work and who to contact as a backup when you are not around in an emergency.

Good things aren’t cheep and cheep things are not good. Discounting your price reduces the confidence that a consumer has in your service. Unless you can provide your customer with excellent service for a lower price than your competitor, do not offer it. Full Service brokerage at Minimum Service pricing does not lead to Differentiation unless you have a magical way of pulling it off. Be careful before you discount.

This needs to be considered in two parts: buyer process and seller process. If you are working with a buyer, what buyer tools do you have available? What products are you using to evaluate the marketplace. We often think of using a CMA as a seller tool, but why not use it as a buyer tool to arm you and your client about the validity of a asking price. What neighborhood information do you have that will help a customer understand the lifestyle of living in a particular area vs. another area? One key to the buyer process is the offering of a website that will allow your customers to search all of the inventory in the area you serve in a way that allows you to observe your customer’s search behavior and be responsive to their property questions (IDX websites are excellent for this).

On the Seller Process side, ask yourself the same questions. What services would you expect from an agent representing you in the sale of your home? What tools do you use for pricing properties with confidence? There are a variety of market analytic tools on the site to help you with this. Obviously you need a great CMA that pulls comparables to educate you and your customer on properties that impact the value of a home. All agents have access to the same data, but make sure that you present the information in a well branded, clear, and concise way. Make sure that your listing presentation is awesome, and practice with your office manager of another agent to make sure you can deliver it with confidence. A big part seller process is property marketing. Focus on building a solid marketing plan for your properties—Staging,

Photography, Virtual Tour, Listing Syndication, open houses, flyers, postcards, print advertising, etc. Moreover, let your seller know that you will be tracking response rate and reporting back to them of the effectiveness of each of these tools. Don’t forget to provide information about your closing services, like Transaction Management, Legal Services, and post sale services you offer to help your customer become a customer for life.

when you first encounter a potential customer, do everything you can to learn about them and provide ways for them to learn about you. Obviously, you need to know a lot about a customer so that you can provide them with great service. One of the best tools for building a relationship with a customer is to provide them with an area tour. Literally get them in your car and drive around the neighborhoods where they may want to live. Show them the areas they may not know about that also meet their lifestyle preferences. It also gives you a relaxed time to get to know them, where they work, where their family lives, about their household, kids, etc. Finish up with a stop at your favorite restaurant—a place that you go often where the staff know you and treat you like you are the mayor. Additionally, be sure to ask the customer what social networks they use—Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook or none of the above—then welcome them to join your social networks.

If you are a new agent, focus on talking about the experience of your brokerage, its managers, and the team of agents that support and guide you in your first transactions. Invite your broker or manager to one of your first meetings. If both you and your brokerage are new, talk about the vision you have for real estate, and how you and your new company are breaking with tradition to offer a new way to buy and sell homes. If you are an experienced agent, be sure to leverage your references and even invite your past clients to call or drop a note to your new potential client to recommend you.

Have a ready inventory of the properties that you have sold and include client names. You may find that they know someone who you have done business with in the past. You may also want to include Agent Ratings or surveys that you have done to guarantee customer satisfaction on every transaction. Talk about the number of repeat customers!

Build an inventory of all of the technology tools that you use—even the obvious ones—MLS and MLS components like Tax Services; Laptop; Cell Phone with text, email, mobile search; agent website; virtual tour provider; listing syndication; measurement tools like Google Analytics.

Nothing speaks volumes about the way that your marketing will help a customer more than examples of your past marketing. Be sure to collect a portfolio of all of your marketing efforts—newsletters, flyers, print ads, online ads, broker marketing, etc. This gives your new customer the confidence that you do what you say, and say what you do.