I was in Florida this past week where I met with a real estate agent who restored my faith (and reminded me) that there are many effective ways to sell in a commoditized marketplace.
Whether you’re looking for a supplement with an ingredient you can only find in one place on earth, a mastermind that is a niche of a niche of a niche, a used car in Texas, a personal injury attorney in Indiana, a pop-up jeweler in Ohio, or property in Florida, serving your potential (and ongoing) clients is where the magic happens.
This real estate agent reminded me of all of those above examples in one way or another and you can read about them in my post, “Unique Commodities”
I love having my faith restored in this way and I will continue to share this concept with you as I find more and more specific examples on how it works in marketing today, whether for products or services.
Leading with service, value (and of course a unique selling proposition or USP) have little to do with creating an immediate sale; or trying to achieve success because you happened to meet a particular client on the exact day they were ready to buy.
That’s dartboard marketing and I don’t recommend it…although feel free to play it if you like.
However, service, value and a USP have everything to do with selling thoroughly and with a target other than a dartboard.
Episodic marketing (defined as certain times in the life cycle of humans when they are truly ready to buy, especially high ticket items like cars and homes) starts with a bit of foreplay (a form of speed dating to gather information) …into building a relationship…and eventually to cashing a check from those humans.
There is also an element of customer service and fulfillment involved…what I call “patient marketing” …to create a differentiated experience from all of your competitors no matter what service industry you are involved in.
Note that everything we do is some form of selling into a commoditized market until you make it “not commoditized” …and then it becomes specialty marketing…which beats commoditized marketing every time.
The differentiated real estate agent
The one I just met in Florida had all of the basics: Comfortable leather chairs in her meeting room, unlimited bottles of cold water, some chocolates (leftover from Halloween but not stale yet), and a roomy car with a full tank of gas to take us around to look at properties.
But during the information gathering session, I noticed that she was actually taking copious notes…not always the norm but it should be…and asking questions like a top gun copywriter might, getting underneath the surface to find things she could eventually cash in on…emphasis on “eventually.”
Then she dropped two bombs which told me all I needed to know about her:
1) She told us about a client she had who bought a million-dollar home through her…then needed to be out of town for a few months…and without him asking, she insisted (as a housewarming gift) that he leave her the keys to his new home just in case something needed checking on.
This is not part of her job description or part of the list of services she provides…she is a real estate agent, not a caretaker.
She was adding value after the sale when she already cashed her commission check.
Why would she do that?
Maybe she felt it was part of what she earned already, kind of a bonus to her client for choosing her?
I don’t think it was that she felt guilty (as some real estate brokers should feel) after earning gobs of money for virtually doing little or no work.
Of course, “referrals” could be on her mind (i.e., this buyer will recommend her in the future to others) …but I saw it was definitely more than that.
She was doing something that few others in her situation do and my guess is that she has some other things she’s done similarly in the past which we may learn about in the future. I hope so.
With her absent client’s keys in hand, she got a call from her client’s neighbor that the gutters on the new home were full of leaves causing a potential “crises water event” on the front yard, the neighbor’s yard and on the roof.
She took it on herself to arrange to get the gutters cleaned immediately, no questions asked.
And she insisted on paying the $300 to have it done out of her own pocket (i.e., she refused reimbursement).
Well, there was a $50,000+ commission already in her pocket so what’s $300 in a goodwill or thank you payment?
It may be a small thing but this showed me that she gets it in regard to differentiating herself in a unique way.
2) Right at the beginning of our initial meeting with her, she asked about our timeline to buy—to which I said “up to 18 months”—and instead of writing us off as people who may never buy, she played a long game in the present and positioned herself as the “patient real estate agent” (which seems like an oxymoron).
She let us know that she will be in touch periodically with new listings which fit our parameters since we are out of town; and because she had done such a thorough job interviewing us, I am confident she will only contact us with properties of keen interest to us.
Will she follow up with us through a sale?
And do other real estate agents who have every advantage she has with online listings, and the wonders of email and FaceTime, do the same thing, even when given an 18 month timeline?
But my conclusion is if she sets herself up for future success this way, like she did with us, with every prospective new client, she will do very well over the long haul (despite getting burned once in a while by notorious “house (a.k.a. tire) kickers” (which we are not).
Given her “humble brag” re: the $300 she spent on cleaning the gutters for a past client and the setting up of a follow up program that could last a year and a half or more, she is leading with service and value and her version of a USP. With more to come.
I wanted to give her some advice like I gave to the used car salesman and personal injury attorney
However, she will figure it out on her own…maybe much better…with congruency to her own marketing style.
Actually, I don’t even think she knows she has a “marketing style”…nor does she need one.
I’m looking forward to seeing the additional ways she differentiates herself from her competitors in the real estate space since we spent so little time with her and we both learned so much.
Selfishly, I know she will also give me new ideas as I continue to coach folks in all service industries.
The bottom line?
She has got my full attention and she has created a “barrier to switch” (i.e., I am not shopping elsewhere) …for now.
P.S. If you haven’t read “Unique commodities,” I encourage you to read it here to go deeper on this subject.
And I would love your feedback and insights of course.
P.P.S. Speaking of feedback, thank you to everyone in my online family who responded to the survey I sent a couple of weeks ago.
You’ve given me a lot to think about (and write about) in the future.
Your generosity (even with some of the “bad news” about some of these posts) was all useful and welcome.
Last November I wrote a post titled “Open rates are overrated” about the value of “engagement” with a list family and how that is the true measure of communication—not open rates.
It was inspired by the top email marketing guy in the world, Ben Settle.
The bonus for those of you who filled out the survey was a link to a very special presentation Ben delivered at Titans Mastermind…directly from the Titans Vault.
If you were one of the lucky ones who received it, send me your thoughts on that as well, even if you want to make the case for open rates being more important than engagement…but prepare to lose that argument. 🙂