Friday, November 22, 2013

Real Estate Brokers: What Do You Do to Make Yourself Stand Out?

A few weeks ago, I was talking with one of my sons about how fast business was growing at Native Rank, the startup SEO (search engine optimization) company he works for and is helping develop. He casually mentioned, in passing, how real estate websites are more difficult to manage than most others. "They all have the same content," he said.

It's pretty much true. They all have some sort of property search engine, even though few people out there use broker websites to search for properties. Most have mortgage calculators and similar
features. Most have a narrative on why the broker's service is so much better than anyone else's. Often, the site is equipped with a blog purporting to give "valuable information" and exhort the viewer to leave contact information. Some talk about the broker's "team." Others claim to be "your trusted advisor."

But by and large, broker websites are like American shopping malls: Plunk yourself down in one, and you're hard-pressed to know where in the world you are. As my son said, they all have the same content.

I've been thinking a lot about this, lately, since I'm considering (underline considering) getting my broker's license again. If I were to do that, how might I develop a brand?

By brand, I mean the unique je nais se quoi that sets one out from the other. Nordstrom vs. Sears. Whole Foods vs. Wal Mart. Audi vs. Chevrolet. For that matter, Chevy pickups vs. Ford pickups.

A lot of successful brokers don't spend a lot of time navel-gazing over this issue, probably because they're too busy buying and selling homes. And most of these folks that I know personally pretty much share one trait--a personal authenticity they've developed over time. But that's a personal quality known to their clients and network.

But still. If someone were going to list a home for sale or were thinking about buying one, how would  he or she shop for a broker? How do consumers find the quality level in a broker they want at the price they want to pay? And, more to the point, what do brokers do to address the issue? What can they do?

Or does it all matter anyway? To date, I don't think it has. Outside the recent crash and the savings and loan debacle in the 1990s, the housing market has had a pretty good run. Of course, some brokers are better than others, but by and large, anyone could do the job, and they al get paid the same.

But going forward into kind of stagnant years? I'm less certain. Just as other professional personal service people have developed specialties enabling consumers to choose one over the other, I suspect real estate brokers will have to as well.

Everyone's content can't be the same.