This is how we do it... at least, this is how informed consumers proceed with their real estate process. And the commentary is right on task. Thank you.
Real Estate Market and Smart Consumers
Marc and Lori needed tires. Immediately. Lori embarked on an adventure in research. She typed the words "tire store" into Google. Boom -- results galore.
Within 60 minutes she had of run every result through Yelp. Boom -- she had a crowdsourced dossier on every tire place within 20 miles of my home.
It was an hour well spent.
It is how consumers roll today: She discovered, right off, a simple bait and switch game: tire stores lure consumers in with name brand tires at low prices that are somehow "no longer available", then suggest inferior options. This is kind of a big deal when replacing the only part of your car that touches the ground. He wanted to use the local tire store three blocks away. The convenience of dropping the car off, walking home, and supporting a local business appealed to his sensibilities. Lori showed him their reviews: Two stars. Overpriced. Poor service. Long wait times. Oh my.
Had it not been for the voluntary contributions of consumers like him, he never would have discovered...
About Bob Brown: 25 minutes away, Bob Brown's four out of five stars appealed to Lori. The few negative reviews seemed inconsequential amid the good ones. They sold Cooper Tires. American made. The model we needed also got great reviews.
He called regarding the availability of the specific tire. Upon his word that he'd be coming, they dispatched a van to pick the tires up from their warehouse to have them ready for his arrival. His experience with Bob Brown fit the reviews. He was in and out in 30 minutes, exactly as advertised.
About “Smart Consumers”: The Web has birthed a new psychographic known as the Smart Consumer. These are people who dig deep into the data points, content, images, video, news and reviews - the things that drive decisions.
Five or even three years ago, you might write these folks off as "outliers", "power users" or even "kooks". Today, with more and better information available, they're darn near everybody. What's even more important is precisely when during the process this happens. The unaware consumer is fast becoming an endangered species.
The endless path of opportunity: I want to sell my rental property in Nipomo, Calif. We'd like to find a great agent who won't bait and switch us with a wild estimate on what our property is worth or unrealistic time frames to sell it just to get the listing. So Lori set out like she did in her hunt for tires, digging online.
A Google search for "real estate agent reviews" in Nipomo provided one solid result: Zillow.
Imagine that. While the list on Zillow produced agents, we could see based on their profiles that most didn't actually practice in Nipomo. That's a bummer. But the real losers here are the brokerages and agents in Nipomo who were invisible to Lori because they don't participate in a review process.
If this were 2001, I'd understand. Maybe. But in 2012, that's just boneheaded.
This reality isn't unique to Nipomo. Your market may be no different. And trust this reality: if consumers like Lori are willing to spend 60 minutes researching the best tire to buy, you can bet your next commission check that they're digging deep for agents.
Here is the opportunity: You want your brand to mean something. You want leads. You want to curtail the high cost of SEO. You want to reward agents in your company who perform. Who get referred. Especially if you've been committed to recruiting and training the best agents you can.
The biggest debates in real estate business today focus on listings. These debates are important, but they tend limit the range of vision, especially for brokerages. For when it comes to the critical decision point for both buyers and sellers -- to that moment when one brokerage is chosen over others -- merchandising your agents is at least as important as merchandising your listings.
You want to be where the consumer is. First. At the moment they decide it's time to buy or sell. Then be there with reviews. Proof points. Accurate information about market areas served and specializations. Data on past performance. Perhaps you read about the launch of HomeLight last week. It's an agent review and data site launched by a Google-funded company that went out and got brokerage licenses, grabbed MLS data... but doesn't actually operate as a brokerage.
Brokers, this innovation is either going to be done by you or to you.
Don't let this opportunity go. Grab it. If you've got the chops, you can lead smart consumers right to your doorstep.
Just ask Bob Brown. [:-)
Note: The NAR indicates (through exit polls and mailing questionnaires) that most home buyers/sellers start their searches on Google. By using search terms that meet their requirements, i.e., “3 bedroom 2 bath home for sale in ….. “, THEN searching for said agent in the same area, Google first. Zillow is great. Google is free. And great, too.
This information shared by Marc Davison (Inman) via re-message email.