The Brand Illusion | Part 1

I recently read with great interest the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) “2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.”

One thing that really stood out as I read the NAR Profile is that, when it comes to the factors people emphasize when selecting a Realtor, brand/company is not very important.

Let me say that again: when it comes to the factors people emphasize when selecting a Realtor, brand/company is not very important.

The people polled were asked to name the “most important factors” they considered when choosing an agent. The chart below, which I excerpted directly from the NAR Profile, details the responses.

In fact, of all the reasons given, “agent’s association with a particular firm” is considered the most important factor only 3% of the time.

Let me repeat that: of all the reasons given, “agent’s association with a particular firm” is considered the most important factor only 3% of the time.

most important factors when choosing an agent

 

Further, of all the reasons given, “agent’s association with a particular firm” was the second LEAST important. All these other factors were considered more important than the company/brand with which the agent was associated:

  • Honesty and trustworthiness
  • Reputation of agent
  • Agent is friend or family member
  • Agent’s knowledge of neighborhood
  • Agent has caring personality/good listener
  • Other

This proves what I’ve known – based on professional experience – for a very long time: people choose agents based on the AGENT’S reputation and attributes, NOT the company’s or the brand’s.

Speaking from my personal perspective, I’ve worked at a little regional company, two of the top four brands in the world, and now I own my own franchise. And I can tell you this: with absolute, unequivocal certainty, my clients do not care where I work.

My clients know me by (1) my name, and (2) my reputation and (3) my cell phone number.

It begins and ends with these three basic pieces of information.

Game. Set. Match.

In fact, I still get calls from clients who will occasionally say “How long have you been gone from RE/MAX”? Ummm…nine years, give or take? Or “When did you leave KW? Let’s see…seven years ago, approximately?

Further, not one time in the nearly 20 years I’ve been in real estate has a client chosen me because of brand affiliation.

NOT ONCE!

I discussed this topic with Judy Moriarty (@RealEstateChick) recently, and here were her thoughts:

Having been a broker at a small regional firm and a well-known national franchise, I have been on both “brand” wagons. My experience has shown me that it doesn’t matter whether there’s a balloon, a yellow jacket or a family behind the agent – the consumer hires a particular agent because they like and trust that person and as long as it brings traffic, they really don’t care whose sign is in their yard. Further, the internet has leveled the playing field for this industry. It’s no longer about who has the biggest TV presence or ad in the Sunday paper or how many pages you have in the local color real estate magazine – it’s about instant accessibility to information by consumers. Whoever provides the information in the most accurate and quickest fashion gets the business. Today’s tech savvy agents can create beautiful on-line marketing exposure for their sellers in a very cost effective manner, which will also draw in new buyers without the weight of the brand around them. It is then up to that agent to establish and build on a personal relationship that will keep that client.

Jay Thompson (@phxREguy) echoed these sentiments on Twitter recently:

jay thompson consumer doesnt care about brand

I followed up with Jay and asked him for any additional thoughts on this point. Here’s what he said:

My favorite display of “consumers don’t care about the brand” goes back a few years to when I worked at a Century 21 franchise. I engaged with many clients over the internet or telephone before I first met them face-to-face. I wish I’d kept count of how many said, after I first met them and handed them a business card, “Oh, you’re with Century 21?” In other words, they had no idea. And they obviously didn’t care. They chose me for whatever reason — knowledge, trust, personality, some intangible thing — who knows. But obviously they didn’t select me because of my affiliation with a particular brand… There is little, if any, differentiation between real estate brands. In my opinion, the VAST majority of real estate buyers and sellers don’t select an agent based on the logo on their business card. It just doesn’t matter to them.

The point: Judy’s clients work with Judy because of Judy, Jay’s clients work with Jay because of Jay and my clients work with me because of me.

And if you look at the reasons detailed above that ARE considered the “most important” when choosing a Realtor, 97% have absolutely NOTHING to do with brand or company. They are ALL “individual agent characteristic” in nature.

The takeaway: successful agents ARE their own brand, and that is the brand that you as a successful real estate professional should be cultivating. YOURS.

UPDATE | See “The Brand Illusion | Part 2” for additional commentary…



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