“Why” is Why Real Estate Brands Don’t Matter

I’ve written a few blog posts that reference this amazing book “Start With Why.”

…this book has affected my thinking on a variety of levels.

…and it tied up a number of loose ends and put a nice red bow on top of this box of stuff I’ll call “reasons why the real estate industry is what it is.”

The biggest point the author, Simon Sinek, makes is this:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

And I’ll just get right to the point, which is this:
In the real estate industry – unlike most industries – brands don’t seem to matter much…to agents, to brokers and to the public.

The primary reason for this, in my humble opinion?

None of the big brands have a “why.

Please allow me to better explain what I mean by this.

Inspiration vs Manipulation

According to Sinek:

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.

When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need

…if there is hope for a loyal, lasting relationship, manipulations do not help.

A “why” is something that influences via INSPIRATION.

Everything else falls under the heading of “manipulation.” Examples (along with illustrations that are common in the real estate industry):

  • Price: “Our commission splits are better than Brand X’s splits.”
  • Promotions: “Join before the end of the year and I’ll let you keep 100% of your next three sales.”
  • Fear: “If you don’t work with Big Brand X, you can’t be sure of what you’ll get.”
  • Aspirations: “Join Big Brand X and we’ll show you how to be just like Mega Agent Joe Smith!”
  • Peer Pressure: “All the best agents work at Big Brand X…you should, too!”
  • Novelty: “Join Big Brand X and we’ll give you an iPad!”

Manipulations Can Work in the Short Term…

…but they don’t breed loyalty.

Sinek is not saying that manipulative techniques don’t work. Sometimes, they do.

But he IS saying that they don’t breed loyalty, and that they don’t lead to the establishment of brands that have meaning and resonate with people.

That helps me understand why so many Realtors jump from company to company to company, and why consumers don’t have a clue what differentiates Big Brand A from Big Brand B.

None of the big brands have a “Why.”

I worked at two of the Big 5 brands before I started Professional One, and I have no idea what the “Why’s” of those brands were or are.

No Inspiration = No Loyalty

Maybe that’s why I felt no loyalty to them. It was just about numbers and sales and offices and and a mind-numbing exercise in “having the most agents” and “having the best splits” and “selling the most houses.”

There was not one iota of inspiration in any of it. There was no larger purpose. There was no call to action. There was nothing that made me want to stand up and say, “I am PROUD to work at Brand X.”

I could see that my clients didn’t give a whit about any of it. And neither did I.

The Commoditization of an Entire Industry

Brands that attempt to differentiate on this manipulative, non-inspirational level turn themselves into “commodities,” as Sinek says it, and set themselves up for a never-ending race against their competitors who are also attempting to differentiate on these same measures.

What happens when your whole message is “We’re number 1!” and someone else beats you at your own game using the analytic that you chose?

It’s a never-ending chase, and the worst part is that none of it mattered in the first place, because there is no inspiration in any of it!

At the risk of complicating this post, allow me to add a few additional parting thoughts:

  • I’ve read a number of other books recently (“Differentiate or Die,” “You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar,” and “The Sandler Rules”), and they all completely support what Sinek is saying here: that people do not buy based on “features and benefits” (the “what” or the “how”), they buy on something much deeper: the Why.
  • Sinek goes on to talk about authenticity, and how EVERYTHING within an organization has to line up and be consistent with the organization’s clearly articulated “Why” message, or the “Why” – no matter how inspirational – won’t matter. When the organizational behavior doesn’t support the “Why,” people will immediately see that the “Why” is inauthentic. That’s why you cannot slap a brand-spanking-new “Why” on a top of an existing organization and have it make any meaningful difference. Over the long haul, it just won’t work, because the actions of the people won’t support the “Why.”

I’ll finish with the only thing that really mattered in this post: people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it…

PS – If you want to better understand why “Why” matters so much, watch this video from the author of “Start with Why:”

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