Brand strategy and estate agency presentation is something I have enjoyed playing a key role in, for what is approaching two decades. Estate agency has comprehensively reformed (several times) and attitudes towards the significance of brand and marketing have also changed within that timeframe. It is my belief however, that the adoption of modern branding theory, marketing techniques and new technology has been slower within this sector than most other areas of professional services, and certainly than within retail. Successful organisations operating within any business sector, place ever increasing value on the part brand plays on that success. How you are recognised and how you are remembered may be down to just a single factor from 1000 possible touch points: perhaps the approach; availability and attitude of a sales negotiator; a well-structured marketing campaign; maybe an impressive demonstration of local knowledge or a commitment to go above and beyond for each and every client. There is a lot that can influence a seller’s decision to instruct you as their chosen agent, so having a clear strategy around managing those decisive factors is entirely logical and wholly necessary.
Whilst there are wide ranging and a variable number of influencing factors within the decision making process, being in relative control of them follows a reasonably neat underlying process that is often ignored. The concept is simple enough - having a clear and honest understanding of your values and your personality as an agent makes the process of managing your customer facing identity a lot easier. An exercise in developing brand and market position informs a lot of what you need to know to help move your business forward - how you communicate with your customers: how you look; how you talk; how you write and what methods of communication will be most effective. From the initial point of contact through to completion, the customer’s experience of your business and brand can make the difference between securing a listing or not; winning repeat business or not and winning referred business, or not. That customer experience begins when she or he picks up a leaflet from the doormat; walks by a branch; drives past a sales board; talks to a friend when your name and business is mentioned; types 'local estate agent' into a search engine or visits a property portal. Having a joined-up, coherent message at every stage takes time and effort, but is a highly valuable prize.
Times do change, and there is certainly an upward curve in the likelihood for continuing disruption in the role of the estate agent, now and in the future. Aligning your brand with your values; your personality; and your marketplace, makes for a much more controlled and ultimately prosperous place to be. It also contributes towards greater business agility, improving the ability to evolve and move in new directions with greater efficiency, clarity and certainty - to access new markets, release new products or open new offices. Some high profile, ill prepared high street retailers have fallen due to an inability to move quickly enough to satisfy the shift in their customer’s shopping preferences. A business that at least recognises the likelihood of change in their industry has a foundation for survival and growth.
Online or hybrid Estate Agency may be evidently on the rise, at the very least when measured in column inches, but will unlikely be a suitable option for all agents’ property portfolios, and won’t take control of the mass market overnight - that said, all existing models will be impacted upon.
A decade or two back, a lot of the narrative I experienced around an estate agent’s aesthetic, was repeatedly focussed on conveying ‘trust’ as a core value; was the corporate green ‘British Racing’ enough, and a deep affection for the pun or cliché was evident.
There is a much greater appetite for bravery and open-mindedness in (most) branding conversations I have now. It’s exciting to see that the industry is willing to embrace change, adopt modern retail presentation techniques and innovative technology, and that agents are prepared to represent themselves with distinction and individuality. As for the ones that don’t take their brand seriously, well they make life a lot easier for the ones that do.