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2007-07-13 16:35:00

Today's Consumers - Driving Change and Demanding Social Proof

Consumer demands are driving change through the real estate industry globally. The Internet has an increasingly powerful impact on the way we all live our lives. The way consumers search and communicate is revealing new information and trends that we need to be aware of and embrace if we are to stay viable and flourish in today’s world.

Valuable information resources are now available at the click of a mouse. Expertise is questioned every day as we realize there really are no experts; our world is changing so fast. We can easily find endless evidence to support opposing views on almost every topic. Just like us, consumers are in information overload and have tuned off to try and retain some sanity and get back control of their time and quality of life.

Today’s consumers want what they want, when they want it! They are more knowledgeable than ever before and more demanding. They have clearly expressed in so many ways that they want to be left alone -- Do Not Call Registers, security fences around their homes, SPAM blockers, "No Junk Mail" signs, double opt-n lists!

So what do consumers want and how do we connect with them in ways that are unobtrusive and valuable and in ways that they will trust? How do we build our market share and insure that our businesses thrive within the framework of these new rules?

Our industry is lucky -- the love affair consumers have with home ownership and buying investment properties continues and shows no sign of waning! Real estate continues to be bought and sold everyday. It is discussed online, over the dinner table, and at parties. Renovating, positive gearing, negative and positive gearing strategies, home styling, creating fabulous entertaining areas and outdoor rooms, new colors and decorating styles, security systems, and of course real estate agents are also something today’s consumers like to talk about -- with passion!

Consumers Are Looking for Social Evidence

Social Proof is what consumers are looking for; they want to find someone else like them, who has been in the same position they are in now. They want to know others who made the decision to choose an agent.  Social Proof is not new, advertisers have we have used it for years. Some of real estate's most effective social proof has come from the penetration of signage in the marketplace, the number of homes for sale by someone on the web and in local newspapers, and evidence in the number of properties an agent has sold.

However, the critical shift is now that consumers are demanding more! They want to know that other consumers were happy with their choice! Quality not quantity is what’s important to them! They no longer trust advertising messages, so they have asked everyone they know and now they are turning to the web and looking for reviews!

"REVIEWS" has become one of the fastest growing keywords on the Internet. Consumers want to find social proof online and in one place so it easy and fast. They want to know that what they are reading is truthful; rankings can't be bought or enhanced but are earned customer by customer! As an industry we need to "get this" and embrace this shift towards building our reputation online.

Why this is so important today and why is it not going away?! Online marketing guru Jay Abrahams explained it in a recent interview with Strategic Profit's Rick Schefren about the future of online business: “The problem today is that somewhere along the line people fell in love with making money and fell in love with being a success, when they needed to fall in love with their marketplace, to fall in love with the value and difference they can make in peoples lives and to fall in love with the valuable, trusting, ongoing relationships they make with their marketplace.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Thanks, Jay! Our industry is GUILTY, it is time for us to take responsibility individually instead of blaming others, and its time to change our marketing messages to reflect these changes and prove our worth to the marketplace.

It’s time to add some new Key Performance Indicators to track our success and ensure the marketplace sees our value clearly or we will fall victim to continued price reductions in our commissions and continue to see a rise in the for-sale-by-owner market. It is simply not enough just to monitor the number of homes appraised, number listed, number sold, commission earned, expenses paid, and calculating net profit.

The first new "must have" measurement of success is how many people chose us as their agents, and with the benefit of hindsight would do so again? The second measurement is how many would recommend us to their friends, family and colleagues?

I wonder how many consumers would make different choices if these were the drivers of our businesses? Would we continue to list unmotivated, over-priced properties? Would we value our own industry and area knowledge more? Would our track records, income, and career satisfaction improve? Would consumers start to see us in a different light, loving their agents, versus the high level of mistrust and criticism we see today?

I know the answer it is YES! Consumers want to see change. They are driving change through online searches. The real problem is that the real estate industry is trying to hold on to the past -- there is a fear of stepping up publicly and putting reputation online. For those who step up and embrace this opportunity the rewards will be bountiful! The question is: "Are you ready and willing to embrace this shift or are you going to keep trying to hold on to strategies and marketing practices that served us well in the past?

(Karin Hanna is a real estate coach in Australia and the founder of and in Australia.)

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