What Nike Can Teach You

May 1, 1996

Why is it that Land's End knows your name and your size and can tell you within seconds what your last five orders were, but the average real estate salesperson may take days to answer questions about the sale of a home?

Why do marketing and advertising for companies like Nike, Maytag, and Wal-Mart communicate a single marketing message for years—even decades—but many salespeople constantly change their marketing direction?

Why do some service providers endear themselves to consumers, but others just don't seem to know how to please?

Today consumers want to feel as if they were the only customer on Earth. By raising the level of service for consumers, leading companies and service providers are driving the expectations of consumers ever higher. What's more, they're driving their competitors out of business.

Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in real estate. Fewer salespeople are doing a greater number of transactions, widening the gap between top and average producers. Let's apply three key principles for general business success to real estate.

Principle 1: Outstanding service is based on outstanding information systems.

Consumers want answers, and they want them now. No company epitomizes this better than Federal Express. With a phone call or a click of a mouse (FedEx has a home page on the Internet), consumers can track their package.

When Warren, Mich.-based top producer Ralph Roberts' clients call, any of his staff can enter the clients' names on a computer and find out exactly what's happening with their transactions. They can tell them when the last contact was made and what the salesperson promised to follow up on.

The lesson is simple: It's imperative that you become a systems-oriented salesperson—both technologically and administratively—to provide clients with the type of instantaneous access and service they expect from every professional they deal with. Don't wait for your company to do it for you.

Principle 2: A consistent marketing and advertising message should be the cornerstone of your marketing activities.

In his book, Reality in Advertising, the advertising industry guru Rosser Reeves wrote, "If you run a brilliant campaign every year, but change it every year, your competitor can pass you with a campaign that's less brilliant---provided he doesn't change it."

Consider these successful long-term campaigns: Maytag has used the bored repairman campaign for more than 25 years, and it's still going strong; Nike's "Just Do It" campaign is also an advertising staple; and the Energizer bunny is more than 10 years old and going and going and going...

Here's a quick way to see whether you're projecting a consistent message: Line up all your marketing pieces---every ad, every flyer, every piece of direct mail you've used in the last year. Ask yourself or a friend, as a consumer, Does each piece reinforce my unique image, using the same style and message that clearly convey how I differ from my competitors? If the average consumer can't identify that each piece represents the same person, now is the time to change that.

Start by developing a slogan and personal logo that clearly communicate your identity at a glance. Denver-based salesperson Janine Bettin's personal brochure, just-listed and just-sold cards, and house flyers reinforce one consistent image: She listens to her clients. Unlike a slogan that consumers can't relate to, such as "I'm the best," Bettin's slogan tells them what she'll do for them.

In the one-year period since Bettin implemented a consistent marketing campaign, her total number of units rose 50 percent. And she can tie 30 percent of sales in that time to her personal brochure.

Principle 3. Constantly explore new and better ways to do things.

IBM was the computer-industry leader for years, but it failed to embrace change and almost lost its foothold among its competition.

Ask yourself whether consumers who did business with you three years ago and came back today would be able to see a noticeable improvement in your service. If not, why not? If you're not moving ahead, you're falling behind; today there's no such thing as standing still.

Salespeople poised for success embrace new technology. They're already using the Internet to transmit status reports to their clients, to showcase their listings, and to hold on-line chat sessions with clients and other consumers to talk about the market, answer questions, and promote themselves.

If you develop flexible information systems, create a single, consistent image for your marketing materials, and continually look for new ways to do things, you'll emulate the best companies and ensure that you'll be a leader in real estate tomorrow.

Greg Herder is CEO of Hobbs/Herder Advertising, which specializes in residential real estate promotions. You can reach him at 800/999-6090.

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