Get it Done: Stand Out

Become the one to beat

June 1, 2004

Think about motorcycles and you very likely picture a Harley-Davidson. A frothy latte? Starbucks comes to mind. And your town’s top real estate salesperson? One name likely rolls off the tip of your tongue.

What makes some companies and individuals so great that they stand out as a category of one? Joe Calloway, a business speaker based in Nashville, Tenn., says they’ve convinced customers that their way of doing business is the very best.

Calloway, who formerly worked as a real estate salesperson and manager, has studied companies that defy comparison and published his findings in Becoming a Category of One: How Extraordinary Companies Transcend Commodity and Defy Comparison (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2003). REALTOR® Magazine asked Calloway for ways you, too, can build your own category.

  1. What strategy leads to a category of one? One that pursues greatness. Starbucks took a great coffee product and wrapped it in an environment of cushy chairs and cool music—and now Internet connections—to create a rich emotional experience for its clients. Likewise, as a real estate salesperson, you can wrap buying and selling fundamentals into a great experience so that customers connect with you emotionally. Mark Deutschmann, CRS®, GRI, broker-owner of Village Real Estate Services in Nashville, takes buyers on Saturday tours of his market to see not just homes but also restaurants, galleries, and recreational options. He’s become his area’s welcome ambassador.
  2. Is standing out hard to do? Yes. By its nature, differentiation is time-intensive. Turnkey virtual tour services have made it easy for practitioners to show houses online. But to build loyalty and distinguish yourself, how about dusting off neglected old-school techniques? Learn more about your customers or keep them better informed with daily calls or e-mail than anyone else does.
  3. What else should you do? Figure out what the competition isn’t willing or able to do, then do it consistently. Seek out ideas from other businesses, such as, which customizes each shopper’s home page based on individual interests. Don’t use generic slogans such as “I’ll exceed your expectations.” Talk is cheap; prove it with examples. Be easy to work with and let customers make the rules. Hire team members or salespeople who inspire each other and push you to do your best.
  4. What are the signs that you’re on the right track? Your repeat business and market share increase. You know you’ve created a category of one when you’re dominant in your market, city, or maybe the country.
  5. How do you maintain this status? Don’t rest on past success, which causes complacency. Raise your bar since others will copy you. Become so innovative that others say, “Oh, you won’t succeed with that,” yet you do. Accept that some ideas won’t work, but that’s not a reason not to try them. Finally, act like a duck. Glide smoothly across the top of a pond, and underneath, paddle like hell.
Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

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