Investigate Your Competition

You need to know how your peers are conducting business in order to stand out. Here’s where to start gathering information.

July 22, 2015

How do you set yourself apart from the competition? Too many real estate professionals think it takes some new, jazzy technology that hasn’t hit the mainstream yet or a completely overhauled marketing plan. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to stand out. You just have to find out what your competitors are doing — and do it better yourself.

Jim Mazziotti, ABR, SRES, broker-owner of Exit Realty Bend in Bend, Ore., has found seminars and conferences to be excellent places to do some reconnaissance on his competition. He recently attended a free presentation for real estate agents on how to close 100 transactions a year. Mazziotti noticed how few agents attended the presentation. “There are 1,661 licensed real estate agents in my association [Central Oregon Association of REALTORS®],” he says. “Just 45 showed up. That tells me something about my competition.”

Not one agent in the room raised a hand when the presenter asked if they had a buyer’s presentation with a service contract, Mazziotti says. Likewise, no one jumped in when asked if they use a phone service that provides a recorded message about a particular property and captures the phone number of the caller. Mazziotti has both, so that told him he was already ahead of his competition.

But there’s another way Mazziotti can find out where agents are lacking in their business: asking his clients. When Mazziotti reaches out to owners of expired listings, he asks questions about how the last agent worked the listing and finds out where they went wrong. Most owners of expired listings tell Mazziotti that their previous agents didn’t provide marketing plans, return phone calls promptly, provide weekly updates, schedule open houses on a consistent basis, or supply feedback on all showings.

He also finds out how his marketing materials differ. “I ask, ‘How many points of contact did the sign in the yard have?’ Mine has seven! I let them know that my service begins with the sign in the yard,” he says. Mazziotti’s signs include his office and cell phone numbers, Web address, a QR code with a customized website tour tailored to the listing, and a call-capture information hotline. He caps off his signage with a URL where users can watch a video and audio presentation of the listing. Mazziotti says he doesn’t know of any other agents who offer this much information on a yard sign.

He uses this type of information to emphasize to other prospective buyers that he uses marketing techniques that few of his peers do. During buyer consultations, he discusses how his marketing plan differs from other agents’ — including posting listings on three different MLSs in his state — and drafts a buyer’s service agreement that lays out all the measures he will take to sell his client’s property. If the prospect has used a different agent in the past, Mazziotti asks how that agent didn’t fulfill the client’s needs and writes what he’ll do differently into the contract.

Mazziotti also asks how their property is marketed to agents, not only in his market, but in the entire state. “I am part of three MLSs and market my listings to five-eighths of the entire state and the agents in Oregon,” he says. He’s not aware of any other local agents who choose this approach; he promotes himself as an agent who goes outside of his territory to promote a property.

Through the service agreement and marketing plan, Mazziotti feels he has been able to provide his clients with an experience unlike anything available in his marketplace. “It was quite easy to do the ‘wow’ things that no other real estate professionals found necessary,” he says.

freelance writer

Mary Beth Klatt is a freelance writer with a passion for architecture and home design.