How do real estate agents create value above & beyond the functional?

We are living in an age of intangible value, where the businesses and industries that survive and dominate are less defined by their products and services – the function or utilitarian experience they provide – and are more invested in the experience or value they generate above and beyond simply service delivery.

In other words, the “what” that you deliver is now table stakes – it’s the cost of entry. However, it’s the “how” you deliver that provides a competitive position in the market place.

In fact, this is true to such a degree that an exceptional “how” will make up for an inadequate or even poorly “what”.

Consider the case of the Apple iPhone. At the time of its initial release, even the cheapest, nastiest Nokia could send an MMS (or picture file) from one phone to another.

This simple function was beyond the iPhone, and yet people lined up through the night, they camped out, not because an Arena filling band was touring and they wanted tickets… but for the opening of a retail store… to buy a phone that didn’t work.

And those of us who were seduced by the iPhone story were so bought in that we would justify the behaviour. “I simply take the photo, then wait till I get home, hook my iPhone up to my computer, sync it through iTunes and email it at a later date… it’s just as convenient!!!” Seriously? Compared to what is that convenient?

The point is, this product dominated the market and its category, despite a serious functional flaw, because it embodied “intangible value”.

This is also proving true in the service industries like Real Estate.

A decade ago, Real Estate agents had a monopoly on house sales. If you wanted to know what for sale in a particular suburb or region, you had to talk to a real estate agent – or at least look in through their front window.

Today, before you’ve even contacted a real estate agent, you’ve been online and done some searching. You’ve had a look at the houses for sale in that particular location; you’ve checked the price fluctuations between streets over the past five years, looked at the floor plans, clicked on a mortgage simulator, looked through professionally staged photos and done a virtual tour. You’ve been inside the house essentially, and a real estate agent was nowhere in sight.

The functional value that real estate agents have always provided is now ubiquitously and cheaply available to all. So what do real estate agents need to do in an age of intangible value where good service… is no longer good enough?

  1. Develop “No-where else experiences”

What is it that you do that no other real estate agent does. Take a leaf out of a vetinary surgeon we worked with recently. She made a regular practice of sending flowers to her clients on the anniversary of their pet’s death. Not only did this ensure clients brought their new pets to her practice, it guaranteed referral business.

  1. Love someone better than anyone else

What kind of vendor or buyer or investor to you specialise in? Obviously you’ll have business that comes in outside these parameters, but how do you ensure that when a particular kind of property or vendor enters the market, you’re on a list of one?

  1. Solve your customers’ pet peeve

Almost every industry has a list of complaints that are category generic. We delude ourselves that we are all fabulously unique and original, but you can almost guarantee that the complaints about one real estate agent mirror the complaints of another agents’ clients. This, as it turns out, is a blessing in disguise. If you solve a generic breakage point in the relationship between your sales people and vendors, if you reduce the friction and angst, if you deliver the extraordinary where everyone else delivers frustration, you will not only stand out amongst your peers, your reputation can be founded on it.

  1. Diversify the value you offer

One of the biggest mistakes people in every business sector make is to be too focused on what they do and not enough on what they deliver. Your business is not your product, or your service, your job or even your role – it the value you provide for your customers.

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