Transparency, openness, emotion and office culture are at the forefront of how real estate agencies should communicate and engage with clients and staff, a recent industry forum heard.
The WA Real Estate Open Forum, a principal-focused event held in Perth by Macquarie Bank, rent.com.au and Realestimations, was focused on how principals should approach consumers in contemporary Australia.
“The event focused on marketing and how this has changed in recent years and how it will continue to change and evolve; a topic which was in direct response to industry demand through rent.com.au,” said Domonic Thompson, senior manager at Macquarie Relationship Banking.
“It was about putting yourself in your clients’ shoes to really understand their needs and how they want to be communicated with, helping drive effective and efficient marketing and communications strategies."
The Forum heard from John Percudani, director at WA-based group Realmark, who said agencies that lack an emotional appeal for consumers and staff – referred to as the “intangibles” – will never be more than just atypical and average.
“The real ability to differentiate yourself in the marketplace is now in the intangibles, and that is the hardest thing to address, but it is the place that's the most powerful," he told attendees.
“What is the emotional product, the emotional promise, that we are delivering? What is it that Realmark is trying to sell to its clients?,” were the questions he asked of his company five years ago. Marketing your company as the most professional isn't enough, he said - that's just expected by today's consumers.
In Realmark’s case, the primary emotions they decided they were selling were “trust and hope”, Mr Percudani said.
Attendee reaction to Mr Percudani’s talk was mixed.
Mark Sinclair, of realestimations, said principals in WA had a lot to learn about how they operated their businesses, although Mr Percudani’s experiences showed how change can be managed.
It’s about “getting an understanding that change is here now,” he continued. “And unless [principals] start to make some changes, they might not be here in five years’ time.”
“It’s building a brand, whether you’re part of a franchise or an independent, and understanding the relationships with your staff and your clients. That’s where we’ve got a long way to go.”
“We’re a long way behind Victoria, which is the leading light in the country, followed by the better end of NSW,” he added.
Kevin Attree, director at Attree Real Estate, the number one selling agency south of the Swan River, said doing the basics remained paramount.
“I think the key is simple strategies, based around culture and having fun,” he told Real Estate Business after the event.
“The focus isn’t the house, it’s the person. And the people who have passion will succeed.”
While Mr Attree acknowledged he used social media and technology sparingly, he said he'd "sooner go and talk to people. The reality is, if you could go and talk to 10 people every day, 50 or 60 by the end of the week, you are a far better position to build your career.”
“I hear people say the market is tough,” he continued. “It’s only tough if you want it to be tough. This month we’ve listed about 30 homes, and we’ve sold around 19 or 20. That tells me there are enough transactions going on.
According to Mark Woschnak, managing director at rent.com.au, principals must acknowledge the importance that culture and values now play in the business.
“The new world is a balance of, it’s just not the product, it’s not just your knowledge and skill sets, and it’s not just the culture that’s going to win you business. It’s a mix of all of those things,” he said.
“It’s how to portray that into all parts of the business - it’s not just spoken, it’s on cards, it’s on the materials, it’s in the office, and it’s reinforced in staff meetings. Right down to the hiring of new staff, it’s more about the values of the person first, and the skill set second. I’m of the belief that you can train on good values, but it takes a lot longer to train good values.
“A lot of the feedback tonight was quite varied,” he continued. “Culture meant quite a lot of different things to different people. It’s an intangible, and the challenge here is for people to identify just where they’re at, and to identify what their culture is, and what they want to move to, and how then do they implement that.”
“John’s story was a great one because it didn’t happen overnight, there is a five-year journey, professional changes got made, professional advice was sought, a lot of changes were made into their business, even personally, so it was a high-level choice to make a difference.”
“The challenge is for older principals to accept that, whether you want to call it Gen Y, or the flow on effect of Gen Y, things are more open, more transparent, feedback and emotions and motivations are a bigger part than they ever were before.”
Mr Thompson said change was a constant. “I believe that the key takeouts for agents were that the way in which they interact with their clients, and indeed are expected to interact with their clients, is ever-changing and needs to be constantly top of mind, and ultimately that each business is accountable for its own success."