It’s tough to differentiate yourself from the competition in the eyes of the consumer. But it’s not impossible—even in an industry that has about 2 million active real estate licensees in the U.S.
Understanding your competitors will benefit your brokerage because you’ll gain insight on how to put your own twist on sales and marketing techniques, reach an untapped audience, or cultivate strengths that are lacking in your marketplace. In real estate, as in any industry, your competition will serve as a constant reminder of what you need to do to attract customers, explains Larry Myler, strategy consultant, Forbes.com contributor, and real estate developer. “If you pay attention, competitors will teach you how to succeed, grow, and even reach the top of your game in your market,” he says.
Here are seven ways you can benefit—and differentiate yourself—from your competition to build your own business.
1. Approach each prospect with their best interests in mind. When you legitimately care about your clients’ needs and well-being, you’ll naturally attract business, no matter what your competitors are doing. Don’t think about your commission, Myler says, instead, concentrate on customers’ goals, outcomes, timing, costs, and expectations. “There are always factors that cause people to buy,” Myler says. “What are the purchase factors that are most important to your prospects, and how can you satisfy those needs more completely than others?”
2. Invest in professional photography. There will always a certain number of brokers and agents who are out there shooting listings with their iPhones. But the DIY approach isn’t going to compare to hiring a professional photographer, says Candy Miles-Crocker, associate broker at Long & Foster in Washington, D.C., and founder of Real Life Real Estate Training. She travels across the country training agents on how to be the best they can be. “We all have smartphones and take photos. But you really need to hire professionals who have good lighting, even for all your marketing materials and mailers.” You should also have an updated, professional head shot. Hire a photographer to take standard head shots for your entire team. “Invest in yourself and your business,” she says. “You are competing.”
3. Stay in touch. Customers do business with people they know, like, and trust. So don’t let your competitors woo past clients away simply because you’re not staying in touch. Use social media to connect with past customers—even those who went with another agent. They will circle back to you on their next deal if they feel you have served them well, Myler says, or if they feel like they would have been better off choosing you.
4. Stay ahead of trends. Set yourself up to be an innovator in your market. Attend real estate conferences and networking events. Shop at trade expos and do research. Follow your competitors online. Understand what they offer and what they don’t.
5. Do something meaningful for your community. Consumers like to know that companies they do business with give back. Beyond that, real estate companies can be powerful change agents for good. Find a cause you can get behind and go all-in.
6. Walk the walk. Make highly ethical business practices part of your culture. Never bad-mouth a competitor. Refer business to competitors when they’re a better fit for a customer, Myler says. Get involved in your local REALTOR® association to be a leader in your market.
7. Dress the part. Whether it’s rockin’ purple hair or a suit and tie, dress professionally but be the authentic you. Create a memorable yet professional business card to match your style. “You should always look professional and be on brand,” says Miles-Crocker.