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Know the Consumer

Regardless of whether your association is directly reaching out to and serving today’s consumers, it’s essential to understand how they affect the products and services you provide to your members.

Consumer preferences in communication and house features, not to mention the type of relationship they want with a Realtor®, all affect the way members do business. From online shopping to electronic forms to e-mail and text messaging, the homeselling and homebuying process is evolving.

Take, for example, the two 20-something executives I recently had the opportunity to speak with. Both looked at hundreds of listings online before scheduling appointments (sometimes more than five per day) with the listing agent. Interestingly enough, they both said they felt pressured to sign exclusive buyer agreements or other documents upon first meeting the Realtor®. Neither would do so until they were ready to purchase

Although only a small sample, it’s somewhat representative of how many people in this age group think. Unlike older generations, who relied on traditional print, television, and radio media for news, and who socialized almost exclusively in person,
the younger generations text or chat with friends online, participate in numerous blogs, have MySpace or Facebook Web pages, and receive most of their news and information online.

That said, at a new member orientation last month, I asked the attendees, most in their 30s and 40s, how many had participated in a blog or visited the sites mentioned above only one woman raised her hand to ask, “What’s a blog?”

The two young executives and the woman at the orientation all provide a key insight into how our members’ marketing and communications plans need to be constructed to appeal to a younger consumer.
As you read the articles in this issue, we ask you not only to consider the consumer’s effect on your association programs, but also to contemplate consumers as potential real estate professionals. How do we encourage the younger generations to consider the real estate profession as a career? What programs or information is being provided to schools and universities?

Based on my experience at the last new-member orientation, and looking at the members attending association events, a significant generational imbalance exists between our members and consumers at the first-time-buyer level. Understanding these young consumers is critical to shaping your future member services and programs.

On a totally separate note: As this is my last article as AEC chair, I want to thank all of you who have volunteered your time or participated in AEC subcommittees or activities. Particular thanks goes to your 2008 chair, Diane Ruggiero, for her support and words of encouragement. We also have a fantastic support staff at the National Association of Realtors®, led by Cindy Sampalis. They make the job manageable, rewarding, and very enjoyable. I want to also express my appreciation to the leadership from the Metropolitan Consolidated Association of Realtors® for supporting me during this past year. Serving as AEC chair is an incredibly rewarding experience that I will always remember. I would encourage all Realtor® association executives to become involved. You can make a difference.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go update my MySpace account, write a few comments on the blog, and return several text messages I received while typing this article. All this just to keep up with and keep track of my 15-, 13-, and 11-year-old kids!

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