Monday, February 7, 2011

Buy An Ad Or Build A Relationship?

Unintentionally I set a rather controversial strategy for marketing of our real estate agency Elephant Property when we started in January of ’09: an advertising budget of almost nil.

We rarely purchase advertising instead preferring to focus on building relationships and providing exceptional “unforgettable” service to our current clients that makes them want to talk about us. Now, don’t mistake me, we market our properties for rent so that we have a recurring days vacant of almost nil, but, what I’m talking about is actually marketing the business.

This strategy always meant that fewer people looking for a property manager in our market place were going to know about us than the top advertisers in our field. However, when people do hear about us, they typically hear it from a trusted friend or adviser.

In our field – residential property management – we typically deal with three main groups of people. Our clients – property owner, our customers – tenants and our suppliers – tradespeople.

I’m sad to say, but in many real estate agencies only the first group – property owners are seen as being worth of first class service. Tenants are often treated with contempt or as a necessary means to an end and tradespeople are rarely lauded for the amazing work they do which makes our lives and jobs so much easier.

I’m proud to say a lot of our business comes from our tradies referring clients to us. Many of them deal with multiple agencies and there really is no greater compliment than knowing they choose to refer our services because they have a in depth knowledge of how many real estate agencies operate.

A rarity in our field however is to have tenants recommend your services. A fine line has to be walked between being overly friendly with the tenants to the point where it’s a disservice to your clients (the property owners) and being unfairly unjust with tenants and treating them like second class citizens.

About 10 months ago a tenant of ours in Launceston, met a lady in Hobart. They got chatting with the Hobart lady mentioning that her child was having trouble renting a property of theirs nearby to the Launceston tenant. Thankfully we’d developed the relationship with our tenant where they felt comfortable saying – you should talk to Elephant Property.

Cut to the present day and that one conversation that would have never happened if we treated tenants in a typical fashion lead to us gaining that one property to rent. Furthermore those clients referred us on to a friend, and bought a second property and the original woman in Hobart is about to bring over the fourth property in this line of relationships to us.

Each time we’ve pitched for the business without going up against competition and with the knowledge that the person we’re talking to has been given an honest, heartfelt testimonial by someone who knows and appreciates our service.

Let me tell you, that initial meeting is a completely different one to a meeting generated by an advertisement. There’s already an in-built connection, an existing level of trust and the foundation has already been laid for a great ongoing relationship.

A billboard, or an advertisement can speak your message – but to me, having a strategy in addition to any marketing that fosters a desire in people to personally tell other people about your business creates stronger leads for ongoing business.

What are you doing in your business with EVERYONE you interact with to encourage them to recommend and refer you in a heartfelt, genuine manner?

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