Commentary January 5, 2014

On Being Household Name-or Not.

Name recognition is something all business enterprises aspire to have. A good reputation, a book of business, “getting your name out,” is the goal of every company. In a brand conscious place like Westchester County, it is the holy grail. That being said, industry specific circumstances often make that aspiration a constantly moving target. For example:

Name a great proctologist you would swear by in Armonk.
Who is the best architect in Dobbs Ferry? Or the top 3?
Off the top of your head, who is the “go to” interior decorator in Harrison?
If your car were totaled, who would you call to buy a new vehicle that you absolutely know would be honest to a fault and take awesome care of you?
You need a wedding planner. Who do you know would make the magic day magic?
You need a child psychologist. Who do you entrust your son or daughter to?

The chances are that you’d ask your sphere of influence for input. And the chances are high that the names of the proctologist, decorator or wedding planner are names you have never heard before. And I’ll bet that doesn’t factor in, because these are things that you don’t do every day.

Briarcliff Home sold by J PhilipNow let me ask you this: How often do you buy or sell a home? Once in your life? Three times? Five? For most people, the answer is “not often.” And many times, when I am referred to someone who wants to buy or sell property, the person referring me tells me that their friend/relative/co worker said they never heard of me. Now, this doesn’t bother me. There is no J. Philip Blimp (yet). But it bothers the associate or past client who is recommending me. I have to laugh, because as well as they may know me from past dealings, unless a person is connected to real estate, they have no reason to know me or any other agent for that matter.

Real estate is a specialized field in that it is a transaction that seldom occurs. It is no sin to not have the same name recognition in real estate as a soft drink, automobile maker or chain restaurant. As a matter of fact, real estate is the one field where being a big box name, for some people has the exact opposite meaning to the public as other industries.

Here’s what I mean- take a wedding for example:
Would you want your wedding catered by a well known hamburger franchise?
Would you buy a wedding dress at a department store with an automotive department a few aisles down?
What about the photos? After the ceremony would you head down to the strip mall and have your wedding portrait taken at the photography kiosk next to the  half-off DVD bin?
What about the flowers? Wouldn’t the supermarket be more cost effective than a florist?

Most would agree that it would be absurd to have any mass produced servicer for something as special and rare as a wedding. Yet I speak with literally hundreds of people a year who entrusted the rare, special and largest financial event of their life to someone because they saw their company’s signs all over the place or their ads in the margins of their online newspaper. And they regretted it.

There is no Proctologist Hut.
I know of no Child Psychologists- R- Us
Architect-Mart wouldn’t catch on.

Name recognition is equally dubious in real estate in most cases. The idea that if a company or agent spends a ton of money on marketing then they must be good is fallacious in my 17 years of experience. National brands are meaningless in something as expensive, rare and high stakes as real estate. Buyers don’t care who a house is listed with, they care if it suits their needs. And as far as big box firms having more “tools” and exposure than smaller independents, why is my little firm outperforming the market by well over 50%? Why are over half of my sold listings the ex clients of franchises and “market leaders?” Consumers learn fast to do more due diligence on their broker than buy the marketing pitches.

Here is what I tell my frustrated friends and colleagues to say when they are told by a prospective referral that they never heard of me or my firm:

Now you have.