By Sandy Marshall
A couple of years ago, when the housing market flipped itself, people shopping for homes suddenly craved a real version of what was going on inside the industry. Buyers suddenly wondered how The Fed operated, when it was created and why it was so powerful.
At this time, everyone became an armchair economist and part-time expert on our national housing market. During this massive change, the world of online networking transformed, allowing new and innovative ideas (many through new social media outlets) to take center stage.
With these two shifts, as companies expanded (and downsized, as it were), partnerships were forced to change, or in many cases, be redefined. Before 2008, a good partner in the real estate market might have been someone with a similar sensibility or area of focus – or someone who’d simply provide your office with a nice plate of donuts.
Now, partners expect more. The icing is great, but not without the cake.
Since this is a service-oriented business that’s driven by relationships, we in the real estate community are only as good as our partners and what we offer our clients. People often forget this, so I’ll say it again: we’re only as good as our partners. A keen, shared understanding of what everyday clients are looking for – and a willingness to deliver that thing – leads to strong and lasting value-based partnerships.
Partners need to offer their own clients – and each other – things of value. Deliverables that go beyond shiny rate sheets and yummy snacks.
Messages are valuable when built on well-executed co-branded marketing campaigns and consistent, useful blogs. Co-sponsored events like homebuying educational seminars, networking and training get-togethers and even block parties increase awareness and buzz. Now, more than ever, partners are participating in new media initiatives like Web-based viral videos and a more recent area of focus, podcasts. In an effort to expand into these new genres, I’ve teamed up with Perl Mortgage to create The PERL Mortgage Podcast.
Created in Fall 2008, episodes of the PERL Podcast often feature a mortgage consultant and a special guest who’s an expert within a specific area of interest. To date, we’ve produced more than 50 episodes on topics ranging from lending guidelines, closing conditions, appraisals, real estate taxes and why this really is a buyer’s market.
The Podcast has become a hub of collaborative discussion among members of the real estate community looking to promote education and transparency. This city is full of thought leaders and dynamic trendsetters, each with their own local story to tell.
Every episode is brief, to the point, carries a soft sell and, best of all, lives on the Internet. Participants share links of shows via e-mails, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the thousands of other ways information can be cross-pollinated these days; plus, it’s fun.
Real estate agents, loan officers, appraisers, attorneys and tax advisors typically discuss partnerships in dry conference rooms while trying to ignore buzzing BlackBerrys. Rarely do they go “offline” for an hour with their associates to showcase their area of expertise.
Even though the show leads to new business, its purpose is to share information and promote collaboration. That might sound backwards, but it wouldn’t generate new client interest if it didn’t sound and feel genuine, and it only feels genuine if we’re really trying to educate.
Producing a Podcast is nothing new or groundbreaking, but it’s a different way to consider how partnerships are formed and maintained during a time when real estate and lending paradigms are shifting as fast as interest rates.
Clients want to respond to more than just slick run-of-the-mill advertisements. They’re already wary of the real estate market and its inherent jargon, and without a united front with concise messaging, clear communication becomes muddy.
Many are working hard to please huge groups of people, but the real play is in specificity and flexibility, and an ability to get the right message to the right audience with total transparency. It’s as if client/agent expectations actually reversed after the housing market slowed. Now, people, ironically, trust agents who are talking, not selling. Today’s clients are ready to listen.
What are your partnerships saying about you?
Sandy Marshall is CEO of Marshall Creative (marshall-creative.com), a multimedia and marketing agency. Marshall Creative focuses on helping people and companies tell stories and work together in better ways. The PERL Mortgage Podcast is available on iTunes and perlmortgage.com. Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.