What comes to mind when you see a barber pole?

An old geezer running a blade across a leather strap.
A hot towel, thick foam and a close shave.
Clubman.
Checkerboard floors.
A great place to whack a Mafia Don.

The local barbershop was Americana, right up there with the greasy spoon coffee shop and the Rexall drug store

What comes to mind when you see a barber pole?

An old geezer running a blade across a leather strap.
A hot towel, thick foam and a close shave.
Clubman.
Checkerboard floors.
A great place to whack a Mafia Don.

The local barbershop was Americana, right up there with the greasy spoon coffee shop and the Rexall drug store — endeared by all who frequented them.

But over the decades, the love waned. As new competitors grew into the marketplace, these establishments remained still in their own murky waters of services, anchored to old ways and failing to navigate their brands to the new currents of change.

Over time, despite the full array of services they offered, they drifted from the fabric of our culture, replaced by TRESemme, Paul Mitchell, Fantastic Sams, CVS and Starbucks — "interlopers."

The older institutions suffered at the hands of their own neglect, compounded by their inability to convey the value they offered, the full services they provided and the personal attention they gave. They believed that being moored to an historic tradition is good enough to insure their place in the future. Or perhaps they believed in nothing and let fear of some unknown guide their complacency.

Barber Poles in Real Estate

There’s tons of them spinning around Main Street.
Red and blue ribbons of full-service, high-end value,
and personal attention all buried under the sands of
gloriously ineffective marketing.

Today’s broker — you might be a barbershop.
You cut hair better than anyone.
You service the customer better than anyone.
And what you deliver is uncommon.

But you’ve created ambiguity around yourselves and these benefits. And that continues to ring the warning signal. Look how easy it was for Zillow to make the marketplace believe its home-value estimates were more accurate than yours.

A real estate TRESemme is coming

Believe it. And react as if they have already leased a storefront in your town. In some cases, this is already happening.

Believe that as things get tougher, as money gets tighter, people need what you have but will never find it if you and your agents are sharpening your scissors behind closed doors.

Believe that so much has changed in real estate and in the way consumers interact with it that your message, your brand, your entire marketing campaign is likely dangerously antique.

Believe that starting to change those things today is the only way you’ll survive over the course of time.

What Davison Realty Group would do

I’d craft a new credo today. Davison Realty: "Preserving and improving the process of residential real estate."

I would then measure every single thing my firm does, every action my agents take, every bit of copy I write and measure it against the yardstick of that statement.

I’d begin with my Web site. If it does not make finding homes or finding the right agent really easy, I would administer changes immediately and not wait another day. Otherwise, my credo is rendered false and my brand has no meaning.

I would take a hard look at my backend system. Does it have lead management? Does it have lead routing? Does it offer my agents the ability to run comparative market analyses on the fly? Does it allow me to distribute incoming inquiries to my agents via text messages and supply them with the tools to respond immediately and properly rather than with canned nonsense?

I’d take a hard look at my physical space. I would evaluate whether my lease, my expense, my machines, and my cubicles inhibit my ability to fulfill my credo or serve my agents who have no particular credo at all. And if not, I would administer changes immediately. Otherwise, my credo is rendered false and my brand will continue to have no meaning.

I’d take a hard look at my agents. I’d find the ones with no credo or the ones who have a credo yet apply no effort to support it — like the agent who "goes the extra mile" yet hardly lifts a finger to learn about new technology. I would do whatever is in my power to retrain them. Expose them to agents who are thriving because they live, breath and die by their credo, which just so happens to be aligned with mine. If that fails, they need to be let go. Otherwise, my credo is meaningless and my brand will continue to have no meaning.

I’d take a hard look at my marketing department and the copy they have been pumping out. Have their words conveyed my intentions? Have they oversold them or have they failed to touch upon them? Are they written in language that resonates with my market or has it spoken at them? If the copy has failed, I must administer change immediately and align every word with my intention and distribute those words out to new places — in new ways — and do everything to render my credo as truthful. And convey meaning.

Lastly, I will perform a complete investigation of my services. If I have to, I will hire a firm to conduct a study. And perform surveys. And determine if what we offer is understood and experienced by those who have used us in the past or those who may require services in the future. I would do everything I can to discover what people want today from a real estate brokerage. Do they still need the hot lather and shave or do they view that as old fashioned and unimportant? I would consider that info to be my holy brand grail and serve as the basic building blocks of what will become tomorrow and secure my position.

This is what I do right now. Today. Otherwise, all that I am would be defined by a credo that would read: Davison Realty, we are the roulette wheel of services and skills. Come, bring your money. Good Luck!

And while that may be acceptable to many barber pole brands that surround me, it’s just not good enough for me going forward.

Marc Davison is a founding partner of 1000Watt Consulting and national speaker. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.

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