If you’re still marketing your services with the "I’m the best agent in today’s market" (even if you are), it’s time to stop being the celebrity and to start asking, "How can I be of service?"

For years we trained agents to promote themselves and their companies: "You should hire me because I sell more houses than anyone else in this area," or "You should hire us because we are the No. 1 company with the No. 1 market share in this area." These types of marketing messages worked back in the 1980s and ’90s. Most sellers wanted the best because they believed they would sell their home more quickly and at a higher price. In many cases, celebrity brokers were held in awe.

If you’re still marketing your services with the "I’m the best agent in today’s market" (even if you are), it’s time to stop being the celebrity and to start asking, "How can I be of service?"

For years we trained agents to promote themselves and their companies: "You should hire me because I sell more houses than anyone else in this area," or "You should hire us because we are the No. 1 company with the No. 1 market share in this area." These types of marketing messages worked back in the 1980s and ’90s.

Most sellers wanted the best because they believed they would sell their home more quickly and at a higher price. In many cases, celebrity brokers were held in awe.

The fundamental flaw with the "celebrity" approach is that the focus is on the agent rather than the customer. When celebrity and "No. 1 marketing" was in vogue, everyone was proclaiming how they were No. 1. You could claim that you were No. 1 in sales, No. 1 in volume, No. 1 in new-home sales, No. 1 in relocation, etc. With so many people claiming to be No. 1 at something, the public pretty much tuned out those claims anyway.

Today’s environment is much different. Regardless of whether you represent first-time buyers or the ultra-high-end market, your celebrity is irrelevant to today’s buyers. While boomers and traditionalists, (those born before 1965) value expertise, they’re looking for a trusted adviser, not an agent who focuses on self-promotion. Gen X (born 1965-76) generally doesn’t place much value on advice or expertise. Your claims to celebrity have little, if any, value to Gen X. In fact, most Gen Xers trust only the information that they locate themselves. Gen Yers (born from 1977-94) also don’t place much value on expertise. Instead, they look to members of their peer group to provide input for their decisions.

As a result, the approach that works in today’s Web 2.0 environment is very different. Self-proclaimed expertise has little or no validity for today’s consumers. Instead of celebrity marketing, the approach today is viral marketing. The goal of viral marketing is to provide such a strong customer experience that your customers will be eager to tell others about your service.

How do you shift from being a celebrity marketer to being a viral marketer? Here’s how to do it. …CONTINUED

1. Give-to-get marketing
One of the best ways to get others to tell your story is to offer something they value. This could be an annual report that updates all the sales for 2009. If it makes sense for owners in your market area to appeal their property tax assessment, provide them with the forms and the instructions on how to do so.

You can also provide something else that has nothing to do with real estate. One agent had his best response ever when he offered his great grandmother’s 150-year-old recipe for clam chowder. All the consumer must do is provide an e-mail address to receive the information.

2. Collect testimonials
Testimonials are an excellent way to get others to talk about you. When you close a transaction, ask your clients for a video testimonial, then post these testimonials on your Web site. It’s also smart to post them on your LinkedIn account as well, since that site is set up specifically for client recommendations.

One of the best ways to get others to post a testimonial is to take the initiative and post a testimonial for the other person and/or their business.

3. Go the extra mile
Begin by exploring what matters to your clients. More than anything else, clients want agents to hear their needs and be responsive to those needs. This means asking questions about what matters to them, exploring how they live their lives, and never trying to insert yourself in their decision-making process. By understanding what drives them, you can more easily provide them with a stellar experience.

For example, if your clients love chai tea, have a hot cup waiting for them when they arrive for their appointment. If they have children, make sure you have coloring books and age-appropriate games they can play while you are working with their parents. Also, have plenty of water and snacks, especially if you’re spending a long day with relocation clients.

4. Anticipate their needs
If you’re working with relocation buyers, create a welcome kit packed with information about local vendors, schools, places of worship, recreational activities, etc. Prior to meeting your buyers in person, send them links to the properties you will be showing them.

If the listing has only one exterior picture, obtain permission from the seller to take photos of the inside to send to your buyers. Send them a package that has samples of all forms that will be used in their transaction. Advise them of any differences between how properties are closed in their current area as compared to the area where they will be moving.

Regardless of the age of the buyer, service and viral marketing are what work today. As for the cult of real estate celebrity, may it rest in peace.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.

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