Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is Real Estate Your Real Marketing Problem?

They say that "location, location, location" is the key-but sometimes, it's the problem.

I was just at a business function where the owner of a local printing company bemoaned the fact that Internet printers are putting pressure on long-time printers. His company hadn't invested in digital printing, relying instead on being one of the largest off-set printers in the area. For years, that was good enough. But it's not working anymore.

Here's why. In the "old days" (pre-Internet), companies could carve out a market by being the only local whatever. There are fewer and fewer products and services where "local" alone is good enough to guarantee you a market.

Sure, you can't order a fresh-brewed latte from out-of-state, but you can buy a latte maker and order the coffee from anywhere in the world. You can even order pizza and a gourmet dinner via one of the many upscale frozen food companies that deliver anywhere in the US.

(You may not save on the cost of the entrée, but there's no charge for your drink, tax or tip.)

Location alone won't save you. If you can't compete on price with the people who provide the same service via the Internet, then you're going to have to compete on turnaround, exceptional customer service or really tangible value-addeds to keep your business.

Most companies are stuck thinking of themselves as limited by a certain local geographic region-usually the distance they or their customers are willing to drive for a face-to-face meeting. Who said that had to be the limit?

Most of my business is done via phone with customers I have never met in person. Much of the work I contract out is done by talented people who had the right skills at the right price all over the world.

Welcome to the global economy.

Wake up! How can you repackage, repurpose or rebundle your services to provide something that could be provided to anyone, anywhere?

Real estate is supposed to be the ultimate "local" business. But a growing number of real estate agents in high-growth areas are connecting with agents in areas where people are leaving due to relocation. They work out a referral fee that benefits both parties, and suddenly, the whole of North America is their territory. Restaurants may find a way to mail a favorite menu item (the Penn State Diner has been mailing its oh-so-wonderful Grilled Stickies to hungry alums for decades), or even a sauce or dressing. Think you're limited by licensure? Oh really? Does "WebMD" ring a bell? How about the places that sell pet medications or contact lenses via the web?

The problem isn't with the market, it's with the mind. Envision yourself as a national or international business person. Now-how do you supply your service or product to your market? Yes, it means making changes to your mindset, your pricing, your business model and your goals. Suck it up, pull up your big boy tighty-whiteys or your big girl panties and get over it. Shift happens. And when the market shifts, those who don't figure out how to shift with it get left behind.

If you're having a real estate problem with your marketing, it's time to foreclose on old ideas and flip your intellectual property to a whole new way of looking at the world.

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