In this day and age, the line between Business To Business (B2B) and Business To Consumer (B2C) has gotten blurred. Many consumers are small business owners (like realtors) and all companies are made up of consumers. The internet has leveled the playing field for many but has also allowed us to get complacent about making sure we know our focus.
Business to business is generally based on the model that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few (my last star trek quote I promise!). With this model you try and make/market you product so that it appeals to most types of businesses. Business to consumer is the good of the few – they want to know what is in it for them and do not care about anything your product has that does not relate to their world view.
Does that mean that we have to develop a product for each and every one of those people. That we need to limit our services to a niche that we have chosen and smite everyone that comes along who does not fit into that niche – NO!
What we need to do is market to those different groups differently. The nice thing about this is that it basically costs thought, paper and time. No big development budget, just lots of brain cells.
Let's look at Listingbook first (I contract with them to teach – I did this for free before I came on board because I SO believed in the product). They already have a niche, providing MLS internet services to realtors for their clients.
They also have a problem. One of the focuses of their niche is B2B, contracting with MLSs to use their data and then working at the broker level to provide additional value added services at an office level. Their other focus is B2C (realtors are consumers at this point rather than businesses).
What works for B2B is hard to extrapolate to the individual agent level. BUT WAIT! They can't be everything to everyone you say, they have to build something that will have enough bells and whistles to sell to the MLSs and the brokers you say. This is where the brain cells and marketing come in!
Realtors have problems to solve. How to get more buyers, how to get more sellers, how to keep those sellers happy over a long sales cycle, how to market themselves while still conducting business. Here is the crazy thing – they all think they are unique. They all want to know what is in it for them and making it personal is a niche thing that is relatively easy to solve.
Instead of trying to market to all the different agents, segment them into groups and only show them the features of the product that are relevent to their lives and businesses. Have a class for buyers agents, have a class for sellers agents, have a class showing how to use the product for FSBOs and Expireds, for investors, for lead generating.
BUT WAIT AGAIN! Listingbook does more than that you say, it can revolutionize your whole business you say. Well CONSUMERS don't want revolution. They want solutions – to their problems!
Now let's take a peek at Keller Williams (another great company – I am an agent there). They also have a B2B level where they are working with business owners who have market centers (offices) and team leaders (managers). Their consumers are also realtors. What I think they do particularly well is rely on user generated content to reach their customers. The market centers allow KW agents to teach classes and conduct training in their specialty (I teach marketing, John Dietz teaches FSBOs, etc.). They also provide support on a micro level by having the team leaders coach the agents individually.
What they do have is a problem with perception. There is a perception in the minds of non-KW agents that there is A LOT of unsolicited micro managing and that they HAVE to go to classes. What KW doesn't understandd is how to frame their message so that it is not a sales pitch for KW but a solution for how to do business in the information age of real estate.
Homebuyers and Sellers need something different from realtors today. They HAVE access to the MLS for the most part. The information is there for them and they are using it freely. What realtors bring to the table is knowledge and experience and that is the message that KW helps their agents to get out to the public through training, coaching and systems.
So Realtors, now is my time to take a shot at you! Are you aware of what your focus is? Are you B2B or B2C. Are you both? Could you be both?
In today's market there are scads of opportunity to be B2B. Banks need help selling their inventory through REO sales. That is a message that you could send. Your vendors are hurting too, could you work with them to cross sell to your databases? Handymen know people who are getting ready to move, bug guys know people who need a bigger house, and banks know who has gotten a home loan approval.
On the B2C front, are you framing your message to “what's in it for them?”. Are you talking to niches like sellers, buyers, first timers, baby boomers, dog owners, condo dwellers and water lovers? Are you saying it in a way that makes sense to you OR are you saying it in a way that appeals to them? You do not have to change your services, just frame them in a way that will provide a message that consumers can understand and appreciate.