David Ramos is the President and CEO of Bzel, a multi-disciplinary brand consultancy agency leading the future of brand building.
Real estate pioneers across the board accept that the old-school model is not enough to produce substantial differentiation. In fact, everyone is hitting the dartboard, hoping their efforts might disrupt the market. These days in real estate, differentiation comes down to a few key areas: data, technology and customer experience.
Below, I’ll identify a few ways to spark innovation that can act as a set of guiding principles in the so-called new real estate era.
Channel the concept of design thinking.
Design thinking is defined as “a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.”
Real estate mapping through design thinking is about identifying the triggers, pains and needs of buyers and sellers, which can lead to loyalty and sales in the future. Using the elements of design thinking—immersion, analysis, ideation and prototyping—you can gather insights into all the moments of the buyer’s and seller’s journey. Powering the customer with a more robust experience at all stages—selling, purchasing or searching for a property—can give your company brand credibility.
Real estate firms would benefit from structuring their marketing and design operations around a core vision of design thinking. Once firms adopt and perfect their design thinking methodology, it will be easier for the enterprise to generate new ideas, engage teams and create a culture of innovation and products that add substantial added value.
Figure out—and communicate—what makes you unique.
In real estate, everyone’s ultimate goal is to establish their own personal brand. Some of the larger real estate firms have done an excellent job with their overall brand, providing a support system that allows their professionals to establish their own identity within the brand. This allows for more personality and uniqueness, making a brand more approachable, reliable and engaging than a more sterile alternative. And rather than their conventional offerings, it’s the innovations, personalization and technology ecosystems that help them emerge as a beacon of change for the industry.
How can you create a high-performance real estate brand? And how can you structure your organization to facilitate operations in different ways, promoting brand breakthrough, differentiation of professionals and exclusive services clients can’t get anywhere else?
As I once read in ZAG, one of my favorite business books, if you want to create and generate lasting value, you need to start with the idea of radical differentiation. In the real estate industry, growth requires radical differentiation. It’s about finding a whole new market space you can own and defend, thereby delivering profits over several years instead of a few months. If you want to be a real estate pioneer, consider giving customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance.
In my opinion, Compass is a great example. Early on, the company added proprietary technology to help real estate agents gain access to products that help them achieve sales velocity. The company also streamlined incumbent dysfunctional technology, allowing space for a whole new market they can own and defend.
Other companies, such as Nest Seekers, a real estate powerhouse, added categories of abundance through national media by producing TV shows—like Million Dollar Beach House, Million Dollar Listing, and Selling The Hamptons—that stream on Netflix, Bravo and Discovery+, respectively. It successfully does something others cannot, positioning a new category that enhances the brand and intensifies the company’s interest among buyers, sellers and renters.
It’s also important to communicate your radical differentiation by working on what brand expert Marty Neumeier calls your “onlyness statement”—the more extended version of your elevator pitch that defines your differentiation. Once you’ve defined your onlyness statement, you can gradually emphasize the brand-building process to become a high-performance brand.
Employ the 50/50 Rule.
I genuinely believe that by empowering real estate professionals with marketing knowledge, the relationship of the company with its buyers, sellers, renters and developers becomes closer. And an agent or broker who understands the synergies between marketing and the sales process can more easily close deals.
The more engaged the real estate professional is in marketing activities, the better their productivity and desire to sell. The coexistence of sales and marketing is the foundation of organic growth and what I call the 50/50 Rule. Let’s try two approaches to help magnify the importance of marketing within real estate:
• Adapt existing ideas.
By default, you can’t be original by copying the original. You have to start from a different place. Consider borrowing an idea from a different industry/sector that relates closely enough to real estate and adapt it for your own purposes. While not truly original, this method can spark innovative, fresh ideas. While emulating a view, perspective or idea from a different sector is not the same as pure imagination, it takes a mental leap to apply an idea from one industry or discipline into real estate.
• Tap into data to unlock trends.
This past year has been truly remarkable for real estate data, technology innovations and customer experience. When crafting your elevator pitch, these three key elements are great waves to ride while it lasts.
For example, McKinsey recently helped RXR Realty, a North American real estate investor and developer, supercharge its offerings by riding trends. The two worked together during the health crisis to reimagine the tenant experience across its properties. The health crisis fueled the company’s reinvention, prioritizing its digital muscle and speeding up its ability and agility to better deliver experiences for its customers and enhance their living experience. The crisis also allowed RXR Realty to apply data-driven programs to respond quickly to dynamic changes and prioritize safety and wellness for its residents. In short, from creating new roles to resident experience apps to digital concierge services, the health crisis helped RXR Realty position itself as a beacon of change for a very cluttered industry.
I hope my takeaways have helped you identify potential opportunities where you could unlock growth for your real estate business and enterprise.