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Playing the Match Game: 3 Critical Areas in Which You Must Match Your Market

I walked into a real estate office recently and was amazed at what I saw. The front desk receptionist was wearing jeans shorts and a tank top. Some agents were walking around in t-shirts and shorts. I thought to myself, “Don’t these people realize the importance of a first impression?” Unfortunately, this scenario is not limited to this recent experience. Throughout the entire industry, I see agents and office staff members undercutting the perceived professionalism of themselves and their companies due to lackadaisical attention to the way they dress and present themselves as a whole.

“As a whole” is the key phrase here. What I realized is that far too often, agents do not take everything into consideration when they are developing their image. If you believe, like we do at Hobbs/Herder, that real estate is a marketing business, then your image is everything. And your image isn’t limited only to your marketing materials. This article focuses on the three critical areas where you must match your market.

Building Rapport

Before we get to the three areas of focus, let’s take a look at what you are really trying to achieve as a real estate professional. Basically, to generate leads and get your phone ringing, you need to connect with people on some level. You need to hit their hot buttons. Many misinformed agents try to do this through a laundry list of benefits they can provide. But smart agents do this by building rapport through their image, their marketing and everything they do.

Building rapport is all about identifying where you are most alike to the individuals in your target market. That’s why part of your image is determining which aspects of yourself are going to resonate with the homeowners in your farm. You need to ask yourself, “What part of me matches this market?” Now, it has to be the real you – you cannot try to be something you are not – but the real you has many different aspects of it. Choosing which version of yourself you want to build upon is what will lead you to success.

The three major communicators of your image are your personal marketing materials, the car you drive and the clothes you wear. Your marketing materials are always important, and your car and clothes become more important when you are meeting prospects. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Match Your Market: Personal Marketing

Anyone who has been to a Gateway seminar should know this one. It’s basically the philosophy Hobbs/Herder is built upon. The best way to create rapport with your market and generate leads is to allow people to connect with you on a highly emotional level. One key component of doing so is ensuring that your marketing campaign matches your market.

If you’re farming a golf community, show yourself playing golf in your personal brochure. If you’re targeting doctors, use your history in medical sales to make that correlation. If your market is high-end luxury homes, make sure your marketing possesses the sophistication and message that the market will respond to. Matching you to your market is what we excel at here at Hobbs/Herder Advertising. The rest, however, we have no control over, and that’s where things can get scary. Please heed my advice…

Match Your Market: Your Car

Automobiles are more than just modes of transportation. They’re status symbols. They’re indicators of your personality. They’re a reflection of who you are. And that’s why it’s critically important that your car matches your market.

If you’re farming an area dominated by middle class families, your image will suffer if your car does not match their middle class status. That means your Mercedes with the dark tinted windows and gold trim will probably alienate the average homeowner. Conversely, your old pickup truck that looks like its better days have passed will not do you any favors, either. For this market, you need a sensible car – a Honda Accord or similar mid-range sedan, an SUV, or other market-appropriate car.

The same holds true for those attempting to break into that high-end luxury market. If you can’t walk the walk, you’re not going to be successful. We like to tell ourselves that people shouldn’t judge us based on the cars we drive, but guess what? They do. So if you are driving that Honda Accord and trying to sell $2 million homes, there’s a disconnect there. Simply put, your car needs to match your market. To sell luxury homes, you need a luxury automobile. You need a luxury image.

Match Your Market: Dress for Success

Finally, on to the subject that got me started in this article. When I walked into that real estate office, it wasn’t that I expected everyone to be in suits and ties. It’s that I expected a level of professionalism based on the surrounding market, which was an upper middle class area. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought if people were wearing slacks and polo shirts. But they weren’t.

Advising you how to dress is difficult because every market is different. How I would advise you to dress might be drastically different than the person in the office next to you, and it’s all based on your target market. One great rule of thumb, however, is to try to match your market or be one step above the level of dress in your market. Notice I said one step. A little sophistication can go a long way. But overdoing it will again alienate you from your market. The guy who shows up in an Armani suit with gold cufflinks to sell a $100,000 condo isn’t going to build rapport with the homeowner. You’ll just look too slick. The guy who looks like the homeowner will build rapport and allow the homeowner to feel more comfortable.

A Perfect Example To demonstrate these points, some of you may recall the story of Michael Davis, an agent in Brandon, Florida. Several years ago, we were involved in a Realtor Magazine article that analyzed Michael and gave him a marketing makeover. His market was dominated by middle class families, moms driving mini vans and SUVs and soccer games on every other corner. As Michael became successful, however, his success was reflected in a new Mercedes and dark Italian suits. Suddenly, he no longer matched his market, and his image became more that of casino pit boss than family friendly real estate agent. His business suffered a severe hit.

After advising him to ensure he matched his market not only in marketing but also in his car and wardrobe, Michael became successful once again. In fact, Michael’s wife, Judy, would not allow him to buy his next car until we gave him our blessing.

Think As a Marketer

People want to work with those people they feel comfortable with. And there’s no better way to make someone feel comfortable than by showing them how much alike you are. Remember that rapport is based on what we have in common. The greater the rapport, the greater the degree of trust, and the greater the comfort level. You might be tempted to dismiss this information because you really want that top-of-the-line Mercedes like Michael Davis or the cute little coupe, but don’t allow that to influence who you are to your clientele. If you must, buy that car as your “toy” that you don’t drive to work.

What this all boils down to is to get you to think like a marketer in everything you do. Before you send out your first marketing piece, buy your next car or add to your wardrobe, think about your market and ask yourself what kind of impression you’re trying to make. Match your market and put yourself in position for success.