The Advertising Agency
for Today's Serious
Real Estate Professional

The Curse of Knowing Too Much About Real Estate

As I pick up and read agents’ marketing materials, I see that the curse of knowing too much about real estate kills the effectiveness of the marketing message over and over again. The problem is that when an agent reads his or her own marketing materials, the message is perfectly clear. When a consumer reads the same message, they think it is written in hieroglyphics. The problem is that when an agent knows so much already, his or her mind fills in all the blanks automatically while the average consumer is left scratching their head.

Name That Tune
A few years ago a professor did a research study in which she asked 120 people to tap out a song to a listener using a pen on a table. The songs were well-known tunes like “Happy Birthday to You” and the “Star Spangled Banner.” When the person was done tapping out the song, they were asked what they felt the odds were that the other person had recognized the song. Everyone in the study reported the odds were 50 percent or better, yet only three out of 120 (2.5 percent) of the people correctly named the song.

Those who did the tapping were dumbfounded when people named the wrong song. The most common response was, “How can you be so stupid and not recognize ‘Happy Birthday to You?’” The problem is that the person doing the tapping had been singing the song in their head while they tapped, so it was totally obvious to them what the song was. Meanwhile, the person who was listening, trying to make sense of the taps, was unable to identify the song as the taps simply made no sense to them.

The Agent Who Knew Too Much
This is like agents trying to convince consumers that they are the best agent by sharing a bunch of facts and figures which the agent understands are critically important to a successful real estate transaction. However, a consumer will never understand these facts and figures because they do not have the same knowledge base that even a relatively new agent has about what is really important. The reality is that no amount of education will ever convince a consumer of the importance of these facts until they find themselves stuck in a bad transaction that makes them learn through experience.

So how do you overcome the curse of having too much real estate knowledge? Well, first and foremost, you have to become aware that the problem exists in your current marketing campaign. Once you do, there’s a chance to correct it. Until then, you’re wasting time and money on ineffective marketing materials. Then, you need to use the following guidelines for creative effective marketing. Hobbs/Herder Advertising uses the SUCCESs formula from the great new marketing book titled “Made to Stick,” by Chip and Dan Heath. It gives you a framework for making your message stick in the minds of clients.

Defining SUCCESS
In “Made to Stick,” SUCCESS stands for Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional Story. When I read the SUCCESS formula, I realized it captured the essence of what Hobbs/Herder Advertising tries to do with every personal prospecting brochure we write for an agent, every recruiting piece we create for a company and what I believe is at heart of every great marketing piece.

The first step is to make your message Simple. Yet the more knowledge you have, the more complex you tend to make your message. To a calculus professor, trigonometry seems so simplistic – How could anyone but an idiot not get it? – yet their very bright students complain they cannot understand a thing they say. The curse of knowledge urges you to explain your core message, broaden it and enlighten the minds of your prospects. But in doing so, you obscure the clarity of your message.

The great Realtor® Allan Domb is Philadelphia’s luxury condominium specialist. This has been his one and only message since he went after the condo market in 1980. Over the years he could have talked about lots of other things like the quality of his service, the organizational prowess of his staff or the fact his listings sell faster, but any of those things would actually have distracted from the power and impact of his message. By staying focused on a simple message, Allan has now closed over 30,000 luxury condo sales since 1980. He proves that the path to success is to find a niche and go after it with a single, clear message and avoid the temptation to add all the other things that you know are important but will stop your message from penetrating the minds of your clients.

Marketing – With a Twist
Next, your message must have an Unexpected twist. Hobbs/Herder has found that this can be achieved by highlighting something in your background that is unique or interesting. Peggy Lucas specializes in families. Her unexpected twist is that she is a former police officer whose Realtor® husband is a former SWAT team member. To the typical kid-loving soccer mom, Peggy’s story of cop-turned-family-Realtor® is memorable in a very powerful way. The funny thing is that most agents we write marketing materials for never find the twists in their own lives nearly as interesting or compelling as others do. The problem is that we lived it and the curse of our own knowledge hits again. The question agents always ask me is, “What does that have to do with real estate?” Of course, my response is that I know that it has everything to do with real estate because it is the key to being memorable and making your marketing message stick.

Then comes Concrete and Credible. When an agent says that they provide great service with integrity, they shoot themselves in the foot. The average consumer knows that the only people who focus on honesty and integrity are the ones who aren’t providing it. The only way to communicate something like honesty or integrity is to tell a concrete story that has a ring of truth. This is especially true of testimonials. If a testimonial sounds too good to be true, a reader will discount it and actually become more skeptical of your message. In our brochures, we urge agents to let us tell a story that demonstrates their values and leads the consumer to make the conclusion on their own. It’s the only way to make your message truly credible in the reader’s mind.

Grab the Reader’s Emotions
Finally it must all be wrapped in an Emotional Story. Stories have been at the heart of the most effective forms of teaching for thousands of years. A story brings the elements of your life together in a way that makes sense. Overwhelming research shows that stories are the cornerstone of effective marketing.

If you follow the SUCCESS guidelines, I know that your marketing will be more effective and produce much better results. The only complaint I get from people is that following the guidelines is not easy to do. It requires that you think through each part of your message and make difficult trade-offs and decisions about what you stand for. It will force you to sacrifice the general market for a niche and make you look inside yourself for answers about what you really believe. The payoff is that your marketing will produce great results. As the old saying goes, success is normally inconvenient, and that is why most people pass on it.