Adam Laird, Joint MD of Homeflow, presented a session entitled “How you can compete effectively with online agents”; he began by explaining that for every individual that visits an agent’s office to begin their search for a property, there are 500 starting their search online! He also recommended including a ‘staff profiles’ page on your website as it promotes a ‘conversation’ as real people prefer to contact ‘digital people’ as the old adage of “People buy people” is still true in the digital world. We were told that today, 95% of property searches begin online and if you do not have an effective online presence then your business will really suffer. Adam ended by telling us about ‘boomerang’ auto response tools that recognize every online search and then contact both the enquirer and the agent so that no prospect is ever lost as it will then provide details of similar properties to the enquirer and also save all of the enquirers’ information into the agents CRM system.
Conor MacCarrick of Property News.com then spoke to us about ‘Supporting your Business’; his main themes were Education, Motivation and Inspiration.
He reminded us that change is about us and we can neither beat it nor ignore it; he mentioned some examples of what had happened in the past to companies that tried to ignore change:
- Nokia, once the #1 producer of mobile telephones refused to believe that Apple Computers would ever get into mobile telephones!
- Kodak shelved their early research into digital photography as a gimmick and now rolls of photographic film have all but disappeared from shops!
He then sighted other examples such as bank branches are now closing at an alarming rate as the majority of their customers now prefer online banking; estate and letting agents ‘shops’ are suffering a drop in business in the face of their online competitors; Uber versus black cabs; Air B&B versus the High Street providers and then reminded us that Mark Zuckerberg, the American Internet entrepreneur and philanthropist, once said “if we don’t disrupt ourselves, someone else will!”.
Conor warned that every one of us needs to re-evaluate our current business model if we want to preserve and expand our market share; he then suggested some ways to deal with potential disrupters:
- Nurture potential disruptors by merging, buying into them or taking them over – there are many examples of this currently with letting and estate agents
- Leverage existing assets such as putting your diaries online so that potential ‘viewers’ can access your diary and make appointments that suit themselves in slots that you have allocated as ‘free’ in a similar way to Tesco allowing you to arrange your home deliveries online at a time that suits you.
- Lobby against competition; organize yourselves by joining with others in the same sector to gain weight to your argument.
- Overhaul your business model and consider tiered offerings such as the banks have.
- Recognise the power of personality over brand, especially in Northern Ireland where business is still very ‘people’ based.
After Conor had finished his section, we broke for lunch and a valuable networking session - Part 3 of my write up will follow