Flipping on Platinum Edge

Yesterday I went to a Help-U-Sell broker meeting.  It was attended by half a dozen really strong members – good guys who know their business and represent the brand well.  At one point the discussion turned to the difficulties of listing properties at the top of the range.  As one broker put it, ‘The higher the price, the greater the resistance.’  It seems that in high price ranges, sellers who really do want to save, who love the Help-U-Sell program, don’t want their friends and neighbors to see the Help-U-Sell sign in their yards.  They don’t want to be identified as seeking out perceived ‘discount’ services.

I tried so hard to resist this notion.  I kept thinking about what Betina Grein said to me when I marveled at her ability to list properties at the upper reaches of her Stafford, Virginia price range:  ‘That’s where they save the most money!’  I tried to cling to the notion that the problem wasn’t in the consumer’s mind but in the way our brokers present the program.

But then I looked around the room.  These are very sharp people.  They work in this business with this brand every day.  They’re saying this is a problem.  I have to believe them.

So . . . there is this other Help-U-Sell brand, Platinum Edge.  By way of introduction I’ll reproduce what I wrote about it in 2009:

Platinum Edge and the Clarity of the Brand

We at Help-U-Sell have a second brand, reserved for upper end properties, Platinum Edge.  Platinum Edge has its own logo, and colors (purple and gold), and is occasionally used by a handful of Help-U-Sell brokers.  I was on my way out of Help-U-Sell when the sub-brand was devised and was only peripherally privy to the conversation that led to its birth.  Now, half a dozen years later, I’m looking at it and wondering, ‘What in the world were we thinking?’

We have Help-U-Sell:  an already well-established brand.  By well-established I mean that most consumers have heard of us and many have an inkling that we are somehow different than ordinary real estate practitioners. That is HUGE.  Really:  establishing brand recognition is a very tough task that usually takes years.  The good news is: once you have it, it tends to stay with you.  (For more about this, read ‘Marketing Warfare’ by Ries and Trout. )

To trade the power of that wonderfully distinct brand for something that is completely unknown by the consuming public seems misguided at best, even cavalier.

I know the history.  A group of our old Regional Directors got together and decided that the Help-U-Sell brand was a turn-off for high end homeowners.  It seemed to them that the reason we had little presence in the lofty price ranges was that those homeowners were, um, what’s the word?  Oh, yes:  embarrassed to have the Help-U-Sell sign in their yard!  They didn’t want the neighbors to know they wanted to save money, don’t you see?  And somehow, by simply changing the sign and the name they’d flock to us to save thousands on the sale of thier McMansions.

I guess that must have resonated in 2005.  A lot of stupid stuff did.  And hats off to Infinium for NOT re-inventing the Regional Director mess when they took control of Help-U-Sell at the end of 2008.  Today we function quite well without that extra barrier between the franchisor and the franchisee.

Last year I visited with Josh and Bettina Grein, Help-U-Sell Grein Group in Stafford, Virginia.  They have a good business, much of which takes place in the upper end of their marketplace, homes priced at $500,000 and up.  I asked how they were able to break into that market.  Bettina looked at me, puzzled, and finally said,  ‘Break in?  What do you mean?  . . .  That’s where people can save the most.’  Period.

I don’t think we needed Platinum Edge to sell high end properties.  I think we needed passion, pride and belief that what we have works – three things that were in rather short supply in 2005.  Consumers are psychic:  if you stand before them with doubt and trepidation, they sense it and respond accordingly . . . if you’re not proud and passionate about what you’re doing, you might as well stay home.

Today our group is like a hungry, happy pack of wolves.  They are so deeply into Help-U-Sell, into saving consumers money, into doing it differently and better that it’s almost part of their DNA.  It’s as if  a whole new species of  REALTOR is loose on the planet, a mutant strain that has evolved in response to changes in the (consumer) environment.  It’s stronger, faster, smarter, clearer and more effective.  While all the old dinosaurs in the forest are slowly turning into crude oil, this new breed is taking over.  It’s Survival of the Fittest and we’re certainly up to the challenge.  Platinum Edge?  That’s just a hat-tip to the old Tyrannosaurus we used to be, our clunky, addled, awkward, embarrassed former incarnation.  Today Help-U-Sell comes in just one color, and it’s the color of passion and love:  RED.  Let’s Hunt!

As strong and as passionate as my point-of-view in this post is, I have to question it when a handful of great Help-U-Sell brokers say something different.  And truth is, there are a few brokers who still use the brand and swear by it, Ed and Julie Wright in Mission Viejo, for example.  Is it time to dust off the Platinum Edge brand?  Time to freshen up the logo?  Maybe adjust the colors?  Would you use it?  If so, how?  Or do you hate the idea?  I really want to hear from you.

3 Objectives of Marketing

Visibility – Lead Generation – Client Base Development

In that order.

First rule of Marketing:  Be Visible! Which means to be seen . . . frequently.  In real estate we do that largely with signs: For Sale Signs (listings!), directional signs, open house signs, Blitz Signs, Car Wraps, Billboards, Bus Benches, office signage.  You are visible when you hear the magic words:  ‘I see your signs everywhere.’

However:  Visibility can be accomplished in other ways as well.  Richard Cricchio (whose office is on an ISLAND, which is a pertinent detail) has used a weekly radio show for the past 9 years to boost his visibility.  Maria Powell and Michelle Morgan have become active on local television to be more visible.  Kim Zelena and Kimber Regan have used community involvement and charity events to increase their visibility.  Julie Wright is deeply into her Chamber of Commerce.

Lead Generation is all about Targeting, which means honing in on the people most likely to need your services in the future.  Lead generation might take the form of direct mail or door hanger distribution.  It used to take the form of newspaper and homes magazine advertising (and still may in some cases).  Increasingly, lead generation is about maximizing your web presence . . . essentially being electronically VISIBLE and easily found online.

Many of our folks are generating leads by optimizing their Help-U-Sell websites.  Good News:  if you haven’t done that yet, call Tony – he’ll help you.  Others are pulling them in regularly via premiere agent programs at Zillow, Trulia  and Realtor.com.  Robin Rowland is using Facebook to create new business.  Maurine Grisso has 5 websites (and counting), each targeting a different segment of the market.

Client Base Development means we look backward as often as we look forward.  As we move contacts to contracts and closings, we move those clients back into our cache of fans.  We cultivate the relationship with regular meaningful contact.  We seek and get their help in further developing our business.  You are doing client base development right when you have former clients functioning as advocates in the field for your service.

Rather than single out anyone doing a good job of client base development I’d simply congratulate all Help-U-Sell brokers.  Truth is:  nobody is making it through the tough market of the past several years without the help of a strong client base.  No matter how many leads you are developing, the power of a personal referral will almost always be your best option for doing business.