Following a conversation with an old friend and a twitter conversation with @theagentsdiary, I decided to look at my business model from the perspective of my competitors.

‘So, you’re an estate and letting agent but don’t have a shop?’, my friend who I hadn’t seen since school asked as we had a coffee in Costa. ‘How does that work then? Do you get any business? Your High Street competitors must eat you for breakfast, no?’

I think it’s useful to identify how competitors with a different business model might choose to justify what they do and say why they think their way is better than yours. It helps come up with a form of words/explanation for the moment you’re having this coffee conversation with a potential client, not an old friend.

Cass Properties is what is known as a hybrid estate & lettings agent. I prefer the term ‘best of both worlds’ agent – but then I would wouldn’t I?

All the competitors in my area operate the traditional high street shop model, while nationally there are many online only estate agents offering their services.

So I tried to think what I would say if I was trying to argue against my ‘best of both worlds’ model.

If I was an ONLINE AGENT I would point to the savings on fees. ‘Even the ‘best of both worlds’ agents are more expensive than us’, I would say.

‘And on service, we do offer extra services (at a cost) and many people prefer to do their own viewings. They don’t want an agent taking over their house’.

My response would be that buying a toothbrush, book, DVD or even washing-machine is a very different thing psychologically to trusting a faceless company to sell your home or rent out your property; and most people would rather NOT have to do their own viewings. What ‘most’ people want is professional, local, face-to-face service and accept that a reasonable fee should be payable for this.

If I were a TRADITIONAL HIGH STREET agent I would have to resort to claiming that agents who work from a serviced office or a home office and charge less MUST give poorer service and can’t be professional. ‘You don’t get something for nothing.’ ‘If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is’ etc.

My response is that traditional high street agents have NO sensible/truthful ammunition against a ‘best of both worlds’ competitor. Speaking for myself, Cass Properties is a traditional agent where it matters – professionalism; knowledge; service; face-to-face availability; empathy; commitment – but a modern agent where it matters – internet, social media and focusing only on what is needed to attract committed buyers and tenants – so no shop, glossy brochures, weekly ads in the paper, ‘cos buyers couldn’t care less about those things any more.

I try to take the best aspects and discard the worst of the online and traditional high street models and produce a win-win, best of both worlds offering for my clients.

The traditional model is High Service/High Cost

The online model is Low Service/Low Cost

MY model is HIGH SERVICE/MEDIUM COST (lower cost than traditional high street but higher than Internet).

What we ‘best of both worlds’ agents struggle with is overcoming the natural ignorance of our potential clients. How do they know we exist? How do we get over the natural fear/suspicion of something they don’t understand and have never come across before?

I know there are a lot more  ‘best of both worlds’ agents out than generally thought. Please share your experiences and tips. Also feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook.



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