By Sam DeBord
This week I’m in Washington, D.C., for the REALTOR® Party Conference & Expo, and it got me thinking: Some of the most interesting committees I’ve worked with lately have focused on a range of issues surrounding the value proposition for the REALTOR® brand. From a communications audit at our local board to a state/NAR combined idea building project, the question of member value has been at the forefront. Those of us who are heavily involved with our boards already understand the great value of our membership, but explaining it in a way that engages the average member isn’t an easy task.
There seem to be three main steps to create a scalable value proposition outreach, and some tempting pitfalls within each:
1. Identify and define those services that members currently value, or those that would hold value if the members were aware of them. Don’t assume you know, or hope that you know what members value. Measure it through surveys, interviews, or focus groups.
2. Craft the message that conveys that value in a sound bite – an elevator pitch, in effect. Don’t attempt to force everything you’d like members to know into this message, it needs to be brief and catered specifically to their business bottom line. Only tell them what will sell them.
3. Find the tactics and delivery mechanisms that will allow you to spread the message effectively. Don’t try new avenues because they’re flashy, or stick to old ones because they’re easy. Measure your response or engagement rates from past messaging in different media, and focus on those that drive ROI.
Most of us who have given a pitch about REALTOR® membership know that members will understand the value if we have enough time to explain the depth of the advocacy and industry support we provide. We also know that we rarely get a lot of time. The grumble in the office about paying annual dues can be retorted with a quick reminder of a recent legislative victory that saved the member an entire paycheck. Coming from a position of “putting out fires,” though, isn’t as effective as proactively driving a public relations value campaign within membership.
One of the interesting components of creating a value proposition is the geographic differentiation between boards. Some locations have a majority of local brokerages in their membership, which creates plenty of incentives for licensees to join the board. Most have REALTOR®-owned MLSs which are obvious enticements to membership. We also know, though, that there are REALTOR® boards in cities whose MLSs are broker-owned, and those associations thrive as well. The brokers and agents in those locations are finding value in the REALTOR® organization even though it doesn’t provide an MLS. Issues advocacy, legal guidance, professional standards, and education are often the services cited as most valuable by members in these non-REALTOR® MLS locations.
The future services that we provide will certainly be a significant factor in how much our members appreciate our boards in the long-term. Defining the current benefits, though, in a succinct and crystal-clear fashion, is ultimately important in educating and engaging our members today.
We’re salespeople. If we can’t sell REALTOR® membership to our associates, we’re either not very good at our jobs, or we’re just not interested in trying.
If I had been sold the REALTOR® brand as a new licensee, this would have been the elevator pitch that worked for me:
“Being a REALTOR® will cost you a few hundred bucks a year. For that, you’ll receive protection: legal guidance to prevent lawsuits, governmental advocacy to safeguard your current paycheck, and legislative steering to keep bad laws from harming your local market and your future paychecks.”
“You’ll also receive business building benefits: education to expand your skill set, career guidance and tools to promote a more profitable business model, and association with the industry’s top professionals for networking, referrals, and professional development.”
“Successful people don’t step over dollars to pick up pennies. Tell me you don’t want to spend a few hundred bucks to protect and grow your business – I’ll tell you that your mindset is not going to allow you to be successful in this business.”
I’d love to hear your feedback, as different members value different services. What’s your value proposition? What elevator pitch would have gotten you off the fence as a new real estate agent? Why are you a REALTOR®?
Sam DeBord is a state director for Washington REALTORS®, and managing broker with Coldwell Banker Danforth. Connect with his team, Seattle Homes Group, at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.