Disrupting The Estate Agency Disruptors.

Disrupting The Estate Agency Disruptors.

Disrupting The Estate Agency Disruptors.

A buzz-word that so epitomises the current malaise of estate agency, in the U.K:

Disrupted.      def:  to throw into disorder,

The disruptors rocked the cosy world of high street estate agency.  Scattered the complacency.  Applied pressure where most felt.  In the fees charged to vendors.

They started small.  Offering a cheap alternative. And some dubious software to differentiate.

Little by little, we see them grow. In size, in capability and in confidence.  It’s created a dilemma for established agencies.

Emulate?  Or improve what they have?

Traditional estate agencies arrived at this fork in the road.

The easy option is, of course, to emulate.  It’s not rocket science to set up an online agency offering.

Little financial commitment.

Take the fight to these disruptors seemed to be the logic.

Aided and abetted by ingenuous homeowners that knew the price of everything.  And the value of nothing.

Improving what they already offered seemed more risky.  And harder work. What if the online craze took off?   Left them behind?

Besides. Many agents may have thought their offering ‘cutting edge’ already.

Which choice did most make?

The easy option, of course.

Emulate the online disruptors and offer traditional.  Plus, online.

Giving homeowners more choice.

What’s not to love for any homeowner?

A few variations of this model sprung up.  Acquisitions and mergers, brought about with a big chunk of change.  Online and now the ubiquitous hybrid model.  A real mess, if ever there was.

The Candy Diet highlights the consequences.

The road not taken?

Improving what traditional agencies already offered.

Becoming more skilled, more inspiring, more human.  More remarkable, more meaningful.

The harder, of two trails, to navigate.

Infinitely more sensible, though.

True differentiation.  Rather than a melding of an unproven business model with one established and proven.

Hidden accomplishments of an Estate Agent is a post from last year.  It talks about the unheralded skills that traditional agency brings to every transaction.

The Bridge.  The Certifier.  The Enforcer.  The Risk Bearer.  The Concierge.  The Insulator.

All skill-sets that online and most hybrids ignore. And which many traditional agents trivialize.

“Our work is more than what we do.  It’s the entirety of effort that goes into each step of the process.  In a sense, it’s what we don’t see.”    Jeff Goins.

Making the service better should not be that difficult.  For a start, there’s evidence a plenty that vendors desire better communication.  Whether good news or not.

Hybrid agencies, such as PurpleBricks, fail miserably on this score.

Where traditional agencies, particularly independent, might trump their online competitors is with brand.

eMoov, PurpleBricks, YOPA, House Simple, Tepilo.  They all have in common a strategy based on brand awareness. And that brand tells vendors NOTHING about the agency.  Other than they are cheap. And convenient.

It amuses every time I catch their miserably inadequate T.V ads.  The cost of acquiring customers this way can seriously damage a company’s wealth.

Andrew Essex puts it this way in his excellent book:  The End of Advertising.

“Interruptive advertising is a shadow of its former power and it continues to slide.”

He emphasises there being so much content nowadays, consumers have to ignore most.

The days of mass market manipulation no longer exist.  Consumers demand more targeted offers.  A more relevant proposition.  They no longer tolerate interruption.  They have a choice.

Those agents seduced by social media will claim success with the number of page hits on their website.  The number of likes on their blog.  The number of shares and re-tweets. The number of meaningless ‘friends’ they have never spoken with.  Let alone met.  All they get in return is awareness.  At best.

Whether Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships is slim.  What matters more, for any traditional agency, is community.

 “Network gives you reach. Community gives you power.”  – Ted Rubin

The Minimum Viable Audience, as Seth Godin puts it.

And yet.  And yet.

Few traditional agencies do anything other than advertise in the local press.  Drop some leaflets.  Make some annoying cold-calls to

vendors already on with another agency.

If any one agency disappeared tomorrow?

Nobody would miss them.

Online agencies have created this culture that will allow traditional agencies to flourish.  Their mediocre, commodity work for a fixed fee will remain.

Unlike Apple, though, that pitches its product/services at the high-end, online agency is, and will remain, a ‘bottom-feeder’.

For traditional high-street agencies, there is obvious risk by association.  Do they want to be perceived as a commodity supplier?  A small cog in a digital marketplace?

If they offer the online option, that will be their fate.

How to disrupt the disruptors, then?

Personal brand.

Owning your own media.

Two things very few, if any, agents do well.

“Three years from now, if you don’t have a personal brand, nobody is going to work with you”.   Nicolas Cole

Personal brand is something the disruptors cannot echo.

Personal Brand

eMoov is all about the brand.  Same with PurpleBricks.  They have little interest in the personal brand.

Independent agents can have both.

Witness, Bobby Singh from www.loveyourpostcode.com

Perry Power from www.powerbespoke.co.uk

Both personal brands.  Both associated with a corporate brand.

One drives the other.

The majority of estate agents claim relationship drives their business.  But do very little to develop their personal brand.

Check out www.nicolascole.com

One of the very best advocates of personal brand.

“Don’t build your house on other people’s land.”

Why, why, oh why.  Do estate agencies pay ‘through the nose’ to strengthen Rightmove and Zoopla domination?

Why do they pay for banner ads on Facebook?  For cover ads in the local trades directory?  For digital billboards?

Not only are consumers conditioned to ignore any advertising, it is expensive. The advertiser has almost zero control. And in a landscape littered with brands, no one will remember.

Estate agencies will have to prove they have something interesting to say.  And the best place to say it?  Is on a platform that the agency owns.

The ever so simple blog.  The podcast on iTunes.  The e-book given away for free.  The video.  None of it advertising.  All of it, owned by the agency.  Driving traffic and relationships.


Hard work, of course.  But so much better and more satisfying than the easy option.

Narrow-cast rather than broadcast.

Disrupting the disruptors doesn’t cost a lot.  And there’s very little to beat.

Your community awaits.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Chris Arnold.