In for the long haul

Real Estate Business reports from last month’s ARPM Conference, where agents learnt that doing well in the industry is more like a marathon than a sprint

On August 5, the world stood still and watched Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, win his second consecutive 100 metres Olympic gold medal. With the expectations of the world weighing upon him, Bolt took just 9.63 seconds to run the distance. But what many people don’t realise is how much hard work went into those fleeting few seconds.
That same day, more than 450 property managers and principals descended on the Hilton Sydney for the Australasian Residential Property Management (ARPM) Conference.
Among them was Starr Partners’ chief executive officer Doug Driscoll, who pondered the sacrifice, preparation and training required to become an Olympic champion. “Training is everything,” Mr Driscoll said.

“Only this morning I watched Usain Bolt win the 100 metres and I think people watch that in isolation and look at it over the course of 10 seconds – but think of all the time and effort that went into winning that event. People very rarely reflect on the fact that it has taken 13 to 15 years for him to get there,” Mr Driscoll told Real Estate Business at the conference,
“And I think that, as an industry, it is what we really need to focus on – professional development training. I don’t think we spend enough time on it. Whether you’re a newbie in the industry or you’ve been around for 30 to 40 years, you can never stop learning and improving.”

This was a theme addressed more than once during the two-day conference, with speakers including Josh Phegan; Julie Ryan; Fiona Blayney; Karl Secondis, principal at One Real Estate in Darwin; Leah Calnan of Metro Propetry Management in Victoria; social media expert and coach Peter Fletcher; and Real Estate Institute of Qld (REIQ) Property Manager of the Year, Katie Knight.

Eliminate, create, reduce and raise

Kicking off the conference was new mother and leading industry trainer, Fiona Blayney. According to Ms Blayney, too many property managers offer the same services, focusing too much on what their competitors offer rather than seeing what else their clients could use.

“I am looking around and seeing that most property management businesses are exactly the same,” she said. “There are no differentiating factors.”

During her presentation, Ms Blayney named four key focus points that each principal should consider in order to give their client what they want without burdening their business financially. These include how to eliminate ‘fluff’, create opportunity, reduce effort and raise their business.

“I encourage all business owners to sit down and ask, what are the ‘fluff’ parts of my business that I can eliminate?” she said. “These are things that cost you money to provide [yet] add no value to the client. Are you offering them four or five inspections per year but they don’t actually want that? Secondly, what can you create in your business to offer a new service to your clients,” she continued. “How could you actually use the services that are already around you to create something new?”

According to Ms Blayney, many principals waste money by hiring over-skilled staff when the job could be outsourced more cost-effectively.

“The third key focus I want owners to look at is what can I reduce?” she said, “so it might not be that I am going to eliminate the service altogether but I might get somebody outside of the business, who has less skill, less knowledge and fewer costs than me to do it. And the fourth part is to raise your business – so, what can you offer in terms of service that is bigger than [something] any of your competitors could do?”

Marketing memory

Consumers may vaguely recall your marketing campaign but end up thinking it came from the area’s dominant player, real estate marketing expert Julie Ryan told the ARPM conference.
Ms Ryan said it takes three items or events within three weeks to create ‘remembrance’ with consumers.

“With just one interaction, they’ll forget you,” she said. “People can ‘sort of remember they got something’. But when asked from who, they will say who they believe to be the dominant agent in thatarea. And if that’s not you, then you just paid for someone else’s marketing.”

According to Ms Ryan, more money is spent on advertising research than on medical science:

“Marketing is about creating outstanding value and becoming famous for that,” she said. “If someone is not famous for their amazing service, then there’s no point being so good. Your service needs to be able to be passed on by your customers. The [brain’s] reticular activating system is a giant filter that filters out all the information you think is unnecessary and it lets through the necessary information,” she continued.

In this low activity state, landlords have already decided, subconsciously, about which property manager to use – unless you break the cycle.
“When someone has had an interaction with you, on a person-to-person level, every piece of ‘marketing’ they receive from then on is more effective than if they had never met you,” Ms Ryan told the audience. “Congratulations and thank-you notes are some of the most powerful tools you can use. I make sure I write up five notes before I even check my email.”

Technology

Software provider Rockend’s chief executive officer, John Goddard, told Real Estate Business in the conference’s exhibition area that the industry fails continually to capitalise on the benefits of technology.
Mr Goddard believes that of the 4,000 businesses that use the company’s strata and property management products, more than half do not use them to their full potential.

“That means there is a huge opportunity for those who aren’t using these products yet to really get ahead of their competitors,” he said.
According to Mr Goddard, training is the key to using the products well:
“Training of all users is the critical part, as well as making sure that all members of the individual businesses understand why it is being used – including [setting] targets. “And, of course, to use it well you’ve got to train
people,” he added. “They’ll get a lot more out of people and our products if they are well trained.”

Social media trainer and speaker Peter Fletcher echoed Mr Goddard’s comments when he spoke to Real Estate Business after his presentation.

“Keeping up with new technology is just the way to be relevant. It is the way of servicing your customers faster, it enables you to respond to enquirers quicker, and provide better customer service – and more and more that is what people are demanding of the modern agent,” he said.
“They can no longer expect to perform well and be living in the past, without embracing new technology.”

Customer concerns

Catherine Devrye, 1993 Australian Executive Woman of the Year, urged property managers in her presentation to change their views on customer satisfaction.
She shared her ‘elastic band theory’, that if there is too much of a gap between your promise and your delivery, the relationship will snap.
She also claimed that 96.7 per cent of customers never bother to complain to you directly; instead, they complain to everyone else.

“Every complaint shows that there are another 20 people unhappy with your service,” she said. “If you can recover quickly you can create loyalty in your customers. You need to start seeing feedback and complaints as free consulting.”

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