How often do you see advertising or marketing from companies that you know, usually from experience, the ad is either untrue or nice little stretch from reality? In the turn-key real estate business, unlike any other profession I have seen, many of the advertising and marketing pitches out there are at best a stretch of what the reality is on the ground and at worst straight up lies. I am one to give the benefit of the doubt and believe that many companies really believe that what they are saying is true. The problem begins though, when reality on the ground does not meet the words from the mouth. As often happens, my decision to write this article came from a recent conversation in my office with another Memphis company. But as I relate the story, let me also caution everyone reading…this is not simply a “turn-key” company issue. It goes to the very heart of marketing and advertising. Learning how to play to your strengths without adding too much weight for your shoulders is a key element to growing your business through marketing.
I Always Thought You Were Making That Up
I have never had a fear of competition. Since I was a young boy, competition with others has always been what drove me. I simply wanted to be the best at everything I did and I can’t remember a time when I did not feel that way. At the same time, I am a pleaser. I like helping others. That should suffice to explain how I came to be touring my office with another company from right here in Memphis. I had known the owner of the company or a while and he and I had had our battles, but we had always been cordial to each other.
He was in the process of starting his own company and I wanted to help him find success. As we talked about our business and I offered to help him however we could, the conversation turned to property management and customer service. His previous company had copied much of our marketing, all the way down to the “family-owned business” moniker and although he was not in charge of the marketing, he was intimately familiar with the back and forth. Then he said something that absolutely floored me. His previous company did not provide any where near the level of service that they advertised. But, he had always assumed we did not either. They thought that we simply marketed our company by making up services and numbers and embellishing on everything. They followed suit. They had thought we were lying about our size and the way we conducted business and thought copying our marketing was akin to simply keeping pace.
Needless to say, again, I was floored. As we walked around our offices and I introduced him to our staff and showed him how our process from purchasing, to renovating to property management and all of the back end customer service works, he was amazed and actually said to me “I never believed you actually did all of this”.
Marketing is not a game. Marketing is not an endeavor where fiction works for very long! What too many companies, especially in the turn-key niche of real estate investing, fail to understand is that marketing is not a place to attract clients with false claims or statements about your company or your process. Boasting of how good you are is one thing – and honestly – if you did not think you were providing your best, then what are you in business for in the first place. But when boasting crosses the line to outright falsehoods for the sake of attracting more eyeballs; then you set yourself and your investors up for failure.
I Like That Line…I Think I Will Borrow It!
Part of being the leader of the pack is that everyone else is following. When you market your business or develop a brand, it is important to realize and understand that much of your work – well, – it will be lifted by others. I was astonished one day to receive a phone call from a colleague asking if I had franchised my families company. He had come across a website – my website to be exact – only it featured someone else’s video and name across the top, but it was definitely my website. The colors were exactly the same. The text on the tabs was exactly the same. Heck, the guy in the video had even copied my words as if they were a script to follow. Apart from being in poor taste, it also showed an inherent lack of understanding what makes business professionals successful. It sure wasn’t the website or the words I use. It was every bit the actions that a whole team of people take on a daily basis.
Speaking of websites, I had one other funny experience early on with our website. I have a propensity to type and speak fast. Just ask anyone who heard me at the BiggerPockets Summit in Denver and they will attest to how fast I can talk! When I get to typing quickly I can easily make grammatical or spelling errors. At one point, I made some adjustments to some of the text on our website. I was in a hurry and made some errors. Some meaning 2 or 3, and they were scattered across text discussing why my market was a good market for investors. It took us a few days before we realized the errors and we quickly made the corrections.
However, to this day, there continues to be two websites from others in my market who have never caught the mistakes. I can still go to two separate websites and read the original text that I wrote with the grammatical and spelling errors still in plain view. I was amused at how quickly either a lazy web developer or an even lazier business-person copied the new text I put out.
There was a time when this bothered me. There was a time when I would have been all up in arms and wasted hours making legal threats and stomping around my office vowing to do all sorts of fun things to everyone who copies the materials we put out. Eventually I learned that I have much more important things to put my time towards. Such as training a full staff to make sure they are actually doing everything that all of our marketing advertises!
For those that find their materials being copied, I have two pieces of advice when you see this happening.
1. The worst thing to have in business is an enemy! When I discuss this with other business owners the reasoning as always lost until I explain. Many think you don’t want an enemy because they will say bad things about you. In reality, if you are any good in your business, what others say about you will be so far from your reputation that no one will ever believe them. No, it has nothing to do with what someone may say about you. It has everything to do with what you say. An enemy can take us away from our message and can make us spend valuable time talking about others instead of talking about us! It is simple, if someone is using your marketing pieces, copying your words, creating websites that are 99% duplicates of your site, you have a couple of choices and the one I suggest you take is to ignore it. There is only so long someone can copy you before they actually have to live up to the words.
2. Innovate – Develop – Grow. One of the great things about finding that others are borrowing or just straight copying your marketing materials or website is that it gives you a great reason to change! And when you are in a position where you need to change it is a great chance to think not just outside the box, but really like there is no box. And not just think about your marketing, but think about your business itself. It is often said that a business that is not growing is dying. So take someone using your hard work in marketing yourself or your business as a chance to grow and develop new services, strategies or expertise.
Be Honest, Be Transparent And Be Successful
You see, other companies or individuals in your line of work, they cannot copy you. They cannot copy your personality or your proficiency. In my experience, I have found that eventually people stop copying you because they realize it is not marketing; it is not presentations or even a fancy website that makes you successful.
It is your actions. It is hard to continually promote what you do or how you do it if, in fact, what you say is not what you do or how you do it. Be honest and give prospective clients a true representation of what you do. Just because one company is bigger or offers different services, does not mean you have to do the same in order to be successful. It is often quite the opposite. In order to grow, you have to find what you do best, concentrate on doing it better and then tell the world how well you do it. That is the essence of good marketing.
What makes men and women and even companies successful is how we handle ourselves and the actions we take. The words, images, videos and ads we use to promote ourselves and our companies are just that – promotions. And over time, when others use your words to promote themselves, they usually find that it is hard to live up to the leader and end up further behind.