Let's face it, as agents, we spend a lot of our lives in our cars. In fact, if our phones have become our desktops, then our cars have almost certainly become our remote office. So what does the car you drive say about you as a real estate consultant and, perhaps more importantly, is this message still in sync with your current marketing strategy? Afterall, your vehicle lease may be 2 years, but your market pivots may run much, much shorter in between.
Who's This Guy?
So let's say you're the client and the agent you don't yet know rolls up in a Ferrari, jumps out and is immediately attempting to assure you that this meager starter home (behind her/him) is a power-investment... a great find... a gem. Now, you (the agent you are) might think... that gal/guy knows what they're doing, look at their stance, I'm going to listen to what they have to say... preach on. But this just isn't how the consumer mindset works. More often than not, the jaded consumer (and understandably so), enters into their relationship with you assuming that you're looking for an angle to take money from what they imagine is a free process - mostly just "paperwork and connections" (again, this is their mindset here). Unfortunately, your car just reinforced their beliefs. At least, it might have.
Let's try the other side of the coin here. You land a great lead on a million dollar listing, you've qualified them, lined everything up and are now at the crossroads of your best deal in a year. But, you pulled up in what you feel is a moderately-priced sedan - one that demonstrates your efficiency as an agent and something you're quite proud of. It's clean, the latest model and speaks to your brand message "I'm efficient! I'm the problem solver, the home finder!" But, the client doesn't feel represented and you may not know why. See, with both of these examples, the disconnect (and that's really the message) is if your listing doesn't match your car, then your car doesn't match the brand showcasing the listing and you now don't match the client sold on the listing and the brand. Sure, you may actually know exactly what they need, but you don't fit the picture.
And That is Okay!
It's not so much that you have to do anything with this, simply that this might be an unspoken factor you may want to consider going forward (as you cement your commitment to your brand messaging). Again, if you've been in the business for 1 year, 5 years or 50 years... your vehicle plays a factor in your brand story and a bit of forethought should be put into it too. For some, this will be an understood thing, but this works both ways (as shown in the first example above). If you've made big money moving moderate, affordable homes for everyday folk, then your own story may not match your brand's story and this could be hindering your deepend success. In this revolution economy, it may be time to take another look at the message you're sending.
Enough About Message, Let's Talk Practicality
Despite the need to spread the above message far and wide, it seems that many agents already drive their brand message home (pun intended). But what if you are defined by your long hours and hard work in the field, making dreams happen and deals rain? Well, then it may be effective to ask "is this my James Bond car?" Does this vehicle have my back, with all the gadgetry my tech team can muster and all the mileage of a long-haul tanker? Or, as is often the case, does it meet the criteria above (looking sharp), but only looking it? Okay, so there's a couple of metaphors to unwrap here, let's break it down...
- If your business is shuttling tire-kickers around your farm, then a family-sized van with cargo seats may be the way to go.
- If your business is relationship-building, then a good-sized pickup truck you can lend out to clients for their move can go a long way for you.
- If your business is referral-networking, then an energy-efficient hybrid pulling 50 miles/gallon will make bouncing all over the map easier to budget.
Simply put, every vehicle has it's ups and downs. Hopefully, you're doing a little of all of the above and you'll want something that meets all of these needs... but, you've got to focus in on the ones that meet your actual, practical usage. An SUV is a great machine, and if you needed to spend your days off road, driving through the mud, or up and down mountain roads demo'ing cabins, then it could be an excellent choice for you. However, if you also spend your days running around town, dropping signs, meeting clients for coffee, attending closings and showing homes, then your ROI had best cover the fuel to run this tank. In 2010, NAR estimated that their members drove an average of 30,000 miles a year. Something to consider if you're dropping $350/mo while finding it hard to cover your $250/mo phone bill.
Let's Walk the Lot
Every dollar you spend on gasoline comes right out of your next commission. Therefore, it makes sense to consider putting fuel efficiency at the top of the list. If you are an advocate of reducing your carbon footprint, you have another good reason to go with fuel efficiency. For everyone else, don't let the good vibes thing fool you... it's about cash too. There are fuel-efficient options in every category of automobile. Consider that your roomy SUV probably gets around 18 mpg, while there are other SUVs from makers such as Hyundai and Honda that are in the 28 mpg range. Even the luxury SUVs from manufacturers like Lexus have ratings of 31 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. And, if you don’t need the room of an SUV, you can consider hybrids like the Toyota Camry that gets 51 mpg or the Toyota Prius that ranks at 54 mpg in city driving. This is that James Bond car we were discussing earlier... a real estate machine.
You may not be concerned about your image, but it does become part of your brand in peoples’ minds. And while you may not have clients in your car as often as you did in the past, they’ll still notice your ride when you meet them away from the office. Consider the image you want to project. It’s a good idea to match your car to the cars that people in your target market own. For example, you’d never sell anything in Beverly Hills if you pulled up in a Volkswagen bug. On the other hand, if you arrive in a luxury car and your prospects and clients all drive middle of the road vehicles, you will probably make them uncomfortable. This is what we were discussing at the start of this journey here. Starting to come together though, right? It's not just image, but that is a factor. Some agents believe that they will make their clients feel safer and in expert hands if they drive a luxury car, because the clients will somehow know that they’re working with a "successful agent." But, very often, if your clients don’t drive luxury cars, you’re just going to put a roadblock in your relationship.
Certainly, you want to drive a car you’re proud of, and it should be comfortable for those times when clients are in it. If you work in rural areas, you might need four-wheel drive, and a four-door is always easier for everyone. Consider an elderly parent along for the house hunt and how your step-up affects their day in and out, up and down, all over town with you. Maybe a high-cab ride isn't ideal, especially if your focus is on the Babyboomer market. Front and rear air conditioner controls, higher line-of-site windows, leather interior, rear phone charging ports and even a streaming video player for the kids amongst the passengers... perhaps you should upgrade that package and treat your ride as more of a limo service to better pair with that extra-ordinary agent experience you provide. If you're showcasing the neighborhood and setting up for the big reveal up ahead, then maybe treat your car like a tour bus... make it the ultimate in comfort and stride... cold soft drinks and all. Why not?
Your car is a tool just like your CRM or the MLS. Yes, you want to be smart about this, but it may help to take the time to consider how your car can support your business rather than the other way around.
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