It can be intimidating. The major players in CRE (ie. CBRE, JLL, NGKF, Cushman & Wakefield) have a lot to back up those easily recognized brands. It isn’t just advertising dollars or branding. Those massive brokerages have huge teams of highly paid researchers arming their brokers with powerful data and proprietary information that the rest of the industry can’t access. But we all know that even the biggest firms can lose a deal to a small, independent brokerage. How is this possible? Independent brokerages have more tools available to them than they realize.
1. LOCALIZE YOUR MARKETING
The biggest advantage a small, local brokerage has is that they are a local brokerage. But it is about more than just claiming that you’ll provide better service because you’re smaller, or that you know the area better. Any high-performing broker knows his market and even a large brokerage should be able to provide top-notch service to their clients.
Smaller brokerages have the advantage of being able to use local content to build their client base. A huge national brokerage will often end up counting on their strong brand and corporate lead generation to find new clients. But local brokerages have the option to get a little more creative to compete.
Consider who you want to reach (landlords, business owners, investors, etc) and think through what type of content they would be likely to engage with. Use your blog and even your advertising to demonstrate that you know the market and how to navigate it. Provide value at every stage of each interaction, and clients will start to trust you before they’ve even picked up the phone.
2. BIG DATA VS INTERNAL DATA
There is no doubt that having access to detailed data and reporting on your market is helpful. Large brokerages budget for development of these resources for their brokers and brokerages every year.
But not all valuable data is “big.” Even a brokerage of 3 or 4 agents generates a massive amount of data from each deal that is closed. Where did that deal come from? How long did it take to move through each stage of the buying process? Who worked on that deal? When is the client’s birthday? When is their lease up? What were their wants and needs?
If you talk to a broker who is in the middle of closing a deal each of those questions, they can probably answer them, but what about a month later? What about 6 months later? What about 2 years from now when that tenant is trying to decide if they should renew that lease or look for a new location?
Having a CRM and using it to track all of these data points isn’t a replacement for a team of expert researchers (in a perfect world every brokerage would have both). But it can still give a smaller brokerage a huge advantage over the competition.
3. DON’T DEFINE YOURSELF BY THE COMPETITION
Have you ever found yourself spending more time explaining how you are better than the big guys than you do talking about what you can do for that prospect?
If you’ve fallen into this trap remember: that the prospect or client doesn’t really care about how you are different from the big brokerage down the street. They want a good price, high quality service, and the peace of mind that comes with hiring an expert to help them make crucial business decisions.
If you spend 20 min telling them why those other guys with all their resources and their fancy office and their army of administrative assistants don’t matter at all, you’ve really just spent that time advertising for your competitors.
If a client has questions about the big brokerage they talked to yesterday, answer those questions. Be transparent about what you can do that the bigger brokerages can’t (and vise versa). That prospect will see that from the very beginning you were more interested in them finding the right solution than just closing another deal. Doesn’t that sound like someone you’d like to do business with?
Brokerages of all sizes have challenges, and to some extent the grass will always be greener on the other side. The brokers at the huge firm down the street probably sit and dream about having the freedom and flexibility that would go along with working at an independant brokerage. The great thing about commercial real estate is that your future is always in your own hands. Be smart, be agile and get ready to win the business.