The Curse of Sameness

Have you ever been to a Trader Joe’s store? You owe it yourself to get to one, and not just for the grocery chain’s foods.

For the business lesson.

Maybe you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near your house. There are, after all, less than 350 stores in only about half the U.S. states, part of the company’s plan of exclusivity. If you haven’t been to one, let me borrow from a fantastic recent Fortune article to explain the experience:

“It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience. It stocks its shelves with a winning combination of low-cost, yuppie-friendly staples (cage-free eggs and organic blue agave sweetener) and exotic, affordable luxuries — Belgian butter waffle cookies or Thai lime-and-chili cashews — that you simply can’t find anyplace else.

“Employees dress in goofy trademark Hawaiian shirts, hand stickers out to your squirming kids, and cheerfully refund your money if you’re unhappy with a purchase — no questions asked. At the Chelsea store opening, workers greeted customers with high-fives and free cookies. Try getting that kind of love at the Piggly Wiggly.”

You can also subscribe to a Trader Joe’s newsletter, which is almost as quirky and unique as the in-store shopping experience. Whether it’s in person or via newsletter, your experience with Trader Joe’s will be completely absent of at least one thing: The Curse of Sameness.

The Curse of Sameness is a marketing phenomenon that dooms many businesses. Grocery stores a great example. There are thousands of them across this continent. Yet aside from the rare cases, such as Trader Joe’s, how do any of them differentiate themselves from any other ones?

Do you know many grocery stores that do things much different than any other? You probably don’t. They all market the same way – weekly sales flyers, mostly – and carry the same kinds of products. They tout their huge selection, their low prices or their outstanding service, or blah, blah, blah.

They all seem to want to blend in rather than stand out. They doom themselves to the Curse of Sameness.

The real estate industry is almost exactly the same. It’s not entirely our fault; we don’t learn much about effective marketing as we plow through the material we need to get our licenses. We learn by watching what everyone else is doing, then doing that. “It’s worked for years,” we tell ourselves. “Why change?”

So we pay for expensive print ads in homebuyer magazines to showcase our listings, which, not accidentally, are written just like everyone else’s listings. “This lovely, 3BR, 1.5BA home … etc.” We take the same ads that are written like everyone else’s and also put them online, on listing sites that – you guessed it – look like everybody else’s.

We send out postcards with lame slogans and our smiling picture, both to possible buyer leads and to farm an area where we just had a listing or found a buyer for somebody else’s listing. We concern ourselves with getting “Pending” and “Sold” added to the yard sign of the contract we just got signed.

Agents do what they see every other agent doing. Just like the grocery stores that simply do what every other grocery store is doing. In this day and age of real estate, however, the Curse of Sameness is particularly diabolical.

You want proof? At the end of 2006, there were 1,357,732 Realtors in the National Association of Realtors membership. At the end of July this year, there were 1,088,703. That’s almost 270,000 agents who have dropped out of the game in three-and-a-half years.

You can blame the market for their plight, but you can bet that most of those more than quarter million people didn’t leave the business because they were standing out from their competition.

The big question is, if people’s real estate businesses are dropping like flies, why is it that so many agents are STILL copying what they did?

In today’s market, those who stand out – the Trader Joe’s of our industry – are the ones who thrive. Not long ago, I wrote a great blog post about agents copying tactics that have been successful in other industries.

In the blog post, it specifically mentions Internet marketers. If you think about it, there were successful Internet marketers well before real estate agents recognized the importance of online marketing (we were late to that game, too). Yet, what most agents have done is simply copy the good old model that’s always been used in print and attempt to transfer it online. Wouldn’t it make more sense to take what we’ve already seen working online and adapt that to our real estate businesses, rather than the other way around?

The reason most agents can’t see the benefit in this is because of that stupid curse. The sooner you recognize it, the better off you are. To succeed in the game nowadays, you must rid yourself of the Curse of Sameness.

Stand out. Be different. Don’t blend in.

Maybe even try a Hawaiin shirt.

There’s an extensive report that shows how real estate agents can differentiate themselves from their competition with one simple lesson. To get a copy of this report for free, visit www.FreeFarmerReport.com.

4 Comments

  • Jay

    Reply Reply September 2, 2010

    Nice article. I hope id doesn’t get out because I would like most agents to follow the old school, so-called tried and true. It makes it easy for the rest of us.

    I love the whole “get your name out there” approach. In my market, you can tell who the next bankrupt agent is by looking at the bus stops.

    You’re right though, the real estate industry has really not embraced the importance of a database and “getting their name in HERE”.

    • Rob Minton

      Reply Reply September 4, 2010

      Jay,

      Funny! I understand where you’re coming from. I think it’s best to look outside of real estate for great marketing ideas.

      Rob

  • Keith Rossignol

    Reply Reply September 2, 2010

    I’m looking to get into the Bulk REO business as a broker.
    I’m looking at Kenny Rushing Flipping Bulk REO Package
    Just wondering if you have any suggestions (I hate to loss $1,000)
    if their is a better way to break in to this business. Thanks

    • Rob Minton

      Reply Reply September 4, 2010

      Keith,

      Sorry I don’t know Kenny Rushing and have not seen his package.

      Rob

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