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How traditional agents can take on the hybrids

There’s a sense of change in the air in the estate agency business which is, hold onto your hat, positive, encouraging change – and spring is in the air.

The Negotiator

James Pendleton shopfitting by Vis-com image

While high street agency has, no doubt about it, been affected by the so-called ‘disruptors’, it seems that their route to riches is still being paved by investors rather than customers. And investors eventually get tired of propping up disruptors who fail to present profits.

The costs involved in launching a new online business are considerable, one of them being getting their brand recognised, trusted, respected and, as you will know, that also takes time when you have no history, no presence, no household brand.

These things are the diamonds that ‘traditional’ agents (or ‘normal agents’ as a friend said to me the other day) already have, so let’s polish them up, make them sparkle, bring in the business!

We asked some of our specialists for their tips to bring a little new Spring bling to your business.

BOARD DECISION

The first thing that any person considering buying, selling, investing or renting sees, often even before they have realised they want to do so, is a board. The agent’s board is so important that even ‘disruptors’ have them. All the proptech in the world, it seems, cannot top the humble signboard.

Here’s a great statistic: “It only takes three people a minute to pass a board to create over 600,000 per board subconscious images,” says Steve Leah, Director, Visual Communications Design (Vis-com).

Charters shopfitting image

Charters by MPL

Fletchers shopfitting image

Fletchers by MPL

So it had better be good! “When designing a brand, it has to work on your boards first, so keep it simple with the minimal visual clutter. There’s no need for telephone number and website addresses – people just Google now – so your name is paramount. The best advice is… don’t forget you can’t Google a logo.

“If you are thinking of new boards, don’t view your new design in the office. Always make up a sample board and put it up on a street, to drive past and critique. Remember, more people will see your boards than your website.”

Even new boards can seem like a cost you do without, but Kremer Signs is the white knight here, “For all our existing customers we can provide a free design service to revamp their agency boards and when producing the board we can match the drill for them to reuse their existing posts, slips and fittings which can help when purchasing the new stock.” Simples.

SHINE ON THE STREET

The next marketing point is your high street presence – you are probably on a high street or another prominent location but are you making the most of it? If it’s still looking all freshly painted and the fascia is loud and proud, that’s great, but there may still be improvements to be made. Cross the road and stare at your own office as if it was a competitor’s. Do a drive-by in daylight and in the dark, with a candid friend and discuss… How’s the wow factor?

Competitors open on a regular basis and if you haven’t refreshed your image for a long time, you’re in danger of blending in with the surroundings. Harry Simons, MPL Interiors.

Harry Simons, MPL Interiors, imageBasics first, says Harry Simons, left, Partner at MPL Interiors. “Check that there are no bulbs out across all the exterior signage and check the window pockets are lit (assuming you do already have lit pockets…)

“Static property displays still have their place but they can be made more interesting with the use of coloured LEDs and different styles of frame – a quick fix with minimal disruption.”

“Our peripheral vision dictates where we look which is part of our ‘Fight & Flight’ system, so doing things differently catches the eye,” says Steve Leah at Vis-com. “Keep the displays low so you can use the interior of the shop to increase the offices street presence. LCD screens have their place and attract attention.”

Mackenzie Smith window display image

Mackenzie Smith display by Vis-com.

Taking it up a notch, digital windows displays allow a playlist of properties to be shown, with the ability to link to the agent’s database of available properties.

“The moving image really is head-turning so the installation of screens is becoming more popular.” Says Harry Simons. “Whether these are ceiling mounted in the window and angled to face the public, recessed into a false wall or even taking on a dramatic ‘bank’ formation, the ability to show property tours is a game changer in a market where video content is a valuable commodity.”

Passers-by can view properties, request details, book a valuation and generally engage with us 24/7 so, in effect, we are never shut! Maximillian de Kment, Lovett International.

Maximilian de Kment imageMaximillian de Kment, left, CEO of Lovett International, with branches across Dorset, took this route to star quality – he says, “With the market becoming slightly more challenging, we felt that it was important to up our game and explore new ways of attracting customers.

“We had worked through a number of different ideas for giving the company a ‘make-over’. People know and love our brand so we did not want to change that, but we all agreed that our shop windows presented a prime opportunity for improvement and raising profile.

Lovett's touchscreen by InTouchDisplay image

Lovett’s touchscreen by InTouch Display

“We had heard great things about Intouch Displays and were convinced we’d increase our number of valuations – which we did almost immediately! Once we looked into it, installing Intouch screens just made so much sense.

“The system regularly updates via our property software making it really easy to keep property details up to date. Passers-by can view properties, request details, book a valuation, read company news and generally engage with us 24/7, so in effect we are never shut!

“From a business point of view this is fantastic because we are capturing people we may not have done before by giving them a way to communicate with us that is easy, fresh and unobtrusive! There’s also the fun factor of being able to use the touch screen through the shop window!”

FABULOUS FASCIAS

Have you ever bought a new piece of furniture – or decorated one room at home – and realised that the smart new look makes everything look tired and tatty? Yes, it happens on the High Street too.

“The problem is, competitors are opening on a regular basis and if you haven’t refreshed your image for a long time, you’re in danger of blending in with the surroundings or being overlooked,” says Harry Simons. “Nothing creates a stir like a change of branding or a new aesthetic. It can be a self propelling PR exercise as just the sight of contractors busy working – changing signage and repainting – gets people in the local community talking. Whatever changes are required, they can always be scheduled in a way to keep an agency open for business.”

Changing or updating your branding can be daunting process, especially when it comes to signage, and a real headache for multi-office agents to manage the logistics.

Romans’ HQ fascia image

Romans’ HQ fascia by Kremer Signs.

Kremer Signs knows this and offers various full project management solutions which are cost effective and achievable in tight deadlines, typically a 10-15 working day lead-time for products from estate agency boards through to the fascia signage.

As with its boards, Kremer Signs is currently offering a free site survey and design service for agents looking to rebrand, or give their existing office a facelift to hit the ground running for summer sales.

INSTANT INTERNAL FIX

Hellards shopfitting image

If your external high street presence is squeaky clean and welcoming, cast a critical eye over the office. It may need more than a bowl of daffodils to make it look fresh, but it doesn’t need not be a scary full refurbishment. Harry says, “MPL Interiors often carries out cosmetic makeovers with the bulk of the work happening in the design studio and a short redecoration in branch. We’ve worked with many established businesses that have used a fresh look to fight off competition or to target a new market. The starting point is usually a change in colour – it can be as subtle as darkening or lightening the current corporate shade or as dramatic as a completely new colour.”

Steve at Vis-Com adds, “Makeovers are cost effective or companies such as ours wouldn’t exist. The interior is just as important for staff as it is for customers. It is getting harder to recruit young people as they don’t want to work the hours and good staff want to work in good environments.

“We have developed a system so we can be in and out of a shop in a matter of days which is beneficial to our clients and less disruptive.”

If you are thinking about a facelift (for your office…) we are offering a free site survey and design service. A new look can be yours in less than 15 days. Tom Cummuskey, Kremer Signs.

Tom Cummuskey imageIf the exterior signage is being updated it probably means the internal branding will need to change too – and of course it needs to match. No problem, says Tom Cummuskey , left, at Kremer Signs, “We can provide all your branding in the different substrates required, ranging from Correx for the boards, powder coated aluminium for fascias and acrylics for internal office signage.”

And Kremer has a brand new fancy fascia that has a special secret – “Flex face signs (see the photo of Romans’ head office) are the best way of creating large format signage. The tensioned skin faces can be produced up to 5.0m in width by almost any length with high resolution digitally printed images to create truly huge effects.

The units can be supplied non-illuminated or fitted with an LED light sheet to illuminate the whole of the face for maximum illumination for many years of energy efficient and maintenance free operation.”

For those who plan on being in business for the long haul (and aren’t you all?) the main cost effective point of the Flex Face option is that should the brand be updated or changed, the skin can simply be replaced saving thousands!

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April 2, 2018

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