What Consumers Want in 2011 And How to Deliver It

As the holiday season comes to a close, most every business in the sales or service industry is angling themselves, their systems and resources for the new year. After several years of economic challenges, many are hoping that this is the year of the turnaround. Like many writers, bloggers, and caring people, I’d like to be able to gaze into my crystal ball and conjure up the perfect formula for success in the upcoming year. Well, despite the fact that my ball is in the repair shop, I can give you that magic answer. It’s the consumer.
There’s no way to accurately predict what is going to happen in the markets in this country and the world; no way to get a handle on the path of our changing political landscape; no way to know what major events will affect our lives. What we do know is that, as it is every year, the businesses that prosper tend to know what consumers want and are able to deliver it effectively.
Business News Daily compiled a list of five things consumers will demand in 2011. I’d like to share them with my own pontification for each. The original article can be found at http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/experts-predict-2011-consumer-demands-0860/.
1. Reputation is everything.  This is nothing new in the real estate world. For the last several years we have seen the National Association Of Realtors Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers tell us that the number one thing a Seller is looking for in an agent is REPUTATION. The online world makes an agents rep an even more pressing issue. 
“Businesses who want to compete in 2011 need to be much more aware of their online reputation than ever before,” Mandy Boyle, SEO manager for Solid Cactus, an e-commerce and internet marketing company, told BusinessNewsDaily. “Most consumers tend to consider product reviews when making purchasing decisions. Consumers in 2011 want to see trust, integrity and a promise of having a good experience with a business.”
Beyond the “promise” of a good experience is results and today’s consumers are quick to determine who can get the job done and who cannot. Agents must be keenly aware of not only what services they are providing but how those services are being received. Communication is key. Your reputation depends on it.
2. Make it easy.  Real estate transactions are more complicated than ever. Contracts gets longer each year and more and more third parties are getting their hands in the pie. The reason Realtors still exist is partly the complexity of the real estate deal. If it was easy, as they say, anyone could do it.
The key for the effective agent is to not only make it look easy to the consumer, but actually make it easy on their end. Having great systems in place to escort clients and customers through the maze certainly helps but perhaps the greatest system is one which maximizes communication (there’s that word again). In the olden days, we had fewer ways to keep people informed. Technology has made this process easier and by doing so made it more essential. Because you can, now you must!
Presentations are a primary way to exchange information. Almost no matter what you’re doing to inform, update or educate your people, it is only effectively happening based on your ability to deliver that information. The better you present, the better they feel, the easier it all becomes. Become a better presenter.
3. Make it useful and beautiful.  Daniel Pink, in his book “A Whole New Mind” cited design as one of the aptitudes essential for the successful person in what Pink calls today’s conceptual age.
In a world with an abundance of competition, whether it’s houses in the market or Realtors available to serve a consumer, standing out becomes important. Good design creates a unique point of difference. Whether it’s a brochure (for a house or agent), a presentation, the staging of a home or even how an email or website looks, design as a potential difference maker is huge.
4. Information, please!  Let us return to those thrilling days of yesteryear: the MLS book. Some of you remember those days – agents possessed all of the information and if any consumer wanted to know anything about real estate there was one choice and one choice only…… us! Those day are over. 
Today I typed the words “buy a home” into the search engine, Google, and it found 1.42 billion results in a tenth of a second. Consumers have access to all kinds of information, in all kinds of venues, at any time of the day or night. This drastically changes the role of the agent. Pink wrote, “When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and deliver them with emotional impact.” 
Consumers no longer need an agent to come up with a number when pricing their home, they can get a number anywhere (maybe even on a website). Consumers need an agent with more than the information, they need an agent that can interpret the information, “place it into context and deliver it with emotional impact.”
This is not to say that your brochure, website and presentation should no longer contain information. You may become a reputable source in the world of infinite choices. Better, though to be the agent that can guide a consumer through the myriad of available data.
5. Be sociable.  Yes, it’s true; Facebook is more than just a place to enjoy a real-time farm simulation game. Facebook and other social media sites are a place to connect with friends and acquaintances (translation: consumers).
No one is suggesting that consumers want to have an agent plaster their wall with business advances and pictures of their latest listings. What is being suggested, however, is that consumers want businesses to meet them where they like to be. So be sociable. See what your friends (consumers) are doing. Chat with them. Gaze into their world for a while. It’s easy and yes, even kind of fun.

So there it is. Five things consumers want and some tips in how to be the one who delivers them best. While we have no power to control the external factors that affect of business (markets, politics, acts of God),  by knowing what people want, we control the most important part of success: how we deliver our business to consumers.

More from Rich Sands can be found at http://www.richsands.com.