The Bowling Trophy
By Michael A. Holden
As you may know, my family owned and operated a title agency in the St. Louis, Missouri, area from 1937 to 1973. In 1973, that company was purchased by Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company and became their “direct offices” in the state. During those 36 years, we had many successful marketing and sales techniques that delivered business to our doors. One of those efforts was participation in the St. Louis Realtor Bowling League. In 1962, there were only eight title companies in St. Louis County. Few of them had marketing and sales staff. My family’s company, through the efforts of their sales staff, organized and helped form the aforementioned bowling league. In 1962, they created the pictured trophy for the winning Realtor team. The trophy and the league survived long after the sale of my family’s company until 1994 when the league was discontinued as a “Realtor” league.
But as I reflect on the trophy that sits in my office at home, I am struck by the monumental change that has taken place from 1962 to 2018 in the title industry and the real estate business at large. There are fewer and fewer opportunities to gather with customers and potential customers to enjoy recreational time (like bowling) or even share a meal. Title agents, real estate agents, mortgage lending officers, lawyers and builders all lead increasingly busy lives. Technology today means that no one is ever “out of the office” or “unavailable.” As a society, we engage in fewer group recreational activities. Today, a real estate agent is more reliably to be at her kid’s soccer game every Saturday morning than they are at the weekly office meeting of their real estate team.
This compounding of how busy our lives have become combined with the increasing use of technology has caused title agents around the country to examine how to best market their products. Some have chosen to market to consumers directly while others have engaged social media and used technology to connect with potential clients. The marketing philosophies of the 1960s were: be where your customers gather and participate in the social activities they participate in. Whether that philosophy can be transferred into the 21st century is yet to be seen. Is the largest gathering place for real estate agents social media? Should your company have a robust social media presence? Or is it better to physically attend meetings, events and social gatherings where real estate agents go? So far, no one has the silver bullet of that magic mix between connecting with technology and in person. No one has created a marketing formula that works in all markets and across all jurisdictions.
The answers to those questions are hard to come by. The real estate industry as a whole and the land title business specifically are prime targets for disruption. Technology companies seek to move the closing experience online with Remote Online Notary (which as of November 2018 has passed in 9 states). New companies seek to enter the real estate sales space and replace the traditional real estate agent with new ways of selling homes. While many predict the eventual movement of real estate transactions to a more tech centered environment, there will certainly be consumers who push back and desire a more traditional experience.
All the talk about technology and the inevitable reduction in free time leads us back to the most primary question title agents have – “How do I get business?” While there may not be an easy answer to that question, there are some fundamentals that are as true today as in the past and should never be overlooked..
- Have a Plan: Put a marketing plan on paper that includes a variety of personal and social media touches, be consistent in pursuing it and measure your results.
- Get Involved: Make an effort to attend social gatherings in your community, join local organizations and invite your customers to lunch to get to know them personally. People do business with people they trust.
- Know Your Customers: In your one-on-one meetings, don’t tell your customer what you can offer them, but rather ask questions to discover their needs and their pain points.
- Make it about THEM: In your marketing efforts, make sure you are communicating the benefits of your agency in a way that meets those needs or resolves their pain points.
- Show Sincere Interest: Never miss an opportunity to champion your customers’ personal endeavors and professional success.
- Help Them Win: Become a true partner to every one of you customers and make sure they know you are dedicated to helping them achieve success.
In 1939, just two years after my grandfather started his title business, Ira Berry Realty was formed in St. Louis. From 1939 to 1973, they were my grandfather’s biggest customer. In 1973 when my family sold our company to Commonwealth, my father asked Mr. Berry: “Why did he decide all those years ago in 1939 to do business with my grandfather?” Mr. Berry’s answer was that ‘Mo’ (my grandfather’s nickname) had brought him a plant for his office on his very first day in business. He never forgot that and always felt that our company was rooting for him to succeed. Sometimes the very best customers are built on the most simple of acts. Whether it is on social media, or in person, I hope you can find those simple acts that let your customers know you truly care about them and their success.
“Every great business is built on friendship”.~ James Cash Penney (1875-1971) American businessman and entrepreneur who founded the J. C. Penney stores in 1902
About the Author
Since 1989 Michael has held several roles in the title industry. The first 18 years of his career, Michael worked as a licensed title agent and managed a multimillion dollar title agency with 17 offices and 100 employees. Read More...
Michael A. Holden has published stories from his family's 100 years in the title industry in his book, The Ramblings of a Title Man, which can be purchased online through Lulu.com.