I think a lot about long term strategic defensibility when evaluating any business (& building my own). The best companies, focus on what they do better than anyone else, that is extremely hard to duplicate — and stay focused on executing on increasing that defensibility. You’ve got to build a moat to protect your castle.
In the context of web and mobile assets, without a “moat”, someone will inevitably knock you off. From the real estate franchise perspective, what’s defensible about your lead generation efforts? What’s your moat? We all know – if you don’t deliver new business to your agents, it’s much more likely they will leave and go to a brokerage/franchise who will.
I think it’s safe to say listings are never going to be unique to a specific franchise/brokerage (unless of course you decide to completely shut off the syndication faucet). The best UI/UX/design is never going to be something a franchise will be best at. It’s doubtful you’re going to win at traditional SEO either.
That said, what do franchises have, that no one else does?
Local expertise. A massive base of agents as well as buyers and sellers who live in neighborhoods around the country, all of which have deep knowledge of the cities and neighborhoods in which they live.
Imagine the following from the buyers perspective…
You’re on remax.com (but it could be any of the franchise websites, KW, Berkshire Hathaway, Century21, BHG, etc).
You don’t know exactly where you’re going to live, but you know you’re moving to the Seattle area to work at one of the tech titans (Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia, Facebook, or Google). That means one of the great neighborhoods of Seattle or a suburb on the Eastside (Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, etc).
You search for the cities that you’re interested in.
You see reviews from both remax agents, as well as home owners that live in those specific neighborhoods.
You can ask questions of the remax community (agents + home owners), and get great responses.
Now, from the franchise perspective, imagine…
All that content is 100% unique and owned by you.
It’s not available on any other domain name.
Clients of your agents helped you create it. Every single home owner review is by someone who used one of YOUR agents to buy/sell.
No one else can duplicate the content.
Is it possible?
Of course. Anything (within reason) is possible with time and money. I’ve talked about this before – the local expert opportunity that I keep wondering why a franchise hasn’t invested heavily in. I’m amazed more brokerages and franchises haven’t gone deep on local content. Insanely deep. The bar is high, and there are few I’ve seen that are even close.
I suppose, the reason is obvious. You need to ask your clients for help, and they need to value the relationship with you enough to actually help. It’s hard. I get it. No one said building community was easy.
Are you thinking about defensibility for the long term?
[Disclosure: I’m consulting for StreetAdvisor, which can solve the technology required for this for you if you’re interested.]