Real estate franchises should get into the travel concierge business.

Sounds crazy, right? I’m off my rocker (again), right?

I know, I know — real estate and travel? How is it that it makes sense for a franchise to get into an industry they know nothing about?

Before you totally discount the idea, hear me out…

What’s needed to deliver an amazing travel concierge experience? Extremely, extremely knowledgable residents who can help travelers in real time. What do real estate franchises have a surplus of? Agents and support staff who know their local areas inside and out, most of whom have downtime that could be better utilized. All of whom have smartphones.

What’s the biggest challenge for agents and brokers (and the franchises they work for)? Remaining top of mind throughout the 7 years that someone is NOT in the market for a house.

Zillow repurposed their millions of photos for a home remodel scenario with Zillow Digs. Take a play from their playbook — and repurpose what you have a lot of; local expertise. Organize the local knowledge of all your agents, and repurpose it for a travel scenario.

People don’t travel all the time, but they certainly travel far more than once every 7 years. They often show up in a city, and have no idea what to do. They fumble around with maps. Get lost on local bus routes. Get ripped off by taxis. Visit the main tourist spots, and miss the true local gems. They don’t have a single awesome conversation with anyone. Eat dinner alone. Get frustrated sorting through Google, Yelp, and Foursquare.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The right local connection, or recommendation, at the right time — can be the difference between an amazing trip and a subpar or crappy one.

Wouldn’t you like nothing more than YOUR BRAND being talked about as the reason someone had the time of their lives on their latest trip to Miami, Charleston, Boston, or Portland? They would tell everyone who asked about their trip that they got their tips from Keller Williams. Or Century 21. Or Prudential Properties. Or RE/MAX

But Drew, there are plenty of places to find travel advice and help already?

Tripadvisor-LogoTrue, there are. Yet, there is a reason that the vast majority of people simply ask their friends for travel advice. They trust their friends. But asking your friends is a far cry from an efficient process. Who has been where? How well do I know them? Who likes the same things I do? And, of course, you can’t discuss travel, without bringing up the elephant in the room – TripAdvisor. The problems with TripAdvisor:

  • People don’t trust the advice – because marketers are constantly gaming it with fake reviews.
  • TripAdvisor doesn’t allow you to talk to a real human, and get personalized advice.
  • Real time? Forget about it.

How exactly would a private travel concierge offering work?

Target business travelers (to start). Make it an exclusive offering for your most loyal clients, by offering it only to people who have bought or sold a home using your franchise. This is a CRITICAL, CRITICAL point. Travelers that have not used your brand, can’t use your travel service. This is a client loyalty play in my mind – at least to start — and down the line you use it as a lead generation strategy. Provide a simple app that provides the following:

  • Tips and recommendations from all your agents (tagged by interest) all over the country.
  • A Q&A offering — allow people to ask questions in real time, and get trusted responses back within minutes from real experts, who happen to be agents.
  • The kicker? Enable your clients to add their own tips and recommendations to the app, so they are making the app better over time.

Deliver a “best friend” in every city using the collective knowledge of your agent base, via an app (which I believe to be the holy grail of travel). Launch it in one city first, and iron out all the kinks.

At its core — this idea is focused on turning your massive collective client base, into a real community. Most people don’t truly understand community, but that’s what I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life doing; building community. Without community, you have nothing. Stop spending millions of dollars on advertising, and put it back into creative amazing experiences for your clients. WOW them in their daily lives, even when they are not going through a transaction.

Go ahead, poke holes in this all you want. I’m sure every franchise and brokerage will come up with 100 reasons it doesn’t make sense for them to offer a private travel concierge offering for their most loyal clients.

But there may be one crazy one out there, who really gets it, and dreams big…

That franchise (or maybe it’s Leading RE that offers it to their entire network?) might eat your lunch, and attract the most loyal fans a real estate brand has ever seen. Word of mouth up the wazoo. You’ll be left scratching your head and wondering why you missed the opportunity.

Yes, it’s absurd. Yes, it’s a massive undertaking. Yes, it’s a gamble. Yes, it needs awesome technology to work. No, it doesn’t scale. Yes, it’s playing the long game.

And that’s precisely why you should do it.

PS #1: I’m happy to chat with any franchise who doesn’t think I am crazy. I think I’ve thought through every consumer travel angle there is over the past year (there are at least 3-5 big ideas not mentioned in that post), and can talk through this private travel concierge offering angle with you a bit further if you like.

PS #2: We can build this for you.