by Doug Marshall, CCIM
Published August 27, 2009

Back for an “encore performance” is a 3-part series that I sent out in January. For those of you who missed it the first time or those who want to re-read again, read below. Enjoy!

The downward spiraling of the economy has not yet bottomed out. No one knows where this is heading. Not the experts, not those in high office, no one.

Watching the harmful repercussions of this bad economy is like watching a train wreck in slow motion: there is very little you can do to minimize the carnage. It’s going to happen, with or without you. The best you can hope for is that you personally steer clear of its path of destruction so that it doesn’t suck you down, too.

Those of us who work in real estate sales or some related field, such as finance, title and escrow, legal, etc, have been and will continue to be particularly hard hit by the dramatic slowdown in the economy. Heck, we helped bring on this crisis. It only stands to reason we would be some of the most affected.

But there are some time-proven principles, if applied that can help us out of this quagmire. In a three-part series, beginning today, I will share eight principles to help you avoid being a victim of the current economic decline.

Go Back To the Basics
For those of us in any kind of sales profession, we learned the critical importance of marketing ourselves when we got started. It wasn’t easy, but we learned to make those telephone calls or attend those networking meetings where we met potential customers for our business.

We learned the hard way that our ultimate success was dependent almost solely on how many marketing contacts we made each week.

But when times are good, which they have been for many years, we slowly drift away from the discipline of making those marketing contacts, instead relying on satisfied clients to refer business back to us.

Now the phone has stopped ringing. What do we do? We go back and do what made us successful in the first place. In a slow economy like this, marketing ourselves becomes more critical than ever.

Stay Absolutely Focused
At the beginning of every year my wife and I go to the beach for a weekend to plan for the year. We prepare questions about our personal and professional lives that we ask ourselves, reflect on, and discuss with each other.

As I pondered these questions over my planning weekend, I had an epiphany. The cartoon light bulb actually went on over my head. It was this: all of these “important” issues were a distraction from the overall point of focus for this year, which is to market myself like there is no tomorrow.

To do anything else would be a distraction from the immediate need of the moment, which is to get business through the door.

What one thing do you need to do this year that will best help you survive this economic slowdown? Identify it, and forget all the other things that are begging for your time and effort but which are simple distractions to the bigger picture.

Determine What Differentiates You From Your Competition
Consider doing a brutally honest self-assessment about your product or service. What core competency distinguishes you from your competition? Conversely, what do you do that is no different than anyone else?

For those of us who are commercial real estate professionals, no matter the particular discipline, we provide our clients a service which is often difficult to distinguish from our competitor’s. For most of us, there are only nuances that make us stand out from the next guy.

If you can’t differentiate your product or service from that of your competition you’re in deep trouble. You end up being a commodity in the eyes of your clients; just one of many possible choices. Let’s face it, there are no real differences between true commodities, whether you’re talking about corn or a barrel of oil.

On the other hand, I marvel at the loyalty of those real estate investors who will only use the services of one particular title company. How does a title company, providing near-identical services as the next, generate such loyalty? They do it by delivering a quality of service that exceeds the customer’s expectations. And they do it consistently.

Hence the repeat business that many of them enjoy.

In order to succeed in a slowed-down economy, abandon or at least downplay those things you do or sell that so look like everybody else’s. Focus on those things that make you unique.

End, part one