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  • Writer's pictureSimon Deen

Vorsprung durch Technik

I am just about old enough to remember the way things used to be done in estate agency.

Paper details, sent by Royal Mail. Window displays, with actual photos glued to them. Photos that you had to get printed first. Magazine advertising. Flyers. Canvass letters.

“We have recently sold a property just like yours, which has resulted in a queue of people for your home”

It’s not far removed from that million dollar, overseas based inheritance waiting to be claimed. All you need to do is send your bank account details halfway around the world first.

Some of these techniques are long forgotten, and some aren’t quite dead yet. Either way, their success or failure is still incredibly hard to measure, and measurement is the rock on which digital marketing is built.

Eyeballs, conversions, likes and shares - we can measure them all. So we do, with great enthusiasm. We join dots and claim success. My TikTok campaign had millions of views we proclaim, as the property is sold to a buyer who enquired via Rightmove.

The thing is, some of these old marketing techniques had a tangible advantage, one which we’re in danger of losing.

We created tension.

Often the more rudimentary the marketing, the more tension was created. How many photos can you fit on the A4 card displayed in your shop window? Or on two pieces of A4 paper, stapled together and sent in the mail. Not that many? Great.

Showing someone a picture of a quintessentially English garden and very little else can be the most wonderful piece of marketing. Especially in early spring, when the weather is sunny, but still cold.

We’re already thinking about relaxing weekends, long evenings and al fresco dining. So what do we do? We go and see the house, relieve the tension and at the same time, find out if it’s a home for people like us.

Fast forward twenty years to 2021, and we’re awash with virtual tours, digital photography and video walkthroughs. We create content and then we disseminate it over every available channel. Rightmove, Zoopla, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube….the list goes on.

We’re inundating people with information.

People don’t usually buy homes based on information. Rather they use information to rationalise a decision once they’ve made it.

What people do more often is buy homes based on feelings. In order to make a decision based on that criteria you have to organise a viewing. If you’ve already seen every square inch online, the incentive for you to do so is vastly reduced.

“Vorsprung durch Technik, as they say in Germany”

The closing line of a series of adverts which ran on British television in the early 1980’s. There was no explanation or translation offered, that was it.

Yet it conveyed everything Sir John Hegarty and his team at BBH wanted it to. The quality, efficiency, progress and technology that a German engineered car would give you.

Most importantly, it made people curious. If you were interested, you actually had to do something to find out more. In the pre-internet days, that meant going to an Audi dealership.

"I had no idea that it would become that popular. It says everything and says nothing. That's often the brilliance of a thought, that people put their own meaning into it. It just captured people's imagination.
The slogan was immediately successful. The reason Audi knew was their dealers were calling up and saying, ‘we love it, we love it, we’ve got people coming in and saying I want to see a bit of that vorsprung’” - Sir John Hegarty

The literal translation? There isn’t one, there’s no English word for ‘vorsprung’. However it’s broadly along the lines of ‘progress through technology’.

Which kind of brings us back full circle. The adoption of technology is inevitable, and should be embraced.

Maybe though we’d do well to remember that as estate agents we have two jobs - marketing and selling.

If we’re going to succeed at the former, a bit of tension never goes amiss.


Things I’ve been inspired by this week

This, obviously.


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