There’s a little restaurant down the street from our office that sells hamburgers made with regional, grass-fed, never-frozen beef on fresh brioche with their own secret sauce. There are three options – single, double, or the veggie burger. There’s one kind of cheese, and you can request no onions or pickles if you prefer. If you want to get extra fancy, you can add ketchup.

What makes this little business so successful is not that they are like all the fast food restaurants in town. Rather, their unique business appeals to a desire for simplicity and quality, with a fun local vibe. This niche market focus results in powerful branding and an attractive concept.

That’s how boutique real estate brokerages thrive: by doing something different, and doing it well.

Take this Australian brokerage for example. The Brad Bell Real Estate Team has an espresso bar, The Hub 4122, attached to their office. In addition to providing a great place for their Realtors to meet with clients, The Hub has become a popular place for locals to get coffee. The espresso bar is an extension of their company culture and vision, and it sets them apart in their local market.

As a custom web development company, we work with a lot of boutique brokerages. Because they are small(er) and local, they need the flexibility to implement unique marketing strategies to engage their audience. With that flexibility, the boutique real estate brokerage then needs to figure out what will make their website unique. In other words, what is the espresso bar to your website?

Here are three steps to help you define what you need for your boutique real estate brokerage website:

1. Write down everything you can think of that defines you as a person and as a company. 

Why are you in real estate? Who are you outside of real estate? What’s your story? What makes you and your brokerage unique? What do you bring to clients that they can’t get anywhere else? Think outside the box and just write it all down.

2. Do some research to figure out who you aren’t.

In order to stand out in a noisy marketplace, it’s important to know what the noise is that your competition is making. Get a general idea of what the big companies like Keller Williams, Re-max, etc. are offering. Check out Zillow and realtor.com to see what they do. Research Realtors and even other boutique brokerages in your local area to see what’s trending.

But be careful – this is where it’s easy to go wrong. It’s easy to be impressed by what other people are doing and forget that you’re not trying to be them. In fact, you are trying to not be them – you are aiming to be unique. You might find some things you want to imitate, but remember, the main point is to learn what not to do.

3. Identify some brands you admire and study them. 

Find some companies you admire and write down what you like about them. Whether it’s the espresso bar at their office or their professionalism, their sleek design sense or their personal customer care, find out what draws you to them. It’s helpful to research some other boutique real estate brokerages, but consider other brands you like as well. Study them to figure out what it is about them that keeps you coming back.

At this point you have three lists: who you are, who you aren’t, and what you like.

Take a step back look at these three lists and compare and contrast them. Now write a new list for your website:

  • What personality/vision/message do you want to communicate with your website?
  • How will your website be different? What do you want to avoid on your site?
  • What practices, tools, principles, etc. can you take from the other companies you admire to help you communicate your own vision? How will you be like them, and how will you not? 

For the boutique brokerage, marketing is key, and the website is a central part of that marketing.  You don’t have the reputation of a national company, so you have the privilege of developing your own company image, culture, and audience from the ground up. A flexible, customizable platform is essential, but other than that, it’s all up to you.

So what’s your espresso bar?

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