There have been a number of occassions that I was told by the broker that they had a "contract" with one of the larger competitors.
I've never been able to lock down a broker contractually so that everyone had to purchase their virtual tours from our company.
Has anyone ever seen, know much about or have been able to generate a contractual agreement to lock in your services?
It should not exclude your tour platform. The agent may not understand how the technology works and is possibly making an assumption that is not correct. You should have a chat with the agent about what is being provided by the other company and why they think they must use this other company before you let their business go.
Agents are independent contractors rather than employees. The broker can get them a discount from "X" company based on the volume of business or pay part of the cost if they use a certain provider. That provides the agent with an incentive to use that virtual tour company, but the broker doesn't tell the agent which tour provider they should use unless the broker is willing to pay for it entirely. I don't know of a brokerage that is willing to foot the bill entirely.
I am very curious about this as well. I have heard about some of our competitors that are more than just white-label tour platforms locking up customers in this way.
It seems like it might be a practice that's on the rise and we'd like to understand it better so that we might formulate a strategy to help our customers succeed in this strategy.
My recent experiences are that in order to lock them down contractually, you really have to have a technology that they can see the benefit of customizing it specifically for them. In other words, by only having a Virtual Tour company available to them, they still have to go out and use other services to syndicate the tour and listing information together.
This is why I believe that Neybor.com is such a HUGE part of what we have to offer with the TourBuzz platform we use. By leveraging the ability of syndication and auto-updating via the MLS (IDX) through Neybor.com, and it's many other resources for exposure (i.e. phone to text, craigslist, Footprints, etc...), Brokers should find your service much more versatile and powerful. In addition, Neybor's ability to customize the Neybor pages for a brokerage should be a big advantage.
We have been working on several of the big players in our area for awhile now, and although we haven't been able to close a deal... we are definitely getting exposure and ears on what we are doing. Through persistence, I'm confident that we'll grow this year, and land some contracts.
Like Mike and all of the rest of you.... I am all ears, If anyone has any info on how a contract has been achieved.
I hate to be re-inventing the wheel if it's already been done.
Consider this conversation:
Broker: "We have a contract with a competitor..."
You: "I'm sorry to hear that. We don't require a contract, we don't have to. Some do if you want a better price. Our prices are already a bargain for what we deliver, and our quality is better on many different levels - professional photography, tours with the fastest load times, HQ 1080p quality, Neybor.com advantages and now you can even modify your show thorough a Client Panel yourself.
I'd like the opportunity to perform a photography session and virtual tour for you, (possibly at no cost) to give you the opportunity to experience first hand the advantages of working with a local provider and overall quality improvements we can deliver and are known for, so that when that contract expires, you'll know what to do, and who to call."
We've found that some other places want you on contract because they want your door closed to a better service like ours. Could we, together, take a look at the details of that contract? Perhaps the contract adresses specific discounts based on minimum quantities, and doesn't fully preclude you from doing business with us.
They probably won't pull out the contract, but hearing their response to your statement will give you the opportunity to gauge the interest in you as an alternative. If they pull it out, they're definitely interested, and you'll get the opportunity to see when the term expires, and the details of their agreement. From there, you can set a better plan of attack on getting the change over to you.
Understand that price is always important to the brokers, but if you can show them a better quality of photography, your personal affiliation with pro groups like PPA, REPAI, etc, and offer up references from existing clients who switched over from the same service they're using now (That should always be in your possession, in writing. Leave them a copy.), The price of your better quality won't matter as much, if you give them a higher perceived dollar for dollar value. This is especially true when dealing with agents and brokers that list and sell the higher end properties.
If cost is always more important to them than quality, either lowball or walk. You deserve better.
Best of luck, go get 'em...
Thanks Chris. One quick question - have you ever gotten the opportunity to read a competitor's contract? I'm just curious on how it was structured.
Fully reading one can take time, but the longer it is, the more of a discount they're probably getting. Ask them if you can take 2 minutes to review their existing contract. Some (like one company who is nationally based in this region) actually stipulate that the contents of the contract are confidential and cannot be revealed to any third party.
If they pull it out, ask for a quick summary of what it offers. Ask them how they feel about being locked into a contract, and if the advantages are worth it to them. Then ask, "if you could have better quality photography and service without a contract, would that be of interest to you?"
Use the cell phone analogy - some companies lock you into a 2 year contract, so you can't change when something better comes along. "We know that keeping you as a client day to day requires quality work and service that keeps you satisfied day to day. When a company like ours earns and keeps your trust by doing just that, there's no need for a hard, structured contract. And thats the way it should be. Period. Don't you agree??"
Use those statements. Get their mind moving towards improved quality and service, rescue them from the cold chains and imprisonment of the contract.
Another good statement is, "A contract takes away your right to choose, and during it's term, you lose that freedom as a business person. Don't you deserve better?" That statement can demonize the whole contract concept in their eyes.
Contracts are opportunities, not dead end roadblocks. It may not create business today, but lines you up for tomorrow. In the meantime, keep in touch with those bigger brokers who are stuck in a contract, do not pester, but DO NOT fade away! Get them to opt-in on a mailing list to see your premium work monthly, drop off a $10 Starbucks card (or similar) in a gift tin every 2 months or so (drop it off a week before your next email so they don't opt out). You may even find that they'll refer you to others, even while they're under their current contract term. Do this, and you'll be well armed and ready to strike when the term expires.
REPA is Real Estate Photographers of America & International - paid membership, after they review a portfolio and approve you.
Yes, this approach does work in the field. Lots of office managers and brokers will say 'we're on contract', 1/3 aren't telling the truth, the other 2/3 aren't interested.
The trick is to show them better quality before even discussing price. If price is their first question, the meeting will be short. Best opener? Take a dozen 11x14 mounted, color prints of your best interiors to the meeting, show them first, put them in their hands one at a time with a brief 15 second description, linger on every 4th photo or so. But don't bore them by taking too long.
Leave the prints in front of them during the conversation, in 3 stacks as a focal point. Then ask, "do you often list properties like this?", gesturing to the stacks. "Is the photography you've been using to illustrate your listings similar to this?" There's your primer. Then talk about your years in the trade, affiliations, etc. Explain that you are now offering tours and other marketing tools, an 'elevated presence and exhibition' that is consistent with the quality of your photography. Then ask if they think they could benefit from a higher level of quality. Know their answer before you ask the questions, you'll guide them right where you want them to be.
Setting that stage will drive their thinking towards bettering themselves, and their public image, and will diminish the thoughts of who is the cheapest.
The approach in todays stressed market is to offer more than pro-level photos - you have to be a one-stop solution provider, and TourBuzz is in a class all their own, offering me tools I can offer them in addition to the photography.
I need to point out that I'm new to BuzzTours.net, having joined just yesterday, but have been doing architectural and interior photography for 4 more than 30 years. The 'other' tour companies have been lame in their offerings to me, and after a long conversation with Paul Rodman by phone, I finally found a place my photography and clients can call home. Thanks, Paul and Alan, you're truly stomping the terra!
Enough for now! I have sample tours I have to generate!
Thanks for the clarification on REPA - we are actually already a corporate REPAI sponsor! You might've even found out about us from that.
Also thanks for sharing the ideas on sales, that is great stuff for our customers!
We're glad that you've decided to call TourBuzz home.