Century 21's Drive Toward Profitability
Century 21's Drive Toward Profitability
In its relentless drive to transform homebuying and raise profitability levels among salespeople and brokers, Century 21 is churning out one new marketing concept after another.
The latest in its wave of initiatives: Century 21 Communities, a collection of databases, articles, and hot links to other Web sites through America Online that provides consumers with information about communities around the country--and the people who live there.
Of course, obtaining information on-line about school districts, crime statistics, and home listing prices is nothing new. But Bob Pittman, Century 21's chief executive officer, has high hopes for Century 21 Communities. With its user-friendly format, he says, consumers can access "in one place" data about a neighborhood as well as its residents—what they drive, where they vacation, how much they earn, and whether they belong to health clubs.
With that kind of information pooled together, Pittman expects consumers to narrow their search for a home before they even step into a salesperson's car. And if it takes a salesperson, say, half the time to sell a home, there's more time to do more business.
"Why does a real estate agent have to show 20 homes for every one they sell? Why can't they show 10? That's my goal, my mission in life," Pittman says. "To make our agents more productive than in the past through technology, advertising, whatever it takes."
Initially, Century 21 Communities will feature information on 115 neighborhoods, Pittman says, with more communities added continually. The site will also include information on community attractions, transportation, arts and culture, and other features.
"The most innovative thing they're doing is execution. They're actually doing something to make it easy for the public to do business with them," says Pat Zaby, a technology consultant who markets productivity software.
"Century 21 is packaging information the way the public wants it--something easy for the public to get," adds Zaby, owner of Prep Software in Dallas. "I don't think they're providing anything [other practitioners] can't provide. But by putting all the information for a particular community on the Internet, they're making it easy for consumers to do business with them."
Once a home is purchased, Century 21 is also hoping to make it easy for buyers to use their salespeople for other kinds of transactions--purchasing mortgage and title services, burglar alarm systems, cable TV service, and other merchandise.
"I'm not doing one-stop shopping because we make money at it," Pittman says. "The consumer demands it, and that's why we're doing it. They want you to get them a mortgage, get them a satellite dish, find them a baby-sitter, hook them up with an alarm system. They want you to do everything.
"The consumer is looking for convenience," Pittman adds emphatically. "Most real estate offices sell you real estate there and send you on your own to do other things yourself. Consumers aren't happy about this."
To date, Century 21 has teamed up with ADT Security Systems, America Online, Amre Inc., Disney Vacations, and other companies offering discounted programs and services to consumers.
HFS Inc., which owns Century 21, ERA, and Coldwell Banker, has also entered into preferred vendor agreements to pass along discounts on items like office supplies and long-distance telephone service to franchise owners and salespeople.
Pittman says he's interested in striking more preferred vendor agreements and alliances with companies that sell services or merchandise relating to home-ownership. He's also hoping to cash in on the leads other partnerships provide. For instance, customers who visit a Century 21 Home Improvements kiosk in a mall are potential homebuyers or homesellers—leads that Pittman says are passed on to Century 21 franchisees.
So far, the combination of one-stop shopping and the Century 21 brand name is working for Frank Gavern, co-owner of Century 21--Anthony Gavern, REALTORS®, in Arnold, Md., just outside Annapolis.
"Anything that the business generates, through advertising in the Yellow Pages or elsewhere, or when someone walks in off the street because they know the Century 21 name, we charge a referral fee to salespeople," Gavern says. "It means profitability from a broker's standpoint."
Peter Schultz, of Century 21--Peter M. Schultz, Medway, Mass., says one-stop shopping isn't boosting his profit level. "It's not working," he says. "What would help? Lead generation and salesperson retention.
"Satellite dishes and siding discounts--that's not something that works for my office, and I don't feel comfortable pitching that to buyers. People come to me to buy and sell real estate, and that's where I want to keep it."
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