The Short List: Dan Duffy’s Strategies For Distinguishing Yourself from the Competition

by Peter Thomas Ricci


Dan Duffy is the CEO and chairman of the board of directors for United Real Estate.

Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Dan Duffy, the CEO of United Real Estate, on how agents can distinguish themselves from the competition.

“Differentiation” is a term that is frequently used and frequently misunderstood. So at the agent level, it’s critically important to differentiate yourself in the marketplace to grow your business.

4. Claim Expertise Status in a Particular Niche – For instance, if you’re in any major metropolitan area, there are always submarkets. So whether it’s being an expert in a particular neighborhood, such as a golf community, or even an expert in a particular building, it’s critical that you claim expert status and then align all your marketing and messaging to that expert status within that space.

It’s very important that you’re not only a niche marketer, but that your marketing materials (your website, your personal materials) are all consistent with the niche that you’re serving.

3. Keep in Mind What You’re NOT –There’s a painting in a museum in Amsterdam, and I stared at it for hours –literally, for hours – not understanding why it was affecting me like it was; it was a close-up of a dogwood tree, and it was a branch in partial bloom. Finally, I realized that it wasn’t the positive space, meaning the tree, that was grabbing my attention, but the negative space; the sky behind it was so perfectly azure that it defined the painting.

People tend to look at what’s painted on the paper as the most important thing, but it’s also the negative space, aka what you’re not, that’s important. So if someone works in luxury real estate, they cannot take a home or listing that’s totally incongruent with that. By knowing who you are, you know who you are not. If you do extend beyond what you are, you risk diluting your personal brand.

2. Ask Yourself: Are There Other People With My Differentiation? – Can the consumer discern between what I’m telling them that I’m the best at, versus another agent making the same statement? Can my claim be defended? It’s very hard to explain how your technology, for instance, is superior. What’s better to explain is something like, “I generate 1,000 buyer leads a month.” That is a point of differentiation; it’s a specific claim, and when you’re claiming differentiation, you want to focus on a point that your competitors cannot easily match.

1. Your Point of Differentiation Must Be Valued by the Client – If I were to say, and this is a ridiculous example, that “I am the tannest real estate agent during the winter, and you must work with only the tannest agent,” or “I can juggle five softballs, so I deserve your business,” those attributes are irrelevant to the client. It’s important that any claim of differentiation not only be defensible, but that it be important to the client, and be easily communicable to that client.

Dan Duffy joined United Real Estate as part of a successful effort in Feb. 2006 to secure growth capital to support the rapid growth of the United Country system. He serves as the company’s chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors. In his role as CEO, Dan is principally responsible for the establishment and execution of a long-term strategy for United designed to deliver competitive advantage to agents as they operate in their local markets and serve their clients.

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