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So What?

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I've been driving past this billboard for months now, and every time I see it, there is a visceral negative reaction in my marketing gut.

Exit Realty is Growing: So what? What's in it for me?

If your company is growing in some form or another, surely that makes you happy. However, how does boasting about your own growth help me? Why should that make me pick up the phone, or trust you above a dozen other outfits that are willing to post signs beating their own drum?

Speaking of picking up the phone, it might be a nice idea to have a phone number or website on your advertising, too. Just sayin'...

Then there's the name. I realize that "exiting" is one aspect of moving, but perhaps a name that has more positive or aspirational connotations would be helpful? If there are two billboards side by side, one from Exit Realty and one from, say, Open Door Realty, guess which one is likely to receive a call?

I'm all for business growth, of course. And there's a time, and a place, and a way to express one's success. But if you're about growing, focus on the customer. If you want to introduce yourself to me and entice my interest in a few seconds' span, remove as many barriers as possible. You may be growing, but there's something you ought to be knowing.

If I'm selling my house, it's not about you!


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Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the SteveWoodruff.com.

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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  • by Rosey Dow Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    Excellent point, Steve. Unless you're helping other people build their businesses, bragging about your own success isn't hitting the mark. What people want to know is What's in it For Me as you expressed so well.

  • by Mickey Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    Agreed. There was a car dealer in Atlanta that for years would say "We're gonna be #1!". That was their primary marketing slogan, and it was everywhere. I really didn't get it, and I never bought a car from them.

    For a while I thought I was missing something ("*should* I care?"), but later determined that they were the ones missing something...

  • by Crispin Heath Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    Funny though that this has probably recieved more attention through social media than it possibly could ever have achieved any other way. Some times things are so bad they work. I hasten to add that this is not typical of one of those times.

  • by Matt V Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    Couldn't agree with everyone more. My first reaction to that billboard was, "Good for you" , and my second was "Why the hell should I care?" . I'm sure not exactly what they had in mind, or maybe it was.

  • by Joe Cascio Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    As in the comment from Mickey about the car dealer saying, "We're gonna be #1", Exit Realty gives you the definite message that they care more about themselves than they do about you, the customer. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post (ok, partially a rant) about how a website is not advertising but rather customer service. I finished it up by saying that your site should be about what your customers want to know, not what you want to tell them. Same applies to this billboard. And yeah, the name is a puzzlement isn't it? Why Exit? It sounds like stage direction in a script: "Exit Realty, stage left."

  • by Ann Handley Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    This reminds me of a little white church near my house; it makes excellent use of its billboard space. The other day it read, "Extreme makeovers start here." A few weeks ago, "Why pray when you can worry?"

    I don't attend the church (nor am I particularly religious), but still, I'm impressed: Someone at the little white church is a marketer who knows the benefits of focusing on the "customer"!

  • by Stephanie Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    I see this differently. In my opinion, it is an employment ad targeted to agents, not homeowners.

  • by Don Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    Ann, a lot of churches do that weekly. I suspect that there is a book or website that they are all relying on, but as you say it actually makes you stop and think. I also bet that the church website has the service times listed directly below.

    Steve, do you think there is any more to the story? Like should we see construction just below/adjacent to the sign of the new Exit office? Is it part of a tiered campaign (your indication that is has remain unchanged for months would suggest not) where next quarter it says "to serve you better" etc.?

    Otherwise, given the expense of the billboard a site or phone number would be a better use of that space below the branding.

    Stephanie may have a point as well, however, it has no call to action and leaves us all wondering what it means -- but not caring to follow up and find out. Will you Steve be contacting Exit to get a better understanding? Like the Mini-Cooper ad follow up a month or so ago, I'd love to see what they were thinking and what they and us can learn from it.

    Finally as regards the name, is it exit as in leave, or exit as in next to highway exit 25 or are they sellers agents advertising to people getting out of their locations vs welcoming new buyers in? I'd need to know much more to judge that one.

  • by Rich Bailey Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    I heard once that Exit's branding strategy is to leverage the existence of a great preponderance of EXIT signs throughout the United States. You see "exit" signs it in every building, on every highway, and so on. Sounds good in theory, though in today's economy, it connotes images of "Exit Strategy".

    Of course, it limits going international; would you call it "Way Out" Realty in London?

    I think Stephanie has it nailed; that sign to me seems to be targeting agents. Or it's simply more branding of the name.

  • by steve woodruff Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    It is possible that the sign is targeted toward other real estate agents - but then, I would think they'd add "Join us!" and give a website or something. As it is now, there's really no telling what they're after....

  • by steve woodruff Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    Actually, it will be a good test of Exit Realty's use of social media - will they contact ME to explain? Or enter the conversation here? If so, I'll at least be impressed by that...

    The lack of call to action (including lack of contact info) is the big flaw here, beside the boasting tone. There's no there there.

  • by Craig Landes Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    It reminds me of Warren Schmidt (About Schmidt.) He would write these long letters to a child he was supporting financially in a Third World country. "Dear Ndugu.." Very caring, very altruistic, right? No. These letters wound up being a way for Warren Schmidt to vent about his lousy life, his daughter and the no-good jerk she was about to marry ... they were, um, About Schmidt, not about Ndugu.

    At least Exit Realty doesn't even bother with a pretense of being about us :-D

  • by Joe Cascio Mon Feb 15, 2010 via blog

    Churches down south excel at this sort of advertising... check these out.

  • by Jeremy Meyers Tue Feb 16, 2010 via blog

    This is something that companies fall prey to all the time: drinking their own kool-aid.

    If you've done nothing to inspire anyone to care about your success, then either bragging about your success or discussing your ambition comes off as contemptuous.

    "We're growing in sales!" if I'm not invested says "More and more of you suckers are giving us your money!"

    If you've taken the time to let me behind the curtain and empower me to be part of the community, it means "You guys are helping this thing that you love get out to more people!"

  • by Karen Marchetti Wed Feb 17, 2010 via blog

    With billboards, as with print advertising, the largest element -- the (should be arresting) visual -- is key and should communicate the benefit and/or the branding. Not sure the word "EXIT" makes sense as the largest visual here. A curious branding strategy, to focus your entire company's brand around a negative word.

  • by Tom Long Thu Feb 18, 2010 via blog

    Thanks for bringing this up. Unfortunatley businesses focusing on their own promotion instead of the customer needs is too common. However each time I see one of these promotions, it gets me thinking about what could be done differently. Thats the positive element.

  • by Mark Sun Feb 21, 2010 via blog

    Yeah, that advertisement is the worse. But you gotta love businesses like this eh? It just leaves the door open for businesses with better marketing and advertising efforts to climb their way to the top.

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