Did You Just Throw Your Broker Under a Bus?

Thrown Under the Bus?
Image by unprose via Flickr

Allow me to start by acknowledging that the goals of Franchise organizations are not necessarily the goals of their individual franchisees.

The primary job of the Franchisor is to sell franchises, though supplying tools and systems to their franchisees is also an important goal. The primary goals of the franchisees  differ since they are all centered around their own  specific operations and the things that provide the greatest benefits to their businesses and their owners.

I saw a tweet by Chris Kieff that the Social Media Manager at Coldwell banker had responded to his Post “Oops!You Wanted a Full Answer to That Question?”, and being the Realogy franchisee that I am (in my role as CEO of CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold), my curiosity was piqued, so I headed over to check out the post and the response.

It seems that Chris Brogan had tweeted something about the new Coldwell Banker website, and Chris (Kieff)  had visited it , only to find that CB corporate’s national website only includes listings from Coldwell Banker franchisees. Kieff makes the point that this might disappoint consumers who visit the site, making them less than well disposed to the franchise. There is a whole argument here about the whether the Franchisor should be competing with their local franchisees for the limited number of eyes looking for real property, but that’s another post, so I will digress no further.

The post speaks for itself – Chris Kieff is an articulate guy who can (and does) make his own argument. And in response to the argument, something entirely new popped up for me.

The Social Media Manager for Coldwell banker, a guy named David Marine, responded to the post  in part, by saying;

We do allow consumers to see all the IDX listings in the area they search by promoting an IDX link on our results page, but this takes them to a local site of one of our Coldwell Banker affiliates and abides by the MLS display rules for that area. You’ll notice that these sites don’t have a number of the features that our site offers like video, social sharing, ability to save properties using our Home File product, etc.

Excuse me? Did he really just say :

You’ll notice that these sites don’t have a number of the features that our site offers like video, social sharing, ability to save properties using our Home File product, etc

Sort of like saying –

You’ll notice that our broker’s sites are really second rate propositions that don’t have the features  our corporate site has so we think consumers will be OK with our limited property data set etc.

I understand the need to respond to the post which placed the Coldwell Banker Corporate site in a critical light. And I think  the point they made about the various IDX feeds around the country was  important in helping people to understand their strategy, though other national franchises felt differently and have met the challenge of providing more information to  the consumer.

But where the David makes a huge faux pass is when he denigrates the sites of the brokers that make up the Coldwell Banker system. In its core, the value proposition of any franchise must include a commitment to the reputations of the participants in their system – and that is the big #Fail in this interaction. In fact, the question to me becomes “If Coldwell Banker thinks such features are valuable to their consumers (and therefore their franchisees), why have they not equipped their brokers with those systems?”

I don’t know David Marine, and I have no feelings about him pro or con, nor do I have any negative feelings towards the Coldwell Banker Brand. You probably know that I am the CEO of CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold, and therefore have my own franchisor/franchisee stories. In fact, Mr. Marine  and Coldwell Banker get points in my humble opinion for reputation monitoring, and attempting reputation management by engaging with a blogger who wrote about their brand. However I think there may be a cautionary tale here for all franchises in responding to mentions in the web 2.0 world. You can’t be sure who is reading your response and how it may affect the reader. Therefore  greater thought needs to be given to the content of the response,  and additional emphasis on protecting the reputation of the franchisee and the value of the franchise tools provided to them while defending the corporate decision.

In other words guys – Don’t throw your brokers under the bus to make the brand strategy look better – in fact, don’t even look like you might be throwing them under the bus – its not going to be good for franchise sales.

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