Bruce Lane, of Lane Real Estate Group in Rhode Island, has been in business for 30 years. Throughout his career, his brand has evolved from “The Man, the van and twenty hours” to his current brand messaging geared toward the elder market.
In Thursday’s edition of content marketing IRL (in real life), Bruce dishes on his brand evolution, why he’s not afraid to take risks in his messaging and the marketing approach that he puts above all else.
AK: I was really surprised when I saw your latest billboard with the tagline: "I will sell your parents' home, but be prepared. It will be emotional." Were you afraid such a targeted message would alienate clients who aren’t in a situation where parents were are relocating?
Bruce Lane: No. I list, I promote and I prep. If someone calls me and says, “Bruce, I saw the billboard. Are you only helping elders these days?” I certainly will continue to cater to my existing clients in the traditional market. If I had to represent seniors 100% of the time, I’d be perfectly content with that. When I come home my wife Mindy will say, “I can tell you spent time with elders today.” When I ask why, she says, “because you’re in such a good mood!”
AK: Why did you choose that tagline, specifically the part about it being emotional?
Bruce Lane: Moving is stressful for anyone. Add to that being an elder and moving out of a home you’ve lived in for 50 years, and the stress and sadness is compounded. I have a very different approach. I go in and tell my clients, “Here’s how we’re going to proceed. For the next four months, you’re going to adopt me. I’m going to be your son. I’m going to look out for you, take care of you. You might get annoyed with me sometimes and that’s OK. I’m going to show you how to make this fun.” They really start treating me like their kid. They can’t tell me enough how I just take a problem and solve it. I’ll take the problem of say, a bad roof, and deal with it. I’ll not only give them the name of a moving company, I’ll call the mover, schedule it and I will be there on move day ready to go.
AK: Your messaging has evolved since you started. Can you talk about the change?
Bruce Lane: When I started out, my background was maintenance. I’m proud of it. I offered my clients the use of my maintenance company for 20 hours. So they got me, my van to say, take their unwanted belongings to the dump and twenty hours of my crew to clean or prep before, during or after the sale. That’s where “The man, the van and twenty hours” comes from. In a matter of six months, we spent a significant amount to promote that tagline. Once our client base started referring us to their friends, we backed off on the advertising.
AK: Though “The man, the van and twenty hours” and “I will sell your parents' home, but be prepared. It will be emotional” target diverse markets, they're both strong customer-centric approaches. You’re not just a realtor, you’re a realtor who solves your clients’ problems. Can you talk about that?
Bruce Lane: I’m genuinely interested in my clients. I connect with the elders I work with - I can tell you so much about them. You have to be authentically interested in your clients. I’m not asking them questions to try to be nice so I can make a sale, I’m asking because I’m passionate about knowing them and helping them. My messaging has changed, as has my client base. My passion in helping clients has always been a top priority.
AK: The reason we’re talking is because I saw your billboard and it caught my eye. In an age where everything is digital, what makes you stick with a more traditional approach to marketing?
Bruce Lane: I’ve had colleagues call me and tell me I’m crazy for that billboard or say they almost drove off the road seeing it. They’ll ask if I’m getting listings from it. My response is I’m not getting listings, I’m re-instilling a message. I’m branding myself. In a few months, people who know me or have seen my billboard might have overwhelmed parents. One parent may need more care and their housing needs have changed, the house has to be sold. It’s going to be to the son or daughter’s benefit to call me. I’m having fun with this. If my numbers went down but were up specific to elders, I’d be completely fine with that. If they went up but there was a decrease in elders, that wouldn’t make me too happy.
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