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Consumer behavior and how does Keep Me Certified read minds?

If you’re reading this article, you use the internet and therefore have purchased at least one item or service from an online merchant.  Further, you fall in to one of three consumer groups based on your personal purchasing preferences.

The purpose of this article is to discuss consumer purchasing behaviors and how we, Keep Me Certified School of Real Estate, are harnessing the tools and power of the internet to build our brand.

Before discussing the strategy it is important to outline the three different types of consumer groups. There are the brand loyalists, bargain hunters and the convenience buyers.

First are the brand loyalists and let’s use Apple as our example.  Loyalists like the brand for more than its taste, look and feel.  When you think of Apple, a few adjectives that come to mind are simple, aesthetic and reliable.  Notice how I didn’t describe them as “having a good mp3 player”. The loyalists who buy apples mp3 players/ ipods buy them because they believe in the brand.  Apple positioned their brand in a way that they want everyone to know that anything they make or do is going to be aesthetic, simple and reliable.  Apple happens to apply these values to the design of their mp3 players, laptops and everything else they do.  If Apple were to start producing cars I guarantee they would be hugely successful with their loyal consumers because loyalists will know that the same underlying principles are applied across every product they offer.

Then there are the bargain hunters and they’re tough to please.  Bargain hunters generally do have a threshold for quality but it is substantially lower than the vast majority of consumers.  Let’s use a 22 inch flat screen computer monitor.  The bargain hunter will spend up to multiple hours searching for the retailer that will sell them the same monitor for $10 cheaper than another retailer.  It doesn’t matter if your store has the reputation for selling monitors that “fell off the back of a truck” or if they’ve got a 10 year return policy with a lifetime warranty, if you offer the lowest price then you just earned yourself a sale.

Finally, there are the convenience buyers.  This consumer generally values their limited free time and tries to spend it as efficiently as possible without putting too much emphasis on the cost that comes with convenience.  This is the type of consumer that will valet their car at the front door even if ther is an available free spot a few hundred feet away simply because it gets them to where they’re going more efficiently.

Based on each individuals set of values, it is possible to be a different type of consumer for different products/services. This can be a bit confusing when discussing macro consumer trends so I’m going to keep it simple and stick with one specific market, online continuing education.

If those three groups define the entire spectrum of our potential customers, is it possible to and how do we please everyone?  The internet has made reaching every potential customer significantly easier when compared to 5 years ago when everyone had a brick and mortar storefront.  As an online school, we have the same fundamental questions to ask ourselves as the brick and mortar locations however making ourselves available on the internet allows us to do so much more, so much faster, easier and just plain better.

There are four questions that every school owner (online or not) needs to ask themself; What courses are we going to offer?  Which type of consumer do we want to reach?  How are we going to make ourselves visible to those consumers? How do we differentiate?  What separates the successful schools from the losers is how these schools decide to answer and act on those answers. Let’s use Keep Me Certified School of Real Estate for our example.

Keep Me Certified School of Real Estate is an online real estate school, certified by the Board of Professional Licensure in Massachusetts.

What courses do we offer?  We offer a 12 hour online continuing education video course to real estate agents and brokers who want to keep their real estate license active or have already let their license expire and want to reactivate it.

Which type of consumer do we want to reach?  We want to offer our online continuing education course to every Real Estate Agent and Broker who needs to take their 12 hours of continuing education regardless of which consumer group they affiliate with.  We will offer the best price, offer our product online (convenience) and we’ve created our course with an unprecedented set of standards to make our continuing education course engaging and enjoyable so our users are actually proud to talk about their experience and decision to use KeepMeCertified to complete their continuing education.

How do we make ourselves visible to these consumers? Marketing and without getting in to too much detail these efforts include, search result positioning, flyer campaigns, word of mouth and strategic partnerships.

How do we differentiate?  You can read the full story about how and why we started Keep Me Certified in the About us page of our site but our mission is clear and simple.  As we discussed in a past post, Who is Dealroom Partners and what are we doing?,  “we believe in challenging the status quo by thinking and doing things differently.  We do this by making everything we bring to market beautifully designed and simple to use so we can offer our customers the best possible user experience.”

To answer the question asked in the title of the article, “…how does Keep Me Certified read minds”, we unfortunately can’t and therefore don’t.  We all live by our own principles and assumptions and at Keep Me Certified it is our job to use our principles and assumptions as a starting point to create the best product we can.  That said, our technolog is not a one-way street.  We solicit and encourage all of our students to give us feedback so we can better meet or exceed not only their expectations but the expectations of future students as well.  Though we sometimes like to think we’re perfect, we know we’re not and our most valuable feedback comes from our students who have signed up for the course.

When it comes to online continuing education for real estate agents and brokers, Keep Me Certified School of Real Estate is here for one reason, to do it better than everyone else.  Whether you’re another online school or you’re an agent trying to determine which school you’re going to sign up for to complete your education requirement, KeepMeCertified is here to raise the bar.  You can check out our school site by going to keepmecertified.com or just click here.