Archant Hub meets Peter Watson from Flick & Son Estate Agents…

We recently spoke with Peter Watson, majority shareholder and Managing Director of Flick and Son Estate Agents – one of Suffolk’s most successful agencies. Peter is a formidable figure in the property industry with over 40 years of experience and an array of impressive qualifications and fellowships, so it goes without saying he will have well informed things to say about the market and the direction it is heading in…
Give us some background to your agency…
Flick & Son had been a family owned business since 1883 until about 30 years ago in ’87 when it was sold to William H Brown, which is where the line to today’s management begins. In 1995, Peter Watson, Chris Burrell-Saward and Richard Leeming successfully negotiated a management buyout from William H Brown, making Flick & Son an independent estate agent once again.
In your opinion, how important is brand?
Brand is extremely important because you’ve got to capture people’s attention. We promote our brand through a wide range of advertising media and a strong marketing mix such as through Archant’s newspapers and magazines and their websites. Company’s such as Rightmove and Zoopla are taking a more prominent role in advertising properties as the fact is, it’s where people go when they’re looking to buy- it’s convenient. A worry that we do have in the profession is that these online property search engines tend to dilute the brand; THEY become the brand rather than the agency representing the property and vendor. This is where advertising in local media plays a big part as it is a great way to get your message across. Although promotion is an aspect of brand, I believe that it is the level of service we provide and the recommendation we receive off the back of this embodies our brand image.
How important is locality?
Locality is crucial; you fit your practice to where you are. We’re the traditional, reliable RSCS member and our branding is very focussed in providing a very personable service for local people – we’re all qualified, which in estate agencies is a rarity. Flick & Son has been established in the area for over 130 years… we’re part of the local landscape, our staff our experienced and knowledgeable about the area and it doesn’t get more local than that.
How is the digital environment changing the industry?
Rather than changing the industry itself, digital is changing the way we market ourselves. Now we allocate a large proportion of our marketing efforts to Rightmove etc. as they have created a convenient platform for searching for houses and it is where people go to when they’re looking for a house. 
Print and local media advertising definitely still has its place though as being integral to brand image and local exposure – print is a trusted media so it’s effective– it’s a way of putting our distinct style into the local market place, and with circulation rates still remaining significant and with Archant’s digital UV’s on the rise, there are still more than enough people reading and interested in the property section.
How do people decide who they’re going to sell their house with?
They get to know us as practitioners – the majority of what we do that helps is being in the community and embodying a part of the local landscape. Local newspaper advertising does well in providing a subliminal effect for us, the more they see our brand in the newspaper, the quicker they are able to recall us- when people come to sell their house we hope they think of us as the local agency they will go to for advice.
What threat do websites such as Purple Bricks present to the industry?
I believe Purple Bricks does not present a threat to the industry at the moment. Purple Bricks doesn’t have the local knowledge or personable service that local agencies can provide. It’s essentially a call centre and introduces vendors to sellers and then leaves them to it. There’s a lot of service we provide that is underwater which people may not be necessarily aware of – such as liaising with mortgage providers etc. Purple Bricks can’t provide this aspect of the service. 
The financial commitment to Purple Bricks is also a risk for vendors – they hand over their hard-earned cash before their house is even sold. We don’t do this and don’t believe in it as a concept, with the service, expertise and results Flick & Son provides for a client we’re confident that we can get results which means we’re more than happy not to take a penny until a buyer has been found and contracts have been exchanged.
There is always, of course the potential that Purple Bricks may provide a threat in the future, especially as they have a strong amount of financial backing of which a huge amount is going into their marketing budget– but I think that the strong level of service, knowledge and human representation that we provide is something that they can’t feasibly compete with.
Where do you see the industry in 10/20 years time?
I don’t see the industry changing much at all. We provide a service that is required by the local community; we’ve been here for 130 years without any significant change in our business model. The only thing that I can see being affected is the routes of which we market ourselves. We already advertise heavily online but with the rise of Purple Bricks there is a chance we may have to mould our advertising online and in local media to highlight the service we provide and how this is something that a company such as Purple Bricks cannot compete with.
What are your three key business tips?
My three business tips have to be integrity, service & experience.
Advisors have to know and be a part of the local area and community; this is essential to the industry and feeds directly into all three of the above tips. 
To find out about our marketing opportunities contact Tim Gould on 01473 324549 / 07785 616212 or contact us
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