Greg thinks Top Producer is vulnerable to…

the Zillow machine, but I seriously doubt it…

I 100% agree that someone could seriously improve on the existing CRM products for agents… During our after-lunch conversation this past week, I mentioned that if Trulia really wants to reach marketing dominance some day, they should offer a free, high-quality CRM to agents. But first, they’d need to start thinking of themselves as a company that provides marketing tools to agents, not just as an advertising platform (and interestingly, I get the impression that Rudy is already thinking this way!).

However, I don’t think Rudy is enough to make it happen for Trulia.

Why? Because to call either Trulia or Zillow a “marketing” platforms for agents would be to confuse marketing with advertising. The core DNA of both companies is to build consumer-oriented products and then find a way to integrate agent-advertising into those products. Other than the (very valuable) service of getting agents in from of consumers, I’m yet to see either company make the mental leap toward thinking what should they do to make the day-today business of agents easier or more efficient.

Just as it is in TP’s DNA to build products for agents, T and Z still live in a world of consumer-oriented products. My guess is that some of the executives at T or Z would view the development of pure agent-centric products (like a CRM) as selling-out the consumer experience of their core sites.

Nonetheless, if T or Z (or Roost!), decided to build some agent-centric projects, I’d argue that they’d likely open up some interesting business opportunities and potentially do a much better job endearing themselves to their core advertisers.

And a quality CRM is only one way they could go… CMS, market intelligence, and transaction coordination are three other (obvious) areas where existing agent-centric products are either seriously lacking features or the market is seriously under-served.

But just because the market is starved, doesn’t mean T or Z have any interest in coming to the rescue. As a matter of fact, inertia suggests to me that they are not even thinking about taking on this market and TP executives are right not to worry about Zillow.

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13 thoughts on “Greg thinks Top Producer is vulnerable to…

  1. Despite there being great CM programs out there (Act!, Goldmine, etc), TP has a strong and growing client base. Even though the program is clunky, there are simply too many things that it does well that the other programs do not. It’s so specialized for real estate and when you know everything it does and integrate it into your business, it’s an awesome program. I can not see Z, T or R even considering it and G, well, it’s so specialized with such a ‘small’ client base that I doubt they’d consider it either.

  2. Isn’t this the direction the folks at Fidelity National are going with Cyberhomes.com? Since they have a ton of agent software and services in the their family to begin with (e.g., CRM, MLS mgmt, title agent svcs, etc.), they have the potential to stitch this all together for the agent community and also to have excellent data for consumers. What do you think?

  3. With TP8i coming out at least they are moving away from javascript to be more mainstream. (they even recommend Firefox now!) It’s going to be very hard for any new player to jump in and get a toe-hold in the market. Most top producing agents use TP and are going to be very reluctant to switch. I, for example, have a half dozen licenses with multiple Action Plans and systems integrated into TP. It would take someone (and I don’t have the time) three to six months just to recreate everything we do in another CMS. No thank you.

    TP was originally designed by a Canadian RE agent who was a programmer. (same geeky guy as did the old training videos). It was obvious he was more of a programmer than a design or relational database person. And he never even got around to setting up proper import-export or customizable report functionality (which is the basic definition of a real database, IMO).

    Still, he threw in everything except the kitchen sink and, if you can live with it’s horrible interface, you can do more that any other real-estate-specific CMS. So regardless of it’s lack of GUI and other frustrating limitations, I think it’s the only viable solution for what it does. It’s here to stay.

  4. Blueroof360 has a powerful lead and client management system built into it.

    And, unlike Top Producer, it is very easy to use and understand.

    The Blueroof360 product also schedules showings, gets feedback on your showings and every client has a log-in to see all the activity on their file, including showings and feedback.

  5. Sorry everyone for disappearing for the day after publishing this post. :)

    Whatley: I’ve always thought Google could do a MUCH better job creating a healthy marketing platform for real estate professionals… hell, they already have a few thousand real estate professionals using their blog platform and they offer NO special incentives or marketing opportunities. However, the entire industry for offering a marketing platform is probably only worth a hundred million a year or so a year (all non-ad stuff), so it wouldn’t likely dent Google’s margins even if they dominated.

  6. Christina and Jim: I think the point Greg was trying to make and one that I’d agree with is that someone could easily offer a free (or nearly free) CRM tool that was specifically for real estate that could capture much of the market. Of course there would always be people who would be stuck with TP because of their years of specialization, but my guess is that 80% of TP users never use 80% of the features… and that a simpler program would not only suffice, but actually be preferable, for many agents!

  7. Successful marketing tactics are shifting from selling to serving (at least in Real Estate.) IMO, the real question here is; what role does CRM play in a permission marketing world?

    Last week I came across a blogger (not in the RE.net) who referred to the popular hosted CRM software as “forcedsales.com.” That post really got me thinking about the dubious future of CRM. Consumers no longer want to be leads and Gen X and Gen Y don’t want to be “sold.” They want to take control, they want to choose their service provider and they want to be able to contact you when they need you not when you feel like “marketing” to them. It got me thinking that if permission marketing is working for you – on your blog or in the online real estate communities – why would you need to manage leads?

    I could be wrong but I don’t think you’re going to see many new players trying to get into the lead-harvesting space. Rather, we are seeing new marketing platforms emerge that focus on earning consumer’s permission and that enable service, not sales. Blogs are such a platform. Zillow’s Q&A, Discussions and even the simple ability to upload Neighborhood Photo’s are all examples of next generation marketing tools (not advertising!) Permission marketing absolutely does put the consumer first – that is how it works – but it is definitely marketing. And advertising compliments social media marketing so well because, unlike sales, advertising has always worked on the permission-based principle that empowers today’s consumer with choice.

  8. David G: You make a very interesting point… as I had never thought about the disconnect between keeping contact with people in your address book and permission marketing. But I don’t think it is a real one.

    You’re example of using a blog for permission marketing would only work for a small subset of real estate consumers. For better or worse, many consumers still prefer email… and I’d argue that reaching consumers how and when they *want* to be reached is the essence of permission marketing.

    Are you the type of consumer who wants a monthly update on market conditions? A weekly summary of my blog posts? A daily update on mortgage rates? An on-the-fly update of homes that meet your specific requirements? A email campaign from an easy to use CRM would likely be the best way to help any of these clients out!

  9. Simplicity is the key. TP is a dinosaur and those who are stuck with it will be dinosaurs too. Maybe their new version will be something different, but it’s probably only an improvement…not a complete redesign.

    Blogs, Q&A, etc are great tools for permission marketing, however I believe it is only the best way…not the only way. Just because a few people like to read blogs, doesn’t mean everyone does. Most consumers don’t have the time and certainly aren’t using RSS readers to keep up (yet). CRM tools are great to keep in front of your client without the effort. Lead harvesting is critical if you are going to spend time and money generating leads. Otherwise you’re letting potential slip through the cracks.

    My advice…do it all and let your prospects decide how they want to be converted. They will in the long run anyways.

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