This Week’s Roundtable: Tech Tools to Serve Sellers Better?

[UPDATE: This edition of the 4realz Roundtable is now live and you can listen to it at the bottom of this post!]

As part of my hunt for new marketing tools for agents, I’d love to take on a relevant topic similar to how we took on tracking and analytics for agents last week.

With that in mind, I’m planning for Thursday’s discussion to focus on tech tools that help agents serve sellers better…. And here’s where you come in.   What types of technologies and/or tools should we cover?

Some thoughts that come to my mind include single property websites and listing syndication services… But I know there is more? What about tools that help agents get sellers to price properties more appropriately like Altos Research Reports?

I’d love to hear from you about the technology tools available to agents that can help them serve sellers better!   In particular agents, if there is some tricks or tips you’d be willing to share, I’d love to hear from you and potentially get you on the show!

Also of interest, I’ve started summarizing the relevant websites taken from our previous Roundtables on social networking, home valutions and analytics for agents within the Tool Shed!

UPDATE:

What an awesome crew we had on the call today:

If you’re an agent looking to increase your knowledge on how to use simple technology tools to increase your business, here are just some of the tools that were mentioned in the podcast:

Some great stuff!   Thanks again to everyone who took part!  For everyone else, you can listen to this edition of the 4realz Roundtable here:

[podcast]http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-20339/TS-124626.mp3[/podcast]

Love’n, just love’n, the linklove from…

Mary! (and especially glad she didn’t share any of the stories!)

More notes from RETechSouth:

and, how, could I forget… I had a blast hanging out with the Miami Beach backlink whore.

(Don’t be surprised if I add more links to stories about the event as I find them!)

Learning, learning, learning…

After last Thursday’s event, Jim and I took the weekend to relax and digest what we learned. The break was nice, but now we’re ready to hit the next event up harder than ever!   😉

Here are some of the things that I learned from our first event:

  • The people in the audience seemed to respond really well to the entire program, with almost everyone telling me the course was a great value (including agents who I’d consider to be quite internet savvy!). However, in marketing it to brokers and agents, many felt that the price ($149) and the time (8 hours) were too much.
  • The enthusiasm of the sponsors and the ability for us to get exactly the sponsors we wanted was a pleasant surprise.
  • The audience really responded well to Jim’s presentation on measuring and tracking ROI.   There’s obviously a lot of pent-up demand for this kind of extremely practical, nuts-and-bolts, education.
  • The most effective marketing was when brokerages/sponsors recommended that their agents/clients take part.

Based on what we learned, here are the changes we’re making to our next event in Orange County:

  1. We’re dropping the price to $49 per person!
    • This can only be done because of the awesome sponsorships we’ve been able to get from companies like Altos Research, Inman News, Zillow, Top Producer and Diverse Solutions. The willingness of the sponsors to support our effort to spread quality internet marketing education to agents is the ONLY reason we can drop this price so darn low!
  2. We’re going to squeeze all of our content into 4 hours
    • This will let us start at 9am and end at 1pm. To make this work, here is our new schedule:
      • 9am to 9:15: Intro (by Dustin)
      • 9:15 to 10:15: Creating a performance based website (by Jim)
      • 10:15: 10:30: 1st break
      • 10:30 to 10:45: Effectively engaging in social networks (see change #3)
      • 10:45 to 11:45: Creating local communities with blogs
      • 11:45 to noon: 2nd break
      • Noon to 1pm: Measuring and tracking your marketing ROI
    • The things we have to cut to make this work are lunch (1 hour), my discussion on social networking (from 1.5 hours to only 15 minutes), one break (15 min) and each presentation by 15 minutes.
  3. We will offer all attendees a free, 90-day, follow up course tentatively called Get 4RealzEd with 15 minutes a day
    • I’m more convinced than ever that the best way to get people knowledgeable on how to be effective within the various social networks is NOT to lecture on them, but to simply walk agents through a variety of social networks in simple steps.
    • At least for the first round, I’m going to keep this simple and send out a daily email with a simple (~15 min) social networking, blogging and/or ROI activity.
    • Attendees seemed to really respond well to this idea, so I’m quite excited about it going forward!
  4. Our next event will be in Orange County on April 17th
    • We’ve pushed back the dates on both the Orange County and San Diego events. We’re quite fortunate that some of our sponsors we’ve brought on in the past few weeks have shown an interest in helping us promote these events, so rather than rush things, we want to give them enough time to work their magic!

I really want to thank everyone for helping make the 4RealzEd event in LA such a success.   I learned a tremendous amount from the first event and feel more confident than ever that I’m on to something really big!  Because we’re still in the early stages of this roadshow (we haven’t even announced any events outside of southern California yet!), I expect we’ll continue to tweak things based on feedback we get from attendees and non-attendees alike, so please feel free to fire away with ideas, tips, critiques, and/or feedback… We’re listening!

The 1st 4RealzEd event was yesterday and…

4ealzEdI think I’ve recovered enough now to actually post about it! 🙂

Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH

So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.

I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.

All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.

Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.

Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:

Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients

Using Blogs to Build Communities

I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…

And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!

I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!

Couldn’t be happier that Mike and the…

Altos Research team are the first sponsors we get to announce for the 4Realz Seminars.

The main requirement that we have for our sponsors is that they’re able to demonstrate that they provide a product that offers a real value to their clients.    Based on the positive feedback I’ve heard over the past few years from Altos Research clients, I’m positive they fit the bill!

Why are sponsors important?

They help drive down the cost for agents to attend tremendously!  To be quite honest, there is no way we could make it work to provide a full-day course (with food!) for only $149 if it wasn’t for the number of sponsors that have shown a great interest in helping us pull the events off!

What do sponsors get out of the deal?

Each sponsors will get one table/booth at the event.   If the results are anything like the educational events I gave last year with the Top Producer team, then the sponsors will find our presentations a great way to reach a local audience of tech-interested agents who are interested in improving their internet marketing.

Even without the extra incentives we’re giving to attendees to spend money on our sponsors, we’d expect our sponsors to get involved because they are looking to get a good ROI from the event.  Period.

The WALL

With all that said, Jim and I are committed to creating a solid wall between the content we present at the seminars and the people who sponsor our event.  Don’t expect us to give a sales pitch for any of our sponsors, but don’t expect us to be silent about them either.  Since we’ve only been inviting companies to sponsor who we think provide a good value to the agent community, it turns out that we’ve included many of our sponsors in our presentation before we even reached out to them!

(Also of interest is that Mike mentions I talked about Altos Research during my Top Producer seminars, even though Altos wasn’t sponsoring the event.   If you provide a quality product to the agent community, don’t be surprised if we mention your name regardless if you sponsor!  😉 )

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.

(Are you having a hard time translating this post? A key can be found here.)

Kevin Kelly captures an internet truth in…

…this article on how internet business models are primed to create value out of otherwise “free” stuff.

He has some great insights on these eight ways to improve upon free things:

  • Immediacy
  • Personalization
  • Interpretation
  • Authenticity
  • Accessibility
  • Embodiment
  • Patronage
  • Findability

Tom (of REB) sums up the connection to the RE.net with the idea that we’re all “working hard to make a manual for to explain the generic information that the majority put out there without any explanation.”

Mike (of Altos) comes from a slightly different angle in that his entire business proposition is to ensure that he (and his clients) can add value to otherwise freely available information:

“Kelly’s concepts also capture why our most successful real estate agent clients, in a world of commoditizers and discounters, command a premium, even in this crazy market.”

45 Things I Learned at RE Connect

(some names left anonymous to protect the innocent)

  1. There’s a hell of a lot of VC money floating around this industry. I was surprised at how many people there were with lots of VC funding. Joel seemed to notice the same thing: “a whole new crop of real estate search sites that are going to be hitting the market”
  2. Reporter from the REALTOR Magazine was in the audience of our presentation. (thanks to Ines for pointing out the story: NAR is opening their eyes to blogging.)
  3. Zillow dropped their beta tag.
  4. Zillow’s big press release (picked up by many others) was a case of “make-news”. I’d be worried for their business if they weren’t making the improvements they announced (adding more listings, improving the quality of Zestimates, dropping beta, etc.). Joel doesn’t write much about of the improvements, while Greg quotes it extensively and seems to gush about their RETS announcement, which even the Zillow team pulls back from in the comments.
  5. Trulia was profitable for at least one month last year expects to be profitable at some point this year.
  6. According to comScore, Trulia had more traffic than Zillow in December! (Congrats Mike on the awesome prediction)
  7. comScrore and Hitwise are measuring traffic on two different internets. (Hitwise shows Trulia with 1.45% of category traffic and Zillow with 2.28%).
  8. Also interesting from the Hitwise report is that Move.com moved from #2 to #5, while RE/Max moved from #2 to #5. That’s big enough news where I would have expected to see a Press Release. Realtor.com at #1 and Move.com at #2 is huge for Move, Inc., even if it is only for December. (Oddly, I’m getting all the Hitwise numbers for December from an Inman Blog article on my feedreader. The actually article was removed from their site for some reason, so maybe the numbers are butchered!)
  9. Vast.com acquired Adaptive Real Estate Services (ARES). (That answers one question, although it does not give me any confidence that Vast.com has thought out their listing content acquisition strategy)
  10. Lots of neighborhood projects coming out. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice to anyone looking to build a successful social network in this space. If you really want consumer adoption, you’ve got to have a clear answer to this question: “What’s the consumer benefit?” So, so, so many of the “social networks” I saw this week were focused around real estate professionals. ActiveRain was an anomaly. Be able to explain your consumer proposition clearly, or don’t expect success.
  11. With that said, VillageMaker from RealProSystems will likely be a success… in that agents will the product, not in the sense that consumers will use it. This is the ultimate social network with the real estate professional at the center of the transaction in that a real estate agents must invite consumers to this platform. Sounds great, except it won’t work for all but a few agents.
  12. I am now the owner of “all the marbles”.
  13. Google staff really don’t like it when you take pictures inside their offices. Don’t be evil (Jay noticed this too!)
  14. Saul Kline is still the same great guy even after becoming CEO of Point2. (Frances has photos). His stated approach for moving Point2 forward is sound, although I’ll let him explain that approach when he’s ready.
  15. Lots of start-ups are twisting and turning to think how they an make their products more REALTOR friendly in the hopes of catching some Second Century funding! Mark Lesswing is a popular man at these conferences.
  16. I was surprised how many tech start ups get funding with only the roughest plans to get listings. Teresa gets that this is a mistake!
  17. Trulia launched their Publisher Platform. Robbie loves this! I can’t tell what Joel thinks… and Greg pans the service. I don’t follow Greg’s logic that it weakens overall traffic to Trulia… Mainly because nobody in the online real estate space has enough market penetration to think there are a finite number of users for their services. Trulia needs more listings. If this helps convince more brokers that they need to send their feeds to Trulia, then it is a good move. (Joel has an example of what the branded service looks like on FOREM)
  18. I really liked one startup and can’t wait until they launch in a little bit because I want to see how they market themselves. The product is an (solid) incremental improvement on search, but I don’t think it is enough of an improvement to go viral on its own.
  19. The beer for bloggers event is a great way to start off a conference. (photos on the Zillowblog and Sellsius).
  20. Teresa has some great photos from the week, including this action shot of me. Dito for Jeff.
  21. The WellcomeMat boys are quite the fun crowd. I really want to see them succeed because the technology is top-notch. Next step for them is figuring out a way so that their users don’t have to do their own marketing. If uploaded listing videos were getting hundreds (or even dozens), I think they’d be well on-their-way to being a a must-have product for most agents.
  22. I’m more bullish after RE Connect on Altos Research.
  23. Drew found a way to work at RE Connect. I’m not sure how he pulled it off.
  24. Professor Nouriel Roubini didn’t show up to RE Connect with the idea of making a lot of friends. He was consistently vocal in his belief that the downside to this market is going to be HUGE. He made Noah look like a moderate! (Here’s the video!)
  25. While I didn’t plan to go to many of the sessions, I surprised myself by going to only one session (see previous comment).
  26. I LOVE NYC.
  27. While I enjoy writing the occasional update, I’m simply not a good twitterer. On the other hand, Daniel is the twitter man.
  28. Apparently, there is a $15B dollar opportunity in the online real estate space since I heard multiple people throw that number around.
  29. Rumor has it that Cyberhomes is going to spend a LOT of money on advertising this year in order to reach out to consumers. This is a change from my take on their original approach in that they were going to focus on reaching out to agents by offering them a “white-label Zillow”. I like Marty Frame a lot, but I don’t think ads will do the trick. I hope they have one-more thing up their sleeve.
  30. Kris Berg is always lovely. Offline or online, she is one of my favorite people in the RE.net.
  31. Jay Thompson is another one that I found to be just as great in person. Networking with people like him is the reason to travel to NYC.
  32. The business mind of Damen Pace doesn’t stop moving.
  33. Rudy has some mad video editing skills.
  34. Daniel is the video man! It’s obvious he loves this stuff.
  35. As one would expect, Lockhart is quickly growing his team at Curbed and it was a lot of fun to meet them at the NYT party. From what I saw, Lockhart tried to dampen expansion rumors. He would only talk about Chicago at this point.
  36. BofA bought Countrywide. Lots of commentary on Jillayne’s post on RCG and Brian Brady’s post on Bloodhound.
  37. Redfin’s PR about returning $10M to consumers didn’t do much for me. I’ll be more interested to find out when they start making business model changes in order to get profitable.
  38. People have begun calling Rain City Guide “Ardell’s Blog” behind my back! LOL!
  39. Inman will soon be launching a new website with new features and a new design.
  40. Up Yours! Video TV war! Intothebox.tv rips on BrokerIPtv.com (around second 40). Not to take sides, but I was interviewed by the BrokeIPtv team at RE connect, and will be interested to see what comes out of that. On the other side, Rachel of Intothebox is oddly interesting… In watching, I just keep waiting for something to fall or break.
  41. I could never repeat linkation too many times. I keep repeating myself and people continue to act like it is new information. Please tell me if and when I need to stop with the linkation bit. 🙂
  42. ActiveRain introduced a few new people from their team. Rumor was that they have some funding that they will announce soon.
  43. Brendan King and other ex-Point2 folks were passing out business cards with the company name VendAsta. My guess is that the name is only temporary.
  44. Greg Tracy has branched out the BlueRoof brand to start doing consulting and website building for other real estate professionals. He “gets it”, so I can only imagine further success ahead.
  45. I really do enjoy just about everyone in the RE.net and real estate tech communities. 2008 is going to be fun!

Phew! Now I think I’m caught up so that I can get back to regular updates!

Speaking of Altos Research…

Mike mentioned a while back that he is speaking at O’Reilly’s Money:Tech conference, but he didn’t toot his own horn to let us all know he hit Tim’s Radar a few days ago.

Altos Research is one of the few start-ups in the online real estate space that genuinely excites me.  It’s only a matter of time before someone offers Mike a boatload of money for his company.