Interesting that Seesmic just launched a…

Interesting that Seesmic just launched a contact manager (as part of their web app)… The MG Siegler at TechCrunch seems to think they’ve perfected management of Twitter followers, but it’s still missing my favorite feature of Gist: the ability to view updates sorted by how important I’ve ranked people. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see Seesmic going down the route of improving the sad state of contact management within Twitter.

Screw consumers… Let’s use internet tools to do what REALTORS do best!

I gave a presentation last week in Portland where I asked the audience of about 300 REALTORS two questions:

  1. Do you drive most of your business from referrals… friends, family, past clients, other agents, etc.?
  2. Do you drive most of your business by reaching out directly to consumers… ads, online home search, etc.?

A little over half the audience raised their hand to the first question, while under 10% raised their hand to the second, which didn’t really surprise me because I asked a similar (but more convoluted) question in an online poll about a month ago and got similar results (i.e. 58% said referrals).

I think it’s extremely safe to say that in terms of generating business, most real estate agents (and most professionals for that matter), are better at reaching into their network of friends (and friends of friends) to drive business than reaching consumers directly.  And yet, almost all online tools, commentary and critiques of social media within real estate focus on the inability to of the tools to directly reach consumers.  (One of the more eloquent critiques was written by Marc Davison).

Let’s break down the skills and tools that an agent needs to successfully run online campaign that directly targets consumers:

  1. Project management. Hire someone with web design, marketing and coding skills (or sometimes a team of people with these skills) and make sure the site actually gets built!
  2. Writing. Either need to write content, or at least advising and managing the person creating the content.
  3. Online promotion. Either need to optimize your landing pages and drive lots of inbound links to your site (so that you can get free traffic from the search engines) or buy traffic through online ads
  4. Conversion optimization. Optimize your site to get consumers to register (probably through a IDX/home search tool, which also has to be integrated into your site)
  5. Prospecting. Prospect the database of users (assuming your IDX allows for this) and ask them for your business. Otherwise, wait for the consumers to contact you (probably when they “request a showing”).

None of these skills are particularly hard, and I’ve seen agents with almost zero internet experience pick them up and start generating business in less than half a year. However, I’ve seen way more agents get frustrated at the lack of results afte they “master” only one or two of these skills…

For example, I’ve seen agents spend two years just trying to get a good site built (project management #fail)… or they get a beautiful site built for them, but never add any content (writing #fail)… or they write well, but don’t know how to get anyone to link to their content (promotion #fail)… or they get people to their site, but don’t give users a logical way to register (conversion #fail)… or they get people in their database, but aren’t setting appointments (prospecting #fail).  In other words, none of the skills are all that hard, but they aren’t necessarily intuitive to everyone either.

Now, let’s compare that to the skills and tools used for a referral campaign that’s the bread and butter for most agents:

  1. Networking. Make a connection with friends, family, past clients, other professionals, etc. (could be through events, organizations, or outreach via postcards, etc.)
  2. Sales. Ask them for your business (or more likely, if they know of any business they can send your way)

If it’s not obvious, the skills that drive the bulk of real estate business today (i.e. referral business), are vastly different than the skills needed to convert consumers into clients on the internet… so no wonder most agents get frustrated when their initial internet activities don’t effectively reach online consumers.    It’s a completely different set of skills.

    Instead, if you’re an agent that does most of your business from referrals, you should be thinking “how can I use internet tools to reach and build my referral network?”

    And the answer to that question is definitely something I’m going to continue exploring in the near future.   My opinion is that the tools currently marketed to real estate agents do really crappy job of building up a sphere because they almost inevitably focus on helping REALTORS reach consumers directly.  When I searched for a referral networking tool last month to feature in this article: Getting Serious about Lead Management, I couldn’t find one that I liked well enough to mention.

    However, I’m going to write a post in the next day or so on a new favorite tool of mine: Gist.   It’s the best sphere building tool I’ve used, because of the way it let’s me filter through people within my network based on criteria that I set… a feature simply not available on tools like Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Seesmic, TweetDeck, etc.

    I’m going to be presenting the general idea mentioned in this post at lots of conferences in the next few months (Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Toronto, etc.) and more than your agreement, I would really love to hear your critiques…

    Where are the holes in my argument?   Am I screwed up thinking agents should forget focusing on reaching consumers directly and instead focus on building up their referral networking?

    On the hunt for new real estate marketing tools!

    The great folks at Inman News have asked me to put together a 15 minute presentation at SF Connect this year… and I’m downright excited about it.   The title of my presentation:  50 Technologies To Help You Survive the Downturn.

    I’ve got some huge shoes to fill in that both Jamie Glenn of Trulia and Brian Boero of 1000watt have given versions of this presentation at recent Connect Events… and their presentations were top notch.

    The Plan?

    I’ve been given 15 minutes to talk about 50 technologies… Let’s break down into what that means in terms of the amount of time I have to explain each technology. Fifteen minutes is 900 seconds. Given the fact that I at least have to introduce myself and let my audience know I’m available for speaking gigs, I’ve already blow 30 seconds right there… Combined with the fact that I’ll need at least two 10-second water breaks, I’m down to 850 seconds or 17 seconds per technology!   I’m known for speaking fast, but the pressure is really going to be on!  😉

    I Need Your Help!

    Real estate agents: Do you have a favorite tool or technology that has become indispensable at making your business operations more efficient?   My preference is online tools, but I’ve have to find 50 of them, so I’m honestly not very picky at the moment!

    Real estate tech providers: Do you have a tool you think is worthy of being featured at SF Connect?    Let me know, but make sure I can “sell” it 17 seconds or less!  I make no promises, but again, I’ve got to find 50 tools in less than 50 days, so I’d appreciate any help you can give!

    My Bag of Tricks

    Here’s an outline of the previous presentation.

    Jamie Glenn:

    • Listing Sites (12 sites)
    • Social Media (9 sites)
    • Multimedia (15 sites)
    • Communication (7 sites)
    • Blogging (9)

    Total: 52 sites!  Plus, his last slide through in 9 “bonus” resources!

    Brian Boero:

    • Things that will help you work smarter and cut costs (10 actions)
    • Things that let you engage customers and prospects in new ways (8 actions)
    • Things that will help you grow your professional network (3 actions)
    • Blogs you should read (and watch) (7 actions)
    • Market smarter – and cheaper (6 actions)
    • New advertising opportunities (5 actions)
    • Technologies that help you leverage your knowledge (3 actions)
    • Things that shrink space and time (3 actions)
    • Technologies that help you meet the neighbors (4 actions)

    Total: 49 actions.   Although much to his credit, each-and-every “action” included at least one technology tool and many of them included multiple tools!!!

    I have both presentations in front of me, and I can tell you that they both did an excellent job of providing a wealth of information in only 15 minutes!

    My Presentation

    Lucky for me, I still have over a month!   Unlucky for me, I just typed out all the notes I’ve taken to date and I have only 33 technologies listed that are appropriate for the title: “50 Technologies To Help You Survive the Downturn.”

    Here’s an outline of how I grouped the various tools, concepts, websites so far (but note, I’m positive the final outline will be MUCH different):

    • Online Marketing Basics
    • Publishing Tools
    • CRMs
    • Inspiration
    • Analytics
    • Listing Syndication
    • Listing Tools
    • Connecting with Consumers
    • Connecting with Professionals
    • Video Podcasts
    • Communications
    • Identity Management

    However, rather than bias you’all by starting with my list of sites I would include (or listing out the websites from the the previous presentations), I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear some of the tools, techniques and technologies that you think would be worthy of being included in this list!

    The first step in identity management is just knowing what people are saying about you, which is why…

    …I subscribe to more than a few Google Alerts.  These ping me (via email) any time my name or blogs are mentioned on the web.

    My only complaint is that I wish Google offered to give up their “comprehensive” alert as an RSS feed, but for the time being they don’t, so I’m stuck using email for this particular application.

    By the way, the nice part about their comprehensive alert is that it not only includes news and or blog results (which ARE available via RSS), but other google searches such as when your name appears in message boards, blog comments and more generic websites.

    (in response to Ines question!)