Going way back before I took my job at…

…Move, I landed a 30-minute meeting with Dan Rosensweig (COO of Yahoo at the time), where I tried to convince him that I should lead up a team for Yahoo to build a platform that would help real estate professionals market themselves at a local level using the various tools Yahoo had in-house (at the time, it was something like Yahoo 360, Flickr, upcoming, local business reviews, maps, listings, etc.).

Dan’s strongest argument against such a platform was that I should prove out the concept first by doing it myself since almost all of these platforms had APIs (and theoretically, he was right, but I was looking for a regular paycheck!).

Anyway, I only remembered this story after reading Joel’s post about Seth Godin’s new product: SquidZipper.

Even two years after my call with Dan, the market for providing a free, quality, and local marketing platform for agents is still largely undeveloped… and while one of the real estate focused verticals like Trulia or Zillow could theoretically fill this niche, it still seems like such a no brainer for one of the big guys like Google, Microsoft or Yahoo to take a page from Seth’s playbook and create a niche-specific platform for their various tools!

Seth’s platform is a great idea… but it is still missing the one thing that could really make a platform like this work: an abundance of consumers!

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.)

All over the place

Not only am I speaking tomorrow at a Coldwell Banker educational event, but I just got back from a fun speaking engagement at Pepperdine University where I was on a panel with some people from ActiVision and MySpace talking about online marketing to a group of marketing and technology graduate students.

There were some great questions from the students in attendance, but the one theme that was most prevalent was questions about the value of an MBA to an “internet” company. I wish I could have been more encouraging for the Pepperdine students, but while an MBA will open a few doors that might be hard to open otherwise, blogging can also do that!

Because Move’s headquarters is so close to Pepperdine, the company has more than a few Pepperdine MBA Alumni on staff… and my experience was that the quality of the students were completely hit-or-miss. Some of them were smart-as-all-hell and willing to get their hands dirty in tech details while others were always looking to solve the “big” questions and didn’t seem to know how to filter though all the marketing fluff to get to useful information.

One MBA alumni in particular sticks out in my memory for a presentation he gave on the “state of the industry” that was so full of stats, charts, and data points comparing the online real estate industry to other industries like the automotive and travel industry that it took all of two minutes to realize he hadn’t developed a filter that let him know what trend information was actually relevant….  Other MBA alumni were much more successful by focusing on doing whatever it took to get measurable tasks accomplished.

This wasn’t the first time that I’ve talked with Pepperdine students (speaking at local schools like Pepperdine and CLU was a great recruiting method for my team at Move!), and I’ve honestly enjoyed and learned from each experience.   The optimism that radiates from a crowd of MBA students is somewhat infectious and has me remembering to think think big about all the opportunities available in our niche of online real estate…  😉

Mark Eibner of IPTV just posted an…

We cover two things…   The genesis of RCG and my time at Move (you’ve probably heard all this before) and two things I think many brokers could do a better job of going forward:  1) Understanding the impact of social networking on their industry and 2) Getting a better handle on the ROI of their marketing dollars. 

The VendAsta team starts out by tackling online social reputation management with…

this blog post by Brendan.  While it doesn’t provide much info on the VendAsta “product” it does start to shed some light on what the crew is thinking beyond setting up lots of Dell computers!

If you want more, they are equally vague about their actually product, but always interesting, on this video:

Here are my notes on how Branden describes what they’re building:

“Help existing real estate profesionals leverage existing social networks to connect with their constomers further upstream… long before they are ready to buy a home… and establish and build those relationships…   Social networks… any of them… we’re betting on them.”

(Thanks to Jay for starting me down the path of writing this post!)