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!

I’ve been so incredibly busy lately that I neglected to announce some really big news!

Both Zillow AND Top Producer have come on as sponsors!

As you can imagine, the more sponsors that we can bring on board, the better for everyone involved because (1) it helps to drive the cost of the event down for real estate professionals and (2) it gives attendees who’ve earned “REALZ” more ways to spend their marketing dollars!

As always, Jim and I are being very selective in who I reach out to for sponsorship. I really want to make sure that we’re only inviting companies that can demonstrate that they add real value to real estate professionals.

So why are we seeking out sponsorship from Top Producer and Zillow?

In many ways, my real estate blogging experience really took off at the same time as Zillow. I learned a ton from meeting up with that team while I was living in Seattle, as well as covering them in their early days! In many ways, RCG really started to hit it stride around the early days of Zillow (Our traffic more than doubled the month they came launched!). However, beyond just a great relationship, I’ve always watched Zillow grow into a company that has added real value to real estate agents all over the country! At a recent event where I spoke alongside Sara, I was impressed with the examples she’s able to show of agents quickly being able to generate a great ROI with their product.

The Top Producer team has done some wonderful things for me in the past including sponsoring my round of educational seminars (when a virtual who’s who of the RE.net showed up!). But beyond the seminars, the TP team showed a real interest in reaching out to me while I was at Move in order to get my ideas on how they could improve their product. The organization is filled with wonderful people doing a great job meeting the needs of existing clients as well as making commitments to continuously integrate and improve their product to meet the changing needs of real estate agents.

I honestly couldn’t be happier that so many wonderful real estate companies are willing to take a chance on sponsoring the 4Realz Education seminars!

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.)

Michael thinks IC should do a better job of…

…acknowledging their business connections when advocating for a Point2 solution… and I agree. But I also wonder how long competing products (like Top Producer) will continue to sponsor RealTown products if IC continues to advocate for Point2 solutions.

Top Producer ad on RealTown