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The Aim Of Marketing-What Your Goal Should Be

The Aim Of Marketing-What Your Goal Should Be 

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker 

Pin this quote to your computer.

The time has come to stop viewing real estate marketing like an assembly line making donuts.

In today’s attention-starved world, marketing has to stand out to be effective. The goal is to gain trust and get people to buy your products or services. But if you never get their attention in the first place, your efforts die young.

Given that much of real estate’s marketing is powered by marketing-in-a-box products that pump out cookie cutter automated drip email, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t work. In fact, I would argue that this approach actually does more harm than good and loses you business in the end.

The phrase itself – “drip campaign” – is painful. The connotations are cold. Impersonal. Generic.

It’s built completely outside the dome of what marketers are doing with success outside of real estate.

If, as Drucker points out, marketing is all about knowing what will move the consumer, the real estate marketer must stop and understand that people need context and connections. No one is yearning to be captured and put into an automated drip email campaign.

The latest fad of “conversational” marketing products to hit real estate is no different. These products promote the use of odd facts and tidbits that have nothing to do with real estate to “lure” consumers into a relationship, mocking the very foundation of good marketing.

Drucker turns in his grave.

Slow down

Real estate people have long believed in the spray-and-pray mindset. Market more and something will eventually work.

Send. Post. Tweet. Snap. Pin. Never mind quality. Get in their face. Often.

This was the popular approach by nearly every brand in the past and may have worked at one time, but not today. According to a 2012 report from Upstream, “Digital Advertising Attitudes,” the digital bombardment of brand messaging has caused a malady coined marketing fatigue among consumers.

The report concludes with strong advice to slow down, get more personal, get more targeted and create more value if you want your marketing to be seen.

It’s difficult to do these things if you’re sending every new prospect and past client down a conveyor belt of packaged, random drip messaging for the next seven years. All it takes is one irrelevant email for the recipient to consider you spam from that point forward.

Even more reason to slow down and carefully target is Gmail’s recent addition of category tabs that now filter brand marketing into a Promotional tab, which serves as a sort of basement for email – that room where you store stuff you never use.

You may be thinking: but wait a second, I thought email is proven to be effective. In fact open rates have reached their highest levels in years. What’s happening here?

Simple: marketers outside of real estate have changed their approach. To get above the noise, they create each message to appeal to the recipient’s desires, needs, wants and interests.

I’d like to bring that mindset inside real estate.

It’s time to slow down. Stop the email factory engines and rethink the entire approach.

The marketing dome of common sense

What, then, is the answer?

Consider the accountant, a service professional most of us engage with only once a year. Like the Realtor, their place in the consumer mind is precarious.

My first accountant was Ruth Berger, whom I used for 20 years right up until she retired. Ruth would pop into my consciousness once a year with a letter (or eventually email) reminding me tax time was near. Her letter included a few new laws and an assurance not to worry.

One touch. Targeted to my needs.

When I saw a letter or email from Ruth, I knew it was worth opening. I knew that it had something to do with me.

Why should it be any different for you?

If all your marketing were boiled down to one simple, targeted email that satisfied your recipient’s needs and desires, you’d increase your conversion rate a thousand times. I’m sure of it.

If you dispensed with the seasonal time change reminders and turned off all your drip campaigns and long-form newsletters brimming with content, you’d find your messages have more meaning to the person on the other end.

Great marketing isn’t about getting in people’s faces for whatever reason you can find. It’s about creating and sending messages people actually want to receive.

What is that message for real estate?

There are a few, few sure. But the one that has always worked on me is the tried-and-true Just Listed, Just Sold postcard.

If you did nothing but this one thing, I guarantee you’d increase your results.

But even this you cannot do in an assembly fashion. Take the time to create a beautiful design and craft thoughtful words, like the example below.

If you’re looking for one thing you can do in 2014 to improve your marketing this is it.

 The Aim Of Marketing-What Your Goal Should Be 

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What Is Multi Platform Marketing-Real Estate Marketing

 

What Is Multi Platform Marketing

You know those moments when something that in retrospect seems so obvious first becomes clear?

I had that feeling a week ago as I read through Comscore’s latest report, “Marketing to the Multi-platform Majority.

Less than five years ago, the percentage of time spent on digital media on mobile devices was in the single digits. Today, more than half of U.S. adults consume media on their tablets and smartphones.

The shift to mobile devices has been truly transformative in many ways, and I wasn’t surprised to read that mobile devices had become, in 2013, our primary means of accessing content on the Internet. Just take a look around the next time you’re in an airport. Laptops seem largely confined to people in suits with large Swiss Army roller bags, while rows and rows of people sit staring into their phones.

Even so, the first thing that sprung to my mind was, man, that happened fast…

The stat that really made me stop and take note, however, was the fact that U.S. adults consumed more than 900 billion minutes of digital media in June of 2013.

That is more than twice as much time than we did just three years ago in June of 2010.

What that means is that all of these new devices in our lives have been additive to our digital behavior.

There hasn’t been a trade-off of minutes at the expense of desktop computing. We’re just consuming more content, on more screens, in more places, more often.

This means two things for real estate marketers:

First, if you’re not figuring out your mobile strategy today, you’re already well behind. In the last several years, real estate underwent a massive shift from offline to online marketing. Then, just when we thought we had it all figured out on the Web, the rug was pulled out from under us and now we need to start all over again.

Second, checking off mobile as part of your digital marketing strategy isn’t just about directing your web visitors to a m.dot site or dumping a white-labeled app into one of the app stores. That’s no longer going to cut it. In fact, it never did.

What Is Multi Platform Marketing

The reality is that your digital marketing strategy in this new multi-platform world will need to account for all of these three screens (desktop, tablet, smartphone) simultaneously. With perhaps a fourth screen still to come

Your ad spends, your digital assets, your content strategy, all of this will need to span all of these platforms. Creating and then preserving a seamless brand experience in this new reality is going to be the great challenge ahead of us moving into 2014 and beyond.

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Are you faking it?

Authenticity is a word you’ve probably heard in marketing discussions.

It’s mostly bullshit.

Think of it this way: would you stand around sipping cocktails with your friends and introduce a new guy to the group like this? Hey guys, this is Bob. I know him from the health club. He’s a great guy – really authentic

Like all things in marketing, it does no good to say you are X, Y and Z. You have to show it. You have to live it. It has to be part of who you are as a brand.

This is one aspect of brand and marketing where I think smaller companies in many ways have an advantage over larger ones.

A couple of examples:

Rivet and Sway

Rivet and Sway is an eyewear company based in Seattle that sells stylish frames for women. This is a company that’s taken their niche and their value add to heart.

They’ve taken an experience – once dominated by a “doctor’s office” vibe with a little frame shop thrown in – and built a brand on the lifestyle associated with their product and customer. And they’ve successfully reinvented an offline experience for online consumers.

To Rivet and Sway and its customers, glasses are an accessory, a fashion statement. Women with poor eyesight should not be held hostage to the tastes and opinions of people they barely know who happen to be working the floor of the optometrist’s office when they go to pick out some frames.

You get the sense that every person who works for this company is also the customer.

This is authenticity in marketing. It comes through in their copy, their voice. It comes through in their content. And it comes through in the experience they offer, which enables customers to try three different frames at home, take pics of themselves in each and get opinions from Rivet and Sway stylists, friends and family.

They’ve also done something clever with their content that goes beyond throwing articles in a blog. They feature photos of customers out in the world wearing their frames in a series called “Eye Spotted”. They use professional photography and give the details of the frames being worn so you can buy them or try them on.

rivetsway

Simple, yet so effective. And again, you get the sense of authenticity, that the people who work at this company understand the customer.

Oaklandish

Oaklandish is a local clothing store in Oakland, Calif., where I live. They’ve done a fantastic job establishing themselves as both members and leaders of the local community, not just a store trying to sell stuff.

Dive into Oaklandish’s Instagram feed, for instance, and you rarely see a stitch of their clothing. Instead, you see images of Oakland – iconic and everyday. You see images of the people of Oakland, other local companies or promos for local events.

photo

This is a local brand that’s squarely planted in its community – something any small real estate brokerage could take a cue from. Putting aside the young, urban slant for a second, you can easily see how smart their marketing is and how any business that’s trying to root its value in being local should stop and take a look.

The authenticity here extends to the company’s actions. They support local artists and events, youth groups, small business groups and causes. They are versed in Oakland lingo, history, challenges, triumphs and vibe. In my eyes, Oaklandish is Oakland in many ways.

They’ve not only captured the city’s unique diversity, rich urban culture, and iconic imagery in their product, but they walk the walk. If you’re searching for authenticity, it’s really that simple. Do what you say you do. Be the image you portray.

City Home Collective

City Home Collective is more than a real estate company. Clearly, they are about design and “place” and love to market their city and the people who make it what it is.

Based in Salt Lake City, City Home uses content marketing to help uncover culture, local businesses, food, design and people. It’s clear to me the lifestyle they’ll help me uncover for myself by doing business with them.

This brand doesn’t need to tell me they’re authentic. I see it and feel it. I know they care about me and the community right from the home page, where I see spotlights on local businesses, the people who run them, the new or best food in town.

cityhome

It’s crazy that more brokerages don’t do this. Featuring your customers, peers and fellow businesses helps to build a sense of community and gives your product or service an authenticity you can’t get from brochures, inspirational Facebook memes or stock photos.

If you’re looking to build authenticity – which in turn can build trust and love for your brand – think about people. Most of us don’t leave our homes in the morning with a strong desire to engage with brands. We much prefer to interact with people.

Who are the people who represent your brand? Who are the customers you want to reach? Aligning these two is where you start to build something real.

Regional Shopping Centers Move Closer to the Tar Pit

Regional Shopping Centers Approach Extinction

In today’s changing world, new products and services are introduced almost daily. Products that were used everyday just a short time ago are now obsolete. And the rest are in the process of becoming obsolete.

Getting up to change the channel, using carbon paper, creating documents on a typewriter: These are all once common tasks that no longer exist. Other items and services are on the path to extinction, such as film for cameras, landlines, and faxes.

There is another stage to this type of extinction: Products and services that are just beginning to show signs of obsolescence. Nowhere is it more obvious, unstoppable or dramatic than the change that seems to be affecting America’s regional shopping centers (RSC), which seem to have a very uncertain future.

…Read the rest of Regional Shopping Centers Move Closer to the Tar Pit


A Day in the Life of a S&T Intern at a Bulge Bracket Bank in New York: 5 AM Wake-ups and Glorified Lunch Delivery Service?

Sales & Trading Intern: Day in the LifeThis is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. He’s previously written about his own story of how he broke into sales & trading, from the recruiting process to networking to resumes to “fit” interviews and technical interview questions.

The following occurs between 5 AM and 10 PM on a bulge bracket investment bank’s trading floor in New York.

Events occur in real time.

5:23 AM: That’s right – my first alarm is starting to go off…

5:24 AM: SNOOOOZE.

5:25 AM: Staying in bed one minute longer means being late to work, so it’s time to roll out of bed.

Morning Etiquette – What to Do Between 5:25 AM and 5:45 AM

Do yourself a favor – if you’re male, shave every day. We can argue semantics around facial hair another time, but for now, remember your ABC’s: ALWAYS BE CONSERVATIVE.

Males: As far as dress is concerned, be conservative in the beginning (full suit, blue/white shirt, non-flashy tie), but after the first week or two, start adapting your dress to whatever other people on your desk do. Business casual tends to be the norm, but it varies by bank and desk.

To be on the safe side, always have a jacket and tie at your desk – you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.

If you’re female, follow similar rules and see the guide on how to dress appropriately in finance.

5:45 AM: I’m on the subway by now; you will likely need a monthly subway pass if you’re there for at least 2 months (look into all the different transportation options to and from work, and take into account weekend and leisure travel… the unlimited pass usually pays off).

6:00 AM: People are slowly making their way into the office. You usually have a few hours to yourself in the morning before the market opens.

Make sure you allocate at least an hour to reading the Wall Street Journal, because everyone reads it, and it’s one of the few “useful” things you can do as an intern.

Wall Street Journal / Barron’s Opportunity…

  • Easy way to add value: Create morning summaries of the WSJ and weekend summaries of Barron’s – these are helpful and will get you noticed.
  • Take the initiative and make a one-page summary with bullet points and email it to your team – they will appreciate it.

What About Coming Up with Trade Ideas?

Yes, definitely come up with trade ideas to present to your team… but don’t do it in an obnoxious way, and don’t approach senior traders with your ideas right away.

  • Talk to analysts / associates first because they’ll be your best resources and will tell you if you’re about to do something stupid.
  • Leverage the firm’s resources – use internal research portals to look up analyst coverage of different sectors, call or email the members of your firm’s research team, introduce yourself as an intern, and see if they can chat with you.
  • Generate ideas and track them over the summer to see how they perform – your pitch will be much better if you can point to previous ideas that succeeded.

7:00 AM: Morning meeting. Every firm / group is different, but usually the traders and sales people get together to discuss the market, customers, trade ideas, etc.

TAKE NOTES, TAKE NOTES, TAKE NOTES!!!

At the meeting, take notes everyday so that you can follow up with traders/sales guys after the meeting. Asking questions on points that they brought up during the meeting is a great way to meet people.

8:00 AM – 10:00 AM: Traders tend to be busiest during this time right before the market opens and right after the market opens, so leave them alone.

Continue reading, work on projects, find ways to add value, go out to pick up breakfast, etc.

If a trader does let you shadow him during this time, he will most likely ignore you; don’t take it personally.

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: This is a great time to shadow the people on your desk.

But depending on your desk (culture, openness/friendliness etc.), this can be a very tricky and difficult process to navigate.

People will not just invite you, so you must take the initiative.

Walk over to them in the morning, ask them if they have any time for you to shadow them, and most people will be very willing to have you sit with them.

If, when you go back to them later in the day, they happen to be busy (remember, their schedule is dictated by the markets and some days are slow and other days are crazy), then just reschedule with them.

Side Note from Brian: It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the point above.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend who’s a fairly senior trader at a bulge bracket bank in NY, and he mentioned how almost NO interns ever introduce themselves to him or ask how they might make themselves helpful… after they’ve put a ridiculous amount of effort into getting the internship in the first place.

If you fail to do that, you might as well skip the internship altogether.

Lessons for Speaking with Traders

Always be conservative. Be very careful of what you say. Make sure not to sound arrogant when you are talking with them.

You should always have a notebook with you to write down everything they say – they might decide to test you on it later, and you’re going to look stupid if you failed to write something down and can’t answer them correctly later on.

Asking questions is also very important. Some traders will steer the conversation, but others will not talk to you unless you ask the questions first.

If that means preparing questions in the morning, then do it – but always be prepared.

“Good questions” can mean a few different things:

  • If you are on the equity derivatives desk, maybe you can ask about the Greeks in pricing an option or ask them about put-call parity (get technical!)…
  • Alternatively, if an important economic event is about to take place (e.g. ECB meeting), ask them about that and how different outcomes will affect their products, trading, etc.
  • You can also ask them about why they chose trading, their background, how they got to where they are, advice for succeeding on the internship, etc.
“Good” questions tend to be specific (“What do you think will happen to Product X if the ECB decides not to bail out Greece?”), while “bad” questions are vague (“What do you think about the markets?”).

Lunch: The Most Important Thing to Get Right as an Intern?

Yes, this is the true role of any S&T intern: getting lunch for all the guys on the desk (I’m only half-joking here).

Always ask the guys on your desk if they want you to get them anything and bring it back to eat… and don’t screw up the orders or take too long, either.

Use lunch as a time to network and get to know people on your desk. If they offer to go out with you, make time – always say yes. Take the initiative to ask the people on your desk to go out because they will usually not ask you.

Most of the time, of course, traders need to be there all day and can’t leave – but if it’s a slow day, they might be able to go with you.

Side Note from Brian: The importance of delivering lunch correctly also cannot be overstated.

Another story from a senior trader friend: one time they tasked an intern with getting lunch for them at a restaurant right next door… and it took the intern 1 hour to go there and come back as everyone was hungry and wondering what the hell had happened to him.

It turns out that he had gone to another location 10-15 blocks away rather than the one next door, pissing off everyone in the process. Please, check Google Maps and Yelp before you go and attempt to pick up food for everyone.

1:00 PM: Coffee break … always ask around to see if people want to get coffee. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but definitely pick a few other desks that you want to network with during your internship.

Try to go out with as many people on those desks as possible – that way if your desk is not hiring at the end of the summer, you have a shot at getting an offer from a different desk that you networked with.

Some other key things to remember when networking with other desks:

  • Don’t offend anyone on your desk.
  • Don’t spend too much time away from your desk.

Your desk is always a priority – if something needs to get done, make sure you are there to help.

If you’re working on an extended, summer-long project for them, then going away for 30 minutes might not be a problem. But when someone gives you a small project to work on, finish it before you start networking elsewhere.

Pick 2-3 desks to focus on, and get to know people at each of them over the summer. You don’t want to attempt to network with every single desk, or with every single person at those 2-3 desks, or you’ll develop a reputation for “getting around” and they may not take you seriously.

2:00 PM: There are only a few hours left until market close, so around this time I’m finishing up ongoing projects or shadowing people.

You can get projects from anyone on your desk and they might consist of almost anything… so make sure you’re around to “offer your services.”

Coming up with your own projects is also a great idea: for example, if you’re on an equities desk, make the traders a “cheat sheet” of stocks that are posting earnings that month.

If you’re on an options desk, make a cheat sheet of stocks that are reporting earnings in a given expiry.

Be creative when coming up with ideas, and always show them to an analyst on your desk first to verify that you’re not doing something stupid or redundant. Get their opinion, and then maybe share it with the rest of your team.

Other times, people on the desk will just ask you to research something, make copies, or do work in Excel. It really depends on the desk and the style of operation that your team has.

3:00 PM – 6:00 PM: You’re getting tired, but the day is somehow flying by. The key is to always be doing something and to remain enthusiastic (a smile always helps), even if you’re not that busy.

And if you really don’t have any work to do, get started on reading ASAP.

The Importance of Reading

Believe me… it is your only chance of seeming remotely intelligent in traders’ eyes.

The worst thing that can happen is for a trader to come up to you and say, “Hey, what do you think about legislation that was passed in Congress today?” and then for you to have no idea what he’s talking about.

Reading is the solution to that.

You can read anything from finance textbooks to newspapers to internal research reports, or anything that you think is relevant to what your desk or firm does.

Brushing up on your Excel skills during this downtime is also a smart idea – it’s unlikely that you’ve learned anything useful there in school (unless you’ve taken an online course in Excel…), but you can learn a ton via your own research, testing different things, and asking other interns on your desk.

If you don’t take the initiative to do this, it shows that you’re lazy; if you can figure stuff out and make traders’ lives easier, it shows that you’re resourceful.

6:00 PM: At this point, the markets are usually closed, traders are leaving, and the office is getting quiet.

Use this time to chat with the traders about desk trading activity, important market events that happened that day, something interesting you may have read, and so on.

Some traders are closing up their books and finishing up some last minute stuff; if that’s the case, leave them alone.

8:00 PM: As a general rule of thumb, you’ll be out by 7:30 – 8:00 PM, but that varies by day, desk, and firm. You should always be the last one on your team to leave – no, technically there’s no face time in trading, but as the intern you do NOT want to develop a reputation for “leaving early.”

If you do stay late, feel free to email someone (just to show you were working late) the project that they asked you for. Yes, this trick still works on the trading side.

10:00 PM: You better be sleeping or getting ready for bed. Tomorrow is a repeat!

In some ways, being an intern on the sales & trading side is easier than being an intern in investment banking since you don’t do “real” work in the same way (i.e. you’re not actually trading anything).

But landing the full-time offer, or even impressing them enough to leave open the possibility of a full-time offer, can be much trickier since the internship is less structured and you have to be much more proactive.

But you do have everything above, plus all the other S&T coverage on this site to do just that.

Follow everything here and avoid a fat finger or two, and you might just succeed in spite of the odds against you.

This is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. He’s previously written about his own story of how he broke into sales & trading, from the recruiting process to networking to resumes to “fit” interviews and technical interview questions.

2014? It’s up in the air

It’s 7:30 a.m. here, 30,000 feet above Nevada, and I’ve already talked shop for an hour with the industry people I ran into at my gate.

I’m headed to the Inman show in NYC. When I am pointed back west on Friday, I will have made my way through exactly 28 meetings, 3 cocktail parties, several steaks, and 4 fitful nights in a bed that hurts my back.

It’s a good way to start the year, really.

And what about that year? It’s up in the air.

I won’t even attempt specific predictions. There are too many variables at play. But here’s what I think lies ahead of us:

Competition and conflict.

Lots of it. Which is a good thing. And peace and harmony are kind of boring anyway, right?

Here’s just a sampling:

Brokerland

It’s no coincidence that big brokers went public with their gripes about the MLS in 2013.

They’ve woken up from the downturn on the wrong side of the bed, and it’s time to set some things right.

Many brokers are well out of survival mode. Some are even flush. And money gets the competitive juices flowing.

There’s a strong intent in some broker circles to take care of business they were too stressed to deal with from 2007 to 2012. So whatever you may think of plans for a national broker database and other such initiatives, it’s hard to see the talking, planning and doing on this front slowing down in the year ahead.

In fact, I’m feeling that we ain’t seen nothing yet.

But for all the chatter this will generate in 2014, it’s just a surface matter. The real battle in 2014 is for the future of the brokerage industry business model.

The bust drove many agents to hang-your-license shops like HomeSmart. “Brand lite” players like Realty One vacuumed up others. A lot of broker-centric companies struggled to sustain an agent value proposition that was either compelling or unique. The strategic parasitism of agent teams spread like a rash.

In other words, things were shaken up. And now the market’s back. Game on.

The portals

“TZR.” “The aggregators.” A lumpen mass of doom. Whatever you thought of Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com, there probably wasn’t much daylight between them in your mind.

That’s changing. These three companies are fighting for difference. A defensible niche. Or total dominance.

Zillow is now the company looking to build an “enduring consumer brand.” Trulia, with its MarketLeader acquisition, is aiming to be “real estate’s operating system.” Realtor.com is now better aligned with NAR and focused on a “serious audience.”

For a while there, it seemed like it was the portals vs. the industry. Now, it’s the portals duking it out with each other. This is healthy. More products for agents and brokers. More choice. Clearer distinctions. More effort to deliver unique value to industry partners.

New entrants

By my count there’s about a billion dollars stacked up between the portals and the newly public real estate brands. This is fuel for new real estate innovation, but it’s also going to create controversy. Companies will start. Companies will throw brains and money at problems. Companies will get bought. Companies will deliberately try to pry apart the Way Things Are.

If you’re building real estate software, now is the best of times.

But one person’s innovation is another’s nightmare. The value scramble between brokers, agents and the MLS is only going to get more intense with each new app, each new idea. And there will be plenty.

Let’s get going

I’ve been impatient for a while. The decade-long boom and bust thing caused a lot of pain and disruption, but in some ways it kept the industry in a sort of stasis, moving from fat and happy to broke and stuck, but in either case not really moving forward.

We’re past that, and while what lies ahead is surely to be turbulent, at least we’re going someplace.

[Disclosure: Move, Inc. is a 1000watt client.]

The shape of things to come

For real estate, 2013 was a year of experimentation. Increased revenues combined with years of holding back led to well-deserved excursions into the unknown.

Experimentation is to be admired. But in 2014, I believe more of you will be more calculated in what you do – who you hire, what you invest in, what you build and how you market.

This year, every decision will be weighed against how it will enhance your bottom line and protect your future.

I’m not one to make sweeping predictions about the market or the industry. But based on what I know and people I talk to, I’ve come up with a few thoughts in the following categories.

Social media

It’s 2014. We’re now several years into this social media reality. Many of you have accumulated more friends and followers than you can handle.

Now it’s time to get them to do business with you. A turning point.

In 2014, social has to be about more than “being social”. It has to show some financial return.

The pundits have waxed on about how social isn’t always about business due to their inability to turn their social obsessions into financial returns. But you are not them. You are running a business – a real estate business.

You’ve been told that there is a world you can connect with through social channels. What you need to do in 2014 is sell something to that world.

If you can’t, you will move on.

Marketing

2014 will be the year you realize that everything you do is marketing. This is because everything you do is witnessed, judged and edited into your story.

You will measure your success against more than clicks, open rates, traffic, retweets or even leads. Success in 2014 equates to new business and return business you derive from your marketing actions.

There will be no more throwing ideas on a wall to see what sticks. You will follow best practices and focus on the little things you do for clients that others don’t.

Brokerage

The market has heated up, which means fierce competition all around.

2014 is the year that we’ll see franchises and brokers get hyper-focused on strengthening their value proposition to agents.

We’ll see enhanced training, bigger investments in technology, lead generation and marketing. We’ll see more brokerages doing what the big portals cannot – building websites rife with rich local content and a user experience that says, “We live here too.”

Company culture will rank high on everyone’s list. Ironically, in the quest to attract the best agents and build culture, I believe the largest brokerages will jettison swaths of dead agent weight. The more they let go, the better it pencils in the long term.

Being the biggest brokerage in the market will pale to being the best.

I predict more boutique brokerages will emerge in 2014. They will be the new big threat to the market leaders who aren’t paying attention. Some will gain backing of major franchises, enabling them to grow at a quicker pace.

Innovation

The industry moved from frivolous to fascinating in 2013, led by Floored, a company that showed us what smart innovation is through its 3D interfaces.

2014 will be a year when only products that solve real problems will win.

Some legacy vendors will buckle as more brokers demand their products do things in 2014 that became standard in 2010.

Others will invest wisely in modernizing their products, even if it means taking a strategic pause.

Publishing

Five years ago, real estate was replete with content publishers. The numbers have dwindled drastically. While conventional blogging has been declared dead, thought leadership is alive and well.

Frivolous content will sink in 2014 as the gems of true insight continue to rise.

Portals

The portals will continue to flourish this year. But don’t think for a second that success will turn to complacency.

While brokerages will focus on building websites that rival and outperform the portals in local content, user experience and lead generation, the portals will be looking for more turf to innovate.

Closing thoughts

For fun, I’ve added a few closing predictions that are much more specific. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking. Either way, feel free to hold me to these come December 31:

  • Wearing Google Glass in public will become much like the bluetooth ear piece of 10 years ago – a desperate cry for attention.
  • The term “boom” will no longer be fashionable. #thankgod.
  • Finally, a hipster brokerage will emerge in 2014 named Chillax Realty. It’s slogan, “Totes.”

These are my predictions based on my sense of the world. Whatever happens, whatever you choose to do, give it 100%.

After all, YOLO!

What you must do now to strengthen your brand

It should be mandatory for every senior executive in a company to experience their brand from the same perspective that the “people” do. It’s imperative to get out of the corner office and mingle among the people you serve.

This is an excerpt from an article Shawn Parr wrote for Fast Company back in 2011 titled, “If You’re Not Sitting Where Your Customer’s Sitting, You’re Really Not Seeing Your Brand. 

I recalled this quote this morning when I wondered…

When was the last time you sat through an agent’s listing presentation? 

You know – the thirty-minute soliloquy and slide deck accompaniment replete with dozens of pages of charts, graphs, images, colorful arrows, syndication site logos, testimonials, and market share stats. The one your agents recite to every prospective seller.

Sat through one recently?

Go ahead and you’ll discover it’s all about the agent. Regardless of how long it is, all the listener hears through the entire narrative is me me me me me and very little you, your house, your transaction, your comfort, your trust, your journey. Inserting [seller’s name here] and [seller’s address here], along with MLS data on their neighborhood or comps isn’t personalization. It’s paint-by-numbers service.

I suspect you, as a broker/owner, want something more for your company and your brand. You want to stand out. To matter. To distance your brand from the salesy stereotype and instead foster a more progressive and professional aura.

To accomplish this, you might consider training agents to…

Talk less and listen more

Imagine you’re escorted into the exam room at your doctor’s office. The physician enters, sits across from you, hands you a tablet and proceeds to tell you all about him.

The whole time he’s talking you’re wondering, when is he going to ask me where it hurts or why I am here?

Imagine how you feel when he never asks.

Consider this: If an agent has been invited into a seller’s home to give a listing presentation, the seller likely already knows a thing or two about that agent’s qualifications. The agent could yap on about himself and his company, believing that’s what the seller wants to hear. Or he could take a different approach. An empathetic one. And begin the conversation with:

Thank you for inviting me into your home. Tell me about yourself. 

Karl Menninger, renowned psychiatrist and author of the book, “The Human Mind,” wrote this back in 1930

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing. It’s a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

Karl abides.

For eons, agents have been shouting, hoping that people will listen. The shouts reverberate through nugatory copy scripted across their websites, and the endless array of canned emails, newsletters, Facebook memes and gobs of other marketing ooze so-called gurus constantly lead them to create.

Sadly, it’s the exact same debris everyone else creates, most of which remains largely unread.

Maybe it’s time to shout less, and listen more.

Every seller has a story. We all want to be heard. It takes just one simple question. And the restraint required to really listen.

In their shoes

Consider taking this challenge:

Be the consumer.

Give it 30 days. Call about listings. Leave messages. Wait for return calls. Search local agent sites. Schedule a few listing presentations. Sign up for agents’ newsletters. Follow them on social media.

Bring it all into your life. Front and center.

After 30 days, let’s talk. I’ll be interested to know if at any point you felt like screaming SHUT UP!

I promise to be a great listener.

Friday Flash: Getting ready to rumble

As you may know by now, big brokers have made known their intention to do something about the “Rogue MLS.”

There’s really not much I can say about this. But it is clear the tension that has built along the broker/MLS fault line for years will find its release in the near future.

This is a good thing.

I don’t say this because I am rooting for the brokers, or for the MLSs. I don’t view this as a spectator sport, or a zero-sum game.

I have spent the last several years of my professional life working with brokers to build stronger brands and secure their place in the future. I have also advocated for MLS activism in cases where I thought it would keep the real estate industry, not just the MLS “industry,” relevant.

It’s a good thing because if, as so many profess, we wish to see a better, more profitable, more progressive real estate business, something needs to change.

We can’t have all the same people doing all the same things forever if we are to get to where we proclaim we want to go.

So when some industry people get pissed, when other industry people get nervous, I get excited. Because it means we are moving.

The Austin Board of Realtors ended its relationship with ListHub to distribute listings to Zillow, Trulia and others, citing  “listing inaccuracy” on such sites.

In other news, I just took off my sweater because I am cold.

Urban Compass, a brokerage startup launched in NYC with a focus on rentals, has raised another $20 million. Looks like they’re going to expand beyond New York and possibly get into buying.

This company has been on my watch list since the beginning of this year. If you’re a broker, there’s lots to go to school on.

Urban Compass offers tons of unique local content that helps people make decisions about where to live; their website is strongly user focused; agents are credibly positioned as knowledgeable guides, not just, well, “agents.”

Add ‘em to your watch list too.

Do Good Real Estate is a small brokerage in North Carolina we’ve been tracking for a while. They have an interesting angle (the company is, for example, a certified B Corp) that may not be for everyone, but they get a lot of the basics right.

Spend five seconds on their home page and it’s clear that they know who they are, and who they aren’t. They have their brand story straight. And they tell it in a voice that’s distinctive and consistent.

This week they shot us a sample of their new ad campaign, which features Do Good agents. This sort of thing always makes agents happy, but usually strikes a sour note with consumers. They avoided that trap by presenting their agents in a way that not only maintains the brand positioning and voice, but also telegraphs something to the consumer other than, say, “I really like pictures of myself.”

Worth a look:

Meet Jamie (DG Ad.)

Enjoy the weekend.

The pest and the CrackBerry

He stabbed his open hand over the front desk to the hotel employee. Instinctively, she reached out and shook it. He recited his name, title and the name of his brokerage.

“Are you checking in?” she inquired. “Are you in the market to buy a home?” He responded, ignoring her inquiry.

She was not.

“Do you know anyone who is?” he fired back. She flashed him her professionally trained smile, shook her head no and asked him again about checking in.

“Are any of you looking to buy a home?” the agent asked, addressing her two colleagues behind the counter.

One was in the middle of assisting me. Impeccable timing.

More no’s.

The agent generously passed business cards out to everyone. He assured them quality service should they hire him and thanked them for their time. He turned to walk away and zeroed in on a nearby bellman.

The hotel clerk assisting me apologized for the interruption. I’ll spare you the comments made by the others.

Brokers: This is how your brand is being represented to consumers. It’s a tactic that is old. Too old. Maybe there was a time when this worked. I have to believe we’re now at a point where it’s doing more damage to your brand than good.

Think about that as I move into my next point.

Fallen giants

BlackBerry recently announced its sad quarterly earnings, along with plans to lay off 4,500 employees.

The slow, steady fall of this seminal smartphone giant is a stark lesson about speed of innovation, nimbleness and sedation. Doing the same things that worked in the past isn’t going to automatically propel you forward. Just the opposite is true. The sluggish – even giants – inevitably fall behind, displaced and disrupted by the fast and furious pace of innovators.

It defines a moment all business entities face.

Less than 10 years ago, BlackBerry owned the handheld market. It was the smartphone of choice (a term first coined by Ericsson for their GS 88 “Penelope” in 1997), and garnered a cult-like following of “CrackBerry” users – business types that thrived on the ease of portable email.

As innovative as BlackBerry was and as loved as they were, the smartphone puck glided down the ice. BlackBerry could have skated toward it. But they didn’t. New entrants did. They envisioned people becoming addicted to something far more compelling than business communication. They built devices that created pure pleasure for users.

Score.

In a statement related to the layoffs, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said, “We are implementing the difficult, but necessary operational changes announced today to address our position in a maturing and more competitive industry, and to drive the company toward profitability.”

Nothing in his words led me to believe he’s thinking about innovation. Just as nothing in the agent’s actions above gave me confidence that he’s helping to propel his brokerage forward.

Time will tell BlackBerry’s fate.

Consumer loyalty is fleeting.

We flock to the brightest light.

We vacate when it dims.

Consider this as you move to my next point.

Enough isn’t enough

I read this study of real estate firms over the weekend. It reports a whopping 69% of all brokerages expecting profitability to increase over the next year.

Fantastic news.

In an industry so often portrayed as slow and resistant to change, the brokerage moved the needle enough over the last 10 years to prevent its disruption.

A remarkable accomplishment.

But enough isn’t enough.

While your triumphant emergence from the last decade’s economic turmoil won a battle, a war still brews.

Despite your success and well-earned profitability, the brokerage of today still resembles the brokerage of 2003 rather than the brokerage of 2023. The agent in many ways still resembles the agent of 10 years ago. That’s a problem.

While the pesky agent stains your brand with his prehistoric methods, he’s only one of the many snipers in your midst.

Like BlackBerry, if the future hook upon which you’re planning to hang your hat is the same hook that you’ve been staring at for years, that may not be good enough. If you want to lead rather than just float by for another decade, you’ll need to dig deeper.

As you bask in the rewards of today’s great market, bear this in mind.

And remember the CrackBerry.