Real Estate Porn

Following my recent post about the future facing the Real Eastate world my attention has been draw to others addressing various forms of Innovation

In particualr a recent post on Mumbrella http://mumbrella.com.au/melbourne-real-estate-agency-ditches-dinosaur-marketing-146480 highlights the work of Melbourne based Real Estate Agency Philip Webb who no longer rely on newspaper advertising to sell property.

While I enjoyed the video they have produced to promotr their use of digitl advertising it was the way they described newspaper advertsing that amused me.  Having warned a number of clients of the futility of the use of newspaper advertising  for some years it was great to see simialr words coming from an expero]ienced Real Estate professional.

Philip Webb marketing executive Maddison Rawson told Mumbrella that while Melburnians still enjoy reading the property sections of local newspapers, they view it as “house porn” and consume the content like they would on Pinterest, without seriously considering buying a property.

“Committed house buyers go online,” she said, “where it is much easier to search for the property you want.”

Newspapers are obviously working very hard to please Real Estate adverstisers with new style lift outs, features in news secrions etc etc. It is quite obvious that Real Estate ads are vital to Saturday and Sunday papers and to local and regional publications.

I am sure that a major part of the attraction of newspaper advertising is the same as appeal of the ubiqutous sign in the front yard as Philip Webb puts it the agents

“who use your money to promote themselves instead of what should be the star attraction – your property.”

Given costs and effectiveness of the digital approach are far lower it is surely fear of change and being successful enough that keeps agents doing what they have always done.  Clearly they arent heeding the warnings of agents like Anthony Toop who have been embracing technology for several years.

When I do occasionally flick though the Real Estate section of a newspaper I am partcu;lary amused ny agents who use pemcil drawimgs of proprties rarher than creative photography, video etc to give potential buyers a good perspective without havibg to drive to an open inspection.

But I suspect the real aim of newspaper advertisng and vague descriptions is to build their database of possible buyers and sellers from people who like to attend open inspections.

Unreal Estate Agents

socialcouponsIt was a breath of fresh air to read the latest blog post by one of Australia’s leading and definately most innovative Real Estate Agents – Anthony Toop. In the post, also published in his newspaper print ad, he warns his industry colleagues “an entirely new real estate landscape will wipe out traditional operators who refuse to evolve, adapt and embrace these amazing new capabilities.”

The capabilities he refers to and has himself been embracing for years include all the latest tools and technologies available to improve and streamline communications with prospects and clients. These include iPads, Smartphones, SmartTVs and information literally everywhere…and of course the impact of the National Broadband Network which will see Video Communication happening in real time all the time.

Real Estate is the classic Buyer Beware industry about to face the Seller Beware world. Failure to self regulate has seen Government intervention to continually protect buyers from dodgy Buyer Beware practices…but now with access to all the information needed Buyers now have more control and in many cases more access to information than the average agent…so it’s time for Seller Beware.

Several years ago I was advising a classic old style Real Estate business in Adelaide (that’s 99% of them still today) on rebranding and on the overall business in terms of sales and marketing. Sadly they refused to accept that most of the things Anthony Toop talks about were worth considering.

They refused to accept that wearing shiny suits on Sunday, driving shiny and very expensive cars, newspaper ads and signs at the front of the property etc were not going to be what buyers would want in the future. I warned that organisations like RealEstate.com.au, majority owned by News Limited, were not really their friend and in future would become their enemy. Now Anthony Toop warns

Organisations like RP Data, REA (realestate.com.au), Google, Facebook, Domain, Macquarie Bank and Commonwealth Bank to name just a few, are changing real estate agents’ lives right now in 2013, whether we like it or not. If we don’t adapt, they will simply run straight over the top of us like Coles, Woolies and service stations have done to the corner store.

It has always intrigued me that the Real Estate industry has managed to have their clients pay for their brand marketing in big newspaper ads that are more about the seller than the product or the sign at the front of the property…and as their client why should I pay for a sign in my front yard for agents to promote themselves and hope they find a buyer walking down the street. Surely these days I could do that myself…in fact why can’t I handle the whole sales process…especially open inspections. Surely I know my property better than any Real Estate agent in a shiny suit with a shiny flash car parked in the driveway…but I can’t advertise on realestate.com.au…Yet.

It was this refusal to accept the need for radical change by a variety of clients in 2009/10 that lead my daughter and business partner Nikki and I to publish the eBook “The Grumpy Old Managers Guide to Social Media Marketing +“. Sadly four years on it is still just as relevant to the people we wrote it for as it was then.

“Nothing has structurally changed in real estate for the 36 years I have been in it.

Why?  Some say “because it never will!” After all, houses ARE such a big ticket item…such rare transaction events involving so much money and emotion. Real estate is the ultimate “people business”. Real estate will forever continue to require skilled negotiators, marketers, and professional advisers; selling a property is such a big deal.

Are you kidding me? With the advent of iPads, Smart Phones, Smart TVs and information literally on tap, PLUS…add in the roll out of broadband across the nation, making all communication including video equivalent to real time…if this doesn’t change the rules, I will eat my hat.”

Anthony Toop

Over the years we  have seen hundreds of operators in Financial Planning, Travel, Stock Broking, lately Finance Broking and right now Retail fail to restructure to meet new consumer demands and utilise technology effectively and as a result die…and die very quickly.

Right now it’s time for Real Estate to face the future as it’s now here and take on what Seth Godin calls the hardwork.  While most businesses think that working longer is working harder and setting up a website is working smarter it’s the hardwork of doing what others won’t that will lead to success in the Seller Beware world.

In his blog Anthony Toop, whose business has won numerous national awards for Innovation, Communication and Marketing, believes radical operational change will face the industry this year and within 5 years the changes will be wholesale and widespread.

It’s good to see that whilst most agents are still relying on brochure style websites and traditional media advertising their Industry Groups are providing the tools to embrace the future in terms of contracts that can be signed on an iPad.

The good news for small business that does the hard work and learns to  think like big business – leveraging the tools they use like Customer relationship systems and communications and technology in general – will always compete well with big business because they are more flexible and nimble in their ability to adapt and adjust.

In the Buyer/Customer Centric world rigid systems, training programs, manuals etc are no longer of any value…as every person has different needs, expectations and knowledge. As such it is vital to have the tools and the information that is specificly relavant and timely to facilitate engagement and ongoing nurturing.

“Client management is becoming incredibly easy with communication being a tap of the finger and fully automated. But these industry innovations are nothing compared to what the big guys are up to.”

Anthony Toop

And you can do the hardwork now to make the big changes and embrace technology etc but in the end it is now up to the Seller to know their stuff like never before.  Something like 60% of the buying process has been undertaken by the Buyer  before they contact the Seller.  They have read websites, brochures, Googled you and checked what people say about you on LinkedIn etc.

Seller Beware means knowing more about you and your products than the Buyer does so make sure you know what your website says, what your various online profiles say, what your advertising offers etc.

We are in a Buyer Centric world today and as Anthony Toop is telling his colleagues and competition it’s time to embrace the hard work or face the inevitable as have other industries.

Peek behind the curtains … before you knock on the door

Some great Apps on my iPhone that help me find what i am looking for in terms of nearby businesses and a recent article in the paper about the breakdown of communities got my brain ticking over.

It seems that most people have in the past promoted the Internet as a way to open up the world as a marketplace, which resulted in the local shop asking “well what’s in it for me?”  But now the tools of Social Media and the Moblie Net (used to be called a Mobile Phone) has given us a much more local focus.

On my iPhone I click the Google App and then say what I am looking for (eg Coffee Shop) and it will in seconds give me a list of the nearest coffee chops sorted in order of distance and include address, phone no, website link and in most cases a recent review.  And then there is another App – AroundMe  that helps me find the nearest Bank/ATM/Pub/Parking Station etc etc ..

I assume if your business Googles well these Apps will promote you but if you don’t you may well be invisible!!

The article I read talked about the breakdown of the neighbourly interaction that was a key part of society 10/15/20 years ago. It seems most people don’t know their neighbors, they don’t talk or socialise in any way.

And with all the stories about home invasions, domestic violence, drug labs etc in average suburbs, maybe we are a little scared of what we might find over the fence.

So is Social Media a way to rebuild the neighbourhood by letting people find our who lives nearby and what they are interested in, getting to know them and chat online before meeting.

It seems to work on dating sites, it certainly has worked for me on LinkedIn.  I now have lots of face-to-face contact with people I met as a result of finding them or them finding me on LinkedIn.

We talk about building communities using Social Media – in terms of people who support a brand, a business, a celebrity etc. but maybe we need to re-established the old fashioned neighbourhood interaction by first getting it going online.

Rather than knocking on the front door or even saying hi over the back fence perhaps Social Media will let us peep behind the curtains and get to know who lives around us.

But who will set up this neighborhood infrastructure online … who has something to gain from it … perhaps the Local Council … but I suspect most of us won’t live long enough for them to get around to something so radical.

Well who else wants to be seen as Mayor of the Local Neighborhood …  could it be the Local Real Estate agent … maybe … I think I feel another blog coming on!!!

What will become of the man in the middle??

middle manA friend of mine was a very successful travel agent some years ago. He refused to acknowledge what the Internet would do to the travel industry. As a result he is now walking away from his business because it is now worth virtually nothing. He had the industry knowledge but not the foresight to develop an online travel service like WebJet.com…but didn’t see the opportunity.

Now many other industries face the same situation because it is easy for suppliers/manufacturers/growers to speak directly with consumers via Web 2.0 tool.

There are obvious applications for recruitment of staff, the buying and selling of real estate and all manner of online direct sales. But there are many areas where compliance with legislation and/or complexity of the product/service appear to make the middleman’s ability to deal face to face a vital ingredient.

But when I read of services that now link consumers with farmers cutting out retailers and wholesalers and lending services that are linking lenders direct to borrowers it is obvious that where there is a will there is a way.

For quite some time the major retailers have been forcing many of their primary produce suppliers (eg Fruit and Veg) to enter into online auctions and bid direct rather than leaving it to a wholesalers or a co-op to find the market for them and take a cut off the top.

So the challenge is to find a way to take your product/service to a much larger and more widely spread market by mass producing and charging low fees. Is it possible for you to go from charging 400 people $1,000 for face to face service to 40,000 paying $10 for a fast efficient and relevant service?

If you can find that way you certainly have a future in a Web 2.0.

If the business can do it the tools are there to support this approach to mass customisation as has never been possible before.

Real Estate Goobledygook…

My company is currently engaged by a Real Estate Agency to assist them in rebranding their business – they want to be seen to be different but not too different. This has led us to look closely at many of their rivals and their culture.

The question I would like to raise here is in relation to the language of Real Estate. Quite clearly they do not write or speak to be read or understood by their buyers. At auctions the verbage and tone are to say the least boring and outdated. To be told that we are in leafy…; close to cosmopolitan; looking at a house with 3/4/5 bedrooms etc. is surely a waste of our time and theirs. Quite clearly those attending know where they are and why and from our research find this approach condescending.

And then the ads – fabulous, fantastic, enormous – are commonly used. I personally would like to read about the benefits of buying the property not endless exaggerated features taking up space that the vendor is paying for not the Agency!!

As a result of all of this and a brilliant book I have been reading The New Rules of PR and Marketing by David Meerman Scott I would like to compile a list of the most jargon-laden phrases and overused, irrelevant words used in Real Estate. In his book, Scott analysed Media Releases for technology companies and found words like next generation, robust, world class to be very widely used and very widely ignored by those that they were aimed at.

I suspect much the same is the case in Real Estate. They clearly don’t write to be understood by buyers, they don’t auction to impress buyers. Perhaps they aim to impress each other.

In our research the most common view expressed of Real Estate Agents is that they are too introspective and their biggest problem results from this – They Dont Know What They Dont Know!!

Look forward to your assistance in compiling The Real Estate Goobledygook Manifesto.