There’s always something to howl about

Connect the dots: Who’s buying, who’s selling, and what is being sold

Mind if I tell a story?

My dad earned his living as a sales rep. He sold high end paint and wallpaper tools in a tri-state territory. There were years when he would be out the door by 5:00 a.m. on Monday and we would see him about 3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. He worked hard, but he is very smart and driven.

When we were a little older, he would on occasion, take one of us kids to a trade show with him during the summer. I can’t speak for my brothers, but I always enjoyed the chance to get away, the chance to see something new, and the chance to spend some one-on-one time with Dad. He was a great story teller and he would tell me all kinds of things: About his life, his parents (they died by the time I was three), how to track deer, how to fish, how to change a transmission, how to dump a boyfriend either gently or not-so-gently whichever the situation called for. You know, the really important life skills that every girl should know.

We would go to these big hotels or convention centers in a big city. Dad would unload his display, I would help him set it up, then it was “see ya at five”. Off I’d wander. To me, back then, a trade show was a cool thing. I would wander up and down the aisles, mouth open, eyes wide, looking at stuff. All this stuff! Who knew there was so much stuff to be had? Bright and shiny stuff, weird stuff, funny stuff, just stuff. I’d go back to Dad’s booth and report about the stuff I saw. Now here’s the fun part, Dad would give me the back story of that company and why their stuff was crap, or the company was full of crooks, on a rare ocassion a particular company was worthy of praise. I learned that everything is not as it would appear on the surface, and there is usually more to a story than what you are seeing.

So I grew up in the sales world. I grew up with it from the inside. Dad taught us to think about what was being said, and to consider the source. To determine whether there was an ulterior motive, then make a decision about a product or service. To this day I have an acute disgust for being “sold”, and yes, I’m cynical about most things. I am always willing to listen, but I’m always on the lookout for the sales pitch.

Eventually trade shows lost their appeal to me, although I would make the trip with Dad just to hang out and talk. I’d help him set up, then take off for a day of museum going.

As reports from the Blogger’s Connect trickled in, I enjoyed reading the quick bursts of impressions. As far as advice from the panels goes, it is nothing that we haven’t heard before, ad nauseam at this point. Nothing looks earth shattering or revolutionary, although it certainly looks like everyone had a fun time, and it is always great to meet people. I am a firm believer in looking someone in the eyes when you talk and I’m very glad I went to Columbus for the BlogTour USA. Putting a living, breathing face with a name is invaluable. It is so valuable, in fact, that I believe as more real estate professionals begin to embrace social networking and blogging, face-to-face contact will become the one thing that will set you apart (you heard it here first). I do understand the power in meeting someone you only know online. I’m sure that was the big draw of the thing.

But there are glimpses from the Connect that I find annoying. You can call it a “Connect” if you want, call it anything you want. What it is, best I can tell, is a meet-up followed by a trade show. That’s “trade”. As in vendors. As in selling stuff.

So now I’m on high alert. Here’s the cynical daughter of a salesman speaking: The fact that what is being sold is technology-based stuff, doesn’t necessarily make the stuff any less shlocky or useless than the widgets that were being sold on the floor of the Indianapolis Convention Center 30 years ago.

I am bracing myself for reports of all the great new “advances” in real estate blogging technology that were unveiled in San Francisco. I am guessing that there is a bunch of new stuff aimed at naive and unsuspecting RE bloggers. New ways to get a leg up on your blogging competition, groovy stuff being trotted out to pimp any naked blog, and advice on how to be, pardon my language, a blogging whore.

There are different ways to blog: You can write, giving a community information they may find useful, and they may find it useful today, maybe tomorrow, or maybe 3 years from now when they need it. This approach takes time and caring. It is a gentle approach of sending out threads to slowly and truly connect with people. It is relationship building.

The other way is to write brutish and clumsy ad copy on a blogging platform. Throw as much crap at your blog as possible, as quickly as possible, knowing that eventually some of it will stick. Kind of a strafing approach to readership. Either way, I am told that in the end your blog will attract the type of clients that you want to work with. So lucky us, we get to decide: Do we want clients attracted by crap or community.

I didn’t go to the “Connect” but I understand the synergy that takes place during conferences. I do understand the euphoria that follows you home. Did people have fun? No doubt. Trade shows are fun and meeting people you only know online is even better. On the other hand, and I will be the first to admit I could be wrong about all this, I have seen my share of trade shows from the inside, and I do know a trade show when I see one. I am my father’s daughter. I confess I’m looking at it all through the seasoned glint of my dad’s eyes, and here’s what my dad would likely say about real estate blogging: It ain’t rocket science, but neither is it the world’s oldest profession.


11 Comments so far

  1. Phil Hoover August 5th, 2007 8:05 am

    Hi Terri ~
    Perhaps you will remember that we e-mailed before Inman.
    I was encouraged to go by other bloggers, then had second thoughts and tried to cancel.
    Inman’s cancellation policy is simple and easy to understand: “You don’t have to attend, but we will keep your money”.
    So, I went.
    First real estate conference I have ever attended in 35 years of real estate.
    It was incredible!
    I took 12 pages of notes, learned much, met most of the fellow bloggers I had previously met online, and expect to get a couple of referrals too.
    The most amazing experience of all was sitting in that room of 200 bloggers on the first day ~ I have never been in the presence of that much brainpower in one place in my entire life!
    I will definitely attend next year in SF!

  2. Teri Lussier August 5th, 2007 9:07 am

    Hi Phil-
    I do remember you expressed some hesitation about going, and I’m glad to hear it was worth it. I really can imagine the sheer energy of being around everyone else, all focused on the same thing- the synergy must have been incredible. At least that’s been the general consensus. I have been in similar situations, so I do understand the power of an experience like that.

    That excitement of participating in conferences, the crowd momentum can be a powerful tool for vendors to use to sell products. That’s what has my internal warning system pinging. Did you get a chance to visit any vendors? That’s really what I’m curious about. What is being sold to RE bloggers? Anything? Nothing?

  3. CJ, Broker in NELA, CA August 5th, 2007 10:56 am

    Teri – I didn’t give the vendors a second glance. I didn’t go on the trade show floor. So the only vendor I saw was the Trulia guy handing out pens in the hallway.

    Getting a hug from Ardell (and several other folks) was worth the trip. I suppose Greg was well advised not to go. I have a big ol’ sloppy kiss-on-the-check just waiting for Greg. 🙂

  4. Teri Lussier August 5th, 2007 11:02 am

    I’m beginning to wonder if anyone visited vendors. Which begs the question about whether it’s worth it for venders to sponsor?

    >I have a big ol’ sloppy kiss-on-the-check just waiting for Greg.

    A Kodak moment if ever there was one.

  5. Todd Carpenter August 5th, 2007 11:44 am

    Terri, It would be VERY easy to go to Connect without knowing it was a trade show. You have to go out of your way to to find the booths. I spent two days in San Fransisco, and 30 minutes on the “sales floor” so to speak. The little time I spent was planned well ahead of time, to see previews of RealTyger and Lux.

    I can’t speak for the entire show as I only attended the Blogger’s Pre-Conference event. If you were to just go to that event, it’s only a hundred bucks. For that, you get an entire day of advice.

    I have been RE blogging since 2005. At the event, you could count the bloggers on one hand who have been doing it longer than me. In building REMBEX, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve personally visited and reviewed more RE blogs than than anyone. It would be easy to convince myself that I’ve seen it all. Yet, I learned quite a bit at the show.

    In addition, I didn’t agree with all of the advice, but it was advice. There was virtually zero sales pitch coming from the panelists.

    August 1st was my birthday so I never planned to attend. It was only after the Denver BlogTourUSA stop that I realized how important it was for me to be meeting other bloggers in person. I attended connect for the festivities on Tuesday. The conference itself could of been a total flop and I still would of got my money’s worth. As it turned out, the panels were quite good.

    One last thing in the interest of full disclosure. Yes, I blog for Inman. No, I do not get paid to do so. Yes, I paid my own way to go to the show. Finally, would I do it again? Absolutely.

  6. Teri Lussier August 5th, 2007 3:13 pm


    I was surprised myself by how fantastic it was to meet other bloggers at the BlogTour in Columbus. The conversation just flows without hours between comments. And in just a few hours I picked up some ideas I hadn’t thought of.

    So the vendors were tucked away, so to speak? Was there anything interesting from what you saw?

  7. Todd Carpenter August 5th, 2007 10:44 pm

    RealTyger and the systems that power it are very cool. The system is modular so all sorts of backside applications can be plunged in. Think WordPress meets ActiveRain, meets stuff you haven’t even considered yet. I’ll have more on it soon.

    I went by the Zillow booth and chatted with DavidG for a second, but not about any Zillow products. Lux is a very cool new service for listing premium housing. I’m not a RE agent so it didn’t make sense to spend much time up there.

  8. Phil Hoover August 7th, 2007 2:53 pm

    I didn’t grace any vendors with my money, but did sit in on a couple of their breakout sessions and left quickly because they felt like commercials.
    The general sessions, the duets, and the panels were all incredible.
    Best part was personally meeting all of the people I have met online.
    I learned of many new services and have a long list of things to research and see if I can use any of them.

  9. Teri Lussier August 7th, 2007 3:39 pm

    >Think WordPress meets ActiveRain, meets stuff you haven’t even considered yet.

    That sounds intriguing.

    >I learned of many new services and have a long list of things to research

    Thoughts and opinions about services are beginning to make their way into posts. I’m curious. Skeptical, but curious.

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  11. […] come clean: I really hate conferences. I have the patience of Job with a lot of things, BS ain’t one of […]