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.

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