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The smarter agent emerging: standards out of experimentation

Choice is becoming more critical as options increasingly expand. I have read about this potential problem for years and now we seem to be well along the road to increasing abundance of options. As real esate agents, we’re inundated with options regarding web sites, social networking avenues, blogs to read, models to consider, marketing techniques to employ and advertising venues to use. It’s the flip side of the blessing, the curse of too many options and the problem of choice.

One of the benefits of sites like Bloodhound is that people are giving consideration to these problems and openly writing about what has been found to be the best practices. Awhile back I talked about an article written years ago predicting how the internet would intially be chaos, then experimentation and selection and winnowing, then a standardization period. I want to give credit to the writer, but I can’t find the source. Perhaps someone will remember.

It seems we are still in the experimentation stage, but as we quickly change and learn, choices will hopefully become easier. There is still a dearth of statistics showing the effectiveness of blogging, social networking and online marketing through website providers, RE sites and social sites but anectdotal evidence and personal experience based on analysis are beginning to give us an indication that these new forms of doing business have much potential for those who are adopting the right methods and utilizing them in a committed way.

I do have evidence in my own company that online business has increased by at least 20-30% each year for the last three years, I just haven’t pinpointed which methods produce what part of that business — perhaps it’s a holistic effect of it all.

Making choices is based on knowledge gained through experimentation, our results and the results of others, developing certain guidelines I can use to measure new offerings. In other words, I’m getting to a point where I don’t have to experiment with every new online offering, wasting money on useless gimmicks — it’s easier to tell now which ones have merit and which ones are just a snazzy remake of something I’ve tried that didn’t work.

I suspect many real estate agents who have been connected for awhile and have been committed are finding the same thing, that choosing among all the options is easier. Hopefully this will have the positive effect of encouraging innovation. As we all become more sophisticated online we don’t jump at anything shiny and buzzed – it must have merit and it must be useful. Perhaps we are going into a standardization period. We can quickly assess a certain new offering and apply certain principles we’ve learned about what works and what’s useless. Companies who want our business will have to create value.

If not completely gone, soon will be gone the days that new online players can create fear of being left out in order to sell any old usless method to get the growing online business. I’ve talked about value and service for awhile and it appears the shaking out of online sites will be along the lines of service and value. The survivors of the real estate industry, agents and mortgage brokers and investors, will have a stronger hand in demanding value and service from those who want our money — they will see the ones who used fear and gimmicks and leverage-of-the-new-and-mysterious fall broke by the wayside.

Some may think that RE service providers are being beaten down by the new, changing world of web 2.0, but real estate will still be based around the immediate service that’s provided by agents to buyers and sellers, and we who survive will rise stronger, more leveraged, smarter, more sophisticated and in a better position to have our services recognized as valuable.

Yes, service providers who fail to change and grow will gradually fade away, but those who have gotten smarter will be there cutting through the worthless buzz, better able to provide service and utilize only those marketing methods and tech tools that acutally work and provide value. At that point we can demand what we choose to pay for and let the rest who predicted our death dance in a frenzied circle trying to make rain.

Fear will be gone and the best practices will emerge as industry standards — then only true innovation and value will catch our eyes or make us reach for our wallets. All the marketing gurus and SEO experts and shiny new sites will actually have to know what they’re talking about and produce results.

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  • 10 comments

    10 Comments so far

    1. Gerry (RealtyMan) Bourgeois April 27th, 2008 5:27 pm

      Excellent post. I know I am not adding anything worthwile – but Excellent post!

    2. Marc Rasmussen April 27th, 2008 5:33 pm

      Very well written Mike. I agree with you. It exhausting to see all of the companies trying to make money from Realtors with their latest techniques that don’t amount to much. You can blow your money very easily on the same old same that has been repackaged. It is easy to justify the expense as you repeat in your head “one deal will pay for it.”

    3. Bawldguy Talking April 27th, 2008 5:44 pm

      You raise the bar every time you hit publish.

      Our firm has now hit the 80% mark — business from 2.0. That figure will drop in the fiscal year 08-09 as we’re launching several local Old School marketing forays into our local market.

    4. Blakes Parking April 27th, 2008 5:58 pm

      Great post, I emailed it to my dad who is in real estate and way behind on getting his business online.

    5. Landflip April 27th, 2008 6:59 pm

      I am an assistant to a land broker and I have found three websites that I choose to advertise on. In a slow real estate market, I find that advertising on web sites is a better alternative than print. The reasons for this is I can get my properties to a nationwide audience and the cost is much less. I can put more information on websites (photos, maps, aerials, etc..)than anywhere else. This allows me to work smarter and not waste as much time in the car. My favorite is landflip.com.

    6. Brad Coy April 28th, 2008 12:58 am

      >soon will be gone the days that new online players can create fear of being left out in order to sell any old useless method to get the growing online business.

      This is happening at a very fast rate the way I see it. The educated, hard working professional today can see right through the cracks in their facades. Not only that, the development of online tools are getting better as costs go down. Having the tools and user community to support the use of those tools (through social media) will make a huge impact in the coming years.

    7. Mike Farmer April 28th, 2008 4:09 am

      Thanks for the comments. Full focus on the consumer/service provider relationship will be the strength we bring out of all this, sans gimmicks and hoopla.

      An efficient, direct connection.

      The whole process of BS trimming is amazing to watch. I want to get to a direct link —
      consumer needs > service.

    8. Greg Cremia April 28th, 2008 5:33 am

      I have had numerous agents and IT providers ridicule my site because it is so “plain jane”.

      I have had numerous clients praise my site because it does nothing but provide information easily.

      No argument here.

    9. Mike Farmer April 28th, 2008 9:15 am

      I hear simplicity is the new rage. I’ve always thought the simplest way is best. If someone comes to your site looking for homes and information — give’em homes and information right off the bat — seems simple enough.

      I should pretty up my site, too, but I’m resistant to doing it for some reason. Intuitively I feel it’s best to simply give them something easy to use, although making it attractive probably wouldn’t hurt — I just don’t yet feel it’s necessary, plus, I’m not knowledgable in that area and don’t want to pay for it.

      What I WILL eventually pay for, though, is a simple, elegant design that’s unique — I just haven’t pursued it yet, and haven’t seen anything like I envision.

      P.S. I’m open to proposals and examples if any website designers are reading.

    10. Greg Cremia April 28th, 2008 3:03 pm

      The trouble with most web designs is in trying to maintain visual perspective the page is restricted in size. This is why most sites have large margins on both sides. On a small screen the web page is shrunk even smaller. Take this blog as an example, on my screen there is a 2.5 inch margin on on the left side and a 3 inch margin on the right side. Expensive real estate to have sitting there empty.

      With my plain jane css the page is whatever size the screen is regardless of browser or computer. Easy on the eyes. I don’t believe this can be done with a design.