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Content development in the new model (aka: Jessica is Right)

This started as a comment on Jessica’s earlier post about content. Welcome aboard, Jessica, and thanks for the grist.

Jessica points out that the average agent is no better than the average owner at generating content. I disagree with that a little: FSBO listings with owner-generated content are often better than agent-generated content (which isn’t saying much).

Owners just know more about their property and its surroundings, have more at stake, and have just one listing to worry about. Not to mention that, if they are even going the Web-based FSBO route, they know their way around a computer and the Web and are more likely to be an educated professional in their own right. All they really need to do is develop the content they know they would like to see themselves.

eCommerce professionals know that content sells. Period. Just compare the quality and depth of content Amazon has around a $10 copy of Home Buying for Dummies to the average listing for a $500k ranch on Realtor.com. The only thing I’ve seen that plays in that ballpark are Greg’s single property Web sites.

The current model (agent responsible for everything, gets paid nothing unless they sell), has Zero capacity for generating consistent, quality content that consumers are accustomed to when they buy anything else on line, and that violates the most basic principle of merchandising: Use the consumer’s learned behaviors to encourage them to do what you want them to do (like contact you).

So how do you change that when the entrenched interests have a dis-incentive to do the right thing? To wit:

  • Agents don’t want to dip into their split to pay professionals.
  • Brokers take advantage of the indie contractor tax loophole to make sure they don’t have to pay agents in the first place, and even the very best admins (the people who really keep the wheels on in every RE office I’ve visited) make, what? $30/hr.? That is not a mindset that is conducive to paying specialists.
  • The NAR and the MLSs have a stake in keeping the agent population over-stuffed with dues-paying half-wits.
  • The franchises consider consumers secondary customers: Their majority of their dollars are spent on attracting and retaining brokers, not training agents to serve consumers.

Developing the content that modern, Web-based Real Estate marketing requires has been a missing piece of the new model/new franchise discussion that is going on here, so I’m glad Jessica brought it up. Where do we go from here?

How do we bring in people with the skills to produce consistent, quality content when they are too smart to work for the promise of easy money as they pay dues off their credit cards waiting for lightening to strike?

I don’t know, either, but I will keep thinking about it. Maybe this will be a two-parter…

In the meantime, I will continue to develop Web Merchandising tools and training for the 5% of agents who are capable enough to learn how to use them and smart enough to understand why they should.

No, its not as satisfying as marrying the perfect technology to the perfect business model, but I figure they will be the ones who will survive whatever changes the market and/or the Bloodhounds eventually bring to the industry, because status quo can’t lumber on forever.

Unless it can. And if that happens, I’m going to go Full Metal Luddite: Get my license, work for a franchise, spend all my money on print, coaches, and conventions, and live happily ever after in my mansion with matching his and her Lexī in the garage…

Related posts:
  • Introducing Jessica Wynn Horton, a once and future mega-producer
  • Spread the Wealth Around Real Estate
  • New Times likes the present: Smarmy, tendentious blather wants to be free!

  • 15 comments

    15 Comments so far

    1. James Boyer Harding NJ August 19th, 2008 9:14 am

      I loved this article. It is almost exactly how I feel. The only differences I have with this article are how can I take advantage of this situation, and build up a business that is immune to the hoard of half-wits as you called them.

    2. Greg Swann August 19th, 2008 9:33 am

      > matching his and her Lexï in the garage…

      In my previous life, I built a font family with macrons so Latinists could properly emphasize their vowels.

      (It’s doable in Unicode: Lexī.)

      We live in the middle of this contradiction — sophisticated consumers versus ham-handed marketers. We’re working very hard to exploit it. I can’t say for sure because the real estate market is in such turmoil, but I think we’re about a year away from the tipping point. That’s when the real fun will begin.

      It ain’t done yet, but intrepid comment readers can sneak a peek at something we’re working on now.

    3. Dave August 19th, 2008 9:51 am

      John,

      As you stated, the main problem lies not within developing content, per se, but with the fact that the agent is required to do everything. The agent is required to do everything because most brokerages operate off of a split structure that is weighted heavily toward the agent.

      In most cases, this structure hurts the agent. I am sure agents everywhere are thinking that they deserve/need/want a higher split. The fact of the matter is that they could probably do/accomplish/and earn more if they had a system that provided a little less monetary compensation but provided more support.

      What if you had a kick-ass pool of salaried (with bonus)agents that worked synergistically (sp?) with a high quality staff of support personnel?

      Imagine the possibilities.

    4. Mark Eckenrode August 19th, 2008 9:55 am

      @john: as you see it, and i think most of all the bloodhounds & readers do, is that the agent’s job is to get the home sold through content development and marketing (no big surprise).

      here’s a question, though: how many of the folks that joined the ranks of Realtor actually came in thinking like a product creator/marketer?

      your question about how to “bring in people with the skills to produce consistent, quality content” is totally valid… the challenge is that the “Realtor” brand or that of a “Real Estate Agent” is not consistent with what it really takes to do the job today. (let’s face it, the brand wasn’t built to attract potential agents but to attract consumers to an agent)

      to attract the kind of people necessary, we need to examine the personality that’s attracted to the roles of creator and marketer. then revamp the way marketing is done to attract those kinds of agents.

    5. John Rowles August 19th, 2008 10:34 am

      @ Greg: Thanks for the Unicode, but I was referring to the new, super rare Scandinavian Lexus… ;-)

      Its great that you are putting that message out there. It’s a complicated point to get across to people who aren’t as steeped in (or corroded by?) by the status quo as we are. It takes a lot of words, but one would hope that people who are serious about finding the right representation would take the time to read and understand.

    6. John Rowles August 19th, 2008 10:48 am

      @Dave, @Mark: The people who have the personality and skills to consistently develop quality content can get paying jobs (with benefits, even!) applying those skills outside of Real Estate…like I used to do before a broker promised me that I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams if I could figure out how to sell Real Estate on the Web.

      Why would they trade a W2 and 2 weeks vacation for all the work of the job they have (or could get) plus weekends spent at open houses, the joys of prospecting, and the feast/famine existence when things just aren’t moving? They have a name for people who will take that deal: Real Estate Agent.

      Either the industry needs to find a way to locate more suckers like me, or it needs to figure out how to pay skilled people what they are worth.

    7. Greg Swann August 19th, 2008 10:49 am

      Thanks for linking to that post on single-property web sites. I see it as a nice introduction into how to take real estate marketing to the next step.

    8. Jessica Wynn Horton August 19th, 2008 12:02 pm

      John:

      Thanks for the welcome. :)

      “Developing the content that modern, Web-based Real Estate marketing requires has been a missing piece of the new model/new franchise discussion that is going on here, so I’m glad Jessica brought it up. Where do we go from here?”

      I plan to outsource until my plan becomes reality. This is a real weakness for me. However, it will not become my ‘Loser’s Limp’.

      “How do we bring in people with the skills to produce consistent, quality content when they are too smart to work for the promise of easy money as they pay dues off their credit cards waiting for lightening to strike?”

      I’ve got some ideas, but I will need the necessary reserves and/or investments to implement them. I’ve been designing a better mouse trap in my spare time. Not quite there yet, but I’m getting close. One day…

    9. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 19th, 2008 1:07 pm

      What still surprises me is the number of listings without even 2 photos in our MLS. This is SO basic yet even in our $500k plus price point there are many homes with only one photo. Some of those wouldn’t even have one if it wasn’t for the MLS requiring 1 photo (or they go out and take one then send you a bill).

      The only good thing is that for every lazy agent out there it makes the good ones look that much better. Problem is they tarnish the publics perception of the entire industry.

    10. Carolyn Gjerde-Tu August 19th, 2008 6:50 pm

      Agents are expected to be “experts” in a lot of different fields. I agree that content is important but providing easy and clear access to listings and effective lead follow up is most likely even more important.

    11. Mark Eckenrode August 20th, 2008 5:19 pm

      @john:

      “The people who have the personality and skills to consistently develop quality content can get paying jobs (with benefits, even!) applying those skills outside of Real Estate… Why would they trade a W2 and 2 weeks vacation for all the work of the job they have (or could get) plus weekends spent at open houses, the joys of prospecting, and the feast/famine existence when things just aren’t moving? They have a name for people who will take that deal: Real Estate Agent.”

      john, i disagree with you on this. it’s been my experience that the brightest marketers (those that love and get off on marketing) don’t exist inside extablished corporations. why is this? because corporations have to confine everyone to in-the-box thinking… corporations aren’t into taking chances, they like to keep things smooth and steady. that’s their nature. marketer’s die in this type of environment. they leave.

      as far as content creators go… the ones that create content worth a damn eventually figure out that the content they’re creating is worth far more than what they’re getting paid to produce. they, too, eventually leave.

      creativity dies inside static environments that pump out W2s after hitting the lever at the sound of a bell.

      what’s dumbfounding to watch is when you get a marketer and content creator together… they unleash some amazingly wonderful stuff at a speed greater than a corp can, and with a fatter profit margin.

      real estate is perfect for entrepreneurial minded folks, too. the problem there is that the industry tends to attract more opportunity seekers (still have an employee mentality) over business professionals (folks who think like an owner).

      overall, the industry is a playground for folks that possess a marketing, producer, or owner mindet. those are the folks you want to attract to your brokerage or your team.

    12. John Rowles August 21st, 2008 5:32 am

      @ Marc:
      One of the few problems I have with the blog format is that we are forced to use generalities in the interest of brevity.

      Yes, there are talented, entrepreneurial people doing good content development work in Real Estate. There are also W2 jobs that aren’t Office Space (“I wouldn’t call it working, Bob.”).

      The reality is that the status quo is what @Ken points out — 2 pics and a half a paragraph for a $500k house. IMO, that’s what you get when you leave most of the people who are currently agents to their own devices, and most of the people who are currently agents are agents because they either just got out of prison or can’t hold a job doing anything else…Generally speaking, of course ;-)

    13. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 21st, 2008 1:28 pm

      John one of the issues is that the agents doing little to no effort in marketing properties are still getting the listing because the public doesn’t demand more. Once the public decides to stop hiring Aunt Judy just because shes family and realize that they need to hire a professional then the overall quality of marketing efforts will increase.

    14. John Rowles August 21st, 2008 1:39 pm

      @Ken: That’s a great point, and that trend will accelerate for two reasons:

      First, there’s reality. When demand was ahead of supply, it was more likely that buyers would come looking for Aunt Judy when she had a listing. Now, not so much. This will speed up the process short-term.

      Second, the demographics of home owners is changing. Its only been a year or two since Gen X became the majority of first time homebuyers, so the first generation of homebuyers to find their first home on the Web is still in that first home. When they sell, they will expect their agent to market their property on the web properly. That’s going to take time.

      The people selling homes (boomers and older) aren’t used to doing real estate that way, so to them, calling Aunt Judy is still how Real Estate is done.

      Until it doesn’t work. Then, not so much.

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