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Archive for February, 2009

LeadStreet Beeflaboration…

In my post yesterday I mentioned

“how badly the super well intentioned but grossly unusable “Lead Street” back-end has been ignored over the past few years…”

RE/MAX hasn’t responded to the post  but a few guys from Eneighborhoods took the time to ask me for some elaboration on my beefs with LeadStreet. It was really cool of them to reach out, and I was going to email them back privately, but  figured it’d be nice to post a response here since some other RE/MAX folks might like to include items I’m missing from the list below. (Plus, I think this may help continue the intention Greg’s recent CRM posts.)

A Starter LeadStreet Wish List:

  • Gimme Firefox! Come on guys, really? Internet Exploder only?
  • The Activity Plan and Drip Email Campaign features are actually pretty solid functionally, but if they’re hard for me to access and figure out, you’ll likely never get most agents to adopt. And it seems that creating campaigns and activity series still need to be controlled from the broker level?  Why not give agents the power to customize these features so they can stop paying vendors like Top Producer and Rainmaker for their services?  Plus it’d be great if Drip Email and Activity Plans could all be created under one template like in Heap.
  • Where’s the pop/imap email? Yep I said it. GTD Gimme one container for everything!  I wanna be able to check my pop/imap gmail from directly within an email client provided by my IDXCRM suite.  And when I open my email, I want to be able to turn the sender into a contact and/or log the interaction in the sender’s contact record. (Oprius and a host of others (even TP) do this well if you’d like inspiration..)
  • Need Web Forms:  A lot of us are nichy bloggers who like to generate targeted lead capture articles and pages on the fly. Why not allow us create customizable web forms that feed our LeadStreet database. And while you’re at it, please make sure that when the database is fed, we can set the forms to trigger activity plan or drip email series.
  • For the IDX Front-End Registration Options — Need more flexibility on when registration is prompted, but this isn’t a big deal.  (I framed the LeadStreet Idx module into a couple of highly trafficked sites as tests and was surprised to find that it actually out-converts  Diverse Solutions and seems on par with the solid (but sorry I just can’t linklove) Realtygenerator/MarketLeader search module.
  • Give us wide ranging syndication…or… the ability to “deep link” based on MLS number so that syndication services like ListHub can refer traffic from Trulia/Zillow back to Remax.com listing pages.
  • Want easier setup of contacts for auto-email listing updates. The current process is plain and simply  a slow pain in the arse. This is really pretty key.  I can say with confidence that if there’s one practice any one agent can adopt to significantly to boost their bottom line, it’s setting anyone and everyone they meet up for property updates of some form. (Send your grandma 2 million dollar condos for the heck of it, she’ll refer you her bridge partners.)
  • Need ability to see what properties users view and what searches they perform, not just those that the visitor inquires about. I know this can be sorta accomplished from the reports tab, but this info should be available from within the contact record.
  • Which reminds me..the “Reports” function has to be sped up! I recently initiated a “Contacts with Website Activity History” query,  took a shower, called Philadelphia Water Company, and showed 18 tenant occupied properties before the  page loaded.  Ok, it’s not that bad, but it’s bad. Why even bother teasing us with all that juicy data if it’s barely accessible?

I guess that’s about it from me for now, but others will no doubt have some juicy beefs for the comments?

(And thanks again Eneighborhoods guys for showing interest in feedback. Definitely puts you way ahead of most of your competition…)

6 comments

The Butcher, The Banker, The Candlestickmaker

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but to think that it’s deja vu all over again.  Is it really 1980 again?   Congress appears to have stolen a page from the Conservative’s play book – but with a twist.

It seems trickle-down economics applies as much to government spending as do tax cuts to the rich, yet with the latest infusion of hundreds of billions of dollars poured into the most powerful corporations – America’s largest banks and insurance companies, we have yet to see much of a trickle – less a drop.

TARP did in fact keep the economy dry.

Perhaps the irony of it all – to me at least –  is that the so-called “Socialists” also see virtue in starting at the top – fork over billions to the most powerful to get the engine running again – the proof is not quite in the pudding pie, Georgie.

From my perspective, the deluge is starting at the bottom.  My email has been flooded with comments from my condo association regarding the complications my neighbors are facing in the sale of their condo.  Economic circumstances are hitting very close to home – my neighbors, one of whom is a fellow Realtor – directly below me in my building – is in dire need of selling their home.  Our association has a first right of refusal clause which deems FHA financing impossible.  My neighbor has been soliciting the board and fellow owners that an amendment in our bylaws is required to make the sale of their home possible to more buyers.

I was amazed at some of the comments from fellow neighbors concerned about the “quality” of potential buyers who only qualify for 3.5% down – I could only chuckle thinking that some existing owners were able to buy with 0% down 3 years ago.  Where’s there equity now?

One neighbor argued that we want to prevent a short sale – moreover a foreclosure – from impacting the values of existing homeowners.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t read The Chicago Tribune on Sunday – there was an article about the substantial increase of foreclosures in Chicago.  The article referenced a new 39 units condo conversion project which sits half-empty – just a few blocks walking distance from our building.

I think the term might be epidemic.

What I find interesting is the growing sentiment that American’s resent President Obama’s current program to assist struggling homeowners more directly – why should I have to pay for my neighbor’s poor judgment?  I didn’t do anything wrong?

We’ve been swindled into thinking that bailing out the banks will be our salvation.  I am far more willing to help out my neighbor simply because I see a direct connection to my own well being.

Guess what?  We’re all in the same tub – and the water is draining – quickly.

Why can’t the money bubble up versus trickle down?

All of this reminds me too of how much life imitates art.  I found the history of the nursery rhyme to be so appropriate to the crisis we’re facing today:

It was due to the lack of written material, and more importantly the lack of education for the working class, that the rhymes which we now refer to as nursery rhymes and Mother Goose tales were passed on by word of mouth. It has been suggested that the rhymes, based on the literary styles of composition, were “originally written for the gentry and copied by the ‘folk’ who worked for them, or observed them at their amusements” (Delamar, 2). One can conclude that this is where the term “folk tales” originated, later to become Mother Goose tales and rhymes.

Mary, Mary is quite contrary – her condo just lost 40% of it’s value.  It’s no wonder why Little Boy is so blue.  Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – which job will go?

Hush-a-bye, baby,
in the tree top.
When the wind blows,
the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby,
cradle and all.

Actually – in my case, my neighbor is getting slaughtered, I’m getting burned and the banker is getting coin.

2 comments

The participatory internet is a singularity, not a trend

Referring back to the Boojum under the bed, this is me in email to a Realtor Association executive:

Not to be flip, but I don’t want any group of any sort to do anything at all with social media. The first totally disintermediated business in the history of business is communication. Social media will not work for groups because there are no groups — only individuals. If you approach Web 2.0 as a new way of doing the same old things, you will miss out on everything that is amazing and wonderful and liberating about our world.

This is not a trend. This is a singularity. The old models no longer apply.

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Podcast: Wrapping your mind around dynamic web pages

This is the third and final installment from my conversation Saturday night with Scott Cowan.

In the podcast linked here, Scott and I talk about using PHP to create dynamic web pages.

Why would you want to do this? Mainly you wouldn’t. But working with PHP and a data set, you can manage you ignorance in such a way that you make some pretty smart web pages.

For reference, you might work with the BloodhoundBlog posts headed “Speaking in tongues.”

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Taking little teeny steps toward single-property web sites on little teeny mobile web browsers on little teeny mobile phones

Little Teeny Eyes by Tom Digby

Oh we got a new computer but it’s quite a disappointment
‘Cause it always gave this same insane advice:
“OH YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT
LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY HANDS FOR MILKING MICE.”

So we re-read the instruction book that came with the computer
But it kept on printing crazy stuff that reads
Like: “YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT
LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY SHOES FOR CENTIPEDES.”

So we got an expert genius and he rewrote all the programs
But we always got results that looked like these:
“OH YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT
LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY LICENSE PLATES FOR BEES.”

Then we tested each resistor, every diode and transistor,
But our electronic brain just raves and rants:
“OH YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT
LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE BRANDING IRONS FOR BRANDING ANTS.”

Now we’re looking for a buyer for a crazy mad computer
That will only give out crazy mad advice
Like: “YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT
LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY HANDS FOR MILKING MICE.”

So I got spammed yesterday for yet another piece of vendorslut crap. TextMyMLS.com will send a SMS text message containing details about your listing to a mobile phone-using prospect who requests information from you. The text message can also include photos if the prospect’s phone supports them.

What do the text messages look like. Look up and you will see a demo screen, as seen on my iPhone. That’s 100% to scale, y’all, and, no, you’re not getting old. These message might look good on other devices, but on the iPhone they’re useless.

There’s more, of course. TextMyMLS.com is a stealth lead-capture system. When the prospect “texts” for more information, the TextMyMLS system pages the Realtor with the prospects phone number — which is transmitted without the prospect’s knowledge or consent. In addition to the text about the home, possibly unreadable, the prospect also gets spammed with information about the Realtor. And then, of course, the poor punter is stuck having to fend off sales calls for the next 90 days — the statue of limitations on the Do Not Call list.

I hate all the sleazy stealth stuff, of course, but the other night on the phone, Scott Cowan and I were talking about the need for a satisfying experience of a single-property web site from a mobile phone’s web browser. And last week Richard Riccelli sent me a link to Jacob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox newsletter on mobile browser usability.

Here’s where I am: I’m interested in playing a little to see what it would take to come up with a usable mobile-browser alternative to big-browser web sites. What I would want is to build software (1) to detect the browser on entry, then branch to a different site if a mobile phone browser is detected. The alternate site (2) would use multiple CSS configurations (3) to present the most satisfying user experience for each type of mobile phone browser.

Frankly, steps one and three are pretty easy. It’s building CSS configurations that work with the vastly different screen configurations of mobile phones that will be the challenge.

Even so, I need this. You need this. Everyone in web publishing needs this, but Realtors need it more than most. And by branching off of our existing sites, we can deliver the goods without beclouding our URLs.

So: You feel like playing? I need to know what mobile phone browsers look like. If you have something other than an iPhone (which I already have), can you take yourself to this form? In two quick steps, your phone’s web browser will tell me a ton about itself — with luck enough to distinguish one mobile browser from another.

After I collect a bunch of data, I’ll start conjuring, and I may call upon you again to send me screen shots of test pages so I can see how particular CSS configurations are behaving. In the end, if all this mishegoss works, we’ll have an alternative way of publishing single-property web sites to cell phones.

I won’t snatch and grab phone numbers for you, but I’ll help you build sites that will make your prospects actually want to call you. Surely that’s a better way to forge a relationship.

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Tweet Us Better Mr. Liniger! — When In The World Is RE/MAX International?

Woe is me. I’m feeling rejected, ignored, and well, sorta “LOST.” Where and “When” the heck In the World  is RE/MAX International?….

Denver?

1977?

Here’s the thing. I’ve controlled “Twitter.Com/remax” for over a year now and I still haven’t received one email from somebody at International asking me to forfeit the identity. I expected they’d shut me down due to a corporate policy that stipulates I’m not allowed to use the RE/MAX name online.

I remember that when I grabbed the handle on a lark I was thinking, “well with the popularity of this Twitter thing (whatever it is) I’m sure mother RE/MAX will be in touch soon to snag or perhaps even buy it away by grandfathering me in as a 100 percenter or something”.  Wishful thinking. Nothing happened and I forgot I even owned the identity.

So when I recently noticed I’d been picking up “followers” out of the blue, I decided to lob a few tweets as an experiment of sorts to see what the reaction might be.  I posted mostly recruiting and company website plugs for the RE/MAX I’m currently at, and picked up 70 or so more followers over the span of a few weeks.  But still, no response from the Big Balloon.

The only thanks I got for my effort was my new broker calling a few weeks ago to ask why I had porn on the site.  I guess I’d accidentally followed or reciprocated on a follow request from a Philly area escort service, and a colleague of ours pointed it out to him. I apologized and zapped the pretty lady off of the profile, and that was that.  (At least I think…)

Anyway, I don’t know why, but this Twitter.com/remax thing has really been on my mind a lot lately for some reason. Isn’t Twitter a big enough deal that someone at RE/MAX, maybe even one of my recent RE/MAX colleague followers would have dimed me out to the appropriate department in Denver?  I mean, I think I sorta deserve something for my efforts. Maybe at least rebuke from International for using the corporate name in vain?

You see, I  want to know that the huge flying orb I’ve aligned my career with is hip to all this game changing web 2.0 stuff. And I think RE/MAX Associates wordwide are certainly free to have some doubts about the company’s committment to technology with how badly the super well intentioned but grossly unusable “Lead Street” back-end has been ignored over the past few years?

(RE/MAX friends, please feel free to show your support for this last statement by listing your beefs with the LeadStreet “CRM” in the comments here.)

That said, even if we grant that LeadStreet is really ENeighborhoods’s fault, there’s still this failure to set a good example and at least pretend to adopt this social media stuff!  If RE/MAX doesn’t have or doesn’t feel the need for a social media manager, it’s all good.  (I guess Greg probably approves .)  But I still think they should set an example for their 100k + associates worldwide and at least hook up a respectable Twitter presence. It’d really cost virtually nothing in time or resources.

I mean, come on y’all! Even Twitter.Com/Weichert has 900 or so followers on on 37 tweets.  Yeah, Remax brethren. Yellow-Ass, Balloonless Weichert is hip… and we’re not! (Ok, I guess maybe we shouldn’t feel too bad.  Thriving competitors like Sotheby’s, Era, Coldwell Banker, and C21 are all also missing corporate twitter profiles from what I can tell…)

I guess maybe I’m going a bit long here and could probably cut off my first post as a pup with that last little rip, but man this is just too much fun!

So here’s just a little more…

Open letter to “The Man”

Dear Dave,

I mean… Mr. Liniger Sir,

(I really do think you’re the man despite the ribbing above…)

Allow me to lend a helping hand.

Let me show you how RE/MAX International can spend almost nothing and help its franchisees recruit hundreds, maybe thousands of nervous Realogy-heads while spurring on a modest, though profitable spike in traffic to corporate web projects like remaxbeta.com.

Step 1. Smack me down and claim Twitter.Com/REMAX. It’s yours–email me for the password, login, and take control. I’m too nervous to really use it anyway.

Step 2. Tie the “Dave’s Blogstreet” feed to your new Twitter Profile using a service like twitterfeed.com.  For better or worse, more syndication will make you more famous (as I’m guessing I’m about to find out firsthand.)

Step 3.  Every morning have your secretary tweet this: “JoinRemax.Com. We Cool, and We Ain’t Got Bankruptcy Rumors”.  Thousands of nervous realogy Twitterers will find the controversial link.  I’m guessing a good number will happily jump on the balloon after realizing they’ve spent years being pimped out for ridiculously low commission splits.

Step 4. Tweet something weekly like: “Psst.  Peep RemaxBeta.Com. What do you think? Pretty hot eh?” Even use proper English if you’d like. Just be sure to link back to a RE/MAX Web entity early and often. The resulting traffic from promoting RE/MAX related sites will eventually translate to a bunch of 1% blips for international. Trust me, this stuff just works.  And the bigger you are, the more profitable 140 characters a day is likely to become.

Step 5. And now that you’re having fun, please forget about Twitter. It’s primarily a time waster for most of us, and really isn’t worth any more of your attention. Dare I even say you can delegate the tweets to a pretty Denver twit (er..er..?)  Instead, buy a ticket to Phoenix and head to Unchained for the good stuff in late April. We’ll all be psyched to meet you there.  You’ll be an honored guest amongst this merry band of bawldguys, wanna-be vendorsluts, and  hacker bloodhounds!

(Man that was a whole lotta fun! Thanks Greg, for the opportunity…)

23 comments

Adding a new hound to the pound: Introducing Ryan Hartman

Ryan Hartman has been a fun and fascinating voice in our comments for a long time. My error was that I was too stupid to invite him to join us as a contributor. I corrected this defect yesterday, and Ryan joins us today.

His biographical sketch is simply incomparable, so I will quote it in its entirety:

Ryan dropped out of a Philly college and started selling real estate at age 19 in 1998.  He invested pretty much all of the GCI he earned in his early 20’s on beer, mushrooms, and florida. Then a wife and some kids showed up, so he figured out a way to “settle down” by replacing  7 day Realtor work weeks with lead-generation/blogging/tech-type gigs at a few local RE/MAX offices.

The man is wicked smart and a very fun read. We’re lucky to have him among us.

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Podcast: Building your own custom engenu skins

This is the second installment from my conversation Saturday night with Scott Cowan.

In the podcast linked below, we discuss the procedure to be followed in order to build your own custom engenu skin.

What’s a “skin”? It’s simply the visual theme for a particular engenu installation. If you work with the default engenu skin, your sites will look like this one. But here is that same site on our weblog devoted to historic and architecturally distinctive Phoenix homes. And here it is on our main Phoenix real estate web site. The same HTML code is used at each site. The difference in the way the pages appear is inherited from the skin.

In the course of the discussion, I reference a BloodhoundBlog post on page geometry. It might be worth you while revisiting that page during the podcast.

If we get very lucky, Cheryl Johnson will listen to this podcast and translate it into more-helpful instructions.

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15 comments

As the NAR makes its first forays into the participatory internet, wired Realtors must get a handle on a very difficult question: How do you get rid of the Boojum under the bed?

Okay, so the National Association of Realtors has made a big deal out of its search for a “Social Media Director.” Apparently I’m the only person who finds the terms “social media” and “director” to be inherently self-contradictory, but that doesn’t matter anyway.

Why? Because the NAR is interested in social media for two reasons only, neither of which will resonate with anyone in our world.

Their two objectives are these:

First — and primarily — they want to clamp down on and control everything associated with real estate in the participatory internet. Dinosaur organizations are censorious by their nature, but the NAR is very much like the Mafia in its need to control its message, silencing dissenters and whistle-blowers.

Second, the NAR wants to turn the Web 2.0 world into yet another distribution channel for treacly, sleazy sales propaganda.

I never thought of Pinocchio as a wise-guy before, but it comes to the same thing. You can’t get too near The Boys without becoming one of them, and if you lend any part of your credibility — your reputation for moral probity — to the NAR, it will turn you into yet another insipid, perpetually-smiling marionette. Dance, puppet, dance!

I think this might be a three princes fable. If it is, the first prince may well be Todd Carpenter, who for some insane reason actually wants this job. At least he had better want it, because he gave me as a character reference and I gave him a glowing review. If the NAR actually understands its world and ours, my recommendation should have worked the other way for Todd. But my impression was that they ate it up.

Prince number two is NAR CEO Dale Stinton, who has announced that the new Social Media Director has already been chosen, but who won’t reveal who is the poor benighted soul who will get to be torn to shreds by both the lady and the tiger, never knowing for sure which is which.

I don’t actually know who the third prince is, but for the moment I’m betting on me. I abhor the whole idea of leadership, but serving as the leader of an inescapably leaderless movement has its appeal. And it is by now obvious to me that no one else is willing to take on the role.

That’s as may be. The big news, for me, about the Stintion non-announcement announcement, is this: The real announcement will be made at REBarCamp Virginia on March 3.

Give yourself a moment to gnaw on that. By refusing every attempt at definition, the entire BarCamp movement is as poorly defended as a tribe of pre-Columbian paleo-Americans coming into contact with a boatload of syphilitic Spaniards — but still…

If we go to their dipshit events, we’re taking our chances. Just don’t sleep with the smirking marionettes! But for REBarCamp to invite the NAR into its own bed — that’s just disgusting.

“Oh, but Greg! You don’t understand! Dale Stinton really gets it!”

You bet he does. He understands perfectly — as the NAR always has — that the best way to recruit new marionettes is to charm them into tying on their own strings, voluntarily.

If Dale Stinton “gets it,” where is he? A week or two ago, I gave Stefan Swanepoel a couple of swats over his new countdown of allegedly important real estate trends. The second-most import trend, per Swanepoel, is the participatory internet. Yet the man is nowhere to be found in the comments thread. I gave him a beautiful opening to come here and defend his book — what would David Gibbons have done? — but what do we hear? Nothing but silence.

Every time you turn around, you hear someone being touted as a social media guru — except for the part about their knowing nothing whatever about how to live in our world. Stinton, Swanepoel, Brad Inman… I could go on all day. They all live in the dinosaur world, and they all want dress up in camouflage and pretend to live in our world.

That much is to be expected. You either get it — really get it — or you don’t. If you don’t, then everything is just another trend, just another fad, just another chance to hustle the rubes by pretending to be one of them. And yet when someone really makes it all the way into our world, there is no mistaking the radical changes in the way they go about everything.

So how will we be able to tell if someone in the NAR really gets it? I would look for something like this: A Twitter emission reading, “I just quit my leadership position at the NAR. Can you folks ever forgive me?” An honest mafioso is an ex-mafioso. There is no middle ground.

And all of that matters to me not at all. The destiny of all dinosaurs is to become very prosperous ant colonies. The question that matters is this one:

What about us?

I personally keep everything at arm’s length — even things I like — because I never want to seem to stand in support of some evil by failing to have stood against it. But the barbarians are at REBarCamp’s gates — not arrayed for battle but dressed for the party to which they have been invited as guests.

If you just said, “Ew!” — you know exactly what I’m talking about.

This essay might be a smidgen short on literary metaphors, so I’ll kick up one more: It was you who put the Boojum under the bed. You conjured it into existence, and then you gave it all its fearsome powers, giving yourself the corresponding fears. And it doesn’t matter how many clever traps you set for it. It’s too clever to be caught. But there it is, under the bed every night, night after night, waiting for you to let your guard down for just a second…

So here’s the question for the wired world of Realtors as the NAR lays its plans for taking over our world:

How do you get rid of the Boojum under the bed?

The answer is childishly simple: You grow out of it.

It not just because of the participatory internet that we are what we are. We embrace the ethics of the Web 2.0 world because we held those ethics before the Web 2.0 idea existed. Or rather, the wired world as we know it exists because people very much like us brought it into existence as the realization of their own moral ideals. In short, the geeks are inheriting the earth.

Our objective is not to fight off the NAR — raging dinosaurs and snarling marionettes and undead ghouls with really big hair. All we need to do is to supplant it by eclipsing it — by every criterion that matters to consumers.

Do you see? All we have to do is become so much better at delivering the product that mere Realtors will be seen as second rate and the Realtor brand will become the imprimatur of inferior quality.

I feel bad for the BarCampers, but, in the end, none of this matters. If the new Social Media Underboss really is Todd Carpenter, I hope he has sense enough to quit before his face freezes like that, but that’s his lookout. All we have to do is keep doing what we’ve been doing — and keep getting better at it — and the Boojum under the bed will be gone forever.

13 comments

Podcast: Installing engenu on multiple domains

Linked below is a recording of a conversation Scott Cowan and I had last night about installing engenu on multiple domains.

Cliff’s Notes: Each domain needs its own copies of the engenu folder and the engenuComponents folder, including a separate copy of engenupageDex.bin. The advantage is that each different domain can have its own unique appearance, and each domain can have a separate password, so you can limit how much of your world you share with colleagues.

We also talked last night about how to build an engenu skin from a standing CSS style. I’ll upload that podcast tomorrow.

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2 comments

Here’s my question for Obama: How can you have a cult of personality when you don’t have any personality to begin with?

Now this is a lovable public figure:

Why should I be alone in wasting my Sunday morning? Obamicon.me.

9 comments

Changing Your Own Hi-Tech Oil — Who Cares? — Is There A Skinned Cat Or Not?

Greg’s post earlier today prompted me to respond via post rather than comment. He made some superb points, and one or two for which we’ll have to agree to disagree. He quoted me from my earlier post:

If you honestly believe your income is higher with you spending time changing your own hi-tech oil, then continue along that path — it’s obviously working for you. On the other hand, if you think putting yourself in front of 50 more serious prospects a year might be more productive for your bottom line, AND that would make you happy, you may want to modify your approach.

He said it was a false dichotomy.

It’s not a false dichotomy at all. We disagree on the basic satanic nature of vendors as a species. My car for example is easily more complex than most, and I don’t have a clue how to service it, including changing its oil. (Though I’ve changed oil on many of my previous cars.) I simply found the right guys to call. They service it while I drive one of their cars. I don’t have much down time. The same vendor has been servicing the car since summer of ’04 with spectacular results, and at a very fair price.

His second point is well taken, and we don’t disagree. As my post indicated, I’m a hi-tech marketing Kool-Aid drinker. Anything producing six figures annually has my full enthusiastic endorsement. But I compare it to the concept car. It’s cool, but it ain’t here yet, at least to the degree Greg and others predict. It’s not that I don’t think he’s correct, I do. It’s that it’s not producing the volume now that it surely will in the future.

Meanwhile, as Chris said so well in his comment, I’m using what works. And all debate aside, I’ll get belly2belly with more folks/year and do more deals 1.0 than most 2.0 practitioners do in three years. Are there some exceptions out there? Of course, there always are. Good on ’em because they’re demonstrating what’s possible. But current reality shows bottom lines aren’t being impacted in a major way via internet quite yet — regardless of where consumers are starting their searches.

Based upon empirically visible results, agents changing their own hi-tech oil has been nothing short of Amateur Night at the local theatre. Their results, generally speaking, are inferior if not pathetic. Greg’s advice takes them out of that pit of failure. Unchained helps agents spectacularly, if they’ll listen and apply. Learning from that faculty is infinitely more productive than most of the self taught nonsense we see out there. If I was gonna take the ‘do it myself’ path, I’d be camped out at Unchained’s doorstep.

I’m not a marketing specialist in either 1.0 or 2.0. I find out what works, find the best guy I can, and let him do his thing. As long as doing his thing produces more belly2belly, I’m a happy camper. Notice I included 1.0 when seeking a consultant.

One of the most productive vehicles I’ve used has been local direct mail. I tried it via book learnin’ but failed miserably. When I finally threw in the towel and paid for an expert’s advice, my efforts produced an average of low-mid five figures in closed transaction dollars for each letter. In the last 20 years, three of ’em produced six figures.

I called the guy.

The cost? Relative to the superior results they get compared to my pitiful efforts, a drop in the bucket literally. This year my total outlay for hi-tech work/advice will easily be less than $10,000. So not only do I get superior results, I’m also not spending hundreds of hours a year producing inferior results. I win every way — time, money, closed escrows.

I still maintain though, that if folks love doing the tech stuff they should keep doing it. If it makes ’em happy, why stop? Unchained would be the perfect catalyst for taking their marketing efforts to the next level. Hell, they’ll probably skip a level or two there.

What floats my boat is having more time to hang more skinned cats. Not spending what might have been off time screwin’ around with my laptop when I could be doing whatever else I’d prefer. It’s not the hi-tech or online marketing I don’t like — I love what they produce for me. The synergy often produced by yoking 1.0 to 2.0 has been wonderful for my bottom line. What I don’t like is having to reinvent the wheel every time I want something done. I don’t wanna get a degree in Geekatude. I’m happy with that, and have always been.

I’m not a Renaissance man, don’t aspire to be one, and don’t think that’s a character flaw. 🙂 I admire those who are — I’m glad they’re happy doing everything themselves.

Me? I’ll forever remain a ‘Call the Guy’ sorta guy. So if you have the budget to spend on experts, you may fall in love not only with the financial results, but the extra time spent doing things on the other side of life’s ledger.

Imagine what life could be like if you ‘Called the Guy’ so you didn’t have to:

  • Take your own photos on every single listing.
  • Stage all your listings yourself.
  • Constantly mess with SEO issues and general web problems.
  • Coordinate your own transactions because of your control issues. 🙂
  • Build your stand alone listing websites.
  • Create or reinvent your own CRM/database program.
  • I could go on, but you get it. The boogeyman used by the Renaissance crowd is the cost, plus how demonic ‘The Guy’ surely will be. After all, they’re there to suck you dry, as I’ve read so many times.

    This really boils down to a couple very simple truths.

    If you have a financial choice and opt for Greg’s route, and it makes you happy, then I’m genuinely happy for you. If that’s your reality, missing Unchained in my opinion, is a huge mistake. The reason I’ve been a charter member of the ‘Call the Guy’ club is because it makes me happy. I do more business because I have more time to do what I do so well. More time to actually have more belly2belly meetings. More time to prospect, analyze, put out fires, and the rest of the activities that actually contribute directly to hanging up more skinned cats on my very furry wall.

    Oh, and for the record, the way my firm markets local listings is based, no, totally copied from Greg’s procedure. It’s the best I’ve seen in nearly 40 years. The difference is, I don’t do any of the actual work for most of the steps. 🙂

    There’s no right or wrong here. It’s all about what makes you happiest. Have a good one.

    4 comments

    In the world of internet marketing, Realtors and lenders have to know how to solve their own on-line marketing problems

    Cathleen encouraged me to take exception to Jeff Brown’s most recent post, and, by the time I was done, I had a whole new post.

    Quoting from Jeff:

    If you honestly believe your income is higher with you spending time changing your own hi-tech oil, then continue along that path — it’s obviously working for you. On the other hand, if you think putting yourself in front of 50 more serious prospects a year might be more productive for your bottom line, AND that would make you happy, you may want to modify your approach.

    This is a false dichotomy.

    First, you do not have to change your own oil, so to speak, but if you don’t know how to change your own oil, you are at the mercy of every money-hungry automobile service writer on the planet.

    Second, assiduous hi-tech marketing, going forward, is the best path to belly-to-belly appointments. This could our best year ever in volume of sides (not, alas, volume of dollars), and much of it — and all of the multi-home buyers — came from our web presence. There is room to be impressed by lo-tech success stories, but the two details left out are these: Buyers and sellers are increasingly shopping on-line, and the cost-per-conversion of old-school lo-tech marketing is comparatively very high. It’s not how much you make, it’s how much makes it all the way home.

    Third, as should be obvious from everything I talk about, the kinds of chores Realtors and lenders need to keep a fat thumb on are those that would be too costly, too onerous or too error-prone if done by vendors.

    As an example: Cathy and I made more than 1,400 engenu pages last year. The end result is work product that was done faster and made a much better impression on our clients than trying to communicate by other means. This stuff knocks the socks off clients, which I consider to be our most important sales function in everything we do. But those pages also put 1,400 new, permanent breadcrumbs on the web, so that other clients can find us in the future. As against twittering or making phone calls or handing out business cards at the Circle K, in servicing our existing clients, we “prospected” passively and blindly — but in perpetuity and with no additional effort — for any number of future clients.

    Now here’s the cool part, which I talked about in Seattle: Late last year, I decided I wanted to make a change to each one of those 1,400 pages. I wanted to add my “Phoenix Area Headlines” scenius.net scene to each one of those pages. This would serve to make them seem to be dynamic to search engines, which would get them indexed more often, giving each one of those pages more search engine “juice.”

    Surely that’s a worthy objective. But if we had to pay to have it done, we could not have afforded it. Nor could you, nor could anyone smaller than a company big enough to pay a full-time body to do nothing else for six weeks — not counting breaks, sick days and goofing around on the internet.

    So I changed my own oil. I wrote a little spider in PHP to traverse my entire web server, domain by domain, looking for particular files and editing them, all by software. I don’t remember how long it took, but it was just a few minutes, maybe an hour total, allowing for my time to write the spider.

    I don’t recommend that most people learn to write software — though some should, and I worked at bit with Scott Cowan on this in Seattle. But if there are jobs you should be doing, but cannot because the cost to have them done is prohibitive, you need to learn to work my way. Real estate professionals have a publishing problem. Going forward, what is going to matter most is creating the content your clients will need in a timely, efficient and economical fashion.

    We know that we are moving from push to pull marketing. If push-based practitioners continue to prosper, good on ’em. But the future belongs to Realtors and lenders who figure out how to maximize their investment in pull marketing. This does not imply that you don’t meet people. All sales is belly-to-belly. But it does imply that, no matter what we might want or hope for, new business is going to be developed on the internet, not by old school tactics.

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    9 comments

    Obama’s housing rescue plan won’t rescue housing, but it will delay the eventual recovery of the real estate market

    This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

     
    Obama’s housing rescue plan won’t rescue housing, but it will delay the eventual recovery of the real estate market

    President Barrack Obama came to Mesa Wednesday to announce his new housing initiative. The location made for good political theater, given that metropolitan Phoenix is one of the hardest-hit real estate markets.

    The president promises millions of refinanced or renegotiated mortgages, at a price tag of $275 billion. The putative beneficiaries are homeowners, who may be able to negotiate their monthly payments down to less than 30% of their monthly incomes. But it is the lenders who will cash in, if the Obama plan works.

    How’s that? Obama is hoping to shove a floor under still-declining home prices. Lenders will take a hit on millions of reformulated mortgages, but the hope is that this will save them even more money, in the long run, by stemming the rising tide of foreclosures.

    In other words, the Obama plan is a price-support scheme. The market argues right now that homes are overpriced — which in turn suggests that the available supply of homes substantially exceeds existing demand.

    That’s important. Prices for premium-quality homes are very low, and interest rates are still hovering at historic lows. Mortgage money is easily available to owner-occupants, and Fannie Mae just loosened its standards for rental-home investors. Even so, the number of homes being offered for sale at current prices still exceeds the number of buyers willing to pay those prices.

    In reality, prices need to continue to drop until demand matches or eclipses supply. It wouldn’t hurt to convert some housing to other uses, or simply to tear it down altogether.

    But forcing an arbitrary floor under prices is unlikely to have happy consequences. Despite his rhetoric, Obama’s plan can only reward our economy’s wasteful grasshoppers, at the expense of its thrifty ants. A price-support will serve to delay recovery, since it will do nothing to solve the supply and demand problem. And, as the worst of all foreseeable consequences, a price-support plus the $8,000 tax credit from last week’s stimulus bill could fuel new building — adding even more supply to an already over-built real estate market.

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    11 comments

    What’s the best way to deliver the Heap-specific universal contact form? With a Heap-specific form, of course.

    I’m not too dumb, I’m sure. Just dumb enough. When I released the Heap-specific version of the universal contact form, for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I could build a version of the form to deliver the product.

    This omission I do hereby correct:

    If you want a copy of the Heap-specific universal contact form — guess what? Fill out the form:

    < ?PHP $ch = curl_init(); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, "http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/SendTheFormForm.php"); curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, 0); curl_exec($ch); curl_close($ch); ?>

    It’s a pure geek thrill, but everything that happens after this is automated via Heap, untouched by human hands…

    But I am always a sucker for the implications of my epiphanies, howevermuch they might be delayed.

    So: This kind of thing would be ideal for that “Send for our free Relocation Guide” appeal.

    Brian: Sign up for our free on-line webinar and find your way into our database funnel. And after the event, as the first of many, many touches, we’ll send you a free link to an iPod-ready version of the webinar so you can review the material while you work out.

    By linking a PayPal button with a smart email client, I’m thinking you’ve got a hands-free on-line business using Heap. You can bet I’ll be playing with all of Unchained’s PayPal buttons.

    I know there are walls we’re going to run into with Heap. Some we’ll surmount by being clever, but others are going to require growth in the feature set of the product. But I like the games I’m able to play so far.

    4 comments

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