As 2008 winds down, the news continues to distill fear, confusion, and sepulchral predictions for 2009.
No doubt, there will be challenges in the coming year. But so what? When aren’t there challenges? Since I’ve been working inside this industry (1998), I’ve seen it face off with plenty. For the most part, minus a few scars, a few bumps, grinds and stammers, it has remained intact.
The 1990’s. The birth of online real estate moved the industry through the three stages of Schopenhauer’s truth. First it ridiculed the Web. Mocked it as folly. Then it violently opposed it, buckling at times over fear of disintermediation. But then, self-evidence took hold. Acceptance.
In 1999, only 20% of real estate agents had websites. By early 2001 that number quadrupled.
The 21st century. First half of this decade. The stock market dove. Dot-coms tanked. This presented the industry with a golden opportunity — and plenty of challenges — as a real estate gold rush brought hundreds of thousands of new Realtor miners to its banks armed with pans, picks, cradles, hydraulic hoses and a lust for commission riches. Once again, real estate endured. The best invested in their businesses amid the craziness. Enhanced their brands. Made every effort to secure market share before the river would, inevitably, run dry.
The 21st century. The latter half of this decade. Today. A weak economy. A confused consumer. The pending death of traditional marketing. Bloated brokerages engorged with needless operating expenses burdened by agent overpopulation and ridiculous splits. And no clue how to end them. Yikes!
The most nimble among you shift. Adapt. Discover, as this 39-year veteran has, that new opportunities are not hidden in some dimly-lit corner. They abound. Evidently clear. And ripe for the picking.
Real estate’s greatest folly is the truth Schopenhauer spoke of. And the time it wastes dabbling in doubt and opposition to new ideas and processes. Some, such as David Schubb, the veteran agent above, proved how adapting early is the key to success during down times. He is busier and more successful than ever. Brokers like Benn and Lani Rosales proved that embracing Web 2.0 early could help build a new age brokerage and launch a successful new media enterprise.
Older firms like Windermere uprooted themselves from the depths of tradition, bonsaied their online presence, and forged a nimble approach to tomorrow.
New companies like Sawbuck proved the viability of the virtual brokerage.
I decided not to make a top 10 list of ideas or predictions because there are so many other writers who have beat me to the punch. Maybe I’ll just publish a top 10 list of the best top 10 lists in real estate.
I also have no interest in making predictions this time around. I’d rather offer a few simple things I think will get help you find your way through next year.
- Sharpen your efforts to communicate your value. Dispense with the old cliches and try speaking with a real voice that tells truths. Discard slogans like “I deliver dreams” unless you can actually enter your clients’ sleep and choreograph them each and every night. Seth Godin published this gem not too long ago. It’s one of those posts that should be printed and taped to your computer. Question every bit of copy you write. “Now is the right time to buy” may be a truth but if you don’t back it up with compelling reasons, it will fall on deaf ears. Back up what you say with a showcase of your knowledge. Denny does that one way here. Noah does it a completely different way here. Both work. How are you doing it?
- Get critical on your website’s ass. Ask yourself one question: “Does my website address the needs, the fears, the concerns of my users and correspond directly to what is happening in the marketplace?” We’ve seen too many sites with happy go lucky images that feel, look, and read in a way completely disconnected from the world outside. Why appear oblivious, insensitive and out of touch if you don’t have too? Real estate is our economic ground zero. Do not be afraid to confront it. You can do truth without being negative. I continue to love how PMZ posts real market trends on their home page. Creating content and copy that resonates with the times, tells the truth and builds trust is the best move you can make in ’09.
- Perform a full vendor audit. Big brokers: You could be overspending hundreds of thousands of dollars needlessly with legacy vendors providing expensive and dated applications, content, data, advertising and services that can and should be negotiated down and/or replaced with newer, and better, options. Long-time vendor partners who have failed to lift the hood on their product, overhaul it and provide you a better price with better service are basically telling you they don’t care much about their own business. How much could they care about yours? There are some great vendors out there. And APIs that can replace expensive components on your site. And tactics you can easily employ that can save you tens of thousands on needless SEO expenses and drive traffic and, dare I say – leads – to your firm. How deeply have you investigated these opportunities?
- Increase your use of social media. And more effectively manage your current efforts here. The agent posing with the dog of yesteryear who Twitters about their dog today is simply broadcasting the same shallow, meaningless message. There are some fabulous ways to use new media but this requires a re-education about how to broadcast your value and your brand. I continue to recommend what Tracey has done with video. Others outside the industry, such as Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, have used new media well. Be different. Get more creative. Talk with people rather than at them. Amid all the blogging and Twittering, how about offering one solid, comprehensive benefit to working with your firm that anchors your reason for being. Promoting your brand is one thing. Building it, expanding on its value, is quite another. Post less. Make every word you write worthy of quotation.
That’s that for that.
As for 1000watt…
2009 is year two for our firm. In 2008 we worked with some smart folks who won Innovator Awards, released ground breaking products and altered real estate in positive ways. Some were start ups. Some were large, established media companies. Some were brokerage companies, MLSs or associations.
All of them have one thing in common: They are not standing still.
The reason I bring this up is too offer you an alternative to the depressing news and tunnel vision it can cause. These firms and others are aware of the times, but are surging forward nevertheless, committed to not shutting their lights, not closing their doors, not cowering in the corner and not giving up.
Our association with them fuels our optimism.
Recently, Brian and I participated in a “fireside chat” hosted by one of our clients. They regularly invite their agents and agents at competing firms to talk about things meaningful and inspirational. One participant questioned the notion of transparency and believed in guarding her knowledge so it would not be stolen by others in the business.
1000watt believes otherwise. Presenting your knowledge, wearing it out in the open is the way of the future. Today’s consumer rely on it. The next generation of customers will demand it. We have been deeply committed to this ourselves. Give and you get. That works for us.
Currently, we are working on a new 1000watt site. We’re sticking with a simple, clean look, more white space and a few more features. We are planning to redo our newsletter and putting the final touches on a few new content offerings we hope you will like.
We’re getting lots of invitations to speak at association events and know that many of our readers have been recommending us. Thank you for that. Maybe I’m old fashioned but spending an extra hour after a speech answering questions as I did at Triple Play two weeks ago in Atlantic City, or enjoying a meal with attendees as I did at a conference in Bermuda a few months back offers me privileges Twitter and Facebook will never grant me. I am grateful for that.
On behalf of Brian and I, have a peaceful, special holiday time. We are both shutting down as of tomorrow and getting back to the things most precious in our lives: Our families and our well being.
After New Years, we are off to Connect in NYC where 1000+ people from all walks of this industry gather in one place to learn, to give, to meet, and to partner with one another.
Finally, we have triggered a few vintage posts to auto publish while we’re gone. They are some of our faves from the early days, when we had few readers.
We look forward to coming back refreshed, rekindled and ready to help you kick ass.