For brokers, a fork in the road

Trulia announced the launch of an ad network today, a collection of sites on which real estate brokers and others interested in reaching home buyers can place targeted advertising. It’s a first, and an overdue one at that.

Last week, John L. Scott announced that they have purchased a small technology company to accelerate its in-house technology development. The company has also steadfastly withheld its listings from syndication across the Web.

Kudos to both companies for aggressively seizing on two key trends — in Trulia’s case, the flight from print real estate advertising and, for JLS, a movement among brokers to gain greater control of their future, which is increasingly tied to the online opportunity.

Brokers have been feeling around in the dark when it comes to the web for some time now. But these two developments cast some light on the strategic options:

a.) Ride the SEO savvy, traffic, user experience and reach of an online partner like Trulia to extend your brand and engage consumers online at very low cost.


b.) Do what it takes to create these aptitudes internally, leveraging IDX, Web 2.0 apps, and the IT and development efficiencies now available to build your own site into a leading consumer destination in your market or markets.

The best choice? I can’t say. What makes sense for your competitor may not make sense for you. But I can list some of the questions you may consider in getting to a conclusion. I’m missing some for sure: My point is to help you reach a decision that needs to be made.

In consideration of a syndication/online ad network strategy:

  1. Does a potential syndication partner bring me an audience I am not already reaching?
  2. Is my brand well served by the content, user experience and brand equity of the syndication partner?
  3. Exactly what stands between me and the consumer on the syndication partner’s site?
  4. Is sending my listings or ad dollars to a Website supporting the growth of a potential competitor, or riding the coattails of an established media property?
  5. Am I — is my brand — diminished by putting my inventory on other people’s shelves?

In consideration of a destination strategy:

  1. Do I, and the people that work for me, have the knowledge and skill required to support an effort to make our Website a top destination for home buyers and sellers in our market?
  2. Am I committed to re-org my communications and marketing departments to move from executing or managing vendors who perform old tasks (e.g., Issuing press releases, supporting agents with print collateral) to new ones (e.g., blogging, video production, SEO).
  3. Do I have, or can I find, technology staff and trusted vendors who can create an online experience that is competitive with the top online players?
  4. Can I sell the vision internally to managers, agents, and staff?

Most brokers remain in a dangerous stasis, floating in suspension amid kinetic innovation. It’s time to move. Look outward or inward, but do press forward.

Brian Boero