Friday Flash: Command and control

If you do marketing for a real estate brokerage or franchise brand, you work with one hand tied behind your back.

You shuck, you jive, you hedge, you throw verbal knuckleballs, you skirt specificity and keep everything you do in soft focus.

This isn’t because you’re dumb.

It’s because you operate in a world where making promises is nearly impossible.

Real estate has an arm’s length structure – “independently owned and operated” offices and contractor agents. There’s no command and control.

What can you promise about service delivery when you can’t tell anyone what to do?

When can you give an assurance of quality when you know a non-trivial number of agents at your company are either learning on the job or simply bad?

How can you champion a singular way of doing business when every agent and every office manager approaches the transaction differently?

Finding the sliver of difference or crumb of customer experience you can actually own is really, really hard.

This has always been the case, but the stakes are higher now. A new wave of competition is presenting promises that are pretty darn compelling if you’re a consumer:

Redfin: “Paid to put you first.”

Opendoor: “Get an offer on your home with the press of a button.”

Zillow Instant offers: “No prep, no waiting, no uncertainty.”

OfferPad: “Click. Sold. Move.”

These companies control the experiences they deliver.

So, I’m not sure if things like Keller Williams’ announcement of a $1 billion technology fund to combat disruption, or many brokers’ scramble to turn agents into lead-scarfing production monkeys is really the key to a sustainable future.

It’s more fundamental than technology, and, believe it or not, harder.

I don’t understand why competent agents get worked up about inaccurate Zestimates. I have always thought the Zestimate was god’s gift to the agent value proposition. Imagine, conversely, what a pinpoint-accurate Zestimate would mean for pros.

We may find out. Zillow launched a data science contest to improve the Zestimate a couple months back. They’ve offered a $1 million prize. So far, there are over 2,500 competitors.

Be careful what you wish for.

Rooting around my hard drive the other day, I turned up a slide deck from 2007 titled “Top 50 online ways to market real estate.” It was created by Jamie Glenn, then VP of Product at Trulia. He presented it an Inman and then shared it online.

Quite the trip down memory lane. Remember Google Base?

What really struck me, though, is how little has changed. There are a bunch of tools for merchandizing properties, a bunch of places to promote properties, some web presence options and a few social networks.

Just a reminder that while we talk about change a lot, things mostly don’t change.

You can download the deck here.

Techcrunch headline:

Thirstie is powering on-demand delivery for Dom Pérignon

There’s no bubble, just bubbly.

Enjoy the weekend!