Friday Flash: The broken down lead machine

I get into mental wrestling matches with myself, grabbing onto different parts of an idea or argument to bend it one way or another so I can reach a conclusion.

It usually ends in a draw. As I get older I get less certain about things.

But I think I’ve finally pinned a couple issues down:

  1. If you’re a broker with greater than 10% share in your market, you should seriously consider ditching IDX.
  2. Our industry’s reliance on listings as the catalyst for online lead generation generally has stifled creativity, perpetuated unproductive controversy, and sustained lots of lame agents.

What do big listing brokerages get from IDX?

  • A seriously compromised presentation of properties.
  • A raft of local competitors drafting on their listings.
  • Large paper brokers who leverage them with impunity.
  • A relatively small number of web leads agents will probably drop the ball on anyway.


What might a big listing brokerage get without IDX?

  • Freedom to merchandize listings online in a manner unconstrained by MLS rules and every other broker’s crappy photos. Something like this that captivates buyers, impresses prospective sellers and beats the pants off any portal display.
  • Greater control over their inventory and brand experience. Any listing inquires get responded to their way.
  • More in-house deals. There, I said it. Whatever any given brokerage’s position is on this touchy subject, it’s their business, their listing, their decision. We have agency laws. Honor them.
  • The chance to deal a swift kick in the gut to the friendly neighborhood paper broker.

To my second point – that relying on online listings display to drive online lead-gen has been counterproductive across the board – I put forth the following observations:

First of all, it doesn’t work very well. After 20 years of online listings, not more than 10% (at the high end) of buyer clients begin as an “online lead”. The NAR stats are pretty clear on this.

Sure, Zillow delivers great results for a significant number of agents. But let’s remember – contrary to what you read here and elsewhere – that Zillow is hardly the end-all, be-all of the online marketing world in real estate.

It’s also worth considering that Zillow had no active listings for the first year and a half of its existence. They built an audience of millions of consumers on other content. One wonders if there isn’t a way for the smart people over there to revisit that notion and come up with a play that unburdens them from the industry controversy that surrounds listings once and for all.

Second, there’s been a huge opportunity cost to focusing on listings/home search as the lead machine. All of the money spent on IDX sites, all of the money paid for leads that convert at 2-3%, the endless argument over who can display what… what else could we have been doing with our collective time and money?


Better digital seller farming. Better post-close/loyalty marketing. Marketing driven by content that’s hard to produce and allows sharp agents and brands to rise to the top.

But instead, we have hundreds of thousands of agents and brokers scurrying after bazillions of duplicate, crappy web leads generated off IDX or portal listings like park pigeons fighting over Cheerios.

Seems like we could do better.

There are lots of nuances to all of this I can’t cover here. Lots of case studies that run counter to what I’ve just said.

But that’s what I think when I step off the mat.

Enjoy the weekend.