Get busy getting your freak on

I’m back from a busy few days in New York at Inman’s Real Estate Connect. As always, the Inman team put on a fantastic event.  And the week played out through lots of great conversations, both in the lobby of the hotel and over dinners with good friends – some old and some new.

One of last week’s highlights was Classified AdVentures’ Property Portal Watch workshop, which was run in conjunction with the Inman show. Ably moderated by Simon Baker, the workshop brought together representatives from over 60 portals in more than 20 countries.

A mini United Nations of real estate, if you will.

The discussion veered in many directions over the course of the day, but it was in an early presentation made by a gentleman from Hemnet, the leading real estate site in Sweden, that we first came across the “Freaks.”

The freaks in this case are “Hemnet Freaks.” Self-anointed, they form the core of the site’s most passionate users. Their intense attachment to Hemnet spills over into the real world, culminating in meetups and even road trips.

This idea really stuck with me.

Let’s face it: as marketers, we all would love to have our own freaks.

How do you find a freak?

During the workshop, Brian and I made a brief presentation on the user experience (UX) trends we see affecting real estate websites in the coming year.

The slides are embedded below.

In case you missed it, our riff went something like this:

Everyone has the listings these days. We have IDX and listings syndication to thank for that. And increasingly, everyone has the data too – companies like Altos Research, TrendGraphix and Onboard Infomatics all make that possible.

So to truly differentiate yourself, you need to be thinking beyond listings and data.

UX is one way we believe you can sustainably differentiate yourself amongst a sea of look-alike competitors in your marketplace. Simply put – UX is the culmination of decisions you’ve made that ultimately determines how your user ends up feeling about your site and brand.

It starts with a clear definition of your brand, and then extends through every touchpoint where you connect with consumers.

It is manifest through the choices you make around architecture and design of your site.

It is clear in the tone you adopt in your copy, and even the font you choose to present it. (Brian talks about the real estate content goldmine you all sit on. Why aren’t you using it?)

It is amplified by the tools you choose to take your message to market: social media, email marketing, even print and other offline advertising.

Do all of these things well. Do them all consistently and you build more than a great website – you’ll create a great experience. Do that and you might be able to find your own freaks.