Lies I told myself

It’s not like I lie to myself on purpose. It’s just, as a human, I tend to have some beliefs ingrained in my mind that I don’t question much until a conversation comes along that jars my thinking.

A few big themes have swirled around real estate since my first days in the industry 17 years ago. They are: disruption, technological progress, and changing market demographics.

I’m generally not one to sit and predict what’s going to happen or not happen in any of these areas. But I was struck by several conversations I’ve had in client meetings over the last few months that made me examine my own beliefs. What I realized was that I had some deep rooted assumptions that may or may not be true.

I framed these here as lies I’d been telling myself.

Lie #1: Technology alone will make agents more productive

Many agents have benefited from implementing smart technology. But there’s more to it than that.

Being a successful agent is really hard. It takes long hours of shepherding clients through emotional decisions and nail-biting turns in the transaction that are out of anyone’s control. It takes years of relationship-building with prospects and other service providers — coffee and lunch dates that may not pay off for five years.

Marketing also can take years to produce results. So who even knows what’s working when your test runway is that long?

These things can only be enhanced by technology…

… but do not happen because of technology.

If an agent isn’t laying this foundation, perfecting her process and surrounding herself with other pros who meet this higher standard, the world’s best CRM, transaction management system, marketing automation platform, and whatever else she can buy aren’t going to matter much.

Lie #2: Brokers need a tech stack to compete

The tech-stacked broker is a story Compass and Keller Williams are telling and owning quite well at the moment.

Yes, some agents are joining them for the technology they provide. And at this stage of the game, agents who know what they’re doing will need technology of some kind or other to help propel them to the next level.

But not every agent is looking for tech from their broker. And, therefore, not every broker needs to tell this story. I’ve met plenty of thriving brokers in the U.S. who don’t emphasize technology and who are doing quite well — recruiting and retaining highly productive agents through other means like culture, training, career development, marketing prowess and brand integrity.

You can go through the list and check all the boxes on your tech stack and still not survive. Our hunch at 1000WATT has been that many brokers would succeed a lot more by zigging from this tech story while others zag toward it. Find your own story. It’s the one that creates the value your ideal agent is looking for.

Maybe tech is part of that story — a supporting role in a much different and bigger one.

Lie #3: Disruption is inevitable

Maybe it is or maybe it’s not. The only truths around the disruption story are that change on some level is inevitable and no one can predict the future. And while the signs of disruption are all around us, being forced upon the industry in many ways by new companies and people (as Brian pointed out last week), I see so many signs of business as usual at the same time.

For example, one real estate agent has sold three houses in the neighborhood where our 1000WATT Oakland office sits in the last month, totaling somewhere around $4 million. There was no big tech player involved from what I can tell. Just three homeowners, three listing agreements, three open houses, offers, negotiations, and now three old-fashioned sold signs sitting in front of each.

Are there new ways of buying and selling out there? You bet. But I’m guessing this thriving agent isn’t paying much attention, and it’s arguable whether she even should. From what I can tell, her reputation is solid, she satisfies clients enough to generate a healthy amount of referrals, and she’s doing her job well.

The only thing related to disruption this agent needs to pay attention to is her customers — and their changing (or unchanging) needs and her ability to meet them. If she were cowering and retreating under the noise of disruption, she’d be disempowered to handle her business.

Lie #4: We must focus on Millennials

I heard Bob Hoffman (aka “The Ad Contrarian”) quote a bunch of hair-raising statistics on a podcast recently. He’s a smart guy who’s owned and run three different ad agencies, and spends his days thinking and writing about this stuff. He said…

47% of the adult population in the U.S. is over 50.

Then, he contrasted that with: only 6% of the population in advertising agencies is over 50.

“There’s a perception problem,” he said. “People over 50 are what drives the economy. They represent over half of all consumer spending. They buy 60% of all automobiles. They outspend the average consumer in virtually every consumer product category…”

People over 50 outspend other adults online 2:1. They have a net worth about three times that of other generations. And they control 70% of the wealth in the U.S.

“If people over 50 in the U.S. were their own country, they would be the third largest economy in the world,” Bob said. “Between now and 2030, the population of adults over 50 will grow at about three times the rate of adults under 50.”

And yet, he pointed out, they are the target of between 5-10% of all marketing activity in the U.S.

Bob calls this phenomenon “marketing by selfie stick” (see agency population stat above) because agencies are ignoring the stats and obsessing over marketing to their own age group.

This made me really think about this whole marketing to Millennials thing in real estate.

The truth

Real estate is a special business to be in, whether you’re selling homes, supporting agents or building software and apps. Like any industry, we get pulled into cloudy notions of what’s real and what’s hyperbole.

I had fun peeling back some old storylines that were in my head. Let me know what some of yours are.