The venom of the crowd

[Warning: A rant – or maybe, more accurately, a sustained wail – follows.]

I received the following in the mail one day last week:

  1. A “personal note” from an agent who lives thirty minutes from my home but claims to be my new neighbor and a Redwood Heights (my neighborhood) “specialist”
  2. A glossy, card stock brochure from another new agent laced with some of the most mangled, typo-ridden writing I have ever tried to read
  3. A jab at Realtors contained in the weekly newsletter I get from the organic farmer from whom we get our vegetables

New agents – the new breed we hope will “get it” – busting out the same old stuff. Plus a note vibrating from the cultural drumbeat of anti-Realtor sentiment.

Pass me a Vicodin.

Here’s the back of the envelope from item #1, the “personal note:”


I’ve been programmed into a drip campaign by my ersatz neighbor. I expect to receive many more of these pieces. I don’t like it. Not because junk mail bugs me (in fact, as a student of marketing, I read darn near every piece I get) but because I feel bad for the young woman. In an age where 175 million people are connecting on Facebook and authenticity is the smart marketer’s mantra, is this really going to do it for her?

And I’m curious: Do you, like me, find something a bit off about someone you’ve never met glibly asking for your business?

At least I can be assured that should I elect to send someone I care about to an agent I don’t know to transact the most important business of their lives they won’t be forced to deal with someone “too busy” to meet their needs.

There are many fans of the Buffini program – and many success stories – but it didn’t work for me, Brian the consumer. How many people like me are out there? Or am I the oddball?

Here’s the cover of the hideously expensive brochure I received from the other agent:


I guess this is an attempt at lifestyle marketing. But the inside is all about her. With copy filled with unsubstantiated claims about how great she is. All written at a 5th-grade level.

Now my farmer friend. Here’s his riff:

“In hindsight, the economic mess the world is now in was a slow-moving train wreck that should have been easy to see coming and predictable in its scope. Instead, the entire world adopted the ever-optimistic outlook of the National Association of Realtors. On every car of the economic train, the conductors told the passengers that everything was going to be alright, even as the car in front of them was crushed before their eyes.”

The rest of his newsletter deals with conserving farmland. But he’s pissed at Realtors. Jeez.

Can I have a beer with that Vicodin?

The venom of the crowd

It’s really easy to deconstruct bad real estate marketing. I am only doing it here to preface a really important question:

How do we create a more professional real estate industry bound to higher standards?

Licensing is a joke. We can raise the bar there, though I doubt that will have the curative effect many desire.

More training? Only if we begin from a place of competence. I could train my 5-year old to write marketing copy all day every day, but it would be wishful thinking.

So I’m left with the wisdom – or maybe venom – of the crowd. Some might call this the “market,” where bad actors and inferior products or services are weeded out by competition. There’s a lot of competition in real estate, but also a peculiar cooperation. This cooperation sustains inferiority, rewards incompetence, and diminishes those who truly deserve to be called professionals.

Some knucklehead agent may just deliver his cousin as the buyer you’ve been waiting for. You may know the guy listing the house your buyers love is a sleaze, but you have to deal with him. And so it goes.

Some brokers recruit people who embarrass their peers hoping for a couple fat friends and family deals. Too many throw them in front of trainers and technology vendors that have not the slightest understanding of the epochal shifts underway in consumer marketing.

Can we stop all that?

The only way toward a better real estate industry is through self-policing. Period. Real estate will get what it tolerates.

There are few short-term incentives to do this. But there are plenty if you’re building a business to last.