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Let’s Talk Online vs. Offline

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Apple Store in Austin, TX


Who Buys Site Unseen?

There is only a small percentage of the economy that buys site unseen– we regular people down here in the middle group that actually make up the larger percentage of the economy can’t afford to make costly mistakes such as not seeing or touching the property.

This notion that a consumer will ever click “buy” and submit some kind of bank order number to complete the transaction in any great number with an email receipt is laughable. Would the top 1% do it? Sure.

Would it be cool as the kids say? Sure, but is it practical? No. Do I believe agents should multiply their reach online and offer great search tools? Yes, and should they provide the most outstanding offline service as well while creating new avenues of communication? Absolutely.

But Let’s Not Forget…

Those Mom & Pop 5/dimes went out of business, sure, but if you look really closely, only the name and size of the store changed- it just got bigger, and yes, it’s called Walmart. Is Walmart foolish for their billions in expansions offline? I don’t think so. They’re profitable.

They wanted Mom and Pop’s offline action. They do offer a shopping service online, but they spend major coin offline to complete that transaction, and they’re really not that inexpensive anymore when you factor in quality- try one of those offline outlet malls called Prime Outlets that are popping up all over the place.

Or how about the Saks 5th, or two new Nieman’s we have here in town- why didn’t they just stay online? The last I checked however, these babies weren’t reduced priced by any stretch.

Or how about Ikea? It was primarily an online player at one time, but today, they’re expanding big box retail all over the country.

As another example, banks tried to go online all together, but I swear it seems branches are popping up all over the place including Wachovia, Chase, Cap One, and Amp’d, to name just a few. The branch building got smaller and more nimble, but the numbers of box units have doubled in most cases.

I noticed the other day offline branches of those stock trading companies opening shop around the city too, and today we’re using a travel agent to book a hotel in a city we’re not familiar with (that also isn’t online).

We also have at least 6 new super targets btw, and they also have had an online presence, and the last time I checked their prices seem really high compared to two years ago…

Did the Little Guy Adapt?

But back to the top 1% and Walmart – same crap different day, only the name changes offline and the size of the store gets bigger and bigger. They roll in on lower prices, beat out the middle America guy, and then build a big building on his grave- that top 1% that buys luxurious homes online just made millions. It wasn’t that the little guy didn’t adapt, he just wasn’t in that top 1%.

Even Apple had to get offline to complete the transaction… Oh yeah, and what about Sprint… The list just goes on and on and on and on… and don’t forget those little ebay stores- we have one here in a 60 year old shop on Main, right next door to a mom and pop antique store.

The rapid expansion of commercial development is proof of the consumer’s demand for tangibility. What’s the lesson here?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. ines

    June 30, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Funny thing about tangibility specially when you are blogging about it is that we have created ways to make products tangible through a screen. We, as web1.5 agents know the importance of it and work with it on a daily basis. (Although a few of us have learned to adapt to the non-tangible aspect of this medium)
    Did I change your whole concept around or what?? 😉 now I can’t wait to meet you, Lani and the rest of the gang in SF next month.

  2. Benn Rosales

    June 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Indeed – The 1.5 Agent I’ve coined is the way of the future. I may infact meet 90% of my clients with some form of online touch, but I will close 100% of them on the ground face to face.

  3. Teresa Boardman

    June 30, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I have had clients buy site unseen. 🙂 they worked through me, but we used the internet and they did not see the homes they bought first. But I do agree with what you are saying here. I have a couple of sellers I have never met either. They live out of state and I never will meet them in person. They all see themselves as buying and selling over the internet. To them I think I am part of the internet. No I have never had a voice conversation with one of my sellers. I think what is the most important is to find out how people want to be communicated with and do it.

  4. Barry Cunningham

    June 30, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Demographics, Market Share, branding, visibility….that’s the lesson.

    One of the most successful online computer parts company (Tigerdirect) recently bought Compusa’s failed stores. According to Gilbert Fiorentino, CEO of TigerDirect, CompUSA.com’s customer base will augment the customer base of TigerDirect.com, and the CompUSA retail stores will boost the company’s planned retail expansion.

    It will not supplant it’s online business.

    THis post may be better suited for argument if most (I said most) realtors understood the reasoning of these companies expanding their offline presence and further understood the methodology fueling said expansion.

    Is expansion of commercial development is proof of the consumer’s demand for tangibility..or rather a big part of an overall marketing plan to understand Demographics, supplement Market Share, increase branding, and extend visibility.

    As Richard Leeds, CEO of the parent company for TigerDirect said upon his acquisition for the offline stores and name of Compusa…”We believe the value of the CompUSA brand remains very high,” said Systemax CEO Richard Leeds, in a statement. “The company has a long legacy of value pricing, service, and customer loyalty among consumers nationwide. We view this acquisition as a strong complementary business to our TigerDirect operation.”

    Complementary and branding being the operative words in this regard.

  5. Paula Henry

    June 30, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Just as people want to look at, hold and play with an ipod, iphone or new Mac. most want a hands on experience when buying a home. There are exceptions; most, however, need to touch, feel and see a home before they purchase.

  6. Eric Blackwell

    July 1, 2008 at 5:32 am

    I think they want to consumate the deal tangibly. (bricks and mortar)…

    But they key is…Where do they start and how do they decide whom they will work with. I think bricks and mortar (to the extent of a buyer’s agent meeting them and showing them around) will always be part of the game, however, if they are deciding on a REALTOR via the internet and if buyers are more important than lister’s in the current market…what then?

  7. Mack in Atlanta

    July 1, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Eric hits on a very important part of the equation. Most buyers will want to lay their hands on the property they are buying but will shop for the agent that will help them online.

  8. Bill Lublin

    July 1, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    The internet is for porn lead generation and interfacing with consumers and other professionals. It is the tool which allows us to network as business people have from time imemorial – But in a business where each prodict is unique – if only by location, and condition is realtive and subjective, people will want to satisfy themselves that they are getting what they think they are getting. The stakes are just too high to believe otherwise.

    I spoke to an accomplished Blogger yesterday who was helping me through some wordpress manipulations, and he told me that he and his lovely wife were heading to th store to buy an appliance they had shopped for on the internet, but wanted to have in their hands immediately. And he was spedning less then $100 – so how about going into debt for 30 years and investing a large part of you rliquid cash? think you might want to get physical? I do

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Business Marketing

Hiring managers keep you on your toes – make them take the 1st step

(MARKETING) If you want to stand out from other job applicants, weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – or it could backfire.

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hiring managers interview

According to research by employment search website Simply Hired, hiring managers get an average of 34 applications per job listing, but they spend time genuinely considering an average of only 12.6% of them – that’s less than 1/3. Some applicants may feel the need to go above and beyond the average application and do something unusual or unexpected to grab the hiring manager’s attention.

Simply Hired conducted a survey to find out whether or not “nontraditional” strategies to stand out are worth the risk, or whether it makes sense to stick to a traditional resume and cover letter. They surveyed over 500 hiring managers and over 500 job applicants to find out what sort of outside-of-the-box approaches applicants are willing to take, and which ones do and don’t pay off.

Most notably, the survey found that over 63% of hiring managers find attention-grabbing gimmicks totally unacceptable, with only 20.2% saying they were acceptable. Hiring managers were also given a list of unusual strategies to rank from most to least acceptable. Unsurprisingly, the least acceptable strategy was offering to sleep with the hiring manager – which should really go without saying.

Interestingly, hiring managers also really disliked when applicants persistently emailed their resumes over and over until they got a response. One or two follow-up emails after your initial application aren’t such a bad idea – but if you don’t get a response after that, continuing to pester the hiring manager isn’t going to help.

While sending baked goods to the office was considered a somewhat acceptable strategy, sending those same cookies to the manager’s home address was a big no-no. Desserts might sweeten your application, but not if you cross a professional boundary by bringing them to someone’s home – that’s just creepy.

Another tactic that hiring managers received fairly positively was “enduring extreme weather to hand-deliver a resume” – but waiting around for inclement weather to apply for a job doesn’t seem very efficient. However, hiring managers did respond well to applicants who went out of their way to demonstrate a skill, for example, by creating a mock product or presentation or completing their interview in a second language. A librarian who was surveyed said she landed her job by making her resume into a book and creating QR codes with links to her portfolio, while a woman applying to work at the hotel hopped behind the counter and started checking customers in.

It’s worth noting that while most hiring managers aren’t into your gimmicks and games, of the 12.9% of applicants who said they have risked an unusual strategy, 67.7% of those actually landed the job.

Still, it’s probably a safer bet to stick to the protocol and not try any theatrics. So then, what can you actually do to improve your chances of landing the job?

Applicants surveyed tended to focus most of their time on their resumes, but according to hiring managers, the interview and cover letter are “the top ways to stand out among the rest.” Sure, brush up your resume, but make sure to give equal time to writing a strong cover letter and practicing potential interview questions.

In the survey, applicants also tended to overestimate the importance of knowing people within the company and having a “unique” cover letter and interview question answers; meanwhile, they underestimated the importance of asking smart questions at the interview and personality. In fact, hiring managers reported that personality was the most impactful factor in their hiring decisions.

It appears that the best way to stand out in a job interview is to wow them with your personality and nail the interview. Weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.

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Business Marketing

Use nostalgia as a marketing niche for your business today

(MARKETING) A market that is making waves is found in the form of entertainment nostalgia. Everyone has memories and attachments, why not speak to them?

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nostalgia

Is it just me or does it seem like there is something for everything nowadays? Let me clarify, as that is a rather broad question…

With the way communicating through technology has advanced, it’s become much easier to connect with those who have shared interests. This has become especially evident with interests in the entertainment community.

Entertainment nostalgia

It now seems like there is an event for every bit of nostalgia you can imagine. Autograph shows, meet and greets, and memorabilia collections of all kinds are held in convention halls all around the world. (To give you an idea of how deep this thing goes, there was a “Grease 2” reunion convention sometime within the last five years. Being that I’m the only person I’ve ever met who likes that movie, it’s amazing that it found an audience.)

This idea of marketing by use of nostalgia is something that is becoming smartly tapped and there are a variety of directions it can go in.

For example, the new Domino’s ads feature dead-on tributes to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

What’s your niche?

If you’re a fan of anything, it’s likely that you can find an event to suit your needs.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can think outside the box and use nostalgia as a marketing tool.

I recently began dabbling in social media gigs that have brought me to a few different fan conventions. One was a throwback 80s and 90s convention that featured everyone from Alan Thicke to the members of N*SYNC. Another is a recurring convention that brings together fans of sci-fi, horror, and everything under that umbrella.

I was amazed by the number of people that came out to these events and the amount of money that was spent on the day’s activities (autographs, photo ops, etc.). I was energized by the fact that you can take something you have a great appreciation for and bring together others who share that feeling. Watching people meet some of their favorite celebrities is something that is priceless.

Hop onboard the nostalgia train

If you’re a fan of something, you don’t have to look too far to find what you’d enjoy – going back to the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” example, there is a first-ever John Hughes fan event taking place in Chicago next month that will bring fans to their favorite Brat Pack members.

In the same thought, if you have an idea, now is the time to find others who share that interest and execute your vision.

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Business Marketing

5 tips to help you craft consistently high-converting email marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully, you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject Lines: Think about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.
  2. Nail the Intro”: Never take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!
  3. Use Video: Email might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.
  4. Keep Eyes Moving: The goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.
  5. Don’t Ask Too Much: It can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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