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Numbers DO Lie!

At least they don’t always tell the entire story.

I can say that.  I’m a marketer.  At the risk of sounding Machiavellian, it’s our job to present information that helps to communicate a message.  Good marketers take great pride in pursuing a non-duplicitous practice to maintain brand integrity, particularly in the spirit of transparency.  But, that could also mean information that could cause one to question the message is not presented.

Last week, Trulia shared a video taken on the floor of Connect that was conceptually FANTASTIC.   In deference to the blind taste test a la Pepsi Challenge in years past, they showed folks a side by side chart listing various services and functions of two online real estate advertisers asking them to choose which they prefer.   


The side by side comparisons shouting FREE, FREE, FREE, minimal costs and added functionality when comparing Trulia side by side to made Trulia a no-brainer choice.  But is it?

If it’s free, do you get what you pay for?

Critical thinker that I am, here’s my dilemma:  What do you get?  While Trulia does have very impressive traffic numbers, particularly being relatively new, how much of that traffic is potential business vs. agents accessing the awesome Voices area? 

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More data please!

In addition to the side-by-side comparison chart, I’d ask for data to determine exactly what I get for the money I do spend with them.  At minimum, I would ask to see:

  • Monthly traffic numbers
  • Traffic originating from my geographic area
  • The number of viable leads agents get (not how many leads close, that’s not Trulia’s job)
  • Agent traffic vs. consumer traffic (although this is difficult to quantify)
  • Survey data that drills down beyond that “86% of buyers begin their search online” and names Trulia as one of the top go-to sites for buyers/sellers

Then I’d check it out.

According to the chart, while traffic is impressive, they do trail  **note: data from can be questionable – but it’s a benchmark.

Why choose just one?

At the end of the day, you need to spend your ad dollars and get return.  Ideally you use a combination of mediums – online and offline – whatever you know works.  (Read: KNOW – test, measure, refine and re-launch.)  

Sometimes – albeit not all the time – but sometimes the most expensive player is priced according to the value they bring.

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Net net: Your best choice may or may not be the cheapest place.  Instead it should be the pond with the greatest number of, and most relevant, fish.  You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

**p.s. I’m not taking aim at Trulia.  I like Trulia.  I think they offer a fresh way for agents to post listings, get leads and communicate with buyers while providing important demographic and other information. 


photo credit


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Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.



  1. Trace

    February 5, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I will see your assertion and raise you one data source. 🙂

  2. sheilabragg

    February 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Numbers DO Lie!: Get out of your feed reader and comment on this post- we PROMISE that the ShamWow guy won\’t po..

  3. Mark Eibner

    February 5, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    we’re at it again Numbers DO Lie!: Get out of your feed reader and comment on this post- we PRO..

  4. Elaine Reese

    February 5, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Good assessment and I appreciate the challenge questioning. So often I read about people talking about traffic, traffic, traffic … especially for blogging. Yet, when I check those same blogs for any sign that they have any business, there is a big void. While it may be nice to have agents visit, consumers/clients are the only real visitor that matters.

  5. Rob Hahn

    February 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I just love how you rock the boulevard, treat it like a seminar. 🙂

    For what it’s worth, I like the list of questions/data points you’d want from anyone who wants your ad dollars.

    Two additional things I’d be curious about if I were in the realtor marketing biz:

    * # of searches –> traffic != listing searches. Correlate that to listing views and you might get an idea of how easy/difficult it is for customers to actually FIND whatever it is that they’re searching for.

    * Lead conversion rate

    While you’re right that how many leads actually close is not Trulia’s (or anyone’s) job, it is their job to send along actionable leads. So whether it’s through a survey or some other means, I’d like to know out of 100 Trulia leads sent, how many led to revenues.

    At a minimum, that would help me set expectations as to how high to prioritize a Trulia (or anyone) lead.


  6. Brandie Young

    February 6, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Elaine – Good to hear from you. Yes, as whole, traffic doesn’t tell the entire story. I would only disagree with “consumers/clients are the only real visitor that matters”. There is some value in peers viewing content from a recognition standpoint.

    Robert – it’s always such an honor to hear from you … I’m such a R.O.B. fan.

    Good catch: # of relevant searches is indeed valuable info. Regarding conversion – would love to hear your thoughts on lead scoring, or other process to identify the common criteria that leads to a more qualified lead and close.

  7. Bob

    February 8, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Anything Trulia posts about traffic, particularly if you want to talk about relevant searches, is worthless. Their numbers are beyond skewed.

  8. Brandie Young

    February 8, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Hi Bob – Ouch. Sounds like you have a history there, with a less than happy ending. Thanks for sharing. And, if you have any good experiences would love to hear those as well. Cheers. p.s. I San Diego and lived there for several years.

  9. Rudy

    February 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Brandie!

    Quality traffic is important. What’s really exciting is hearing the success our partners have with Trulia. In an independent study by Threewide’s Listhub, Trulia was named the top generator of leads.

    See here for the details:

    Just to showcase some success stories from those using Trulia, here’s a link to our testimonials page on Trulia Blog:

    Sorry for the multiple links Benn and Lani…

    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  10. Mark Eckenrode

    February 10, 2009 at 10:40 am

    “At the end of the day, you need to spend your ad dollars and get return. Ideally you use a combination of mediums – online and offline – whatever you know works. (Read: KNOW – test, measure, refine and re-launch.)”

    lovin’ it.

  11. Brandie Young

    February 11, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Hi Rudy – The Threewide Listhub study is great news – and something potential clients would love to see. Congrats!

    Mark – (smile)

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