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Real Estate Implosion, Lawyers, Realtors & Disintermediation – Oh My.

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0000036548_20061218145010.jpgThe cool thing about lawyers is that even though they compete with one another, they understand the basic reality that business is there for the taking. Rarely can you walk down a street in America and not find someone divorcing or guilty of a crime. The best thing about lawyers is that even though they get a lot of ribbing about being this and that (not generally polite) they’ve never been guilty of eating themselves alive publicly- meaning, you rarely see them out publicly bucking the system. They have an understanding that the systemis what affords them a lifestyle and a profession, regardless of how twisted the perception of it is.

Realtors on the other hand (we’re not lawyers) have very much the same dependencies and lately have very much the same reputation as lawyers. Insane as it may sound, we’ve recently been compared to car salesmen and we’re even accused of being the devil in some cases, and having spun millions into subprime disaster, single-handedly causing a real estate bubble with our cat like commission skills– hell, we even set the fires in California to spark future growth! I kid. It was just a kid and matches I hear, but hey, he’s probablya future Realtor if you ask those that wish to disintermediate us from the transaction.

The truth is, the only thing Realtors are guilty of is playing into the less than 1% of 1% of 1% that would call free agency a trend. Realtors are guilty of playing into mass hysteria created by a public relations campaign created by a certain discount business model. Realtors are guilty of the thing lawyers already understand- s*itting where you eat is probably not a good idea.

The perfect storm against our chosen profession is this- we’ve always thought the other guy’s services to consumers sucks, and we spend big money saying just that. The genius in the PR campaign waged by our fishy competition plays on that vulnerability and honestly, I see a lot of hysteria in the marketplace because of it. We had a guest commenter here last week that said we were complaining about the end of the profession, but the reality is- it’s simple self defense, another mechanism used as a vulnerability in the game to weaken the position of the membership (NAR). Although, as quiet as the membership is, and as clumsy as it still remains, the collective membership matters not to the profession. The hysteria created by those seeking rankings and comments on a blog, or to score points with the pissed off of the real estate consumer is a gift to them and no one else.

I think maybe folks might want to take a look at how and where lawyers compete- it’s in the courtroom, not in the court of public opinion. They get up ever day, notwrite a blog, and they pass up the hype by those who would say lawyers are vultures and march into the courtroom and lay it down in no uncertain terms why they’re valuable. Their personal reputations are what drives the most successful, the ones you never see at midnight offering to bail you out on a DUI.

Yes, I think Realtors could learn from the blood-sucking lawyers out there on how to handle negative press and attacks on their profession. We could learn a thing or two about how to be gentlemen and where to duel , and just so you know- that’s not in the court of public opinion… just because one Realtor, market or PR campaign is bad doesn’t mean the entire industry is. Comparatively, because one lawyer is an ambulance chaser doesn’t mean the entire BAR is chasing them too- and the only lawyer that would ever be guilty of saying it to be so would be the guy on TV at midnight offering you midnight DUI representation.

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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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Vicki Moore

    November 7, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    I don’t see lawyers getting on the internet and giving all of their knowledge, information and strategies away. I don’t see them grovelling, begging or arguing their worth. I don’t see them undercutting their pay to stay in business.

    Really interesting post. I have to think about it some more.

    BTW Boston Legal is my favorite show.

  2. Benn Rosales

    November 7, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    by your comment, you got my point.

    We never miss Boston Legal- Tuesday is a great day, always.

  3. Mariana

    November 8, 2007 at 2:43 am

    If we truly believe we ARE worth our salt, we WILL be worth our salt. The ones who aren’t are the ones that are the weak links in this profession. And it shows.

  4. Joshua Ferris

    November 14, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    The barrier to becoming a lawyer is also quite a bit higher than it is for real estate. Real estate has yet to shed its “grandma” image of being something for older people to do to occupy their time and stand alone as a legitimate industry. Good agents are worth their pay and then some but the people who are in the business to occupy themselves because they are bored or to do part time for extra cash are the ones dragging down the industry. I’ve never seen anyone go to law school for 7 years just to make a little extra cash part-time.

  5. Mitch Argon, Reno Real Estate

    March 10, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Very good post. I’ll take it a bit further. Because the real estate profession has done so many silly things for so long (sending out recipe cards, walking future seller’s dogs, and a myriad of other things to win “social favors”), we have conditioned the consumer to think that these are the essential services of a real estate agent.

    Low barrier to entry. Perception of easy money. NAR promoting more realtors (i.e. more dues $$$ to spend on supporting the brand) versus earnestly putting in programs to raise the bar (i.e. less dues means it will never happen) and this is what you get.

    At some point (long from now), this business may be about service and not salesmanship (and a lot of the nonsense that goes with it).

  6. Jacqui Richey, Las Vegas Real Estate

    May 9, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Perception is reality and the sooner agents remember that, the better. We need to change perception in order to change reality. DENNY CRANE! I think the NAR could do more by enforcing its own rules and removing members that don’t follow them.

  7. Fort Lauderdale Mortgage

    July 24, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I agree with mitch and great post by the way. I worked as a real estate agent many years ago and adding a bit of extra service never hurt.

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Business Marketing

Hear me out – Google Alerts but for Facebook Groups

(TECH NEWS) Groouply is a new App that helps you find out what people are saying about your business in facebook groups, even closed groups

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Mike Rubini, an Italian developer focused on a portfolio of software-as-a-service offerings, recently announced the launch of a new Facebook tool, Groouply.

(Note: Groouply is not to be confused with the educational forum Grouply, the community management app Grouply, or the now-defunct company Grouply, which developed social networking and online forums for small businesses.)

Groouply lets you monitor Facebook groups for keywords of your choosing. Depending on how it works, this could be a big deal. There are plenty of online trackers. In fact, there are two or three distinct industries built on collecting and processing the vast amounts of information we generate online. SEO, social media management, and big data processing have all developed into large industries with their own dedicated firms, tools, language, and (in big data’s case) terrifyingly powerful hardware.

But so far, Facebook Groups haven’t been a point of focus. You can check search engine results pages, Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter, and public FB posts. But automatically notifying a user about specific mentions in FB groups is something new. The developer claims the tool can even collect data from closed groups.

The potential applications for this are striking. You could get a sense of who’s talking about your company, and what they’re saying. You could make course corrections based on how you’re perceived. You could learn about potential markets you hadn’t considered yet. You could step in to discussions about your company to correct misconceptions. (You could also get dragged into some pretty unprofessional arguments, if you aren’t careful. It is Facebook, after all.)

You pick a group and a keyword, as well as the frequency of your email updates. Options shown in the demo video include daily and hourly. Once you’ve set up the account, the company takes 1-3 days to set you up on the back end, and then you’re good to go. At the current pricing, a $99/month account lets you track 10 keywords across 5 different groups.

Some folks have raised concerns. People have inquired about how the tool collects the data, wondering whether it’s compliant with Facebook’s terms of service. Others have expressed hesitation over the price. Paying $99/month for online marketing tools isn’t unheard of. The popular SEO research tool ahrefs charges $99/month for their basic package, and claims that their $179/month package is their most popular option.

But ahrefs offers a week-long trial for $7 so you can test-drive the service. They’re also running a robust, proven service. Your $99/month gets you 500 tracked keywords, updating weekly. It also gets you keyword reports and batch analysis, backlinking alerts, and 10,000 pages’ worth of site audits.

Groouply’s arrival has generated some buzz. When it launched two days ago, it became the #4 Product of the Day on the tech forum Product Hunt. Depending on what happens next, it could fill a much-needed niche in the social media marketing toolbox.

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Business Marketing

Accessibility to your website could make or break your brand

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Some companies are making sure their websites have more accessibility, and are creating design tools that help simplify the process for other designers.

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accessibility design

In August, The American Genius reported that Domino’s Pizza had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case it had lost in the Ninth Circuit Court, in which the court ruled that the pizza chain was required to improve the accessibility on their website to blind and visually impaired users.

Last month, SCOTUS declined to hear the case, maintaining the precedent that the standards set forth by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) apply not only to brick-and-mortar business locations, but also to websites.

The decision was a major win for disability rights advocates, who rightly pointed out that in the modern, internet-based age, being unable to access the same websites and apps that sighted people use would be a major impediment for people who are blind or visually impaired. Said Christopher Danielson of the National Federation of the Blind, “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

Although legislators have yet to set legal standards for website accessibility, the Domino’s case makes it clear that it’s time for businesses to start strategizing about making their websites accessible to all users.

Many companies worry that revamping websites for accessibility will be too costly, too difficult, or just too confusing given the lack of legal standards. However, some forward-thinking companies are going out of their way to not only make their websites more accessible, but to create design tools that could help simplify the process for other designers.

A great example is Stripe.

If you have an online business, you may already be using Stripe to receive payments. Designers Daryl Koopersmith and Wilson Miner take to the Stripe blog to detail their quest to find the perfect and most accessible color palette for Stripe products and sites.

Color plays into accessibility for visually impaired users because certain color contrasts are easier to see than others. But making Stripe more accessible wasn’t as simple as just picking paint swatches. Stripe wanted to increase accessibility while also staying true to the colors already associated with their brand.

Our perception of color is quite subjective; we often instinctively have strong opinions about which colors go well together and which clash. To make matters even more complicated, existing color models can be confusing because there is often a difference between how a computer mathematically categorizes a color and how our eyes perceive them.

Koopersmith and Miner give the example that if the human eye compares a blue and a yellow that have the same mathematical “lightness,” we will still perceive the yellow as the lighter color.

To achieve their goal, Koopersmith and Miner created new software that would adjust colors based on human perception and would generate “real-time feedback about accessibility.” In this way, the designers were able to adjust Stripe’s pre-existing brand colors to increase accessibility without losing the vibrancy and character of the original colors.

Not every company can afford to hire innovative designers like Koopersmith and Miner to create new tools every time there is an accessibility challenge. But Stripe’s project shows gives us reason to be optimistic that improving accessibility will become steadily more … well … accessible!

Disabilities rights advocates and designers can work synergistically to set standards for accessibility and create comprehensive tools to achieve those standards. In our highly visual age, it’s important to ensure that no one is left behind because of a visual impairment.

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Business Marketing

10 inspirational print brochure examples

We believe that print is nowhere near dead, it is just changing as things go digital, and only the best stand out.

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Below are 10 inspirational print brochure examples that show print is not only alive and kicking, but when infused with a bit of creativity, can make an enormous impression. Gone are the days of horrid clip art and walls of text that overwhelm. Clean typography and design are the name of the game, and added flair can go a long way. Here are some ideas to get you started, click any of the images below to see more photos of each campaign and to dig deeper:

Craft Beer Field Guide

With this fold up brochure guiding Madison’s Craft Beer Week attendees, a vintage vibe is created through color and typography choices, with an emphasis on function and ease of reading. The guide is so enchanting, it is likely that most attendees kept the brochures, a dream for any designer or marketing team!

Italian Loft Brochure

In this Italian Loft Brochure, a classic Tiffany & Co styled blue and chocolate brown highlight the features of this luxury loft community, and is presented in a beautiful, heavyweight cardstock cover that keeps all additional papers that come along with tours. It’s more than just the brochure’s design, it’s the presentation, simplicity, and choice of materials that is eye catching about this print brochure.

Campaign for Freedom

Expressing the dire situation in North Korea, this campaign brochure uses simple to digest infographics and keeps to four colors – black, white, red, and yellow. It is effective for sticking to the point and using bold graphics.

Gourmet Natural Foods

Retailers often go overboard either by offering too many walls of words and facts, or by trying to be clever. Instead, this company’s design focuses on the simple ingredients that goes along with their streamlined, organic-looking containers. This brochure makes you want to go start eating hippie food, even if you’re a cow eater, just because it’s so aesthetically pleasing!

Graphic Designer Portfolio

When a seasoned graphic designer shows off, you can be sure that their presentation will never be an aged headshot of them with bullet points of their accomplishments. No, graphic designers show instead of tell, as below:

Typefamily Brochure

When introducing a typefamily to the world, a designer can choose to slap up a website, or go the traditional, and more elegant route of printing a type booklet explaining the type and giving buyers of the typefamily (font) a closer look at what they are buying. Brilliant.

Yahoo! Brochure

Yahoo’s brochure is a reminder that simple design elements can go a long way – a folding tab, white space, ditching clip art, and keeping consistency between pages all work in harmony to create a quality print brochure.

Antique News Format

In a very clever move, this commercial and residential space is being sold in the form of a large, folding antique- looking newspaper, complete with appropriate fonts and an antique layout, with surprisingly sharp and never cheesy images.

Architect’s Timeline and Story

Promoting an architect’s impressive timeline and story, this print campaign shows the power of red, black and white, making a dramatic impression at a quick glance. Using high quality photography and traditional movie poster tricks, the campaign is stunning.

Our Favorite: Lennar’s Old School Fun

Lennar’s new “Spencer’s Crossing” community brochures got a touch of old school, making the brochure a game that anyone can play. It’s more than a gimmick, it is consistent with their collateral that appeals to the youthful nature of the product and area.

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