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To Map or NOT to MAP – That is the question?

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In an age where small companies are trying to define the terms of how real estate is presented and practiced, medium to large brokerages are having to out leap the so-called deep thinkers. I remember when I became a Realtor, my idea of real estate was overshadowed by the naysayers who said that real estate cannot be changed, “it’s been this way for over 100 years.” Looking around at the industry on a horizon where all things are flat, they were right. Grab your print marketing dollars and go to town. Today, Realtors are faced with the choice- take a chance on big Internet marketing, mix the two or just go technology? I, for one, laugh every time I get a flyer on my door, but that does not make it irrelevant in the sense that it doesn’t work, ever.

This brings me to my fundamental issue of the moment, which is- do you bother to introduce IDX mapping to your online presence or go the way of the traditional bluehair and leave the static IDX image in tact? What do or will consumers want in the long run? I do believe that all buyers really want is an address and pictures, but in a world where Texas is touted as receiving 400,000 relos a year, we have to look at providing the larger picture for the buyer- they need to know what it means to be on XYZ St. Austin Tx, 78XXX.

I’ve spent the better part of 3 weeks looking at every end of mapping technology and was pleased to learn that a large cap investment isn’t necessary. IDX mapping is out there for all to see and purchase for their sites. I brought one of the sites online to test and try out, and as a nice pleasantry, they even waived the setup fee of $199.00. I completely give credit that the service is more flexible than other offerings in the market place, however, the look and feel of it answers to a bluehair’s idea of what modern technology looks like but ignores what those in the know are looking for. I did find a more packaged look from another company and we are in the process of conforming it. Meanwhile, I had to let the existing company know that I was going a different direction. That led to him asking me why I was leaving, to which I responded with the following:

There are 11 different idx map integration offerings in the market place that I’ve found but only two have a packaged interface that feels and looks more like google, yahoo, or msve- not to mention the countless other platforms such as zooven, and others that will be marching into our market place in the coming year. We either look like them, or loose market share to them. I’ll be watching your product over the coming months to see what if anything is improved, but for now, I have to go with what is the closest thing to a national look.

I went on to explain that I had called a few times with little success in reaching them for help in getting on the same page with no luck. Jeff replied with the following:

I will tell you that of the thousands of customers we have, the most prolific ones, do not use any mapping what so ever. As a matter of fact, they refuse to use it. The other 98% of our customers talk about “mapping” until they are blue in the face. And they are the ones who have very little traffic to their sites. And also do very little business. In my opinion, the whole mapping thing is horribly overstated. I base this opinion purely on the activity of our top customers sites.

The question is- is 98% of his base wrong, and the 2% correct? Are you saying that 98% of the market doesn’t drag down the 2% holdout total market share? Is a company who is totally focused on IDX integration saying that mapping integration is stupid? 98% of those who want mapping are either stupid or small potatoes?

Jeff with IDX Broker is actually a really nice guy, but I look at companies like Zillow, Google, Yahoo, Zooven and can see how these large companies will (in the long run) pick apart the market share of medium to small brokerages, and even some large ones. Think about it… the point of providing an online source for every need is to keep them coming to you again and again and then buy or sell. In Jeff’s world, the market share begins at purchase, not at online service, and if you want to cover all bases with great interactive options for buyers and sellers, you’re just stupid and the world is flat.

I digress in that I do not believe a search map on the front page being everything you offer is the way to go. I am simply trying to bring IDX Resale Searching back to the forefront in my market in a way that looks as fresh as an online non-realtor site. Is 98% now the minority?

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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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. john harper

    July 7, 2007 at 8:23 am

    Let me know your final choice of products. I like the analysis and questioning. I don’t see a link on your blog to your main site.

    I’m not sure I can buy Jeff’s comment – sounds like something a salesperson would throw out.

  2. Marty Van Diest

    July 8, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Just stopped by to read your post for carnival of real estate.

    I don’t have mapping on my site…guess I better step up.

    Huh? I don’t even have IDX on my site. Bettey get some blue hair dye.

  3. B. R.

    July 8, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Marty! You have a blog and you’re hosting the carnival! Hold up on that dye!

    Honestly, idx has been secondary on my site as well as the look and feel of it really leaves a lot to be desired. The point of all of this is is outsiders have reinvented it and made it “neato.” So why not provide it ourselves if technology allows…

    Thanks for coming by!

  4. Heinrich

    August 7, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    Hey Realty Genius,
    Genius Realty here… We’ve had our mapping tool up for about two years now and it is home grown. Give it a run. It even uses Ajax at the beginning of the search. Let us know what you think of it.

  5. B. R.

    August 7, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    I checked out your site and your map search function- I searched all of Boise 3/2 200k to 300k as a simple test (this is the same test I run on all search sites) and it choked. My suggestion is limit results to 150 as a start and give searchers the option to load the full boat with a warning.

    It isn’t just your map product that does that, most of them do with mixed results. Either pictures do not load, the map is too congested w/ indicators, or the wait ends up frustrating those who are searching.

    All in all I liked your site and your search results. Nice clean lay out, clean interface, great spacing between results in lists. I liked the truck, great branding, nice logo and appeal.

    Cheers.

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.

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Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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skilled worker

The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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