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Vendors, Are You Missing The Boat? Probably…

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2.0 Real Estate Vendors

We spend a lot of time networking, researching, and studying the 2.0 real estate vendors in the market place in all spaces of real estate, and over and over again we find a complete lack of understanding of their audience.  I must preface with the fact that most 2.0 vendors spend a great deal of time and money on their actual products and making sure they’re useful to the agent as well as the real estate buyer and seller, however…

The assumption is that because the tiny space of the real estate blogging community knows who and what you are, that concentrating on actually converting the user seems forgotten.  Thousands of dollars a year are spent by vendors teaching the real estate pro about 2.0, yet we wonder how much cash is spent on smart web interface to convert the deal?

The complaint about the real estate professional overwhelmingly is that the professional can barely check email, upload an image, or edit their own websites, and to some extent that may be true; however, looking at many of the websites for many real estate products, it’s no wonder there’s a disconnect.

If the vendor landing page does not exactly explain what you are, and the second page does not explain exactly how to use your product, then how in the world do you expect an agent to even find the bar to jump over?

In many cases, there is so much information on the landing page that beginning makes no sense, much less an end- you’re lost before you’ve even started.

I’m a pretty savvy guy- I can often overcome the hurdles many vendors set up for the average 1.0 agent, but more and more often I’m finding it harder and harder to even care to get past the clutter to get to the point. I’m off looking for a better solution regardless of how valuable your product is.  I’m assuming your product is just as complicated and confusing, true or false.

The other problem I am seeing is a complete lack of investment in the UI of the selling website.  For instance, many vendors are running an average free wordpress theme, or free template, for an otherwise fantastic product. Boring, drab, and unattractive, the average agent gets a feeling that your product may be equally as boring.

I highly recommend that vendors get in focus and do it now rather than later.  Have a few folks you know are savvy, but unfamiliar with your product/website answer these questions:

  • How long did it take you to figure out what our product was?
  • How long did it take you to find pricing?
  • Was the site easy to navigate, or was it confusing?
  • Was there too much or not enough information on the landing page?
  • Did you feel that our site copy was exciting, or full of propaganda?
  • Did you find any dead links on our site?
  • How can we improve?

If you’re really feeling brave, ask me…

Obviously, less is more, but less should always lead to more or as much as it takes to lead the buyer closer to making a buying decision, not continuously describe why it’s important to get into the 2.0 way of doing business.  Obviously, the consumer knew that, or they would not be on your site.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • 3 steps to getting started
  • No more than 3 things to do if I need more information
  • a demo of your product is often my selling button

That’s it.

The arrogance of many vendors (but not you of course) is that you need to train us to be 2.0 savvy in order to create the need for the product you represent, while reminding us of how behind the times we are, while many (and yes I mean the majority) of the same vendors have completely overlooked the fact that their website may actually be the turnoff that leads to a lack of adoption of the product.

Things to remember

  • In an elevator Pitch your accolades are irrelevant.
  • I’m not interested that you’re in the press.
  • Why I ‘need you’ leads to overselling.
  • Lead me in with easy click and go options.
  • I’m not interested in real estate politics, I’m interested in your product.
  • Show me success stories by other agents.
  • Show me innovative uses by other agents or brokerages.

These are things I really want to read on secondary pages, and on your blog, not all lumped on your front page.

The images I’m using for this post are a brilliant example of a landing page that impresses all by itself.  Never mind if you like black or not, or enjoy an applesque interface, my points are made in the overall.  It’s beautiful, guides you into use, the price is obvious, and the explanations are elevator pitch in nature (no clutter)- to the point.  Zipvo Platinum has done a great job in the next generation of vendor presentation, and sets the bar high in the process, and it’s only real downfall is that it may appear intimidating to the new user upon first glance, but it’s so crisp, I’d give it a second look.

In closing, I’m friends with most, if not all of the 2.0 vendors in the real estate space, and I respect all of them and their passion to create products that make the real estate pro look great in their business, reduce costs, and disintermediate old 1.0 products from their marketshares, and I want them to succeed, but this issue is real in all corners, even real estate networking sites.

Why am I writing this? Because helping you, the vendors, helps us, the real estate professional.

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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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Joe Zekas

    November 8, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Anyone who wants a useful explanation of Zipvo’s features won’t be able to find it on the company’s site.

    I’d respectfully suggest that one can no more turn photos into video on an automated basis than one can turn water into wine. This is a wrong-headed use of technology and a disservice to potential customers. It poisons the well for anyone who’s using video in a way that makes better use of the medium.

    And let’s not even talk about the annoying music on these still videos!

  2. Benn Rosales

    November 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Hey Joe, not that this has anything to do with the actual points of the post, but zipvo platinum is actually a video editor as well as a still style virtual tour editor and an explanation does click out from the front page that is linked.

    This is the second generation product from Zipvo – for the record however, I’ve not reviewed the product so I cannot speak to the details.

  3. Steve Simon

    November 8, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    I would have to think hard to name specific vendors, but your post does ring true.
    More than a few times I have found myself three pages deep still trying to find a price or a feature…

  4. Chris Shouse

    November 8, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I am one of those tech challenged agents you talk about but I don’t give up usually and thank goodness for Twitter and the wonderful friends I have there that can usually start me in the direction. Maybe these companies should ask someone like me in their beta if it makes sense

  5. Bob Wilson

    November 8, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Great article Benn, I’m now a 2.0 vendor getting ready to relaunch, so your post just made my checklist.

  6. Craig Barrett

    November 9, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Love it Benn. I quickly became disenfranchised with Real Estate vendors as I got hammered with continuous product offerings. The vendor drum just beat too loud and too often.

    Give me a demo, a comparison table, specific ways your product will help me, aid efficiency, or increase my bottom line. If I remotely think you’re selling me, I’m outta there.

    For my web experience the UI I expect is clean, concise and easy to navigate. If the landing page is from a search I better be able to find the product quickly. Just like every other web user, you’ve got something like 12 seconds to capture the business.

    Admittedly though, I’ve got an attention span of a gnat.

  7. Lisa Sanderson

    November 9, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    “a demo of your product is often my selling button”

    I think this is most important of all. If your product is so great and better than all the others, let me try it before I buy. And, agents who are not so confident in their tech skills need to know they will be able to use it and not just take your (or my, if I am making a recommendation)word for it.

  8. Bob Wilson

    November 9, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    agents who are not so confident in their tech skills need to know they will be able to use it and not just take your (or my, if I am making a recommendation)word for it.

    Sometimes you just need to do a little qualifying before you sell. Not everyone is your customer.

  9. Lisa Sanderson

    November 9, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    True, Bob. But who doesn’t want *more* customers? We’re talking about making the presentation of the product better, not changing the product to accommodate the lowest common denominator.

  10. Mike Price

    November 9, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    The “landing” page should spell out the value proposition instantly. The UI to actually buy the product should be so simple a 6th grade kid could figure it out.

    Our product is in it’s 1.0 phase. And as result of doing this exact kind of analysis we’ve found it needs to be flipped upside, the crumbs shaken out, the toaster taken apart and entire new appliance rebuilt with the parts. It’s still going to make the same awesome piece of toast.

    Our end product is works great for every person that purchases it, the results are almost always irrefutable. Problem is, even though we thought we made it “butt simple” to understand both from a value proposition standpoint to the UI to process it, we found out it just isn’t close. That’s o.k. the hard part’s done and we’ve done enough due diligence for the next rev. to allow anyone, no matter how remedial their understanding of web browsers, the ability to easily comprehend and consume our services. It’s actually a continual process, there’s never really a point with a web 2.0 product where someone stands back and says, it’s done. The toast is always cooking.

    We want more customers, but more importanlty we want more EDUCATED and HAPPY customers.

    How’s that for transparency? Who’s got next?

  11. Bob Wilson

    November 9, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Lisa, I wasnt talking about dumbing down the product.

  12. Eric Bouler

    November 10, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Bob is very correct that you are dealing with a thin market. Todate most of the high tech innovations are great for the buyers agent who has much less money and experience. The listing agent can still get by with what they were doing 10 years ago.

    This is changing but many have missed the 1.0 and are faced with 2.0.

  13. teresa boardman

    November 11, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    I don’t know how many time I have gone to product web sites and I couldn’t figure out what they were selling and if I did I couldn’t find contact information and in some cases i couldn’t find a way to place an order. If I ran my business like that I wouldn’t have a business.

  14. Linsey

    November 12, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I’ve gone to sites that were carrying a product or service recommended by a colleague. I’m anxious to look into it but am overwhelmed by the site. It’s not an isolated incident.

    If I can’t figure it out quickly, I assume the learning curve on the product or service is equally complex and I just don’t have the time (or frankly the patience) to figure it out.

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Business Marketing

The use of offline marketing can still be advantageous in a digital world

(BUSINESS) Offline marketing is usually skipped over nowadays for the sparkly, shining ‘digital’ marketing strategies, but don’t forget the roots.

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offline marketing billboard

Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.

When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.

“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”

How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.

1. Yard signs

When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.

The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.

2. Billboards

The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.

With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”

3. Promotional giveaways

It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.

Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)

4. Local event sponsorships

One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.

Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.

Offline marketing is anything but dead.

If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.

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Business Marketing

What you can learn from Ulta Beauty’s marketing mix up with Kate Spade

(MARKETING) Ulta Beauty’s insensitive marketing email surrounding the Kate Spade brand can be a lesson: Be cautious and respond to crisis appropriately.

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Woman typing on computer representing the Ulta Beauty and Kate Spade email scandal

Last week in an email sent to subscribers, Ulta Beauty made light of designer Kate Spade’s suicide. Ulta said the lighthearted connection to Spade’s death was unintentional. The email sparked anger across social media and some national news outlets picked up the story. In an emailed response to the New York Post, Ulta apologized to their customers, their Kate Spade corporate partners, and Kate Spade’s family. They ended by saying they will strive to do better.

Words matter. Messaging matters. Hopefully, we can all learn a lesson from this painful mistake.

Check your tone. It’s one of the early things we teach writing students. The tone should match the content. If the icon you’re using to sell a product ended their own life, perhaps light and fun isn’t the tone you should embrace. Ever. But most businesses won’t be dealing with well-known people whose stories have been shared with millions. It’s up to business owners and those who write their copy to ensure the tone matches the message.

Always have a second pair of eyes look over words going out to the public. Or even a third and fourth. Often those in the creative room are brainstorming messages, reworking copy, and looking for the perfect pitch. And they get it. It sounds good, looks good, is easy to say and share, and, best of all, it will lead to sales. Having a multi-person system in place to check the copy and someone separate to give final approval can help catch the oh-my-God-no great words, but absolutely not pieces of sales copy.

Listen to your customer base and have a system in place to listen quickly. All businesses need systems for immediate customer response in play. Ulta caught their so-called oversight quickly.  But they’re a huge brand and Kate Spade was a beloved fashion icon. The negative response went viral and they had a giant mess to clean up. Companies make messes with their words often, messes that don’t immediately go viral but lead to real pain for consumers. When customers ask you to stop a message, listen to them and act.

Apologies don’t make excuses. If you’re caught in a messaging mess of your own making, I’m sorry goes a long way. If needed, follow that apology up with a plan to show you’re serious about “doing better” and making sure this never happens again.

If you find yourself in a place where a public apology is necessary, consider hiring a crisis manager to help with that plan as well.

Part of business today is constant communication with consumers. Try to have systems in place so you don’t find yourself in a “learning to do better” moment like Ulta. Words aren’t just about sales. They have power. Remember that.

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Business Marketing

Experience Design & Marketing: Where do they intersect, where do they diverge?

(MARKETING) The field of marketing has been around the sun and back, whereas experience design is a newer, but growing field. Where do they overlap?

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marketing trends and experience design

Identify, understand, educate, promise, and fulfill. Is that marketing or experience design? Is it both? The closer we get to marketing in the digital spaces* being truly organic and less about carpeting mobile sites with pop-ups and interruptions, the more marketing and experience design (XD)** start to intersect.

Software experiences used to be only about getting jobs done and the learning curve it took to operate that software was accepted as unavoidable. There was no expectation for ease of use and the competitive landscape was far smaller. The same can be said of marketing; when the pool of offers and services were drastically smaller, you won with volume or referral. Now there are deep expectations for human-computer interactions, expectations of low friction when dealing with a system or entity, and more choices than there are biting Tweets. Volume rarely wins anymore unless the traffic spend is massive or the niche is narrow. Both of these are the result of crowded, loud marketplaces and way more noise than signal. So what did marketing do? What did XD do? They turn to delivering more curated, personal interactions and messages. Those are now driven not by gross demographics and forty pieces of car dealership push cards in my mailbox, but by extrapolated wants and needs taken from human voices and applied to custom outreach.

  1. XD uses ceremonies and activities to discover and define our version of market evaluation and segmentation.
  2. XD prototypes and iterates based on focus groups, unmoderated testing, business requirements validation, and the things they expose. That’s our audience testing.
  3. XD seeks to remove the uninteresting, unused, or unnecessary parts of a decision tree (journey if we must lingo) based on response and introduce a version sans those things to drive closer to the intent and outcome. This is our nurture.
  4. XD uses continuous feedback to improve, refine, and in some cases recommend next steps, products, adjustments, or augmentations. That is our remarketing/retargeting, it’s how we adjust the “campaign”.

And those are only the most obvious fibers of the common thread the disciplines share. Others with a deeper knowledge of both topics can surely add to this list tenfold. The essence of this examination is to ask the question, should marketing and experience design work in tandem? Under one shingle? Can they coexist as a federated faction under the larger umbrella of CX?

They are both a part of a unified journey and the natural progression from first exposure to adoption to “damn I love this thing, I think I’ll TikTok about it” for products and services. That kind of melding could serve a common goal; seamless brand engagement.

The people that consume whatever is being offered don’t see us, the company, the thing, as a cluster of siloed pods vaguely marching in the same direction. They see us as a whole and our disciplines should support that impression.

Marketers and Experience folk– integrate! Learn each other’s wares and purposes, share things that work and definitely those that don’t. XD gang, I mean really combining to achieve specific goals. Don’t just send them a Jake Knapp YouTube, find common goals. And marketing kin, this means more than citing some Sprinklr data and the latest NPS around trending SEO. Wonder Twin into a test and prove machine, use HCD tactics to undercover new copy strategies, and test it with a group in a Pepsi/Coke standoff. I know you are A/B-ing your work, but you can narrow that lane before you traffic it. We can learn from each other, we can benefit from one another, greatly.

I’m betting we can forge something slightly fresher than passing people through our business cotton gin and expecting them to feel like we are one. What are the afterimages that last from the time I see a LinkedIn post, follow to the affiliate, subscribe/buy and actually get something good out of the product? Don’t tell me there isn’t a marketing/design love story in there.

I look forward to following up on this with an actionable plan and (hopefully) killer outputs.

Be well, feel good, and know peace.


*Experience Design as a proper name encompasses exactly what is in the eponymous name; the experience is every interaction, passive or active, through the entire cycle. From the first shred of awareness of a product or service to the lasting relationship made– that is experience in this context.

**I’m not going to call it Digital Marketing anymore, pretty sure we aren’t doing direct mail along with our IG ads

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