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We’re laughing at you, not with you – Realtors should be fired

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Gwen Banta: Hollywood Realtor and humorist

Our resident humorist Gwen Banta shows up every Friday morning to poke some fun at our industry peers for their faux pas on MLS listings from around the country. Beyond the issue of funny photos, she’s more into the typos and gaffes Realtors leave in their listing wake, subtly pointing to a broader industry epidemic.

It’s funny to laugh at, and I admit that I personally look forward to her Friday lists, but there is a part of me that feels sad and angry. Angry because consumers count on real estate professionals to actually be professional. I can’t imagine the reaction on a Realtor’s face if a marketer handed him or her their new print marketing full of the same types of mistakes- the truth is, the marketer would be out of a job and probably ruined as we all know that word of bad marketers burns as quickly as a grass fire in August.

I’m not sure what can be done, I mean, mistakes happen, but Brokers should actually take action. Brokers should follow up and penalize poor marketing by their Realtors and take listings from agents who repeatedly offend the principals of basic professionalism. True, Realtors are sales professionals, but they’re also self professed marketers, are they not? Realtors lately seem incredibly sensitive to their online reputations, but what about offline? Maybe they should be afraid if this is what they (Realtors) define as great client service and supposed 2.0 marketing…

Okay, maybe it doesn’t matter as words don’t sell a home, right? And I suppose the MLS doesn’t sell a home either? Neither do photos? Oh, here’s a good fall back position, “the MLS was never meant to be consumer facing.” Guess what?  It is now. What must matter is that you can also misspell on Twitter and even poke your Realtor buddies about your listing on Facebook to show off how stupid you are. Or how about sitting through another coaching session on selling half assedly?

I want Gwen to keep making us laugh, but also reminding us that we can be better. Does the consumer even matter anymore? I keep asking…

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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35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Jim Flanagan

    March 26, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Benn,

    So sad but so true! Nothing depresses me more than reviewing a “New Listing”. The lack of creativity (marketing)and consistently poor photo quality in our “rush” to get it into the system never ceases to amaze me. Fortunately, as the Broker, I have and exercise the ability of Editor-in-Chief!

    My personal favorite, although my sales force knows better; PROPERTY DESCRIPTIONS IN ALL CAPS!

    Thanks,

    Jim

  2. Jim Flanagan via Facebook

    March 26, 2011 at 8:16 am

    MY PERSONAL FAVORITE IS ALL CAPS PROPERTY DESCRIPTIONS!

  3. Gwen Banta

    March 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you for the shout-out, Benn. And thank you even more for your thought-provoking post. I have often considered why there are so many gaffs in the MLS and in real estate ads, for as you point out, we have a responsibility to our clients to provide professional marketing. As a youth, I was taught that one’s Word means everything, as does one’s Words.

    Have we lost all pride in how our words reflect us as professional, thoughtful individuals? Honestly, I would like to believe that for the most part, such is not the case. If I am wrong, please don’t burst my bubble, as I need to believe that most of us still care how our words help to define us as human beings, and as professionals.

    In my past posts, I have mentioned the obvious causes of such sloppy verbal presentation: “Ham fingers” when typing (my specialty!), English as a second language, formats that do not provide spell-check, failure of spell-check to detect homophones, and the brain’s ability to fill in what the writer intended to say, rather than what the writer actually wrote. (Exp. I once signed a letter “Best Retards”; and let’s not forget my favorite gaffe from our Los Angeles Open House Guide: “Live near the Hollywood Bowel!”)

    When I was composing listing remarks recently, I realized there is yet another problem. On our MLS, we are limited to a finite number of characters – much less than in other multiple listing services. Thus, we all tend to abbreviate constantly to assure that the salient features of a home are included (FP, Hdwd flrs, appl, etc.) This presents a challenge, as spell-check then becomes fairly useless. Thus, I think many agents, myself included, have stopped using it.

    What, then, is the solution? We certainly need to be more aware of the impression our words make. We owe that to ourselves as well as to our clients and our companies. HASTE is our biggest foe. Thus, I urge people not to compose in haste. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, use a PROOFREADER if you are spelling-challenged. In fact, use one even if you consider yourself a spelling wizard, as one’s eye will often fool one’s brain.

    If spell-check is not available, copy and paste your composition into a Word program or an email draft to check the spelling. Read your words ALOUD to see how they sound. (Exp. How does “Great for horse livers” sound? What about “Drawing for free Ppad”? And I can assure you, “High in Laurel Canyon” has a different meaning to local denizens who are aware of my beloved canyon’s rock-n-roll roots.

    It’s impossible to be perfect, of course. Worse yet, I would have no material if everyone could suddenly spell. Nonetheless, professionalism is a goal we should all strive for, and proper spelling is a tool we all need to achieve that objective. Without it, we are just a branch of itinerant socks. Uh, I mean, “a bunch of ignorant sods.”

    • Benn Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      Brilliant as ever Gwen. Keep making us smile!

    • Ken Montville

      March 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      While I see your point, I’m not sure you’re reaching for the right solution.

      Sure. Attention to detail, creativity, innovation and even simple caring about your j-o-b all come into play. But, let’s look at who we’re talking about: independent contractors that are recruited from the general population and encouraged to take limited course instruction to obtain a license to sell real estate.

      Nowhere in the pre-licensing course I took was anything about marketing. The Broker’s “Fast Start” classes, post license, touched on the old tried and true – cold calling, door knocking, postcards and the like. Nowadays, I suspect that litany includes Facebook, Twitter and Virtual Tours.

      What’s my point?

      The real estate profession (industry?), as such, does not attract the highest quality marketers. Brokers are constantly churning through new recruits and letting “the market” sort our who will be in and who will be out. Months ago, a nascent “Raise The Bar” movement was ridiculed and belittled. Maybe I’m out of the loop but it seems that effort has gone by the wayside. It might have been worth encouraging.

      Finally, marketing, while important, is not represent the total skill set a Realtor needs. The real work, in my opinion, comes when an offer is made and the negotiations begin…and the tracking of deadlines for the contract’s milestones…and the hand holding and comforting and counseling to the client when the glitches inevitably occur.

      In my book, all these “get rich selling real estate” and Social Media gurus, Brokers and other snake oil salesmen are the ones that need to be fired.

      • Ken Montville

        March 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

        PS….I [heart} Gwen Banta

        • Benn/AG

          March 27, 2011 at 7:01 pm

          She is pretty fantastic isn’t she.

          Did you know she was in the Blues Brothers? 🙂 Yep!

      • James Malanowski

        March 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

        Agreed, which is why the broker should be smacked upside the head for allowing their agent look like an idiot which, in turn, blights the brokerage.

        The traditional brokerage takes the BS independent contractor status too literally. We need to step up and do our job which includes the OVERSIGHT of our agents. If the broker is too busy to review the MLS data before it goes public then hire someone to do it. Preferably someone that has a decent grasp of the English language.

        I’m with Benn on this one. Gwen’s columns are good for a laugh, but I tend to end up more pissed-off about the state of our industry after reading them.

        • Benn Rosales

          March 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm

          It does boil down to redundancy, doesn’t it. Basic services include some basic professionalism and care. Brokers can easily correct this problem, as well as images on listings.

      • Benn Rosales

        March 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm

        Raising the bar is one thing, but I’d start with simple professionalism. Representation is responsibility, and if Realtors want to be taken seriously as professional representatives then they shouldn’t need to be told, but at the end of the day, that’s the Brokers listing and the ultimate responsibility is theirs.

  4. Cliff Stevenson

    March 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    A big pet peeve of mine. In my market, it is quite surprising to see the number of “dinning rooms” in homes for sale.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      Dude, I actually printed 100 glossy tri-fold brochures with that exact typo! Don’t think I didn’t wonder if anyone would notice? It cost me nearly another 100 bucks, but I fixed it.

  5. Paula Henry

    March 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Ben – I love Gwen’s posts. They make me laugh and often I will come back and reread one just to brighten my day. Many times, I couldn’t get through them without a total breakdown and don’t dare start to read with a beverage of any kind.

    In all seriousness, though, I wonder – do clients ever read what is put on the MLS about their homes. Some of the things written are atrocious mistakes, albeit, very funny! Unfortunately, I don’t think Gwen will run out of content any time soon. I owe it to my clients to make sure my listings never end up as content on Gwen’s posts:)

    • Benn Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      I don’t know, I really don’t. I always sent a copy to my client, but I’m not sure all MLS systems offer that option.

      I always asked my clients for feedback too. I feel like they bought the house once, and if anyone knows the next buyer best, it’s probably the current owners. I’m pretty sure I always loved my listings more than my sellers though, after all, they were moving on up. 😉

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Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

Should your content management system go headless?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) You may be familiar with your typical content management system, but had you heard of a ‘headless’ model? Let’s dig into it together.

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Person using content management system with hands on keyboard and small bit of desktop visible.

At some point, you have probably worked with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. If you haven’t already, you at least know that this computer software is used to manage website content.

But, have you ever heard of a headless content management system before? We didn’t. So, we set out to find out what it’s all about and how beneficial, or not, it can be for your company.

What is headless CMS?

Unlike your classic CMS, headless CMS is a back-end only content management system. It decouples where your content is stored and authored (body) from the front-end where your content is displayed (head).

This CMS isn’t tied to a particular output like a web page. Content is transmitted as data over an application programming interface (API). It’s a content repository that delivers content seamlessly to any device.

Benefits of Headless CMS

More versatile
Headless CMS isn’t your classic “monolithic” CMS so you aren’t constrained to an all-in-one system that might work for websites but not mobile devices.

Content is consumed by customers in more than one place now. Headless CMS provides a more versatile way to deliver multi-channel content to websites, Android and iOS apps, and even IoT (internet of things), like a smartwatch or in-store kiosk.

Businesses will benefit from this because only one back-end is needed to manage and publish content for different services and products.

No need for specialized developers
Developers aren’t tied to a specific programming language or framework. A developer can choose between using Javascript, PHP, Ruby, or any language they prefer.

If you already have a talented developer, you don’t have to scramble to find someone else who specializes in a specific system or language you are moving to. Your current developer can do the job for you in the best way they know-how.

Better Security
Security is important. Not being married to the front-end, headless CMS has a security advantage a regular CMS doesn’t. Usually, content provided to a headless CMS is read-only, and the admin portion lives on a different server and domain.

With the back-end detached from the presentation layer, there is a smaller target area to attack. Also, layers of code can be used to hide the content-delivering API making it safer than a traditional CMS.

Real-time collaboration
With two separate systems, content editors and web developers can work concurrently. This shortens a project’s timeline and helps get your product and services to market quicker. Also, content editors don’t have to spend more time creating the same content for each system. Designers and developers can take care of that.
Downsides of Headless CMS

As with anything, headless CMS isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. It has its disadvantages.

More technical
Little technical involvement is called for in a traditional CMS. As a result, the tool can be picked up quickly by almost anyone.

A deeper understanding of CMS, coding languages, and front-end technologies is needed when using headless CMS. You must have a developer that can build the web or app just for you.

Increased maintenance
With the body separated from the head, there are two systems to maintain. Implementation and maintenance could potentially become complex.

Bigger price tag
Building a system from scratch costs time and money. With a traditional CMS, there is one account, and, most likely, one payment. With headless CMS, you’ll have multiple payments for the CMS, a developer, and the infrastructure running your website or app.

Your custom CMS also isn’t coming from a pre-built content management system. All that hard work takes time (and patience) to get it done right.

Conclusion

Headless CMS lets you create a unique user experience and allow for cross-platform publishing, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all content management system.

Before you jump ships, take inventory of all your content needs. Does your content need to be published on different platforms? Will a simple stand-alone website work for you? Only you can decide what works best with your business, but we hope this information helps.

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Business Marketing

Spice up your remote team building with a fully virtual escape room

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As part of a remote team, team building has become even more of a groan. But this virtual escape room seeks to make a fun and unique challenge for remote teams.

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Woman waving at laptop in living room, on team building activity.

Team building events aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. While some enjoy getting to know coworkers they don’t normally socialize with, others dread the day before it arrives. Plus, there’s always work that needs to be taken care of, and using some of that time to mingle might seem like a waste of time.

Love it or hate it, working remotely has made team building slightly better, maybe? You don’t have to worry about physically being present in a place you don’t want to be. You’re not awkwardly talking to a co-worker whose name you can’t quite remember.

Nonetheless, it also has its downsides. We don’t see each other anymore so it’s easier to not be on the same page, and this makes learning how to work together much harder.

We’re almost a year into the pandemic and happy hour Zoom calls no longer hold the glamour they once did. So, what else is there to do in this virtual world?

Skyrocket Your Team has just the answer for you. This company provides virtual team building experiences through collaborative online escape rooms. The escape rooms are designed with remote teams in mind and can be tailored to accommodate different sized groups.

“If you’re working remotely, Skyrocket Your Team will help your team feel closer together and improve your internal communication,” wrote Co-Founder Jorge Sánchez Hernández. “Our puzzles are designed for teams by adult educators to trigger a set of emotions, feelings, and situations. Everyone sees a different screen and you need to communicate in order to get through the challenges. There is no way to continue without teamwork!”

From the comfort of your office or couch, each team member joins from their own computer and location. The escape room consists of an immersive story about astronauts trapped in a damaged spaceship. By solving puzzles and challenges, the team must work together to repair the spaceship and return to earth.

After hopefully, safely landing your rocket, there is a debriefing session. During this time, teams can share their experiences and discuss what they learned.

Skyrocket Your Team says their new form of team building will bring your company several benefits like:

  • Bringing your team closer together
  • Fostering collaboration instead of internal competition
  • Improving communication across your company

The end goal of the experience is to learn how to communicate effectively by solving the different sets of problems together. And, I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

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