Brokers helping their agents to thrive
With ever-improving tech and new ways to advertise every day, agents obviously need to stay up-to-date on the best technology to get ahead and keep improving. Besides honing skills, utilizing technology to your benefit can one day put you in top producer status, too.
But what about brokerages? What should brokerages be doing in terms of technology to help their agents’ businesses in terms of staying ahead of the game?
I reached out to a few brokerages to see what they provide and pay for to help their agents:
I asked Rich Rogola, digital strategist for Coldwell Banker’s Chicago offices, what most of the company’s money goes to when it comes to websites and software that helps agents. “We invest a lot of money into our own technology and end up building a lot of that out,” he said. “Most of our marketing spending and strategy goes into generating online business for our agents, making sure those leads go back to our agents as quickly as possible and then giving them the tools to stay in touch with their clients during and after the transaction.”
Coldwell Banker also has various partner programs. In Chicago, the brokerage has a subsidized deal for single property websites through Homefinder.com, and Coldwell Banker also pays for agents’ listings on Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia.
In addition, the company has an eMarketing platform available for free to all agents that helps them stay in touch with clients through email or social media, and provides Homebase, a secure and paperless online transaction management system, for free.
Baird & Warner
This company recently implemented a texting program available to all agents for free, according to Andrea Cordts, communications manager for Baird & Warner. Any buyer interested in any Baird & Warner property can text “BW” to the number 59559, and the user will receive information and property photos via their mobile device. From there, the listing agent will receive the user’s phone number and be able to contact the potential buyer regarding more information or a showing.
“Since it was launched in January of last year, Baird & Warner has received over 30,000 buyer inquiries from this marketing method,” Cordts said.
In addition, Baird & Warner has a mobile CRM that helps them respond to clients in a timely manner, and the company runs over 6,000 websites integrated within this system, and provides the means for agents to create individual property websites for agents to market listings. Baird & Warner also hosts a seminar called “Career Institute” every few months to make sure all agents are familiar with its tech tools.
The company has several partnerships, among them with HomeFinder.com, Realtor.com, Homes.com and Trulia, which provides discounts to its agents for certain advertising packages with the various partner sites. For example, agents have a 50 percent discount with the Showcase Advantage program with Trulia and Homes.com.
This boutique firm of about 159 agents and four offices in Chicago pays for all of its agents’ advertisements on Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com and the Chicago Tribune. The agents are on their own for their own websites.
To me, the most helpful tech “tool” brokerages could do for agents would be paying to advertise listings online. Are brokerage-provided CRMs of any benefit to agents? What do you wish your brokerage provided for you, and what’s better handled yourself?
Note from AGBeat: not all brokerages responded in time to be included in the story. The above is a sampling of brokerages, and is not meant to be a complete dissection of the industry.
Fake news? Well, what about fake reviews?
(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is swamped with fake reviews, making it harder than ever to trust whether or not a product is legit. How can you spot them and avoid falling victim to this shady practice?
These days, most of us have turned to online shopping in lieu of brick-and-mortar establishments to get our favorite items shipped directly to our front door. With many retailers still closed, and many more of us understandably wary of exposing ourselves to the risk of COVID-19, it’s easier to just click “buy” and then spend the next two days with our noses pressed to our windows in anticipation of the arrival of our new toy or garment. But are we at risk of being tricked by fake reviews?
If you’re like most people, you probably depend on product reviews to make a purchasing decision. Honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to see what others thought of the item before you buy it. These online reviews are almost like your neighbor, who whipped out his lawnmower and bragged how it goes from 0 to 4 mph in less than thirty seconds. Obviously — obviously — you had to run out to your nearest garden center to pick up one of your own after his glowing review of it, right?
That’s kinda like online reviews, too. You can’t just knock on the purchaser’s door and ask them what they thought of it, which is why you carefully peruse those reviews and weigh those pros and cons. Okay, this shirt fits loose. Fine, these kitchen shears broke after three uses. Whoa, this brand of potato chips puts hair on your chest…? Sweet! And you also probably looked at those 3-star reviews, too, to see what was merely “meh” about the product. With this assortment of mixed reviews, you can be confident that you’re making a rock-solid choice.
Uh, sadly, nope.
Unfortunately, Amazon (as well as other major retailers, such as Walmart) are often fraught with a glut of fake reviews. In fact, there are numerous Facebook pages dedicated to the purchase of these reviews, and many of the reviewers are compensated with a monetary reward (usually the cost of the item, plus a few extra dollars for their work) for posting the glowing 5-star rave.
So what can you do to help protect yourself for falling for these seemingly harmless lies?
Well, first and foremost — a fake review isn’t necessarily harmless. If a defective or dangerous product is boosted by a false review, it can seriously harm you. Sure, there’s a good chance the fake reviews are benign, and the worst you’ll be in for it is losing a few bucks on a crap item. But if something is using counterfeit or unsafe ingredients (such as minoxidil in potato chips because, real talk, chips aren’t supposed to put hair on your chest), then yes, you need to be informed of it so you can make an educated decision about whether or not that item is coming home with you.
So, the question remains: How can you, intrepid shopper extraordinaire, avoid purchasing a lemon? (Unless, of course, your goal was to buy an actual lemon in the first place. Margaritas, anyone?) The good news is that there are a couple things you can do. For starters, common sense goes a long way. Do the reviews offer any context, or is it just line after line of, “Loved it!” without any actual feedback on the item? That’s why those 3-star reviews are so priceless. Usually the reviewer actually used the item and had a valid reason for their tepid review, allowing you to make an educated decision about it.
Finally, there are a couple of websites you can use to help you out. First, there’s Fakespot. This web extension will cull out all the fake reviews, allowing you to see at-a-glance the remaining genuine reviews. It then reviews the item for its credibility, letting you know if the seller was trying to pull a fast one on you. Then there’s ReviewMeta. Unlike Fakespot, this website goes through the views and instead of grading the seller, it actually grades the item based on the average score of the remaining real reviews. And by using both of these websites together to check those reviews? You’ve now got yourself a pretty decent idea if the product is actually worth your hard-earned dollars.
It’s far too easy to get scammed these days. However, by staying alert and remaining mindful about your online purchases (and avoiding the temptation to give into those stress-motivated impulse buys), you can avoid being bilked, too. And hey, instead of looking at online reviews, maybe you should go back to the old-fashioned way of doing it: By asking your neighbor for their opinions of items. Just, y’know, do it from at least six feet away, while wearing a face mask.
Manufacturing is bouncing back, but supply of materials is struggling
(BUSINESS NEWS) As manufacturing demands surge, so do material costs. The pandemic has shifted where we’re putting our money, but supply is struggling to keep up.
As the United States’ manufacturing process comes back up to speed, a surge in demand is creating a shortage of the one thing manufacturers need in order to do their jobs: Supply.
Fox Business reports that, due to a much quicker return to normalcy for manufacturing than some expected, a price hike for materials is affecting everyone from the bottom up: “Prices for steel, aluminum, lumber and other materials are rising in response to higher order volumes. Commodity supply chains are now clogged with orders, causing some producers to add weekend hours and overtime for employees.”
The fast manufacturing rebound seems to be a harbinger of better days ahead, but this supply bottleneck could dampen producers’ resolve.
It should be noted that the spike in demand for goods which use the materials in question isn’t an entire surprise. As Fox notes, much less of consumer money has been going toward travel and dining out. This has resulted in more money flowing into things like appliances, vehicles, and entertainment commodities.
But the toll is hitting producers coming and going as things like depressed oil and the paper used in packaging undergo substantial price hikes, leading some companies to stockpile resources in hopes of having an edge in the future.
Others find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between lower profit margins or higher prices on manufactured products—a choice that is sure to impact consumers, if not the rate of consumption.
Indeed, some companies, such as Northwest Hardwoods, have an upper limit on the price they can charge on a finished product regardless of rising material costs.
It’s not all bad, of course. Global prices for materials like aluminum and scrap steel have gone up, which means people like Brad Serlin—the president of United Scrap Metal—can make a killing. “We can sell everything we have,” says Serlin, referencing “big orders” from recently busy steel mills.
As the pandemic wears on, though, one thing is crystal clear: The high demand for domestic goods coupled with rising global prices for materials is going to make for some severe price hikes in the coming months.
Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO, moves into space travel
(BUSINESS NEWS) Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon’s CEO in order to focus on other passions, such as his space company, Blue Origin.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will no longer be Amazon’s CEO starting in the third quarter of 2021. On Tuesday, Bezos announced he is resigning and will hand the job over to Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services’ CEO. Bezos will transition to the role of Executive Chair on Amazon’s board.
“I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” said Bezos to employees in an email. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else,” he said.
By stepping down, Bezos says he will have more “time and energy” to focus on “other passions” like Blue Origin, his space company. In 2000, the billionaire started the rocket company to make space travel affordable and easily accessible by using reusable launch vehicles.
Since the company was founded, it has yet to reach orbit and is lagging behind Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). SpaceX, which began two-years after Blue Origin, has already achieved some huge milestones.
In September 2008, Falcon 1 became the first privately developed liquid-fuel rocket to reach Earth orbit. In May 2020, SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts to space.
Blue Origin has a lot of catching up to do, but, with more free time, Bezos might make sure the company moves full-speed ahead.
I mean, look at what he did with Amazon. In 1994, Bezos founded the multinational technology company. Since then, the e-commerce giant has grown into a trillion-dollar company. It has more than 1 million employees and millions of customers.
“This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name,” Bezos said. “Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world.”
There is no word about how much more involved Bezos will be with Blue Origin, but the company already has things to look forward to.
Last December, NASA selected Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket to “launch planetary, Earth observation, exploration, and scientific satellites for the agency.” This contract will allow the company to “compete for missions through Launch Service Task Orders issued by NASA.”
Last month, it conducted a successful flight test of its New Shepard capsule, and many more tests are, without a doubt, in the company’s future.
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