Times have changed
It’s amazing the world we live in right now; I feel like I did the day I got my very first computer, a Macintosh Performa 400 (circa 1992). At that time it was really rare to see a computer in a home and loading a browser and logging on to the internet in those days was a task in and of itself- and where did you go once you were logged on? Email was a neat tool, but who in the world would you email? AOL would soon be all I had and paid out the nose by the minute to wait impatiently for anything to happen- chat back then was the in thing.
These things have changed. Computers are virtually everywhere you look, even in your car, and in your pocket, and forget logging on, even the tiny computer in my pocket is virtually always connected. From my fingertips, I can learn virtually anything I want to, go where I want to go, explore where I want to, and buy what I want to. As a consumer, I am completely wired into anything that I decide is important to me at that moment, even the news- it automatically updates headlines every 20 seconds.
These changes to my life at first weren’t seen as game enders, they were game changers. I do not look at new tools as something to fear, my electronics are not seen as motive driven, they are simply part of my wired life.
Here’s the disconnect:
What is not advancing as fast as my wired life is my un-wired industry and many of our peers. Many are still stuck at the PC and email and this worries me. It worries me because at the root level, many have not accepted advances personally and therefore professionally fear everything that isn’t within their control.
I wrote this article on Google as tongue and cheek to some degree, and some got it, others did not. The post had absolutely nothing to do with the value of agents, yet some sprung to position to once again preach to the choir about their value proposition, but what is missed by most is that this world is no longer focused on talking about a value proposition, it’s about demonstrating it.
The audience is wired, the consumer base is wired, the world is on fire with wires, and this tiny industry of one million or so seems willing to ignore the obvious at their own core level- I used to ask why, but I think I get it now.
This tiny minority known as the real estate profession truly believes that the world will actually stop, slow down, turn around, and come backwards to ask a question or hear a lecture on value proposition, and in the short run they might- in the long run they won’t.
The starting line has changed
As an AG reader who may be stuck and afraid of paradigm shifts on a professional level, you should take a hard look at the personal level in which the world around you is moving, and I think it’s in this moment that you’ll understand what it means that the starting line has changed.
I used the words ‘starting point’ for very good reason in my analysis when I said the starting line has changed; this means ‘Game Changing,’ not ‘Game Ending.’
If anything and everything in your life is to be successful, one must understand when the starting line has moved in order to even run the race. To ignore this fact means you’re left running a race that is no longer being run.
It may feel great to read that Google is offering nothing new, and that data points are weak within other listing portals around the net and I’m sure it helps you to sleep tonight that there’s nothing to really be alarmed about- ‘it’s nothing new,’ you tell yourself. But that is an ignorant enabling of the mentality in which I’m referring to.
The era of ignorance is bliss
This is the era of ignorant bliss that we as an industry have all the time in the world so long as we just refuse to run the race. Does this mentality work for two agents competing in the same neighborhood for the same market share? Does it work for two competing brokerages in the same city? No, it doesn’t. Both run the race as hard as they can from the starting line that is visibly in front of them because it is survival of the fittest- it’s the difference between in and out of business or even a dying industry. It is at its root core a chipping away of market share that inevitably ends with a loss to both competitors because they’re oblivious to the dedication of others who are playing the game from a completely different vantage point for the same market share.
Two guys walk into a bar, there’s only one girl to win over, they flirt and advance but get nowhere because they were arrogantly oblivious that she’s hooking up with the bartender.
My take away for MLSs, boards, and agents is really simple in that it’s time for this industry (with an “it begins with me” vision) to either get in the race or change the game- and we can do that first by acknowledging that there is a race at all. Awareness is bliss.
July 8, 2009 at 10:23 pm
Benn: I get it! Google OWNS the bar!
July 9, 2009 at 9:07 am
Excellent post Benn! I am always thinking about the future of our industry and where it’s headed.
In order to do that, it’s important to look at realty services from the consumer’s eyes. They ultimately, decide our fate, so if we can understand their needs, then we can focus on services they want.
If technology advances to the point that the mls is no longer useful, consumers may not need us.
July 9, 2009 at 9:14 am
@agent21 @flatfeeddirect Thomas, you’re pretty generally always 4 steps ahead of the cursor! =]
Fred, we all know the mls is useful, but it isn’t branded and I think it’s time to change the game. We’ve allowed others to run with the conversation for fear and or ignorance, but I’m hoping that can change.
If those in decision making positions today are afraid of technology and change at a core level then it’s imperative they change that way of thinking or bring in a fresh voice to their conversations and allow someone else to be visionary.
I understand that mlss have to be careful not to overshadow the local agent, but in this day and age that may not be the way to go.
Look at you Fred! I’m off to follow you on Twitter!
July 9, 2009 at 10:58 am
Benn, can you be more specific about what you’re recommending? You mention branding in your last comment, can you expand on that more?
July 9, 2009 at 11:41 am
@mwurzer Michael, it was a passing thought I thought might be worth mentioning. If Local MLS were to brand itself and actually develop high quality local search and compete more equally with 3rd parties, it would be a game changer multiplied by number of local MLSs. There are a few instances of this happening already, but not on a scale that is impressive.
some boards recognize that in order to protect their market share in the long run, they need to actually make a statement (in some form) that demonstrates that fact.
July 9, 2009 at 11:46 am
and btw @mwurzer in this economy at this juncture hiring talent is actually an option on the UI/dev side – probably fractional compared to 2004-05
July 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm
I like the branding idea but I think it should be around a new brand for IDX and VOWs. NAR could benefit a lot of brokers and agents by promoting a strong brand around IDX and VOWs, which have quality data. I also agree that MLSs creating consumer-facing web sites is a strategy that’s worked for a few larger MLSs, but that model doesn’t work everywhere. In the Seattle area, for instance, I can’t imagine a consumer facing web site ever happening. Moreover, the core competencies of most MLSs are community and data, not building consumer web sites. By branding IDX and VOWs as having the highest quality data, NAR and local MLSs would be promoting their members’ businesses as opposed to competing with them.
July 9, 2009 at 12:40 pm
You’re talking about something much more grand than needs to be, I’m talking about a local MLS looking and feeling like a major search competitor but LOCAL- we don’t need realtor.com part II we need to shore up local market share in my opinion with all of the social features, technologies large players offer- not every local can do this, but most can- if we can get visionary on the local level? that would change the game. that would put one entity competing, let’s say trulia against the actual local offering where (for a change) the contacts from that search that wish to connect with the listing agent, can. Support side buyer agents kickin on the forum side, and what we’re now working with is local communities wrapped around the branded community. The jobs this would open up, and the ad revenue from local business economies would surely make it all worth while.
July 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm
Btw, you can currently connect with consumers on Trulia if the buyer wants too, I didn’t mean that, what I meant was the ability to connect and or capture would by greater.
July 9, 2009 at 1:56 pm
Benn, if there’s one issue that’s been analyzed in depth over the last several years, it’s whether MLSs should have public web sites. I’m confident there are no bilnders on for MLSs on that topic, and there are many MLSs with web sites now and more that are building them. Those that aren’t doing it are not ignorant but most likely have received direction from their membership it isn’t wanted or have concluded the ROI didn’t justify it.
More importantly, I’m not talking about anything grand. I’m suggesting the NAR, state and local Associations could promote local broker and agent web sites by reating an IDX and VOW brand. This is little different than the job they already do promoting the REALTOR brand. The only difference is that , this brand would be easier because it would be focused on the narrower issue of quality data on the web.
This approach will allow for lots of innovation by competing brokers and agents while also presenting a consistent and national message to consumers about whicb of the many web sites out there today really have the best data. In addition, this approach would leverage the significant investment agents, brokers and franchises already have made in IDX and VOWs. So, in one simple initiative, competition and innovation are enhanced, current investment is leveraged, and consumers learn the truth about data quality. Can you think of a better way NAR and local associations could spend member ad dollars? Do you think such a campaign would out perform local MLSs each reinventing the wheel trying to build their own sites?
Lastly, you mention advertising but the local MLS markets aren’t big enough (even the really big ones) to make a real advertising play and the most profitable ads will create conflicts for the cooperating brokers. T
July 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm
ROI? Really? What is the longterm loss of revenue looking like for these local economies with 50-60 alternatives picking the meat off the local bone?
Agents are chasing local buyers across the country on 3rd party sites including REaltor.com already- they’re tired of paying the cost of labor 3xs over and sometimes more to get back what was already theirs to begin with.
We agree to disagree on this point, a national mls is not the answer, we had that when we had realtor.com. From the local level agents can serve up the complete listing from the source- locally.
If they don’t understand the long term value of creating a local venue that demonstrates a value in today’s terms, I simply submit this post for their consumption- they’re not ignorant, what is ignorant is telling them that there is no worry when we’re out here working 10xs harder for the same dollar with our own listings.
On your last item, I’d pay money to my local mls that out shined realtor.com before I’d pay realtor.com to feature my listing 🙂
July 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm
You’re misunderstanding me. I’m not suggesting a national MLS in any way. I’m suggesting a national brand for a product all MLSs already provide to their members: IDX and VOW data. That data aggregation, along with the cooperation necessary to create it (which is what is missing by the national portals), is one of the core values provided by the local MLS, and it should be branded and explained to consumers so they can know when they find an agent or broker’s IDX or VOW site, they have the goods.
This approach doesn’t exclude an MLS spending money on building their own consumer web site, but I believe MLSs and Associations would see a far better return by promoting existing IDX and VOWs than building their own sites. Paying for featured listings is never going to be a successful approach in a cooperative model like the MLS, which is why you don’t see featured listings on any of the current MLS web sites.
July 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm
Also, the cost of data distribution can be reduced by syndication, which most MLSs are already pursuing is well and is another program that could benefit from a branding campaign for the MLS data.
July 9, 2009 at 8:04 pm
Benn – Exactly why I made my recent move. I asked myself, “Sit here with the status quo or go somewhere with agents and a broker who question, learn, and experiment with new things.” The answer was easy. Last night I sent Sheila (my broker) a link to Google Voice and said “sign up for an invite, I’ll explain later, but I have a great idea for this.” This morning? She was signed up. She knew if I thought there was something there, she should react. That to me is facing the facts that there’s a race going on. She’s been an agent for quite some time, her dad was an agent…she’s old school in terms of where she started, but she steps forward everyday. For me, that provides the opportunity for my own growth as well as to be a part of a group of agents that are willing to embrace change rather than stand still and watch it all pass by.