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Life in the sidebar: how many people are missing the point of the web

Running a business like a boss isn’t easy, but it may be your only choice – unless you care less about being an authority and more about your face appearing in peoples’ sidebars.

The real world

Life was so much easier as a real estate agent working under the guidance of an established local brand.

Business flowed in good times and in bad. I gave absolutely zero thought as to where it came from. I just did my thing. Helping people build, buy, sell, or lease real estate.

Clearly the company I worked for was generating business somehow. They have a website. They have signs. They are well known in the community. People called them about “stuff” all the time. They are trusted. They have a robust professional network.

We didn’t pay for any online advertising in the sidebar, and to be honest, the IDX section of the site never worked (and still doesn’t). They only display their own listings, which are manually uploaded. No blog at all.

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If I was first introduced to this company today I would totally flip. How the hell did they stay in business if content is king and listings are the king’s gold? They’d surely have to be out of business by now, right?

Come on, you know the answer. Of course not. They are doing just fine.

They are a wonderful case study on what works. Superior service. Local context. Rinse and repeat.

Landing on the moon

Real estate agents and brokers are bombarded with so much information and advertising opportunities to generate “leads.” I’m not the first guy to think the term “leads” stinks. This is a people business. Stop looking at your potential clients as digital signatures, IP addresses, and Google Analytics metrics.

Website optimization. Blogs. Third party advertising opportunities on real estate search engine sites. Sure, they are “good” right? The opportunity to advertise your service to people who are “searching” specifically for what you specialize in? Who can argue with that?

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I can. The feel good pitch, “If you close just one deal with this (product, service, advertising opportunity) it will more than pay for itself,” just doesn’t work for me. The pitch is weak on its own merit.

We’ve grown sloppy as a collective with our marketing, advertising, and digital strategies. Do you really think you are providing value by aggregating auto-populated blog posts on your site? You think people can’t smell canned email responses and “drip” (another term that needs to die) campaigns? Still think people want to “register” on your god-awful ugly website? Think again friend.

The line in the sand

Draw one right now. Say it with me: “I refuse to run my business like a carnival sideshow.” Come back down from the moon right this instant and stay behind that line in the sand and start building your castle.

Real estate. Housing. Moving. We have a unique opportunity to work with people in a meaningful way in which almost no other industry offers. My old firm had it right all along.

Their network reached out to them the moment they had a housing need. Not because they were the creepy guys in the sidebar advertisement on a website, but because they actually had authority. Not the fake kind of authority that SEO and pay per click offer, but real authority – in hearts and minds.

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The show will go on

How can we take what we learned on the moon and apply it to our life here, in the real world?

The web does matter. Just not in the way you think it does. And not in the way it has been sold to you either. Start building powerful digital experiences for your audience. I’m not here to sell you on blogging, or video, or IDX, or Pinterest. That’s not what this is about. But it is about putting your flag in the ground and staking claim on your digital stronghold, whatever it may be…it needs to be yours and it needs to resonate with your users.

Make the digital experience match the real world experience. My old firm is missing out. No doubt in my mind. Imagine if they could translate their value from the real world into the digital world. If they optimized their assets.

You will need help. Work with people who want to empower you and not with people who want to leverage you.

Run your business like a boss

Run your business like a boss. Get organized. Measure smartly. Remove friction from all of your processes. Start treating real estate like the intricate business that it is. Spend time developing and analyzing marketing, processes, and experiences that make sense and translate into higher profit margins.

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It might be expensive to build and protect this castle in the sand. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it’s your only choice. Stop letting consumers find you in the weird creepy corners of the internet. Be the local authority and fly your flag high. Deliver superior service. Maintain local context. Leverage technology. Rinse and repeat.

Or be the creepy guy in the sidebar.

The choice is yours.

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Written By

Greg is the principal owner of Fischer Real Estate Services, a Fort Worth firm specializing in customer value and community enrichment. He's also an MBA at TCU, and a proud member of the Naval Reserves. In his spare time - he sleeps.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. annarborrealtor

    October 31, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Welcome to AG Greg!

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 12:44 am

      @annarborrealtor thanks Missy, stoked to be here

  2. kenbrand

    October 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Just say no to Bozo.  I love it and I”m looking forward to hearing more from you Greg.  What do you think about Zillow and foreclosures?  Ahhhh haaaaa haaaa.  Never mind.  Cheers my man, welcome to AG.

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 12:48 am

      @kenbrand haha Ken. Bozo is a clown, and I hate clowns. Ken – you looking forward to hearing from me is like Sinatra saying he looks forward to hearing Justin Bieber sing. I will do my best to bring my best, thank you for laying the groundwork.
       
      Zillow and foreclosures! You want my thoughts? Free thoughts with the purchase of a home in Fort Worth ($1 million minimum)

  3. ericaramus

    October 31, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Great first editorial on AG Greg! Keep them coming… I am looking forward to reading your posts.

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 12:50 am

      @ericaramus Erica! Thanks for stopping by. More to come.

  4. karriflatla

    November 1, 2012 at 1:30 am

    I’ve always said: when people don’t know any better … they turn to the Internet and do really bad things.
     
    The Realtor Web State of the Union is in a bad way I’m afraid.
     
    It *should* be sorta kinda straightforward how to create compelling, conversational value online, value that compliments the offline promise. But for myriad reasons — including all the nutty marketing “lessons” real estate agents continue to consume — our industry isn’t getting it.
     
    To be fair, much of the small biz world remains in the pitch dark about all of the above. Not just real estate agents. Some are trying to learn and get it figured out. And well, some just don’t wanna. That said, I see/hear about agents doing things OFF-line that make me cringe. So maybe their “web presence” is but an extension of that bizarre and persistent ethos that screams “Love ME! Pick ME! I’m so kewl! ME!”
     
    Great post.

  5. karriflatla

    November 1, 2012 at 1:35 am

    I’ve always said: when people don’t know any better … they turn to the Internet and do really bad things.
     
    The Realtor Web State of the Union is in a bad way I’m afraid.
     
    It *should* be sorta kinda straightforward how to create compelling, conversational value online, value that compliments the offline promise. But for myriad reasons — including all the nutty marketing “lessons” real estate agents continue to consume — our industry isn’t getting it.
     
    To be fair, much of the small biz world remains in the pitch dark about all of the above. Not just real estate agents. Some are trying to learn and get it figured out. And well, some just don’t wanna. That said, I see/hear about agents doing things OFF-line that make me cringe. So maybe their “web presence” is but an extension of that bizarre and persistent ethos that screams “Love ME! Pick ME! I’m so kewl! ME!”
     
    Great post.

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 10:41 am

      @karriflatla Thanks for reading Karri. Its not an easy world to navigate. I have met a lot of people this year who are more gracious with their expertise and help. Its easy to spot them because they dont have a sales pitch tied to their conversation. Love the end of your comment by the way. Very kewl of you to stop by

      • karriflatla

        November 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

        @Greg Fischer  @karriflatla YES. The keys to the castle are lie within just one word: *conversation* It’s pretty simple when you boil it down to that. Disclaimer: used to be a copywriter/web consultant for years. I had spent much time working to unpack folks’ beliefs about the Internet. Was interesting 😉

      • karriflatla

        November 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

        @Greg Fischer YES. The keys to the castle lie within just one word: *conversation* It’s pretty simple when you boil it down to that. Disclaimer: used to be a copywriter/web consultant for years. I spent much time working to unpack folks’ beliefs about the Internet. Was interesting 😉

  6. Joe Loomer

    November 1, 2012 at 10:15 am

    “Work with people who want to empower you and not with people who want to leverage you.”   Amen!
     
    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 10:42 am

      @Joe Loomer Chief, thanks for stopping in. Fly Navy!

  7. CraftBeerAustin

    November 1, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Blogging like a Boss too…  Strong work and I couldn’t agree more.   You can always tell a Real Estate agent on twitter by the number of other people referenced in their tweets, 99% will be all about them and how “great” they or their hot air balloon is.   I look forward to seeing more posts from you Fisch!

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 10:49 am

      @CraftBeerAustin Bobby, thanks for for checking in man. Heres a good one: A realtor, an attorney, and a SEO step into a hot air balloon…

  8. KendylYoung

    November 1, 2012 at 10:41 am

    The web does matter, just not in the way you think it does.  BINGO.  The idea that the web as “latest magic pill that will create business for me” is a drug we must refuse.  Rather, web as a way to “amplify and  leverage the face to face value I have always brought to my clients”?  Priceless.

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

      @KendylYoung Thanks for reading Kendyl. Bingo indeed. Though I will say – I dont think anyone would be upset to see your smiling face in their sidebar. -G$

  9. drewmeyers

    November 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    But your approach is harder than putting up crap and delivering no service 🙂

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      @drewmeyers oh yeah, crap and no service is much easier – lots of people do that! Funny thing is guys like you have been playing the same tune for years. Ive listened. Im shipping. Others – not sure, maybe they just read columns for pleasure?

  10. leslieebersole

    November 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    @Greg Fischer Pretty darn good.

    • Greg Fischer

      November 1, 2012 at 9:52 pm

      @leslieebersole Thanks for reading Leslie

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