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Opinion Editorials

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.

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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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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