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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

Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition

EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.

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Job interview between two women.

So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.

We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.

There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.

Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.

This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.

By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.

The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)

Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.

Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.

With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.

After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.

Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.

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Opinion Editorials

The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook

(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.

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Work from home written with scrabble letters.

Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.

Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.

If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.

Better Overall Quality of Life

Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.

In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.

Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.

If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?

It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.

Can Work Anywhere with Internet

Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Set Your Own Hours

In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.

When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.

Saves Everyone Time and Money

 In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.

According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.

These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.

Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.

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Opinion Editorials

Do these 3 things if you TRULY want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) We understand diversity helps and strengthens our companies, and individual teams. But how can you be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce?

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Two women at meeting table discussing working in tech.

More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps, and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

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