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REALTORS and their associations share a common problem.



What we have here is failure to communicate.

For the most part, I have come to enjoy reading real estate blogs since coming to work for the Virginia Association of REALTORS. However, it’s a de-motivating pain in the arse reading the sometimes. Every few days or weeks it seems someone’s hating on the REALTOR associations again. One complains that the dues are too high. Another complains that the dues are too low. One complains that the code of ethics is worthless. Another complains that too many REALTORS are ethically challenged. Et cetera.

Over the years, I’ve worked for four different trade associations and individual membership organizations serving four very different segments of the economy. In every case, the staff and leadership have always had the best interests of their membership in mind. The same is true in REALTOR associations. For the most part, REALTOR association staff are hardworking, committed employees, doing hidden (yet necessary) jobs in hidden offices on behalf of REALTORS at lower salaries than are offered the corporate sector, on average.

As I read them, some in the seem to believe that REALTOR associations are just here to siphon away agents’ hard-earned money and flush it down the drain on glitzy PR campaigns. And if that’s what they believe, we’ve obviously not done a very good job communicating the value we provide.

That is a communications problem. But ironically, it’s same one you REALTORS have. Consumers have little appreciation for the value of the behind-the-scenes work you do for them. They never see the dozens of phone calls you make to inspectors, appraisers, attorneys, lenders, and so on. They are oblivious to the complications you face navigating MLS rules, the hours you invested in learning about neighborhoods and the way you’ve trained your mind to help sellers arrive at the ideal listing price. They don’t appreciate the time you’ve spent nurturing a strong rapport with agents in your area to ensure that minor issues between buyers and sellers don’t turn into deal-breaking disasters. If you don’t explain that you’ve done all of this, can you blame them for wondering what that six percent is for? (Someone in the recently posted about this — keeping a tally of hours you spend on a deal and giving that report to the client at closing. Would love to link to you. Please comment.)

But there’s no time to explain all this. I agree. And even if there was, it’s not in your client’s best interest to tell them all of it, and they certainly don’t want to waste their time listening to you talk about it. They just want the deal to be done with a minimum of time and effort.

Next time you’re tempted to flame your REALTOR association, whether at the national, local or state level, think about the client who questioned your commission on the basis that he didn’t believe the amount or quality of work you did justified it. Just as in your line of business, there is a ton of valuable work going on behind the scenes.

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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  1. Ines

    January 22, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Ben – I’m not the type to complain about high fees and our local board does a hell of a job to provide great additional services for their Realtors.

    My question for you is, since there is a communication problem, how come these boards don’t show us what value they bring to the table?

    As in different real estate models, where the customer has the right to choose what services they want and need and pay accordingly, I think Realtors should be able to pick at the services they will use from their local boards and also pay accordingly.

  2. Jonathan Dalton

    January 22, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    It’s not behind the scenes that concern me. It’s the public face, not so much of the local associations but of the national.

    There is no way on earth you can tell me Lereah and now Yun are good for the image of the industry. They have done more to discredit all of us with their imaginary statements than a hundred bubble bloggers combined.

    I’ve got no doubt there are hard-working people behind the scenes. But the public PR face, up to and including the new “all is wonderful … buy right now” blog is brutal to behold. And I’m having to pay to support it.

  3. Lani Anglin

    January 22, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    Ben, I look forward to learning more about your specific role in the Association and consequently about local boards in general.

    I can honestly point to a time that Benn and I said “I wish our board was more progressive like VAR.” Is there a better example than The Ted that Associations can turn around their image?

    Ben, this leads to a greater point- if your audience is online and you are not, can they hear you? You are leading the way to making associations more audible, but if they’re not here in our group, then they’re as good as silent.

    So excited that you’re here!!!

  4. Benn Rosales

    January 23, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Ben, wow, you just dove in head first – remember, I like you…

    I can spin associations either way, there is good and there is bad on all levels. The bigger problem I see is that NAR ignores its constituency, it outright ignores it- there is no excuse for that.

    This past summer had I been the president of NAR, I’d have hired me a David G (sorry David). I’d have put together a massive online strategy to combat the negative spin taking place that has now become truth against NAR’s constituency. I’d not mock the, I’d have engaged them with a team of folks from NAR that are in the know on the statements YUN was making on the economy, and even the redfin twist on their side of the story, not talking points to people who are not loyal to the NAR (Redfin are Realtors) and those who don’t know the first thing about politics! Geeze!

    Instead – we’re a bunch of kids with keyboards? I bite my tounge every day at the fact that the image campaign is on television rather than where the fire is… “ONLINE” with us kids, oh yeah, they did make a webpage.

    The RE.NET are out here on the front lines alone, with no support or friendship from the NAR or associations. I’ve never spoken out against my local board, my beef is more with the national association. I see what they do well, but I also see them ignoring the grass roots efforts to destroy the association. Sure, we fall into the trap of agreeing with some of it, but the truth is, the NAR sits silent on the sidelines while the perspective is being set by technology groups looking for their next VC cap injection.

    If I believed associations were bad, you’d not be on – you are the light in the darkness of silence that has become NAR. The problem is, you don’t speak for the NAR- too bad for all of us.

    Now, having said all of that- any ideas on where we get us one of those David Gs? OR any better ideas?

    I welcomed the NAR President to the discussion, he’s yet to acknowlege the polite hello with so much as a trackback. NAR is misguided if they believe the is going away or this subject is going to die down- it isn’t.

    I’m happy to speak with NAR off the record, all they have to do is ask, otherwise, we’re left to raise ourselves above the level of the defined Realtor by redefining our business around something other than an R.

    Ben, lets get productive, you’re not under fire here, so let’s talk solutions…

  5. Benn Rosales

    January 23, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Btw, why do they need a David G? Because, it’s harder to beat up on a company if that company has a face and a personality people like.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    January 23, 2008 at 7:32 am

    I speak as one who has gone from being a REALTOR-Broker to an Association staff member. As a REALTOR, I was very involved in the Association because I saw a sort of country-club atmosphere. I wanted more. Now five years later and many other like me, we’ve began to see the shift in what’s going on. But – we got involved to invoke some changes, and there is a long way to go.
    I think the State and Local Associations are ran by the members in most cases (as they should be), but the members have given up, in a lot of ways, their control by asking staff to do those things they don’t desire to do themselves. I have to agree that NAR is difficult to change – it’s just too big, but alas all change is inevitable. It will come around. It just seems is too progressive and maybe a little too impatient.
    As an instructor, I’ve been pouring more and more effort into teaching technology classes with an emphasis on social media and blogging. Honestly, I have to remind myself that just because I surround myself with like minded folks, that we’re still the minority. MANY of the REALTORS don’t get it – and I don’t think it’s an age thing. I think that many agents don’t wish to do more than chase a few contracts and thus they aren’t spending the time to really concentrate on those things that matter such as ostensible influences in our market (speaking of emerging trends and how the consumer wishes to communicate). Whereas we think the blogsphere is ubiquitous, not all of the members have gotten there yet. We’re still really a minority that’s growing. I agree that we shouldn’t be ignored.
    I can honestly say that NAR has made some public image debacles, but looking at the long history they have helped us more than hurt us. They’ve just made some recent errors in judgment – but I haven’t given up on them yet. I am confident that they will listen to the members and start moving back to a REALTOR-centric venue.
    Lastly, let me say this… Having travelled from blog to blog that talks about NAR, there are many incorrect and accusatory posts out there. I can’t help but to understand why NAR is feeling attacked. Did they respond to it well? Probably not, but who among us hasn’t made a mistake? Who hasn’t maybe snapped at a family member or friend when it wasn’t appropriate.
    Keep working at it from a professional strategy point and try to be the source of the solution, as opposed to the antagonist rebel-rouser ?
    Being a REALTOR is a tool (no, I am not calling you a tool) that you can pickup and use, although it needs some adjustments and fine tuning – or – you can simply leave it in the craftsman box where you’ll never use it.
    (I think my comment turned into more of it’s own post… sorry)

  7. Matthew Rathbun

    January 23, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Honestly…. there were spaces between the paragraphs when I hit submit… sorry

  8. Ben

    January 23, 2008 at 8:41 am

    @Lani – Whenever I write or speak about association involvement in the social web, I say that ignoring the online conversation is NOT a viable strategy. It simply proves that association staff are incapable of Googling the association’s name, or that they lack the guts to engage in the conversation. With the exception of CRT’s blog, NAR’s attempts at blogging so far have been of the “rooftop shouter” variety: no out-linking, no engaging in the conversation, posting only “select” comments, etc. So yes, if an association doesn’t participate in this space, they are out of touch with the people who do.

    @Benn & Jonathan – Jonathan says that the new PR campaign is bunk. Benn says that the NAR doesn’t listen to its members. NAR says that its members approve of PR campaigns like (and including) the current one. I’m having trouble processing all of these concepts to make sense of them.

    @Ines – You hit on an important idea, and I’ll blog about that in the near future.

    @Matthew – Nice point about the successes REALTOR associations have brought to bear. REALTORS stand on the shoulders of giants and owe a great deal to those who have gone before them. They shouldn’t get a pass because of those victories, but the history is helpful to create some context for our “what have you done for me lately?” questions.

  9. Bob in San Diego

    January 23, 2008 at 10:01 am

    I believe that NAR has tried to be the jack of all trades and become master of none except as a lobby for the homeowner, which I applaud.

    It’s not just Realtors though who have lost faith in NAR – its the public. Lereah and Yun have destroyed the public trust in NAR and furthered the notion that Realtors are self-serving.

    The Code of Ethics IS a joke, because there is no enforcement at any level. A few years back the president of a local association was the one who blatantly used the url “”, and it was a director who had the plural version. Six months of calls and compliants were ignored until Mary at NAR stepped in with a C&D. This against to people who routinely hit offices to explain why the membership needed to step up and pay the PAC money.

    The associations are still far more influenced by the brokers than the agents, so going back to being agent-centric is probably more just a game of semantics.

    The consumer protectionists and much of the public see NAR as the MLS Cartel and paid shill, not their friend. I don’t blame them, as I feel the same, and I have been in this business for 18 years.

    I would opt out of NAR in a second if not for the mls. IF I thought I could win a class action against NAR over their MLS monopoly, I would do that as well. The clock is ticking for NAR. If they don’t get it soon, it will be too late.

  10. Benn Rosales

    January 23, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I approve of pr.

    Jonathan said there was a lack of face – meaning you have a pr problem.

    I’m saying they hauled off and did one all while ignoring where the fire is burning.

    I laid out for you what is missing, it isn’t hard to grasp. They’re shouting into the wind at folks (X) that are indifferent to the nar – gen y is here online, and so is z- THAT is where NAR needs to focus.

    X is on TV. (confused)
    Y is on TV and ONLINE. (buyers that we’re facing daily in droves)
    Z watches TV ONLINE. (tomorrows buyers)

  11. Daniel Rothamel

    January 23, 2008 at 10:56 am

    For me, ANY association is only going to be as good as those who make it up. In our case, Virginia is very lucky to have people like Ben and our CEO, R. Scott Brunner, who are very dedicated and very progressive when it comes to engagement and communication. The reality is that this is not the case everywhere.

    On the national level, I don’t know that there is ever going to be much hope of change, not any time soon, anyway. NAR is far too big, and there are far too many people with input to get much accomplished in a short period of time. The only way that is going to happen is to have a President who is willing to lead the association in that direction. It will take a VERY strong leader.

    On our individual local levels, change is a bit easier because of the increased ease and opportunity for engagement. It is a heck of lot easier to get the ear of someone from your local or state association than someone at NAR.

    Association/member relations can be a complex issue for any association, even more so for an association with 1 million members. Effective communication provides the foundation for un-complicating issues.

  12. Benn Rosales

    January 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Mathew, on many levels you make great points, very well thought out.

    Daniel, I think you’re correct about leadership, we have a new president, he may just turn out to be that leader.

    Ben, communication is key, and we certainly appreciate you doing that with us.

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Business Marketing

Video is necessary for your marketing strategy

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As technology and social media move forward, so do marketing opportunities. Now is the time for video content social media marketing!



video content

As an entrepreneur, you’ve surely heard the phrase “pivot to video” countless times over the last few years. It’s the path a lot of media companies are on, but even brands that aren’t directly talking about this pivot have increased their video production. This shift stems in part from studies showing users spend more time on pages featuring video content. Social media has also played a significant role, and recently, new social platforms have made the pivot to video even more important.

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The promotional angle

One of the primary ways that businesses use video content across platforms is by creating promotional content, which range widely in style, cost, and content, but there are a few strategies that can really help a promotional video succeed.

First, a great promotional video hooks the viewer within the first few seconds. Social media has shrunk everyone’s attention span, so even if your video is on a longer form platform, the beginning has to be powerful. Having a strong start also means that your video will be more flexible, allowing it to gain traction across different platforms.

Audience matters

What you’re promoting – what your business does and who it serves – plays a critical role in what kinds of video content you make and what platforms you use. TikTok is a lot of fun, and it’s playing a growing role in business, but if your entire audience is age 30 and up, there’s not much point in trying to master the form and build a viewership there. You need a sufficient youth-heavy market to make TikTok a worthwhile investment, but Snapchat, which also serves a youth-heavy market, might be a different story.

Even if you don’t intend to make heavy use of Snapchat, the platform recently made a big splash in the video sector by opening up its story tools to other platforms. That means businesses will be able to use Snapchat’s tools on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where they may already have an audience. It will also make crossover content easier, allowing you to maintain consistent branding across all platforms. You may never download Snapchat proper, but you may soon be using their tools.

It’s all about strategy

However you choose to approach video content, the fact is that today video is a necessary part of your content marketing strategy. In part this is because, while blogs aren’t going anywhere, and short-form social media is definitely ascendant, both make use of video, but that’s not the only reason. Video is so powerful because it’s deeply personal. It makes your audience feel that much more closely connected with you and your brand, and that alone is enough to change buying patterns.

Another key advantage of video is that, consumers genuinely enjoy well-made videos. Unlike blogs, which most users will typically only seek out if they need information, there are brands out there who are known for their video content. They’ve found a way to hook viewers and make them feel like they have two products: entertainment and whatever it is they actually sell. You, too, can do this with enough creativity and today’s social media tools.

It’s critical that you don’t let your brand fall behind on video right now, because if you even stop for breath, you will be left behind. As TikTok and Snapchat have made clear, video doesn’t stop for anyone. At this point, video isn’t the future of social media or ecommerce – it’s the present.

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Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.



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The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.

As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?

Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020

When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.

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Reach Customers With PPC

Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.

While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.

It’s All About The Platforms

When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.

One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.

The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.

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Advertising overload: Let’s break it down

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.



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If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.

Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.

In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.

“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.

This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.

It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.

Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.

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