I just read an article on Forbes Magazine this morning with the following title: “Are Real Estate Brokers Obsolete?” I must say, as a former Realtor for eight years, these types of articles immediately put me on the defensive. I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact a competent (or incompetent) Realtor can have. From increased communication throughout the transaction to a deep understanding of the forms used in a legally-binding offer, I believe there is far more to a Realtor than simply harboring the keys to a listed home.
That being said, there is a lot in this article that really stuck with me—things I’ve been pondering myself about the future of this industry my company so lovingly serves. I think that Realtors often disregard the ever-changing marketing landscape. They mistakenly view themselves as immune entrepreneurs or self-employed individuals, not as vulnerable CEOs and founders of mini companies. Let me be the first to tell you that this thinking will render you obsolete. In a world where one person with a GoPro and a YouTube account can affect millions online (and make millions as well), you no longer have the luxury of ignoring what it takes to survive in today’s market.
Offering Listing Data is the Very Least You Can Do
I talk to Realtors every day whose primary goal for their website is to get people to sign up to view listings. Most of you reading this likely believe the same thing as well. You believe that this is the best way to get leads online (probably because that’s what many companies try to sell you). While getting online leads is a perfectly acceptable reason to have a website, I believe offering listing data as a reason for me to give you my information is a self-centered way of thinking and one that will render you obsolete.
If you really had your clients’ best interests at heart, you may even concede that searching for homes on Realtor.com or Trulia.com is actually better for them. Big websites like that have entire departments of engineers and developers working 24/7 to give your clients access to a much more integrated experience than you could ever give them yourself, or even through a vendor.
As a consumer, where’s the benefit to me using your website over one of the biggies? Why should I exclude myself from that type of integration? When you change your thinking from “what I need” to “what they need”, you realize that you’re only trying to serve yourself, and not the client, and you’re not even doing that very well.
Fine, you say. If searching for homes online is the new minimum of what I can do, then how and with what am I supposed to get new clients online? The answer is in doing more than the minimum—create an experience for people online that is unique. Give them something they can’t get anywhere else. Provide value above and beyond what everyone else is doing and your impending obsolescence won’t ever happen.
Be More than the Minimum—Be a Creator of the Unique
When you stop thinking of yourself only as a Realtor who shows homes and helps sellers and buyers, and start thinking of yourself more as an online marketer and content creator, you’ll see the possibilities for creating unique information expand exponentially. There are myriad of untapped ways to create an awesome experience for people online. Since most of you likely learn by example, let me give you one.
I have a client who wants to focus on getting listings and representing buyers in a specific area of the city. He wants to build a website relating to this specific area to attract potential sellers and buyers. He knows that there are hundreds, even thousands of websites out there that can offer people the ability to search for homes in this area. He knows that searching for homes is the very MINIMUM that he can do for someone. He knows that he needs to create an experience unlike anything else online—a website full of great information about this area that people can’t get anywhere else, such as:
- Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of local businesses
- Before and after photos of remodeling projects in the area
- In-depth analyses of the architectural uniqueness found in the area and homes that match specific styles
- Then and Now stories focusing on the history of landmark buildings and businesses
- Showcasing new homeowners in the area or prominent residents
If you were thinking about moving to this area and came across a website like this, wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as you could reading this kind of great information? If you didn’t have a Realtor yet, who do you think you’d want to use to sell or buy your home here?
Online Lead Generation (and Marketing) is Like Losing Weight… It’s Not Magic, It’s Hard Work
I applaud my client. He’s isn’t going for the bare minimum or the easiest solution. He’s thinking outside of the box, and trying to create as much valuable content as he can. Yes, it’s a hell of a lot more work. Yes, there’s only a minimum payoff in the short-term. Guess what, so is everything else in life worth doing. Have you ever tried to lose 20 pounds? It’s a hell of a lot more work and there’s only a minimum payoff in the short term.
The same principles apply. People fool themselves every day into thinking there’s a magic pill they can take to lose 20 pounds with no effort. Those that have lost 20 pounds will tell you there’s no such pill. So, don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s a magic pill for getting tons of leads online, either. Because there’s not. It takes hard work, lots of effort, and most of all, patience. And I guarantee you this: if you are creating something online that people can’t get anywhere else, you will win, you will get leads online, and you will improve your business. Most importantly, you’ll never be obsolete.