I am known as a technologist. A self-confessed geek. A shameless adopter of shiny new items. My passion is to discover how technology, especially the internet, can make my job better, faster and more profitable. It’s also about understanding how the consumer intersects with the internet and how I can leverage that to create more business.
Over the past few years, I have relied heavily on internet lead generation, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and video email marketing. I researched the best platforms and practices, sought advice from top experts, and hired top talent.
I had great victories and surprising losses This year. I’ll come back to this a bit…but I realized that the real estate industry often markets technology on the internet as a substitute for human connection, as a convenience for the agent, and as a crutch for a basic lack of knowledge and understanding. expertise. . In the real estate industry, technology is being marketed as a shortcut to profits and it’s complete bullshit.
Fair warning – this post is likely to piss you off and deny that any of this applies to you. That’s great. It probably isn’t, so move on. I’m not trying to derail your successful train. But this category of business tools creates stress for many agents who feel left behind or “less than”.
About these gurus on stage at your favorite talks
Hear gurus on stage and vendors peddling their wares. According to them, the Internet can provide an endless source of people willing to buy and sell (prospects). This can eliminate the need to search for signatures or show houses. It can sell houses without having to open it to strangers or tell you the value of a house instantly and automatically.
Wow. Get customers without having to deal with rejection in real time. Show and sell houses without physical effort. Find values without expertise or local knowledge. Makes you wonder what human real estate agents are going to do. Flip the burgers, maybe?
Internet-based tools are an amazing improvement on traditional skills and techniques, but they are often touted as the magic bullet and wholesale replacement for skill and knowledge. I call it bullshit – but our industry is buying it.
The Lure of Internet Lead Generation
Let’s start with Internet lead generation. The surface promise is very enticing. Write a check and get an endless stream of people interested in real estate who have given their contact information. No physical effort. No skill is required. No face-to-face rejection. Who wouldn’t sign up for this program?
But here’s the problem. It takes a lot of money to effectively generate leads on the Internet. It takes a lot of resources to follow up and it usually takes time to create a sale. When you factor in all of these resources, generating leads on the internet is much sexier on paper than in practice.
Now, that doesn’t mean lead generation isn’t a viable way to run a business. But it’s best done as a team with the right resources to effectively manage these leads. In a team environment, generating leads on the Internet is less likely to distract from building relationships. And, for a single agent, it’s a very dangerous place to “bet the farm.”
So I can pay more but get the same results?
The number of portals and agents competing for attention is growing every month, so the resources needed to keep up will also increase. This means it continually takes more money to achieve the same result…and that’s what I call bullshit. The average agent only sees a tiny fraction of people benefiting from Internet lead generation and they have no idea how much Internet lead generation really costs.
And that’s another problem. How many agents are using Internet lead generation as a replacement for the much less “sexy” work of face-to-face prospecting? My guess is pretty little. I will confess. I tried replacing my traditional prospecting with a lead generation site. It was bullshit.
Another Bullshit Problem: Social Media
Here is another technology that comes between the consumer and the agent. Facebook, Twitter and email marketing – loosely classified as social media. When used as a simple, mindless broadcast machine (as most Agents do), the Agent follows the idea that being seen – frequently – is the way to get the phones ringing.
The agents did this kind of “look at me!” advertising with postcards and print advertising for years. However, printing costs a lot of money and most will think and pay attention before making each piece. Social media is essentially free and almost effortless, allowing agents to completely alienate their audiences with their avalanche of tone-deaf messages and emails.
Now at least this stuff is nearly free and the agent has some resources left over for traditional relationship building. But, how much damage is done to potential real relationships with poor and uninformed social media tactics? The bullshit part is that free and easy shouldn’t mean sticky, thoughtless, and loud.
E-sigs are not the next coming of Christ
Here’s another thing. I thought e-contracts and e-signatures were the greatest tech tool since sliced bread. And, used correctly, it still is. Contracts can be signed at the convenience of the consumer and this can be a huge benefit for busy lives. Too often, however, electronic signatures serve the agent or broker more than the client. There are situations where the client is best served with a thorough explanation of the documents, but instead receives an electronic signature package.
This was one of my toughest accomplishments – I was utterly guilty for choosing convenience over excellent representation. I figured it was for customer convenience, but it really made it a lot easier for me. It’s not cool, it’s crap.
I like technology, but…
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m still the tech fan you know and love. But with each passing day, I am convinced that a sustainable and sustainable business is made with an authentic connection with the people of my community. Technology just gives me the opportunity to make more of those connections.
I meet and interact with hundreds of people on local Facebook groups and these interactions have led to wonderful real-life encounters and lasting relationships. It’s an amazing and effective layer of my traditional community building and prospecting. But it’s a diaper. Chatting on Facebook all day does NOT create enough engagement to start a business.
So, what were my victories?
I used technology to publish my internal checklists to my clients, bringing a new level of transparency and accountability to our dealings.
I’ve delved into an unreasonable number of CRM systems and I’m on my way to having a system that improves both business building and transaction.
I went even further in the concept of the paperless office. There are a lot of benefits to a paperless office, but for the consumer, it means anyone on my team can answer any question, anytime, anywhere.
And my losses?
What were my losses? The biggest loss was my investment in internet lead generation, and it was a real surprise. I invested a lot in the platform, in the tools and in the human resources necessary to make a profit.
I learned what it takes to make this business strategy work, but I also learned that I would rather use my resources to build a local community.
Another “loss” was the lesson learned about electronic signatures. I revamped my process to ensure that certain critical points in the process – the purchase agreement, escrow instructions, and review of disclosures – are no longer just an e-signature package.
Go ahead – join me?
As I begin the next year, I am focusing on a few principles. belly to belly rules. Well-made technology is invisible. Build a community to establish long-term trust. Make a difference.
Wanna join me?