Figuring Out The Non-Dues Revenue Equation

by Marilyn Wilson on March 8, 2012

As membership numbers have declined, many MLSs and Associations are feeling more and more pressure to reduce their dependence on dues based revenues. At the same time, the cost of running an MLS is increasing. Members are more demanding for the scope of services they expect while they expect the pace of improvements and enhancements to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of technology innovations available today. Third, members are under increasing pressure to offer better service and information to their customers, putting even more pressure on the MLS to deliver comprehensive, accurate data and seamlessly integrate to third party products.

With the decreases in agent and broker demand for technology products and the high cost of sales to individual sales professionals, more and more technology companies are looking to MLSs to become an important distribution and sales partner for their products.

Top Producer from Move, Inc. is the latest example of technology companies who traditionally sell to agents and brokers are now offering a non-dues revenue share programs for MLS. Their program includes a free member benefit company that provides tools and free training as well as a revenue share to the MLS. This opportunity allows the MLS, REALTOR.com, Top Producer and the MLS members an opportunity to work together so members receive the combined benefit of:

1.) Special pricing and discounts available through the program

2.) Additional features that allow greater ability to capture leads from a variety of sources

3.) Assistance in converting Internet leads –Top Producer will offer program members opportunities to try new versions of Top Producer CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Market Snapshot and mobile programs. The system will channel Realtor.com and other leads to one database, sort the prospective customers by relative interest in making a move, and schedule follow-ups and next steps that will improve conversion to closing.

There are many companies that are interested in working with MLSs on non-dues revenue programs now. In fact, in my experience working with MLSs interested in launching non-dues revenue programs, there isn’t a company out there right now that is NOT interested in talking to MLSs about non-dues revenue programs. The world is the MLSs “oyster” at this point.

While these programs make a lot of sense, it has been proven that it takes a LOT more than a few great products from some technology partners to generate significant revenues from non-dues revenue.

Effective Marketing of Technology Products

Selling technology products is not easy. You need to first get the attention of agents, which we all know is not as easy task. Then you need to convince them why this product is going to help them be more successful and why it is worth the money. Then you need to convince them that the individual technology the MLS has chosen to promote is actually the best option in the category. If you can get through those first three steps, then you need to convince them why they should buy the product from the MLS instead of working with the company directly. Each of these steps takes true marketing finesse and a very different mindset than most MLSs are used to. You have to become a sales and marketing driven organization in order to have any chance of succeeding at this. This can be a MAJOR cultural shift for MLSs who have traditionally operated as service bureaus, not entrepreneurial entities.

Effective Distribution of Technology Products

Now let’s say that you have hired a strong marketing person and a sales team and you’ve gotten through the hurdle of effectively selling products to your subscribers. The next hurdle is to figure out how to effectively distribute the products. You need an eCommerce partner that understand the nuances of selling data-connected products and knows how to build a program that allows for monthly, quarterly or annual payments, free trial periods, discounts, premium offers etc. Importantly you need companies that understand the nuances of how MLSs operate as well as understand the budget constraints that most MLSs operate under.

RE Technology, Inc, the #1 source for real estate technology information and education online announced its new Success Store™, a tool designed specifically to make it possible for MLSs and Associations to generate non-dues revenue by selling real estate technologies online.

RE Technology’s new Success Store™ tool has been designed with the unique needs of Associations and MLSs in mind. It allows organizations to create a custom catalog to promote and sell technology services to their members. It provides a “one stop shop” to make it simple, fast and affordable to sell products to its customers through a customized ecommerce platform, like an app store built uniquely for real estate.

The Success Store™ allows REALTORS® to learn about a product and then complete a purchase all from one site. It makes shopping for real estate technologies a lot more successful because the agent or broker is armed with the information they need to make an informed purchase decision.”

Importantly, the model for RE Technology’s Success Store™ does not interfere with current business relationships between MLSs and their technology partners. The tool simply enables a transaction to be completed with the current business relationships already in place. It allows for monthly subscription pricing, bundled pricing as well as special promotions and featured offers.

Non-dues revenue can be a terrific opportunity to diversify the revenue base for your MLS, but it is not without its challenges. Choose professionals who have a depth of experience in eCommerce, merchandising and marketing to help you make the effort pay off in a big way for you. If you need help thinking through your non-dues revenue strategy or approach, WAV Group can help. You can contact us at marilyn@wavgroup.com

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