January 2015

PR: The most underrated marketing strategy in real estate

by Kevin Hawkins on January 21, 2015

In today’s world of real estate marketing, advertising gets all the money, social media gets all the glory, and public relations is often an afterthought. But should it be? Everyone understands advertising: We see it every day, in every medium; we are inundated with its messages, from the time we wake up to the moment we turn off the light for the night. It must work, or why would all these companies be spending gazillions of dollars on it, right? As for social media, it’s omnipresent. And according to the social media gurus, it is a must have because everyone is on social media all the time, everywhere, literally, although I am still trying to figure out why that Facebook icon is on a billboard. So you are on Facebook with a billion other people; somehow I am not impressed. But hey, everyone else sticks a row of social media icons on everything, so we should too, right? Were they thinking that maybe we’ll pull over when we see the billboard, go on our smartphone, search for them on Facebook and like their page? Yeah, right. Then there is public relations: Rarely understood and completely underappreciated. It’s the Marshawn Lynch of marketing. (Yes, I do live in Seattle, so forgive me). But if you dig a little deeper to understand what good public relations is and how it can benefit your real estate business, you’ll be the exception in real estate, and you’ll trump the competition. Here’s why: To me, the value of PR is simple math: Just measure its ROI (return on investment). Let me give you an example. Earlier this week, Stefan Swanepoel, real estate’s highly respected trends analyst and prolific author, released his Swanepoel Power 200 list, ranking “The Most Powerful People in Residential Real Estate in 2015. My colleagues, Marilyn Wilson and Victor Lund, the founders of WAV Group, were ranked among the Top 10 Thought Leaders on the list and 150 overall. It is an exciting recognition of WAV Group, and worthy of a news release, a key component of any good PR strategy. The list was made public at midnight. That night I penned the release, Victor and Marilyn did the SSE (second set of eyes), added a bit of polish and we issued the news release on the U.S. national circuit of NASDAQ owned Globenewswire at 5:30 am Pacific Time that morning. Within […]

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MLS Syndication Rats Nest

by Victor Lund on January 21, 2015

Urban Dictionary is a hoot. It is also a helpful way for the father of a pre-teen to understand the contemporary meaning behind the terms used by kids. In this case, I refer to Urban Dictionary for their crowd-sourced definition of Rats Nest “Commonly used in the technol- ogy sector to refer to a software design or implementation that is hopelessly convoluted and difficult to understand….” Listing Syndication is a Rats Nest and it is about to get worse as firms like Zillow defect from Listhub-Point2. With Zillow pulling out, MLSs will need to offer different services or parallel services to get broker data to Zillow. I hope that Zillow’s actions do not create a slippery slope for other publishers to follow. It will only send us back to 2007 when brokers did all of the listing syndication themselves. Download white paper here. MLS Syndication Rats Nest

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MLS or Broker Technology Site License

by Victor Lund on January 21, 2015

Last year, WAV Group spent a lot of time measuring the effectiveness of MLS and Broker technology services with our clients. Our process typically includes one or all of the standard practices for measuring product adoption and satisfaction: surveys, focus groups, competitive analysis, adoption rate curves, true cost analysis, etc. The truth is, very few. . . Download full report MLS or Broker Tech Site License

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Are your services REALLY up to par?

by Jenna Woodruff on January 21, 2015

Every company believes they offer the best to their customers. It’s the same way I believe my son is the best on his baseball team. When you spend so much time building something, working for something, you have to believe in it. But you need to take care not to let your passion cloud your objectivity. Of course I think my son is amazing, but I know he needs to practice, follow the coach’s suggestions, and we need to track his progress. How does your company know that your services really are meeting or exceeding customer expectations? With the ever-changing technologies and products being offered as MLS services, customer satisfaction research and benchmarking are effective ways to gage your efforts to meet user expectations. WAV Group is offering a free, non-sponsored survey we provide for the benefit of the industry. The annual MLS Technology Survey will provide high-level comparative satisfaction ratings of the MLS technology used in our industry as well as trending information from year to year.  It will also support the role of your MLS selection committees about MLS systems and services used across the industry today. In response to feedback, WAV Group is modifying the approach of the survey process. The survey will be broken into two surveys fielded at different intervals. The first survey is for MLS executives and staff. The second is for MLS subscribers. Combined, the two surveys will provide a more comprehensive measure of the tools delivered by the nation’s leading MLS organizations. To participate in this free survey, email jenna@wavgroup.com. Feel free to reach out with any questions about the survey or WAV Group research.

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REALTORS® Federal Credit Union Update

by Victor Lund on January 21, 2015

At the New Orleans National Association of REALTORS® Convention in Expo, I had the chance to catch up with Chief Executive Wes Wiggins of JTHS REALTORS® in the great State of Florida. Wiggins has a long career of being on the forefront of operating leading MLSs around the nation. He is among the few who understand how excellence is developed in the Association of REALTORS® and in the Multiple Listing Service. After a long discussion of our industry, the conversation turned to the REALTORS® Federal Credit Union, as Wes had spoken with one of their representatives while ordering our beverages. I have known about the REALTORS Federal Credit Union (RFCU) for a long time. I think my introduction to the organization came from RFCU Director David Charron, who is better known as the Chief Executive of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS). Wiggins reminded me about the RFCU in a way that prompted this article. The REALTORS® Federal Credit Union is among the best member benefits of the National Association of REALTORS® and it is under utilized. First of all, lifetime membership in the REALTORS® Federal Credit Union is $5. Membership is not only available to NAR Members, but also available to MLS and Association staff and the families of REALTORS® and staff. Credit Unions offer tremendous advantages over traditional banks and the REALTORS® Federal Credit Union is no exception. Think of it as having a family member in the banking business. As part of the REALTOR family, MLSs and Associations should make a serious point of reminding agents and brokers of this fantastic member benefit. At the very least, include information about the RFCU in your monthly newsletter and display it prominently to members on your website. If you can help just one REALTOR® refinance something like a car and lower their interest rate, you have moved in the right direction. Wiggins is in the process of refinancing his vehicle and saving money, money that he said would be enough to offset REALTOR® MLS and Association dues in his organization. Many MLSs and Associations have also found the RFCU to be the best source of financing for building renovations and building purchases or even Lockbox systems. Associations and MLSs should recognize that the low interest rate environment puts most banks and credit unions on equal footing. RFCU is a not-for-profit credit union! Interest rate shopping or for savings is a […]

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Part 2: Customer service or lip service?

by Kevin Hawkins on January 21, 2015

Last month I shared a theory that most real estate technology companies stink at customer service. I asked for people to challenge my theory, but only one person said, “You’re wrong.” Randall Standard, who heads up VoicePad, took strong exception my piece. He made several valid points in taking me to task, among which included my failure to point out that some real estate technology companies are providing good customer service. And he share this observation with me, which I think is spot on: He wrote, “A closer examination of real estate technology firms would find a mixed bag of customer support levels.  Some real estate technology companies are quite good at support.  Some provide no support at all.  It takes both money and a commitment to provide excellent customer support.” Standard is right. Money, or lack of it, really is one of the major reasons customer service fairs so poorly at any company. Commitment is the second reason, and I believe that comes from a cultural orientation that begins at the top. I think Standard actually helps me make my point. That’s because his firm is deeply committed to customer service. I know this from both the customer comments he shared with me, but also the lack of negative posts about his company and his products on the web: I couldn’t find any. When I joined Imprev as head of communication and marketing several years ago, I discovered the same thing: I Googled and Googled and could not find anyone saying anything bad about the company nor its products.  When I looked at its customer satisfaction surveys, every quarter they were north of 90 percent. If you’ve every have worked with Renwick Congdon at Imprev or Randall Standard at VoicePad, you know their management styles are remarkably different. But they both share the same DNA when it comes to customer service as they both lead by example.  They create a culture where the customer counts and doing the right thing by the customer is the same guiding principal at both firms. I believe that’s the case at every company that is known for great customer service: They invest in it and it is part of their culture, which you can almost always trace to the top. The problem I still struggle with is I have only anecdotal evidence of which real estate technology firms do a good job and […]

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WAV Group Named to the Swanepoel Power 200

by Victor Lund on January 14, 2015

The most comprehensive list of the most powerful and influential people in the real estate industry has once again been released. Known as the SP200 (Swanepoel Power 200), this annual list is published by Stefan Swanepoel every January. There have been numerous other lists from time to time, but the SP200 stands as a milestone in the comprehensiveness, detail and objectivity it strives to portray. You can review the entire 2014/2015 list in detail at www.sp200.com. Comparable to Forbes, Fortune, JD Powers and other outside the industry lists, the SP200 utilizes a large selection of criteria. It takes hundreds of hours to put something like this together and often the people on the list are gratified, but those who do not make the list are disappointed. I had a phone call Stefan Swanepoel to understand more about his list and why he does it. “Our goal is to create an authoritative list by using information such as position held within a given company, size of company, tenure in the company, tenure in the industry, education, accomplishments, impact the person has had on the industry or is expected to have on the industry in the foreseeable future. We combine all of the stats, facts–as well as 26 years of research in the industry having personally met most of the people on the list–into our own unique SP200 algorithm. The list is as objective and real as we can make it. No pay-to-play, advertising or outside influencing is allowed. “We call this the power list for a reason. It is not just the influence a person has but the impact and control each of these people can exercise. Many of these people command large budgets, multiple resources, buy and sell companies, and can effect significant change. “We divide the SP200 into multiple categories for easier evaluation – Corporate Executives, Brokerage Executives, Technology Executives, Organized Real Estate, Outside Powers, Social Influencers, and Thought Leaders. My team and I, including my executive editor Rob Hahn, invested over 400 hours of specific SP200 research to provide this list as a service to the industry.” A term like Power is pretty elusive to define. So, I asked Swanepoel to provide his definition as applies to the list. “Power is defined as the ability to control, direct or influence people, companies, events, and circumstances. Powerful people cause change. Powerful people make a difference.” There is no doubt that people like Richard […]

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Every company SAYS they have good customer service, but we all know the truth – many companies believe they are customer-centric, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t always live up to the promise. I am going to use my brand relationship with my most frequently travelled airline to illustrate this point. With this unnamed airline I have had a really good year. I travelled almost exclusively with them, helping to raise my status level to the point where I travelled more in free upgraded first class seats than not. I was privy to the attention of the company’s most pleasant and experienced flight attendants. I was lucky not to experience a whole lot of unwieldy delays. I was early to board ensuring I could in fact keep my luggage as a carry-on speeding my time to my destination by eliminating the wait time for my bags at the carousel. This same airline has upgraded nearly their entire fleet to include wireless service offerings allowing me to stay connected to my clients even while in the air. All in all, I would say I was pretty darn close to becoming a raving fan! Now fast forward to 2:11 am last evening. I was trying to check in for my first flight of the year on this airline. The airline I was trying to access is in the midst of a merger so that means two archaic airline reservation and loyalty systems are kluging their way to a common solution. What does that lead to……lots of BUGS, unexplained error codes and general havoc and frustration for their most loyal customers. Bottomline, I was not able to check in online and nobody in tech support, customer support or the frequent traveller desk could understand why. System error codes don’t really mean a whole lot to a customer, especially when you can’t even explain what the error code means, why it happened or when it will be addressed.   Now make the process even worse by sending your customer to two or three departments, NONE of which can answer the question about why you can’t check-in online or even offer a way for them help to accomplish this simple task. Third, and worst of all, the supervisor I spoke with not only could not provide any solution to the problem, but elevated the conversation to defensive, offering no recourse for the […]

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