WAV Group Communications

Drip Training

by Victor Lund on April 28, 2016

Leaf dripping water

I love a morning call with a report of success. A broker that I am working with moved their chips around the board, renewing a core vendor agreement and adding five new services without any incremental costs. Bust out the champagne, right? Not so fast. The panic moment hits you when you understand that you will be launching five new products. A few of them are background products that support the operation of the brokerage – accounting type stuff. But a few of them are consumer launches and agent launches. Put the champagne away and start to whiteboard out the launch of each product. Launch event, video training, webinars, tips of the day, help desk training, manager training, individual agent training and support, consumer advertising, website update, public relations, reporting, benchmarking, satisfaction monitoring. All of that is being added to a staff that is already fully utilized. The term drip training popped into my mind. Drip training is not an original concept. I Googled it and found an article from BrainStorm dating back to September 9th, 2015. It’s a great article that you should read. Drip system Seed (input) Nourishment Delivery method Harvest (output) The BrainStorm article is a bit out of context for the types of product launches that we support here at WAV Group. We help brokers launch to thousands of agents and MLSs launch to tens of thousands of agents. Typically, the consumer audience for broker and MLS products aims to reach millions. It’s all good! These are problems that are nice to have. But there is a lesson here that we all should be reminded of. Kevin Hawkins of WAV Group Communications hinted at it last month: “a goal without a plan is a wish.” And WAV Group is always aware that many times, something old is better than many things that are shiny and new. Before you take on a list of new products, make sure that you are not disposing of some old goodies that people love. And, make sure that your new stuff is properly launched and supported right out of the gate. WAV Group does a lot more than help our clients with vendor selection. We help usher the products into your organization so you obtain the strategic objectives of the company. It’s never about the tools you have; it’s always been about the way you use them. WAV Group will be at NAR Midyear. We […]

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Just Spell My Name Right

by Victor Lund on January 21, 2016

It’s a new year and you are, no doubt, plotting your communications strategy for 2016. We published an article about the top 10 posts of the year on Facebook recently that ignited deeper thought about communication strategies that work. Entertainment is certainly one of them. If the Disney family is the first family of Entertainment in American History, P.T. Barnum is certainly a cousin. Legend has it that he is also responsible for one of the most famous quotes in the PR business: “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right.” If you read the writings of Victor Lund, you know that I write fast and spell horridly. My mother, saint Stella, was kind enough to keep every report card from my school days and I assure you that I received an A in every English class throughout my education. I am not sure where I went off the track. In high school at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, I converted to word processing. I doubt that I submitted much written work at all after that. A reliance on spell check may be my downfall. Having a mother who was raised in the Alabama, growing up near Fargo, North Dakota, and a year of University in England are also likely contributors. The most likely candidate is my failure to proofread my prose. Thankfully, Kevin Hawkins leads WAV Group Communications. He is deliberate and careful with the message of every communication, including the title, length, paragraph, sentence structure, and the fastidious attention to the handling and the nurturing of every chosen word. In my experience, his only equal may be Rozlynn Crew from the Houston Association of REALTORS. If you allow for the Canadian influence, John Mosey of the Northstar MLS is in the same league. So let’s start the year remembering a few rules of our industry. RE/MAX is always capitalized. “Re/Max” is wrong. When referring to the NAR, REALTOR® is in all caps and includes the ®. After the initial use, REALTOR without the ® is fine. There is a whole bunch of information on the dos and don’ts of using the REALTOR mark on this page: http://www.realtor.org/letterlw.nsf/pages/trademarkmanual Communications began to replace advertising in 2006 when online publishing and email marketing began to show better results. Here we are, one decade later and so many real estate firms of all flavors are missing this opportunity to engage important […]

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Advertising contrarian Bob Hoffman gave a talk at Matt Beall’s Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers’ Worthshop 5 conference last week, which is a wake up call to real estate agents and brokers everywhere. Why are we spending so much time, energy and money marketing to 18-34 year olds when the greatest, wealthiest, most powerful spending group in the world in nearly every major product category is 50+ years old? Remarkably, Bob helps us answer that question and a more important one: How should we be marketing to the over 50 crowd? Full disclosure up front: The majority of the marketing world hates Bob Hoffman and thinks he’s dead wrong. The only problem with this is that all the facts and research say he’s right. Why do we market to Millennials? Bob has researched this extensively and his findings are jarring. His overall conclusion is that most marketers have a herd instinct: They are marketing to Millennials because everyone else is and somewhere there must be someone who has the facts and knows “why the hell we are doing this?” Bob’s been looking for that someone and looking for the facts to support this movement, but has come up with contrary research at every step. He cites Nielson, saying: People over 50 are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing They are responsible for over half of consumer spending They outspend the average consumer in nearly every product category: food, household furnishings, entertainment, personal care, etc. They account for 55 percent of all package goods sales and dominate 94 percent of consumer package categories They outspend other adults online two-to-one, on a per capita basis They buy about 60 percent of all cars He also shared this nugget: “You know how you see all of those Millennials in car commercials? Well, people 75 to dead buy six times as many cars as people 18-24.” Then he dropped this statistical bombshell, met with gasps from the audience: People over 50 account for more than 70% of the wealth in the U.S. If they were their own country, they would be the third largest economy in the world – bigger than India, Japan and Germany. The biggest problem, says Bob, is this: People over 50 are the target of only 10% of all advertising in the U.S. Marketers are not over 50 Listening to Bob, you immediate start to ask yourself, […]

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One thing that most executives are not trained for is talking to reporters. Some have a natural talent for it, but most learn the hard way. Having spent more than 25 years coaching executives on how to best work with reporters, here are the seven most important thing that all executives must know before they talk to the press. Getting ready The first thing to remember when a reporter calls is that most of them are writing on a deadline. Even though you may have sent them the material days ago, and they may have already contacted you with a couple of immediate questions, if they don’t file a story immediately and sit on it, they will be likely to call back. When they do call back, chances are they will be on a tight deadline and you need to be prepared. Rule 1: Take a breath and think after every question. You may know what you immediately want to say, but if you take a pause, it gives you time to reflect to make sure you phrase your answer the best way and prevent you from providing an answer from the gut. Rule 2: Speak slowly. One of the most common problems executives have during an interview is talking too fast or transitioning from one subject to another too quickly. Slow down. Some reporters might record you, but most won’t, which means they have to take notes. Slowing down your speech helps increase accuracy. Rule 3. Most important one – You do NOT have to answer every question a reporter asks. This is the biggest mistake that most executives make: They think they have to answer every question. You do not. But you must explain why you can’t answer the question. Example, “How much money did you earn last year.” Answer “As a private company we do not report earnings, but I can tell you that over the last decade, we have been a profitable company.” Rule 4. What to say if you don’t know the answer. Unless you are a highly skilled dancer, don’t dance around the question. This is often the second biggest mistake most executives make: They don’t get their facts right or make up an answer they think they should know. When you don’t know the answer say so and offer to get the information reporters need and circle back. Rule 5: Everything is on the […]

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Partners Trust Joins The Enterprise Network

by Victor Lund on September 28, 2015

Recently, Partners Trust launched a new fully mobile responsive site designed to dynamically change for over 250 different screen sizes. Along with the “mobile first” web site, they launched new mobile apps for android and iOS. The design was done by 1000watt Consulting in collaboration with Partners Trust and the proprietary technology is provided by Booj.  Booj (Be Original or Jealous) is the platform that powers The Enterprise Network. Booj is an interesting technology provider because they deliver a very good and well-supported solution that is exclusive to a single brokerage in a market place. I got to meet the team behind the technology last year when I was invited to take the stage and share my perspective on syndication at their annual conference. Many WAV Group broker clients are on the Booj platform and you can see the full list of brokers using their system here: http://www.independentre.com/members. 1000watt did a great job of focusing the site on sellers first – which was well executed by the development team across the entire consumer facing solution. Partners Trust’s communication strategy started with an internal rollout that included an all day Tech Summit at The W Hotel in Hollywood for the company and its agents. The campaign then moved to customers, media and then paid media at LA Times, Google, and Facebook to support the launch. Congratulations to Booj and Partners Trust on a great web site and solid communications strategy.  It’s a great reminder that communications is a key component to any technology launch.  By the way, it is our firm belief that technology always looks better when it is dressed in properties from Beverly Hills, CA. You can see the new site here: http://www.thepartnerstrust.com/ Check out the apps here: https://appsto.re/us/HxdS9.i ( iOS) https://play.google.com/store/ apps/details?id=com.activewebsite.partnerstrust ( Android)   All too often, companies communicating new solutions to agents forget to communicate the new solution to consumers. Be mindful that there is a consumer story in launching a new service even when the application is not a consumer application. Obviously, launching a product or service that will be a new consumer benefit needs to be communicated to consumers. You would be amazed at how often brokers or MLSs will launch a new platform for the consumer benefit and not send out a press release; not market the change or benefits in the local media including radio, TV, and print. WAV Group communications can help. Our […]

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The Do’s and Don’ts of MLS System Selection

by Marilyn Wilson on August 19, 2015

MLSs are growing again. Membership is up. Agents are making money again. Life is good.  In many cases, the upward turn in the market is allowing MLSs to once again focus on evaluating their technologies to ensure they are offering the strongest tools they can. Recently we have been involved in a few system selections and I thought I would share some of our thinking about the best way to make the process as successful as it can be. Turn on all of the relevant enhancements Before you even contemplate looking at alternative MLS systems, meet with your current MLS provider. Review all of the enhancements they have launched and be sure you have turned them all on. We just looked at one MLS, for example that had not activated several new features on their system. Their members were complaining about a lack of functionality when in fact the features existed and the MLS had simply not launched them in their local market. Quantify the areas of strength and weakness Before you begin an MLS system selection, be sure you understand what’s working and what isn’t with your current system.   You can use an online survey and focus groups as well as reviewing the suggestions and complaints you have received from your help line over the past couple of years. If you outsource that work to your vendor, ask them for a report of your member’s feedback. It is customary for MLSs to perform product satisfaction surveys. If you need help, let us know. We do them routinely. It helps define your requests for your vendor’s roadmap and identifies areas of needed training. Involve the Staff that Works with the MLS Vendor While it’s absolutely critical that the voice of the members/end users are heard and represented in the process, it is also important that the staff person that works most closely with the MLS system provider is also involved. They might not be the best one to evaluate functionality, but they can provide great perspective on responsiveness, system enhancements, localization opportunities and customer support to the MLS organization. Ask for a Plan of Attack to Address Issues Before you go through the hassle of a full system review, talk to your current provider.  Ask them to provide you with a plan for how they are going to address the key issues/challenges your members are facing with their current system. […]

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Why Millennials won’t buy Boomer McMansions

by Kevin Hawkins on August 19, 2015

Self-confession: I love surveys. Data is my kryptonite. I got hooked in my grad school stats class and I’ve never looked back. At Great Western Bank, I created the Realty Confidence Index, which surveyed face-to-face broker-owners in 23 states. At Fannie Mae, I got to pitch to reporters nationwide the most comprehensive housing surveys of its day. At Imprev, I helped craft and launch the real estate industry’s first Thought Leader Survey and continue to spearhead that effort. This all means I know intimately what Mark Twain meant when he popularized the saying, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Two people can draw completely different conclusions from the exact same data. Which is why I am having problems with a few statistics about Millennials and their immediate impact on home buying: Zillow’s economist Stan Humphries says, “By the end of 2015, millennial buyers will represent the largest group of homebuyers.” The National Association of Realtors 2015 report on generational trends says that Millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers at 32 percent and comprises 68 percent of first-time buyers. A TD Bank survey says that 62 percent of potential first-time home buyers think that they will purchase a home within the next two years; among millennial survey respondents, the number rises to 67 percent. The problem I am trying to reconcile is that there are many other statistics that seem to contradict the notion that Millennials are going to drive the housing market, including the numbers below, from a blog (“Millennial Marketing Madness”) I wrote last November provided by economist Elliott Eisenberg: In 2010, households headed by Millennials had a median income of $37,600, now it’s just $35,300. 41.4% of Millennials have student loans, which is up from 33.6% in 2007 and 23.3% in 1998. Student loan balances are up from $10,000 in 1988 to $17,300 in 2013. Just 38.6% of Millennials hold equities, down from almost half in 2001. Median net worth for Millennials overall is a paltry $10,400. Add in these statistics from the TD Bank survey that touts how Millennials are going to “own” the housing market in the next two years: 70 percent of Millennial respondents said that they need to save for a down payment. 52 percent of Millennials said that they need to pay down debt. More than one-in-five consumers (22 percent) looking to purchase their first home said that they can’t […]

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DotLoop and Zillow

by Victor Lund on August 19, 2015

As far as I know, DotLoop customers were happy enough with the product and service until the announcement that the company was being purchased by Zillow. That news, along with the $108M price tag of the acquisition was the fundamental buzz at Inman Connect conference last week. About the price of $108 Million. Typically companies’ sell for a multiple of profit – 6x to 10x profit is not bad. The last acquisition of this type was the Real Estate Digital deal, which sold for a much lower multiple than DotLoop. In the case of DotLoop, it looks like Zillow paid a multiple of revenue. As best we can tell, DotLoop would be running at a rate of $15 million in annual revenue. Its privately held, so that number is a guess. They hold a distant third position in the market share behind ZipLogix and Instanet. With the calculus on this valuation, Instanet would be worth about $300 to $500 Million. ZipLogix would be worth about $750 Million or more. The multiple that Zillow paid on this deal is irrational unless they see an opportunity to modify the business to reap profits in entirely new ways. Rather than spend hours on the phone with the investor community discussing the deal, here is a summary outlook on why the $108 could be justified from Zillow’s point of view. I get the strategy. Today, consumers shop for property on Zillow. They then bump into a real estate agent who handles everything from there, and Z is long gone from the picture. With transaction management, they can stick their brand inside the transaction. This strategy not only allows them to measure ROI on Zillow lead conversions to measure “share of wallet,” but it also provides them with a lead to close solution that supports the consumer to think that they purchased a home on Zillow. Zillow connects with consumer mindshare first. If they continue to expand the consumer’s understanding of services from Zillow, the consumer will stick with them through more of the transaction steps. The long-term goal object seems to be to develop a Zillow customer for life. DotLoop fits with this. The homeowner will be able to log into Zillow and grab their transaction documents forever. The implications for the relationship with the broker and the agent in the loop would also seemingly be solidified. Far out strategy. Sometimes you need to […]

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Unintended Consequences That Cause Spectacular Results

by Kevin Hawkins on August 19, 2015

I just returned, as some 3,000 other folks have, from attending Inman’s Real Estate Connect in San Francisco. For many of the industry leaders whom I spoke with, it was one of the most successful Connects that they have attended and certainly the busiest. I found myself squarely in the same camp. I discovered something incredibly special about what I think makes Inman Connect unique: It fosters the creation of what I call “unintended consequences that cause spectacular results.” I have a few great examples from this most recent Connect to illustrate what I mean. Origins of Real Estate Connect In the spring of 1997 I left Fannie Mae, most recently as Director of Housing Impact for its highly successful Seattle Partnership office that I had opened, and forged out on my own. When Brad Inman heard the news, he asked me to meet with him. I had worked with Brad since the mid-1980s. He was a friend and I was a fan of his business acumen. I immediately said yes, as I wanted to talk to him about my new company. So I brought my “team,” which at the time consisted of my wife, Kyanne, who handled the financial side of the business, and my father-in-law, Keith Willis, a skilled businessman and savvy investor, to a restaurant near the Hyatt in Bellevue, WA where we met with Brad. My intended objective was to strike a content deal with Inman News for the company I had created that was going to help real estate agents more easily stay in touch with their customers. Brad had another objective. He wanted me to help Inman News launch a brand new conference. It would be a greater manifestation of an experiment he had tried a year earlier at his “retreat” in Sonoma wine country along the Russian River. Brad had invited a group of tech industry startup CEOs and a group of traditional real estate business leaders together for a face-to-face meeting in a setting designed to foster conversation and relationships. He dubbed it, brilliantly, “Real Estate Connect.” The unintended consequence of our meeting with Brad was that I would agree the next day to help him launch his first full-blown Real Estate Connect conference at the San Francisco Hilton. At the time, I thought he was nuts, charging a $495 registration fee, which made it one of the most expensive real estate […]

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We have been talking about mobile in real estate for far too long now. Two years ago Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor.com all announced that mobile was passing other methods of accessing their site. As brokers began to adopt mobile solutions, the debate about mobile browser vs. mobile app went on for an eternity until everyone put down their guns and agreed that the answer is both. One of the broker website service providers that we have been tracking is Booj or The Enterprise Network. They offer a good benchmark because of their unique client base. If you are not familiar, here is the scoop. The Enterprise Network only works with one broker in any given market. As a researcher, this eliminates the network effect that can often happen when a mobile solution is adopted by many firms in a given area. No franchise means that the brokerage is standing on their own brand to drive awareness and adoption of mobile. Many franchise organizations drive mobile adoption in local markets, ie. Century 21 Hometown Realty gets all of the mobile traffic in their area for Century 21. The Enterprise Network is geographically diverse. They cover the major market centers across America, mitigating geographic bias. I think that they have 32 brokerages across the nation representing 15,000 agents. Again, the average size of the brokerage is somewhat in the middle or “lower upper” in terms of agent count. Huge firms like Wiechert, Howard Hanna, Long and Foster, and the like can distort research. Desktop browsers are dying in Real Estate Search Having said all of that, it is significant to note that in March of 2015, mobile visitors to their mobile browser exceeded 50% of the total traffic to their customer websites. Desktop browsers are becoming the nursing homes of real estate search. It’s for old people who are not mobile enthusiasts. Think Mobile First The founders of the Broker Public Portal are hell bent on developing the website to be mobile first. This is a model that we expect to prevail in real estate. Last year, most brokerages looked at products on desktop browsers first, then took a look at the mobile solutions to “see if they were o.k.” That is all changing now. It’s a new day whereby if you do not focus on mobile first, you are likely to be investing in technology that is not long for the […]

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What ever happened to Trade Show Etiquette?

by Kevin Hawkins on May 22, 2015

It could be just me. I may have attended too many trade shows. Yet somehow I believe Emily Post would have been appalled if she walked the exhibits at NAR Midyear. To add a little context, I have attended, exhibited, sponsored and run trade shows. In fact, I’m afraid to count the number of miles I have walked on trade show floors, having attended many NAR-FAR-CAR annuals, NAR Midyears, HomeBuilders/IBS, PCBCs, COMDEX, CES, IBC and others. I have also been the lead for many firms exhibiting at these same shows, and have found myself staffing exhibits, including too many hours at a booth that was in the bowels of a covered bus garage at the Sheraton in Hawaii (NAR 1987). I helped Brad Inman produce more than a half-dozen of the first Real Estate Connects, so I have done more than worked the floor or staffed a booth: I sold all the space and sponsorships. So I am probably being a hard ass about all this when I ask: What ever happened to Trade Show etiquette? Rules to follow Less than a minute after I walked inside the hall on Thursday at 2 pm at NAR Midyear, I was taken aback. I looked around the room and I saw body language at almost every exhibit that said “Stay away, I’m busy.” People were eating and drinking (water, sodas) at their booths. Rule #1: Never eat or drink at a booth, do it somewhere else. Yes, if budget constraints leave you as the sole staffer, you need to drink water and stay hydrated. But do it discretely. I’m not going to come talk to you if you are leaning up against a counter in the back of your booth with a water bottle in your hand. If you are eating at your booth, well, think about the message that sends: We can’t afford to have anyone else here, so I have to eat at my booth. I don’t think that’s a message that you want tied to your brand. People were sitting in chairs, behind and next to counters. Rule #2: Stand, don’t sit. This is where most people make the biggest mistake. The best way to engage people is when you are standing. If you are sitting, you send the message you really don’t care or are too tired to stand. Either way, that doesn’t invite me to talk to […]

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Brokers & MLSs: Collaboration vs. Confrontation

by Kevin Hawkins on May 14, 2015

The real estate industry come a long way from the fall of 2013, when The Realty Alliance’s Craig Cheatham warned a crowd of MLS executives attending CMLS in Boise, “You’ve got 10 days.” That moment in time – described by blogger Notorious Rob as “the most interesting 30 minutes in the history of real estate conferences” — poignantly captured the mood of real estate brokerages towards the MLS industry. Fast-forward to NAR Midyear 2015, and confrontation has clearly turned into collaboration. This week, RESO or Real Estate Standards Organization, heralded the great strides the organization has made in fostering participation by America’s leading brokerage organizations. Once thought of as solely the province of the MLS, RESO recently added Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, the largest network of over 500 premier locally-branded firms responsible for more home sales than any other real estate network, to its membership roster. Importantly, Leading RE joins Cheatham’s The Realty Alliance, which is already a member of RESO and represents a network of North America’s elite real estate firms, whose members serve most every major market on the continent. Add to RESO’s key real estate brokerage membership ranks Realogy (Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, CENTURY 21®, Coldwell Banker®, Coldwell Banker Commercial®, The Corcoran Group®, ERA®, and Sotheby’s International Realty®, and ZipRealty®), RE/MAX LLC, and other independent firms, such as Michael Saunders and Company, and you have literally the who’s who of real estate brokerage that now have a seat at the table and a voice in shaping future real estate industry standards are deployed. Kudos to Leading RE LeadingRE President/CEO Pam O’Connor points to the value of RESO to the brokerage community, including the industry’s adoption of its Data Dictionary, which is going to fuel new innovation, and generate more efficiencies. For brokerages, this will reduce costs and untether the ability of brokerage firms to grow and expand into new markets, as finally, all MLSs will talk the same language. Pam’s message is spot on and positive: “The RESO Data Dictionary and the other standards being implemented will help all of our members,” O’Connor says. RESO’s new Executive Director, Jeremy Crawford, a high respected MLS veteran, knows collaboration is the best way for his not-for-profit organization to succeed. “Collaboration is vital,” Crawford said., noting the long-term goal of RESO is highly pragmatic and much needed, “National data standards and industry collaboration across all aspects of real […]

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Size Matters

by Kevin Hawkins on April 23, 2015

Bigger is better. At least that’s what Apple discovered when it unveiled larger iPhones. The sales numbers stunned everyone: 74.5 million iPhones in the first quarter of release. That’s more than 34,000 phones an hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even Tim Cook was taken aback, telling analysts the “Demand for iPhone was staggering,” adding, “This volume is hard to comprehend.” Every major smartphone vendor has discovered that when it comes to consumer preferences, they are turning to larger screens. The bigger story But what is happening here goes beyond record sales numbers for Apple, Samsung, Google, LG or HTC. What the dominance of bigger screen smartphones in the marketplace is doing is accelerating the dominance of mobile in every aspect of our lives. Mobile growth has exploded with 71% U.S. market penetration, but I think we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s coming and coming on fast. This is what real estate professionals need to pay attention to. It’s more than just about market share of smartphones. It’s the behavior change that these big screens are creating. Just take a look around you every day and what are you seeing? I am seeing large screen smartphones everywhere I look. I was on a flight from Atlanta to Seattle and as I walked through the aisles, nearly everyone was in the prayer position: Head lowered, hands clutched, holding a large screen smartphone. On the ferry ride home, I saw the exact same thing, from every demographic group, young and old. If my wife’s parents, who are in their 70s, are a bellwether for how smartphones appeal to an older demographics, we going to see even strong sales – and greater behavioral changes. For years my in-laws held out getting a smartphone, coveting their pocket flip-phones. But this winter, they made the switch and got matching large screen smartphones. They said they could see everything so much better on their big screen phones. But what is most fascinating to me is how they too now whip out their smartphones when we are on the ferry, heading into Seattle. They used to give our teenage sons a hard time about “always being on their phones,” but now they too have the bug. They’ve also discovered the Zero Moment of Truth – the ability to Google search anything for an immediate answer during a purchase decision – and that is […]

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Fox and Roach Internal Marketing Excellence

by Victor Lund on March 30, 2015

Fox and Roach is among the largest real estate brokerages in America. They recently published an internal communications piece that is a great case study for how brokers stay connected to their agents using video, and move the needle on adoption of brokerage services. Watch this short 2 minute video Why I like it. First, its short. To many people try to say too much. Make your video quick, clear, and drive action. Second – its familiar – Fox and Roach does a great job of promoting people across the organization – staff, team leaders, top agents. Message – the video hits a single message – the number 1 reason why past clients do not repeat business with an agent is because the agent did not stay in touch – Solution delivered. Never miss repeat business again. WAV Group did not produce this video, but we do provide video production services through WAV Group Communications. If you need support executing on an internal or external communication strategy using video or public relations – we can help.

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Back to Basics

by Kevin Hawkins on March 26, 2015

The other day I was on the phone with Mark Z. He’s a leader of one of the top producing Keller Williams Realty teams in the country. The Mark Z. Home Selling Team closed over $59 million in sales transactions, just short of 500 deals, last year. He and his team are on target to eclipse 500 deals in 2015. That means they are closing more than 2 sales every business day this year. With that kind of volume, I was certain Mark Z. must be West Coast, East Coast or Texas based. That’s where most of the hottest housing markets are, right? But here’s the thing: Mark Z. isn’t an associate broker on either coast, and is based nowhere near Texas. His market is the Detroit metro area – the most maligned city in the U.S. for goodness sake! I’m especially taken aback because I was born just outside of Detroit and have watched its downfall for decades. For the first year of my life, we lived on Seminole Street off East Jefferson Ave, near the then glamorous Whittier Hotel where my dad and uncle worked. The Whittier was the grand dame of the Motor City. It was where the Beatles spent the night on their Detroit stop during their 1964 U.S. tour. Mark Z. and his team built a business around an area that’s home to the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, is notorious for its exceptionally high major crime rates, has record unemployment and there are over 70,000 abandon homes in the city. What’s even more remarkable is the fact that Mark Z. and his team’s numbers are not a fluke. They closed $10 million in sales in 2007; more than doubled that number in 2009 with $22 million; and more than doubled it again in 2012 with over $51 million in closed sales. When you visit his website — www.markzproperties.com– you may immediately think you know why Mark Z. and his team have been so successful. His site is kickass: A simple killer search at the top, a video with real estate guru Barbara Corcoran “endorsing” Mark Z., a well-written and timely Blog, an “About” section that uses infographics to convey his team’s success using stats and graphs, and of course, his “Guaranteed SOLD or I’ll Buy It” offer. Interview Mark Z. and you’ll learn he uses the best technology and has a secret sauce (he’s […]

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Do you love what you do?

by Kevin Hawkins on February 25, 2015

It’s been a whirlwind past few weeks with Inman Connect and Leading RE and everything in between. And then came Valentine’s Day and I found myself writing and thinking about love: A news release on the love of our homes, a new Valentine’s video from 12-year old Sparkles Lund that captured her love of dancing, and I sat down and wrote a love letter to my wife of 22 years. So ask this question: Why do you love what you do? I asked this of a friend of mine when we both were hitting 40. He said he didn’t. I told him, “Look, at our age, if you are not doing what you love, you only have one person to blame, and you’ll find him in a mirror.” It must have struck a chord, because he left his newspaper job at the top of his game and jumped to a young Internet news organization. He has loved what he does now for well more than a decade. I love what I do. I fell in love with Public Relations and Communications very early on. I loved to write. Wrote weekly high school stories for the local teen section of our hometown newspaper, was the Entertainment Editor at the twice-weekly broadsheet Miami Hurricane student newspaper at the University of Miami. Even wrote the cover story for the first issue of the now defunct Rock Magazine while in grad school. And it was in grad school at USC, paying my own way, I did what most financially struggling students did: I got a job to help pay the rent while trying to get a bit of real world experience in my chosen field. I was attending the School of Journalism, working towards my Masters in Public Relations, when I joined a two-women PR firm part-time in Los Angeles. I did all the grunt work in helping to promote the 25th Annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire in the Agoura Hills in Southern California. It was my first introduction into Entertainment Pubic Relations, and it was like drinking from a fire hose. It’s also where I first cut my teeth in media relations: Getting to know reporters, their beats, their interests, how to help them craft a killer story idea and where I learned to the most important lesson of all: How to take the time to get to know reporters as people. I spent […]

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Social Media or mass media?

by Kevin Hawkins on February 25, 2015

Social media campaigns seems to be getting the bulk of attention in marketing and communication budgets these days, but I would argue that mass media still packs a far more potent punch when you are trying to build a brand or generate top of mind awareness among a mass audience. Skeptical? Let’s look at some numbers. Super bowl advertisers paid as much as $4.5 million for a 30 second spot this year – a new record – to reach 114 million viewers. That’s just over 4 cents a viewer. In 1993, advertisers paid $850,000 to reach 90 million viewers, just under a penny per viewer. That means advertisers are spending more than four times as much to reach the same number of people today as they did in 1990. Even adjusting for inflation, advertisers are spending three times as much: $850,000 adjusted for inflation is just over $1.5 million. Why? Because today there are very few opportunities to reach more than 100 million people with a single 30-second message. First cable television, followed by the Internet, brought in a wave of fundamental change in how we use media. We have gone from an age of mass media to the age of media choice, being able to consume precisely what we want, when we want to see, hear, or read it. My thesis in grad school was about how the impact of cable television was going to fundamentally change how we consume media, as channels would continue to fragment a mass audience, delivering narrow topics to appeal to specific market segments. Later, the Internet and social media would accelerate that trend in a profound way. The result: Broadcast television has watched its total audience shrink, despite a growing U.S. population: 11 million fewer viewers watch broadcast television in the last decade. Recently, the head of Netflix predicted broadcast television would die by 2030.  And I see a lot of my colleagues reacting by focusing away from mass media and more toward social media. I think you have to remain focused on both today, and for a very long time still to come. Because a funny thing happened on the way to mass media: It’s still the only game in town to reach the biggest audiences. Advertisers know that, and that’s why they still spend big dollars on mass media: Where else can you reach an audience the size of the Super […]

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Losing the Convention of Conventions

by Kevin Hawkins on November 19, 2014

It was 1986. Inflation was under 2 percent, the Dow Jones closed under 2,000, a gallon of gas was under a buck, Americans were being held hostage in Iran, and it was the year the US bombed Libya. It was also the year of my first NAR Convention, held in New York City at the then new Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. I had convinced my employer at the time, Great Western Savings of Beverly Hills, to let me scout the event for exhibiting, sponsorship and press opportunities, as the bank was ready to grow its lending model nationally. The media opportunities I discovered at NAR that year turned out to be an amazing start to a career-long journey. NAR was the ‘go-to’ real estate convention when it came to making connections, meeting reporters and pitching story ideas. I had been invited to attend a dinner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, NAREE. It was held at an established Manhattan steakhouse, in a second floor private room. David Jeffers, head of PR for Fannie Mae at the time, had a slide projector queued up when I arrived. Legendary consumer real estate columnist Bob Bruss greeted me before I could sit down, and we soon became fast friends. He had me signed up as a member before I walked out the door. This was an era when NAR would host press conferences that were packed with reporters. It was a great place for journalists to mine news stories they needed to fill their gigantic newspaper real estate sections. Steve Kerch of the Chicago Tribune, Kirstin Downey of the Washington Post, and H. Jane Lehman, would pepper the NAR officials and their chief economist with tough questions that yielded better reporting for everyone in the room. The Dearth Today Fast-forward to NAR in New Orleans the beginning of this month. Today the press room is practically barren, with just a couple of bona fide journalists camped out, conducting an interview or two, filing a couple of stories at best. The back-to-back press conferences have been replaced by lightly attended media briefings. NAREE still holds its annual installation of new officers meeting and dinner in conjunction with NAR, but even NAREE has to wonder if the trek is worth it these days. I pinged a dozen reporters in advanced to see if they were attending. After all, many were NAREE members […]

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Facebook frustration, love for LinkedIn and Hello, Ello

by Kevin Hawkins on October 29, 2014

Many self-proclaimed experts tout the importance of social media in real estate marketing as if it were a nitroglycerin prescription for someone with a heart ailment. Without it you will die. And they get away with this B.S. We have to remember that social media are communication channels; and, yes, their power, their ability to engage and cause immediate action indeed can be daunting. But they are still just channels and they are not the only channels you can use to reach, engage and cause your target audiences to respond. In fact, if you use social media incorrectly it will become that other kind of nitroglycerin: It can blow up in your face, quite literally. Social media done correctly is as challenging and daunting today as Search Engine Optimization or SEO: Forever changing, requiring constant adjustments and what worked yesterday is no longer valid today. Step one: Only commit to what you are able to do well, even if it is only a single social media channel and stay committed. Step two: Know the social media channel well before you make the commitment and keep tabs on how it is changing. Look no farther than Facebook to understand the importance of Step two. Facebook follies There is nearly universal frustration with Facebook these days. I am frustrated by the fact I have to go to my wife’s timeline to see most of her posts because Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t think I’m interested. It’s makes zero sense. And it’s not just me. Two studies showed that 93.85 percent of the people we want to reach on Facebook might never see our posts, according to EdgeRank and Social@Olgilvy. Both studies showed that on Facebook, an unpaid post – called an “organic post” – will only reach 6.15% of the number of people who have liked your business page. Ouch. Couple that with the endless “improvements” Facebook makes (yes, I too get red-faced every time this happens and find myself Googling to locate the “most recent” versus “top stories” setting that FB has moved for the umpteenth time), it’s no wonder teenagers are fleeing Facebook for Tumblr. Still, Facebook still rules in social media. I’ve used “boost your posts” with incredible success. We simply have to realize that today’s strategy is moving away from organic to paid posts and follow-me advertising on the side. The result: Facebook may be frustrating the majority of us, […]

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30 Days and Counting

by Kevin Hawkins on October 29, 2014

“How do you like your new gig,?” asked Lew Sichelman, perhaps America’s most ardent and prolific consumer real estate columnist and my dear friend of nearly 30 years, by phone the other day. “Unbelievable!,” I answered, wanting to forget that I learned that automatic response from a Tommy Hopkins sales training class I took a dozen years ago. But it’s an accurate description of how it’s been to join a team that is clearly among the most revered and respected professionals in real estate. On September 23, Victor Lund and Marilyn Wilson told the world that I was joining their team to head up a new division, WAV Group Communications. The last 30 days have been humbling, hectic, humorous and utterly exhilarating and has included jumping. I’ll explain that later. In a word, it feels great. The Pace I’ve always thought of myself as a hard worker, because I am. Throughout much of my career during the last 25 years, I’ve often been the last worker standing: The one who locks the doors and shuts off the lights, or sets his wastebasket outside his desk area so the night cleaning crew can empty it, while I could continue to plough away. After all, I’ve worked at some intense places that expected nothing less: With Brad Inman in the earliest days of HomeGain and through the first Real Estate Connects; at Fannie Mae with a PR A-team under the leadership of John Buckley (nephew of William F.), assigned such daunting tasks as getting the page-one lead story in USA Today for our $1 Trillion initiative; and even at far less intense places, but that have incredibly high standards: With Renwick Congdon at Imprev, who eats, sleeps, breaths, expects and delivers quality in all things. I also have been known to crank out work product so fast that I have a tendency to fill portable hard drives: I’m on my third terabyte in less than three years, and a lot of that is from just writing. Imagine how I felt when I started working with Victor and Marilyn and found a work ethic, pace and proclivity to crank out work product that exceeded my own. That was a humbling revelation. The People The WAV Group had almost been an enigma to me until I worked with them on a consulting project at Imprev. That experience resulted in an instant kinship with anyone […]

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