Zillow and Trulia: The morning after
July 29, 2014 | Dustin Moore
I worked my way through college as a greenskeeper at a local golf course. I remember the first time we had a big overnight thunderstorm roll through. It caused all sorts of damage: downed tree limbs, debris and wind-blown trash everywhere, standing water in the sand traps. It was a complete mess. Honestly, it looked a lot like the real-world version of everyone’s social feeds yesterday after the news broke that Zillow would acquire Trulia.
Back then, I was more interested in earning enough money to fund my college-kid lifestyle than I was in learning life lessons. But after that first storm passed, my boss taught me something that stuck with me, and it’s applicable today. After a nasty storm passes, pour your effort into only the things that matter most. Don’t spend time making things perfect and pretty. Work like crazy on only the things that keep your business going.
A storm hit yesterday when Zillow and Trulia joined forces. Now it’s the morning after. Time to go to work. These are the things you should focus on:
Care for your customers more than before
In the pre-social media age, you could get away with lackluster service. Chances were good your prospects wouldn’t find out about your lapses in previous transactions. But with Google, Twitter, Facebook, and now agent rating sites, your past follows you around forever. If each one of your clients has a great experience, you’ll be a five star REALTOR all over the Internet. But if your service isn’t great, all your potential clients will know that, too.
The portals will continue to move towards ranking agents. Make sure your service is so good, you’re at the top of every list.
Commit to delivering valuable information that can’t be found on the portals
The war over “listings data” is pretty much over. What was once locked inside the MLS and exclusive to REALTOR websites is now available anywhere. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer.
There’s still valuable historical data in the MLS that others don’t have access to. That information can help you market your business, and help your clients make better decisions. Apps like RE:Focus Analytics help you best use data the mega portals don’t have access to.
Strengthen your referral network inside and outside the industry
It’s true that nearly everyone starts looking for real estate on the Internet. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only place they look for information. Future homebuyers talk to their friends and family, their insurance guy, their banker, and a whole list of other people about buying a home. Make sure you’re constantly working your referral network so your name gets mentioned in those conversations.
Review your marketing then try something new
Marketing has changed dramatically in the past few years and it continues to evolve at break-neck speed. Take some time to read up on new techniques. Pay particular attention to “Inbound Marketing” concepts like content publishing and promotion, lead capture and nurturing, and marketing automation. These techniques will help you get found on the web, and help you lock in customers you’ve already met.
When you’re researching, I’d suggest you skip over the lofty blogs on marketing theory and go straight to the nuts and bolts of “how to”. Sites like Hubspot and Marketing Experiments are great places to pick up new techniques you can put in motion today. The portals and mega franchises are trying new stuff. You should be, too.
As the market changes, one thing is for sure: Everyone will have an opinion on the best way to grow a real estate business. Some will buy leads from the portals. Others will work their referral network like crazy. Still others will pump time and effort into their website, IDX, and social marketing. But which has the best return on investment?
The only way to answer that question is to measure everything you do. Zillow leads work great for some, but not for others. Pay-per-click ads are best for some agents. Traditional referral networks are the lifeblood for many. At the end of the day, you’ve got to have a system for measuring the effectiveness of your lead generation and marketing. Tools like Pipeline ROI are built specifically to give you the data you need to make the best decisions.
Obviously I don’t mean to stick my head in the proverbial sand while the ground shifts beneath the industry’s feet. I do believe this is a big, structural change for us. It’s a massive power shift. MLSs and large franchises should have meeting rooms full of people today plotting their next move.
But for the boots-on-the-ground agent, this isn’t a time to worry. It’s a time to work. Work for your clients. Work with your partners. Work on your own technology and marketing processes. Then measure everything so you know what works for your business.
If you do those things, then you’ll be in a great position to adapt to any changes the industry throws at you.