Real Estate Connect, Day 2: The Success of New School Meets Old School

“Change doesn’t happen without conflict,” said Brad Inman as he kicked off Day 2 of Real Estate Connect.  And it was on this day that the continuing evolution of mobile technology and social media — and its infusion into every day business — hit home for many an attendee.

Tom Gonser of DocuSign shared the massive growth numbers of his e-signature platform, now with over 40 million identities saving people 150 million work hours and 2 billion days of turnaround time.  Moreover, their mobile signature growth is staggering.  “We expect to break the 50 percent threshold (of Docusign contracts signed on mobile platforms) by the end of 2013, many being international,” said Gonser.  Mobile has not only led to increased use, it’s now a global standard, with over 188 countries being represented in its user-base.

Gonser continued the “disruption” narrative of the conference as well.  “Zero infrastructure companies…” like the startups shown-off during Connect, “…are the new normal.”

Guy Wolcott epitomized the zero-infrastructure ideology while showcasing how he pivoted from a traditional brokerage to tech startup darling.  His app, Homesnap, allows a smartphone user to pull all public information available on a home through geolocation by simply taking a picture of it, is one of the most popular real estate apps available for iPhone.

“I wanted a fun, easy to use ‘Shazam for homes,’” he put it, all so that consumers can “do what they want, when and where they want to do it.”

The mobile technology and social media “morphing of industry,” as Brad put it, was then highlighted in Tamara Mendelsohn’s “Building and Measuring the Social World” presentation.

Mendelsohn, the VP of marketing for the event management website Eventbrite, shared her company’s social business blue print; stating that “social media is no longer a strategy, it’s how you do business.”  By “knowing your authentic self, humanizing your community, think about your product as an experience, and having fun with your community and brand,” one can now measure the value of things like a “share” on Facebook, to the tune of $4.15 for each Eventbrite event share on social media. By allowing others to speak for your brand and harnessing your message within their own social sphere framework, then sourcing it for your marketing, one can grow their brand’s reach.  Bringing “digital communities closer together” as she put it, is something every real estate practitioner and broker should take note of.

Veering back to technology, Matt Rogers of Nest discussed “Mobile and the Internet of Things.”  Nest essentially “packed all the tech in an iPhone, and made a thermostat out of it… because it just made sense!” Rogers remarked.  It’s the “Internet of things” where everything in the real world is connected to the Internet, that his company is elevating; all with a touch of great design, a la Apple, who Rogers used to work for.

“The home is devoid of great design,” said Rogers, and added “mobile and social media use equals discovery… with people being huge elements,” in brand building and technology use in a home.

Big data morphing into usable, actionable, data was illustrated by data companies Rentlytics, CoreLogic, Sequent Systems, Altos Research and INRIX.  Notably INRIX has turned strategic alliances with vendors who crowd-source GPS data (from FedEx among others) anonymously into real estate search based on drive-time.   It has resulted in an uptick in consumer time on site for many of their clients, Windemere being one.  “Big data means big personalization for real estate,” remarked INRIX GM Kevin Foreman.

“Infusion of data lends context” said Corelogic’s Chief Economist Mark Fleming, whose use of flood damaged home data in the northeast streamlined insurance efforts for his clients.  Mike Simonsen of Altos added, “Real-time data is huge with key indicators changing on the fly affecting home values… REALTORS® know it in their bones, but now have proof…” that can be displayed with his company’s product.

These general session presentations were the perfect conduit for the day of peer-to-peer learning to come.  The evolution and successful infusion of new and old school business was evident in many of the presentations throughout the day.  My takeaways from the various sessions…

On broker as an infrastructure investor:

“It takes time to be a master at real estate.  Mentorships of new agents will be key.”  Debbie Lewandowski, First Team Estates.  Brokers should be investing time, rather than money, into their brokerages, advises Lewandowski.  And it isn’t just about “young agents” she remarked.  Savvy and the perception of entrepreneurship in these agents are mutually exclusive from sales savvy, which needs to be shown and mentored, in her opinion.

On closing deals in today’s market:

“Leverage relationships to make the phone ring constantly… use social media as an ‘everywhere tool,’ not a sales tool.” Andrea Ballesteros, agent, First Team Estates.  Her use of social media as a top-of-mind marketing device succinctly illustrated how all agents can use social media.  She shares content from all over the Web for her sphere, distilled with her opinion.

Ben Kinney of Keller Williams added, “If you’re not bringing home at least 40 percent of gross, you’re running a non-profit,” with how he runs his business.

On using video like a rockstar:

“Videos build trust, tell stories of your community and separates your marketing from the pack.”  Richard Silver, Sotheby’s Toronto.

“If you don’t do it, your competition will.” Raj Qsar, The Boutique Real Estate Group.

“Video hits are big drivers of website traffic.  Make them evergreen and reusable…  feature your people.”  Elizabeth Kosich, CORE.

Furthermore, video doesn’t need to be expensive (Richard hires art students for his videos) and can be a revenue stream for brokers (Raj has created one from and for his agents).  You need to look no further than NAR’s Google Digital House Hunt Study for proof of value of video as a marketing device..

On maximizing website conversions:

“Internet leads are about numbers. Post content consistently every day to see what sticks.” Pat Giles, Market Leader.

“Get your systems in place now… you can’t learn how to ride a bike while riding it.” Laurie Davis, Keller Williams

“After that it’s about what people do on your website that counts.” Kelly Mitchell, Agent Caffeine.

“Monitor it (traffic).  Understand where you’re losing people from your site.” Sean Ellis, Qualaroo.

“Hyper target, know your market, create a path of least resistance from Google.” Rivers Pearce, BoomTown.

In essence: content equals leads. Monitor traffic to determine what your great content is (hint: it’s not just listings). Create systems to funnel ready-now leads to closings and ready-later potential clients to an incubation system (see: your content).  The best nugget of knowledge from Kelly Mitchell: “Don’t spend money if you don’t know what you’re doing.

On rentals:

“Lifelong (real estate) customers might start as renters first.”  Allen Cook,

Opportunities abound with renters, especially in this new economy— in the way this industry saw opportunity in distressed property sales years ago.  Only, we can’t lag behind the trend when it comes to relationships, processes and training.  As Newman-Mitrick agent Lauren Mitrick put it best: “Renters all know someone ready to buy or sell a home.”  Business relationships will start earlier and earlier in this new economy.  Adapt and prepare now.

While the last five years has seen nonsense of the social media guru (who never sold real estate) telling real estate pros how to sell real estate in the digital frontier, what you’re seeing now are the fruits of the labor of progressive brokers and agents infusing what was thought of as fringe ideology into their brick and mortar business.

What they implemented years ago — new school with old, media as a mindset, content as a marketing differentiator, enhanced processes as infrastructure, analytics as a tool, embracing of fringe clientele, time mentoring and doing rather than money spent — because it was a logical business model fit, is benefiting them now.  What will you do today to benefit you tomorrow?

Nobu Hata

I'm director of digital engagement for the National Association of REALTOR®. Former REALTOR® with Edina Realty in Minnesota. Geek. Alaska and Minnesota have been home. Now I'm in Chicago or on the road meeting with REALTORS® and association executives to talk about NAR, their business, and the integration of digital technologies in our industry.

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  1. Really interesting pointers you included here! When new meets old. This is a rather refreshing experience especially in the real estate market, just like what I wanted to have in commercial real estate Dallas.

  2. Well, it is better if a real estate will have the best of both worlds, right? Rentals these days should really cater to the needs of every clients.