What’s Great About the Help-U-Sell Web Solution

I just got off a Tech Demo with Ron McCoy, Robbie Stevens and a prospective franchisee. The purpose of this kind of call is to show the prospect what we’re doing with technology and to distinguish our platform from that of every other national brand. I believe, as usual, we were successful, but there’s always a side benefit to these kinds of meetings:

I get so excited about what we have I want to shout it from the rooftops! Let me crow a bit.

First, consider: why are real estate Brokers interested in the Internet? It might seem like a stupid question, but it’s not and it deserves careful consideration.
Brokers are interested because that’s where buyers (and, increasingly, sellers) are. We know this. We’ve watched the statistics rise year after year. It makes sense that, where we used to spend major marketing dollars in largely print media, we would now shift those funds toward the Internet. To the savvy Broker, the Internet is, first and foremost, a Lead Generator.

Although nobody would argue with that, it is remarkable how many Brokers have sites that are seemingly designed to generate . . . nothing.  You see them all the time:  they are basically static sites, where nothing changes day after day except the possible feed from the MLS.  They are largely vanity sites or online business cards, and just as your paper business card does no good sitting in  your pocket, so a typical, static Broker site does no good sitting in the darkness of an un-optimized web.

Some Brokers realize that having a web presence is more than having pretty pictures and nice text online.  They realize that a web site, a web presence, requires management.   Someone’s got to take responsibility for constant over-site, content refreshment and troubleshooting.  But we are real estate brokers!  We don’t have time for that!  So what do most Brokers do?  Either give up, or hire an outsider to manage the website.  Some may see an increase in leads but for most, even a managed website is just a big black hole in cyber-space into which money disappears every month.

What we have at Help-U-Sell is a Broker website that is completely proprietary (we created, own and control the technology and are not dependent on any outside vendor), that is also easily managed not by high priced outsiders, but by our Brokers.

The back-end of the website includes a content management system that is as easy to use as, say, Microsoft Word.  A broker, knowing nothing about HTML, scripting, Flash, or anything internet-tech, can log in, go to the individual pages of the website, and edit the content.  He/she can add pages, load videos, create links, etc.  And if that sounds too technical, we have paid hand-holders at headquarters in Sarasota who will help you do it.

As a result, a Help-U-Sell Broker website is not just an endless boilerplate litany of how wonderful Help-U-Sell (the national brand) is.  It’s also loaded with the references to the local community, inserted by the Broker, that will make the site attractive to search engines.  And, by the way, if your idea of having a website is to generate leads (and it should be), it all starts with being attractive to search engines.  The people have to be able to find you and they will find you when the search engines like your content.  What do search engines like?  Local, local, hyper-local content.  Custom content that doesn’t exist anywhere else.  Content that is dynamic and changes regularly.  Content that includes a mix of media:  text, photos, video, hyperlinks and so on.  The Help-U-Sell Broker websites put all of that at the fingertips of the broker.

I also get excited by the valuable foresight of the development team (and Robbie, in particular).  Early on, they built a ‘MOBI’ site to accompany Helpusell.com.  The mobi site is automatically activated anytime a consumer comes to the website via mobile phone.  On the mobi site, all of the content is optimized for the smaller format of a smart phone screen.  This is so important, and here’s why:

The average age of a Realtor today is something like 54.  The average homebuyer is much younger, about 34.  That’s a 20 year generation gap that can easily be measured in technology.  The young buyer today – the buyer that will shape our future – is using the smart phone constantly and they are using it the way we (older folks) use computers.  The smart phone IS the computer of choice for the most important segment of homebuyers in the market today.  So, you have to be smart phone optimized to interact with these buyers.  The helpusell.mobi site makes that possible.  So do other forward thinking innovations, like the automatic generation of a QR code for every listing, so that an interested homebuyer can access information on the listing without having to type a long URL into their phone.

It’s very important.  But does it work?  Robbie mentioned today that about 50% of the traffic on helpusell.com is coming from smart phones.  I think that says a lot.

Finally, the thing I’m most excited about is the responsiveness of the tech team to input from the field.  Since we created, own and manage our own technology, it’s a lot easier for us to make a change or add a feature than it would be for someone who has to go through a vendor for that.  Our brokers said they wanted customized, localized searches built around local areas or neighborhoods.  We have them.  Some brokers wanted to require registration at some point on the website.  We now have that option.  Some wanted a less costly (ok . . . free) alternative to paying outside vendors for virtual tours.  We now have that.  The whole platform is open for discussion and improvement, not by a group of disconnected egg-heads, but by real estate brokers and those who understand what goes on in a real estate office.

If you set out to recreate the technology you have at Help-U-Sell as an independent broker, you’d spend thousands, not just once, but every month.  For our brokers, it’s just part of the package:  no additional charge.

If you are a Help-U-Sell broker and you have not been as involved in your web life as you probably should have been, but want to get started NOW, call me or anyone at corporate and get the ’11 Days to a Great Website’ document.  It will give you 11 brief, focused tasks you can do in 30 minutes to an hour a day over a couple of weeks, that will take you light years ahead of your competition in terms of website effectiveness.  And if you’re like most great ‘people’ persons and you’re completely lost when it comes to this stuff, call the Tech Team in Sarasota and they will help you do it.

If you are a Help-U-Sell outsider and you’d like to know more about what we’re doing to stay on top of technology, get in touch.  We’ll be happy to give you a demo.

New Website Features

We just got finished with another Tech Time Tuesday webinar with Robert Stevens.  Robbie shared some new functionality on the Help-U-Sell Broker websites that I think we should highlight here.  But first, some basics:

Your listings get on to your (new)  Help-U-Sell office website in one of two ways.  You either enter them manually via OMS or you input them into your MLS and it comes to your office site via the IDX feed you have set up.  (Note:  we are talking only about your new Help-U-Sell office site, the one that Help-U-Sell corporate hosts and maintains.  We’re not talking about your New Home Page website or your Point2 website or any other you may have.)

Generally speaking, your Help-U-Sell office website offers more capacity for images and greater functionality than most MLS’s, so once the listing comes into your website via IDX, you may elect to edit it in OMS, add pictures, virtual tours, or tag it as Help-U-Sell Homebuyer Stimulus eligible.  Here’s where the new functionality comes in.

In OMS, in the Listings area, when you access your listings, you’ll see a coded icon at the far left of the list of properties.  A grey circle with an ‘A’ in it means ‘Automatic’.  These are listings that have NOT had any changes made to them after they came over via IDX.  Because there have been no changes made, a price change input into MLS will automatically be reflected on your Help-U-Sell office website.  Note that in these cases, price will be the only change made in MLS that will update your Help-U-Sell office website.  Changes to status or comments made in MLS will not be reflected — and you’ll need to enter them manually in OMS to change your listing on your office website.

If, however, you make any change to your listing after it comes over via IDX — change the price or status, add pictures, edit comments, correct an error — the icon code on the left side of your list of properties will change to a red circle with the letter ‘M’ inside, ‘M’ standing for Manual.  From that point forward,  a price change input into MLS will also need to be input manually in OMS for the change to reflect on your Help-U-Sell office website.

I know this is a little confusing but it all gets down to the system you orchestrate in your office for listings and listing maintenance.  As a Broker, I would simply add a step to any change in a listing:  after making the change in MLS, make it again in OMS.  That way I will know that everything is up to date.  If, the change you’re making is a price change, when you get into OMS and see that the listing in question has the grey circle ‘A’ next to it you may decide to wait a day for the IDX feed to make the change.  (Me?  I’m going to make the change in OMS right then and there so that I know it’s done and it reflects immediately.)

Generally speaking, IDX feeds come in once a day, often in the wee hours of the morning.  So a price change made in MLS on Tuesday afternoon will likely come over until Wednesday morning (again, we’re assuming this is a listing tagged with the grey circle ‘A’, with no changes having been made in OMS.).

The other great bit of news on today’s call had to do with content creation and management on your office website.  You’re now able to add new pages of content to your new Help-U-Sell office website by going into the content manager in OMS.  This exciting development means you can go hyper-local with your office website, highlighting some of the nuances that affect your marketplace.  Perhaps your State or Municipality has a special program to encourage home ownership;  that might deserve its own page.  Perhaps your office is participating in a big local charity event; that might be another page.  Remember that every page of your website is indexed by the search engines so each page represents an opportunity to attract more visitors to your site and to generate more leads for your business.

The new Help-U-Sell office websites continue to  grow and improve . . . it’s an exciting process.  If you’re not tuning in to Tech Time Tuesday each week, you’re missing out on some great stuff.  Thanks, Robbie and team!  We appreciate the great work your doing for us.

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