You’re Welcome,

NAR has a big ad campaign running right now touting as the most accurate consumer website for housing information. They make the valid point that the big national listing aggregators (i.e. Zillow and Trulia) are, by comparison, less up-to-date and less accurate than their site. They are spending millions to get that message out. Here:

It’s a message we got, oh, more than a year ago.

Remember the big flap about listing syndication that flared up in January, 2012? There was a very vocal broker ripping his listings out of syndication to Zillow and Trulia because they did not aggressively steer consumers to the source of listing information (the listing agent). A few others followed.

We talked about it long and hard here in the SFB and decided that such a posture was self-destructive. Zillow and Trulia are where the buyers ARE. That’s just reality and it isn’t going to change any time soon. A smarter strategy is to find ways to exploit the power of these portals (by opting into their premium agent program and becoming active in garnering reviews and interacting with their network) and regard them for what they are: lead generating machines.

We also talked about how to take leads generated by the big listing aggregators and get them to drop those websites in favor of our own. In those posts we suggested the following verbiage (or something similar) when talking with consumers about this:

Agent: How long have you been looking?

Buyer: Oh, a few weeks, I guess.

Agent: You found me on Zillow, is that how you’ve doing your searches?

Buyer: Yes.

Agent: It is very easy to use, I know. . . but have you noticed how many homes on there are not really for sale?

Buyer: Well, now that you mention it . . .

Agent: They have a real challenge there; it’s because they’re trying to do a local job on a world-wide platform. They get housing information from so many sources it even confuses them! Listen, how about letting me give you access to the local MLS – without all the data from Boston and St. Louis and Puerto Rico gumming up the works! You’ll have the most accurate and best information on houses for sale today in this market.

Buyer: You can do that?

Agent: Sure. I just need an email address and phone number and I can set you up with a buyer’s account on my website. You can search to your heart’s content, save listings, even set up email alerts when new properties that meet your needs come on the market. Plus, any time you have a question or want to see something, I’m just a click away.

Buyer: Sounds pretty good.’s new multi-million dollar ad campaign makes the same point: that the aggregators’ data is flawed and that theirs is better.

I am not so arrogant that I believe our discussion here on the Set Fee Blog over a year ago had anything to do with’s marketing company coming up with that strategy. Anybody who really looks at the aggregators, how they get their data, how they weigh each data source, and what the end result is, would see the flaw in their platforms, and recognize the superiority of a local broker’s IDX feed. But, just as in December, 2011, when we predicted a housing shortage a year before it arrived, we were also way ahead of the curve when it came to syndication strategies.

So what do we do with the marketing campaign? Yawn. Nothing. It’s pretty irrelevant. My guess is it won’t impact consumers one iota. It ignores the one great underlying truth about consumers searching for houses online: they really don’t want to connect with a real estate salesperson. That’s why they go to Zillow: they perceive it to be one step removed from REALTOR self-promotion.

If there is something to DO, it is this: continue to remind the consumers who contact you, with whom you develop a personal rapport, that your data is THE MOST accurate and THE MOST local. Home search is, above all, a LOCAL activity. Everyone looking for a home is looking for a home somewhere. Your local MLS feed will always be better than any national aggregator, even

Focus Your Website: For Buyers? Sellers? . . . or Both?

The primary function of most real estate broker websites is pretty obvious:  provide information to and hopefully capture prospective buyers.  That’s why the home search function is usually front an center and why IDX is so important.  This is certainly true of Help-U-Sell Broker websites with their scrolling ‘Featured Listings’ and nearly dominant search field.

It makes sense too:  almost every bit of advertising we do, from For Sale signs with URLs to flyers with QR codes, is intended – at least as a secondary function – to drive buyer traffic to the website where quality information and powerful search tools deliver value that makes  buyer lead capture more possible.

But what about Help-U-Sell?  Our whole marketing thrust for 36 years has been to target Sellers, take more than our share of listings and let the listings create Buyer Leads.  Since the lion’s share of real estate marketing has gone online – and since a major portion of that online presence centers on the office website – isn’t there a disconnect between the heavy Buyer orientation of Help-U-Sell Broker websites and our own ‘Secret Sauce?’  Maybe.

I’m not suggesting that our Broker sites shouldn’t LEAD with tools and tips for Buyers.  As I said, almost all of our advertising is designed to drive buyers to the website where a value experience makes them ‘capturable.’  In fact, I want our guys to be pulling Buyer leads OFF Zillow, Trulia, and a dozen other online sources and offering them a better experience on their own Broker sites with language like:

Have you noticed that a lot of the listings you’re seeing on are already sold?  Have you seen duplicates and inaccuracies?  That’s because that’s a National website trying to do a Local job.  They receive data from dozens of different sources and sometimes their machines have difficulty telling what is true and most recent.  How would you like to get up-t0-date access to the data in our Local MLS?  There is no better data anywhere for a home search here in Anytown.  You’ll be searching for homes just like I do, with the same information I use;  it’s free and easy to use.  Great – let me get your email address and I’ll set you up an account.

So, Buyer orientation and tools prominent on the first page:  YES!

But, are you also using your website to attract Sellers, to educate them about your program, to do the job so much of our marketing did in years gone by?  There are ways to do this you know.  Step one is to create a page (or pages) that provides the kind of information that caused Sellers to contact you in the past:

  • Sold and Saves
  • Testimonials
  • Easy Way/Smarter Way
  • Seller Savings Comparison
  • Brief Description of your program

Take out an old paper ETM – the one we delivered in thousands of mailboxes each month.  Can you build a page on your website with the same elements, presented in the same powerful way?  (By the way, the answer is ‘Yes.’  The tools are there and they are easy to use, especially when you have the Sarasota Tech Team standing by to help every step of the way).  The Sellers Savings Comparison has been up and operational for several months, and Robbie just introduced the new Sold And Saved banners (thanks to input from the great Brokers who attended this year’s Success Summit).

Step two is to start driving Seller traffic to this page, just like you drive Buyer traffic to page one of your Website.  That means first, buying an easy to remember URL for the new page, something like:, and pointing it at the Seller page.  Then include it in every bit of advertising your do that may be seen by Sellers.  It also means taking advantage of new marketing opportunities to drive traffic:  QR codes on postcards that tease:  Find out how you can sell your home fast and save thousands.

I’m glossing over Step two rather quickly because it’s more about a way of thinking than anything else.  Attracting the Seller Inquiry has been so much a part of who we are that it is like breathing.  It’s automatic.  It’s a lifestyle.  But the real estate ditch of the last six years had us scrambling for Buyer Leads and Institutional Sellers, not genuine Seller Leads because they were (alas) non-existent.  It’s time to take the new seller tools we have for Broker Websites and become just as obsessed with exploiting them as we once were with our next ETM.

Step three is to build Landing Pages for your targeted call to action advertising.  These are simple fill-in web forms for gathering contact information on a potential client after an offer of something of value in return.  Here’s an example from the fine folks in Waynesboro, VA, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate:  LINK.  This one is for a Market Analysis, something of great value to today’s homeowners.  You’d drive traffic to this landing page with postcards, flyers and other advertising, teasing:  Find out what your home is worth TODAY!

You might build similar landing pages for ‘Find out how you can save thousands when selling your home‘, or ‘Free E-Book:  How to Save Thousands When Selling Your Home.’  And so on.

Once again, when Boo probably would have been sufficient,  I’ve said Boo-H00-Hoo.  Forgive me:  I’m on vacation (Ole!).  But I hope you will take my enthusiasm for this topic and the new tools available to you to get back to doing what we have always been about:  Attracting inquiries from Sellers with our Superior Offer, Converting those Inquiries into Listings most of the time, and Letting the Marketing of those Listings drive a steady stream of Buyer Leads into our offices.

YAWN . . .

Quoting Inman News this morning:

NEW YORK — is about to roll out a free tool that will allow real estate professionals to build single-property websites optimized for mobile devices.

We’ve had that for what?  A year?  18 months?

Oh, and with our version, the agent doesn’t have to ‘do’ anything . . . it all happens automatically on every listing.  Period.

Five Timely Truths

  1. When consumers want information about residential real estate today, they go to  I say that because my Brokers tell me Zillow consistently produces quality leads.  Trulia comes in a (usually) distant second. is not even on the map.
  2. Data mining and manipulation of real estate information has progressed so far and so fast that 95% of the people in the industry have no idea how to use it.  Ok:  maybe that’s a little hyperbole.  But I am impressed that the data guys are to the point of predicting buy and sell behavior via algorithms and so much more.  They have taken their business way out there and the rank and file Realtor – who is still trying to figure out how to resize their prom picture so they can use it on their business card – has no clue.  The good news is that the 5% (or 15%) who do have the desire and the smarts to use this new information will survive to be the next generation Realtor.
  3. Virtual companies (at the moment) suck.  I encountered yet another that has one broker in one city, holding licenses and ‘managing’ hundreds of salespeople all over the State.   While I believe that systems and technology may make it possible to supervise transaction activity at a distance,  it hasn’t yet evolved to where a Broker might watch an agent with a buyer or seller or to allow a Manager to casually overhear a phone conversation.  The Broker’s duty to supervise becomes a ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge,’ item.  But the real downside – at least today – is that these companies have become an alternative for non-productive agents who otherwise would probably get out of the business.  For a small fee they can continue to be ‘active’ and do 3 or 4 deals a year.
  4. By devoting themselves to the preservation of the Status Quo, by fighting tooth and nail every step of the way to keep information out of the hands of consumers, by not insisting on production standards for members, Realtor Groups (NAR and it’s affiliated State and Local Boards and Associations) have made themselves largely irrelevant.  It’s probably too late to wake up and realize that things will NEVER be the way they used to be, that real estate reality has changed, and changed significantly.  The next generation real estate professional is not at a meeting at the Board of Realtors.  He/She is online, networking and discovering the tools that will enable them to do more transactions and provide better service.
  5. Help-U-Sell, with proprietary technology that we created, own and control,  is the only national brand positioned to lead the industry into the new tech-efficient real estate age while preserving a razor focus on the needs of the consumer.  We’ve always been a consumer-centric company and now we can bring that focus to bear in a leaner, more efficient, tech-driven industry.  Every time I go to a real estate trade show I get tickled when people tout the latest and greatest tech innovation (Mobil phone websites, QR codes, map searches, online lead management, syndication and on and on)  . . . and it’s all stuff we’ve had for a couple of years.


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