I think he (and Squidoo) may just be a little late to the party on this one.
I’m just not sure Agents really need yet another place to blog hyperlocally. And Squidoo, for all its promise as a destination for user generated content, has never really taken off.
Dustin Luther follows up (again, in a really nice way):
Even two years after my call with Dan, the market for providing a free, quality, and local marketing platform for agents is still largely undeveloped… and while one of the real estate focused verticals like Trulia or Zillow could theoretically fill this niche, it still seems like such a no brainer for one of the big guys like Google, Microsoft or Yahoo to take a page from Seth’s playbook and create a niche-specific platform for their various tools!
Seth’s platform is a great idea… but it is still missing the one thing that could really make a platform like this work: an abundance of consumers!
Funny how that one little thing makes a lot of otherwise crappy platforms work (see, e.g., LoopNet). 🙂
But this isn’t a post about SquidZipper necessarily. Nor is it a post really about Trulia.
Instead, it’s a post about HomeDepot.
A while back, the wife and I noticed a pretty significant draft coming through our windows. Considering the house had been built in 1940’s, and hadn’t really had a renovation since then, we thought it wise to invest in some new windows. So we went to HomeDepot like millions of Americans, and looked into getting windows installed.
Everything pretty much went according to plan. We bought the windows, talked to the nice people at HomeDepot, and on the appointed day, a contractor showed up at our house and started work.
I noticed, however, that the contractor’s van didn’t look like a HomeDepot van; it didn’t have any colors. It had some guy’s name on the side (like Joe Romano & Sons or something like that) with no hint of the ubiquitous HomeDepot orange. Turns out the HomeDepot installation technician who was in my house wasn’t, strictly speaking, a HomeDepot employee. He actually had his own company that installed windows, and did assorted contractor work specializing in decks and patios. He was just one of the numerous independent contractors who had agreed to have HomeDepot send them work, presumably in exchange for some fixed rate, and for agreeing to certain HomeDepot rules and standards.
We had a nice chat, this contractor and I. He installed our windows, and left. I can’t remember his name, and I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. I don’t remember the name of his company.
What I do remember is that HomeDepot installed my windows.
What the )(@#*$ does any of this have to do with real estate, Trulia, SquidZipper, and so forth?
Well, since I asked what an agent needed a brand for, it seems more and more to me that various companies out there are targeting at disintermediating not the agent, but the brands.
Let’s suppose for a moment that SquidZipper or Trulia or Zillow or any of these guys do manage to launch some sort of a platform to help a real estate agent do local marketing extremely well. All of the tools are there: maps, listings, content, data, etc. Let’s further suppose that one of these platforms manage to acquire an abundance of consumers such that the agent can see leads coming in day in and day out.
Said consumer then has a relationship (or at least an experience) with Trulia or whoever; it’s how they found the house, and found the real estate agent. Presumably said consumer would have a relationship/experience with the agent himself, since they worked closely with the agent in the whole acquisition/disposition process.
But the brokerage? Or the brand? Just like I couldn’t remember the name of the contractor that did my windows, would any consumer remember RE/Max or Coldwell Banker or whatever?
Would said consumer, upon resurfacing seven years later (on average), remember the agent who took such good care of him the first time around? Or would he remember the really useful website where he found a house and someone to “install” the house for him?
Where exactly is the brand, or the brokerage company, in all of this?