It Ain’t the Technology

The second post ever on Notorious R.O.B. was entitled, “More Silliness from Real Estate Connect” and contained this passage:

The Real Estate industry has gone tech-crazy.

Here’s a wakeup call: all that technology does is make your existing processes more efficient. If what you do is crap, it makes crap more efficient. If what you do is valuable, then it makes that more efficient. Microsoft Word is an amazing piece of technology, but it can’t write the next Great American Novel for you. You have to actually write the damn thing yourself, and if you suck as a writer, then Word isn’t going to solve that problem for you.

If only sloganeering created reality...

If only sloganeering created reality...

By the way, I would like to note that I have broken through some sort of dork continuum by quoting myself from a year ago.  The only thing I could think of that might be dorkier is singing She Bangs on American Idol.  (Click on that link at your own peril; I will take no responsibility for brain meltdown and queasy feelings.)

A couple of recent experiences reminded me that plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Evidence: Oh, Canada!

First, we get this announcement from Coldwell Banker Canada:

Coldwell Banker Canada Operations ULC today announced the launch of the brand’s customized real estate application developed for Microsoft Surface™.  The dynamic new real estate interface was unveiled during a live interactive demo at the Coldwell Banker® Canadian Broker Meeting and Awards Gala being held today in Toronto. The new Microsoft Surface home search application allows users to interact with thousands of home listings, real estate maps and other www.coldwellbanker.com features in a way that is familiar, by using simple hand gestures. Similar to the intuitive technology featured in the futuristic film, “Minority Report”, this exploration on the use of Microsoft Surface represents yet another way in which Coldwell Banker is working to harness innovative technologies to benefit home buyers and sellers.

Um.  Okay guys.

So the Canadian real estate market was down17.1% i n2008, and the Canadian Real Estate Association is predicting a 16.9% drop in 2009, but one of the largest brokerage companies in Canada is excited about Microsoft Surface?

Is this really the thing that’s going to turn things around for CB Canada?

Maybe.  But I submit that the real estate industry has gone tech-crazy if folks really believe that Surface is where dollars need to be invested.

By the way, compare what CB Canada put together with this from Perceptive Pixel, the company founded by Jeff Han who pioneered multi-touch interfaces:

If you’re going to do multi-touch, then by golly do it right.  Putting a website that we’re all familiar with on Surface and calling that a “dynamic new real estate interface” doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Evidence: Ubiquity of Social Media

I don’t hate social media.  Nor do I think it’s useless.  If anything, I believe the opposite: it’s damn useful, and quite likely groundbreaking in lots of ways.  But I do think the industry is focusing on absolutely the wrong thing as it comes to social media.

People are focusing on the technology of social media, rather than on the meaning of social media.

Past two weeks, I’ve been on the road, first at RE Tech South and then at the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World Conference.  I’ve sat through hours of seminars and panel discussions and lectures on how real estate professionals and companies can survive, thrive and even improve in the current market conditions.  And it seemed that every other word being uttered was “Twitter” or “FaceBook” or “Blog”.

The emphasis on technology leads to realtors using the technology in all sorts of unsuitable ways: spamming their friends, endless twitterstreams of listing after listing, advertising after advertising, and blogs that are nothing more than digitized billboards.

All that technology does is make your existing processes more efficient.

When your existing mode of engagement is “NOW IS A GREAT TIME TO BUY OR SELL!” (And by the way, how does that work, exactly?) then the technology is just going to make you be more efficiently annoying.

To be sure, there are people like Jeff Turner who are trying to preach the meaning of social media, rather than the technology.  We need more of him, and less obsession about how to create a dozen groups on TweetDeck to keep track of all of your social networks.

It Ain’t the Technology

If I believe in nothing else, I believe that marketing post-Cluetrain is authentic, open communication between human beings.  Technology assists in the transformation, makes some of the interaction possible even, but it is not the interaction.

I firmly believe that a realtor who doesn’t know how to use a computer, but send personal, authentic, and no-bullshit handwritten notes will beat the pants off of the realtor who has thousands of Facebook Friends and barrages them with digital versions of “Just Sold” postcards.  I really do.

Because it ain’t the technology; it’s the person behind the technology.

I'm still Jenny from the block, yo.

I'm still Jenny from the block.

What realtors need isn’t a newfangled technology to be a thousand times more annoying than they are today, but a transformation into the kind of trusted advisor that so many claim and so few achieve.  Companies need to be investing in technology (and processes!) that help realtors become true experts in their local market, the real estate transaction, the financial elements, and client service, rather than in gadgets that win cool points then fade away.

Show people that you care about them as people; that you will work hard for them; that you are a professional with pride in your training, knowledge, and expertise; that you won’t lie to them or bullshit them; that you will advise them to the best of your abilities for their benefit and not your own; that you are neither a huckster nor a servant; that you too are human… and people won’t care if you message them through Facebook or through smoke signals.

They will trust you.

-rsh

  • http://60646blog.com/ Mark A.

    Come on Rob, don’t beat around the bush, and tell us what you really think. :)
    You know, it’s like this: Only about fifteen years ago, MLS meant a weekly or bi-weekly updated publication the size of a NYC telephone directory. In hindsight, realizing how pathetic it was to utilize a telephone directory as our main tool of business, we are now trying to compensate for this past medieval way of working. Hence, the tech-craze. It will take years for consumers to catch up with our new ways of communicating and interacting with them. Finally! But I’ve gotta go now, ’cause I’ve got a few blog posts to write, facebook a little, and cap off the evening with a few tweets.

  • http://60646blog.com Mark A.

    Come on Rob, don’t beat around the bush, and tell us what you really think. :)
    You know, it’s like this: Only about fifteen years ago, MLS meant a weekly or bi-weekly updated publication the size of a NYC telephone directory. In hindsight, realizing how pathetic it was to utilize a telephone directory as our main tool of business, we are now trying to compensate for this past medieval way of working. Hence, the tech-craze. It will take years for consumers to catch up with our new ways of communicating and interacting with them. Finally! But I’ve gotta go now, ’cause I’ve got a few blog posts to write, facebook a little, and cap off the evening with a few tweets.

  • http://joespakeblog.com Joe Spake

    Why is it so hard for Realtors to break their bonds with Interruption marketing? And why don’t we hear more about Jeff Turner outside of our tight little social media world? He is at the top of my list of real estate folks who “get it”.

  • http://joespakeblog.com/ Joe Spake

    Why is it so hard for Realtors to break their bonds with Interruption marketing? And why don’t we hear more about Jeff Turner outside of our tight little social media world? He is at the top of my list of real estate folks who “get it”.

  • http://www.tribusgroup.com/ Eric Stegemann

    The CB Canada thing is their attempt at being so far in front of something that they can claim to get it. Unfortunately, by the time people can afford computers that implement Surface, You won’t need it. What’s going to get implemented, Surface that costs $10k or more or http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html
    ? You tell me…. If I remember correctly she says in the video that cost them $300 to make.

    It’s going to skip interacting with a surface, to interacting with an environment. But I digress….

    The real item at play here is tech. And it could not be more true….tech is a means to an end, now the end. But there is plenty of tech out there that can be offered to make their lives easier. As I always say though, why isn’t it en masse at a big broker? Why no CRM? Why no good transaction management?

    Shocking to me….

  • http://www.TribusGroup.com Eric Stegemann

    The CB Canada thing is their attempt at being so far in front of something that they can claim to get it. Unfortunately, by the time people can afford computers that implement Surface, You won’t need it. What’s going to get implemented, Surface that costs $10k or more or http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html
    ? You tell me…. If I remember correctly she says in the video that cost them $300 to make.

    It’s going to skip interacting with a surface, to interacting with an environment. But I digress….

    The real item at play here is tech. And it could not be more true….tech is a means to an end, now the end. But there is plenty of tech out there that can be offered to make their lives easier. As I always say though, why isn’t it en masse at a big broker? Why no CRM? Why no good transaction management?

    Shocking to me….

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  • http://www.bhgrealestateblog.com/ Sherry Chris

    Amen Rob. That’s all I can say.

  • http://www.bhgrealestateblog.com Sherry Chris

    Amen Rob. That’s all I can say.

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  • Bill Mudge

    “Companies need to be investing in technology (and processes!) that help realtors become true experts in their local market, the real estate transaction, the financial elements, and client service, rather than in gadgets that win cool points then fade away.”

    I agree with most of what you said, but if an agent is waiting for technology to become a true expert in their local market, than he/she is not a very good agent.

    Take away all the technology, and give each agent a club. I am fairly certain todays top- performing agents will out-club more new clients than the rest of the agent population. Hire the best agents and give them the tools they ask for. Then, stand back and watch the proper way to leverage technology into listings and sales. Better agents can quickly separate the bells and whistles from the technology that will actually help them build their businesses.

  • Bill Mudge

    “Companies need to be investing in technology (and processes!) that help realtors become true experts in their local market, the real estate transaction, the financial elements, and client service, rather than in gadgets that win cool points then fade away.”

    I agree with most of what you said, but if an agent is waiting for technology to become a true expert in their local market, than he/she is not a very good agent.

    Take away all the technology, and give each agent a club. I am fairly certain todays top- performing agents will out-club more new clients than the rest of the agent population. Hire the best agents and give them the tools they ask for. Then, stand back and watch the proper way to leverage technology into listings and sales. Better agents can quickly separate the bells and whistles from the technology that will actually help them build their businesses.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    I hear ya, Bill — and I agree in principle overall.

    I do want to point out, however ,that technology can in fact help realtors be local experts. Things like GIS systems and data technology, things like expert systems that can do quick Rent-Buy analyses, or solid CRM systems that help a realtor provide better customer service — these are the kinds of things I had in mind.

    Now, a crappy realtor with those tools will still be a crappy realtor. So I get your point 100%. But I don’t think it’s accurate to say technology won’t help the top-performing agent be even more professional, more of an expert, etc.

    -rsh

  • jstamp02

    Rob, thanks for this refreshing post. Everyone is so caught up in the technology craze that they completely forget the fundamentals of the business, which is building a genuine and lasting relationship. The number of friends or number of followers mean nothing if they’re not listening to you.

    In Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes, he talks about the idea of 1,000 true fans. A true fan is the person who goes out of his way to support you or promote your business. Seth Godin said “The leadership today is about 10 people bringing you 100 and 100 bringing you 1,000. When you have 1,000 true fans, then they’re the people who are going to turn it into a movement. Not you. Your job is to take care of and feed and nurture those 1,000 people, and those people need to go to their network of people who know them and trust them, who eat dinner with them, and bring them in. It’s not for you to somehow beam your message to strangers and convert them, because you can’t convert strangers anymore. Not one major new consumer brand built in the last five years was built on the back of advertising. Google and Facebook, etc. are built because one person brought another one by the hand, not because someone bought ads on the Super Bowl.”

    Social media simply allows you to maintain and foster the relationship with those 10, 100, or 1000 true fans.

    Thanks for the great posts.

    http://twitter.com/JoeStampone1

  • jstamp02

    Rob, thanks for this refreshing post. Everyone is so caught up in the technology craze that they completely forget the fundamentals of the business, which is building a genuine and lasting relationship. The number of friends or number of followers mean nothing if they’re not listening to you.

    In Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes, he talks about the idea of 1,000 true fans. A true fan is the person who goes out of his way to support you or promote your business. Seth Godin said “The leadership today is about 10 people bringing you 100 and 100 bringing you 1,000. When you have 1,000 true fans, then they’re the people who are going to turn it into a movement. Not you. Your job is to take care of and feed and nurture those 1,000 people, and those people need to go to their network of people who know them and trust them, who eat dinner with them, and bring them in. It’s not for you to somehow beam your message to strangers and convert them, because you can’t convert strangers anymore. Not one major new consumer brand built in the last five years was built on the back of advertising. Google and Facebook, etc. are built because one person brought another one by the hand, not because someone bought ads on the Super Bowl.”

    Social media simply allows you to maintain and foster the relationship with those 10, 100, or 1000 true fans.

    Thanks for the great posts.

    http://twitter.com/JoeStampone1

  • http://www.realcentralva.com/ Jim Duncan

    It’s not the technology, it’s the context that the professional can provide for the customer/client.

    From my point of view, the tools are a tremendous boon to my business – knowing which tools to use, and which not to use – makes me better at what I do, and thusly, more valuable to my clients.

    Additionally, not fearing these technologies and being comfortable with my clients frequently knowing as much as I do is crucial.

    For example, look at this post describing a client’s search process – it’s all about technology until the next to last step. The last step being, “email Jim to actually see the inside.”

    Technology in and of itself is not the answer, but it can be part of the answer. But on the flip side – a Realtor without technology is obsolete.

  • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

    It’s not the technology, it’s the context that the professional can provide for the customer/client.

    From my point of view, the tools are a tremendous boon to my business – knowing which tools to use, and which not to use – makes me better at what I do, and thusly, more valuable to my clients.

    Additionally, not fearing these technologies and being comfortable with my clients frequently knowing as much as I do is crucial.

    For example, look at this post describing a client’s search process – it’s all about technology until the next to last step. The last step being, “email Jim to actually see the inside.”

    Technology in and of itself is not the answer, but it can be part of the answer. But on the flip side – a Realtor without technology is obsolete.

  • http://tzetzefly.com/ Dan Woolley

    I was with you 100% until late this afternoon when Microsoft announced “It’s all about the technology” and introduced their new Surface app for Realtors which makes personal, authentic, and handwritten notes automatically.

  • http://tzetzefly.com Dan Woolley

    I was with you 100% until late this afternoon when Microsoft announced “It’s all about the technology” and introduced their new Surface app for Realtors which makes personal, authentic, and handwritten notes automatically.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    You know, I was with me 100% also until I saw that Microsoft announcement, which was followed by the Google Homeseeker announcement about sending targeted offers for your house through Gmail from buyers who would see your house in their Gmail.

    It’s all about the technology.

    Happy April Fools.

    -rsh

  • http://blog.edmondoklahomesforsale.com/ Ryan Hukill

    You just nailed what 99.9999999% of agents don’t -and never will- get. It’s amazing how much I can share what I know with every ‘competitor’ in town and they either don’t apply the technology at all, or they don’t apply it correctly. Add to that their inability to quit the hardsell approach, and they’re completely out of the running.

  • http://blog.edmondoklahomesforsale.com Ryan Hukill

    You just nailed what 99.9999999% of agents don’t -and never will- get. It’s amazing how much I can share what I know with every ‘competitor’ in town and they either don’t apply the technology at all, or they don’t apply it correctly. Add to that their inability to quit the hardsell approach, and they’re completely out of the running.

  • http://www.theyoufactor.com/ mattdollinger

    Rob,

    Sorry I didn’t comment sooner, but all I can say is that I’m really (errr) proud of you for writing this. It is about the person and the relationship, but our targets often PREFER to be contacted via one medium over another.

    Nice job buddy. This is a great post.

    Matt

    http://www.TheYouFactor.com

  • http://www.theyoufactor.com mattdollinger

    Rob,

    Sorry I didn’t comment sooner, but all I can say is that I’m really (errr) proud of you for writing this. It is about the person and the relationship, but our targets often PREFER to be contacted via one medium over another.

    Nice job buddy. This is a great post.

    Matt

    http://www.TheYouFactor.com

  • http://www.arlingtonupdate.com/ Mark Lesses

    My sense is that CB tries different things that may or may not work. This is not a bad thing as they are constantly working to improve their ability to be on the cutting edge of the RE business. After all wouldn’t you want to be aligned with an innovator instead of a closed mind?

  • http://www.arlingtonupdate.com Mark Lesses

    My sense is that CB tries different things that may or may not work. This is not a bad thing as they are constantly working to improve their ability to be on the cutting edge of the RE business. After all wouldn’t you want to be aligned with an innovator instead of a closed mind?

  • http://www.tribusgroup.com/ Eric Stegemann

    I discussed this post at REBCLA with a few people. Basically we all were discussing how agents have a tendency to throw money at anything they think will get them more business. They will throw 10x more money at something if they have to do nothing to make it work. The reason is they know how to write contracts and sell homes but don’t understand the principles of the technology they are buying. They want something that needs no interaction.

    I had a specific conversation with two different real estate blogging companies: http://realestatetomato.com/ and http://www.dakno.com

    Technology means nothing if consumers and Realtors don’t use it. The problem with blogging is that it’s not just flick a switch. It takes time effort and energy. I applaud the two companies above because they don’t just sell a product and say there you go. They train their clients. (It’s something we are passionate about at http://www.TribusGroup.com as well.)

    This is what’s important for the future of technology. Training of how to correctly use products not just to use them but to create engaging conversations with their prospects and clients.

  • http://www.TribusGroup.com Eric Stegemann

    I discussed this post at REBCLA with a few people. Basically we all were discussing how agents have a tendency to throw money at anything they think will get them more business. They will throw 10x more money at something if they have to do nothing to make it work. The reason is they know how to write contracts and sell homes but don’t understand the principles of the technology they are buying. They want something that needs no interaction.

    I had a specific conversation with two different real estate blogging companies: http://realestatetomato.com/ and http://www.dakno.com

    Technology means nothing if consumers and Realtors don’t use it. The problem with blogging is that it’s not just flick a switch. It takes time effort and energy. I applaud the two companies above because they don’t just sell a product and say there you go. They train their clients. (It’s something we are passionate about at http://www.TribusGroup.com as well.)

    This is what’s important for the future of technology. Training of how to correctly use products not just to use them but to create engaging conversations with their prospects and clients.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    I don’t disagree, Mark — and I’ve had a few offline conversations about this.

    But timing is everything. I just don’t get the feeling that now is the time to be introducing a “new interface” that 99.99% of consumers won’t have, and the 0.01% of consumers who do have a Microsoft Surface device won’t need. I don’t see Surface delivering a single additional lead to CB Canada or its affiliates, nor do I see it making their operations more efficient.

    Innovation is great — but so are priorities.

    -rsh

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  • http://www.TeamConnect.biz/ Scott Beigh

    I agree…All the technology in the world does not turn a poor Realtor into a top producer.

    With Connect Realty you get the best commission plan in the industry and the best technology available.( http://www.TeamConnect.biz ) This will make a good Realtor better only if they understand how to use all of the tools they have.

    Scott Beigh
    http://www.Teamconnect.biz

  • http://www.TeamConnect.biz Scott Beigh

    I agree…All the technology in the world does not turn a poor Realtor into a top producer.

    With Connect Realty you get the best commission plan in the industry and the best technology available.( http://www.TeamConnect.biz ) This will make a good Realtor better only if they understand how to use all of the tools they have.

    Scott Beigh
    http://www.Teamconnect.biz

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  • http://kathleenbuckley.com/ Kathleen Buckley

    I cannot read such an excellent article without commenting yet I have absolutely nothing to add. I’m just thrilled to be a real estate broker where I am with the tools we have today. Thanks for helping me see that.

  • http://kathleenbuckley.com Kathleen Buckley

    I cannot read such an excellent article without commenting yet I have absolutely nothing to add. I’m just thrilled to be a real estate broker where I am with the tools we have today. Thanks for helping me see that.

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  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    I hear ya, Bill — and I agree in principle overall.

    I do want to point out, however ,that technology can in fact help realtors be local experts. Things like GIS systems and data technology, things like expert systems that can do quick Rent-Buy analyses, or solid CRM systems that help a realtor provide better customer service — these are the kinds of things I had in mind.

    Now, a crappy realtor with those tools will still be a crappy realtor. So I get your point 100%. But I don’t think it’s accurate to say technology won’t help the top-performing agent be even more professional, more of an expert, etc.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    You know, I was with me 100% also until I saw that Microsoft announcement, which was followed by the Google Homeseeker announcement about sending targeted offers for your house through Gmail from buyers who would see your house in their Gmail.

    It’s all about the technology.

    Happy April Fools.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    I don’t disagree, Mark — and I’ve had a few offline conversations about this.

    But timing is everything. I just don’t get the feeling that now is the time to be introducing a “new interface” that 99.99% of consumers won’t have, and the 0.01% of consumers who do have a Microsoft Surface device won’t need. I don’t see Surface delivering a single additional lead to CB Canada or its affiliates, nor do I see it making their operations more efficient.

    Innovation is great — but so are priorities.

    -rsh