Monthly Archives: June 2009

Dear Brokers: Please Spend Money on Design

Alan Webber by Gary Kelly / @issue Interview / vol. 6 no. 2

Alan Webber by Gary Kelly / @issue Interview / vol. 6 no. 2

Thanks to travel, blogging is a bit light, but I did want to get this post out because more and more, I feel it’s a painful message that must be heard.

There are quite a few things that a real estate company can do to improve operations, but many of them will take immense amount of work, cultural changes, and rethinking the practice of real estate brokerage itself.  There is, however, one thing that any company can do that will immediately pay dividends: design.  All it takes is spending some money.

Start by reading this post by @Issue web magazine.  It is an excerpt of a book “Rules of Thumb” by Alan Webber, the cofounder of Fast Company magazine.  The excerpt speaks to Rule 28: Good design is table stakes. Great design wins:

Not long after that trip I went to Denmark for a conference that brought together architects, industrial designers, and graphic artists. I walked around Copenhagen, admiring the shops and stores, the comfortable restaurants, the overall ambiance of the place. Then I had a cup of coffee with a friend who had organized the gathering.

“Denmark has high wages, high taxes, and an expensive social safety net,” I said. “But your manufacturing is moving to cheaper countries. What’s the strategy for the future?”

“We’re not worried,” she said. “We intend to compete on the quality of our design. Denmark is famous for our design.”

Read the whole thing; it’ll be worth your time.  Then think through the implications for real estate with me.

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Design vs. Technology: A Provocative View

From the web publication (seems rude to call it a “blog”) @Issue comes this provocative article about the business value of design, which ends with this astonishing statement:

[Design is] the accelerator for the company car, the power train for sustainable profits: design drives innovation; innovation powers brand; brand builds loyalty; and loyalty sustains profits. If you want long-term profits, don’t start with technology, start with design.

The statement struck me quite hard because I love both technology and design. I had not given much thought as to which one takes precedence in driving business value.

Synchronicity.  In this week’s RE:RnD Radio show, I ended up debating with Benn Rosales of AgentGenius about innovation in real estate.  One of the sub-themes was that we had not seen true innovation in the real estate industry in a couple of years, ever since Web 2.0 exploded onto the scene with Trulia.  (And I would argue before then with HousingMaps.com.)  We discussed Roost‘s redesign, and I had dismissed it as “cosmetic changes” with no real fundamental innovation.

Perhaps I need to rethink that position.

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John L. Scott’s (Mis-)Adventures in Social Networking

The Seattle-based brokerage John L. Scott has waded into social networking waters in a pretty significant way with JLSconnect — a brand new service based on Microsoft’s Live platform.  From the news release:

JLSconnect augments the previous “Property Tracker” service found on www.JohnLScott.com which provides the ability for individuals to log in and save “favorite” properties.  JLSconnect adds new social networking capabilities to the Property Tracker experience that makes it possible for people to easily share and exchange comments on interested properties with others.

Live Services are building block cloud services from Microsoft that John L. Scott utilizes to enrich the consumer experience,” says Sam Chenaur, Microsoft Platform Strategy Advisor. “With those services, John L. Scott is now able to allow users to see when their friends and family are online, provide instant messaging services to share and view property information, see and map properties with Microsoft Virtual Earth, and offer a single sign-on experience to all of those capabilities.”

This could be interesting, but it has the feel of a dollar short and a day late.  If JLS had launched the service a couple of years ago (and conversations about doing this sort of social networking were happening inside Realogy as early as summer of 2007), it might have been different.  But today, there are a lot more questions as to how JLSconnect will work out.

My concern is that if JLSconnect does not deliver the results that JLS may be expecting, it will be seen as evidence that social networking and social media in real estate don’t work.

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On the Eating and the Making of Dogfood

Wheres the can opener?

Where's the can opener?

David Armano (@armano) has a provocative post up asking whether a company’s social media leader should be heavily involved in social media — what he calls “eating your own dogfood”:

But if you dig a little, you’ll often times find that some (not all) of the people placed in these positions have very small “footprints” in the space. A recently created Twitter profile with a very short history, a presence on Facebook that looks like an unfurnished apartment, no blog to speak of. You get the point. And it’s got me thinking. Should the people who lead the charge within your organization be active participants in the medium? Does it really matter?

It’s an interesting topic, and I urge you to read the whole thing.  David ends up staking out a position on the issue:

I’ll put a stake in the ground on where I fall on this issue. It’s not critical to be a fully engaged active participant before you accept the responsibilities of leading social initiatives, but once you begin, you’d better show an intimate grasp of the space. Because, we’re all out there—Googling, Digging, looking for signs that you know what you’re talking about. Take a page out of Marcy’s book if you are in one of these roles. Engage people in relevant, meaningful ways and add a few notches of credibility to your belt.

But as I was thinking through what David was suggesting, it seemed to me that there’s another dimension to consider as well: subject matter expertise.  This is especially poignant in real estate industry.

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