Archive for August, 2008

Do realtors have to justify their existence? OR An ode to lemonade stands

August 29, 2008

Click here to read a short conversation about how little value buyers/sellers often place in realtors.

I think the problem is that realtors, like all the marketers out there, are dependent on controlled marketing messages. “I want to control what people hear about me.” In an online world —- where blogging, wikis, social applications/networking, etc. are the new norm for conversation —- you’re not going to retain that control. Not for the long term. You can fight it right now… but social reviews and social marketing is actually the future. It just plain is. 🙂

So give up the control. In a controlled way. 🙂

Invite your best clients —– 50 of them! —- to review you on www.what-customers-say.com. Invite them TODAY, before that guy who bloody HATED you finds the site and leaves you a review that you can’t undo. (You can’t undo it if it’s legitimate; you can only have negative points about your personal self removed from the site.)

Manage your online reputation, realtors. It’s YOUR reputation. And it will be out there for potential clients to see —- if not on our site, then on another site.

The days of sharing information of all sorts —- including info about your realtor —- are here to stay, even in Canada. You’ve depended on the Web to help you sell homes (MLS.ca + your personal sites)… so now depend on the Web to help you get more clients. You can’t just take the good of the Web (again, MLS.ca + your personal sites) and get mad when a little bit of potential negativity shows up.

If you think of www.what-customers-say.com as your lemon, then it’s up to you to make it into your lemonade.

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A conversation about defamation vs. organic elevation

August 29, 2008

As we expected, we’re getting some pretty strong resistance from realtors who don’t want to be put on the line personally…. (Check out the comments on this Edmonton real estate blog, where I [Joanna] am discussing our site with a few other interested parties.)

To be clear: What-Customers-Say.com is not a site for rating whether you “like” a realtor or not. It’s not about preference. It’s not about personal stuff like “John smelled nice” or “What a beautiful Lexus she drives!” or “Stacey couldn’t have been a bigger bi-otch and I hate her!” That’s NOT what the site is for.

Here’s the thing: We started the site with the idea of helping realtors put that word of mouth, which works so well for most realtors, online. Because I loved working with Bev, but I can’t just tell that to potential home buyer Jim Jones who’s relocating from Vancouver because, well, I don’t know him. So now Jim Jones goes online to find a realtor, but there are no actual resources to help him do that.

So Jim chooses a realtor on MLS.ca based on a nice house he likes… the realtor he chooses is selling that house.

Is that the best way to spend $15,000 in commission fees? As one commentor on that blog said, we spend more time researching a $1000 computer than we do our listing or buying agents.

What-Customers-Say.com is NOT:

  • Trying to endorse defamation
  • Out for drama
  • Trying to get sued (or not sued —- we’re also not going to run from challenges when we actually believe in this project)
  • Evil/The Devil
  • Angry at all realtors and trying to ruin their professions

So, realtors, if you want to get mad, get made at FSBO systems like ComFree, who actually want to put you out of business.

And thanks to everyone who’s rated their realtors so far. (Yay!) Also, thanks to the two realtors who’ve signed up for their profiles: Bev O’Shea and Kevin Grenier.

Joanna of www.what-customers-say.com

Ooooh……. media contact from St. Albert paper

August 28, 2008

Looks like someone’s let it out that our site is up and running. (Gina, was it you? If so, thanks!) Thanks to whomever did that…….

Actually, we haven’t yet sent out a press release. (We wanted to make sure the site worked, first; and we’ve now noticed the IE 6.0 users are having trouble with it. Please upgrade to IE 7.0 —- it’s free!)

Apparently, the reporter from the St. Albert Gazette (I think that’s the one) contacted our hosting company, BlueHost, to get our contact info. The guy from BlueHost, bless his heart, contacted us.

Yay! Well, I don’t want to speak too soon, but I’m hopeful. Let’s see how this goes…….. 🙂

Already?! Our first realtor gets contacted by a potential client

August 28, 2008

I can’t even believe it, but someone has contacted a highly rated realtor (Bev O’Shea) on www.what-customers-say.com to ask to meet about possibly hiring her for a future sale or purchase (the email doesn’t specify which).

Unbelievable! If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d never believe it.

So, the reason I know about this is because What-Customers-Say.com filters all ‘contact this realtor’ messages to avoid spam. A request to contact gets sent to our office first, and then it moves along to the realtor.

Will anything come of this contact? Who knows?! Only time will tell.

But it’s a bite. And even an extremely busy realtor —- if s/he is any good —- would know better than to turn away a bite from a potential commission. 🙂

Check it all out, as usual, on www.what-customers-say.com

PS: We have 5 reviews 24 hours after going live. Not bad…….. Good start…….

So it begins… the first day, and realtor push-back

August 27, 2008

We started our first day with our launched site in great spirits (team breakfast – yay!). Then we got 3 reviews… and we got really pumped. And then a realtor (Bev O’Shea) set up her profile… and we got excited again.

And then we got rejected. 😉  

We emailed a local blogger/realtor to tell him about the site. He’s not interested (yet!) ‘cos he thinks it’s all about marketing your services. But it’s actually about managing your reputation online today and tomorrow… and it’s about keeping pace with changing user expectations. People want more rigorous ways to check in to the backgrounds of those they hire. So, even if you’ve got potential clients knocking down your door today, that may not be the same in three years when users begin to EXPECT to be able to find you and your reviews online.

Realtors (like all service providers… especially those who charge a fair bit of dough) can thank these sites for starting the trend and turning it into a new user behavior:

  • Yelp.com
  • Buzzillions.com
  • Zillow.com
  • RateMyProfessors.com
  • TripAdvisor.com
  • Zagat.com
  • JD Power & Associates
  • ReviewFinder.com
  • RateItAll.com

For local services like realtor services (that is, those services where you need someone who’s in your neighborhood), users will expect to search on local sites. That’s what makes What-Customers-Say.com exactly right: it’s starting local, getting a foot in Edmonton real estate, and then spreading out as the market demands.

It may not happen overnight. In fact, we fully expect it will not. But we’ve got time. 🙂 Gently encouraging the market to understand that they can EXPECT to get accurate, unbiased feedback about a realtor before hiring him/her will be the norm. Heck, it already is the norm —- it’s just that there hasn’t been an easy way for that to happen. Until now.

Other points for realtors to note:

  • We know the reviews are authentic (no “turfing the competition”) because we ask for identifying information behind the scenes (we keep it on file – it doesn’t get displayed), and we use that information to compare against the records of reviewed realtors. If you don’t think a review is authentic (e.g., someone is trying to sabotage you), then you flag the review, and we work together to see if the review is authentic or not.
  • If a realtor is found to be gaming the site (that is, making up fake reviews to sabotage someone), we at What-Customers-Say.com reserve the right to pull that realtor off the site, banning them. We will conduct thorough investigations before pulling a realtor down; but, because our site is meant to help with reputation management, we will be firm and strong on banning any realtor who is found to be compromising the integrity of the site and the integrity of the real estate profession (where nastiness should not be allowed – this isn’t politics, after all).

Rate your realtor today or, if you’re a realtor, set up your profile: www.what-customers-say.com

We are now LIVE!

August 27, 2008

In the words of Dave the Designer:

DING DING DING

Great job, team! We’re live… and we’re a huge step closer towards helping clients share real feedback about realtors and helping the good-to-great Edmonton realtors/real estate agents rise to the top. 

Check it out now: http://www.what-customers-say.com

16 hours and counting: Edmonton real estate review site to launch

August 26, 2008

Well, it’s finally [nearly] here! www.what-customers-say.com is set to launch by 8am on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 —- yup, that’s tomorrow. Lance and Steven have worked out all the technical bugs (Dave plans to do a visual QA post-launch), and now it’s just up to us to get the site as smooth as possible… and then Steven ‘flicks the switch’, and it’s live. 🙂 (Of course, no, it’s not just that easy —- but that’s how this writer makes sense of it.)

What will what-customers-say.com do for Edmonton realtors and buyers/sellers?
Homebuyers and homesellers in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, St. Albert, Leduc, Camrose, Wetaskiwin, Ponoka, Morinville —- well, let’s just say anywhere in the relative vicinity of Edmonton —- will be able to rate their realtors (past and present) in about 3 minutes. And then we (What-Customers-Say.com) will donate $1 per review to the Edmonton Humane Society.

Homebuyers and sellers will also be able to find a new realtor and/or compare their current realtors to others out there. (Advanced comparison features to follow shortly.)

As for the realtors… well, basically, this is an online reputation manager. (There was an article about reputation management as the business/marketing tool of the future here.) It also helps the great realtors rise to the top, so it works like easy, inexpensive online marketing.

Where will it be?
Well, we’re based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada… but it’s for the Web, so, um, everywhere. 😉 We’re hoping to start and stay local until we can really understand what users & realtors want and expand based on our learnings. We’re in no rush here —- we’ll move as quickly as the market wants us to.

Then… hopefully on to Calgary, Ft. McMurray, Lethbridge and all the areas in Alberta in between.

Looking forward to the launch……..

How do you advertise a Web site?

August 22, 2008

So, I’m a Web writer, and everyone involved in What-Customers-Say.com is totally involved in the Web and has been for years and years.

But here we are, trying to determine what the best advertising/marketing media are for getting people to the site to rate their Edmonton realtors (or other local real estate agents)… and we’re stuck. Well, we’re torn, actually. Lots of ways to advertise… but print has an intrinsic disconnect from online (I mean, would you really read a URL on the back of a bus, finish your commute and remember to login from home or work to rate your realtor? doubt it). And online… well, online ads, like PPC, are great for the find-a-realtor section of the site… but not so great for people who want to rate a realtor. 

So we’re thinking Facebook. 

And PPC. 

And we’re still not sure. But print is… well, why do print when you have a Web site and are targeting people who are online (and more likely to adopt). 

Maybe bus ‘seventy posters’ and other things like that later, when we have critical mass and just want to get the not-so-low-hanging fruit.

Must go help bug the realtor profile page now. Here’s hoping for a late Tuesday, early Wednesday launch. (Yes, next week!)

Joanna of http://www.what-customers-say.com

Do you believe it yet? More news of cooling real estate market

August 19, 2008

I read the millionth (or so) blog post-slash-news article today about the cooling real estate market in Edmonton. Yes, Canada, what’s been happening in Phoenix, Florida, SoCal and Las Vegas is happening here.

That shouldn’t shock us. Most areas in Canada are overpriced for what you get (priced for about 30% higher than market value… I read that somewhere, but where? i’ll keep looking and update).

So it makes sense that, eventually, the market would push back. Of course it would. I sold my home last September, and so did Lance —- and we’ve both been renting since as we wait for the market to relax a bit and prices to get more reasonable.

But, when we’re ready to buy, we’ll need a realtor. And if we were looking to sell, now would absolutely be the time to get a realtor, given that for-sale-by-owner services like ComFree don’t necessarily perform that well in a market like this one.

Sellers need realtors today. Great realtors. And we’ll help match the right realtor (with the extensive network necessary to sell a home) with the right seller. Ta da! www.what-customers-say.com

Click here to read where the following info comes from:
A report this week from the Canadian Real Estate Association found that July home sales in Canada’s major markets were down 10.9 percent from the same month last year — 27,889 homes compared with 31,286 in July 2007. July’s average home price of $327,020 fell 3.6 percent from $339,277 a year ago, a decline the association attributed to “fewer sales compared to a year ago in the four most expensive major markets — Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Toronto.” New listings on the market jumped 11.4 percent in the last 12 months from 46,858 to 52,214.

Year-over-year sales were strongest in Trois-Rivières (up 33.8 percent), Edmonton (up 16 percent), Quebec (up 14.8 percent), Thunder Bay (up 14.1 percent) and Winnipeg (up 12.8 percent).

Sales were weakest in Greater Vancouver (-44 percent), Regina (-35 percent), Victoria (-32 percent), Saskatoon (-17.3 percent) and Calgary (-13.1 percent).

What’s the value for realtors?

August 19, 2008

Is the single purpose of marketing to get ‘conversions’ in the form of leads that close?

We’ve been thinking for a long time that, because online tools like www.what-customers-say.com are so measurable, we’ll be able to quantify how many people clicked on a ‘contact this realtor’ link and show realtors that we can help them convert (measurably!).

But isn’t there more to it than that?

Yes, simply. It occurred to us the other night, over yet another midnight discussion about this site and how it’ll work, that we’re not just here to get people to click to use a realtor. That’s not what we’re about.

In the same way that the ridiculously popular bus stop bench realtors use is not about getting people to call immediately.

It’s about impressions. (more…)