Archive for September, 2008

What’s next for our real estate agent rating site

September 18, 2008

There are sooooooo many sites out there to help agents market themselves. But I’m wondering why there are so few that really try to leverage customer/client reviews to help customers find the right agents. I mean, of course, that’s good news for us, given that that’s what www.What-Customers-Say.com is all about. 🙂

We’ve been learning a lot from looking very closely at some of those sites. Here’s where we plan to take our site within the next few weeks or, in some cases, few months:

  • Levels of membership for real estate agents —- from simply having a profile and one free listing (current) to enhancing your profile with agent links (show your network); pulling in/syndicating your reviews/recommendations from sites like LinkedIn, Naymz, Zillow.com and Trulia.com; a full page of listings (like a mini multiple listing service); and enhanced data to allow better, more granular search results.
  • Services for researchers! Wanna buy or sell a home and need to choose a real estate agent/broker, a mortgage broker, a landscaper, a contractor, a moving company, a stager, etc? Sign in to your personal home buying section and pull in names of services you find anywhere on line —- and pull in the profiles of agents on our site. Plus, manage your appointments with a calendar feature that sends text messages to your phone and the phones of those who need to be at the appointment (we’re planning to work with a company called Dub5).
  • Compare real estate agents side by side —- just select the ones you like most, and What-Customers-Say.com autopopulates a comparison chart based on what the agents have told us and their customers have told us.
  • Enhanced search results with more granular/detailed search criteria! Our agents are telling us what they want from us, and that includes the ability to have people find them by searching for languages spoken, neighborhoods of specialization (search by postal code or general area, like Millwoods or Terwillegar Towne), number of transactions they’ve closed… and more, including, of course, the search we already have: number of reviews, sales performance and overall rating.

As I write, we’re working on making it a lot easier to leave reviews without leaving too much identifying information. That means that, yes, we’re pulling out the section that asks you for the address of the property you bought/sold, the date(s) you listed and sold or bought and the price of the home. We still ask questions on those topics, but you don’t have to be so specific anymore. Watch for that change coming… um… any minute now. 🙂

What that means, of course, is more reviews — but also more nervous real estate agents. A big problem has been that many agents think people will try to bash their reputations by leaving really negative, fake reviews.

We’ll be working closer with agents to ensure that we implement the tools/features that give them confidence in our site (and allow us to quickly remove fake reviews) but that also make it easy for people to leave reviews AND for researchers to trust that the reviews on the site are a true-to-life mix of the good and the bad —- that is, unbiased.

Have ideas for how to make our site better? Start by checking it out at www.What-Customers-Say.com (rate your agent or try to find one… or create a profile if you are an agent), and then either email us at email@what-customers-say.com or post a comment here. You can also follow us on Twitter: 4customers

jw, lj, sl, dl

Demoing real estate agent rating site this Wednesday

September 15, 2008

So, the site has been live for nearly 3 weeks (yikes!), and we’ve been working out a lot of the kinks in that time. Surprising how many kinks can arise (if a ‘kink’ can actually ‘arise’).

And now, at last, we’re going to introduce it to the local tech community: DemoCamp Edmonton.

Check us out this Wednesday at 6:30pm at the Teaching & Learning Complex at the U of A. We’re on the waiting list to demo (‘cos we procrastinated in signing up — slap our hands), but we’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to get up there and demo our site.

Until then….. Joanna……. www.What-Customers-Say.com

5 profiles. 19 realtors. 36 reviews. 1 lawyer. In 10 days.

September 5, 2008

So we launched about 10 days ago. (It’s still awesome to write that — it was a loooooong time in the making.) And we’ve since had 36 clients leave reviews for 19 realtors, 5 of whom have signed up for our free 60-day trial.

Today, we got our first letter from a legal department. It’s around the use of the word “realtor”, which we understand to be a commonly used noun, but which others are trying to protect the trademark of. We have until next Friday to sort that issue out… or else! (dun dun dun….) So, we’re working on it. 🙂

And, as we found out last weekend, the weekends are very, very, very slow. So we’re not expecting much activity. Boo. That’s too bad.

Oh, we’re advertising like crazy with Facebook ads. (Three targeted ads running right now. I mean, it’s “advertising like crazy” for us. 🙂 ) We tried Google PPC, but we spent a lot of money on it… and didn’t get many results. PPC will probably work better when we have more realtors to search through.

Here’s hoping this weekend is better than last………

From $0.19 to $1.9M: What does it cost to start up?

September 4, 2008

So, one of the partners (DL) has some friends who’ve started up some sort of software program that works with Outlook and doesn’t make much more sense to me than that. Fortunately for them, it makes sense to a VC somewhere, who’s offered them $1.3M… and they’re still in production/development.

Let’s set the record straight. 🙂 We have no VC… and we actually —- honest and true —- have never sought any or ‘wanted’ any. (And, in turn, we’ve never been offered any. 🙂 )

About a week or two after the idea for what-customers-say.com was ‘born’, we watched a presentation (I can’t find it anymore) by one of the founders of 37signals… whom we absolutely love. In that presentation, David Heinemeier Hansson gave some sage advice: Start ups shouldn’t be building with the hopes of:

1) getting VCs to put up millions, or
2) selling out to the Googles and Amazons of the world

Instead, we should focus on doing what we really love doing.

And that’s what we at www.what-customers-say.com is doing and will continue to do. 🙂

So what? Why am I bringing this up now?
Well, during our day jobs today, we attended a company-wide meeting in which there was a brief discussion about start ups. The idea is for big companies to think like a start up… which is great for the four of us who’ve started WCS.com. 🙂

Someone mentioned that start ups don’t take a lot of money to get their product out the door. Truer words have never been spoken.

So, proudly and without further ado, here’s what we’ve spent so far on www.What-Customers-Say.com:

  • Logo – $300
  • Designer – $1500
  • Starbucks and Tim Hortons coffees – $50 (give or take)
  • Breakfast to celebrate launch – $19
  • Hosting – $60 (I think)

Grand total is under $2000. When you factor in the hours, however… um, we’ve spent a helluvalot more than that. 🙂

Best of luck, all you start ups…….

Joanna of www.What-Customers-Say.com