5 Lessons to Remember From SF Connect 2014

It has been over a week since Inman's Connect conference here in San Francisco. I'm sure you got to the office on Monday and were inundated by all the stuff you missed while you were out. You've had a few days to rest, digress and digest and now you can hardly remember what you learned, right? We know how that goes. Here's a review of the 5 key lessons you shouldn't forget from this summer's Connect. How can you apply them to your brokerage?

1. Uberfication: Closer Than You Think

In case you didn't pick up on it, the theme of this year's Inman Connect SF was Uberfication.

There was a lot of conversation about what exactly made Uber so special and what "uberfication" really involves. The core idea was that platforms like Uber, and the modern internet in general, have changed the way consumers expect to receive services. They now identify "good" service based on three key features:

  • Is it Personalized?
  • Can I get it on-demand?
  • How Frictionless is the Transaction?

Don't let the software and app mumbo jumbo scare you. The idea of uber-izing Real Estate is really a conversation about how the industry can improve its performance on these three key customer service metrics. 

2. Culture: By Design not Default

This one comes from some great comments by Katie Maxwell of Interior Houston and Jilliene Helman of RealtyMogul who shared a panel on culture. Similar to messaging, your culture will not just bubble up from the melting pot of who you hire, and if it does, you probably won't like what you find! Culture is also not just a marketing ploy. It is a conscious, everyday decision about how you treat your colleagues and customers. You have to 'hire to fit' and reinforce that, because once you hit 20, 40, 100 agents your personality and marketing copy won't be able to overpower them. 

How do you do this? Maxwell says start with a vision statement of what you want your brokerage to be and then build the culture that will get you there. Then train and support your agents in that culture. Just like a new contract or piece of technology, culture is something they will need to learn when they first come on board. And support doesn't just mean giving out pats on the back, it means setting an example by your own actions. Nick Segal also a member on the panel, pointed out that if you aren't willing to fire your top producer if they are toxic to the culture then you aren't really committed.


3. Messaging: Focus on One

Messaging and branding is like culture for individual agents, and its needs to be determined by design, not default. New agents especially need to remember this! They often want to target everyone, going after every listing and buyer they can find, never focusing their limited marketing or branding on a customer segment. However, from successful brokerages like Hawaii Life and tech companies like Doorsteps, the trick is actually to focus on serving one customer persona really well. Focusing your messaging in this way establishes you as an expert, makes the customer feel like you are addressing their specific personal needs and that you will make the experience as frictionless as possible for them. Creating a fantastic experience for one narrow customer segment will also connect you to other similar segments you probably didn't even know existed. And guess what? That means your competition doesn't know about them either. 

While you might think - "But I can't pick a persona yet, because I don't know who I should be serving or what my specialty is" - this thinking is actually backwards. Your specialty is determined by what you want to pursue; the market will not magically bring it to light for you. (See above!) Going after everyone will only exhaust you and your resources.

4. Technology: No More Excuses

Just this week there was an article in Inman about how tech-challenged agents are becoming an endangered species. Now really, no one could blame you for ignoring tech up to now. Its been a pretty sad showing of what technology can and should do for its customers in real estate until the last few years. The stuff was ugly, confusing, and only slightly better than pencil and paper and that was only if you had a good number of agents working under you. But things have changed!

If you use Facebook or a smart phone, then you will be able to learn the software that's being built now. But like getting on Facebook or getting email on your phone, you just have to go do it. There are going to be SO many good options available here in the next few years, the hard part is actually going to be deciding WHAT to use. For that you should refer back to lesson #1. What are the absolute core aspects of your business? Of the value that you provide to customers? Of your internal organizational culture? It's likely that some of your answers will be "unscalable" or will include activities that technology just can't help with because they require a 'human touch'. Certainly not everyone's client base would be willing to make an offer on a home from across the country based on a Facetime video like Jordan Clarke's. But keep an open mind and you'll be surprised by how much technology can help you expand and enhance your core value propositions. 

5. Startups & Real Estate: Not so different after all

The resounding theme of the week was that Real Estate practices and technology companies, at least startups, are really not that different after all. For every broker that got up on stage and talked about the difficulties they face, or their secrets to success, a startup founder followed with almost the exact same comments about their business! It all makes sense when you think about it. From the start-up founder, to the new broker-owner, down to the very last independently contracted agent, we are all entrepreneurs at heart. And even better - the lessons and secrets that are out there for software startups could be just as helpful for agents and brokers building their business.



More insider lessons coming soon!

This is exactly why Real Estate Ally is going to be putting together an ebook, Startup Hacks for Real Estate, to share some of the secrets of how companies like Google and AirBnB made it big, and how agents and brokers can tweak those lessons for their own benefit. We whole-heartedly believe that the right kind of technology can have a significant impact on the well-being and happiness of agents and their customers, and we are excited to hear your stories and explore this awesome overlap in more detail!



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