Working With Those Wonderful Millennials

As a consultant, working with a number of large brokerage and support organization clients across the country, I have an opportunity to interact and collaborate with a dozen or so different staff structures on a wide range of projects that stretch from research, to development, to event planning and execution.

Over the past few months I have become increasingly aware of (1) how many members of the millennial generation I have been working with, (2) how often their interpretation of the work experience differs from my Boomer version of the same and (3) how frequently my judgmental behaviors regarding these folks are just plain wrong.

By way of convenient example over the past month I was engaged in producing a strategic business conference for a large client. During the sixty days leading up to the conference, many days and hundreds of hours were spent creating what I very much hoped would be a really spectacular event. At almost every step of the way I found myself chomping at the bit as a depressing number of my millennial co-workers failed to meet my “expectations” or managed to annoy me with what I interpreted as childish and immature work habits.


But then came the event itself. It not only exceeded my expectations but also managed to “wow” the client’s management team and virtually every one of the 80 or so attendees. Virtually every one of the 18 program segments, the very sophisticated coupling exercises that tied them all together, and the highly diverse cast of 9 nationally recognized experts (that ranged from national CEO’s to top researchers and recognized designers) performed without a hitch. The entire production was a thing of beauty. I have received more positive comments and compliments regarding this program than for any other program over the past five years.

So, on the morning after the show, I undertook to figure out why I had been so wrong and how this millennial-rich crew had managed to pull out what I thought was an impossible success.

The new truths and realities that I have discovered to date are alarming. First of all for those who are tracking the directions and trends of our real estate industry it has become increasingly obvious that more and more functions previously performed by commissioned personnel will, moving forward, be the responsibility of employed individuals.

One’s first review of the new Zillow Group consumer data will confirm the fact that those who carry that “I don’t need no stinking boss” sign around are not going to play as significant a role in the overall scheme of things over the near term future as they had in the past. Caring and engagement will increasingly spell success or failure for brokerages and support entities.

Where does this discovery take us?

The first realization that crossed my mind was that I had been just plain wrong with respect to my expectations of how this crew was going to perform. The second truth came like a flash of lightening as I realized that in their own way this group had outperformed any expectation I had manifested and in fact had outperformed any single performance that I had ever manifested.

Based upon these truths I made the decision to go back to the drawing board with respect to my impressions or, as the case turned out, my prejudices regarding millennial work habits. After three days of thought and research I began to restructure my impressions and reform my attitudes about these folks. The following represents the initials stages of my new state of mind.

These folks aren’t kids playing at being competent; they are young adults, new leaders and developing managers. They have some amazing skill sets that are frankly far more sophisticated than anything we boomers were demonstrating at the same age. Because of their numbers and their unique skills and cultural perspectives they will soon be the primary architects of the new work environment, and as such will fill the space with a whole new wisdom and approach. Individuals such as myself would do well to learn from them and/or get out of their way.

Millennials have thoughts and passions about matters that we boomers never even knew existed. What boomer ever considered the ramifications of social responsibility and work life integration?

Yes there are some issues to be resolved with respect to the subject of workplace engagement. Yet one cannot help but wonder if this isn’t because Boomers and X’ers interpret engagement almost no sense of priority or balance. I am increasingly of the opinion that the level of engagement for many Millennials may just be a bit difference, but no less effective.

One of the things that will move the “engagement” meter are the professional development opportunities that employers make available to their younger workers. These opportunities must be more than rewards for making nice with the boss or giving lip service to company priorities. Organizations that fail to develop specific, consistent and dependable engagement opportunities will find themselves in a constant state of turnover. The millennial worker seems to have developed a sixth sense about these matters. They cannot be faked.

As the demographics and priorities of the national employment environment continue to shift, identifying, retaining and recruiting the “right” employee will become increasingly difficult. Millennials interact with one another with respect to these matters with relative ease and frequency. The fact that an entity doesn’t care enough to create an acceptable work environment will have been noted by most would-be hires even before the interview begins. The passionate engaging individual will simply not bother.

The dynamic discussed above will impact the industry in many ways but one of the most important is that it will redefine the traditional concepts of management leaderships. The hierarchical nature of traditional leadership will give way to new ideas about collaboration, cooperation and accountability.

Finally one must be conscious of the role of transparency in this new system. As stated above, employees will be more and more willing to discuss the nature of the employment environment fostered by employers. Beyond what the employees think, there will be more and more customers and clients that will want to do business with organizations that practice “smart hire” and “common sense” personnel and over all other management philosophies. More over this trend will also spread to how firms and organizations are seen within the greater community in which they operate. Brokerages will discover that agents will avoid working for firms that aren’t sensitive or that treat their employees badly. All of these factors are part of a new societal attitude that is finding a home in many contemporary settings including the workplace.

So, if you are a boomer or X’er who is in control of a millennial infused workplace, you would do well to learn everything you can about this new expectation and the power that it is willing to exert.


An Exciting New Tool to Use to Create Perfect Brokerage Standards and Consumer Experiences

Over the past two years virtually every sector of the American business community has been struggling to come to grips with the emerging concepts of the creating and applying product and service value propositions. This focus can be attributed to the emergence of the value proposition as the ultimate consumer evaluation tool, along with increased consumer reliance on expanded databases that demonstrate the nature and quality of the past consumer experiences.

Some experts suggest that the real estate brokerage sector is a bit behind its compatriots from other industries with respect to consumer experience research and transitions, due in part to its reliance on agent centricity. However, even within real estate, there is a growing understanding that quality determinants in the provision of real estate marketing and transactional services have not traditionally been set by brokerages, are seldom set by agents, and are now being defined by consumers.

The issue before the industry today is not whether brokerage wide standards should be set. The consumer centric nature of the contemporary real estate marketplace has mandated that requirement, which leads to the question within our industry: how have these standards have been developed, implemented and monitored?

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-12-04-06-pmHere again the answers are somewhat simple. Standards development, implementation and monitoring are simply not an integral element of the traditional real estate agent’s mindset. Volumes could be written about why this is the case, but for the purposes of this piece it is sufficient to say that a single minded focus on “closing the deal” at any cost is almost totally inconsistent with the creation a real estate service experience that meets consumer expectations and demands, creates a long term positive consumer relationship and drives an appropriate risk management environment.

Given these factors it is neither realistic nor practical to suggest that agents develop their own standards or even that each agent have their own standards. With all due respect to those who continue to advocate agent centricity, it is well understood across regulatory, management and marketing circles that an effective standards program must be an essential element of the brokerage’s quality control, administrative and management system. Accordingly there has to be one set of standards that is capable of being monitored across every transaction and consumer interaction generated by the brokerage and programs, products and services.

The good news is that the task of designing and implementing standards for a Harvard Business Review Sep 2016winning brokerage consumer experience and value proposition became a lot easier with the publication of the September 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review. The entire issue is dedicated to the subject of What Does Your Customer Really Want and How to Figure it out. Over the past two years we have been working with a number of our brokerage clients on the development of standards. We were thrilled when notified in January that the HBR Standards Issue would be published in September, and have spent a great deal of time over the past month digesting the several articles contained in that edition and converting their concepts for use with real estate practice and lexicon.

While every brokerage executive and manager should take the time to read all of the articles (keep in mind that reading the HBR can be a painful and lengthy experience) the article entitled Elements of Value by Bain and Company’s Eric Almquist, John Senior and Nicolas Bloch on page 47 is a “must read.”

The value proposition of this article is significant. The industry is already on notice that price is not the primary determinant of either quality or satisfaction. It is further aware that consumers have become very aggressive with respect to what elements of a vendor’s experience they like and, more importantly, what they don’t like. Those steadfast agent centricity advocates must also facilitate the understanding that consumers, not agents, are in full control of the value proposition evaluation process.

The Bain Company research as reflected in the September HBR is wonderfully broad and considers a full range of consumer related issues. The objective of this article is much more limited. It is aimed at focusing the executive’s and/or manager’s standards creating efforts on the very components that the brokerage will use to create a customized brokerage value proposition.

The Bain Company contributors organized their findings around the famous theory proposed in behavioral scientist Abraham Maslow’s 1943 publication of A Theory of Human Motivation. The vast majority of our readers will recognize this work from their adventures in Psychology 101 in college. Maslow expressed his theory around the factors demonstrated in the following graphic with the most basic (physiological) at the bottom and the most sophisticated (self actualization) at the top.

Maslow's HierarchyThe Bain researchers identified and developed some 30 specific value elements that are common the all consumer experiences. These values fall into four categories of human need; functional, emotional, life changing and social needs.

The HBR elements of value issue incorporates a really efficient Elements of Value Pyramid tool. Reviewing the components of this tool illuminates one of the central truths of brokerage standards design. The driving force behind brokerage value proposition/experience standards is not to create a “cookie cutter” industry. In fact it is quite the opposite. Using the pyramid tool, responsible brokerage executives and managers can create a unique and highly competitive value proposition/experience like none other in the industry. Use vacation planning as an example, it isn’t that everyone must go to the same destination using the same transportation and eating the same food. The Pyramid tool simply recognizes that every vacation must have a destination, a mode of transportation, and some manner of sustenance and/or nutrition. The Pyramid tool establishes the requirement that every brokerage standards program must address functional, emotional, life changing and social impact issues. Each firm is free to adopt their own interpretation of those factors.

How a specific brokerage addresses each of these elements is completely up to (1) the powers that be in that brokerage, (2) the legacy practices of that firm, (3) the unique demands and expectations of that firm’s customers and (4) the specific regulatory requirements of the firm’s marketplace.

For those readers who are exclaiming that it really can’t be that simple the answer is: “yes it can.” The starting point here is that the vast majority of brokerage’s in the United States have absolutely no formal standards in place to protect consumers who engage their services. This state of affairs reduces the firm’s marketing prowess down to “trust our agents,” which is not a winner with today’s consumer.

Consider the fact that when firms are audited by regulatory agencies (including the CFPB), and asked what documents or policies they have in place to protect consumers, the most frequent response is “why would we do that?” Imagine the response of a court adjudicating a malpractice claim against a brokerage whose representative testifies that brokerage standards are not their concern and that any standards that exist are totally up to the discretion of the agent, with no articulation or monitoring requirement.


The standards development process represents a fascinating opportunity to focus and positively effect brokerage profitability, productivity, and team building, as well as delineate the firm’s value proposition and fine-tune its competitive advantage. Standards are not an entrepreneurial aneurism but rather a highly effective capitalist tool. Get on board with standards.

Inman Connect: Envisioning Tomorrow – Not Your Same Old Future


Inman Connect in San Francisco is the industry’s biggest and splashiest showcase for the latest and greatest in real estate technologies and practices, and it just keeps getting better.

Over the past two decades an amazingly long list of the game-changing real estate technologies, management practices and productivity products, which are currently impacting the American real estate experience at all levels, can trace their first public exposure to various Inman Connect programs.

The driving force behind the Inman Connect program is, of course, Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.15.27 PMaward winning Inman News publisher Brad Inman. For a few weeks each summer for the past twenty years he has transitioned from media executive to center stage impresario. His efforts have created an attendee experience that floats somewhere between a Woodstock festival for technology groupies, an Academy Awards show for the serious industry guru and a mental Olympics for attendees who just can’t get enough of their favorite drug called innovation.

Inman Connect has also become the place for over 2000 of the industry’s challengers, aspirants, survivors and elite to meet, greet and evolve their professional relationships. During each event significant personal interactions take place and important enterprise and developmental relationships are created. For would-be technical stars Inman Connect is clearly the place to be discovered.

While the overall event has gained the status of the industry’s renaissance festival its individual program elements offer something for virtually everyone in the industry. New agents can find veterans willing to share. Senior brokers can find “up and comers” to learn from. Nearly every attendee finds at least one opportunity to reevaluate long-standing attitudes and legacy positions. The only procedural violation or protocol gaff one can commit at Inman Connect is failing to keep an open mind and listen. Inman Connect purposely lacks the enforced structure and political correctness of other established industry events. It comes together to recognize and honor creativity and innovation and has evolved a program format that actually does just that. At the same time, and without rancor or unhappiness, it reminds everyone that whatever lies ahead for our industry is ours to embrace.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.18.20 PMFor many the most impactive presentation last week was the keynote speech made by Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, Partner at Vayner Capital, and 4-Time NYT Bestselling Author. While it may seem odd to recognize a keynote speaker for overall effectiveness and informational expertise, the fact is that many keynote presentations are awarded on the basis of fame rather than substance. Gary’s presentation met all of the qualifications for a perfect keynote presentation. It was relevant, easy to understand, contained the perfect amount of humor and honored the attendees by providing a number of highly valuable “deliverables.” Most importantly he demonstrated a level of personal passion and caring with respect to both the subject and the audience.

Gary “Vee,” as he is known by his many fans, moved quickly to establish the fact that he wasn’t there to tell war stories or to deliver false praise. Those in the audience understood within minutes that he had a “no nonsense” unequivocal message to deliver and that anyone who chose not to pay attention did so at their own risk.

His first point was to warn those that have become complacent or romantic about their business that they are on a journey that will not end well. Just as many people love the sound of their own voice, so do they like the familiar rhythms of their business. It provides them with a feeling of wellbeing and comfort but, unfortunately, in today’s disrupted business environment this false sense of security is the basis of disaster and failure.

His second point was that regardless of what business the attendees’ thought they were in, the fact is that their central and primary function was that of being a social media publisher. This is where their primary focus should be. The best real estate professional in the world cannot afford to rely on past fame and success. Such will not serve them well moving ahead.

Vaynerchuk’s most impressive points where delivered on the subject of “mobile” computing. “Social media is a slang term for the current state of the internet,” he said. He stressed that most are underestimating how central mobile devices will be to our lives. He points out that the world has crossed the point of “mobile first” and is now headed at full speed to a “mobile only” status.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.20.43 PMHis final point was especially impressive. “I hope you understand that the biggest point of my talk this morning is that if you are not digitally native, you will die. The people that are, are going to take your business. Do you know what I’m most worried about? Success. That is my enemy because you become complacent. Why do I need to figure out Facebook video or Snapchat? I’m good now. I don’t need this.”

Last week’s 2016 edition of Inman Connect, upheld the event’s finest traditions and historic role as one of the first stops for introducing technological innovation and creativity.

One of the challenges that comes with the Inman Connect experience is balancing the visions of what one sees at the event with the reality of how long industries, such as real estate, take to actually institutionalize change and innovation. The fact is that such matters always take longer than one would imagine. But of equal importance is understanding the length of time that it takes to prepare one’s self and organization to move to the next level. It is just the nature of how economic cultures work. If what appeared at last week’s Inman Connect is any indication, the American real estate industry is in for an exciting ride over its next decade, but the task of preparing must start yesterday rather than tomorrow.

Managing Innovation Generated Team Conflict

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 5.00.56 PMThe American real estate industry has been tracking, examining, debating and denying a wide range of innovative disruptions and transitionary forces over the past several years. By way of example, transaction management has been on the industry menu for almost twenty years and is just now about to become mainstream. Agent rating can be traced back six years and is only now preparing to take its place as an industry staple. The idea of developing and implementing superior consumer experiences is starting to gain traction after having competed with agent centricity for years. Integrating intensified agent portal participation promises to be challenging given its inherent chain of command conflicts. Perhaps most dramatic will be the management shifts and transitions that brokerages will have to integrate into their operations as a result of the new Upstream broker centric data management program. These are but a few of the internal and/or external innovations that the industry is currently preparing to incorporate.

Each of these surviving innovations and developments (as well as a score of others working their way through the system) has followed a predictable course on its way to industry acceptance. Most started with a visioning experience gained through either industry publications or any one of several industry conferences provide “coming out” events for new innovations.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 5.01.51 PMAt some point these introductions blossom into discovery relationships as R & D, marketing and promotional activities and/or internal innovation programs seek out ideal candidates for beta testing, utilization and adoption phases. When the discovery programs find traction, the innovation journey moves to the design phase where specific needs and applications are addressed and resolved. It is during this phase that the future of the innovation is either sealed or rejected.

Once the process finally evolves a workable, rational and equitable model, the innovated product, process or program graduates into the development phase, the decision to ‘go with it’ having been made. With this advancement the innovation begins to enjoy the benefits of company ownership, greater funding and senior management parenting.

What began as a concept is now a reality and it is time to implement the innovation and allow it stand on its own feet. Implementation is accomplished through some combination of Alpha and Beta testing programs.

By this point the concept has evolved into a program, product or service that has been found to be relevant and appropriate to the brokerage’s overall operation. Now comes the final test. Could the innovation be successfully integrated into the brokerage’s overall operation? This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. It is in this phase where individuals, teams and entire departments, many of which stood as silent witnesses hoping the innovation would fail earlier in the process, now sense their last opportunity to ambush the innovation before its ultimate disruption is delivered. This is where the real conflict rises up from the dissenting ranks.

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Over the next twelve to eighteen months a record number of newly innovated real estate management, consumer relations, data and outreach programs, products, technologies and processes will reach the integration phase within their parent or subscribing brokerages. In most integrating organizations there will be players, or groups of players, that, having patiently stood by during the phases outlined above, come to realize that now is the time to attack the innovation in an effort to avoid its natural disruptions. This is where team conflict rises to the surface.

Team conflict takes shape in several ways. The most common is failing to cooperate and/or collaborate in the integration process. In many cases this response is amazingly subtle, and only an executive or manager who is totally focused on the project is likely to identify it. It is at this point that the dissenters seek out their “rabbis” within the organization and call in long-standing “chits” to kill the project. This is the point where the dissenters Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 5.05.07 PMsuddenly discover that individuals or partnering organizations with which they have enjoyed career long positive relationships have suddenly acquired unacceptable and “un-American” beliefs and philosophies. It is at this moment when longtime respected superiors are called into question because stress or personal problems seem to have negatively impacted their traditional thinking.

Team conflict also manifests itself through individual mannerisms. Body English is a popular manifestation. Negative Stereotypes suddenly emerge (“You just can’t trust those engineers you know.) Communications become cloudy and disrupted. Formerly undisclosed priorities and deadlines that conflict with those established for the innovation suddenly rise up from the calendar. Previously undisclosed “sub-budgets” appear on stage. Most destabilizing is the rise of a whole new subliminal company culture that was apparently missed over the past several years of study, planning and SWOT analysis.

Team conflict is the face of innovation and creativity, and should never surprise a competent executive. It must be anticipated and managed from the first phase.

The most common mistake made by executives attempting to overcome team conflict is the election of the “I am the boss” option. Management “cram-downs” may appear to net immediate success, but most often are simply forcing descent to a more intimate level. The classic “as long as you live in my house” approach didn’t work at home and it certainly won’t work in a real estate business environment.

Business process experts have evolved several solutions. All of them seem to have the following elements in common:

  • Transparency and open discussion are critical
  • Efforts to discover and articulate the “real” points of dissent are essential
  • Seemingly unrelated factors such as geographic location, attitudes, behaviors, personalities, attitudes about time, conflicting priorities, deadline obsessiveness, self-promotion, differing levels of aggressiveness and departmental loyalties all contribute to team conflict and must be considered when managing team conflict.
  • Even minimal cultural differences between departments, units and internal elements can give rise to team conflict.
  • In today’s more diversified work environment language and communications styles can unintentionally feed team conflict.
  • The more intimate one’s understanding becomes with respect to the dynamics of a team the more important various “states of mind” become. The levels of knowledge, skill and competency necessary to maintain the modern workplace means a wide range of mind-states are present. Each group of experts (or professionals) on the team is likely to have a different mind-state about the innovation. Even those who wholeheartedly support the project are likely to differ with respect to how they feel about it.
  • In attempting to root out the cause of team conflict one must not ignore emotions as a likely suspect. Any individual worth having on a project or a team will bring their own unique emotional pattern to the table. However annoying, they must be dealt with in an appropriate fashion.

Team conflict is most frequently the result of factors that have little or Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 5.07.01 PMnothing to do with the innovation at hand. Frequently the innovation simply ignites a long-standing or previously formed tinderbox. Real estate brokerages integrating innovations into their culture and operations must understand that team conflict management and resolution is necessary and must be addressed at the onset and continuously throughout the project.

Upstream: Our Own Manhattan Project

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.46.11 PMIn 1939 American intelligence already knew that Nazi Germany had learned the secrets of splitting the atom. By early 1940, still a year before America entered the war, and despite the impact of negative voices, concerns relative to the potential dangers of this research had reached the highest levels of the American government.

Despite what we now understand was common sense, it took advocates an amazing level of energy, time and effort to find someone in the government who was willing to listen to and believe the potential dangers represented by what became known as the “Atomic Threat.”

By late 1941, driven by President Roosevelt’s passion, America had launched a full effort to understand, design and build the World’s first atomic weapon. At the beginning of 1942 these diverse efforts were combined into what became known as the Manhattan Project, one of the greatest administrative innovations in American history.

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Because it represented something new and innovative there were, from the very beginning, endless delays and challenges until the Manhattan Project was formally adopted. As is still the case today, projects that represent a step in a new direction are bound to run into interference commensurate with the level of anticipated disruption it is likely to cause. By the time the Manhattan project was completed, over 130,000 workers had been employed and over $260 million 2016 dollars had been expended. But numbers alone do not constitute guarantees.

Even by the time the first device was ready for testing in July of 1945 none of those responsible really knew what was going to happen. On that morning in July of 1945 when the first device was finally set off literally no one was prepared for the result.

In fact the blast created a flash that could be seen for over 200 miles. The blast cloud climbed to over 40,000 feet and when the particle mass settled to ground it created a half-mile wide crater of sand turned into glass. Windows were broken up to 100 miles away.

nruh29squirrelThe intrigue and suspicions surrounding the Manhattan project lasted for decades and still exist in the minds of some. But, regardless of the unintended consequences, the world had entered the atomic age and nothing thereafter would ever be the same. The majority of academicians and historians now agree that the Manhattan project represented an excellent example of democracy coming together to do what had to be done. Most agree that its outcome saved millions of lives.

There is a parallel to the Manhattan Project in real estate. By late 2009, surrounded by the aftermath of the great real estate market meltdown, it became obvious to a significant number of real estate industry leaders, executives and decision makers that the industry, which was returning from the downturn, would never be the same. In the face of a historic level of digital disruption and consumer activism this group came to the conclusion that without internally fueled innovative disruption the traditional industry would never regain its previous strength and vitality. This group also came to the conclusion that information and data would be the center point of the disruption.

Like those whose efforts were powered by the Manhattan Project this group of pioneers, powered by the brokerage community and National Association of REALTORS®, hit the ground running. Within a year the idea of the REALTOR® Property Resource was born. Work immediately began on a real estate database that would surpass any ever created. This database would spin off data products that would deliver the benefits of the database with the potential to take every real estate professional into the new industry and marketplace environment without additional costs over and above annual dues.

RPR_optAs it turned out there were a number of unintended yet positive consequences from this project. Many important lessons were learned. One was the importance of creating and controlling a world-class technology research, design and development entity. Today RPR is a highly respected team, enjoying a “best of breed” status and now stands as one of the crowning achievements of the contemporary real estate industry. It would soon earn its place in the industry’s history.

By late 2014 it had become obvious that providing agents with winning data products would not alone save the day for the conventional industry. The industry and marketplace were continuing to experience a wide range of disruptions that went far beyond those anticipated in 2009. The level of discourse and resistance to innovation within the industry was far greater than originally anticipated.

As activism and revolutionary behavior began to arise within the brokerage community the NAR, RPR and industry teams went back into innovation mode and came up with a new concept. It quickly became clear any solution that would have the potential to save the industry from external digital disruption and the un-met expectations of consumer unrest would have to bring the interests of the whole industry together.

From these efforts came two new programs that are now the focus of the industry’s efforts to move forward in the face of continuing external disruption. These are Upstream and AMP.

The Upstream project was conceived and launched by a coalition of brokerages, networks and national franchises representing real estate companies of all sizes and business models. The mission of the Upstream technology is to create a comprehensive data technology platform that will:

  • Create a single data entry point and storage platform for real estate-related data
  • Standardize data formats between systems
  • Manage the distribution of real estate information with a rules-based engine that supports the individual requirements of each participating brokerage

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 1.14.33 PMA corporate entity called Upstream RE was formed to hold ownership and management of the system. NAR, RPR and the UpstreamRE, LLC Board executed the License Agreement on October 28, 2015. This agreement, coupled with financing from NAR, signaled the onset of a whole new chapter for the American real estate industry. In early May at the NAR Legislative meetings five alpha testing teams, consisting of an MLS and a large brokerage, were announced.

As part of this process, work was also continuing on the AMP (Advanced Multi-List Platform) project. AMP’s purpose is to leverage RPR’s nationwide, parcel-centric database platform to create powerful new technology options for Brokers and Agents to be offered by MLSs.

With these events the industry has moved forward into a new chapter of its history. The following points are no longer concepts but now represent its reality.

  • Our industry continues to face severe threats and challenges from a wide range of forces including digital disruption and consumer unrest. Something had to change and something had to move the industry forward.
  • The most innovative, distinguished and powerful team ever assembled by this industry has spent the past two years in the Upstream and AMP development process.
  • No other industry effort of similar status or expertise has either been proposed or has emerged. In fact in some cases quite the opposite has occurred.
  • Both Upstream and AMP are now realities and have been transfused into the industry’s bloodstream at the very highest levels. As is the nature of historic developments no one can truly know the ultimate impact of either. But such cannot be the test of success. Both are here to stay.
  • Neither Upstream nor AMP constitute militaristic dictates. In fact, just the opposite is true. Both were developed with a perspective that anticipates continuing innovation, creativity and transformation. There is room for everyone on this bus.
  • As was the case with the Manhattan Project, now is the time for the entire industry to surrender its dissident weapons, roll up its collective sleeves and see that these projects are implemented, installed and operated for the benefit of the entire industry and in the spirit with which they were created.
  • This is the rational course of the industry moving forward!

An Experience Named Eric

Many industry decision makers and leaders believe that the challenge of the century for the contemporary American real estate industry will be its willingness and ability to create and deliver a real estate transactional experience that meets the needs and expectations of the broker, the buyer, and the seller.

Over the past years this column has presented and commented many times on the subject of consumer experiences. It has discussed a wide range of both positive and unsatisfactory consumer real estate experiences. Hence, it is with the greatest of satisfaction that we now get to tell this story of an absolutely spectacular real estate service experience.

What is a real estate service experience? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes an experience as something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through. For the purposes of this column the term experience is used to describe the sum total of the elements, both intentional and unintentional, presented to a buyer or a seller as they make their way through a real estate transaction from search to contract, from contract to closing and from closing to ownership.

There are many industry insiders who find the whole subject of real estate service experiences to be a non-subject. These folks believe happenstance, luck and environmental factors rather than professionalism and brand management determine what matter of experience any particular consumer might have on any given day.

There are others however who believe that a perfect real estate experience is the result of a carefully considered series of well planned, properly executed and masterfully managed tasks, interactions and challenges.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 1.58.12 PMWith these thoughts in mind it must now be disclosed that the real estate adventure that is the subject of this column is not just any random series of events but rather a very special and unique series of events that this author and his wife went through over the past 90 days.

The adventure began during our annual visit with our son and daughter-in-law, Jared and Edith, who live in Fort Lauderdale. One afternoon our long-standing thoughts about owning a second home suddenly turned into actions as we noticed an open house sign three doors down the street. We met the agent holding the open house and preceded to make every effort to impress him with how sophisticated and worldly we were.

Since there was no danger that we might be talked into purchasing this particular property we found ourselves feeling safe about engaging the agent with respect to our fantasies about owning a second home. The conversation resulted in a great relationship with the hero of this story, a Better Homes and Gardens real estate agent named Eric.

Marlene and I are, by any standard, an agent’s worse case scenario. We believe we are immune to persuasion and influence. We have the bad habit of overvaluing our expertise. Moreover, we are genuinely convinced that we can master any subject within seconds.

Eric appeared to take no notice of this behavior and began what turned out to be a long and detailed explanation of owning second homes in south Florida. Within minutes we were in full learning mode. Images of agent ranking and rating just evaporated as he demonstrated a truly impressive knowledge of, and sensitivity to, the marketplace and our needs. In response to our sense that condo’s were not our style we spent the next day viewing a number of single-family properties while Eric gently evolved us to an understanding that, heaven forbid, condos were created for people just like us.

The following morning was spent viewing condo units. Within two hours Eric demonstrated that he had been listening to us by finding a unit that didn’t just come close but in fact met every single requirement we had been describing through our constant babbling with one exception – the attached boat slip was 38 feet instead of 30.

This is where the real adventure began. It turned out the seller had made a number of tactical errors in his acquisition and improvement of the property during the previous year. He had paid too much, bought the wrong unit and had invested in the wrong improvements. He had compounded his mistakes by selecting a listing agent who had interpreted Christmas in south Florida as the perfect occasion to take a two-week vacation abroad leaving his secretary in charge.

The next three days were a nightmare of unavailability, inaccuracy 635919107976039503-ThinkstockPhotos-501750012and a general state of unwillingness to face reality. We went through four offer rounds only to be met with increasingly level of resistance. Throughout these long hours Eric was constantly available being very professional, responsive, encouraging and reassuring. Unfortunately our efforts were of no avail. This seller was convinced he could be made whole.

Over the following month Eric stayed in communication providing us with options that all failed to capture the special nature of the initial unit. One afternoon Marlene arrived home and announced that it was time to bang on the seller’s head and make the deal happen.

Eric responded with what can only be described as a heroic effort. Three more offer rounds later he got the seller (and his new listing agent) to come to the table. Upon reviewing the seller’s closing requirements Eric’s superior negotiation skills became very apparent.

But the trauma was still not over. It was during the pre-closing period that Eric demonstrated a whole new array of skills. The seller had demanded a 10-day closing period that no mortgage provider could match. Eric came up with ideas for interim financing, arranged for all the inspections, made us safe and the deal was closed.

Dollarphotoclub_97556501After the closing Eric stayed with the project. He arranged relationships with a super mortgage company that actually worked with us on a Sunday night, a dynamic plumber who understood the idiosyncrasies of the south Florida contracting scene and a world-renowned air conditioning contractor who understood that a six-week delay wasn’t going to work. Each of these services saved us from costs, delays and hassle.

Nobody had to tell Eric how to create and execute on a superb consumer real estate experience. It was just something that he did. We still believe in rating and wish there was some way we could give Eric a solid ten across the table.

best-choice-siding-materials-contractorsWith respect to all of the Eric’s out there, we thank you. For those consumers who are just beginning the search, keep in mind that the right agent can make all the difference in the world.

Full Circle on the Consumer Experience

This column’s first two articles of 2016 explored the relatively narrow band of issues being generated by the emerging premium agent movement being championed by the national portals, and the industry’s growing vulnerability presented by the questionable influence and impact of the subpar “facilitator” agent. This third article of 2016 will revisit the question of the consumer experience issue, first raised at the beginning of 2015, as it relates to the two issues raised above.

All three of these subjects have been on the industry’s priority agenda for the past eighteen months. The fact however, is that the industry’s current disruptive environment is making these factors even more relevant. More specifically we are seeing a classic case of convergence. Three formally marginally related issues are coming together to create a major shift in procedures. Understanding this new environment is a prerequisite to appreciating the dangers being presented.

There are two types of disruptions currently impacting the real estate industry and marketplace. The broadest reaching disruption is called innovative disruption. This is the change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value propositions of existing goods and services. Virtually every aspect of the American economy is currently being subjected to innovative disruption. Every time there is a significant digital or technological advance, the value in place of all systems that contain that technology in its previous configuration is automatically changed. The best-known and most quoted disruptive process is called digital disruption. These occur when competitors use innovative disruptions as competitive business advantages or weapons systems to improve their market positions or propositions vis-à-vis their competitors. In a relatively high tech, competitive and complex industry such as real estate there is always a high number of each form of disruption occurring. This rate of change can seem quite chaotic for those businesses and participants caught in the middle, with neither a disruption plan nor a developmental road map.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.01.38 PMHow does the contemporary consumer experience fit into this converging environment? In the traditional real estate sector, consumers almost unanimously elected to work with an agent and used one of several processes to select that agent. Once selected, the consumer proceeded through a buying and selling experience almost exclusively designed or selected, and certainly executed, by that agent. Depending upon whether that agent was a counselor or a facilitator the menu of services “experienced” by consumers was subject to a massively wide spectrum of agent selection or, in the alternative, default. In this traditional system a consumer pretty much got what they got, with little ability to select or self design a specific real estate experience.

To its credit this system for several generations met the needs of the civic generation consumer who was, in all likelihood, selecting an agent that they were either related to or familiar with through some manner of community connection. This system was also deemed acceptable by the Boomer Generation that tended to be better financed, thus less vulnerable and, in the event of a crisis, were either an attorney themselves or had a close relationship with one. Unlike today, litigation at that point in time was a socially and economically acceptable option.

It was the arrival of the new “X” or “Y” generation consumer that spelled the end of the traditional Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.04.15 PMsystem. Today’s “super” consumer is more informed, sophisticated and communicative than any of their predecessors. They fully understand that a consumer experience is now something that is investigated, determined and/or negotiated, prior to entering into the transaction. They come into the marketplace having sought the wisdom of their peer group through various social medias. They monitor the experience they are having in real time, and stand prepared to take immediate action in the event that the experience being delivered differs from the experience they negotiated for and expect.

These considerations now bring us to the new real estate market and transaction experience. In today’s real estate marketplace and culture there is an increasing awareness that there is a right way and a wrong way to execute and/or deliver a consumer experience. Moreover, there is an understanding that a proper experience includes dozens of factors and components, many of which involve external and third party resources.
Today there is a rapidly expanding movement within the industry to take the consumer experience to the nexScreen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.13.24 PMt level through the automation of consumer experiences. Increasingly, automation includes the use of technology to monitor and/or to evaluate both mandatory (using transactional standards) and optional (selected by the consumer) elements. The current emphasis on transaction management (a primary form of automation) will soon lead to “branded” consumer experiences such as Nordstrom’s in the clothing industry and Ritz Carlton in the hospitality industry. The expressed interests of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and even the soon to be experienced Upstream project, will all contribute to this
consumer centric movement.

This movement will, over the next few years, impact the marketplace and transaction in many ways. An immediate effect will be felt as consumers become more and more familiar with “branded” experiences and begin to demand similar experiences from brokerages and agents who have no formal experience model. One of its most dramatic impacts will occur as branded and automated programs become legal standards that courts begin to interpret as community standards. Recall that during the medical malpractice era of the 1980’s courts routinely adopted standards developed and implemented by medical schools such as UCLA, Stanford or Harvard as community standards in such places as Minot, Mount Pleasant and International Falls.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.15.12 PM

In any event whether by intent, judicial declaration or marketing genius some combination created by the current disruptive forces sweeping across the national real estate marketplace will converge to create a national standard. This convergence will raise questions regarding the roles of both organized real estate and independent brokerages. Ultimately universal standards will emerge. These are issues that the industry should consider in advance of the pain, suffering and loss of litigation and regulation.

Do You Know What Your Real Estate Consumers are Reading?

A recent edition of this publication focused on a number of industry current trends and forces that, taken together, strongly support the idea that moving forward brokerages are going to have to take a much more activist position regarding the activities of their agents, most especially with respect to the quality and nature of the services and consumer experiences they are delivering.

The industry disrupters driving this issue were identified as highly motivatedimages consumers, national portal premium agent programs, the high probability of definitive “independent contractors” litigation, potential CFPB regulatory initiatives and the increasingly dissatisfied “counselor” agent sector. Taken together they deliver a clear message that is best represented by the CFPB motto, Flight into Quality.

Given the potential seriousness of this situation it has become critically important that brokers, executives and managers began the process of understanding where the objectives of these disruptors come together in the marketplace and what sources are impacting the opinions and impressions of today’s consumer.
Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 9.42.55 AMConsumer Reports
is a publication that has been published and distributed monthly by the Consumer Reports organization since 1936. The organization currently has over 7.3 million subscribers and a twenty-one million dollar annual testing and evaluation budget. The organization and its publication are considered to be one of the leading consumer influences in the country.

The March edition of Consumer Reports featured an in-depth piece on the real estate marketplace entitled The Real Estate of Real Estate. The subtitle spoke to its contents; new population patterns, lending practices and housing preferences are changing the rules, whether you are buying, selling, renting or remodeling.

Every broker should read Consumer Report’s twelve-page hyper-real estate focused piece. The rational behind this suggestion is not that the piece offers the final truth of the matter; the fact is that accuracy remains an illusive concept in most real estate publications. The benefit to be derived is that the millions of Consumer Reports subscribers that do read it will believe that is the gospel truth (“there are no lies on the Internet or in Consumer Reports”). They will quote it in conversations with their peers and with real estate agents who (1) will not have read it and (2) often draw their comments, assessments and opinions with 1990’s era myths and misconceptions. Even worse these agents are also likely to take the opportunity to establish their intellectual superiority by disputing what the article has to say in favor of the hundred of myths and misconceptions that all to often make up real estate knowledge for the “facilitator” agent.

This takes us to one of the most critical points in today’s consumer/agent relationship. For most of the past three decades consumers have had a high level of vulnerability to the opinions and knowledge of so called “experts” and professionals. This is simply not the case today. Millennial Generation consumers undertake a level of education and orientation that previous generations would never have dreamed of. The first undertaking of these consumers when approaching a significant transaction is to establish the credibility and voracity of their service vendor. Real estate agents who are discovered to be “BSing” a consumer will suffer grave and immediate consequences including dismissal. Of even greater consequence is the fact that this consumer will share this information with their peer group and will include the brokerage in their summation. This is just another reason why brokerage firms must avoid this situation by gaining a higher level of control over their agents.

So, by way of example, what information gained from reading the Consumer Report (CR) pieces might lead to consumer discord. Consider the following:

  • Here again Zillow, Trulia and Redfin come off as being the experts. The most prominent NAR quote is by Lawrence Young who suggests, “the tiny house movement is tiny.”
  • Real estate is a good investment. CR cites Robert Shiller who says that U.S. home prices have barely appreciated over the past 120 years.
  • Millennials as a group don’t want to own homes. CR reports on a survey of 1500 millennial consumers who overwhelmingly report that they want to own. The articles quotes that “Millennials are sick and tired of rent increases.” The article cites the number reason for millennial non-ownership as their inability to save up a down payment.
  • The number one thing Millennials want in a home is to be amidst restaurants and entertainment. CR suggests that the number one factor is to be near friends and family.
  • Only couples are searching for homes. CR reports that over the past two years 21% of buyers have been single women and nine percent have been single men. These statistics are expected to increase.
  • Millennials are ideal candidates for fixer uppers. Wrong, while Millennials are interested in “personalizing” their properties they are deathly opposed to renovations and big projects.
  • Home buying is easy. CR goes to great lengths to establish the fact that home buying is a very complex process that is filled with loopholes and ambushes. CR compares it with learning to play chess.
  • All brokerage firms charge six percent. CR quotes Zillow data that suggests that this isn’t even close with 63% of agents having lowered their commissions and that over half charged commissions of 4 percent or less.
  • Photos in the listing aren’t important. CR quotes Zillow data that suggests that listings with less than nine photos were twenty percent less likely to sell within 60 days than listings with 22 to 27 photos.
  • Decluttering, depersonalizing and staging can add up to 3% additional value to the home according to Redfin.
  • The article provides a fairly credible analysis of, Redfin, Trulia and Zillow as consumer friendly real estate tools.
  • CR gave big credit to Zillow’s new “price this property” feature that provides consumers with the ability to conduct their own “CMAs” including the incorporation of hyper local information that agent CMS’s may have missed. The importance of this feature to brokers is not its accuracy but rather its potential to provide consumers with a false sense of expertise that they may use to de-value agent expertise.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.03.35 AMThe point of these observations remains the same. The traditional real estate industry are experiencing sustained digital disruption. Brokers, executives and managers must keep current with what their consumers are learning, thinking and opining. Consumer “realities” are becoming more important in determining the success and value of professional real estate services especially in the face of alternative programs being provided new entities such as Redfin and the national portals. In the same vein brokerages must be sure that their agents are not lessening their (or the brokerage’s) service value proposition by unnecessarily relying on legacy-based information that has not had the benefits of having been updated.

Digital Disruption Prepares to Strike Again

No less than five issues of this column in 2015 raised concerns and awareness regarding the continuing march of digital disruption across the industry’s landscape. With that in mind it is with mixed emotions that we start out 2016 with yet another example of how digital disruption has already or will, over the short-term future, change virtually ever aspect of the traditional real estate and transaction.

The would-be target of this report is a tradition that, while it has long been controversial within organized real estate and the overall marketplace, has over the past three years reached a state of almost open warfare within the agent ranks.

The object of all this attention is the longstanding unwritten rule of the REALTOR® culture that an individual who has applied for membership, paid their dues and sworn to uphold the Code of Ethics is entitled to full faith and credit with respect to the real estate industry and marketplace. It then followed that no other REALTOR® regardless of background, training or credentials would be discussed within the circle in terms that would suggest that they had any higher status or ranking than the newest recruit.

This tradition continues to play out in the industry’s representation of itself to both consumers and the marketplace. Over the past few years research conducted by such industry notables as Steve Murray of the Real Trends organization have established what everyone, including consumers, already knew, that being that only about twenty percent of REALTORS® (AKA the counselors) ever reach levels of unquestionable expertise and skill while the remaining eighty percent live out their REALTOR® experience as facilitators.

This situation appeared to be acceptable to all, including American consumers, until the Internet enhanced technology and the real estate market crash of 2005 began to more dramatically demonstrate the true cost and pain of professional mediocrity. By 2007, with the increased incidence of foreclosures and short sales, real estate had actually become an intellectually challenging activity. By the beginning of this decade a clear and compelling case had been made with respect to the damage caused by agents that don’t commit the time, energy and intellect necessary to be a counselor.

Interestingly the initial human cry was not raised by consumers but rather by the counselor sector itself who had discovered that unqualified agents were not only sabotaging significant numbers of would be deals by lacking the knowledge necessary to properly represent their clients, but, perhaps even worse, were, through their incompetence, requiring the counselors to do a lion’s share of the work to close the deal. Even worse, in some cases, even causing high performance agents to compromise their professional standards as they leaned overboard to save transactions.

This situation first broke the silence barriers of the professional societies in 2012 when the counselors, totally disgusted by the non-productive and unprofessional behavior of the facilitators, decided that the only solution to the dilemma was to withhold listings from the MLS in a strategy that ultimately became known as “off MLS marketing.” In some markets across the country this practice impacted close to 30% of the marketplace. The refusal of organized real estate to either deal with the crisis or abandon its “headcount” philosophy raised additional hostility on the part of the counselors, causing damage that is still being felt at local levels.

The good news at that time was that the situation remained generally within the realm of the family. But now, even that refuge appears to be about ready to dissolve forcing the industry come to grips with its long-standing “one size fits all” approach. The focus of this new concern is what some call the portal sector’s “premium” agent programs.

A number of current industry and market factors are being credited with bringing about the premium agent phenomenon. Agent rating and ranking, long considered a major insider “no no” has become ubiquitous. A wide range of portals, alternative brokerages and websites are now providing consumers information regarding which agents perform and which not so much. The basis of agent performance has now gone far beyond basic production metrics into programs that measure skills such as communications, neighborhood familiarity, lifestyles and negotiation skills. Consider that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now routinely collects and publishes thousands of consumer comments and yes, complaints, from consumers who have fallen victim to unqualified facilitator agents.

But perhaps even more impactive is the fact is that over the past six months the prevailing agent attitude about professionally interacting with one of the national portals has changed from abject rejection to close to enthusiastic acceptance. This change has been driven, in part, by the fact that more counselor agents have come to realize that portal leads, once seen as junk on a stick, have matured to become a significant professional opportunity. This change of status has in turn been driven by the fact that some portal leads are now being delivered with a number of very sophisticated tools that provide participating agents with greatly improved odds of closing on the lead.

The industry has now come to understand that the secret to the successful conversion of any lead, portal or otherwise, is competence and the ability to process the lead and assist the client correctly. The industry is increasingly aware of the fact that success in real estate is not about being lucky, or an agent’s personality or about outfoxing the client, but rather it is all about “doing it right.”

The events discussed above to this point would have been purely academic, as it has been for years, but for one additional factor. There is reason to believe that at some point in 2016 one or more of the programs promoting a “premium” agent status will undertake aggressive marketing efforts to finally break the golden bond in the consumer’s mind and establish that there is in fact a premium agent and that failing to use this species can cause a very personal form of disruption.

While it is a matter of supposition with respect to the full ramifications and impact of this upcoming confrontation, some things are very clear. Consumers demanding the services of counselors over facilitators will cause untold disruption within the ranks of organized real estate at the very point in time is can least afford it. This disruption will continue within the brokerage sector especially within those firms that are owned and most sensitive to publicity. One cannot help but wonder whether or not facilitators and counselors will be able to exist together in a fully transparent environment.

While the counselor agent will probably be the ultimate beneficiary of these circumstances, there will be some pain all around. Brokerage, association and MLS leaders would be wise to begin the solution discussion process. In the same vein they would be wise not to build their solution around an attempt to deny or to distract their audience with trite and unfounded claims and counter arguments. This is the new world and lots of smart people have the ability to respond in very large ways. It is time to be really smart and competent.

If Your Firm Has A Story, Now Is the Time to Tell It

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 10.23.21 AMOne of the most amazing business events of 2015 took place in Orlando, Florida in mid-October when over 2,500 of the most creative minds and imaginations in North American commerce gathered to conduct the annual Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing Conference. The meeting was alive with new ideas, old relationships and new challenges. It was a good decision to be there.

Even more interesting was the meeting’s similarity to that held by the REALTORS® in San Diego. The marketing culture and the REALTOR® culture find themselves in very similar situations. They both find themselves being violently disrupted by forces far beyond their control and influence.

If you heard the story in San Diego, then you also heard it in Orlando and visa versa. The consumer is now in control. They have elected to reject and be combative with respect to the thousands of unwanted, intrusive, arrogant, and wildly expensive advertising messages marketers hurtle at them each day.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 10.28.00 AMConsumers are communicating in a loud and clear voice that they do not want to hear the voice of any meaningless irrelevant message. They are using every opportunity to “ad block” or “ad skip” to block the din. Regardless how advertisers attempt to mask their brand message with emotions, humor or even patriotism, consumers have developed an almost sixth sense about who is attempting to fool them.

Consumers are rejecting these messages and are increasingly punishing advertisers who assume such a childlike consumer response. Consider Delta Airline’s childlike, if not overwhelmingly naïve, belief that by adding humor to the pre-takeoff message, passengers will somehow become transfixed, suffering through its robot like wording without recalling that the aircraft is dirty, the staff is nasty and punitive and the flight is going to be 30 minutes late for reasons that everyone understands were the direct result of arrogant management.

The real estate industry is going through the same experience. Consumers are rejecting the legacy service value proposition in favor of alternative information and service options. High performance agents are now rejecting the tired messages of “head count” centric real estate and the decisions of too many brokerages to cling to the business models of the past.

Unlike the real estate industry, that some suggest seems to be denying both knowledge of Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 10.30.07 AM
and responsibility for its woes, the advertising industry understands that (1) it is living in a crisis of its own creation and (2) unless it resolves these, its immediate future is clearly in peril. The advertising industry has conduct the credible research necessary, not to justify its mistaken processes, but rather to resolve its disruptive issues. With this information in hand it has come to grips with the fact that its first rehabilitative step must be to go back to its customers and clients and explain that the marketing environment has evolved in a manner that will require an immediate and significantly “different approach” to public relations, communications and advertising.

This different approach must shift the focus from “brand” marketing (the senseless messages that fill pages, signs and commercials decals) to what the industry will refer to as “content” marketing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 10.31.07 AMContent marketing isn’t new. It has been around for a long time in the form of advertorials and infomercials. What is new is that the marketing industry’s long standing favoritism that suggested glitzy brand marketing with its clever slogans, flashy graphics and cool music was the highest and most manipulative form of the art. Content marketing was traditionally perceived as a lower form of expression better suited for senior and health care marketing.

The rationale behind the content marketing movement is common to every industry and/or business sector that deals directly with the consumer. The primary function of traditional marketing was to stimulate consumers into doing something that they probably didn’t want to do, but would do if properly medicated. Then came the major economic events of the first decade of this century and suddenly everything was different.

Today’s consumer has no time, patience or resources for food without nutritional value, information without factual foundation or services that aren’t. Today’s consumer is demanding absolute transparency and integrity. They have seen their incomes and financial options decline. They are witnessing an alarming decay in the quality and value of almost every product they use. They are watching with increased awareness as their overall lifestyle and quality of life continued to demonstrate a precarious slide. More than anything else they understand that the only way to survive and prosper within these trends is to gain the highest possible level of knowledge, experience and insight possible.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 10.36.01 AMThese then are the three components of what consumers will now demand from the business sectors and entities from which they seek goods, services and information. This will become the standard by which marketing, advertising and those who cause it to be placed will be judged.

The essence of content marketing is the art of telling a relevant and compelling story. There is an immense difference between glib messages and meaningful stories and that difference goes to the very core of the consumer’s present concerns. What knowledge, experience and insight all have in common is transparency. Transparency in turn requires intimacy and some level of caring or passion that in turn requires some level of meaningful relationship that in turn requires accountability. Most businesses have for decades avoided this simple but telling cycle in favor of the glib brand message.

When advertisers such as real estate brokerages use brand messages rather than content to stimulate consumers, they are essentially saying that they are not interested in having a relationship. The boomer consumers missed this connection because they didn’t want to have a relationship either. The X generation was intimidated out of relationships. The boss generation today is the Millennials, and they are demanding a relationship.

The key message to real estate firms and agents is “start telling your story.” If you don’t have a story that can be shared it is because you have been doing deals not creating relationships. If this is your mantra then your fate is sealed relative to the largest consumer generation in history.

Nothing in any culture throughout history has created more stories than humans and their housing challenges. These stories and those who tell them are intense, intimate, interesting, challenging and often inspiring. They surpass hot air balloons, retrievers, champagne colored signs, magazine references, illusions of wealth and certainly agent centricity every day of the week. Start telling your stories today.

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