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The hottest housing market: Information

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Michelle Singletary:

In the real estate world, there was one word that used to be the cardinal rule: location, location, location.

Just about anybody -- the informed and uninformed -- could buy a house in a good location and easily make money by flipping, selling or refinancing the home, sometimes after just a short ownership.

That was then, before the Great Recession.

This is now, and the new cardinal rule of real estate is information, information, information.

"For decades, the real estate industry has operated under the principle that the less information buyers and sellers have, the better it is for agents, lenders, title companies, and all the other folks who eat from the trough," writes Ilyce Glink in "Buy, Close, Move In: How to Navigate the New World of Real Estate -- Safely and Profitably -- and End Up with the Home of Your Dreams." "But the real estate tide seems to be turning, as the housing and credit crises of 2008 have heightened awareness in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street about the catastrophic consequences of a closed information loop."

I have no doubt that many professionals in the real estate industry will take great exception to Glink's observation. But the evidence is on her side. We ended up in one of the worst housing market collapses because far too many borrowers were uninformed, ill-prepared and overly optimistic about potential gain because of bad information they received and gladly embraced.

The Economist:

HEN the Sloan Digital Sky Survey started work in 2000, its telescope in New Mexico collected more data in its first few weeks than had been amassed in the entire history of astronomy. Now, a decade later, its archive contains a whopping 140 terabytes of information. A successor, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, due to come on stream in Chile in 2016, will acquire that quantity of data every five days.

Such astronomical amounts of information can be found closer to Earth too. Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes--the equivalent of 167 times the books in America's Library of Congress (see article for an explanation of how data are quantified). Facebook, a social-networking website, is home to 40 billion photos. And decoding the human genome involves analysing 3 billion base pairs--which took ten years the first time it was done, in 2003, but can now be achieved in one week.

All these examples tell the same story: that the world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly. This makes it possible to do many things that previously could not be done: spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Managed well, the data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science and hold governments to account.

Is Pepsi a Social Conductor?

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Jay Deragon:

A social conductor is an individual or organization that enables people to use their organization to achieve wants, needs and desires. The opposite is a social producer who uses people to create direct benefits to their organization.
Pepsi Initiates the "Conductor" Model
Time Magazine states: To Pepsi, and to companies around the world, the days when mass-market media is the sole vehicle to reach an audience are officially over. Instead of pouring millions of dollars into a Super Bowl commercial, Pepsi has started a social-media campaign to promote its "Pepsi Refresh" initiative. Pepsi plans to give away $20 million in grant money to fund projects in six categories: health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education.

People can go to the Pepsi website refresheverything.com -- which can also be accessed through Facebook and Twitter -- to both submit ideas and vote on others they find appealing. Among those on the site now: "Help free healthcare clinic expand services to uninsured in rural TN" and "Build a fitness center for all students in Hays, Kansas community." Every month, the company will offer up to 32 grants to worthy projects.

"This is such a fundamental change from anything we've done in the past," says Lauren Hobart, chief marketing officer for Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages. "It's a big shift. We explored different launch plans, and the Super Bowl just wasn't the right venue, because we're really trying to spark a full-year movement from the ground up. The plan is to have much more two-way dialogue with our customers."

$20M is a drop in the bucket for Pepsi, which will certainly continue to spend advertising money in the traditional way. Having said that, thinking different for marketing purposes is certainly a great and timely idea.

Brokers and agents have numerous local opportunities to stand out without spending much money.

Tom Foremski:

We share a common belief that trust is an important currency in today's world especially in the digital realm.

Trust, we are taught, is hard won. It takes a long time to establish trust yet it can be destroyed in minutes.

But is that really true?

I've been looking at the Edelman Trust Barometer reports and it shows that trust in businesses, in media both social and traditional, in NGOs, in governments, jumps up and down by large margins from year to year.

I've been particularly interested in trust in social and traditional media. In the latest report, trust in peers, which represents social media, plunged by 20 points from 47 percent of those surveyed in the prior year, to 27 percent. Trust in other forms of media also fell by large margins.

Fascinating, though not really surprising given the amount of social media "spam" circulating around the internet. Useful, timely content and commentary will always add value. Spam clearly detracts.

Details here: 3MB Edelman PDF, website.

Rethinking Marketing

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Roland T. Rust, Christine Moorman, and Gaurav Bhalla:

Imagine a brand manager sitting in his office developing a marketing strategy for his company's new sports drink. He identifies which broad market segments to target, sets prices and promotions, and plans mass media communications. The brand's performance will be measured by aggregate sales and profitability, and his pay and future prospects will hinge on those numbers.

What's wrong with this picture? This firm--like too many--is still managed as if it were stuck in the 1960s, an era of mass markets, mass media, and impersonal transactions. Yet never before have companies had such powerful technologies for interacting directly with customers, collecting and mining information about them, and tailoring their offerings accordingly. And never before have customers expected to interact so deeply with companies, and each other, to shape the products and services they use. To be sure, most companies use customer relationship management and other technologies to get a handle on customers, but no amount of technology can really improve the situation as long as companies are set up to market products rather than cultivate customers. To compete in this aggressively interactive environment, companies must shift their focus from driving transactions to maximizing customer lifetime value. That means making products and brands subservient to long-term customer relationships. And that means changing strategy and structure across the organization--and reinventing the marketing department altogether.

Brokers have a great opportunity to build AND own their marketing platform today, via a single entry system, blogs, a branded iPhone app and active cultivation of their clients via a pervasive CRM system, like Main Street.



Morgan Stanley's Latest: The Mobile Internet Report:

Our global technology and telecom analysts set out to do a deep dive into the rapidly changing mobile Internet market. We wanted to create a data-rich, theme-based framework for thinking about how the market may develop. We intend to expand and edit the framework as the market evolves. A lot has changed since we published "The Internet Report" in 1995 on the web.

We decided to create The Mobile Internet Report largely in PowerPoint and publish it on the web, expecting that bits and pieces of it will be cut / pasted / redistributed and debated / dismissed / lauded. Our goal is to get our thoughts and data into the conversation about what may be the biggest technology trend ever, one that may help make us all more informed in ways that are unique to the web circa 2009, and beyond.

Our key takeaways are:

Material wealth creation / destruction should surpass earlier computing cycles. The mobile Internet cycle, the 5th cycle in 50 years, is just starting. Winners in each cycle often create more market capitalization than in the last. New winners emerge, some incumbents survive - or thrive - while many past winners falter.

The mobile Internet is ramping faster than desktop Internet did, and we believe more users may connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within 5 years.

Five IP-based products / services are growing / converging and providing the underpinnings for dramatic growth in mobile Internet usage - 3G adoption + social networking + video + VoIP + impressive mobile devices.

Apple + Facebook platforms serving to raise the bar for how users connect / communicate - their respective ramps in user and developer engagement may be unprecedented.

and, via Fortune:

"Apple has a two or three-year lead" according to Katy Huberty, thanks to an installed base of 57 million handsets, 100,000 apps and 200 million iTunes subscribers with credit card numbers on file. (She will keep her eye, however, on Samsung, Nokia (NOK) and Google's (GOOG) Android.)

But much of the presentation was spent showing, in slides culled from research over the past two and a half years, that the iPhone is not like previous mobile devices, and its owners not like ordinary cell phone users.

For example, although iPhone and iPod touch owners represent only 17% of the global smartphone installed base, they account for 65% of the world's mobile Web browsing and 50% of its mobile app usage (see chart below).

Key Virtual Properties assets to help you take advantage of the mobile explosion:

2010, The Year of Enterprise, Integrated CRM?

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Robert Hahn muses on several topics in a recent post, including the possibility that 2010 may (finally) be the year of enterprise, integrated CRM*.

Now completing our 13th year of creating, supporting, implementing and improving our Main Street enterprise CRM [video] cloud software: from leads to closing and beyond, I thought it time to pass along a few decisive observations that separate the pretenders from those who sit forward in their chair and drive change.

First, any investment will only be successful if the organization has
  • strong, consistent leadership,
  • implementation and training staff who are interested in the business and know it from the agent, broker and consumer perspective (and are not interested in simply playing with technology to no avail) and, lastly,
  • the right technology team.
In that order!!!



Main Street was designed from day one as a cloud computing, enterprise CRM platform for brokers and agents. From lead generation, lead management, agent and broker tools and analytics, marketing assets, VOW, websites, forms, closings/transactions and everything in between, Main Street provides a single entry platform to build your business, today and tomorrow.
Step one begins with a conversation to understand your business strategy and see if this proven technology can support those goals.

Lastly, "build to flip/sell/spin" is one of the many reasons brokerage technology is often an oxymoron. Too many technology schemes are simply built to spin/sell, rather than to solve real business problems. Virtual Properties is a family owned firm established in 1995.

If indeed, 2010 is the year of enterprise, integrated CRM, let's talk: (608) 271-9601 or zellmer@virtualproperties.com.

* CRM = "Customer Relationship Management". A system that allows you to manage and interact with all aspects of your customer relationships from leads to marketing/farming, CMA, reports, forms, transactions and concierge.

Modern, Internet Marketing from Cadillac!

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General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz recently challenged drivers to take on the new Cadillac CTS-V at New York's Monticello racetrack. It was a publicity stunt all around. However, GM, to their credit, used all of the modern, internet marketing tools at their disposal:

The event was picked up by many media outlets, including Forbes and National Public Radio.

Props to General Motors for a very successful event and publicity campaign. This event cost far less than a TV or newspaper initiative and was, much, much more effective.

The Profit and Peril of Mashups

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What is a "mashup"? According to this wikipedia entry, "In web development, a mashup is a web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service."

Real estate brokers and agents may wish to take advantage of "free" internet api's (application programming interface). Websites such as flickr, facebook, youtube, yelp and many others offer programatic interfaces to their data and media.

What are the benefits of such API's?

  • Aggregate local information around properties for sale or rent.
  • Enhance your website "experience".
  • Avoid the cost of collecting and managing local information.
What are the costs and risks of using such API's?
  • Bad data. Automated information aggregators often lack local expertise. Information may be outdated; a long closed restaurant may still have a review on your website.
  • Inappropriate content. I created a Facebook demonstration for a client some time ago. The resulting page included an advertisement for Filipino Girls.
  • What motivates the data aggregator? Is their strategy aligned with yours?
  • Does the data make your site more generic?
  • Competitive stealth advertising on your site. Savvy competitors will figure this out and place their content on your site via the API's.
What are the alternatives to "mashups"?

Your agents have a wealth of local market knowledge. Hire or appoint a "blog-o-spondent" or "blogger-in-chief". This person creates and aggregates your own content (text, audio, video, maps) on your blog, around your website(s) and via appropriate social networks. Over time, agents and staff post directly and incorporate your listings, services and our unlimited use maps (for a fixed price). Create your own platform that emphasizes your brand. This approach improves recruiting, retention and internet marketing in ways that you control and at a much lower cost than traditional advertising.

Main Street reliably supports the tools you need, from blogs, dynamic short links, lead management, surveys and multimedia to market reports and live charting tools.

As always, there is no "free lunch".

2009 State of the Blogosphere

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View imageRichard Jalichandra. Mike Arrington summarizes:

Key points Jalichandra brought up - What's the no. 1 success metric for a professional blogger? What do successful bloggers have in common? The data was taken from a survey of 2,900 bloggers, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland.

72% of bloggers are hobbyists, says Jalichandra, and blog for fun. They don't make any income from blogging, and only half hope to someday. They blog simply to express themselves. Of professional bloggers, only 10% blog 40 or more hours per week.

2/3 of professional bloggers are male, and 60% are between 18 - 44 years old. 75% have college degrees, and 40% have graduate degrees. Half have household incomes of $75,000 or more. 17% of them say blogging is their primary source of income. A whopping 74% of bloggers use Twitter, v. 14% of the general population. Their no. 1 use of Twitter is to promote their blogs.

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