Lawmakers in four Northeastern states say the cap on certain local and state deductions is unconstitutional.
Lawmakers in four Northeastern states say the cap on certain local and state deductions is unconstitutional.
A smartphone that boasts a bendable screen is expected to hit the market early next year. Could this jumpstart a new category of devices?
Buyers flipping through the marketing materials of this Granbury, Texas, home may have done a double take, but real estate pro Casey Lewis says the gimmick worked.
Let’s say you’re a small broker in a small town in Kansas, where the average sales price is $180,000 and you do just about 100 transactions a year. You’re making a living, yes. You’re sharp, your clients like and refer you, and you’re a big fish in a small pond.
Now let’s say that you really like your small to mid-sized independent brokerage.
You’re not out to transform it into a goliath. You just want to make it run as efficiently as possible, using tools that are just as good as what the big boys use. Yet your budget is limited. You can’t spend $1,000 a month on various and sundry tools.
You don’t have much time, either, because, after all, you’re out there selling real estate. That’s the situation Brittany Fritsch’s mother found herself in — and it’s the reason Real Estate Ally was born.
Fritsch, who is today chief executive officer and co-founder of Real Estate Ally, had watched for years as her mother, Jeanine Byers-Long, broker owner of Advantage Realty in Russell, Kan., managed her business with homegrown tools she had built herself in Microsoft Access. But she was outgrowing them, and needed new and better tools.
Byers-Long told Fritsch that while she could easily find CRM and accounting products, she couldn’t find a single application that allowed her to track listings, customers and transactions in one place.
Each existing platform tracked a different piece of the transaction, never giving Byers-Long the whole picture in a single dashboard. Pulling it all together involved tedious data entry, a time drain that was also prone to error.
This wasn’t news to Fritsch. While in high school, Fritsch had watched her mom build the very platform in Microsoft Access she was still using years later. It allowed Byers-Long to track pending sales, listings price, days on market, sold price and other important bits of data that were then associated with customers and her agents.
The Access platform was offline and rudimentary, but it was also insightful and invaluable, because it filled a gap in Byers-Long’s business.
Fritsch, armed now with an MBA and her own web development company, knew there had to be a better way. She wanted to build an app for her mother that would be online, accessible from anywhere, and automatically generate the analytics that would help her mother make smart business decisions.
“We sat down with my mom and created the specification for the application,” Fritsch recalls. “But it was just too expensive to build for my mom on her own.”
So Fritsch went on a hunt for a platform she could adapt for her mother. But after a long search, she came up empty.
“I realized two things,” Fritsch says. “First, that there was an enormous opportunity. And second, we needed to build it. Not just for my mom, but for every broker like her that wanted to optimize their business.”
As Fritsch and her developer husband and co-founder started to build their new platform, they realized that they would have to pull in information from the MLS to make it genuinely useful.
“As we started the discovery process with my mom and other small brokers, we realized that making them enter hundreds of details manually about their own transactions just wasn’t going to work,” Fritsch explains. “So we thought — all of this information is living in the MLS’s RETS feed. We can pull it from there.”
A RETS feed is a comprehensive stream of transaction data that MLSs send to outside services to power other applications and platforms. It’s more comprehensive that an IDX feed, in that it contains historical and transaction status information.
Fritsch realized that if she could pull in the RETS feed for a broker, she could instantly parse the data into useful analytics because it contains all of the business information brokers need about their individual transactions.
The RETS feed offered a treasure trove of information about pendings, close dates, days on market, all associated with individual agents from a specific brokerage. And because the information was already in the MLS and being sent directly to Real Estate Ally, she could create a meaningful dashboard with no manual entry of transaction details.
There was only one problem. The RETS feed for each MLS in the country is slightly — to remarkably — different.
That’s why Fritsch started with her mother’s MLS (Kansas Property Ads) to prove the concept.
Fritsh’s proof of concept transformed her mother’s common sense reports from Access into easy on the eyes infographics that spell out in an instant what’s really going on in your brokerage. You can see agent performance, types of homes sold, and forecast cash flows. Real Estate Ally also tracks actual vs. estimated revenue, based on MLS data.
Yet Fritsch went a step further, ensuring that the platform integrates with outside services including email platforms, social channels and CRMs so that customer data is seamlessly shared. Although it is possible to use Real Estate Ally without connecting it to the MLS’s RETS feed, it then requires manual entry and takes about three months to get enough data into the system to make the analytics useful.
Fritsch’s next target is the California Regional MLS (CRMLS), with 73,000 members and thousands of brokers.
Here’s why: By partnering with CRMLS, Fritsch can “pre-crunch” all of the data in the RETS feed and automatically create accounts for every agent and broker in the system. This will enable brokers to instantly turn on their Real Estate Ally dashboards once they sign up for the service.
The agreement is a huge leap for Real Estate Ally, and Fritsch expects to formally launch the platform in CRMLS’ service area in Q1, 2015. For now, she’s looking for five California brokers who are members of CRMLS to beta test Real Estate Ally.
Fritsch is also working through the final steps in becoming a part of the Clareity Store, which she expects to launch at the same time as CRMLS.
“What makes Real Estate Ally useful is that we can create a private, custom dashboard that’s powered by near real-time data for any broker or agent in the CRMLS RETS feed,” Fritsch explains. There’s no manual entry, and the analytics are instantly applicable to the broker’s business.
“It’s like a Fitbit for your brokerage,” Fritsch says. It’s hard to argue with the merits of that.
What is SavvyCard? To hear David Etheredge, co-founder and CEO of SavvyCard tell it, it’s a wholesale reimagining of the mobile experience for small businesses that want to engage customers wherever they happen to be. Which these days, tends to be on their mobile phones.
Yet the hard part is simply this: SavvyCard does a lot, and it’s hard to describe in a simple elevator pitch. To start with, it’s an electronic business card with a built-in lightweight CRM.
It’s also a method for small businesses (read that as Realtors®) to instantly create a mobile site that is optimized for Google and might even appear at the top of the search results.
You could even say that SavvyCard creates instant referral networks between professionals who may use it cross-market their services. Think of an agent with dozens of contractors in her network. SavvyCard can enable an agent on the platform to send referrals and track results.
But wait, there’s more: For real estate associations that choose to offer SavvyCard to their members, the platform creates an instant mobile site for each member, and affords those who utilize the service’s IDX feed to spit listings found on their websites to consumers’ mobile phones.
Probably the best way to think of SavvyCard is an ecosystem of mobile services that enable businesses to connect to their customers, and profit from their vendor/referral relationships.
So what does that mean to you? Simply that you may stand to profit from SavvyCard, because for now, the electronic business cards are free and easy to set up.
SavvyCard starts with a deceptively simple electronic business card. It’s easy to create, and you can even customize the background via a downloadable Photoshop template. Add in your social accounts, contact information and a few other bits of profile information, and you’re ready to start marketing your card.
What’s important is to claim your URL with care (e.g., savvycard.com/tracyweir) since this will be indexed by search engines, as well as SavvyCard’s internal database (“CardFinder”). The system will automatically create a QR code for your card, which you can add to your marketing materials if you wish. While there are some naysayers that posit that QR codes are on their way out, it’s still handy if QR codes work for you.
You can also create multiple versions of SavvyCards. For example, if you wanted to create a card for your real estate business and another for a side business, SavvyCard makes this easy.
SavvyCard also utilizes something called a SavvyDeck, which is a built-in, lightweight customer relationship management system that allows you to associate other people’s cards with your own. Etheredge says this adds to the viral nature of SavvyCards, because they’re intended to be collected and traded, just like baseball cards.
Once you’ve created your SavvyCard, it’s easy to share it with anyone you like. Just click the giant “share” button on the home screen of your SavvyCard. You can send it via email, text message or QR code. If you’re logged in, SavvyCard will try to prefill the sharing forms with your account information.
In an interesting twist, if you’re not sharing your own SavvyCard, but someone else’s, you can choose to share the recipient’s contact information with the person who owns the card. For example, if you refer a roofer who has a SavvyCard, you can instantly notify the roofer of the prospect’s name and contact information when you send the referral.
Etheredge says the secret sauce of SavvyCard is that each card is really a tiny mobile website, built in minutes for the cardholder.
Etheredge says that SavvyCard is an HTML5 application that is rendered on the fly in the device’s browser. That means there’s no app to download. Everything you need is right there, on the first screen when you open a card.
“What’s important is that consumers are doing business 70 percent of the time on their phones,” Etheredge explains. “They make a decision in 15 seconds as to whether something is worthwhile to them. They don’t want to download another app.”
That’s why SavvyCard’s sites are stripped to the basics, with enormous buttons that are easy to see and use. Although they may feel a little clunky at the moment, Etheredge says future iterations of the buttons will be more sophisticated and customizable.
Regardless of how the buttons look, they’re useful — you can share your SavvyCard, initiate a call, send a text or compose an email, right within the SavvyCard.
Etheredge says that SavvyCard’s mobile websites rank better for search because they promote engagement.
“Google’s most recent updates value interaction and engage more than inbound links,” Etheredge explains. “When you have a SavvyCard that enables the user to click a button to interact with a telephone number, Google sees that as engagement.”
On traditional websites, users typically don’t interact with a phone number — a visitor will simply go to the site, enter the telephone number they need on the homepage into their cell phones, and leave without a single click on the page.
Google may treat this as a bounce, although for the site’s owner it’s a win. Yet in the game of search engine ranking, such views don’t help sites rank, and in fact, may detract from overall organic search engine placement.
Since everything on a SavvyCard site is meant to engage, Etheredge says this gives his sites an edge.
Etheredge envisions an entire ecosystem of SavvyCards for people and businesses. Within real estate, he’s particularly interested in working with real estate associations, where he can instantly create and deploy SavvyCards for all members.
Etheredge says that the member functions of SavvyCard’s platform are ideal for MLSs and associations, as well as large brokers.
SavvyCard’s first client in real estate was the Miami Association of Realtors. Etheredge recalls that he was attending a conference for association executives, where he met Teresa King Kinney and Deborah Boza-Valledor, respectively the CEO and COO/CMO of the association.
Both Kinney and Boza-Valledor saw the potential of SavvyCard to serve as a mobile website for each of their members and affiliates. [To hear a description of how this relationship came to be, go to 7:00 in the SavvyCard video at the top of this article.]
Etheredge says that the Miami Association of Realtors was attracted by SavvyCard’s ability to enable comprehensive search into each member profile on the platform.
One of the more interesting pieces of SavvyCard’s integration with associations and MLSs comes in the IDX feed. When an agent builds a website with a SavvyCard IDX feed, it’s possible to build a SavvyCard for an individual listing that can be sent instantly to the mobile phone a website visitor. [For a demo of this feature, go to 19:00 in the video at the top of this article.]
The property card includes a complete description of the property including directions and pictures.
“We enable people to network with each other, and our platform is viral,” Etheredge says. “When agents can easily interact with each other, affiliate members and their customers, it’s a win.”
The post SavvyCard Wants to Be Your Mobile Website. Should You Let It? appeared first on Eight11.
It happened again this week. A call from an enormously successful agent came in a little after 5:30 p.m.
“I’m confused,” the caller said through the crackle of a bad mobile connection. “I’m spending all sorts of money on my brand, but I hate all of it. I need to focus. I’m in the process of developing my website, but I don’t know what it should say. Can you help?”
Yes, I thought to myself, I can help. But chances are you might not like the help I’m about to offer.
“You’re like a lot of agents I’ve met,” I began. “You’re successful, talented, over-achieving and yet, lost.”
I got a knowing sigh on the other end of the line.
“The problem is really simple,” I continued. “You don’t know who you are, and you need to figure that out. It’s not easy to put a stake in the ground and define yourself. It means making choices. You’re unique. You’re different. So you have to define that.”
“Oh, I’m doing that,” the caller said. Then she began to sputter out a complex picture of her marketing ecosystem. “I specialize in luxury properties. I just had a new head shot taken. I’m working on a new semi-custom website. Did I mention my husband is the other half of my team? He says we should just pick up the phone to get more business, but we’re already selling $45 million a year. But we want to sell $60 million.
“So I was thinking, maybe I should just get XYZ CRM to handle all our contacts,” she continued. “Does that work? Do you know if it can connect to email? I’ve got to get a newsletter started. Did I mention I’m thinking about using drones to shoot my latest listing? Or do you think we can just get our assistant to do it? We’re already spending a lot of money on marketing, but it doesn’t seem to draw in anyone new. Almost all of our business comes from referrals.”
I was exhausted just listening to this. Here was a very successful person. Yet she was so engulfed in the tactics of her marketing program (both the ones she was actually using and various technologies she hadn’t even tried) that she had forgotten the one thing that actually mattered.
Who was she? What was it that made her successful? And most important, what made her different?
Difference isn’t created by following the herd and doing the same things everyone else is doing. You can’t develop difference by tapping into pre-fab content created by somebody else for people who don’t know you or your clients.
Defining your difference is like deciding on a destination — you have to choose where you want to go so you can actually get there. Think of it this way: It’s unlikely that Frederick Cook or Robert Peary (who both claimed to have discovered the North Pole first) would have gotten there at all if they hadn’t set out to discover it in the first place.
Your mission has to be to discover YOUR North Pole. Not someone else’s, even if you think someone else has already covered the territory. Your North Pole has to be yours, and yours alone. Remember this:
It’s impossible to be different if you don’t treat yourself as unique.
Few agents and brokers will commit to carving out their own difference. Instead, they rely on timeworn homilies that, in all practicality, negate any differences they might have. Though I’ve mentioned it before, words like “excellence” and “unparalleled service” really mean very little to the people you’re trying to win as clients.
Such phrases are easy to use, though, because they’re not demanding. Using words like this to describe you is convenient, because they demand little introspection. After all, who’s going to argue with excellence? It’s more likely your clients just ignore it.
In reality, though, the only time “excellence” counts is when your clients use the word to describe you. When you use it, it’s akin to being one of those hateful guests at a cocktail party that can’t stop talking about himself. Droning on about quality and service practically guarantees that you’re talking to the mirror — not to your clients.
So why do agents and brokers blather on and on, and ignore the opportunity to differentiate themselves? I think there are eight key reasons — and if you’re going to grow your business, you should fight against every one of them until you find your own North Pole.
Here’s how I know so many people believe this — they’re willing to buy all sorts of templated content and technology because they can’t think up anything that would set them apart from their competitors. Now, this isn’t a slam against those honorable vendors who sell products and services to real estate agents that incorporate pre-fab content or design (many of whom I’ve reviewed right here on Eight11). Often these are great services that are just waiting for some TLC from an agent that understands these are tools to be made their own. Rather, it’s about the agents who fail to personalize these tools at all — so that they’re just one of many using the same tools and techniques. Looks alike, sounds alike, is alike — the death knell of creating difference.
I’ve gotten on my soapbox plenty of times to say how much I despise meaningless words like “premier” or “full service.” I don’t think they mean anything to the average consumer, which is why everyone (even you, if you’re reading this screed) brushes right over them. In order to embrace why you’re different, you have to use words and take action that reflect that actually make you different. And they have to make your difference relevant to your clients. Expressing your difference is an active proposition. It should work for your customers and clients, in words and actions a three-year old, non-native speaker can understand. Leave the $20 dollar, fancy-pants words behind, and get out there and do something that sets you apart.
This is a massive problem. If you’re not thoroughly enthusiastic about what you do, it will show through in your brand. Passion allows you to succeed against all odds and creates a meaningful impression in your clients’ minds. If you’re phoning it in and have lost the reason you got into the business in the first place, no chipper marketing slogan, website, business card, CRM or other tactical effort will help you distinguish yourself.
I’m not pointing any fingers, but when your only goal is to make more money or hit a certain level of production, it’s pretty hard to create difference. Goals that are strictly related to money lack a higher purpose. Money goals have nothing to do with adding value to your clients. No client wants to feel that the only reason you’re working with them is to win a commission. Yet if you have a higher purpose — a goal that goes beyond lucre or personal status — it’s obvious that your mission and values will percolate throughout your business, and enrich your clients’ experience with you. You will be different through your actions because they help you achieve your higher purpose. Think Method Cleaners vs. P&G — Method is about making people happy with better, environmentally sensitive products. P&G is about winning market share.
I recently spoke to a group of 500 agents at an industry event. I asked the audience how many people had subscribed to a service that they were still paying for — but had forgotten the password to, and hadn’t logged in for more than 30 days. Some 90 percent of the audience’s hands went up! The reason is simple: It’s an absolute disconnect between your higher purpose and the mechanics of your business. We’re all searching for the perfect solution to manage our businesses, but when the technology is there for its own sake and doesn’t really facilitate your goals, it’s a non-starter. It’s not so much about discipline as it is about reality. We spend our time on what’s important to us. What’s important propels us towards our goal. If it doesn’t support the goal … well, you can see where this is going. I swear it’s the reason so many CRMs are abandoned. Maybe you’re really not that into building a massive database of contacts after all, because it’s just not YOU.
In real estate, you have to play by the rules when it comes to negotiating a transaction. But everything else you do is up to you. To be different means actually being different, whether that’s via the force of your charming personality, or utilizing technology to support your higher purpose and your business goals. Nobody else can or should do business as you do. Celebrate that difference, carve out your niche, and stick to it.
Difference is about making choices, just as simplicity is the art of intelligent subtraction. You can’t and shouldn’t do everything under the sun. Specialize in and celebrate what you’re good at, and ruthlessly cut out all the stuff you don’t like to do, or aren’t really good at. Your prospects want to work with someone who is a passionate expert. Be that person and announce it to the world.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been in marketing for close to 30 years, but I REALLY hate it when someone says to me that marketing is really expensive, and that’s why they have an awful brand. I despise it because it speaks to a basic misunderstanding of what a brand really is, and what marketing can do. A brand is an intangible yet valuable promise that your clients will either believe in and buy — or not. Marketing is about getting the word about your promise out into the world. You can have an excellent brand (your promise) supported by a tiny marketing budget (your creativity and actions). What matters is quality, consistency and a commitment to creating difference and preference. If you’re all over the map and your brand is pretty awful, that’s because you haven’t created difference that you believe in and care about.