In August, some of the HouseLens team attended Inman Connect San Francisco. This was our fifth Inman Connect and, as usual, we came away much smarter about both the real estate industry and our customers. This is the first of several posts inspired by what we learned.
I have a confession to make: I don’t attend Inman Connect to connect. At least, not in the sense that most people mean.
As the marketing director for a real estate industry vendor, my day-in, day-out job is to educate real estate agents. When I go to Inman Connect, however, I get to learn from agents. That is my particular brand of connecting.
These were my top five bite-size takeaways from this year’s San Francisco trip.
Real Estate Agents Aren’t Just Salespeople
This sounds like a no-brainer when you hear it, but I had never thought of it from Joseph Rand’s (pretty impassioned) perspective. Most industries separate sales and service, while the real estate industry combines the two – but without providing much support for the service side of the equation. Training, website design, awards and more are all oriented toward sales.
According to Rand, this is a serious gap that prevents progress, especially toward improving professionalism. Going forward, I’ll be thinking about how I can do my part to help real estate agents become skilled service providers as well as top-notch marketers and sellers.
Internet Users are Going Straight to Video
The human brain is wired to process visuals much more quickly and effectively than it processes text.
No wonder there is a distinct and relentlessly growing trend toward video as the Internet’s most popular content format, to the point that YouTube has become the number-two online search engine. And in the words of Facebook’s Keith Watts, “The shift to video will be as important as the shift from desktop to mobile.” Video simply isn’t optional any more. Learn to use it for authentic presentation, or (in John Thornton’s words) risk being “forgotten in the tides of the Internet faster than you can imagine.”
Real Estate Websites Don’t Need IDX
This gem came to the surface at the very end of Tuesday’s panel on websites. Almost as an afterthought, panelist Raziel Ungar revealed that he has no IDX property search on his website. Wait, what?
But his reasoning made perfect sense. He sees his website as a tool for showcasing his team and attracting buyers and sellers to work with him. IDX doesn’t serve that purpose – it’s not distinctive and reveals nothing about his community expertise or stellar service. So he only posts his own listings and lets buyers do their wider searches on portals and MLS sites instead (which they’re going to do anyway). This may not make sense for some agents, but it’s something to think about: does IDX make sense on your site, or is it just a distraction from your message?
Online Search Isn’t Just for Finding Websites
According to John Thornton, Google is seeing a surge in visitors who already know the websites they want to visit. So why are they searching? They’re using Google to find specific pages on those preferred sites. This means that building a solid online reputation is more important than ever, and so is making sure that effective SEO permeates your entire site (not just a handful of top-level pages). If you haven’t made strides in those directions, it’s time to start.
The Shift to Mobile Isn’t Coming, It’s Here
Numerous speakers, panelists, and moderators – including keynoter Gary Vaynerchuck and representatives from Google and Facebook – referred to the mobile shift as a fait accompli. Mobile is now the preferred mode of interaction with the online world, regardless of objective or content. As Vaynerchuck put it, this means that designing a mobile-friendly version of your desktop site is no longer enough. You need to be mobile-first. Think you can’t afford to make the switch? According to the data, you can’t afford not to.