Hyper-targeting enhanced listings

Trulia partnered with 1020 Placecast to provide targeted ad services.

Once users input a location they want to learn more about on Trulia, Placecast will access that data and apply it as a key component along with common demographic data points like psychographic information to provide more targeted ads.

This process makes sense especially at the zip code level (see previous posts on zip code optimization) because demo/psychographic differences exist between zip codes–even contiguous zip codes. Accordingly, if I’m looking in a zip code that trends more affluent, Trulia can now serve ads that appeal to an affluent consumer (Jaguar advertisement). Alternatively, if I’m searching in a zip code that trends more middle of the road, Trulia can now serve an ad that appeals to a bargain shopper (Toyota Corolla advertisement).

For real estate, I’d like to see a twist on this process: somehow also deduce from where a consumer searches so as to better deploy advertising resources with respect to select properties. For instance, let’s assume you’re a firm situated in a Utah ski resort community, and that you know based on previous dealings with out-of-market buyers that your to primary “feeder” markets are Chicago and Orlando, and that these primary markets are generally interested in purchasing luxury-oriented rental income properties.

It’d be a great service to be able choose which of your top properties to “enhance” that exist in a specific zip code and display the “enhanced” versions of these properties only when a consumer from either Chicago or Orlando conducts a search in the targeted zip code. Employing a scheme like this, one makes an ad buy based on a “known” marketing attribute (i.e., based on personal experience) along with hyper-targeting, which should translate into higher quality clicks to the “enhanced” properties and, thus, increase the potential ROI on those ad buys.

Social media and Obama victory

The New York Times has a great read on how Obama embraced social media to help win the election.

Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to win the presidency, F.D.R. used radio to change the way he governed, J.F.K. was the first president to understand television…Senator Barack Obama understood that you could use the Web to lower the cost of building a political brand.

Consider the following:

3,099,323 supporters and 527,783 wall messages on an Obama Facebook page.

136,083 subscribers on an Obama YouTube channel.

This user-generated Obama video has 11,696,725 views as of this posting (and is this a good, bad, or neutral brand impression? Does it matter?):

An interesting theory raised in the New York Times article is that by embracing and using social media’s power to organize and influence–and help raise $600 million–traditional party foundations have been irrevocably shaken, if not permanently altered. Similarly, it seems to me that many firms today are in a place where the political parties were pre-Obama: comfortably employing “tried and true” models to promote, build, sustain, and manage their brands.

Yes, entities like Trulia, Zillow, etc, injected much needed creativity and transparency into the historically balkanized and feudal-like operations of the real estate industry. But the industry has now largely absorbed the impact these entities had and is now challenging them in certain ways (e.g., by demanding accountability in terms of lead quality and conversion as opposed to just click volumes). However, it’s social media that will change the foundations of the real estate industry, just like it did in the recent presidential campaign.

Further, what’s brilliant about social media is that in and of itself it’s transparent. You want the inside scoop on Obama’s strategy? It’s no secret, really, because you can just see what his team put together. That is, you can model your own social media strategy on Obama’s (e.g., look at how the Obama team structured its Facebook page and YouTube channel) and deduce what strategic choices were made by studying the tactics employed. For more strategies, I encourage you to also visit Owyang’s blog.

Innovation considerations for real estate firms

Real estate professionals looking for sources of inspiration should consider the following quip from the book Chasing Cool:

The next time someone says they want to be the iPod of their industry, ask them this: before he came up with the iPod, did Steve Jobs walk around telling people he wanted to be the Sony Walkman of his industry?

The Chasing Cool book goes on to explain that innovators have a knack at assessing where a potential market “is” and what this potential market wants or needs, even though this potential market may be incognizant of such, because innovators employ various forms of focus groups (from the traditional, to the mostly non-traditional) along with intuitive insights.

Following this thread, in the paper Permanently Beta: Responsive Organization in the Internet Era, researchers point out that continual testing is a way to gauge user feedback and gain invaluable break-throughs in product innovation (the development of Linux is an example of this). Nevertheless, this article (abstract) looked at software company start-up success and found that prolonged beta phases and collaborations with universities delay product launch but that team tenure and experience favor faster product development and launch. This finding corroborates a premise in Chasing Cool that looking within rather than without (i.e., consultants) often drives true insight and innovation.

What does this mean for real estate firms striving for innovation? Perform a 365 degree analysis on your team and products and services. Analyze your company through the eyes of a competitor to better understand your weaknesses. Quit strategically as Seth Godin admonishes in the book The Dip.

Adding blog functionality to real estate websites

This Universal McCann study states that

  • Blogs are a mainstream media world-wide and as a collective rival any traditional media
  • The blogsphere is becoming increasingly participatory, now 184m bloggers world-wide

 

And as recently referred to in my previous post on the long tail, the New York Times discusses the power of blogs for real estate firms.

So why are many real estate brokerage web sites so un-blog-like? It seems to me that if consumers are familiar with blogs, frequently read and interact with blogs, brokerage sites ought to adopt “blog-like” functionality on their web sites so as to give consumers modes of “familiarity” when they visit (it’s probably safe to say that consumers interact with non-real estate sites on a much more frequent basis and, thus, their expectations for best-in-class web site experiences are set by these non-real estate sites).

For example, brokerages could create a popular search cloud. Similarly, firms could create a listings type cloud based on property type, location, lifestyle, time-on-market, foreclosure, and price. As demonstrated by Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” product recommendation success, consumers want to know what other consumers are doing and thinking. Thus, a search cloud lets consumers take a pulse of the market by quickly perusing the cloud. Second, a listings cloud quickly lets consumers see what type and how much inventory exists without having to perform a search to get this information.

One click into either cloud quickly sifts the database and returns a results set to the consumer, and from there he/she could further refine a search; thus, reinforcing that the firm’s website is functional, speedily returns results, and respects consumers’ time. Further, these two features would go a long way towards giving consumers something “familiar” while enhancing real estate website functionality and data accessibility. All of the above combines to increase marketing penetration and consumer loyalty.

Long tail search data

Despite the sentiments expressed by Google’s CEO about long tail search (see previous post), Bill Tancer of Hitwise presents an intriguing alternative view. Tancer shows that despite brand-centric search saturation in the head, the long tail presents a panoply of opportunities to online marketers willing to invest the strategic and tactical resources necessary to leverage such.

Top 100 Search Terms by Percentage of All Search Traffic

And, according to the New York Times real estate blogs offer consumers some of the best information available about real estate.

For brokers, blogs are, of course, a handy marketing tool: they’re economical, practical and easy to update. But for prospective buyers, a sophisticated blog — one with more than an agent’s plea, “check out my new listing” — can help potential buyers forge a connection to a faraway community, learn the landscape of an area and, ultimately, make informed purchasing decisions.

Since blogs are long tail feed machines, real estate professionals ought to embrace blogging as a viable online marketing channel.