Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.- Peter Drucker
New Year celebrations are arbitrary. We celebrate all over the world, following celebrations from time zone to time zone, reflecting on the previous year and making wonderful affirmations and setting expectations for the new year as if a line has been crossed and we have moved from the past to the future. But all we ever really get is the present. Not as sexy as its siblings, the present is ubiquitous yet ever changing, though the speed of the change is so gradual that we often mistake the slowly progressing landscape of life for some stationary event bounded by antiquity and futurity.
Though I’m as much a fan of reflection and speculation as the next nerd, I have difficulty with the annual prediction frenzy because I see business and technology as a continual process, so this year, I wasn’t going to get involved in telling everyone how I see the future until my friend Tracy Weir (who can be found at Eight11.com), asked me for some specific projection about business and technology for the year. I sent her off a few thoughts, but never one to use a word when a dozen will do , found myself with a blog post I felt like sharing. And here we are today. These are more ruminations than predictions, but they are the topics I think we need to pay attention to this year.
2014 will be the year of Mobile and Video – oh wait, that was 2011, 2012, & 2013 also. But those trends will continue to grow and agents will need to be aware of them, making sure that they have some form of video presence and either mobile sites, mobile apps, or responsive web presences. Agents should become knowledgable about the differences between mobile apps, mobile sites and mobile responsive web sites, and how they are viewed by both the consumer and search engines.
Most agents don’t have the budget, time or creativity to produce high quality results in video, but since Google loves video, and doesn’t penalize you for being an amateur if you have relevant content,every agent should have some form of video presence in their marketing mix. For the 45% of agents affiliated with franchised real estate firms, some rudimentary video is supplied to most, so they only have to worry about improving their game not getting into it.
Some other thoughts about the integration of technology and business this year;
- Meeting new consumers and making them your clients or customers is key to success in business, and agents will continue to struggle with relevant social media interaction and lead generation. Some will seek lead generation companies, some will rely on the firm they are with and some will work on creating their own new contacts with consumers.
- With property search being dominated by Portals, Franchises and large firms and our online interactions becoming an “attention economy” agents will need to concentrate on building a strong digital identity, and paying attention to their digital footprint (their identity , their social channels, and the sum of all their online actions)
- As the online conversations continue about IDX, VOWS, MLSs, Portals, and syndication mature, and vendor’s actions force new conversations about Ratings, Reviews, and Surveys, we will need to be specific in understanding the differences in these things, keep conversation about them focused on the industry and not just their individual businesses.
- The way property data is shared to and viewed by the consumer will continue to morph and change as the rules for its distribution change and new businesses spring up to take advantage of that, often interposing themselves between the consumer and the real estate professional. Brokers , agents, and the organizations that they belong to and run need to be concerned about not only the quality or their data, but its security and disbursement.
- Agents will need to separate the wheat from the chaff in the technology offerings thrown at them by vendors, associations, trainers, and their own companies to avoid having technology impede rather than improve their businesses.
- As adoption of various document management platforms increases in the industry, without a unified platform, agents will be faced with new cooperative challenges when agents or brokerages refuse to “join” or utilize document or transaction management platforms that are not being used by their own company.
- Marketing through social channels will continue to grow, becoming less effective as it inundates consumers even more. People using their social channels to establish relationships and then become a trusted advisor to that community will continue to flourish, while far larger numbers of people flail their way through Facebook thinking that they have a social media strategy.
Of course all of these things only impacts you and you business in the next year if you are creative , analytic, and willing to work on your business as well as working in your business. Your business is derived from your efforts and talent, and not the result of larger trends. People have have outstanding individual successes even in weak markets. As our friend Peter Drucker said, “The only way to predict the future is to create it.”