It’s Time to Eat Your Own Dog Food

When it comes to your new year business plan, take the time to test your own tech tools and marketing products to find out how useful they are to clients.

December 21, 2015

Everyone is taking stock this time of year: auditing technology and marketing choices, deciding on a path for the next year. May I make a suggestion? Take the time to eat your own dog food.

Tech nerds use “eat your own dog food” as an idiom for “use your own products.” Putting yourself in the shoes of your clients in 2016 will help you find out what’s working and what isn’t.

For example, if you have an automated pricing or market analysis tool on your website, test it on the top 10 to 20 neighborhoods that you sold properties in this year. Does it answer the question “How’s the market?” better than a Google search can? Do the same analysis of your company and agent websites, e-mail drip campaigns, apps — every consumer-centric tool that your brand offers.

Add your own e-mail address to your automated MLS drips to see what your first-time, move-up, and high-end buyers are getting from you in their respective price points. Review your marketing and consumer outreach that goes to sellers.

Now that you’re consuming your own stuff, start “eating up” your competition’s products as well. See how you compare. Don’t forget that listing portals and national brands like HGTV are your competition as well.

Then get advice from the best source possible: your customers. Ask your top 20 clients what they used in their real estate search. Put yourself on the mailing lists they’re on, use the apps they use, and browse websites they browse. Heck, you could even use Google Surveys to ask the public in your market what they use.

For a prospective buyer or seller, the real estate journey includes an array of websites, apps, and tools that lull them into thinking they can solve their real estate problems on their own. These tools don’t teach prospects about the value of real-world experience.

It’s the real estate professional’s job to earn the offline relationship. Look at your metrics to correlate what pieces of online content most frequently led to a first contact offline with a prospect. Which call to action, blog activity, or e-mail campaign leads to the most conversions? Continually endeavor to shorten the time between first online contact and first offline meeting by asking for qualitative feedback from your clients.

There’s a whole lot of sameness out there in the online real estate space. Stop wasting time and money on products if they aren’t working for customers. Tackle these tough questions as we head into the new year:

  • Are your tools and marketing efforts useful and user-friendly?
  • How do you compare to the competition?
  • What niches, specialties, and expertise does your company have that aren’t reflected in your marketing?
  • What are you doing that your competition isn’t and how can you better leverage that?
  • Is your online presence targeting local buyers and sellers?
  • Is your web traffic from Google searches indicative of your brand’s target audience?
  • Do you have a discernable area of service that rises above the competition?

At the end of the day, spending less time thinking about what your logo looks like and more time on what your logo and brand mean to clients will help you build a more fruitful enterprise. It’s hard work but will be well worth the effort.

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Nobu Hata is the director of digital engagement for the National Association of REALTORS®. Former REALTOR® with Edina Realty in Minnesota. Geek. Alaska and Minnesota have been home. Now I'm in Chicago or on the road meeting with REALTORS® and association executives to talk about NAR, their business, and the integration of digital technologies in our industry.