How the real neighborhood experts market themselves

Vayable could teach real estate website designers a thing or two

One of the common things I hear from clients and from speakers at every real estate conference is that agents and brokers need to be the experts about their neighborhoods.

The idea makes sense, of course, that someone who really knows a place can help find or market property in that place.

But the result of everyone pursuing that tactic is that everyone is the No. 1 expert in town. And that, of course, causes more confusion. And what does No. 1 expert really mean anyway? Or any of the other credentials?

Let’s look at how some real neighborhood experts are marketing themselves online in an industry that isn’t real estate.

Vayable is a website that promotes unique things to do on a vacation. Most of these things are tours, like walking around a specific neighborhood and doing fun and interesting things. Sound familiar?

Most of the tour guides that are on Vayable have other jobs, and they use the site simply to share their love of place and topic and perhaps make some money on the side. Think of it like an Airbnb for city tours. The options available are deep and rich, since they’re driven by the passion of the tour guides themselves.

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These aren’t the standard "pack everyone into a bus and whip out the bullhorn" tours. Here is a sample of things available in New York City:

  • Queens Taste of the World
  • Enjoy a Private Piano Concert
  • Do SoHo with your gay BFF
  • Urban Spelunking: NYC
  • FiDi Food Cart Tour
  • Know the real Little Italy

And on and on. From the words, images and videos the Vayable people are putting out there, it looks to me like they’re the real neighborhood No. 1 experts for their topics. They’re charging reasonable fees to show people around town and see the place from the perspective of someone who lives there.

One of the things that’s very interesting to me about Vayable is how straightforward the site is. The goal of the site should sound familiar: Get people to contact a tour guide and then actually do something in the real world — something that involves money changing hands.

Granted, a $20 tour of New York City farmers markets with tips on how to shop to make a great meal is a significantly different level of financial commitment than buying a house. But the site is built to quickly and effectively put the person who wants to experience the city in touch with someone that can help them do that.

During his presentation at Real Estate Tech South, Marc Davison of 1000Watt Consulting brought up TaskRabbit, a website where people can offer simple services at a reasonable rate, as an example of people getting paid to do what real estate professionals do for free. He then suggested that perhaps the people on TaskRabbit were the professionals and the real estate agents were the amateurs.

Vayable is more of that line of thinking. It’s people offering up unique and interesting local knowledge to whomever wants it. And they charge for it.

Getting from landing to finding something interesting to do isn’t cluttered by "advanced" searches or "smart" searches (every time I see "smart" search I replace "smart" with "incredibly overcomplicated").

The home page of the site asks the one single-most important question in the experience-finding "errr" experience: Where are you going? Or at least it’s the most important from Vayable’s point of view because they offer experiences only in certain cities.

Once your city is determined, you are in browse mode. Each experience has a large photograph, a descriptive title, a town and a price. You’re off and running on the Keep Portland Weird Tour within a few clicks.

With a deep dive into information about each tour you see the particulars:

  • duration.
  • how many people.
  • a testimonial quote.
  • big photos or videos.
  • reviews.

And since the tour guides are asking for at least $20, all the photography and video tends to be quite good.

The Vayable website shares the same strategic core objective of pretty much every real estate website I’ve seen: Help two people who don’t know each other meet in the real world to hang out and do business. Why don’t real estate sites work this seamlessly?

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt.

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