If you think your customers know you by reading your Web site bio, think again.
If you think you create loyalty from a simple brand statement, think again.
If you think all this innovation separates you from tradition, please think again.

The past

Every Friday morning, as a boy, I joined grandma on her weekly trek to the butcher. Shelly knew exactly what kind of chicken grandma preferred for the Sabbath meal.

It was bagged when we arrived. Her name, scribbled across the wrapping. A few marrow bones thrown in for her soup. No charge.

If you think your customers know you by reading your Web site bio, think again.

If you think you create loyalty from a simple brand statement, think again.

If you think all this innovation separates you from tradition, please think again.

The past

Every Friday morning, as a boy, I joined grandma on her weekly trek to the butcher. Shelly knew exactly what kind of chicken grandma preferred for the Sabbath meal.

It was bagged when we arrived. Her name, scribbled across the wrapping. A few marrow bones thrown in for her soup. No charge.

And a sugary bow tie cookie for me.

Every so often as a boy, I’d join grandpa to the shoe repair store. Mario, the owner, was a tiny man dwarfed by stacks of shoes and shoe parts. His olive skin held a shiny patina from all the polish he handled. "Marco Polo!" he’d scream as I entered his shop. "Looka how bigga you get." Even if he hadn’t seen me for a year. Even though I had hardly grown.

Back then, New York’s Lower East Side was our Internet. These shops were our destination sites of choice. The owners garnered loyalty the old fashioned way — by being there. Holding court. Playing to the crowd of visitors, customers, members.

They’d talk and joke — share their opinions about anything.

Shelly and Mario were yesterday’s webmasters. Social networks’ architects. They epitomized the very essence of what "local" meant. When I think of them, memories overtake me. They had an intimate relationship with their customers. Chicken is chicken, but there was only one Shelly.

Sometimes, the conversations inside their stores were about politics. Sometimes it was about sports. Often, it was about the neighborhood. Who did what to whom. Who bought a new car. What home was for sale. Sometimes, it was idle banter.

But it was always real. Honest. It mimicked life.

And it was the foundation of their business.

Today

Meet Tony — Zappos’ resident shopkeeper. Standing behind his counter, like Shelly, garnering loyalty the old fashioned way — by being there.

Sharing his thoughts.
Playing to the Zappos crowd.

I received a Twitter message last week regarding his thoughts on service. It prompted me to go to the Web site. I shopped around and ordered three pairs of Doc Martins — sneaker shoes and a pair of summer sandals. Asked for 3-4 day delivery. They arrived the next day. Just like his tweet suggested.

Tomorrow

I know this whole Web 2.0 stuff is seemingly fleeting, trendy and difficult to measure.

I know it can be argued that so much of what is being twittered about — especially in real estate — is hardly quotable, and borderline rubbish.

I know that discounting many of Web 2.0’s higher possibilities is a predominant sensibility in real estate especially among die-hard traditionalists holding onto old-fashioned ways.

But I submit that what you are discounting is deeply rooted in good old-fashioned tradition. I submit that if applied correctly, blogs, Twitter and the like could very well be the vehicle by which those old-fashioned ideologies we honor so dearly can be resurrected.

I submit that these Web 2.0 tools stand to better connect you with your customers than the template, static, boilerplate Web tools you have been using for the last 10 years.

Nostalgia

Shelly or Mario never said anything all that memorable. But the social experiences inside their establishments have lingered for 40 years.

Your establishment is online. This is where conversations must now take place. To fight this inevitability is to buck the very tradition you hold dear. Real estate begins with a conversation, and what better way to start and carry one than with the array of free 2.0 tools at your fingertips?

Granted, learning how to properly use these tools might be an arduous swim upstream. But sometimes a trip back to the past is where you can birth a new future.

What have you got to lose?

Marc Davison is a partner at 1000watt Consulting. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.

***

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