I think I am going to join my local Rotary Club. I made the mistake of suggesting as much to my youngest daughter recently, who dutifully returned from an event bearing the business card of the Rotary Lady. "She’s expecting your call," she said. Oops. What have I gone and done now?

This sudden interest in becoming a Rotarian came to me through their sponsorship of my daughters’ high school Interact Club. I have been touched and impressed by the role the Rotary has played in instilling a sense of community and global involvement among young people. And, I might get to wear a funny hat. Wait — I think that’s the Shriners. Whatever. I also am realizing that I need to get out more.

Real estate is a people business, this we know. One of the unfortunate side effects of our online migration is that we tend to sacrifice personal interaction at the truest, most basic level — face-to-face.

Online social networking, whether it is with other agents or with consumers, is seductive. It is seductive in large part because it allows us to be social on our own terms. I write, you comment, I respond, but we do this when we feel like it and how we feel like it. For me, the "when" is often 5 a.m. or 11 p.m., and the "how" is usually in my bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers. It is sharing of ourselves in an impersonal, selfish kind of way — selfish, because it is all about our own convenience and comfort.

I’ll get back to the Rotary (you knew I would), but first Seth Godin writes in his article, "The magic of low hanging fruit":

As marketers, we’re tempted to tweak the already tweaked, to turn the 100 to 101, to optimize for the peak performances. That long tail is very long, though, and if there’s a way you can raise the floor (instead of just focusing on the ceiling) you may be surprised to discover that it can have a huge impact.

This really struck a chord. Now, there are a couple of ways I can internalize (and arguably kill) this metaphor. I am the low-hanging fruit. Nah, that doesn’t exactly carry the spirit-lifting message of betterment I am looking for. As an industry, we should focus on the low-hanging fruit. OK, sure, but I was really hoping for more of an all-about-me angle.

My business plan is a vast orchard of systems and strategies. That’s it! Some are giant, fruit-bearing testaments to my farming skills. However, I am willing to admit that most are growth-stunted bonsai botanicals in need of some serious fertilization (begging for a shovel of manure?).

I continue to believe that it is a mistake for agents to think that they have to do everything. We all have different proficiencies, strengths and personalities. Some soil is just not suitable for the apple tree (or the blog). So, grow oranges (or a superior static Web site) instead. But the key is that we won’t know in which fields our own cash crops lie until we at least try to plant a few seeds.

We have a tendency to focus on what we enjoy and on the things we feel most comfortable doing. I know this is true of me. Yet, I am beginning to realize that I need to spend more time considering the return on my investment. My time is limited, and my business is a big mutual fund of activities. I can load up in one market segment, or I can strive for the balanced portfolio. At the moment, I am a little heavy in the tech stocks.

For me, one more widget is not going to measurably improve my performance in the blogging field. One more social network membership is not going to vastly enhance my reach. One more market statistic posted to my Web site is not going to dramatically improve my success. The things I am already doing I could improve on, certainly, but it’s a matter of a few percentage points. On the other hand, if I invest that time in trying something new, I can realize a much greater return, a return so great that it can’t be quantified. You can’t divide by zero.

If you, on the other hand, tend toward the utilities, the basics of the business like print marketing and cold calling and cultivating an offline sphere of influence, maybe you should try a new crop. Try a blog, try a customized Web site, or give a podcast a whirl. Your success in these areas may never equal the success you have enjoyed in your comfort zone, but when you start from zero, you have much greater upside potential.

This weekend I am going to sit an open house. We have all argued the value of this activity, but it’s been awhile since I have personally hosted one, and I recognize my own weakness as being in the area of feet-on-the-ground. I am looking forward to meeting some people with real names, not just screen names. I am looking forward to hearing what the buyers are thinking about this market, not just reading what they type. Next week, I am finally going to shoot that video of my community, something I have resisted because of the time commitment and because of my own fear of missing the excellence bar. Of course, something will have to give. I might have to forego a blog post one day or be a day late refreshing a listing on Craigslist or read two fewer articles on the housing crisis. If the result is that I have met one nice person I wouldn’t otherwise have met or that my video library now consists of one grainy, amateurish offering where none previously existed, I have accomplished far more than I could have by continuing to obsess over my strengths while ignoring my weaknesses.

And, I am finally going to make that call to the Rotary Lady. I hope I get to wear a funny hat.

Kris Berg is a real estate broker associate for Prudential California Realty in San Diego. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.

Berg will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. Register today.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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