At a real estate event in Orange County, I realized that there are problems to which existing technology has the answer.

I heard from Realtors and brokers who are dealing with a common problem: "How do I cut through all the clutter and all the noise to reach the people I want to reach?"

We live in the Age of Information. Our problem today is not the lack of information, but the overload of information. Go on vacation for a couple of days and you know that you can expect to return to hundreds of e-mails in your inbox.

Smart phones are supposed to make it easier for us to stay on top of that flood of information, but in reality, we’re now overwhelmed at home as well as at the office, at night as well as during the day.

Throw in blogs, Twitter, the hundreds of Facebook profile updates, phone calls, catalogs, magazines, 24-hour cable news and everything else, and each and every single one of us is swimming in an ocean of information.

What I realized is that there is pre-existing technology from outside the real estate industry that helps cut through all the clutter. Properly deployed, this technology gives you an unmatched ability to reach your intended target and more or less guarantees that he will hear what you want to say. I want to introduce it to all of you. But first, a brief detour.

Innovation equals applied intelligence

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines innovation as "the introduction of something new" or "a new idea, method or device." All of these definitions, except maybe "new device," are concerned with something other than technology. Let me show you what I mean by referencing the single most innovative Web site I have seen in the past few years:

Yes, that is in fact a Web site. All of the "links" inside the video work and take you to a new "page" within their Web site. Try it; I’ll be here waiting.

OK, back? There are so many reasons why that Web site is the single most innovative I’ve seen in years. By exploding and deconstructing the whole idea of a Web site, Boone Oakley managed to change the very way I look at what a Web site actually is. In this case, the medium truly was the message.

At the same time, the Web site itself served as proof positive of the kind of creativity, humor and off-kilter thinking I might expect from Boone Oakley as an advertising agency.

If I were in the market for a new ad agency, I don’t really need to ask the partners of Boone Oakley how they approach a campaign, what their strong suits are, what their process looks like.

Their Web site tells me so much of that. I may not need a whole lot of time to decide whether their personality will jive with mine. I get a very strong sense of who these guys are, what their values are, and above all, how intelligent they are. …CONTINUED

Innovation does not equal technology

What is really mind-blowing about the Boone Oakley Web site is the lack of any real "technology" deployed to create it. There’s no latest Flash animation going on here, no fancy AJAX work, and no deep user funneling. There’s no Industrial Light & Magic-quality CGI (computer-generated imagery) animation. No fancy database manipulation.

Instead, we just have the application of intelligence: honest-to-god human intelligence. Creative people sat around and thought about the issue, then thought some more, and came up with innovation more impressive than any cool gadget, any piece of code, any technology. As a result, the Boone Oakley Web site is one of the most amazingly human Web sites ever built.

So about that clutter-cutting piece of technology

With that in mind, let me introduce you to the technology that will ensure that your message will reach its intended target:

This amazing technology, generally referred to as a pen (think of it as an acronym for "Personal Encoding Nexus"), wasn’t developed by the real estate industry, but has powerful applications to real estate. To implement it properly you may need to purchase additional hardware, namely paper.

In the era of information overload, when people can hardly keep up with their e-mails and are inundated with junk mail, bills and catalogs at every visit to the mailbox, this amazing combination of pen and paper is the ultimate technology for cutting through the noise.

I can almost guarantee that any person who receives a handwritten note will keep it, open it and read it. I have never intentionally thrown away any handwritten note or letter. I have read every single handwritten note or letter, even if it turned out to be something not all that important. I suspect you have also.

All of the social media technologies — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. — usually require that someone be following you or "friended" with you in order for you to target a communication specific to that person. And all of those are just as susceptible to the noise in the digital information sphere.

In the age of Twitter, the handwritten note on fine stationery is innovation. It guarantees attention, that most precious commodity in the Information Age. And there are other areas of your business where the application of human intelligence will yield real innovation while technological "solutions" solve nothing but the problem of too much free time.

Because innovation is not technology — it is applied intelligence.

Robert Hahn is managing partner of 7DS Associates, a marketing, technology and strategy consultancy focusing on the real estate industry. He is also founder of The Notorious R.O.B. blog.


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