There’s a lot of technology for real estate out there. And, if my e-mail inbox is any indication, there’s no letting up in the near future either. All day and all night, someone — somewhere — is making some piece of technology aimed at solving a problem, real or perceived, in the real estate industry.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the new and shiny things. It’s easy to rush out and play with the stuff — to become a "guru" or an "expert" or a "specialist." The recognition can be addictive, but when the niche or the technology changes, the specialist is the least likely to see it.

Similarly, it’s easy to get paralyzed — to know that you "should" be using something but frankly, you’re overwhelmed with all the technology you’re trying to "manage" already. And each new piece just increases that feeling of being overwhelmed.

Both of these reactions to new technology — "guru-ism" and "overwhelm-ism" — are trouble. In the one, you run the risk of missing changes in the larger themes of business and technology due to over-focus on a shiny new toy. In the other, the constant barrage of new tools creates a paralyzing resistance to interacting with new technologies.

The danger with both of these situations is that they’re both reactions: positive or negative reactions to new technology. Ideally, you want to be proactive and responsive. The goal is to retain the ability to try new tools while resisting the urge to becoming fatigued or overwhelmed. This is where having a clear and direct digital strategy really helps.

Sadly (or luckily) there’s no technology solution that crafts your digital strategy for you. There isn’t a button to press, an app to install or even a weeklong seminar to attend that does this work for you. Obviously you can consult with advisers, professionals or others who’ve been there already. But the real decision-making has to be done by you.

Whether it’s social media or integrated Internet Data Exchange (IDX) or switching your Web platform to WordPress or handing out iPhones to all the people on your team or whatever it is — you’re going to experience better results if you’ve thought about how it all relates to your ultimate business.

You’re going to need to be very clear about who your customer is. And the answers to that seemingly simple question vary widely at both the specific industry function (agent to agent, brokerage to brokerage, franchise to franchise, vendor to vendor) and across industry functions (agent to brokerage to franchise). …CONTINUED

You’ll want to consider how you will conduct business with that customer. This time, the answers are going to vary greatly depending on who you identified as your customer. Also, if you were a little too vague in considering your customer, it will become obvious here.

If you have an organization, you’ll want to consider what skills and talents are already on board. More importantly, you’ll want to consider what skills and talents your team members want to develop. Because the customer, the technology and your organization will continue to change. And you’re going to need to change with them.

Considering who your customer is, how you can do business with your customers, and how you’re going to adapt and develop in a changing technology environment can be challenging work. But if you want to avoid being saddled with a Twitter strategy, a Facebook strategy, a MySpace strategy, a blog strategy, a customer strategy, an information technology strategy (overwhelmed yet?), you’re going to need to develop an actual strategy.

Without doing this work, wading into the ever-changing sea of technology gizmos is a great way to become overwhelmed or swept away. Jeff Turner recently noted on REtechRadio that you don’t need a social media strategy — you need a strategy that includes social media. And he’s right. Strategy is something that functions on a level above specific channels or tactics.

Your customers and your organization come first. The technology is just a means to facilitate interaction between these two groups. Not the other way around.

How is your organization dealing with changes in customers and technology?

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.


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