- The MLS is often taken for granted, but MLSs can change that by telling their own story, making their customers feel good, and providing innovative products, according to real estate consultant Brian Boero.
LAS VEGAS — Picture the logo of the U.S. Postal Service. What do you feel?
“We all touch the U.S. Postal Service every single day, but if you’re like me, it’s something you either feel a mild sense of dread about or you don’t think about it at all,” Brian Boero told attendees at the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS) conference Thursday.
Boero, partner at real estate brand, marketing and design agency 1000watt, noted that the USPS is something ever-present, but taken for granted — similar to the MLS.
“The MLS is taken for granted. You literally make the market work,” he said.
“No one truly appreciates the depth and the importance of what you do. That’s a shame.”
“That’s because the MLS has not been effective at articulating its value proposition,” he said.
“Because you have not made the industry love you as much as they should, you’re going to get this,” he added, pointing to an opinion piece from Inman contributor Kenneth Jenny called “Let’s get rid of the MLS.”
What can the MLS do? Tell its own story, just like the USPS did, according to Boero.
Tell your own story
Think back to 2001, when five people were killed from anthrax sent through the mail.
What could make people feel warm and fuzzy about the U.S. Postal Service after that?
“I remember watching that ad around the holidays and actually getting teared up about the post office,” Boero said.
“When was the last time the post office gave you chills?
“The cold energy of the post office was beamed through the creative process and something energetic and full of life came out the other side,” he added.
What MLSs do now
Before his presentation, Boero looked at several MLS websites, what he called an MLS’s “public face to the world.”
What were MLSs saying about themselves?
He saw a lot of this:
- “We aggregate and distribute real estate data in ______.”
- “We facilitate $____ billion in real estate transactions each year.”
- “We are the premier source of data in greater _____, delivering cutting-edge technologies and best-of breed training programs to our members.”
But mostly, he said, he saw nothing on the websites about the MLS — no value proposition, no explanation of benefits, nothing on how he should feel about the MLS.
One bright spot was TREND MLS in the Philadelphia area, Boero said.
“It could be presented more beautifully. It’s not sexy. But if you read it, it’s actually a statement of what the MLS does and why it matters to real estate professionals,” he said.
What would business be like without the MLS?
“One way to start thinking about this is to start thinking about what the real estate market would look like if you did not exist,” Boero said.
“If you didn’t exist, you’d have chaos.”
He compared the thought exercise to the “Got Milk?” ad campaign. It got people thinking, “Gosh, milk’s a good thing. I really like milk,” Boero said.
That doesn’t mean MLSs should tell agents and brokers, “you’d be hosed without us,” he said, prompting laughter from attendees.
“Start telling a story,” he said.
He showed some sample MLS ads 1000watt had come up with:
“It’s not rocket science here,” Boero said.
“It’s marketing and communications. It’s storytelling.”
Answer agents’ No. 1 question
When announcing a new service offering or partnership, MLSs should make sure they answer agents‘ No. 1 question, Boero said: “Why should I care?”
Instead of leading with a new tool’s features — a common tendency — tell agents how they will benefit, he said.
And don’t even think about using the word “data.”
“Think about it this way. You as an MLS talking about your value in terms of how you collect, distribute or manage data is like the best steakhouse in Las Vegas trying to capture the market by talking about its protein,” Boero said.
“It’s factually true — but do you want to eat at that steakhouse?”
Make your customers feel good
1000watt uses a communication platform called Slack every single day. When he logs onto Slack and it’s loading, it gives him a little message: “You’re here! The day just got better.”
“I’m as jaded as all of you, but it kind of makes me feel better,” Boero said.
What pop-ups do MLSs have? Probably something about “system maintenance coming up soon,” he said.
“It’s a buzzkill.”
He gave another example: Southwest Airlines drink tickets. “Every time I get this, I feel like Southwest is my buddy. I love the drink tickets,” he said.
So what if MLSs sent their members a nice email on their one-year anniversary or a Starbucks card on their five- or 10-year anniversary?
“I bet they’d feel something different about you,” Boero said.
How to make the MLS feel less like a prison visitation
MLSs have an advantage that every real estate vendor would love to have, Boero said: Every productive real estate professional is glued to their platform every day.
“But it’s kind of weird. It’s kind of like a prison visitation,” he said, noting that even feature-rich software is not necessarily pleasant to use or easy to connect with.
Every MLS has a roster of every agent in their market and their contact information. Boero asked: What if an MLS took that roster and created a messaging app for everyone in the market, allowing them to chat and create groups?
“Do you think that would increase your value? Do you think that would make people feel and think a little bit more about what you do?” he said.
“Product innovation is a wide-open field for you.”
Boero’s presentation can be found here.