- Understand how you learn and figure out what you need to know -- now and later.
- People are your top resource, followed by the internet; use them.
- Keep tabs on your competition, and pay close attention to your dissatisfied clients.
A couple of weeks ago, the Women’s Council of Realtors – California invited me to the annual meeting.
They wanted me to talk about Inman and real estate, but instead of giving a sales pitch, I thought it would be interesting to explore the areas where real estate and journalism intersect and figure out what I know that I can teach Realtors.
Here’s what I told them.
The world is changing quickly
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody alive in 2016, but it bears repeating — often.
Shift happens, and it sometimes turns on a dime. One of my biggest takeaways from Gary Vaynerchuk’s ICSF keynote speech was exactly that: The world is changing around you, so you need to be prepared to change with it.
While more readers shift from print to digital, and advertisers shift their dollars accordingly, the publishers, editors and journalists who are the backbone of the industry have to parse and understand what these changes in audience mean and how to best adapt to them. More video? More audio? Shorter stories? Different business models?
So when I hear real estate agents talk about how quickly their industry is changing, I get it. You don’t know where your leads (or readers) might be in five years, or even three years. How do you plan for that?
You set yourself up for success in a rapidly changing environment, that’s how.
How can I get up to speed when change happens?
First, you need to understand yourself and how you learn best.
Can you read and absorb information quickly? Collect articles or resources about what you need to know and read them.
What about podcasts? Videos?
There probably isn’t a repository of resources on whatever change you are facing waiting for you to tap — you might need to make it yourself. However, knowing your learning style will make this easier to do in a way that’s useful to you.
Second, you need to get a handle on what exactly you need to learn, and then prioritize what you must learn right away versus what you can shelve for later.
And you need to figure out how much time you have to learn what you need to know. This will help you pace yourself, doubling down on the “need-to-know” items as soon as you can, and scheduling some “nice-to-know” items as they make sense.
Your biggest resource is people
The internet is wonderful for finding answers to questions — sometimes.
But most of the time, if you have a specific question, you’re much better off asking a human being.
I recommend that everybody find at least one industry expert whom you can ask stupid questions — safely. (I try to self-identify whenever possible as a “safe person to ask stupid questions” — so if you are bereft of those people in your life, my email address is at the end of this story.) Knowing that you can ask someone questions about things that you feel like you should already know will be a relief.
I also recommend that you identify those who can give you expert advice on different topics and use that information to your advantage. We call this “developing sources” in journalism; in real estate, you might call it “finding my lead gen/listing presentation expert resource.”
Another thing that humans can tell you (and Google probably can’t) is what’s been tried (and hasn’t worked) before in your market. If you’ve got a killer idea for an expensive new marketing campaign, it’d be nice to know if someone else tried the same thing last year and saw zero return, wouldn’t it?
Your second-biggest resource is the internet
The internet might not be the best place to get specific answers about your real estate-related questions, but it’s definitely the best place to keep your fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry.
Apart from the usual suspects — Google Alerts and Facebook — to keep apprised of your world, Feedly is one of the best news feed aggregators I’ve seen — enter your source and Feedly will add it. You can build a custom feed that includes your favorite news sources (including Inman!) and refresh it whenever you have a spare moment (ha) during your day.
What about your audience?
If you aren’t already trying to figure out everything you possibly can about your target audience — start yesterday.
The best way to understand the people you’re trying to reach? Ask them questions.
And pay special attention to the answers you don’t like. It’s fine to feel warm and fuzzy when you get a five-star review from a recent client, but the client who gave you two stars and offered a complaint is ultimately going to help you patch the hole in your business that you didn’t know was there.
And you’ve got to keep tabs on your competition. What are they offering that you aren’t? Is it worth it to match their offerings, or can you beat them somewhere else?
Change is coming, whether you like it or not — and whether you’re ready for it or not. You don’t have to like it, but doesn’t it make sense to prepare for it?