MLSs have an image problem. The “death of the MLS” has been predicted so often over the years that it may be tempting to laugh off the idea of its demise. But it’s one that won’t die and became especially serious in 2013 when a group of big brokers decided it was time to issue a wake-up call to the MLSs that their subscriber dues support.

  • A new marketing campaign hopes to help MLSs articulate their value proposition to brokers and agents.

MLSs have an image problem.

The “death of the MLS” has been predicted so often over the years that it may be tempting to laugh off the idea of its demise. But it’s one that won’t die and became especially salient in 2013 when a group of big brokers decided it was time to issue a wake-up call to the MLSs that their subscriber dues support.

Since then, multiple listing services have made some strides in addressing certain broker grievances, in part through more and more mergers meant to encourage efficiency and economies of scale as well as MLS policies favorable to brokers.

But MLSs continue to face an issue common to any business and one that agents and brokers are quite familiar with: articulating their value proposition.

Therefore, the national Council of MLSs (CMLS) has launched a new marketing campaign — “The Value of MLS” — to assist its 200 MLS members promote themselves to their combined more than 1.2 million subscribers.

Sample CMLS ad

CMLS leaders see the MLS as an “everyday miracle” unique to North America.

Lauren Hansen

“Real estate brokers and agents sell real estate, and in doing so sustain our American Dream of homeownership,” said CMLS President Lauren Hansen in a statement.

“And nearly all of them rely upon the MLS system to do that important work. This new campaign is aimed at creating a greater understanding of that basic fact.”

Through their MLS, agents and brokers can count on reliable, up-to-date information; assurance that they’ll get paid if they collaborate with another MLS member on a transaction; and a set of norms and rules that all MLS members agree upon, according to the campaign’s member guide.

“These things make the real estate market work. Yet they are too often taken for granted, and therefore appreciated less than they should be,” the guide says.

“This is an undesirable position for any business. And given the changing nature of the real estate industry, it’s arguably perilous for an MLS.”

The guide appears to recognize that while nearly every active real estate professional uses an MLS, how agents feel about that MLS matters.

“Members who are called upon to reflect on the value they receive from the MLS are happier members,” the guide says.

“Members who understand, at a basic level, why your MLS exists, will be more likely to follow your lead. Members upon whom the value of the MLS is impressed will share it with buyers and sellers.”

Sample CMLS ad

‘The core value of the MLS’

CMLS hired real estate branding, marketing and design agency 1000watt to create the campaign, which includes print-ready promotional materials and Facebook ad and email templates in addition to the marketing guide.

These are available to CMLS members at no additional charge, though CMLS encourages its members to spare some dollars to promote themselves in Facebook ads to ensure their subscribers see their marketing messages.

Sample CMLS Facebook ads

Brian Boero

At the trade group’s annual conference last fall, 1000watt partner Brian Boero urged MLSs to step up their branding game, asking them to imagine what the real estate market would look like without the MLS and to make the experience of using the MLS more pleasant and less like a “prison visitation.”

The campaign does not address the latter issue or attempt to paint a dystopian image of a world without MLSs.

Denee Evans

Rather, CMLS chose to focus “on the core value of the MLS in supporting the work of agents or brokers in a positive way,” CMLS CEO Denee Evans told Inman via email.

“Things are changing in our industry, and in times of change it’s absolutely necessary to clearly and consistently communicate your value,” she added.

“[T]he MLS is a key ingredient in [agents’] working lives and they should have a full appreciation for the role the MLS plays in ensuring an efficient, healthy real estate market.”

CMLS ad campaign email template

‘Making the market work’

The campaign’s slogan is “Making the market work,” which CMLS says “communicates the fundamental place the MLS holds as a guarantor of basic principles real estate professionals rely upon.”

These basic principles are the terms of “co-brokerage” in which agents work together to sell properties under terms to which they agree as members of the MLS, Evans said.

“The offer of compensation is a lynchpin of this system. The MLS enforces these agreed-upon terms through compliance,” she said.

“Trust, rules, and the enforcement of rules are needed for almost any marketplace to function efficiently,” she added.

Sample CMLS ad

The campaign highlights three “core benefits” the MLS provides, according to CMLS:

  1. Confidence: The MLS safeguards market information and enforces rules that govern market participation. This allows real estate professionals to do their jobs with a confidence that would not otherwise exist.
  2. Connections: The MLS creates connections between professionals with properties to sell and those with clients who may buy them. It is the platform on which those who make transactions happen come together.
  3. Community: The MLS sustains a dynamic community of professionals where competitors cooperate to make homeownership happen.

Sample CMLS ad

“The MLS provides much more than data; it establishes and safeguards the conditions necessary for a large and diverse group of real estate brokers, agents and service providers to work together constructively,” Evans said in a statement.

“[R]eal estate professionals could not do their jobs as confidently or efficiently, nor could they guide their clients responsibly, if the integrity of market information was not ensured,” she later added.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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