Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

April 02 2013

Will The Real Square Footage Please Stand Up

Given our local MLS returns the square footage as a range instead of a value, it’s difficult to offer this parameter for search and I wanted to know a “rule of thumb” in how others are interpreting this range, to potentially advise our engineers on how to handle these ranges to get a single value capable of search, or redesign the data for min/max in case other markets do the same thing.  I asked one of our staff to surf the web yesterday and pick 5 random listings and share with me what square footage the MLS, a couple large area brokers, and the major portals all display.  What we discovered is there appears to be no “rule of thumb” and the values vary.

Above you can see that some brokers display their own listings with exact counts, but other listings with the ranges delivered by the MLS.  It also appears that some brokers syndicate their data to some portals, and others are making guesses or receiving bad data.  Some are not even within the MLS range.

I’m still trying to find the happy medium and wonder if a feed doesn’t deliver an estimated total and instead a range (a string instead of integer value that requires additional processing), is there a “rule of thumb” to standardize on to allow agents and consumers to search for listings by square footage.

March 21 2013

Satirical Explanation of World Politics

A former partner of mine at Accenture in the UK posted this and I thought it was a funny way to illustrate various world political views.

SOCIALISM
You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour

COMMUNISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk

FASCISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk

NAZISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you

BUREAUCRATISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then
throws the milk away

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy
grows.
You sell them and retire on the income

ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND (VENTURE) CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by
your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption
for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

SURREALISM
You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to
produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why
the cow has dropped dead.

A GREEK CORPORATION
You have two cows. You borrow lots of euros to build barns, milking sheds, hay stores, feed sheds,
dairies, cold stores, abattoir, cheese unit and packing sheds.
You still only have two cows.

A FRENCH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three
cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce
twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and
market it worldwide.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows,
but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

A SWISS CORPORATION
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You worship them.

A BRITISH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the ** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION
You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive…

February 21 2013

Is There A Future For Brokers And MLS? I Think So.

I recently read a post on the WAV Group Blog speaking about former broker Alain Pinel’s opinion editorial about future of MLS and common broker complaints. I felt compelled to share some of my opinion, and optimism, that with the right leadership both can prosper and coexist with less animosity.

People blog their ideas (OpEd) all the time but it doesn’t mean there is a problem.  That said, I believe with a clear vision and focus on execution, there’s plenty of opportunity to not only survive, but thrive both for brokers and MLS.  My “OpEd” would suggest instead that brokers and MLS redefine their relationship and MLS clearly define their business model.

Relationship:

MLS should be a technology company, and not a member organization.  Many spawned from member organizations, and are “stuck” in this dues-based revenue model.  The MLS should define itself as a technology company, and clearly separate from the member organizations who are typically shareholders.  The brokers and MLS shouldn’t play tug-o-war over listing data and instead brokers should look at MLS as a technology “buyers group”, a technology “service provider”, and a commercial “marketplace”.  All three should be separate business units (products).   Changing this relationship can allow both to work together to align goals to their respective customers, the agents, and prosper when their customers prosper.

Business Unit #1 (marketplace):

Think NASDAQ, Ebay, and add a retail buyer group (volume purchasing power).  The MLS business model should be both subscription-based and transactional.  Their core businesses should not be about data, but instead about the “marketplace”.  Everything should align with simplifying access to and integration with the “marketplace” and the objective should be aligned with agents’ to increase transactions.  MLS, like NASDAQ, should have minimum certification or education requirements for participants and have a reasonable base annual or monthly support  fee (like Costco).

MLS, like EBay, should charge a publishing fee to list something for sale in the marketplace, and a fixed fee for the back end transaction and compensation split.  Instead of a % of sale like Ebay, a fixed price transaction charge would be simpler.  This could be $50 publish, and $25/transaction for each party ($50 if buyer and seller agent).  Heck, title companies almost standardize $750/transaction nowadays so fees could be higher and potentially part of closing costs, but I’d lean to a small and easy to compute fee.  If 4+ million homes sold/year, and only $100 extra/transaction ($50 publish + ($25 + $25 close)) they instantly grew MLS market from it’s shrinking $500 million/year to $900 million.  The mistake I see most make is focusing on cutting costs or beating up vendors (their lifeblood), or trying to get commission revenue from vendors; they should instead focus on increasing revenue from customers.

By focusing instead on providing the “marketplace” and less about the data, you solve that resentment and bickering over who “owns” data.  The data is not the valuable asset, it’s the organized “marketplace”.  I fear too few MLS and brokers get this and while bickering over data, other entities are trying to move the marketplace away from them.  MLSs should actually reduce barriers for 3rd party integration because the more “buzz” promoted by others to use the “marketplace”, the more transactions run through it, and more money both agents and MLSs make.  Do you see NASDAQ restricting ticker quotes and bid/ask data?  Answer is “no” because they know the more people excited and educated about their customers’ products, the more transactions will process (why they track daily volume of stock buy/sell).  Everything they do is to attract companies to list with them (instead if NYSE), and drive as many transactions as possible.

Business Unit #2 (buyers group):

Think Groupon and Crowdsourcing.  MLS should have separate opt-in subscription business  where participants may join the MLS buyer’s group.  This is an opt-in group and likely requires research how retail buyers groups work.  The subscription covers expenses for MLS staff or consultants to “vet” products and services that may be considered, and offering incentives or guarantees to vendors on minimum purchase levels in order to earn tiered discounts in volume.  Instead of an App Store that offers very low value proposition to vendors (high upfront costs, no guarantees, small potential market [compared to 200 million+ with Apple and Google's and standard platform]), MLS should instead form “teams” that may opt in to negotiate volume discounts for purchases of products.

Almost like crowdsourcing, or Groupon, each “deal” can announce to subscribers the products being purchased and agents can join in to bring down the overall price.  Once price agreed, participants get that deal and pricing.  This solves the “leveling the playing field” argument by brokers because vendors can have tiered pricing plans based on units, so the largest brokers may get the biggest deals for their agents in sheer numbers, but for some tools by aligning with other brokers they further drive the costs down.

Another feature they could do is kick off a “private or invite only deal” where perhaps they rally only their agents to get in on a product purchase and secure their company a better deal than smaller companies.  They really should differentiate and compete by hiring the best people because they too should be focused on increasing transactions.  If their customers are successful, then they are successful.

Business Unit #3 (products and services):

MLS can be a provider or reseller of technology tools.  This should be considered completely separate from other business units.  The marketplace should just be the back end “exchange” and API, and the products and services division offers various approved client solutions, or purchase and resell 3rd party solutions.  The MLS front-end is one example product.

Similar to MRIS in Maryland (DC area), MLSs could also market their own products like market reports, etc.  MRIS even built a new business for their RBI product, and several progressive MLSs are selling their solutions to other MLSs.  To attract the best vendors for the “directory”, the MLS products should be treated as equal to other products and pay same fees to promote its products as the vendors it aims to attract.

Business Unit #4 (Advertising):

This is where the “App Store” fits in, but instead I’d recommend the MLS become an affiliate and earn different revenue share based on their participation.  They can either participate in affiliate relationship like CommissionJunction.com, or charge for advertising, or both.  For example, if a product is one of many in a group then for every order the MLS generates, they earn 10% commission.  If the MLS promotes a product as the category featured solution, they could earn 15-20% commission.  If the MLS promotes an exclusive product for a category, they could earn 20-30% commission.

It’s completely fair to ask for affiliate commission if they indeed reduce a company’s acquisition costs.  If the company must generate orders themselves, then no commission is earned.  If the company wants to participate in a directory, it’s fair to ask for a listing charge (think Yellow Book), but the MLS should only expect a cut for revenues it drives to the company.  This aligns goals and incentives so the the MLS actually sells and not just lists, otherwise there is little value proposition to vendors.

There’s no reason not to provide a public-facing portal and collect advertising revenues or featured listing revenues, but this is shaky ground.  Brokers’ complaint on this is that the syndication of their listings reduces their expensive website’s traffic and SEO efforts.  I would analyze how HAR.com solved this problem in Houston and the value far outweighs the issues.  Regardless, just in focusing business units above and tweaking the model, the MLS could more than double it’s market size (to over $1 billion/year) very quickly and not on the backs of the very companies they rely on.

Summary:

I see MLSs and brokers have the right ideas on what they must do, but no one has laid out a clear road map to get there.  The first thing they must define are their business units (like above), eliminate the myopic focus on the data, and then work backwards with a tactical plan with milestones and dates to get there and track progress along the way.

I commend people like Michael Wurzer of FBS Systems for having the vision that the “front end of choice” will become an eventual truth.  The only mistake I see in the execution of the Spark Platform, for example, is the business model.  Currently it is confused for the app directory when in fact it should be the “exchange” or “marketplace” product.   MLSs should pay a hosting & support fee for this of possibly share in transaction revenue.

By redefining the relationship with brokers and agents, and focusing on the transactions and marketplace (prime asset), the MLS can significantly increase their revenue and support the vendors they rely on instead of the current cannibalization and price pressure on every contract renewal.  It’s not too late, but leadership, vision, and execution are required to get there.

February 20 2013

Top 3 Pain Points For Listing Agents

 

CEO INSIGHT Headshot - Mike Mike Sparr
CEO and Founder

“Connecting buyers and sellers”

Goomzee Logo

www.goomzee.com
406-542-9955


Hello listing agents,

With inventory levels at all-time lows, now is the time to focus on profit maximization and efficiency for every transaction.  Working with agents around the US, the same pain points seem to emerge and I wanted to reflect on them and share how we help you solve them at my company, Goomzee.

  1. Ficticious Online Leads
  2. Costly Listing Flyers
  3. No Way To Follow Up

If these look familiar to you, please learn how we help solve them below.

FICTICIOUS ONLINE LEADS Every agent I’ve discussed this with can recall the funny email addresses, names and phone numbers they see like “fred@flintstone.com”.  You spend so much time weeding through the fakes, your response time to the real leads suffers and you miss opportunities.  We call this the “Follow Up Trap”.

SOLUTION: Text Message Leads cannot be faked and give you real phone numbers from cell phone providers

 

COSTLY LISTING FLYERS
We all know the neighbors typically grab the first batch, and then the boxes are empty.  The expense to maintain this marketing tool from design, paper, printing, fuel, travel and your time can quickly add up ($hundreds/month).  Toll free numbers were a great option but consumers today despise being pushed off to a “voice menu or recording” and avoid dialing, resorting to searching on their own but you risk other sites advertising your competition.

SOLUTION: Reusable Text/QR Sign Riders allow buyers to view info on their phone 24/7.

 

NO WAY TO FOLLOW UP
If a potential buyer reads an ad, fills out fake information, or grabs a listing flyer you have no way to know who they are or how to contact them.  This lack of valuable data prevents you from better coaching your clients on pricing and market positioning, costing you and them days, weeks, or months of longer days on market.

SOLUTION: Cell Phone Call Capture alerts you of every request and you can always follow up without Do Not Call concern.

 

STARTER KIT FOR ONLY $45 We ship you two pre-printed sign riders with text message and QR codes, and our staff links them to your listing for you, so you can try our service for 60 days.  If you love it, then subscribe to our annual plan and I’ll credit you $45, plus ship you 8 additional signs.  Better yet, we ship you signs from Montana so there is NO SALES TAX.


Click Here To Order Now
(sign riders typically arrive in 2-3 business days)

 

Goomzee Connect Overview Diagram

How Goomzee Connect Works - Diagram

Call: 406-542-9955

or email

support@goomzee.com


Goomzee Starter Kit Overview

I’m so confident that you and your clients will love this service, that if you decide to subscribe to our annual service, I will credit you the $45 towards purchase of our annual plan, and even ship you eight more sign riders.  There’s no risk for just trying us out, and you still benefit from the savings of our discounted MLS price plans.

 

Click Here To Order Now

(sign riders typically arrive in 2-3 business days)

 

Call: 406-542-9955  or email  support@goomzee.com

 

www.goomzee.com

September 27 2012

Are Your Mobile Apps Slowing You Down – Goomzee Mobile MLS

Hello industry friends:

NEW MOBILE MLS APPS:
I’m pleased to share with you that our 18-month-long engineering cycle is almost complete, and we’re introducing the most performant mobile app API in the industry.  As you may have read recently with reviews by Clareity and others, the quality and performance from mobile solutions varies greatly, and some poor solutions leave you and your members relying on the portal apps to stay in touch with consumers.  We set out over a year ago to help solve this issue and I will be sharing some key performance metrics you need to be aware of when evaluating any mobile solution, and how we solved these issues.

Please read all about it below and see our “cheeky” flyer for this event.  ;-)

CMLS FLYER:  CMLS 2012 Flyer (pdf) CMLS 2012 Flyer (Zip)

Mobile MLS Apps From Goomzee - CMLS 2012 Boston

DATA-FIRST APPROACH WITH PERFORMANCE TOP PRIORITY:
We started at the data, then indexing the data, then the search engine, then the API server.  Every piece was carefully evaluated and tested before any technology was approved for our mobile “stack”.  I’m pleased to note that our API servers alone with just a static response message, serve requests at 20,900 requests/second per server.  Zillow’s returns approximate 147 requests/second for a static error message, for comparison.  Our user preference database performs write operations at over 152,000 writes/second.  Just to give you a comparison of what this means, we performed some benchmarks on many leading portal apps.

BENCHMARKED AGAINST TOP PORTAL APIS:
Using a brand new linux server in a large Texas datacenter with quad core processing, gigabit ethernet (1Gbs), and Sandy Bridge Intel processors we gave every mobile API a fair shake.  By monitoring network traffic on our wi-fi network, we documented the API urls that portal iPhone apps were sending listing search requests to, and then set up our tests to these servers with a small amount of traffic, off-peak.  Our tests revealed that the fastest portal API was Redfin, serving requests at 54 requests/second.  Zillow came in at 39 requests/second, then Trulia and Realtor.com between 13-15 requests/second.  Solutions like Smarter Agent and others either timed out or were below 5 requests/second.

GOOMZEE OUTPERFORMED FASTEST PORTAL API OVER 10X:
We performed the same tests on our API returning both 1 result and 20 results for a geo search (map search) and our API returned 1,200 request/second for 20 results, and over 4,000 requests/second for 1 result, primarily just limited by network bandwidth and speed depending on size of the response data.  These tests were against a single server and indexed database with over 10 million listings and 70 million photos.  To ensure fairness, we also tested from slow, low-bandwidth,  out-of-network server and still returned over 200 requests/second to an 8-year-old 2GB RAM server with a 10Mbs connection (100x slower connection).  What this means to you, is that when tens of thousands of simultaneous users connect to a Mobile MLS, a tool they need/use daily, less of them will be waiting for the server to respond.

SEARCH PERFORMANCE THANKS TO A REAL SEARCH ENGINE:
Long gone are the days of an OR clause and a % wildcard symbol in a SQL query for real estate search.  To remain competitive with portals, you need to implement the kind of technology they have access to.  We can all attest to the importance of accurate results and we took that very seriously, adding a real search engine with Near-Real-Time (NRT) indexing which means fresher data and search results.  Similar technology offered by Zillow and others, using Lucene search engine, had limitations with the powerful front end called SOLR because it required nightly batch re-indexing, thus listings would not be up-to-date as frequently.  Those technologies are catching up, but our chosen solution is already setting the new standard.

SEARCH ACCURACY THANKS TO GREAT MLS PARTNERS LIKE INTERMOUNTAIN MLS:
On the accuracy front, I’m grateful for MLS partners like Intermountain MLS in Boise Idaho and their staff who literally took a  prototype app out in the field and tested our search, tested common agent searches and mistakes, and helped us tune our search engine to deliver the most accurate results.  I personally have tested a few industry apps and the search accuracy has been all over the board.  The complaints we heard from MLS staff around the U.S. we focused on solving first, and we’ll let them tell you how we did – find Greg Manship, their CEO, in Boston.

ASK FOR DEMO OF OUR IPAD APP AT CMLS BOSTON 2012:
I do hope to see most of you this week in Boston and please don’t hesitate to grab me for a QUICK demo.  Battery-life-permitting, I’m very excited to show off what we’ve toiled over for nearly 2 years behind the scenes and what we’ll be formally unveiling very soon.  My hope is you too agree, and choose to team with Goomzee and offer the best tools available to your customers.

Thanks for your time and continued support!

Warmest regards,

Mike Sparr, CEO and Founder
Goomzee

http://www.goomzee.com

September 25 2012

CMLS Attendees learn about Goomzee’s new Mobile MLS apps

If you’re considering mobile solutions for your members be sure they are optimized for mobile.  It starts from the back end API long before the front end client apps, or no matter how pretty the screen, the user is left with a poor, slow experience.  Learn more about how Goomzee solved common issues in mobile performance and usability by finding our staff at CMLS Boston 2012 this week.

September 01 2012

Who pays for R&D?

The other day I read an article on Inman News titled “Why is nobody making my dream real estate app?” and was inspired to highlight the R&D expenses most companies, including document management companies, must incur to support mobile devices and who is going to pay for it.

I asked a simple question to the author “how much would you be willing to pay for it?” and the reply was $20-30/mo or better yet, sell to the MLS or brokerage so they offer it for free.  This I believe is the same mentality with consumers (including real estate professionals) around the U.S. that everything should be cheap or free, but I fear we forgot how the world worked even 10 years ago before massive venture capital investments flooded into technologies companies devalued good software and paying for what it’s worth.

The author cites the lack of a single solution that does everything and the frustration to workflow various tools to do their day-to-day duties.  I agree, things should be simpler, and if someone does something great then be willing to pay a premium for it (think Apple).

There are some great tools and companies already, as mentioned in the comments to the article, but I can attest that mobile engineering often doubles and triples their engineering costs to build/support all the various devices/screens, etc.  What they should do is double/triple their fees to fund it, but pressure to offer the additional tools at no extra cost means they must sacrifice margins or provide “good enough” solutions to end the immediate complaints.

Remember the days when something new came out and the early adopters paid a huge premium (your first computer, television, VCR vs. current one)?  Today, with insanely-large venture capital investments to cover those R&D losses for years, consumers have become accustomed to no longer paying that early adopter “tax” for R&D with new products.  The traditional, privately-owned, profitable companies still must fund that R&D and recap expenses through revenues so if they don’t raise outside capital and sell off huge chunks of their company, they are forced to move slower and fund R&D through existing revenues, or increase revenues/prices.

I believe if you want more, you should be willing to pay more, and you’ll get much better service but for some reason people today want more and to pay less – Wal Mart.  It doesn’t seem to apply to everything, however, which is hardest to understand yet.  For example, if I want great service at a restaurant I frequent, I make sure to tip well so they eventually remember me and I get top-notch service.  We can all relate, I’m sure.  What I find puzzling is the reverse mentality when it comes to investing in critical tools for doing business.

I was reading Trulia’s S-1 filing the other day and saw their engineering costs alone were over $10 million/year.  Assuming a company investing the same in technology likely needs at least $25 million/year in revenues to profit (or say $2 million/mo), they need over 66,000 agents to pay $30/mo to reach that revenue.  Trulia’s S-1 filing revealed they have 20,000 paid subscribers and it’s taken 6 years to get there and they’re just breaking even, earning $140/user (far more than $30).  Nearly $100 million in total cost (reinvesting revenues plus over $30 million VC funding) and 6 years later, and they’re only 1/3 to the 66,000.  Very few can float those kind of losses.  There will always be companies investing much, much less in engineering and will provide “good enough” solutions as you mentioned, but put some simple numbers down on paper like I did and you’ll see why you get what you are willing to pay for.

Rest assured, there are many companies dedicated to providing the best-of-breed and taking this financial risk to hopefully be rewarded some point in the future through volume sales.  Don’t forget what it really costs these companies and the significant financial risk they make to try to improve the lives of real estate professionals like yourself.  They should instead be celebrated and recognized for their efforts.

References:

Inman News Article

Trulia S-1 Filing

August 28 2012

What Is In Your “Toy Box?”

By Lon Whittier

Remember when you were a kid and it was your birthday?  When getting that new, coveted toy was the one thing you really wanted?  That new toy was great and you played with it for days on end. Eventually, something newer, shinier and “better” came about, and that toy ended up at the bottom of the toy box. – The toy didn’t lose any of the fun.  It was still the same toy that provided endless hours of joy.  The problem was, it wasn’t the newest thing in your toy box.  You still knew it was there, at the bottom, waiting for you to start playing with it again.  You may have pulled it out, played with it and remembered how good of a toy it was.  No other toy quite played the same way as that one did.  But nonetheless you just stopped playing with it.

Now we are older and we get new “toys”.  Sometimes they are actual “toys” we use during our leisure time.  Other times these “toys” are “tools” that we use during our work day to make us more efficient.  All too often, we find ourselves falling into the same pattern we did when we were a child. – Being really excited about this new tool until something newer and shinier comes along.

Through my work with Goomzee, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with real estate agents throughout the country.  Every time we get a new customer, they are excited to add this new “tool” to their marketing toolbox.  They understand the value of what our service does, and they enjoy how easy it is to use.  Immediately they start promoting their listings with Goomzee, and they start seeing leads coming in. – And, every once in a while, one of those leads turns into the sale of that particular listing.

But what happens after that initial excitement?
The agents that have had the most success with Goomzee are the ones that use it every time, on every listing.  Just like a new toy, they keep “playing” with it.  They customize the messages the prospective buyer receives.  They try different things with the sign riders.  They look for ways to differentiate their marketing from other agents with the tools in their Goomzee toolbox.  They look to integrate Goomzee tools into what they are currently doing to market listings.  All in all, they look for ways to maximize all the features.

The agents that have had the least success with Goomzee are the ones that tried it once or twice on a few listings, forgot they had the service, and didn’t continue to utilize it on all their listings.  Maybe the few listings they promoted were in an area with very little traffic, or the prospective buyers in that area were not “tech savvy”.  The truth is, there is no guarantee that a sign at a property is going to generate a phone call, text inquiry, QR scan, mobile homes search, or someone grabbing a flyer.  However, if you aren’t trying to get the attention of every potential home buyer with every marketing tool at your disposal, you are missing out on opportunities to sell.

There are many tools available that real estate agents can use.  Some tools you will choose to buy yourself, some will even be sponsored by your office, company or MLS.  Some are for marketing, others are for CMA analysis.  It’s very likely there are tools sitting at the bottom of your toolbox unused.  There are ones you may have never used, others you may have tried a few times.  Don’t let them sit there unused.  Pull them out and start using them!  You never know what didn’t work on that last listing might be the perfect thing on the next listing.

May 14 2012

The UK Tax System Explained In Beer

One of our team in Europe shared this with me so I felt compelled to re-post as it’s relevance here in the US, and people enjoy a good real-world demonstration of economics.

THE UK TAX SYSTEM EXPLAINED IN BEER

Suppose that once a week, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten
comes to £100.

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something
like this..

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
And the tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.

So, that’s what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every week and seemed quite happy with the
arrangement until, one day, the owner caused them a little problem. “Since
you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost
of your weekly beer by £20.? Drinks for the ten men would now cost just
£80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the
first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free but what
about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the
£20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realized that
£20 divided by six is £3.33 but if they subtracted that from everybody’s
share then not only would the first four men still be drinking for free
but the fifth  and sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his
beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fairer to reduce each man’s
bill by a higher percentage. They decided to follow the principle of the
tax system they had been using and he proceeded to work out the amounts he
suggested that each should now pay.

And so, the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (a 100%
saving).
The sixth man now paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33% saving).
The seventh man now paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28% saving).
The eighth man now paid £9 instead of £12 (a 25% saving).
The ninth man now paid £14 instead of £18 (a 22% saving).
And the tenth man now paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16% saving).
Each of the last six was better off than before with the first four
continuing to drink for free.

But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings. “I only
got £1 out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the
tenth man, “but he got £10″

“Yes, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved £1 too. It’s
unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me”

“That’s true” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I
only got £2? The wealthy get all the breaks”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get
anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor” The nine men
surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next week the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat
down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the
bill, they discovered something important – they didn’t have enough money
between all of them to pay for even half of the bill.

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our
tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will
naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much,
attack them for being wealthy and they just might not show up anymore. In
fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat
friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible

May 03 2012

Should MLSs Invest In An “App Store”?

It seems this year the MLS industry buzz is “App Store” and I see platform vendors scrambling to provide this shiny new object.  I’ve been approached by several asking if my company would participate and I’m always open-minded, but still have to scrutinize where I invest my resources.  I’m not convinced the benefit is worth the investment in many situations, so for me the jury is still deliberating.

Yesterday I noticed a post and some comments on the WAV Group blog about this subject and I felt compelled to share some insights and my personal opinion.  My comment is awaiting moderation so I thought I would also share it here for those that care to read my rather lengthy response.

 

MY RESPONSE TO: ( http://waves.wavgroup.com/2012/05/01/explaining-an-mls-app-store )

Gents, I’d like to chime in as we’ve tested this model at Goomzee and there are indeed pros/cons.

I haven’t seen LPSs offering yet but I know the gang are smart, and Rich is great at positioning and user interface design. I’ve seen the Spark platform and they’ve done a great job with documentation and preparation. I’m already working with other independent’s who’ve forged out this model and I have mixed reviews and serious concerns over whether MLSs should even be investing their time in this in lieu of other customer needs. Again, we have something shiny and new, but I don’t think people have really thought through or flushed out their business cases. Perhaps some perspective from someone who’s been there, done that not only in the real estate industry, but also in two other industries, might be useful (my personal experience).

The pros seem to really only benefit the MLS (and that is questionable actually as you read on), but at the expense of the end user and vendor in most cases. The only real problem solved is centralizing procurement and promotion. For an MLS that prides themselves on customer service, and a vendor that prides themselves on the same, and their brand, it can actually be a very risky proposition so indeed it must be done properly, if that’s possible at all, which I’m not 100% convinced. The real question to ask is whether your customers screaming for you to solve online ordering because it’s too difficult to visit someone’s website and enter credit card information?

Personally I think this model could work for small MLSs with limited staff and outsourced support to vendors because their end-users are already trained on that MLS-vendor relationship. In small quantities, that could work, but in large quantities, it’s a nightmare both for the vendor and the end user, and ultimately the MLS because of frustrated customers (the folks who ultimately pay their bills). I also think this model could benefit vendors, especially new entrants, to help acquire smaller markets that are fragmented that they might not have invested as heavily into multi-year sales cycles, tradeshows, travel, relationships, product, integrations, and brand.

For larger MLS markets that provide their own support, and those vendors invest $millions in multi-year sales cycles and business relationships, product enhancements, integrations, etc., I believe you have a disaster waiting to happen by diluting the very benefit from investing in those long business cycles. Further, I’ve seen firsthand the frustration MLS customers face when getting the “runaround” over who to contact to get their problems solved. One extra step or call and they’re livid and looking for someone to blame or bash online. MLS staff are typically not equipped to handle support for a vast array of products, and have enough on their plate just supporting the MLS system itself. Once customers have questions or issues with a 3rd party product, the MLS staff note the issue, then typically pass it onto the provider. The provider then has to attempt to contact the customer to make them repeat themselves, and often they’re not answering phone or emails at this point so it stretches out days sometimes. At that point, they’re so upset that they start to dislike the provider as an outlet for frustration, risking their brand and any potential referrals.

The #1 support issue I see with one of our products, for example, is logging in, and over 90% of the time, the user input the password incorrectly or improper case, sometimes caused by their phone capitalizing a letter and they didn’t notice. Something as simple as that, which the vendor was not at fault at all could take days to resolve (phone/email tag), could lead to product cancellations, bad reviews in app store, and no potential referrals and all could have been avoided if the end user contacted the provider directly. The support costs for vendors more than doubles because of the extra effort to reach customers after the fact, then troubleshoot and resolve. To make matters worse, most models want vendors to reduce their prices, and give up more of their revenue, and ultimately cost them more in support so if they’re smart, they’ll instead raise their prices to offset and in the end, yet again the end user is punished by having to pay more.

I have firsthand experience both in the real estate/MLS industry, and in my “past life” running my family businesses, and have seen these shortfalls (mainly in customer service and end user confusion) by adding this additional layer of separation between the end customer and the “service provider”. My family’s towing business, for example, was the largest AAA service provider for over 30 years in the Inland Northwest in regards to call volume. My grandfather personally sold AAA memberships right out of the truck for several decades to build up their membership in and around Western Montana. Customers called direct, received excellent service and recommended others, and because the service levels were so high, as our company and market grew AAA saw no reason to introduce additional service providers because the service levels and membership renewals were higher than other markets around the US. In other markets of the same size they’d have 2-3 providers but satisfaction levels were the best in the country so there was no reason to fix what wasn’t broken. This all changed when new leadership got the bright idea to centralize a call center and force all AAA members to call their toll free 800 number.

The first 2 years, customers were so frustrated and upset that memberships declined and many of our customers refused to wait for AAA’s toll free operators and called us back and opted to pay for service instead of the runaround, and submit the invoice to their insurance. This was great for our company initially because they paid us 100% more than AAA’s contracted price, but bad for them because of the hassles. Ultimately, most AAA contractors in the state started de-prioritizing AAA calls over cash calls and the end customer now has to wait longer to get rescued on the side of the road, and many cancelled memberships and now go the cash option.

Some service providers in other cities even dropped support for AAA altogether, and only service cash customers direct to ensure they receive high marks of customer service, more revenue per customer, and referrals given they maintain their business relationship. This relationship is key to long-term business success, especially in local markets. We only kept AAA because we treated it like a loss leader, and our drivers were “outside salespeople” selling the services of our other businesses, namely our auto repair shop. When local repair shops and dealerships saw a decline in their business (newer, long-lasting cars), however, they purchase towing equipment and promote towing direct to customers so they increase top-line revenue, and ensure they keep their customer relationship.

At this point, there’s was no incentive for our company to support AAA and they later introduced 2 other local providers and diluted the benefit, so it is no longer top priority to provide the same service levels for less money and a customer we have no relationship with. The issue was that extra layer of abstraction between the end customer, and the service provider, severed that relationship and results in substandard customer service and wait times to get issues resolved. But I digress so back to the MLS and real estate industry.

I might compare this model to the franchises’ approved vendor programs. They try to collect fees from vendors, and often require attendance to one or more conferences (committing $20-50K annually each in booth, travel, payroll, etc.). We were approached by the top brands and truly considered these years ago and marched down that path, only to learn that it was merely a revenue source for franchises and their agents knew it. Upon researching, I found that the agents put little, if any, stock into the directories (I asked them personally at many trade shows and all stated the same). I decided not to invest in that model and it was the best decision I ever made. It works to reach some new entrants, but most I found spend so much to get in the business they cannot afford to keep going so start dropping services as fast as they sign up and skate by on life support and credit cards or part time jobs until they get some listings and closings. Really vendors only prosper with that model as a “pay to play” strategy to gain opportunities to pitch the franchise for some enterprise solution (i.e. Market Leader, Wolfnet, etc.). At that point it’s a drop in the bucket for the $30-50K/year you have to invest to win multi-million-dollar contracts, but for most it’s a losing proposition and just means for the franchise to fill some booths at a retreat or trade show. There are no guarantees they will promote you, provide you mailing lists and whitelist your domain from spam filters, or offer any exclusivity of any kind so very one-sided.

I do still see that bandwagon affect, and organizations rushing to make decisions without truly analyzing their organizational goals, and the affects of their decisions only to have to back peddle and clean up the mess later. If you take a consultative approach to making business decisions, the first is to define the business case, your organizational objectives, and the measurements (or KPIs) to determine if your actions met your expectations. The bottom line is to ask yourself “what problem am I trying to solve?” and most importantly “are my customers asking me to solve this problem?”. I admit, I really wanted to make Social Media work for my company and even invested in prototypes and research but then the cold hard question of how that will benefit my customers forced me to abandon it. The harsh reality is that few models prosper from Social Media as sexy as it is. In the real estate industry the agents agree to cooperate at the listing level, but compete on nearly every other level, so if something is great they’re less inclined to “skill up the competition.” If I’d not really asked what problem I was solving and what the true benefit was, I’d have wasted more time and $tens to hundreds of thousands in engineering.

To me, an app store for small MLSs could work to solve the problem that they don’t have the staff or processes to efficiently select, negotiate, or promote 3rd party solutions to their members but if you dig deep, there still must be a selection/vetting process to avoid recommending substandard products to customers. If that is the case, they really only save on promotion, but must look at what you currently invest in promotion. For smaller MLSs, it could be a quarterly lunch and learn where they invite speakers (who typically sponsor lunch anyway), and a logo in a monthly newsletter or on a partner page on their website. The investment they make is so small, there’s little actual gain so again what problem do they solve?

One could argue that non-dues revenue stream is the justification to kick off this process, but many vendors already offer the revenue share model to MLS. In this case the only incentive is control and transparency, but that can be solved contractually (and typically is) by requiring the right for audits. Another rule of thumb is don’t do business with people you don’t trust and that typically solves all fears/concerns over control. If the revenue expectations are truly so great that it makes sense to kick off organization change of this type, I’d say instead invest more time and effort in supporting and promoting the companies they are already working with and get higher return, plus partners willing to work harder for them because there are incentives to do so.

One of the other justifications for this model I’ve seen is central access or SSO integration, which again leads me to believe this might work for smaller markets but not for larger multi-regional markets. Most vendors, like my company, have already integrated with the MLS systems in these larger markets, and must customize their systems to handle the unique rules as result of mergers and combined boards and legacy data designs and processes.

In looking at the pros/cons, especially as a vendor who is testing this model already, I can say for certain that the end-user suffers regardless just by sheer confusion, runaround and frustration, plus more change which is tough as we all know. I would strongly encourage MLS executives to first define a business case before jumping on any bandwagons. Ask yourself whether your customers are demanding that you make signing up for products online easier, and how important that is compared to all their other needs, and ultimately what problem you’re solving and the risk vs. reward.

As a vendor, I personally am on the fence with this model, but always keep an open mind and try anything once (or twice or thrice because I’m a stubborn and optimistic entrepreneur). Ultimately, the only justification as a vendor I can see for this model is to pick up smaller fragmented markets for marginal revenue opportunity, but I’d first design my product and service expectation levels to more of a self-service model to avoid risking my brand and setting proper customer expectations up front. If the product is not designed for self-service, watch out!

As enticing as additional margin revenue opportunity is (with no guarantees of course), I also have little/no interest in diluting the significant ($millions) investment I’ve already made in existing markets, knowing the significant disincentives that lay ahead. The level of customization required to effectively support these costs a lot of money and resources. MLSs should not  recklessly discard the investments they’ve asked companies to make to date, only to ask for even more investment with no incentives (exclusivity, higher margins, more promotion). Instead of incentives from the programs I’ve seen, I actually see the opposite: asking for larger cut into margins, lower prices, no exclusivity, no personal customer relationships, risk brand reputation because of frustrated and confused end-users, no control over cash flows (waiting for commission checks), and no way to solve billing or cancellation issues and instead giving end users the runaround.

My biased (but honest for those that know me) advice is to think long and hard on what problem you truly solve and ultimately whether the end-users are asking you for it. Also think about what incentives you offer the service provider to subscribe to such a model, because ultimately they are whom you rely on to maintain your reputation with your customers. If it’s not truly a win-win relationship, all suffer or your customers are left picking up the scraps. You could spend more time and energy supporting your partners and making them successful instead of constantly chasing that shiny new object for fear of getting left behind. Your stakeholders will not fault you for bolstering customer satisfaction, revenue, and a stable and successful partner relationship.

January 09 2012

Goomzee and ReachFactor Partner to Help Agents Win More Profitable Business, Faster

Goomzee, the leading provider of mobile IDX, search and at-property lead capture solutions servicing over 200,000 agents, has selected real estate agent reputation platform ReachFactor to help agents improve their online reputation and visibility and turn millions of in market prospects into highly profitable customers.

Under the terms of the agreement all of Goomzee’s agents will have free access to ReachFactor’s reputation utility. When an agent opts-in, Goomzee will automatically populate reputation data into ReachFactor and pull an agent’s ratings into its mobile market suite. An agent’s contact and lead forms will be enhanced with the agent’s ratings as well. All agents using ReachFactor will see “Goomzee” as a new publishing channel to which they can automatically sync their bona fide reputation.

“The empirical evidence we’ve gathered for over a year now shows that consumers who find agents after looking at our reputation data form quicker, more loyal bonds with agents than consumers who discovered the same agents via traditional marketing tactics,” says Suresh Srinivasan, ReachFactor’s CEO. “Partnering with a market leader like Goomzee makes sense because we have thousands of overlapping customers and Goomzee’s services are proven to generate high quality leads. We can deliver an instant win to every agent using the services.”

Agents using Goomzee report that 20 to 50 percent of all follow-ups with prospects result in a meeting with 100 percent customer satisfaction and lead accuracy. By embedding an agent’s reputation into the entire consumer experience, agents can subtly influence the consumer’s perception of them even before meeting. The result is that agents will have earned trust and loyalty from the get go, reducing the likelihood that the consumer will shop around.

“Consumers expect star-type ratings on businesses of all types before they make a final decision,” says Mike Sparr, Goomzee’s CEO and Founder. “It was clear to us that integrating ReachFactor’s comprehensive ratings statistics into our public-facing products would help our agents instantly establish loyal bonds with the leads we deliver each day. We wanted to embrace the reputation platform we think will set the industry standard.”

About Goomzee
Goomzee provides mobile technology tools that allow real estate agents to deliver property information to a buyer’s cell phone while they are standing at the property or on the go and helps convert more leads into sales. With the company’s industry-leading product suite, Realty Connect, Text Message and QR Code marketing, and Mobile Property Pages, are automatically generated and reusable. The suite also includes Mobile MLS and Branded Mobile IDX features. Goomzee’s products seamlessly integrate with MLS property listing databases to provide accurate, relevant information for the real estate professional and their clients. To learn more visit us online at http://www.goomzee.com or contact us toll free at 1-855-GOOMZEE.

About ReachFactor
ReachFactor is a patents-pending reputation platform for use by real estate agents and organizations to foster better consumer engagement and more loyal consumer relationships. Prospective home buyers and sellers who browse data collated by ReachFactor can rely on a comprehensive, nationwide database of verified facts about real estate agents so they can quickly make the right selection. ReachFactor is one of AGBeat’s 60 Genius Brands to watch in 2012. To learn more visit reachfactor.com or call toll free 1-877-470-7794.

 

November 09 2011

Connecticut Statewide MLS Agents Go Mobile With Goomzee

Missoula, MT – November 8, 2011 – Goomzee, a leading provider of mobile technology tools for REALTORS®, announced today the availability of their service to agents throughout the state of Connecticut, and data integration with Connecticut Statewide Multiple Listing Service (CTMLS).  As result of this collaboration, Connecticut’s real estate professionals will soon be able to offer potential home buyers access to listing information, pricing and photos on their cell phones to improve the home shopping experience, and offer enhanced customer service.

“We strive to make the best solutions accessible to real estate professionals and support our members,” says Cameron Paine, CEO of Connecticut Statewide Multiple Listing Service.  “I’m excited to help make Goomzee’s mobile technology tools readily accessible for Connecticut REALTORS® and help them meet the needs of today’s on-the-go home buyers.”

Goomzee’s mobile marketing tools include text message call capture, QR code and branded mobile IDX.  The service allows agents to place codes on signs at the property and consumers can text in, or scan a QR code, and instantly receive home information, pricing and even photos on their cell phone.  The agent is notified of buyer interest and can follow up to provide more responsive customer service.  According to the company, over 200,000 real estate professionals in the United States already have a Goomzee account, growing from 100,000 agents this same time last year.

“Mobile technology is critical to meet the needs of today’s consumers, and more professionals are recognizing the importance of our lead capture tools that solve common problems and increase agent’s sales efficiency,” claims Mike Sparr, Goomzee’s CEO and founder.  “CTMLS continues to push the technical envelope to offer solutions that benefit their customers, and we look forward to helping them fulfill that mission.”

Mobile technology continues to grow in importance in the real estate industry.  According to Pew Research Centers, 92% of smart phone subscribers cite text messaging as the most important feature of their mobile device, and Internet browsing has grown to 84%.  Goomzee’s mobile technology suite delivers a complete mobile offering for real estate agents, brokers, franchises and MLSs that reaches the most mobile devices including standard phones, smart phones and tablets.

ABOUT GOOMZEE
Goomzee provides mobile technology tools that allow real estate agents to deliver property information to a buyer’s cell phone while they are standing at the property or on the go and helps convert more leads into sales.  With the company’s industry-leading product suite, Realty Connect, Text Message and QR Code marketing, and Mobile Property Pages, are automatically generated and reusable. The suite also includes Mobile MLS and Branded Mobile IDX features. Goomzee’s products seamlessly integrate with MLS property listing databases to provide accurate, relevant information for the real estate professional and their clients.  To learn more, visit us online at http://www.goomzee.com or contact us toll free at 1-855-GOOMZEE.

ABOUT CTMLS
Founded in 2006 by the Connecticut Association of REALTORS, Inc., the Connecticut Statewide Multiple Listing Service provides the highest quality, most comprehensive MLS information to REALTOR® members in every town and every county in Connecticut.  To learn more about Connecticut Statewide Multiple Listing Service please visit us online at http://ctmls.ctreal.com.

October 05 2011

Mile High Mobile; Over 15,000 Denver REALTORS Go Mobile With Goomzee

Missoula, MT – October 4, 2011 - Goomzee, the leading mobile technology solution provider for real estate professionals nationwide, announced today their agreement with Metrolist, Colorado’s largest multiple listing service (MLS), to provide mobile property search and at-property lead capture tools to Colorado REALTORS®.  As part of the agreement, Goomzee will offer Metrolist subscribers its Mobile MLS technology, in addition to its industry-leading text message and QR code marketing suite, Realty Connect®.  Denver area home buyers will soon be able to access listing information, pricing and photos on their mobile phones while efficiently connecting with area real estate professionals.

Goomzee’s mobile marketing tools include text message call capture, QR code and branded mobile IDX.  The service allows agents to place codes on signs at the property and consumers can text in, or scan a QR code, and instantly receive home information, pricing and even photos on their cell phone.  The agent is notified of buyer interest and can follow up to provide more responsive customer service.  According to the company, over 200,000 real estate professionals in the United States already have a Goomzee account, growing from 100,000 agents this same time last year.

“We’re excited to offer Goomzee’s mobile technology in the new Metrolist Marketplace, an online one-stop-shop coming soon,” says Patricia Bybee, President and CEO.  “Mobile technology is a must-have to reach today’s tech-savvy homebuyers and we look forward to making this available.”

“I’m excited to work with Metrolist and their 16,000 real estate professionals in the Denver area,” states Mike Sparr, Goomzee’s CEO and founder.  “As more MLS’s help their agents go mobile, it’s exciting they continue to select Goomzee as their preferred mobile technology partner.  We now service many of the largest MLS markets in America, and as a Montana-based company, this partnership is even more exciting since Metrolist is one of the largest solution providers in the Rockies.”

Mobile technology continues to grow in importance in the real estate industry.  According to Pew Research Centers, 92% of smart phone subscribers cite text messaging as the most important feature of their mobile device, and Internet browsing has grown to 84%.  Goomzee’s mobile technology suite delivers a complete mobile offering for real estate agents, brokers, franchises and MLSs that reaches the most mobile devices including standard phones, smart phones and tablets.

ABOUT GOOMZEE
Goomzee provides mobile technology tools that allow real estate agents to deliver property information to a buyer’s cell phone while they are standing at the property or on the go and helps convert more leads into sales.  With the company’s industry-leading product suite, Realty Connect, Text Message and QR Code marketing, and Mobile Property Pages, are automatically generated and reusable. The suite also includes Mobile MLS and Branded Mobile IDX features. Goomzee’s products seamlessly integrate with MLS property listing databases to provide accurate, relevant information for the real estate professional and their clients.  To learn more, visit us online at http://www.goomzee.com or contact us toll free at 1-855-GOOMZEE.

ABOUT METROLIST
Metrolist is the largest MLS in the state of Colorado, supporting the largest network of REALTORS® with the most comprehensive database of real property listings. Realtor owned since 1984, Metrolist provides leading technology solutions to real estate agents and brokers to better serve buyers and sellers. More information about Metrolist is available at www.metrolist.com.

September 14 2011

WestUSA Realty Provides Goomzee Mobile Tools To Over 1,000 Arizona Agents

September 12, 2011 – Phoenix, AZ – WestUSA Realty announced today they have selected Goomzee as their mobile technology solution provider company wide.  WestUSA listings will soon display text message and QR codes on property signs allowing consumers to receive property information, pricing and photos instantly while agents connect with buyers more efficiently.

“At WestUSA we pride ourselves on providing relevant technology tools to agents to streamline their business and customer interaction.  Mobile technology is a natural progression as more home buyers expect access to information anytime, anywhere and we felt it was important to provide Goomzee’s mobile marketing tools to our agents,” explains Dan McCarthy, Vice President for WestUSA.  “Quite simply, Goomzee gets it, and that is why we chose their solution for our agents and look forward to working with them to roll the service out.”

Goomzee’s mobile marketing tools include text message call capture, QR code and branded mobile IDX.  The service allows agents to place codes on signs at the property and consumers can text in, or scan a QR code, and instantly receive home information, pricing and even photos on their cell phone.  The agent is notified of buyer interest and can follow up to provide more responsive customer service.  According to the company, over 200,000 real estate professionals in the United States already have a Goomzee account, growing from 100,000 agents this same time last year.

“I’m thrilled that WestUSA selected Goomzee as their mobile solution provider and they recognized the true value in services we provide,” says Goomzee CEO and Founder, Mike Sparr.  “Goomzee’s innovative approach to mobile marketing allows it to deliver some of the highest lead conversion rates in the industry.  Agents are reporting from 20 to 50 percent of all follow ups result in a meeting with 100 percent customer satisfaction and lead accuracy, solving the common fake contact issues from Internet lead solutions.  More companies and brokerages are taking advantage of our mobile tools and broker solutions and I look forward to working with WestUSA.”

WestUSA Realty recently pioneered another new concept in the industry, the Walk-in brokerages popping up inside select Walmart stores.  They have a relationship with Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and have already opened 10 retail locations throughout Arizona and others in bordering states such as Colorado and Utah. Goomzee’s mobile technology tools will be provided for all WestUSA agents in their traditional brokerages and walk-in locations.

ABOUT GOOMZEE
Goomzee provides mobile technology tools that allow real estate agents to deliver property information to a buyer’s cell phone while they are standing at the property or on the go and helps convert more leads into sales.  With the company’s industry-leading product suite, Realty Connect, Text Message and QR Code marketing, and Mobile Property Pages, are automatically generated and reusable. The suite also includes Mobile MLS and Branded Mobile IDX features. Goomzee’s products seamlessly integrate with MLS property listing databases to provide accurate, relevant information for the real estate professional and their clients.  To learn more, visit us online at http://www.goomzee.com or contact us toll free at 1-855-GOOMZEE.

ABOUT WESTUSA REALTY
West USA Realty Inc. first opened in 1986 in Phoenix, Arizona and operates under the parent company of WW Franchise LLC.  The company has five valley-wide metropolitan Maricopa County, Arizona offices and several franchises within and outside of Arizona.  West USA Realty offices are located currently in the State of Arizona, Mexico and California.  To learn more, visit us online at http://www.westusa.com or contact us toll free at 1-800-WESTUSA.

July 25 2011

QR Technology Approaching Ubiquity in U.S.

In June we discussed Making Room in Your Ecosystem for QR Codes. At that time the good folks at ScanLife had released a report analyzing QR code implementation and interaction rates throughout 2010.  In a nutshell, the findings illustrated how QR technology in the U.S. is on the rise but still not quite to the state of omnipresence.

As we round the corner on the second half of 2011, let’s go to ScanLife’s latest report for a radically different snapshot of QR code adoption.

 

In mid-2010 ScanLife was only recording 10 QR code scans per minute.  As of this report, they are currently logging one scan per second. As you can see from the graph above, QR code adoption started slow but has grown exponentially since July 2010.  As U.S. handset companies begin to incorporate QR technology into their base models, expect the ‘per second scan rate’ to only increase.

Another golden nugget gleaned from the report is the increased usage among mainstream Americans, detailed in the image above.  As expected the 25 – 34 year old age group leads the charge, followed closely by 35 – 44 year olds.  The first-time homebuyer bracket (25 -34 years of age) has traditionally preferred to interact on mobile devices, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see that the 35 – 44 year old age group is:

1.) so close to the younger age group in number of scans, and

2.) scanning at a higher percentage/rate than the younger age group.  At the current rate this will result in a surplus of tech-savvy homebuyers spread across more age groups than ever before.

—-

The report also contains some interesting stats regarding mobile OS market share, scan rates per city and country, and an interesting comparison between 1D and 2D barcode scanning.  Click here for ScanLife’s Q2 2011 Trend Report.

 

-  Austin Smith, Goomzee Community Manager

 

July 19 2011

Accenture Executive Joins Goomzee Management Team

July 19, 2011 – Missoula, MT – Goomzee Corporation, a leading mobile technology startup servicing real estate professionals in the U.S., announced today that former Accenture executive, Cereta Wills-Brown, has joined Goomzee’s management team as a senior project manager. Mrs. Wills-Brown will be leading Goomzee’s software engineering team, and professional services deployments and integration projects as the company continues to grow its U.S. market footprint. She will be based out of Goomzee’s Missoula, Montana office.

“It’s exciting to be involved at this stage of the company. The tremendous positive feedback we’ve already received from our MLS partners on rollout execution and responsiveness of our engineering team energizes us to achieve more,” stated Mrs. Wills-Brown.

Mike Sparr, Goomzee’s CEO and Founder, added “Cereta has over a decade of experience managing and leading teams for some of the world’s largest companies. We’re thrilled to bolster our team with someone of her expertise.”

Goomzee currently supports over 185,000 REALTORs with it’s mobile technology products that include mobile MLS search, branded mobile IDX websites, text message marketing, and lead-generating QR code marketing tools. Many of America’s largest REALTOR associations and multiple listing services have chosen Goomzee as their mobile solution partner to provide their subscribers with mobile technology solutions. By adding Cereta Wills-Brown to the Goomzee team, the company will continue to deliver it’s flawless market rollout track record and further increase it’s responsiveness to ever-changing mobile and web technology.

About Goomzee
Goomzee provides mobile technology tools that allow real estate agents to deliver property information to a buyer’s cell phone while they are standing at the property or on the go and helps convert more leads into sales. With the company’s industry-leading product suite, Realty Connect, Text Message and QR Code marketing, and Mobile Property Pages, are automatically generated and reusable. The suite also includes Mobile MLS and Branded Mobile IDX features. Goomzee’s products seamlessly integrate with MLS property listing databases to provide accurate, relevant information for the real estate professional and their clients. To learn more, visit us online at http://www.goomzee.com or contact us toll free at (877) 324-1796.

June 29 2011

Have No Fear, The Mobile Tsunami Is Here!

What an exciting world we live in today!  Every direction you turn, business professionals and consumers alike are cutting landlines and trading their desktop computers for tablets and smartphones.  Even my grandfather, a 75-year-old Italian immigrant and Korean War veteran, is now using his iPhone to send me pictures of his rose garden.  I never thought the day would come…

But it has, and not just for me but for everyone!  The “mobile shift” that we discussed in hushed tones last year, possibly in fear of it turning tail and crossing the Atlantic from whence it came, is now an undeniable paradigm switch that Nielsen has labeled a “Mobile Tsunami”.

Below are some of the latest mobile statistics that reflect just how drastically cell phones have permeated today’s America.  Since outrunning a tsunami is borderline impossible, just sit back and let the waves of progress wash over you…

 

-  USA cell phone penetration currently at 96%

  • Up from 13% penetration in 1995

-  37% of all mobile subscribers have smartphones

-  40% of smartphone users have downloaded a QR code reader

-  49% of smartphone users who have seen a QR code have scanned it

-  Average data usage is up almost 200% across the nation

  • 230MB/month in 1st Quarter of 2010, 435MB/month in 1st Quarter of 2011

-  Average data usage per user has increased 89% in last 12 months

  • 582MB/month average for Android users, 492MB/month average for iPhone users

-  Cost per unit of data had dropped 46% despite increased consumption

  • Dropped from 14 cents per unit of data to 8 cents

 

Mobile statistic aggregators are also reporting fluctuations in more areas of the mobile industry than just data usage:

 

-  Foursquare now has as many users as Bolivia has citizens (10 Million)

-  12% of U.S. internet population (ages 8-64) own a tablet

-  35% of new tablet owners report using their PC significantly less, or not at all

-  32% of laptop owners reported the same

-  96% of small business owners report that they would not be able to remain relevant without using mobile technologies

 

 

Feeling refreshed yet?!

 

(Data points above were collected from independent aggregators, not affiliated in any way with Goomzee.  For citations or other bibliography-related inquiries, please email:  asmith (at) goomzee (dot) com.)

 

- Austin Smith, Goomzee Community Manager

 

June 17 2011

Three Key Elements of Marketing

This evening I attended a business function and one of the guest speakers was a renowned author, consultant and professor specializing in high-tech marketing named Jakki Mohr. She had 15 minutes to educate the audience on marketing, arguably a topic that can rarely be addressed in hours let alone 15 minutes. I was surprised she was able to really break down marketing into three key elements, all of which are required to achieve business success, in her “15 minutes of fame.”

Mohr noted that most businesspeople think of marketing only in the advertising sense, or the desired outcome, but often neglect the foundation that begins well before the latter stages. As an entrepreneur many times over, I can attest to the importance of them firsthand and will try to share the breakdown below.

1. Define And Know Your Customer
Although this is known by most, Jakki went so far as to challenge businesses to truly isolate who it is they are marketing to, and ignore the others despite temptation. She noted a common mistake businesses make is the fear to leave money on the table and desire to serve and sell to everyone – a fatal mistake in her words. This rings true and many businesses would be better served identifying their best customer, then becoming experts in identifying and solving those people’s problems and establishing thought leadership, relationships, and brand.

2. Identify Your Value Proposition
The only way someone is going to purchase your product or service is if it delivers value to them, and you can articulate what that value is. Mohr noted that most the entrepreneurs in the room were selling to other businesses and there are only two value propositions they will make a purchase decision on, saving money or making more money. If you cannot clearly describe and ideally prove how you are doing one or the other, or both, then you are wasting your time and money in advertising. Mohr’s advice to businesses was before you spend a dime on advertising, make sure you have #1 and #2 clearly defined.

3. Execution
Execution is quite simply delivering on the promises of #1 and #2. If you establish yourself as the leader in customer service, but you partner with companies that provide poor service, you are not delivering on the promises you’re brand messaging are stating. As such, this can diminish your brand and credibility and lead to wasted investment and lost business.

Jakki went on to note that after these first three key elements of marketing are executed, the practice of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing becomes very important. You need to determine what factors drive your business and measure whether your marketing efforts meet your objectives. She joked that some of her students told her they decided to go into marketing because they were bad with numbers and she just shook her head – the numbers are very important so make sure you have a plan, goals, and way to measure how you are performing and spending your hard-earned money.

The last point of the evening was that most businesses should plan to invest in marketing, and it should be a relative percentage of their budget to what they spend in building their product or service. There are no exact ratios and the best advice is to research other companies and find industry averages with businesses similar to yours to determine if you’re investing the proper amount.

June 13 2011

Exhibit A

We recently stumbled across a QR code success story that is a perfect example of effective, consumer-oriented marketing.

Based out of Birmingham, Alabama, a broker named Charita Cadenhead was struggling with a way to entice open house attendees to sign the log-in sheet.  So, she created and began distributing double-sided sign-in cards.  Each card had places for contact info on the front and instructions for downloading a “QR reader app” on the back.

After filling out the card and returning it to Charita, each attendee received a “One Day Sale” QR code coupon to scan.  And for the first time in Charita’s career, everyone who attended her open house signed in without hesitation!

This is a great example of QR code usage in real estate on several fronts:

1. Solves a Problem – Having troubles getting attendees to log their contact info at open houses, Charita let technology step in.  By implementing her campaign with a fantastic call to action, she was able to overcome the ‘privacy issues’ hurdle and connect with her market’s tech savvy homebuyers.  Like any good carpenter, Charita let the tool do the work for her to solve a problem.

2. Call-To-Action – Too often, QR codes will just lead to contact info or property info that was already available on the media it was just scanned from.  In this case, Charita used a coupon giveaway to create value; a special, otherwise inaccessible offer available only to those who took the time to sign the cards.

3. Clear Instructions – Unfortunately, a limitation we are currently facing in QR code adoption is the lack of inherently supportive mobile handsets.  Many phones in Asia have been hard-coded to read and scan QR codes.  In America, the handsets are not quite to that point yet; QR interaction still requires the download of a “QR reader app”.  Aware of this issue, Charita printed clear, easy-to-follow instructions on the back of each sign-in card.

4. Mobile Optimized Landing Page – Charita also paid attention to the post-scan consumer experience by creating a “special Postlets page”.  The QR code did not lead to her existing agent website or property search, but to a mobile-ready site that was created specifically for her open house marketing campaign.

Taking the time to construct your QR campaign correctly will open the door to interaction with homebuyers through the mobile medium they prefer.  And as you can see, proper implementation of QR code technology can also help overcome some of the adoption hurdles we currently face here in the U.S.

June 03 2011

Handling Daylight Savings Time in Java

After the recent Daylight Savings Time switch here in the US, we noticed our timestamps on lead alerts were off in some markets by an hour.  We had been using Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to set user’s time zone to make sure alerts were relevant for each market, and learned that this is not sufficient to handle the DST switches.  Fortunately, the Java TimeZone library supports time zones in a variety of formats and we learned by using the “America/Denver” format instead of “GMT-7″ it accounts for Daylight Savings Time.

To test our theory and take advantage of a chance to “geek out”, something my CEO duties prevent more and more as our company grows, I built a simple Java Server Page (JSP) illustrating the alternate way of storing time zones.  See below for a useful code snippet.

<%@ page import=”java.text.*, java.util.*, java.sql.*” %>

<%
String userTzPref = “America/Denver”;
String inquiryTimestamp = “2011-06-02 19:21:53″;

// assemble message
SimpleDateFormat sdf = new SimpleDateFormat(“MM/dd/yyyy hh:mm a”);
sdf.setTimeZone(TimeZone.getTimeZone(userTzPref));
String time = sdf.format(Timestamp.valueOf(inquiryTimestamp));
%>

<html><head><title>Timestamp Test</title></head>
<body>
<h1><%= time %></h1>
<h2><%= userTzPref %>  (time zone)</h2>
<h2><%= inquiryTimestamp %>  (inquiry timestamp in DB)</h2>
<body>
</html>

You can test the time zone changes by editing the userTzPref to “America/Los_Angeles” or “America/Chicago” or “America/New_York” or even “America/Phoenix” and confirm your timestamps display the proper time for the user’s locale.  I hope this is useful in case you too face issues with timestamps and Daylight Savings Time.  Happy coding!

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl