Sep. 24, 2010 - The Elephant Climbs up on the Table
Last week was an adventure—a new and fun experience. I was asked by the North Carolina AEs to be a featured speaker at a ‘Fireside Chat’: the AEs submitted questions and I (retired and “experienced”) responded with shoot-from-the-hip answers.
I hope the AEs found it useful—it was certainly helpful to me as a review of past issues and still-meaningful concerns in association management. “What was the most successful thing I ever did? What was my worst experience? What should I do about an absentee president? How to I convince the Directors to spend down some of the reserves instead of making drastic cuts?” Tough questions.
One particular question has been on my mind a lot since I returned home. It was, “How do I convince our Board of Directors that our association should support the MLS Domains initiative?” Now most of you know that I’ve been supportive of, and involved in, the ‘Dot MLS’ project from the outset. I believe in it because I think organized real estate has an unprecedented opportunity to establish and solidify an important branding position in the next two years. We’re lucky to have this chance to rectify our past oversights with the term ‘MLS’, and we can’t afford to let it slip through our fingers again.
But it is a hard sell to members. First, it presupposes a shared belief in the importance of the internet as a marketing tool—and there are still too many real estate practitioners who are convinced that the internet is a fad, a passing fancy, and that the salesperson will remain useful only if the consumer is kept in the dark and important information is held hostage. Secondly, many brokers are not very knowledgeable about the sophisticated world of internet marketing: what is search engine optimization? How do consumers behave on the internet? What attracts them to a web site? How does the broker monitor her website and leverage the visit of the consumer?
Many brokers feel that if they’ve thrown up a company website and maybe included an IDX feed, they’ve ‘marketed’ their company. It’s the same attitude that prevailed about print advertising: if I put a big display ad in the newspaper, I’ve advertised your listing—no matter that a large portion of potential buyers are from out of town and never see the publication, or simply are reluctant to call a real estate office to get more information.
Tracking results from a broker’s investment of advertising dollars often was, at best, primitive. The salesperson On the Floor might—or might not—check the box that asks if the caller referred to a newspaper or magazine ad. With modern technology, brokers can now know where a site visitor comes from, how long he stays on the site, what he does while there, and where he goes when he leaves. Google, and now Facebook, are adding important dimensions to consumer searching as well: search results can be filtered by a consumer’s known personal preferences, geographical location, and income profile. These increasingly sophisticated tools are dramatically changing real estate marketing—and at the same time, are requiring brokers to become more knowledgeable about how to maximize their advertising investments.
The sad state of affairs is, however, that brokers and MLSs are acting like marketing FSBOs and public relations do-it-yourselfers. Not without reason, of course: there’s just too much going on in the industry and in the national economy to allow much time for the knowledge those modern marketing tools are demanding. Real estate company owners and managers simply don’t have the time and resources to cope with the technology evolution in internet marketing.
What does that mean for us as real estate trade associations? Well, for one thing, it means that we have a new opportunity to service our members by providing education about internet marketing, search engine optimization, web page design, and consumer behavior. Secondly, it means that we can provide some important community resources which enable our members to leverage their advertising dollars. The MLS domain project is one of those, as is a resource like Realtor.com. Learning to use web site statistical tools, tracking consumer preferences, and keeping members appraised of the impact of new marketing developments such as Open Graph is yet another.
Finally, one of the real issues we have as real estate trade associations is the understanding that our very governance structure gets in our way. Our Board of Directors and governing committees are usually comprised of members—who are, by definition, real estate practitioners. They are internet marketing FSBOs, technology hobbyists (if we’re lucky), and short-term volunteers. That’s not to say that they aren’t bright, well-intentioned people who want to do the best for the association and the industry: they are. But it is true that they are first of all real estate specialists being asked to make business decisions in an increasingly specialized and complicated technological environment.
Even more importantly, how do we as association managers and MLS directors, keep our own knowledge level current and useful to our organizational decisions? How do we learn enough to know how to help our members?
I don’t have an answer to the question you asked, Brenda. But I’m thinking. I’m thinking.
Anybody else got an idea?
Friday, September 24, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
For an information junkie like me, White Papers are the greatest thing since encyclopedias. Usually, they are the authoritative report or guide that often addresses issues and how to solve them—and they may be used in marketing to explain the uses and benefits of a specific product or solution, or to provoke deeper thought and analysis of trends and behavior patterns.
One of the companies whose white papers I’ve appreciated (and cited in previous articles) is the WAV Group, which offers white papers on real estate technology trends. Certainly one of the WAV’s best white papers productions was the analysis of localism (geo-domain targeting trends). Now another white paper from WAV: “The Property Search Delta”. It’s one that merits a close read by everybody—brokers, sales associates, and their information providers (including MLSs).
Basically, the paper posits an abundance of real estate information which is zipping through cyberspace and observes that “There are huge differences…between the type and quality of information found on different websites”, whether they are third party data providers, franchise sites, broker and/or agent sites, and MLS consumer facing aggregations. The important conclusion is that the most important information on any real estate website is the listing data, and using a full IDX data feed “have the best listing data anywhere.”
So why do consumers go to third party sites, when the data is frequently second rate? Because, WAV replies, “consumers don’t know…and the real estate industry doesn’t tell them.” (Sounds like a real reason for the dotMLS domain movement to exist, doesn’t it?)
In addition, consumers are seduced by the sizzle of the auxiliary information—Zestimates, tax data, neighborhood maps, and other fun information that they want to know. There’s entertainment and enjoyment in property shopping from many of the 3rd party sites—something that few brokerages and MLS don’t really understand or have the resources to successfully develop.
For many brokers and MLS websites, just having a consumer facing site is an adequate gesture to the online real estate consumer. Not so! suggests this white paper from WAV. Consider finding a website vendor which can marry complete and accurate data with the sizzle. Limit the 3rd party data feed to ‘teaser’ information. Refine your understanding of consumer behavior. Emphasize the source of information and market the quality of your brand. Understand that your competition for the consumer’s attention is the 3rd party sites (and the ease of use of non-real estate sites as well—are you as customer friendly as Amazon or eBay?)
Download this free whitepaper. Whether you’re a broker or an MLS administrator, this information is good stuff.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Sep. 18, 2010 - One of the Largest Marketing Opportunities in History
During its 32nd International Public Meeting in Paris in 2008, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) started a new process of implementing a policy to take a "significant step forward on the introduction of new generic top-level domains." Up until this point in time, the internet world knew only the familiar .com, .net, .org and 18 other suffixes — the official "generic top-level domains" (TLDs) administered by ICANN.
But at the Paris meeting, it was clear to ICANN officials that the TLD field was becoming increasingly confusing and disastrously overpopulated. Of 177 million domain names registered through 2008, more than half, 90.4 million, ended in .com or .net. As a result, ICANN—the entity which oversees the web’s address system-- approved a landmark change in policy which will open up the internet geography to an endless stream of new domain names.
"Whatever is open to the imagination can be applied for," says Paul Levins, ICANN's vice president of corporate affairs. "It could translate into one of the largest marketing and branding opportunities in history."
USA Today reported that “A sea change may be coming to cyberspace with Web addresses ending in anything from .a to .z.” And the result may not be all good: “That (action) has businesses increasingly worried they will have to spend millions to guard their brand names”, USA Today observes. Many brands already invest in buying up internet names just so competitors can’t infringe on their market areas, and a surge of new top level domains will certainly increase the opportunity for scammers to mislead consumers and attack existing brand names.
On the other hand, ICANN’s Levins says the action will “translate into one of the largest marketing and branding opportunities in history."
So why am I writing about this? Because in my thirty years as a Realtor Association Exec and MLS manager, a large part of my job was protecting the Realtor® brand. “Always put a comma between the company name and the word ‘REALTOR®’, I would admonish. “Always capitalize the ‘R’,” I’d snarl at the local newspaper. And I always envied the Canadians for registering ‘MLS’ as a trademark: they never had to worry about the FSBO MLS website.
The ICANN action, which will occur in 2011, gives organized real estate in the US a second chance to preserve its brand integrity. It is an opportunity to capture the term ‘MLS’ and control its usage on the internet by forming the MLS Domains Association and winning the rights to oversee the usage of the term “MLS”.
Of course it’s a costly proposition for the initial application and for the ongoing administration of the program. The currently proposed ICANN application fee is $185,000 to acquire the domain, plus an annual "continuance" fee of $25,000 and ICANN will also require operational legal structure, organizational rules and bylaws, and a sustainable enforcement operation. But some of the most influential MLS organizations in the US think it can be done, and they’ve contributed money and other resources to do just that. The MLS Domains Association now represents over a half million MLS subscribers. It has constructed bylaws and rules for use, and employed specialized legal counsel to assist in refining its procedures. It has raised the funds to complete the organizational non-profit incorporation and the ICANN application, and is now accepting general memberships and domain name reservations.
During the past couple of years, I’ve been visiting a lot of associations throughout the country, and Realtors® consistently identify ‘protecting and promoting professionalism’ as a top concern. In my mind, Paul Levins is absolutely right on when he says that the ICANN 2011 actions will be the largest marketing opportunity in history. How can we not afford to preserve the integrity of the one service which members and consumers recognize as synonymous with professionalism—the MLS?
I commend the Domains Association for the organizing this foresighted grass roots effort. For more detailed information, and to see which MLSs have joined the MLS Domains Association, visit the www.mlsdomains.org website.
|• 0 Comments • Post A Comment! • Permanent Link |
View more entries tagged with: Icann, Mls Domains Association, Marketing, Realtor, Real Estate, Mls
Why SEO? A primer for association and non-profit web sites
This is a guest post by Keith Holloway. Keith is the founding partner of BetterMail.ca, an engagement campaign software company that operates a consulting division completely focused on search marketing and Wild Apricot is a (happy!) client of BetterMail.ca. He can be reached at email@example.com or followed on twitter.com/TorontoSEO.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is something we've all heard about, but what is it, really, and why should any association or non-profit manager care about it?
The fact is, if you're interested in bringing new members into your organization, or creating more value for your existing members, SEO is arguably the one marketing technique you simply can't afford to ignore. And, therein, lies the crux of the matter: SEO has to be viewed as an indispensible marketing tool, not some arcane web development process best left to the techies to worry about.
So, how does SEO work?
First, it's important to understand what SEO does. At it's most basic level, SEO is a systematic approach you can employ to ensure your organization earns the highest ranking possible for the specific search queries you're interested in out of the hundreds of millions conducted every day by people all over the Web.
Increasing the visibility of your web site through popular search engines captures prospective visitors at the peak moment of their interest... obviously not a bad thing when you're hunting for new members or donors. However, the order of the search results is compiled using each search engine's own algorithms to distinguish which ones are more relevant than any other.
Search engines look for strong signals of both trust and relevance in order to list your site for a particular phrase. Such is the value that the search engine provides to its customers. So, your site has to be trustworthy (links from trustworthy sites, no keyword spamming, no broken links, no pop-ups, etc.) and it has to be directly relevant to the search.
Breaking it down, successful search engine optimization includes three main components:
On page optimization: The keywords that generate the most qualified traffic are the ones you want to spread most widely throughout your web site. For example in the case of an association, these terms would most likely relate to the profile of your members. For example, if you run an association of real estate lawyers in Ontario, a good search term would be ‘real estate lawyers in Ontario' and your web site should be optimized accordingly.
There are many different places these keywords should go, including:
- HTML title tags - Displayed at the top of the browser bar, they summarize what the page is about. They also let visitors know they're in the right place. Each page on your site should have a unique title tag, and the keyword you want to rank for should be placed closer to the front of the title.
- H1 & H3 tags - Used as headlines and sub headlines for web pages, it's important to put keywords in these tags. Search engines pay special attention to them, so make sure you use headlines, and make sure to use your keywords in your headlines.
- Embedded URLs - When using hyperlinks in your content, it's important to make sure the anchor text is relevant to the page being linked to. Avoid telling users to click here. The word "here" will mean nothing to a search engine and your optimization efforts will be wasted. Instead, tell users to visit your Ontario real estate lawyers directory
- Content (keyword density/prominence) - It's important to place relevant keywords within the body of the written content on your page, so when prospective customers search for terms, they get what they're searching for. A good rule of thumb is to use your keyword at least twice on the page, and one of those times should be in the first paragraph.
- Meta Descriptions - These are used by many search engines, including Google, as the description of your site in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) they generate. Meta descriptions should highlight searched keywords, give your page a suitable description, specify some benefits and include a call to action. Essentially, the description should be looked at as an ad for your site. In other words, think of it as a way to convince searchers to click your ad ahead of all others on the page.
Site Structure: This internal linking of your web site includes the site map, page file names, directory structure, navigation links, links in the content, anchor text of the links, etc. Although more of a technical nature, site structure is of critical importance because it lets the search engines know what the site is about. It also provides information to the search engine about the relative importance and hierarchy of the information on the page. You should place your most important pages in your navigation so that they are linked from every page.
- Navigational links - Optimizing hypertext links and anchor text brings keywords that users are specifically searching for into prominence. It's worth putting extra effort into how you can get your keywords into the navigation to provide value for visitors and search engines because the navigational links are some of the most important links on your site. For example, why have a navigation that says "Home, about us, directory, etc" when it could say "OREL Association Home, Real Estate Law in Ontario Directory of Ontario Real Estate Lawyers, etc." Obviously you'll want to avoid being repetitive. However, being more descriptive and using your keywords is better for users and is much more useful for search engines.
External Links: These are links from other pages and sites pointing back to yours. These are arguably the most important component of SEO because external links are difficult to manipulate and, therefore, considered by most search engines as the best measure of a site's true trust and relevance.
For example, if the Globe & Mail newspaper wrote an online article about your association being a good source of information about real estate law and provided a link back to your site, it would provide the signal that your site is trustworthy (The Globe & Mail wouldn't link to just anybody) and that it is relevant to the term "real estate law".
One inherent advantage most associations and non-profits have in this regard is that they can enlist their members and supporters to provide links back to the organization web site. For example, some organizations create branded ‘badges' or icons and encourage their members to place them on their web site with a direct link back to the association member directory. For example, the icon might say "Proud member of OntRealEstateLawyers.com".
Your site must also have a comparable number or trust level of links to compete for search engine ranking on a particular phase. Link development is critical in this regard.
All in all, search engine optimization is an extremely valuable marketing device for any organization with an online presence. The key to making it work effectively is to choose your keywords carefully, and blend it in with a strategically sound content development plan that addresses the information needs of your organization's primary audience... your members and supporters.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I’m honored to be asked to give the closing remarks at the Council of MLS conference in Chicago this year at the end of September/early October. Since I’m supposed to be wrapping up the discussions of those few days, I can’t actually prepare anything ahead of time. But I can sort of cheat by putting out to the industry some of the bigger issues/questions I’ve been thinking about, in the hopes that the speakers, panelists, and participants at CMLS this year might talk about some of these things.
These Seven Big Questions represent some of the really fundamental challenges facing the MLS industry as a whole. I do not (yet) pretend to have all the answers, or even any answer (at least, not in public, heh) but I did want to start posing them to my readers. For those attending CMLS, please give some consideration to thinking about these questions.
Question 1: Geography and the MLS
The recent DotMLS initiative got me thinking about how tied the MLS is to a particular geography. Some 40 MLS’s have joined, and are claiming URL’s like Atlanta.mls and Charlotte.mls. Whether the DotMLS thing is a good idea or not, the initiative raises a question as to just how tied to a geography a MLS is. For the smaller MLS’s that only service a particular county or a small market area, presumably this means that we’ll be seeing things like EssexCounty.MLS and TownofBridgeport.MLS.
So the question is: Is geography destiny for a MLS?
Followup: If the answer is yes, given that geography is destiny for a MLS, what does that imply for small or medium MLS’s with small footprints? What does that imply for very large MLS’s such as MRIS, MRED, CRMLS, and others?
If the answer is no, why then are the services of a MLS so geographically constrained? Habit? Custom? Local regulation?
Question 2: Dealing with Loss in Membership & Revenues
The trend for the past few years for almost all MLS’s has been drops in membership numbers – and accordingly, dues revenues. Many MLS’s have spent and grown while the going was good, and now face extremely challenging times. The peculiar feature of the MLS is that it is an organic local monopoly that enjoys positive network effects: every real estate agent has to join. The flipside of that is, the MLS simply does not control how many customers it has within its footprint (see above, re: geography). People either join the profession and therefore the MLS, or they leave it and therefore the MLS. It isn’t clear why some MLS’s even have a Marketing Department — whether you have the greatest marketing department in the world or the worst, you’ll get the same number of subscribers influenced entirely by larger market considerations.
And those larger market considerations don’t look good, and don’t look like they’re getting any better. Consider:
- Many economists are forecasting a double-dip recession, especially in housing, as the foreclosure problem was merely kicked down the road, and numerous participants in programs like HAMP and the “extend-and-pretend” are now defaulting.
- Government policy is now on-record as seeking to back away from homeownership towards rentals and “sustainable homeownership”. No one yet knows what this means, but it certainly doesn’t look like we’ll be back to the heyday of the 00′s.
- Technology keeps accelerating, and keeps leaving MLS systems behind. There are still technology systems that require Internet Explorer; meanwhile, the world is moving onto the iPad, Android devices, and HTML5.
Question is: Which of the following strategies will the MLS embrace most successfully?
- Do we think a wave of consolidation is coming? If so, what does that consolidation look like? How many MLS’s will remain standing in 2015?
- Can MLS’s cost-cut their way to sustainability? If so, what do they cut?
- Can MLS’s increase dues to achieve sustainability? If so, how much can the individual member tolerate?
Those are pretty much the only ways a MLS can impact its top and bottomlines: take over other areas, cut costs, or raise prices. Which of the three will prove most successful?
Question 3: Ancillary vs. Core Revenues
A key concern, and a rather interesting trend, over the past few years for the MLS has been “ancillary” revenues. These are value-added services or products for which the MLS either charges extra fees, or gets a cut of revenues from the vendor. The biggest hoopla, of course, has been the RPR which proposed to monetize the MLS’s data, but the larger picture for years has been MLS’s trying to increase their non-core revenues.
Thing is, they’re doing this not from a position of strength where their core revenues are strong and growing, and throwing off profits that can be reinvested, but from a position of weakness where their core revenues are under assault (see above, loss) and they are prohibited by either market conditions or by governance (Boards, Associations, etc.) from raising prices or acquiring new markets.
So they turn to ancillary revenue sources. The issue is, and we’ve been seeing this play out here and there, as the MLS expands its operations into other value-added areas of the real estate practice, they come into conflict with brokerages and franchises.
Question is: What is the proper interplay between the MLS, the brokerage, and national companies (both franchises and others, such as Zillow/Trulia/Realtor.com)?
All three offer tools and services to the individual agent. Who should do what? Assuming for the moment that competition for the individual realtor dollar is a good thing, how much should a MLS compete with its member brokerages?
Question 4: Governance
Many if not most MLS’s are organized as nonprofits, with an eye towards keeping costs as low as possible for member REALTORS instead of generating a return. The governance structure of the MLS reflects this understanding, with brokers, agents, and Association of REALTORS executives on the Board of each MLS.
Question is: Is this structure, which has served the industry and the MLS so well for decades, still the best one given the challenges that we face?
How much does the consensus-oriented governance structure of a MLS help or hinder progress? Why don’t more MLS’s have outside board members – e.g., executives at data/technology companies like Google or Cisco, or academics, etc.? Would such outside board members help or hurt the MLS?
Question 5: Is the MLS a business?
Closely related to Question 4 above, is the MLS a business? Should it be?
Nonprofit status only speaks to whether the shareholders can take dividends from their ownership stakes. Being a nonprofit means that the organization does not have profit as a primary motive. But even nonprofits have to pay their bills.
Some 70% of MLS’s in the United States are owned by the local Association of REALTORS, itself a not-for-profit organization. They are operated as a member benefit at the lowest possible cost.
Question is whether, given the challenges the industry is facing, the MLS should continue to operate as a nonprofit membership organization or be operated as a business, with business realities (revenues, growth, profit, and loss) driving decisions.
Question 6: Technology Issues
The importance of technology to the MLS can hardly be understated. And there are so many trends, so many factors, so many issues going on at once that the big picture question cannot help but be a bit overgeneralized. But here they are:
- What are the five top technology challenges facing the MLS today?
- Who is/should be responsible for addressing those challenges?
- Are they up to the task?
- If not, what needs to happen for them to be up to the task? Is the barrier political? Financial? Technical?
Question 7: Who is the Customer? Who should be?
MLS’s have a wide range of customers (individual brokers and agents). They break down in Pareto principle (aka, the “80/20 rule”) along the production axis and along the tech-savvy axis. If Pareto principle holds across both axes, 20% of agents do 80% of the business, and 20% of the agents use 80% of the technology features. That sets up this chart:
Note that the high producers are all making money and using the system extensively, but not all of them are using all of the advanced features. The high tech agents tend to be the most vocal in complaining about the system, and push the envelope the most, but not all of them are making any money.
The demographics and characteristics of each quadrant are likely to be quite different. The High Production, Low Tech, for example, might be your older agents who have an established practice, are very successful, but don’t really use technology very much. The Low Production, High Tech agent, on the other hand, may very well be your new Gen-Y realtor who is demanding an iPad app but doesn’t yet have the book of business to the point where price-sensitivity is not an issue.
If the Pareto principle holds along both axes, a super-majority (64%) of the MLS’s subscribers are the Low Production, Low Tech agent. Only 4% of the customers are using all sorts of technology, and making a lot of money doing so.
They are all the MLS’s customer. The question is, who is the most important customer, and who is the least important? Who should be the customer in order of priority?
There May Be Answers
There are my Seven Big Questions for the MLS industry. It’s possible there may even be answers to some or all of these questions. I hope to learn about some of them — or at least your opinions on some of these questions — in the next few weeks, and at the CMLS show.
Please share any thoughts you may have, or any questions you yourself may have. If you’d like, you can email me any anonymous comments/questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question 1: Geography and the MLS: How tied is the MLS to geography? As tied as real estate: Location, location, location. The DotMLS movement isn’t about MLSs though: it’s about marketing. It’s about web presence, and understanding that when a consumer types a property request into a search engine, he will use a geographic filter: “homes, Peoria”.
Another major trend I see is that the MLS should be thought of in two basic infrastructures: (1) technology structure and (2) the business protocol subset. The technology structure is non-geographical by design. The inherited Realtor market areas established decades ago are outdated and useless—neither the consuming public nor the real estate professional cares what MLS a property is located in. Regional, state, even national databases solve that problem, by eliminating the geographical restrictions. Technology makes this possible, even desirable. The business protocol structure is a different matter: geography, local government, acceptable business practices are a matter of local concern and established tradition. In a business where competitors cooperated, practitioners depend on all participants understanding local custom.
Question 2: Dealing with Loss in Membership & Revenues. This is a familiar issue: it deals with a change in the business model of the MLS, and is no different than the change facing newspapers. How do you keep a sustainable business in a changing time? One answer is you look for new revenue. Again, MLSs are stuck with a decades-old revenue model which is no longer relevant: not all folks who have use for (and will pay for) MLSs products happen to have real estate licenses. Data is an important product, as is advertising support products. MLSs are seeing this: as the traditional paying-audience/salesperson source shrinks, products must be developed and sold where the market is. By the same token, if the role of the Realtor association is to build an industry business network, it will have to expand its audience to include a wider range of players, including specialized professionals who may or may not hold a real estate license.
Question 3: : What is the proper interplay between the MLS, the brokerage, and national companies (both franchises and others, such as Zillow/Trulia/Realtor.com)? Hey. If you are going to have a competitive business product, you compete. Certainly, a paying income source will go to the best product at the lowest price, loyalty be damned. To my mind, the MLS is in danger of disappearing—its geographical limitations, its inability to develop competitive products because of internal politics, its restrictive rules and fees—these will all assist the member in making other decisions about marketing listings and participating in successful transaction ventures. The threat is not from the outside, it’s because MLSs are not providing products which meet the needs of consumers, whether those consumers are members or the general public. Google, or some organization like it, will do it better, and very soon.
Questions 4-5(it’s an artificial separation): are MLSs a competitive business? Answer: nope. A part of the issue is the governance—one can’t run a successful business by committee, especially not a technology-based information business. What’s the answer? Part of it is in the Board of Directors composition: in the MLS, real estate sales is only a small part of the product, and an increasingly small part of the target market for MLS products. So yes, get a board with technology and data professionals, and internet marketing specialists who understand things like search engine optimization. Let the sales practitioners be in charge of business practices, not data delivery. And form product user groups, not governance groups.
Question 6: Can MLSs master the technology landscape? Short answer: NO. Most don’t function like a business—they have burdensome consensus governance, no research and development departments, and no real understanding of how to evaluate products and engage in meaningful competition. As younger, more sophisticated users emerge on the scene, the MLSs as currently structured can only lose paying audiences: they can’t keep up.
Question 7: Who is the audience? See all the above questions. You’ll know the answer to that one only when you discover the answer to “what is the product?” And an ancillary question is, how can MLSs escape the traditional definition of the term ‘customer’, the definition that’s been in the pipeline since 1908 or so? How can we build business models that are, in fact, sustainable under current conditions of burgeoning technology, shrinking traditional salesperson/broker customer base, and increasingly demanding public pressure? MLSs have to do some serious thinking about the questions you raise, and they have to do so outside a very restrictive and no-longer-viable inherited tradition