As you may be aware, I serve on the Board of Directors for the MLS Domains association—because it’s a cause I believe in (well, ok, I have several causes…and I’m not very quiet about my enthusiasms). But as an association exec I was always frustrated by the ‘MLS thing’: the public appreciated an MLS but couldn’t define the term, and our members were equally confused—and thought every collection of housing information was ‘the MLS’. Whatever an MLS was, everybody knew they wanted one, including all the folks who weren’t an MLS but appropriated our name—like ‘FSBO MLS’ or ‘luxury home MLS’.
The 2012 opportunity to introduce new top level domains into the world wide web seem to me to be an ideal method to define the term ‘MLS’ and to control who can use it. If the MLS Domains Association is granted the exclusive use of .mls by its members only, we will have come a long way to stabilizing the use of the term and protecting our organizations’ investment in being the source of the most accurate and timely data available in the US housing market.
Dot MLS (as I fondly call it) is an idea whose time has come—but not necessarily because the organized real estate is ready for it. The urgency was introduced by outside events: the international internet naming association has set January 2012 as the date that applications for new top level domains (TLDs) will be considered, “Big corporations, nonprofits, and governments are expected to scramble to claim the new TLDs,” says the Washington Business Journal.
The MLS Domains Association will be standing at the head of the line, application and check in hand.
But getting there is a bit of a battle. The biggest problem is that top level domains aren’t on everybody’s radar screen—and by the time the opportunity becomes clear, it may be too late to be considered by the great domain naming authority in the sky (ICANN). The second TLD round may not be available for several years—opportunity lost!
The point of this long introduction is to set the stage for my comments on the recent Council of MLS conference held in Tucson. The conference itself was outstanding in its speakers, its format, and its opportunity to meet vendors and have meaningful hallway (and lobby bar) discussions. To my delight, the issue of ‘MLS branding’ was center stage during many sessions and informal conversations..
“What’s ‘branding’ mean?” my friend JoAnn asked me. “I’m an MLS financial person—I don’t know these things.”
The clearest answer is in this quotation: “…understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.” To that point, it was clear at the conference that in a world where real estate information is everywhere, the MLS brand is increasingly important as a way to tell our audience (members and the public) that our information source is timely, accurate, and as trustworthy as they’ll find anywhere.
If the CMLS agenda is any indication, the topic of branding is under consideration of MLS leaders across the country. They are asking, “How will we help the public understand that housing information from the MLS is the most reliable source? How can we motivate our members (who are the collectors of the data) to do the best job possible in conveying accurate data to the MLS in a timely manner? How can we repackage our data products so that they are valuable to the real estate community and their clients and customers?”
These questions formed much of the substance of the conversations at CMLS—and the work of the MLS Domains Association was often cited as one of the obvious solutions.
To explore this topic further, CMLS is hosting a half day session on branding on November 9 at the NAR Annual Conference in Anaheim. MLS CEOs and decision-makers should make every effort to attend this important education event.
You can be sure the efforts of MLS Domains Association will be on the agenda.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
CMLS Conference Conversation : Off Stage