11 New Year’s resolutions for 2011

12 minute read

As technology moves along apace at break neck speed, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s all just too hard. How can I keep up to date? What if I learned something new and then it becomes outdated by new technology, and so on? I’m too old to learn new tricks!

Well, thinking like that never got a great business built, or made a real estate deal, and in any case it’s the New Year and time for fresh thinking, and resolutions. Did you know Colonel Sanders was 65 when he created KFC?

As we move into 2011, here are eleven things technology-wise for you to resolve to do over the next year…

1. Only enter my data once!

Put simply, if data is entered electronically (into your contacts in Outlook, or property data on your web site) it should never have to be entered again. Technology allows databases (online stores of data) to talk to each other, and really this is nothing new. Why enter and update your listings on 5 sites 5 times over? We all have better things to do. As do your staff. The time saved could be used for more productive things online, such as checking your analytics reports (see point 4 below) or updating some social networking sites (point 2).

Do you print rental lists and property for sale lists off the web or do you still do them up in Word documents having to update them separately? Do you print your window cards off the web too? And what about your CRM (see point 9)? Does this talk to your listings and send them out to your buyers every week or month?

Think about your data and where it resides – and think about how it can be easily wrapped up together. Let ‘single data entry’ be your catch cry this year. If it already is, please move to point 2.

2. Try some (more) social media

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow you to network, contact and share information with your marketplace for free. Social networking is now the number one use of the internet, responsible for 13% of all time on the Web, more than time spent on email or portals or search. You can no longer ignore this phenomenon – it has now gone mainstream. Put simply, if you are not using it, then you are not marketing.

You can’t do it all, so choose one platform – develop a Facebook community page, set up a Twitter account, start a blog, open up a Youtube channel and post local videos. Use this to connect, contribute. Join the conversation, or stay out and miss out as people talk real estate and local without you.

3. Upgrade my web site

When was you web site last upgraded? Are you proud of it? Is it being left behind?

Your web site is your online front window, but more than this can connect with your clients and prospects (including future staff) and brand/differentiate your business like almost nothing else. Think of it as your own media channel, and use it to broadcast out, listen and learn (add a blog).

With technology moving fast, sites need tweaking regularly (I favour adding something new on every month or so and a total upgrade, new look and feel every second year). If your site has not been upgraded for a couple of years, make 2011 the year to get this done.

4. Check the traffic to my site

Do you have any idea how many people visit your web site every day? Do you know where they are from? Which sites they were on prior to visiting you? What keywords they enter in Google to find you? Do you know how long they stay on the site? How many pages they download? Which pages they don’t visit or are not loading properly?

If all this sounds impossible, it is not, and with Google Analytics installed, you can get this information and much more. You can even set it up to automatically email you (and anyone else) specific customisable reports every day, week or month. Best of all, it is free.

Once you know some stats around your site, you can really start to make your site more effective, and build your real online community.

5. Ensure I am on the first page of Google for my main key search phrase (such as “real estate SUBURB”)

Deploy the best search engine optimization advice (read the various posts on this esteemed blog), but also have someone responsible for monitoring your results for your certain key phrases. Once a month is fine.

Remember, if you can attract more and more free traffic to your site (courtesy of Google) then you can pay less on advertising elsewhere to win business and sell/rent your listings. If one of the first things people do on the Internet is search, and they do it on Google, then this is where you have to be.

6. Get on Google Places

A recent post explained all about Google Places, a new way of being found within the first page on Google, which is currently being rolled out worldwide including Australia. All you have to do is go to the Google Places web page, enter your listing and verify. If you are already listed, then verify it to ensure you are not bumped off by others. This page explains the simple process.

More than just ‘being there’, upload your logo, company photos, details about your business, and keep your page fresh and interesting. Ask clients to leave testimonials and reviews. Much like your Facebook business page, your Google Place page will be an important promotional web page for your business, and increasingly the place your marketplace finds out all about you for the first time.

7. CRM

A client relationship management system (CRM) allows you to track contact with your current and future clients. It is the goose that lays the golden egg, every day. It is not some silver bullet, but more something that you use patiently and persistently and in so doing keep in touch with your market place, and also it is how they keep in touch with you.

My research found that only 30% of real estate agencies have a CRM system of some kind, and yet only a third of these offices actually use it as a CRM. Most CRMs are simply used to host web sites and feed to other sites, little or no client contact management is performed. For those that do keep in contact with clients in a meaningful and ‘non spammy’ way, the results for client retention, repeat and referral business is clear.

Make 2011 the year your business actually researches, purchases and (most importantly) uses a CRM of some kind.

8. Analyse my ad spend vs enquiry rate and new business leads

Henry Ford is attributed with the ‘half of our advertising is wasted, but we don’t know which half ‘ line

It could be argued that the number is even higher in real estate advertising in Australia. As an industry, real estate agencies spent more than $1.5 billion advertising properties in 2009/2010 financial year, of which $240 million (16%) was spent online. Considering 70-80% of all enquiry was driven by those online ads, there is still a significant disconnect between what people spent online/offline and its effectiveness.

Make 2011 the year when you count every dollar spent on advertising, and commit to spend it where people actually are (which is online) – be they on Facebook, Google, the main property portals or your own site. You will need to make some brave calls, but turning around years of practice is never easy. Your clients may not understand it, but if you collect the evidence of your enquiry and new business leads, they will surely understand. Let others carry on as before, be different and forward-thinking.

Save money, advertise where people are. Not where they were.

9. Go mobile

If last year was the year that social media broke through to mainstream, this year mobile marketing will do the same. A year ago traffic to web sites on mobile devices was negligible, today it is already 8% and growing fast. More than half of that mobile traffic is on an iPhone, and a quarter is on an iPad. These two devices alone are leading the charge, but other smart mobile devices (the Google Android phone, Microsoft phone, Blackberry and others) are also rushing to take advantage of this trend.

Your marketplace makes no distinction now as to how they connect to the Internet, and if they can do so on their phone, they will. This makes even more sense with real estate, as people are doing their research in the field, at home opens, and have their mobiles with them at these times. It is predicted that by 2013 there will be more Internet surfing on a mobile device than on a regular PC or laptop.

So what? Well, what does your web site look like on a mobile device? As more and more people are going to be connecting to your site through their phone, this is becoming important. If your web site has some degree of flash animation, then it simply will not be viewable on iPhone or iPad. Even if your site has been mobile enabled, it might not look good on iPads’s larger screen (so you need an iPad version now too).

How about an app? The main reason the iPhone has (so far) won its category is the amazing array of (mostly free) ‘apps’ that are downloadable from the Apple App Store. So far there are only a dozen or so real estate apps in Australia, but you can bet there will be over a hundred in a year or eighteen months’ time. Imagine your agency having its own app, which is then downloaded to your clients’ mobile menu screens. Can you imagine a better connection with them?

Lead by example. Get a smartphone, download some apps, and think mobile!

10. Analyse my office network setup

How effective is your office network? How old are your computers in the office, do they run the latest software? Are they reliable or do they crash rather too often? How fast is your internet connection? Does your calendar and email synch with your mobile device, and also at home (for your and all your staff)?

Time for an audit perhaps. I would also urge you to seriously consider the advantages of cloud computing. Many companies are using this now, and it can be a huge cost saver. No more expensive servers, office computers and software licenses, you just require fast internet access so you login and use software on your cloud computer provider’s server off site. They back everything up, they make sure it is always working, they have all the licenses. You just pay one monthly fee, and all upgrades and services come along with it. No more IT headaches. Sound appealing doesn’t it? Investigate the advantages of the Cloud in 2011.

11. Foster innovation and new ideas

How do Google, Facebook, Apple, 3M, Atlassian, Pixar and other admired companies come up with all their clever ideas? Something common to all these innovative businesses is the insistence that staff spend enough time away from the hurly burly of answering emails and attending meetings.

Google insist their staff spend at least 10% of their time clear of all interruptions so they can think and experiment on new ideas. They can ‘have a play’ on anything that interests them, but not in a meaningless way. They then have to present their ideas in monthly forums. From such meetings Gmail, Google Maps and Streetview were developed, and now form a core part of the Google offering.

Taking this idea into your business may be as simple as providing a space (a quiet room with no phone) that staff can go to to develop new ideas (maybe plan that CRM you have always dreamed of, or investigate the benefits of cloud computing, or creating the killer smartphone app?). It has to be on your time, not theirs, and it has to be supported.

Ever wondered why your best ideas come when you are driving alone in your car with the radio turned off? Or on the plane? Or sun bathing in the backyard? What these places have in common is the removal from the constant interruption of the day, and the ability for your brain to clear. It is in these environments that the best ideas come. In this fast paced world we need space and quiet, so we can let our brain do its thing.


As well as trying these 11 ideas for 2011, what I am really proposing is a mindset of wanting to take the lead in technology, using IT as a driver for more business growth, not an end in itself. If you stick to this approach, you will be doing the right things technology-wise. May I wish you all the best with this, and a most prosperous New Year.

(A version of this post first appeared in ‘REIWA News’, December 2010)
(Image Source: AskDaveTaylor.com)

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  • Brett Clements
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm 0Likes

    Charlie. That’s an AWESOME post. Great work.

  • Mike Salway
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm 0Likes

    Agree, great post! Lots of great ideas in there for agents to try.

    I especially think #2 will be big in 2011!

  • Peter D'Arcy
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 9:24 pm 0Likes

    Hi Guys – Gee I love reading your online articles but when are you going to stop posing questions and make concrete suggestions. You sound like amazing online consultants however the questions out way the practical suggestion by 1000 to 1.

    Please more meat & veggies and keep them coming.

    By the way I get more out of your articles than I do from my franchise group so don’t get discouraged by a time poor Agent.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 12:38 pm 0Likes

    Great article Charlie and Happy New Year to you and all at B2.

    2011 is the year that the switched on, innovative agents will really start to shine.

  • Ryan O'Grady
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm 0Likes

    Great article to open the year Charlie. I think video is going to pick up some pace in 2011 as well.

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