One problem with the youth of the RE blog movement is that most web design companies have been slow to integrate blogs into there platform. One notible exeption is Incredible Agent. On top of it all, they even offer a free, blogcentric platform for RE Agents. I cought up with Tom Wolf to find out more.
Hi Tom, Tell us a little about Incredible Agent.
Incredible Agent provides comprehensive web marketing systems for agents and brokers. We are a company that has evolved dramatically since we got our start over 5 years ago. We were originally a lead generation company but have now transitioned into a much broader web marketing company. Our focus is on helping agents manage their entire Internet presence, and quite honestly, that presence extends out a lot further than most real estate professionals would even realize. Our goal is twofold. First, make sure that 100% of the real estate professional in the industry have a website. Second, make sure that real estate professionals can get back to doing what they do best, providing great service to the client.
What’s the biggest upside to paying to have a blog or site designed as opposed to learning how to build it themselves?
There are really two aspects of building a blog or website, and I have some pretty strong opinions about the role that an agent or broker should play in each of them.
The first aspect is the actual design and development of the website. It is fact that the majority of agents have no desire to learn the technical skills required to put together their own site or blog, even as some applications such as WordPress try and make it as easy as possible to do. Our opinion is that they shouldn’t have to learn these skills. Their focus should be on marketing themselves and providing excellent service to their clients. We certainly wouldn’t expect them to try and learn all about law if they were dealing with a legal matter. We would expect them to utilize an attorney. Website and blog design shouldn’t be any different unless you really know what you are doing.
The second aspect of putting a website or blog together involves the creation of the actual content that will reside there. It is here in which the agent should be doing some heavy lifting. Within the content lies the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd. For example, we build all of our websites in a way which allows the agent or broker to add unlimited, custom content pages so that they can create unique city tours, articles, directories and more. Our biggest challenge, however, is convincing those individuals that they should provide the content instead of us. We will provide the content when asked, but unfortunately it will not be unique and not only will they not stand out, but search engines will not view their website favorably because they do not have original content.
If you didn’t already know, “free” is my favorite word. Recently you introduced a new free web site service that integrates blogs. My question is, “Why is it free?” What’s the catch so to speak?
You are not alone in your love of the word “free”. I said earlier that we have really evolved as a company, and that evolution has been a direct result of learning first hand the challenges that real estate professionals face every day. One of the frustrations that we continuously heard was that agents were spending thousands on websites only to learn that they did not meet their expectations. Worse yet, a lot of agents weren’t able to get a decent website at all because it was just cost prohibitive. When you see statistics that say that 25%-35% of agents still don’t have a website in today’s industry and combine that stat with frustrations we have heard from them, you can quickly see a problem.
We decided that we wanted to build a website that was not only free, but actually competed against the paid website offerings that are available in the industry. That’s why we integrated the content management system, the blog, mapping, unlimited listing promotion, feeds, etc. instead of just creating a shell of a website with no functionality.
There really is no catch since agents can utilize the free sites as much as they want for as long as they want with literally no obligation to do anything more. We make our money through premium upgrades and add on features that turn the website into a full web marketing system.
Let’s say an agent want’s something a more powerful than the free site you offer. What’s on your menu for a power user?
We have a lot on the menu, and this menu will never stay static. We have upgraded features for premium users, and then we have some additional features that the more technical, power user crowd will love.
The premium features that will be available include listing syndication, lead management center, a full featured CRM, reputation management system, auto-responder system, embedded IDX, inbound leads from our network, and more. We asked ourselves if we could build a system that encompassed almost all of the new technologies currently available, while keeping enough flexibility to encompass new technologies that are sure to arrive in the near future, and the answer was yes. Our tagline to the real estate professionals we speak with became “Never worry about technology again”.
For power users we have done several things. Most importantly, we have made the websites open-source so any developer can modify them, add tools, change the look and feel, etc. We’ve also integrated RSS, XML, CSS and AJAX.
In general terms, what sort of advances do you foresee in Incredible Agent’s future offerings?
We have always been very agent-centric in our offerings in the sense that we don’t usually build things that help agents gain exposure just for the sake of gaining exposure. Our products have always been designed to actually capture and convert new business. We agree with those that say the way of capturing leads has changed forever in the 2.0 world, but we don’t necessarily agree that just throwing yourself out there on the web is going to bring in a flood of prospects. Sooner or later many of these “cool” new technologies are going to need to become practical and actually result in some sold houses, especially as more and more agents start to use them. In the future, I see Incredible Agent as one of the leaders who will layer in new technologies on top of many of these new 2.0 tools that will make them much more effective at capturing new business.
What are some of you favorite blogs?
I like blogs that actually compel its readers to comment. To me, that is the measure of a great blog because people are actually interested enough in the writing to chime in.
Sellsius has been a favorite of mine for a while. It’s pretty entertaining, and when you actually get to meet the guys behind it, you tend to like it that much more.
My local favorite is Jay Thompson who mixes up his topics to keep it fresh and entertaining.
FutureofRealEstateMarketing is typically where I go to see Joel’s opinions on new products and I find that I usually agree pretty closely with his assessments.
Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?
Yes. Avoid trying to do what everyone else is doing. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore all of the other good blogs out there. Just the opposite. You should find blogs you like and see how they mix up topics and connect with their readers. Ultimately though, a blog is an extension of you and a reflection of your personality, and if you try and emulate other blogs too closely, your true personality will not come through, and your blog will not be genuine or believable. Also, a blog is different from your website. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it. You can still be a professional with a sense of humor.