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business-web1RISMEDIA, March 12, 2009-Who isn’t concerned about the current real estate market? If you believe that better days are ahead, there are a few things you should do to prepare before the rebound. Start by evaluating the cost side of your business. Cleaning house allows you to be more flexible and nimble. Consumer preference changes quickly so you will need to be ready. 

If it has been a while since you have used technology to save money, you are not alone. It was not long ago when upgrading technology was synonymous with spending money. Look into low-cost alternatives to expensive office applications and online collaborative applications. These tools have great support, cost very little and really work.

I can’t stress the importance of backing up your business enough. It does not have to be expensive, and you will thank me later. Not only will you be able to handle natural disasters, you will sleep better knowing that important documents are safe. While you are at it, you should review your security policies. The cost of these solutions has decreased by at least an order of magnitude over the last five years and they will help you earn the customer’s trust.

Understanding how and why social media works would be my second suggestion. In addition to traditional news sources, Realtor blogs have developed to the point where the community has named itself-the RE.Net. Watching Realtors communicate with new tools will help you understand the approach and give you great ideas before using the techniques in your own business. The core value of service applies whether it is face-to-face or digital.

I wonder if the current business cycle signals the “end parenthesis” of the technologies we are using? Consumers may be moving toward interacting only with the “trusted” sources they choose. This approach has its roots in the real world. Households keep lists of vendors they prefer to work with that include everything from septic service to emergency home repair. They are compiled through direct experience or as referrals from friends. Getting on the consumer’s “good” list will increase in importance over the next couple of years, but you will need to be invited. We focus a lot of energy on customer relationship management and this may not be the correct strategy. We should consider the growth of a radically different, invitation-only model called vendor relationship management (VRM).

Anonymity is a guarded and valuable aspect of the Internet. You will have a difficult time having consumers register on your website if alternatives providing the same information-without registration-are easy to find. Listing information is not the attraction it used to be. You need to think about differentiating your Web presence. The direct linkage between leads and the display of listing information is no longer there. If you need listings, you should look at low-cost approaches. The RETS data standard is a low-cost, widely supported approach to putting listings on your site. It should be more widely available from your MLS this summer and tools are inexpensive.

Mark Lesswing is chief technology officer for the National Association of Realtors.

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