RISMEDIA, April 25, 2009-When Allan Dalton was named one of the real estate industry’s “25 Most Influential Thought Leaders” by the National Association of Realtors’ Realtor magazine, it caused RISMedia President and CEO John Featherston to consider exactly where Dalton has made the greatest impact on the real estate industry over the course of his career. Was it as president and co-owner of Murphy Realty Better Homes and Gardens, where he was instrumental in growing the firm over a 20-year period from four to 32 company-owned, plus 25 affiliate offices, before the company was sold? Or was his influence best demonstrated in the creation of national marketing systems for four of the industry’s top seven brands? To many, of course, Dalton’s greatest influence occurred from 2003 to 2008 when, as CEO of REALTOR.com, he spearheaded the company’s exponential growth, both in terms of how the site served consumers and how it leveraged technology for our industry.
Despite all that Dalton has done in the past to influence the careers of tens of thousands of real estate agents, as well as numerous real estate brokerages, his greatest influence stands yet to unfold as he joins Featherston and RISMedia to lead the Top 5 in Real Estate Network® into the future of this business.
Dalton joined RISMedia’s executive management team last year as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, in addition to his status as president of Top 5. According to Featherston, Dalton’s “skills and expert advice will be a significant contribution to our network of brokers, agents and vendors.”
In this exclusive interview, Dalton and Featherston reveal how the Top 5 in Real Estate Network® will uniquely enable leading real estate agents to more effectively reach and influence consumers, and why Top 5 is destined to have the greatest industry impact of them all.
Maria Patterson: Allan, let’s begin with putting to rest speculation regarding your departure from REALTOR.com last year.
Allan Dalton: For the three to five people who might have even wondered, the decision to leave Realtor.com was 100% my own. After considerable and rigorous introspection, I concluded that any future additions I could make to Realtor.com would never equal what I had already contributed, as the skills required for the next phase of Realtor.com’s growth would be better represented by a change in leadership. I also took comfort in the knowledge that Realtor.com would benefit immensely by having Errol Samuelson at the helm.
For myself, I feel equally excited and challenged by the profound importance of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®-much the same way I felt when I was president of a real estate brokerage for 20 years, as a senior executive at the corporate level and, of course, during the years when I was privileged to be associated with Realtor.com. When all is said and done, every position I have had owed its existence to my greatest career passion: the development of individuals who operate within companies and associations, especially those who demonstrate remarkable skill and value to consumers…although Top 5 is neither a real estate company nor franchise.
MP: What is RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network®?
John Featherston: The Top 5 in Real Estate is a network of select real estate professionals from throughout the United States and Canada who have met the Top 5 in Real Estate’s stringent series of various career qualifications and who are committed to the future development of their professional skills and services to the consumers and the community they serve.
MP: How are members chosen?
AD: Prospective members qualify on the basis of five criteria: experience; results; education; information technology; and commitment to community.
MP: Why is ‘Experience’ a requirement for membership in Top 5?
AD: All agents must have at least three years’ experience to qualify for Top 5. While length of professional service alone is no guarantee of professional excellence, we believe that, in general, the more experience a professional has, the more experiential knowledge they acquire. To consumers in the selection process, this knowledge becomes an important part of both their real and perceived value of a real estate professional.
MP: Why is ‘Results’ (productivity) a requirement for membership in Top 5?
JF: Productivity is an important requirement for membership because it signifies to consumers that Top 5 members are among the upper echelon in real estate-the top 10% of real estate agents, nationally and/or locally, in either volume or unit productivity. We believe that production should be a leading indicator of why consumers should select a Top 5 member for their real estate needs…but not the only indicator.
MP: Why is ‘Education’ a requirement for Top 5?
JF: We believe there is a nexus between professional excellence and education, specifically when it comes to an individual’s propensity for providing vital real estate information that will empower consumers. We also believe that consumers have an immediate respect for a real estate professional’s educational accomplishments. Educational requirements for all members increase the status for exclusivity and Top 5 as a brand, increasing overall value proposition for each member and, therefore, the Top 5 Network as a whole.
MP: Why is ‘Information Technology’ a requirement for Top 5?
AD: Information technology skills are a must in order to fully serve clients at all stages of the real estate experience. We also want to ensure that members become as financially prudent as possible through information technology efficiencies.
MP: Why is ‘Commitment to Community’ a requirement for Top 5?
AD: In order to engender the utmost respect from consumers, Top 5 in Real Estate members must extend their essence beyond self-promotional accomplishments and demonstrate a commitment to bettering the community and its residents. Moreover, we believe that a commitment to the community is indispensable to marketing and selling the benefits of the community. Candidates for the Top 5 in Real Estate, therefore, need to be not only consumer-centric, but community-centric as well. RISMedia will provide community-related information to Top 5 members in order to strengthen this effort.
MP: Why was Top 5 in Real Estate formed?
JF: RISMedia was asked by numerous industry leaders, including many top agents, to develop a method or program that would create greater respect from consumers. Another reason Top 5 was created was to raise consumer expectations by encouraging consumers to become more selective when choosing their real estate agents. Top 5 in Real Estate believes that elevating consumer expectations is a byproduct of elevating real estate professionalism.
MP: How does Top 5 ensure its members that it will always provide information and materials that either anticipate changes in the marketplace or, at the very least, relate to the present needs and challenges of the marketplace?
AD: As an information-based media company, RISMedia provides Top 5 members with a steady flow of informational and educational consumer material. Online, Top 5 members place a link to their personalized Top 5 Media Center on their website to provide visitors with daily consumer real estate news, our weekly consumer real estate video update, and our extensive Real Estate Q&A library. In addition, members can take advantage of three exclusive Top 5 consumer-facing print publications:
-What Every Home Seller Should Demand…of Their Real Estate Agent-for listings, FSBOs, builders and homeowners in general
-There’s Only One Reason Why Your Home Didn’t Sell, for expired listings
-The Four R’s of Short Sales, which, for the first time, creates transparency among homeowners, buyers, lenders and allied real estate professionals by explaining the perspective of each stakeholder in the transaction
MP: How is Top 5 different from other certification and designation organizations?
JF: Top 5 in Real Estate is not associated with any other real estate company or industry association, course, award, credential or designation, yet honors each for their own totally distinctive value and prestige. Top 5 in Real Estate does accept a variety of other industry brand and brokerage course achievements, certifications and designations as a way of satisfying the professional education requirement for Top 5 in Real Estate. Other differences include providing a brand name (Top 5 in Real Estate) that is immediately suggestive of superior real estate success, and not requiring additional courses to become a member-because membership is based upon overall career success to date. Each member must make a commitment to provide consumers with leading real estate information provided by RISMedia.
MP: Why did RISMedia form Top 5 as opposed to other real estate organizations, associations or coaching companies?
JF: While RISMedia uniquely appreciates and supports the role of real estate companies, training organizations, national, state and local boards and associations, our vast resources and rich media experience in the real estate industry distinctly positions us to deliver the most relevant, highest quality real estate-related content-content that is vital to satisfying consumer needs in this information age.
MP: What if agents meet some of the criteria for Top 5, but not all of them-can they still become members?
AD: No, but we will inform agents of the steps that are required in order to become eligible. We encourage all earnest real estate professionals to complete the application regardless of their assumed level of potential acceptance.
MP: What type of content will you provide to Top 5 members?
JF: All phases of the consumer real estate continuum-from buying and selling to renovating or investing-will be addressed in the Top 5 content, including: buying, selling, home improvement, financing, relocating, FSBO, selecting an agent, short sales, conducting seminars, and ongoing, consumer-relevant information.
MP: Who will run the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®?
JF: RISMedia is responsible for the ongoing support, functionality and administration of the Top 5 in Real Estate as a whole, but views the network’s members as strategic partners. RISMedia will also rely heavily upon all Top 5 members for input on the network’s procedural and implementation needs.
MP: Why should an agent join Top 5?
AD: Agents should join Top 5 because it is the number-one way to better express their real estate-related achievements and professionalism to consumers. Research reveals that top producers have little problem impressing consumers once they meet them; Top 5 alerts and informs the consumer about your status before you meet them. Top 5 is also an exceptional method for increasing an agent’s value to consumers by providing them with relevant real estate information. The well-deserved Top 5 in Real Estate brand and status will help agents gain more customers and clients. What’s more, its informational resources will help you maintain those clients by serving their ongoing real estate informational needs.
MP: Why do you believe RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network® will become the premier industry mastermind group for agents?
JF: For several reasons, including: the unique caliber of the Top 5 membership; the enormous advantage of having the backing of RISMedia, the leader in developing print, online and in-person information systems and events for the real estate industry; and the fact that members will want to celebrate their richly deserved status with fellow elite achievers.
MP: How will Top 5 help grow an agent’s business?
JF: Through better branding, better information, better networking, better ideas and strategies and better website content.
MP: How will Top 5 affect an agent’s primary and profoundly important relationship with their company?
AD: Top 5 will provide agents with more opportunities to extol the considerable virtues, resources and consumer benefits that their company provides. Top 5 is designed to complement the agent’s company brand, programs and systems. Simply put, Top 5 will get agents up to bat more so they can put their company’s equipment to more and better use.
MP: How will Top 5 help agents from a time-management standpoint?
AD: RISMedia will provide agents with a more time-efficient and cost-effective way to inform clients and consumers.
MP: How is Top 5 different from other educational achievements?
AD: RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network® is not NAR, a state or local association or a company-based association program. Top 5 is monumentally different than any other professional network, educational designation/certification, or coaching program because it uniquely integrates an exclusive (by selection criteria) network of leading professionals who will be distinctly powered with the information, content and credibility of RISMedia, the leader in real estate information systems. RISMedia’s informational content is a major difference from non-informationally-based credentials or designations. RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network® will be comprised of outstanding real estate professionals who may or may not be involved in several other organizations and/or coaching programs that serve a very noble, yet different, need.
MP: How is RISMedia promoting the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®?
JF: RISMedia will promote Top 5 aggressively and strategically via a multimedia approach that includes both our online and offline vehicles, such as: RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine; RISMedia.com; business-to-business and business-to-consumer media instruments. In addition, network members throughout the United States and Canada will be promoting this pre-eminent real estate credential.
MP: How will home sellers benefit from working with a Top 5 member?
AD: Home sellers benefit in two principal ways: first, the Top 5 in Real Estate moniker will enable home sellers to quickly and easily identify a highly qualified, results-oriented, consumer-focused real estate professional; second, home sellers will become better informed and educated regarding what they should expect and demand through the informational content provided to them by their Top 5 member. Home sellers working with a Top 5 member will be better prepared to make important decisions surrounding the sale of their home.
MP: How will home buyers benefit from working with a Top 5 member?
AD: Buyers will benefit in much the same way that home sellers will. Buyers will recognize that Top 5 members represent superior results and educational attainment; buyers will benefit from the wealth of decision-making information provided by their Top 5 member through the vast library of RISMedia content made available on member websites.
MP: How will consumers not currently active in the market benefit from the Top 5 Network?
JF: All consumers will benefit by having access, through Top 5 members, to a veritable library of consumer-centric real estate information. This information will focus on their non-transactional needs, thereby increasing the likelihood of them selecting a Top 5 member when a transactional need arises. Before the creation of Top 5, agents had been “farming,” but planting the wrong seeds. While all leading agents strive to create customers for life, until now, they have never been equipped with the consumer-rich resources that RISMedia uniquely provides.
MP: How can agents promote the value of their Top 5 membership to consumers?
AD: RISMedia has developed a comprehensive promotional plan that will be provided to all Top 5 members (included in membership). These multifaceted and strategic marketing and promotional systems include the use of both offline and online resources, such as direct mail, video, e-mail and press releases. Additionally, Top 5 members will be provided with promotional materials and information in order to host their own consumer seminars and other community-based events.
MP: Will RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network® provide media distribution to regional, national and local newspapers along with other media outlets?
JF: Yes, informational releases will be produced and distributed on a weekly basis.
MP: Will membership fees be the same each year?
AD: For the first three years, annual membership fees for the Top 5 Network will be fixed. After this time period, we do expect increases in accordance with rising operating expenses as Top 5 membership grows.
MP: Will there be a Top 5 member-to-member referral program?
JF: RISMedia will not be involved in the development, economics, administration or encouragement of member-to-member referrals; we believe that the referral process should remain a function of an agent’s existing company program. RISMedia will not, however, police those members who exchange referrals based upon the relationships they develop and the network they are now exposed to as part of the Top 5 in Real Estate.
MP: Will there be any exceptions made for agents with less than three years’ experience if they satisfy the production, educational, community, and other requirements and commitments of RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network®?
AD: Regrettably, no, as the integrity of membership and continued membership must be maintained at the highest degree possible.
MP: Will there be Top 5 conventions?
AD: Top 5 will be hosting regional membership meetings each month throughout the United States. We will convene our first annual National Top 5 Member Conference in New York City this September.
MP: Is Top 5 a franchise?
AD: No. Top 5 is not designed to compete nor conflict in any way with the essence or role of any real estate company, brand, franchise or broker.
MP: Is Top 5 a real estate company?
AD: No. That is not the objective of the Top 5 Network.
MP: Will Top 5 compete with an agent’s brand or broker?
JF: No. In fact, many of the industry’s leading real estate brokers and owners have recommended their top agents to us, which is a demonstration of their support for Top 5 in Real Estate.
MP: Is there a limited geographical territory for each member?
AD: No. A Top 5 in Real Estate Network® membership is similar to other professional designations, such as a CPA or an MBA, although I am not comparing the educational requirements. For example, there can be five CPAs in a town and each can use their certification and license anywhere within their given state.
MP: Will membership be limited?
JF: Absolutely. Allan and I consider it our sacred responsibility to manage and limit membership so that the marketplace opportunities for members are not diluted, but instead become exponentially greater. Therefore, we are limiting membership in most towns throughout North America to five agents per town.
MP: Will you saturate market areas with too many members?
AD: The issue of developing the appropriate number of members per market has been carefully thought out by RISMedia so that there will be enough members within each market to ensure critical mass regarding consumer recognition, while still excluding approximately 95% or more of non-members. We also expect the potential dilution of our membership to always be significantly less than most successful brokerages, offices or associations.
MP: Will RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network® provide training for members?
AD: Yes. Top 5 will provide what we believe to be the finest training opportunity available on the market today-through a peer-to-peer mastermind exchange, along with high-value tutelage from industry-respected mentors. The essence of the Top 5 in Real Estate goes beyond the dimensions of conventional training. As opposed to training programs currently available that propose their own respective methods for success, Top 5 members will benefit from a wide range of success strategies from their peers in the network.
MP: Does my participation in Top 5 count toward CE credits?
AD: No. Top 5 is not a credit-based organization; it does, however, as part of its membership criteria, require that candidates have and continue to participate in industry education programs.
MP: Why is the Top 5 private community part of RealTown.com?
JF: We believe Top 5 members benefit from multiple social and preferred networking opportunities. RealTown is the industry’s leading agent-to-agent online community and Top 5 has its own password-protected community. RISMedia strategically selected RealTown as the venue for its private online community for the following reasons:
-RealTown is the acclaimed industry leader in real estate social networking.
-RISMedia encourages its members to not only engage in private, password-protected community social networking with other Top 5 members, but also to participate in the other valuable, real estate-oriented social networking opportunities available through RealTown.
MP: How can agents join the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®?
AD: Agents can apply for Top 5 membership very conveniently. Our membership application is available at www.top5inrealestate.com. Click on “Becoming a Member” and then click on “Download Application.” Alternatively, call (203) 853-2167 or direct e-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.