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RISMEDIA, February 27, 2010—As the Internet continues to infiltrate the real estate industry, prospective buyers are continually turning to the Web to consume information, make decisions and conduct important transactions. With a vast migration to the Web that is only likely to grow, it is crucial for real estate professionals to alter their strategy to take advantage of the Internet in order to receive quality leads. Here, Spencer Rascoff, COO, Zillow, discusses how real estate professionals can generate quality leads in today’s high-tech market.

Spencer Rascoff

I’ll let you in on a little secret—people don’t want to be leads. People want to be people, not leads. Leads are so 1995. The Internet has changed the way people consume information, the way they make decisions and, most importantly, the way they conduct important transactions.

Companies like, Expedia and Google have trained us to do our research in privacy and solitude, and remain anonymous until we’re good and ready to transact. Imagine if you searched for a hotel room on Expedia and all of the hotel front desks called you; or if when you searched for a television on Amazon, suddenly your phone rang with representatives from Sony and Samsung trying to sell you a TV. No, we’re trained now to expect to be able to access information on our terms, on our own timeline.

This evolution in consumer behavior has effectively made traditional lead generation extinct. Companies whose business models are predicated on the old model—where websites provided as little information as possible in order to entice you to fill out a form so they could sell your personal information to the highest bidder—will perish.

At, we don’t talk about “leads”; we talk about Customer Initiated Contacts (“CIC”). This is a subtle but important difference: customers remain in control when they are able to decide when and how they initiate a contact with a service provider.

As real estate brokerages start to rev back up their marketing machines in 2010, they’re likely not going to have as much of their budgets reverted back toward TV or print advertising. The housing downturn and accompanying advertising recession has accelerated the inevitable migration of advertising budgets towards the Internet.

But will online budgets move toward graphical advertising, search advertising or CIC? It’s accepted among industry leaders that CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) and SEM (search engine marketing) aren’t the best way for real estate brokerages to market their companies. Why? Because the real estate industry wants “real” contacts, not just clicks or views.

The Customer Initiated Contact model still leaves plenty of room for the professional to communicate with the consumer. But only when the consumer is good and ready.

CIC puts the consumer in control and, ultimately, that’s also better for the professionals in the equation. First, it means that the professionals only have to talk to the consumers who pre-select them, on their own terms. Second, the consumer-first paradigm means that success of the website is much more likely, and that means you’ll be affiliating with and investing your time and money with a sustainable business. CIC is going to shake things up. It’s not your parents’ lead gen anymore.