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RISMEDIA, June 2, 2010—If the concept that information share (for real estate companies) is linked to market share is too obtuse or unconvincing for some, then permit us to put it another way…one that every broker/owner will immediately appreciate and relate to: VOI=ROI. Now, if this correlation is also one that is not on the tip of your tongue then prepare to be enlightened. VOI=Value of Information; ROI, of course=Return on Investment. Do you consider the two to be connected? We at RISMedia and our members of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) certainly do. Every real estate company, if they are not already focused on the relationship between content and capitalism, needs to become so.

Especially when one considers that no real estate company, to our knowledge, became a recipient of the government’s bailout packages, due to the difficult economic times, unlike so many other beneficiaries of corporate welfare. Indeed, the financial health of all real estate companies is the exclusive responsibility of the strategic and financial decisions left to broker/owners and their management teams.

Fortunately, companies can now provide consumers and their associates with information that will drive greater numbers of transactions and, thus, greater market share, and in a way that is relatively inexpensive, if not nominal.

Moreover, companies that are among those to first stake their claim as being the information leader will exponentially gain, not only in terms of creating consumer loyalty but also in their never-ending efforts to attract and develop the most productive associates. In this article, RISMedia President & CEO John Featherston, along with fellow company executives and select RREIN Charter Members, give their measured views regarding the relationship between information share and market share.

– Allan Dalton

Participants:
John Featherston
, President & CEO, RISMedia
Darryl MacPherson, Executive Vice President, RISMedia
Allan Dalton, Chief Marketing Officer, RISMedia
Maria Patterson, Executive Editor, RISMedia
Beth McGuire, Managing Online Editor, RISMedia

Rei Mesa, President & CEO, Prudential Florida Realty
Offices: 40
Sales associates: 1,800

Richard (Dick) Schlott, Chairman & CEO, Gloria Nilson Realtors®, Real Living
Offices: 17
Sales associates: 650

Mark Stark, Owner & CEO, Prudential Americana Group
Offices: 8
Sales associates: 1,100

Charlie Bengel, Jr., CEO, RE/MAX Allegiance
Offices: 23
Sales Associates: 657

Real Estate Magazine: RISMedia has played a central role in the real estate industry, especially with leading brokerage firms, for more than 30 years. What effect have the last two years had on brokerage firms?

John Featherston: Each year, we survey more than 1,000 of the largest real estate brokerage firms. Of particular interest to me was how our research of just a few years ago revealed that most real estate companies were projecting quite a rosy future. All the talk was focused on their need to retain and recruit top-producing sales associates, effectively use technology, ways to capture more ancillary business, such as mortgage and title, and of course, the ever-present need to keep company expenses in check.

Unfortunately, we all know what happened next. Our marketplace opportunities were materially impaired by virtue of an economic downturn the likes of which we haven’t witnessed in decades. Consequently, all brokerages have been in the economic fight of their corporate lives and unfortunately, not all companies, including some dear friends, have won the battle.

Fortunately today, our research indicates that many real estate companies are beginning to display great signs of optimism for their futures. The companies that committed to the necessary cost-cutting strategies and who displayed the requisite discipline and leadership to execute these fiscal changes are now positioned for significant rewards.

RE: John, you’ve just spoken to the need for real estate companies to adjust their business strategies. As founder and CEO of RISMedia, what significant changes have you made in order to best respond to the real estate brokerage community?

John Featherston: We revamped major parts of our business plan. Let me share with you our major transformation. For the first 25 years of my company’s history, our major role was more of a facilitator and commentator on changes within the industry, until several years ago. Leading brokers and brands began to demand that we extend our many decades of industry knowledge and media expertise into taking a very active role in consulting with forward-thinking real estate firms that not only were looking to us for our research, but also insisted upon our strategic recommendations and direction, which emanated from our research…especially in the area of industry and consumer-relevant information. I cannot tell you how much of an honor it is to collaborate with brokers and companies that I respect as deeply as I do.

Darryl MacPherson: I’d like to reinforce John’s observation by stressing that the only way we could truly assist real estate companies in their need to leverage both technology and information was by RISMedia investing heavily into the building out of not only our robust B2B (Business to Business) information delivery system, but also the great and unprecedented industry commitment to B2C (Business to Consumer) information.

RE: What should real estate firms focus on now to rebuild their businesses as the market begins to rebound?

John Featherston: Real estate firms now need to refocus on strategies that will help move their companies profitably forward. There is no greater example of a necessary strategy than one built around being an information leader in the marketplace that relates to both increasing consumer transactions and the ongoing development of sales associates.

Allan Dalton: When a company inserts itself in its market as the real estate information leader, which RREIN enables them to do, it immediately signals to all consumers that there is a willingness by the company to be engaged beyond the transactional needs of the consumer. A company positioning itself in this fashion, to some, may not be given the same weight as recruiting, retention, prospecting, etc., yet when research reveals that consumers prefer that their real estate advice come first from financial planners, then family, then friends, then neighbors and then only after these resources have been exhausted will they turn to the real estate industry, suggests that filling this informational void may enjoy the same or greater correlation to the bottom line as the aforementioned staples of business.

RE: How did the concept for RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) originate?

John Featherston: RISMedia has always worked closely with the leading brokerage firms in this business. RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) was created in response to an increasing brokerage demand for a simple, systematic way to deliver information to their consumers and agent force.

To help these brokers reinvent themselves for the future, we created RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), an organization that offers its members a practical, cost-effective and well-developed business solution for consumer content, marketing/branding, lead generation, social media, and enhanced recruiting and retention. While RREIN Members represent many different companies and markets, they are united in their belief that meeting the informational needs of consumers will allow their firms to profit on many levels.

RE: What specific challenges or opportunities does RREIN address for brokers?

Darryl MacPherson: The primary opportunity that RREIN targets is the growing need to find and retain clients in a tough marketplace. By strategically utilizing information, RREIN offers its members a way to more effectively connect with consumers before, during and after the real estate transaction and keep these consumers coming back to them as a credible, trusted information resource.

Mark Stark: Our company has been utilizing RISMedia extensively for years for many informationally-related and now for social media-related programs. We are thrilled that we will be able to not only avail ourselves of their ongoing commitment to providing content that leads to transactions, but also to follow their lead in causing consumers to become more aware of our special status as information leaders.

RE: What is your overall mission for RREIN?

John Featherston: RREIN’s mission is to differentiate select brokerage firms in their respective marketplaces by providing them with a business system for the dissemination of highly relevant real estate information to both consumers and the firm’s agent force. The goal of RREIN is to allow member firms to capitalize on RISMedia’s 30 years of real estate journalism and public relations expertise. This information will be distributed through a comprehensive multimedia solution that utilizes digital, Web, mobile and social media technologies. RREIN Members will be instantly differentiated due to their information status in the network.

Darryl MacPherson: The RREIN Business SystemSM will further strengthen the relationship between member firms and their clients, prospects, sales associates and potential recruits through targeted marketing strategies provided by RISMedia. Through the power of information, RREIN provides solutions in three key problem areas for today’s brokers: consumer engagement; effective public relations for brokerage differentiation; and enhanced agent recruitment and retention.

RE: Why is information critical to success in today’s market?

Dick Schlott: Again, it goes back to the consumer. Real estate transactions are complicated in the best of markets, and today’s real estate market is more complex than ever. With credit and loan freezes, new and evolving government programs, regulations surrounding short sale and REO properties, etc., having the right information is simply critical. To be a successful company and a successful agent, you must become the provider of this information. Otherwise, consumers are left to rely on other sources, which are often misleading or downright wrong—the Internet, the national news media, friends and relatives, for example.

Consumers should be turning to the experts for real estate information: the leading real estate firms and professionals in their community. Yet, they’re not. That’s why a program like RREIN is so revolutionary—because it elevates top brokerage firms to their deserved position as information leaders in their market.

Charlie Bengel: RE/MAX Allegiance prides itself on being very progressive. RISMedia has put together the most comprehensive information-sharing program that I have ever been introduced to and I expect it will result in more transactions for our associates.

RE: How does RREIN act as a business system for engaging consumers?

Darryl MacPherson: RREIN empowers company associates with actionable real estate content, which they, in turn, can strategically insert into their individual social media practices. Plus, this content will be delivered through the technological communication methods that today’s consumers are using most: video, online and the increasingly prevalent “third screen”—their mobile devices. For any information system to be truly effective, it must be accessible across this broad range of technology platforms, which now includes mobile.

RE: How does RREIN’s technological platform operate?

Beth McGuire: The RREIN Consumer Resource Center is an online portal branded to the broker’s company that offers a customized package of consumer-based information and exclusive educational material developed and produced by RISMedia’s team of journalists. This information takes the form of a daily newsfeed, soon-to-be-weekly videos and Q&A guides for real estate consumers…all automatically updated on the RREIN Consumer Resource Center.

This all-encompassing Consumer Resource Center will reside on the broker’s website as either a pop-up window or a framed page that is linkable from a button on the homepage. Resource Center content is also available as a direct feed for the website so the content will be resident for SEO purposes.

Members will also benefit from the RREIN monthly B2C e-newsletter, Home Matters, again developed by RISMedia’s professional business writers, to bring information to members’ clients and prospects on all matters related to buying, selling and owning a home.

Rei Mesa: All our technology solutions point to helping us deliver information. Our new initiative with RREIN and our involvement with RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, for example, are technology-driven programs that provide our sales associates and consumers with what they need most—relevant real estate information. Leveraging RISMedia’s rich history in the real estate business to deliver credible, useful information on a consistent basis through turnkey technology programs is just another way we can set our company apart and raise the bar in terms of service.

RE: How does RREIN act as a lead generation system?

Beth McGuire: There are two opportunities for lead generation capture on the Consumer Resource Center: the “Request Info” link displays a form that consumers can fill out for more information; the form is then e-mailed to a general information e-mail address members provide. The “Subscribe to My Newsletter Link” displays a form through which consumers can enter their name and e-mail to be signed up for the Home Matters newsletter. The “Sign Up a Friend” link displays a form where consumers can add family and friends to also receive the newsletter. All names submitted are automatically added to the company contact management system and the information is aggregated with other content leads in the Activity Report/Content Leads section of the Innovation Center, which is the online portal where members manage all their Web-based RREIN materials. The Innovation Center serves as the hub for all of the member’s online program deliverables and user activity.

RE: How does RREIN help generate PR/branding for your firm?

Darryl MacPherson: First and foremost, all of the above is branded to the broker, so as consumers receive and review articles, videos, and newsletters, they are also seeing your firm’s name, photo, logo…every time.

Maria Patterson: RREIN Members benefit from a comprehensive public relations program designed and facilitated by RISMedia. First, upon becoming a member, brokers receive the RREIN Media/PR Kit, a publication that guides brokers through the best strategies for generating consistent publicity and building strong relationships with local press. We also provide a press release template members can use to announce their membership in RREIN and then weekly customizable press releases on important real estate topics. All members have to do is add their name and contact information in key areas throughout the release and then it’s ready to send to their media list. These releases have tremendous value in terms of identifying the broker as an expert on real estate matters.

RE: Allan, you coined the phrase, “information share equals market share.” How will increased information share also enhance a RREIN Member’s recruiting and retention efforts?

Allan Dalton: Members’ recruiting efforts will be enhanced by promoting their RREIN membership in their marketing, recruiting and promotional materials. Forward-thinking real estate brokerages that seek high-quality associates, in my view as a former president and co-owner of a major real estate brokerage, must evolve from creating cultures based upon recruiting and retention and shift to a culture based upon selection and development. That’s what RREIN membership is all about at the company level.

Darryl MacPherson: Allan, I totally agree, and RREIN partners with its member firms to elevate their status through differentiation. How can we expect agents to create relevant relationships with consumers if they don’t represent informational relevance? Plus, it would cost our companies more money to hire a part-time assistant than it does to tremendously expand their range, reach and influence with consumers in their marketplace through RREIN.

Charlie Bengel: I agree with the axiom that information really is power. RREIN Members that are now able to provide associates with the most up-to-date and comprehensive information will close more deals and have an edge in recruiting.

RE: How does RISMedia’s position and editorial expertise in the marketplace benefit RREIN Members?

Rei Mesa: Through RREIN, leading real estate firms can now benefit from the rich media promotion and unparalleled information resources of RISMedia, enhancing their value proposition to consumers and real estate professionals alike while branding their full suite of real estate services. Through these unique, consumer-facing programs, RISMedia is allowing leading real estate companies and their sales associates to fortify their well-earned positioning in today’s competitive real estate environment.

Maria Patterson: Thank you, Rei. RREIN is all about information and RISMedia, as our tagline states, is the leader in real estate information. Our long-term history in the industry, as the only independent media player, positions us perfectly as information providers to RREIN Members and their consumers. Our vast stable of in-house and in-the-field writers and experts allows us to stay connected to the industry players and important real estate issues and trends.

RREIN Members will benefit from several key publicity opportunities in our existing online and print products. First, we develop a custom cover story for members in RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine, along with special broker spotlights and the opportunity to participate in our new monthly column, the “RREIN Roundtable.” We are also offering priority press release placement in Today’s Real Estate Advisor—up to four per month.

RE: Please tell us about the RREIN Mobile Business SystemSM

Darryl MacPherson: The RREIN Mobile Platform, powered by Mobile Real Estate ID, is a mobile marketing system for real estate professionals that allows buyers to access property information, pictures and the agent’s contact information directly on their mobile phone via text message. Simultaneously, it captures that buyer’s information and sends the lead directly to the listing agent…all in real time. As part of a broker’s RREIN membership, they are automatically enrolled in the Mobile SMS text messaging service, which is all managed in the Innovation Center, where members can enroll an unlimited number of agents and monitor their leads and activity.

RE: Overall, how does this program set leading brokerage firms apart?

Dick Schlott: RREIN is one of the finest programs for real estate brokerage companies that I have seen in years. For a very reasonable fee, our company is provided with timely real estate information to share with our agents and consumers. In my opinion, this is an extremely well thought-out product that gives Gloria Nilson an advantage over the competition. IDX neutralized part of our online differentiation. RREIN has helped bring it back.

Allan Dalton: RREIN Members will enjoy enormous newfound leverage by joining the network. For those companies that have already established themselves among their associates and consumers as a statistical leader in their market, they will now be able to soften or complement their quantitative positioning by also juxtapositioning that they are the information leader as well. For those companies that are not the marketshare/statistical leader, RREIN will enable them to elevate their prominence among consumers in a newly introduced category, that being, as the information leader in the marketplace. Considering how many consumers have developed antibodies to the practice of real estate companies saying they are number one in transactions, they will welcome a company that asserts that it is number one in an area that many find equally or more important…access to information.

RE: How does a firm become a member of RREIN?

Darryl MacPherson: Anyone interested in becoming a member of RREIN should e-mail rrein@rismedia.com and an account executive will be in touch to discuss further details.

RE: Is RREIN and exclusive program?

Darryl MacPherson: Membership in RREIN is limited, with certain exclusivity arrangements being considered for charter members. Pricing is subject to the size of the broker’s market and brokerage firm.

RE: Will the introduction of RREIN alter RISMedia’s ability to serve the real estate market at large?

John Featherston: No, we will continue to serve the needs of the industry as a whole while now also focusing in on the needs of top brokers. RREIN is just one more way we are adding depth and breadth to our role as the leader in real estate information systems, and further targeting information to benefit the specific needs of our various constituencies. RREIN allows us to serve the specific informational needs of leading brokers at the enterprise level.

RISMedia has always and will always respond to the needs of a changing real estate marketplace. This is how we’ve remained a key player for three decades and how we plan to continue to serve our consumers: brokers, agents and their clients.

For more information, e-mail rrein@rismedia.com.

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