Monday, May 17, 2004

What can tech companies learn from realtors?

My wife is a world class real estate agent, working for Coldwell Banker in Burlingame. As a guy with marketing roots, I've been helping her with marketing initiatives. First, let me tell you a little bit about her practice. She covers most of southern San Mateo County and some of northern Santa Clara County. This includes towns like Burlingame, Hillsborough, Redwood City, Redwood Shores, Belmont, San Carlos, San Mateo, Foster City, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Los Altos and Woodside. She focuses on residential real estate, including single family homes, town homes and condos. If you are curious, her web site is located at

In the process of helping Heidi, I've learned a great deal about what constitutes state-of-the-art in residential real estate marketing. There is much that technology companies can learn from the real estate business. I'll cover one area now and get back to this in subsequent posts so this doesn't turn into a white paper.

Most importantly, relationships are everything in the real estate business. Most people find agents through referrals. So how do you build a clientele from a standing start? How do you get people to recommend you to others? These are fundamental questions, for a realtor or for a start up. Realtors accomplish this by using direct marketing (print and online) to establish a regular dialogue with their referral network. They also write a lot of notes and constantly send gifts of value to reinforce referral behavior. We all know that these activities are useful for tech companies, but few start ups engage in them effectively. Why not?

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