Choosing the Right Social Media Partner - The Five Point Relationship Test

Services for Real Estate Pros with VirtualTourCafe, LLC

h buyers and sellers are becoming increasingly more tech savvy and are demanding more time and energy from their agents for less.  Meanwhile, agents are constantly looking for ways to stay on top of technology advances and the ever changing social networking sites while still reaching their buyers and sellers in as little time and money as possible.  Brokers are looking for ways to increase market position by staying on top of the technology curve, retain and retrain agents on new marketing tools, and help agents become or stay relevant in an advancing social and technology driven environment.

Social Media PeopleIf one does a Google search for “Social Networking Sites” the results display over 72,000,000 entries. Now, that’s not to say that there are that many social networking sites, but it does illustrate the overwhelming obstacle for a typical real estate agent or broker to decide where to start in this new age of online real estate marketing and social networking.  Even once an agent or broker has determined the right product such as virtual tours, social media tools or mobile platforms, it is increasingly harder for them to choose the right company that will deliver the results they want and give them the customer support they need.

With new online marketing services and social media products appearing every day, it is even more important that agents and brokers choose a company that not only adapts to technology changes, but offers unlimited, quality training to support it. 

So how do you choose the right technology and social media partners?

A business relationship is still a relationship, not unlike a personal relationship.  And nowadays, even personal relationships can start online!  We start by having an attraction, maybe it’s an attraction to the product or the service, but it is an attraction none the less.  Then comes the courting, we explore the website, research the competitors and finally decide if we want to pursue the relationship.  Well, all relationships are bi-directional and the customer and the company have roles and responsibilities to each other. 

The customer role is to act in good faith and to use the services or products within the guidelines of the service agreement.  The companies responsibility is to provide the product or service as defined in the marketing, and the promises on the website, and then to back it up with strong customer support and training, presuming they are offered.

The Five-Point Business Relationship Test:

  • Price – Let’s start with the basics, a reality check:  
    • Is the price too expensive with unnecessary setup cost and per-user fees?
    • Is the price to low?  Use the “Is it too good to be true” test.
    • Perhaps there are add-ons and hidden fees.
    • Will the price go up after the initial “Introductory Offer”
    • Are there pricing options or a one-size fits all?
    • Look for companies with fair pricing, no hidden fees and options to fit different customer needs.
  • Unnecessary Contracts:  
    • Do you have to sign a one-year contract?  Is it necessary?
    • If you don’t like the service, can you leave and are there penalties?  
    • Can you upgrade or downgrade the service when your business changes.
    • Beware if the company appears to be more concerned with long-term contracts than customer service.
  • Refunds and Guarantees:   
    • Is there a trial period?
    • Is the service or product guaranteed?  Is it unconditional?
    • What is the refund policy?
    • Look for companies with the best guarantee and the most lenient refund policy.
    • Guarantee clauses are a good indicator of confidence a company has (or lacks) in their product and service.
    • If they can’t guarantee it, they shouldn’t be selling it…
  • Charities:
    • Does the company support charities, if so what percentage of profits?
    • It says a lot about a company that is (or is not) willing to give back a portion of their profits to a cause, a not-for-profit or a charitable event?
  • Customer Service and Testimonials:  
    • Does Customer Support work the same hours you do?
    • Call them to see who answers the phone and/or how quickly they return your call.
    • What do others say about the service level and product?  Call one of their clients.
    • What training is offered, how much and for how long?  Is it unlimited?  Is there a fee for training?  Is it fair?
    • Do they offer training manuals, support documentation, online help and/or video training? 

Old time customer service may seem like a thing of the past but there are still many companies that practice great customer service and treat their customers as the reason for the business, not an inconvenience.  In just a few minutes of talking with a new company, one can tell if they believe in customer service, you will hear it in their voice, in their actions, in the way they treat their current customers and employees, and yes, in their philosophy towards charity.  

So the next time you are searching for a product or service, remember, you may be in this relationship for a while, do a little courting first, check-up on the competition and see if this is the right fit for you and your business.

Written by Tim Denbo, President/CEO
VirtualTourCafe, LLC is based in Dublin, California and was co-founded by Timothy Denbo and Hannele Rinta-Tuuri.  The business is operated as a limited liability company and has an advisory board made up of professionals in the real estate, technology, and marketing fields.


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Ben Benita
Ben Benita - Gainesville, VA
Speaker, Author, Game Changer, Coach

AAAhhhhh......the good ole' days

I REMEMBER customer service....used to be so nice to call and actually talk to someone and have them actually care about you......


Mar 24, 2011 02:26 AM #1
Paul Stokes & Dean Rooke | Del Mar, Solana Beach & Cardiff Real Estate
Harcourts JADE Properties - Del Mar, CA

Hi Tim,

Some great pointers. I wish you gave some examples of pricing though, as I'm clueless. I pretty much do my own marketing -- both traditional and online -- but like you said it takes up a lot of my time and I often think I should outsource it. While the market is slow, I can justify it. But ... when it picks back up again, I certainly hope to spend more time with clients and less time on all the above.

Mar 24, 2011 02:27 AM #2
Donald Reich
Prudential Centennial - New Rochelle, NY

Great stuff, like Paul & Deane, I do most of my own marketing too, but am always open to new creative ideas!

Mar 24, 2011 03:01 AM #3
Tim Denbo
VirtualTourCafe, LLC - Pleasanton, CA
Tim Denbo, VirtualTourCafe


Yes the "Good-ol-Days" of customer service sometimes seem like they are gone but there are still some "good-ol" companies out there that do the right thing and actually pick up the phone... give us a call sometime!  Thanks for your comment!

Mar 24, 2011 03:05 AM #4
Tim Denbo
VirtualTourCafe, LLC - Pleasanton, CA
Tim Denbo, VirtualTourCafe

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your comment.  That beach you are surfing on looks great!  Social media services can vary greatly in price depending on what you are looking for and who does the work.  As an example, our service which is mostly a "Do-It-Yourself" virtual tour and real estate marketing service starts at under $10 per tour or less with a subscription.  We also offer a "Do-It-For-You" service where we complete the virtual tour (you still provide the pictures and MLS#) and we charge $15 additional for this service.  You can also hire "virtual assistants" that can cost as low as $5/hr - $15/hr depending on skills, location, etc.  There are many more examples, but I hope this helps answer your question.  Thanks again.

Mar 24, 2011 03:10 AM #5
Tim Denbo
VirtualTourCafe, LLC - Pleasanton, CA
Tim Denbo, VirtualTourCafe


Thank you for your comment.  I think it's a great idea to do your own marketing, this makes "you" the expert and adds value to your service.  And an open mind to creative ideas will help you add even more value to your service and your clients.  Our business model is to assist your marketing and make it easier, not replace it.  Thanks again for the comment!


Mar 24, 2011 03:13 AM #6
Doug Bullwinkel
Envoy Mortgage - Roseville, CA
NMLS #281609

Good ideas to help determine what social media is best for us.  So many choices and so little time.  We all appreciate your helpful hints to help sort out the herd.  Thanks for your post.

Mar 28, 2011 07:23 PM #7
Tim Denbo
VirtualTourCafe, LLC - Pleasanton, CA
Tim Denbo, VirtualTourCafe


Thank you for comments, they are much appreciated!

Mar 29, 2011 03:40 AM #8
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Tim Denbo

Tim Denbo, VirtualTourCafe
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