Real estate agents appear to fall into one of three camps when it comes to Zillow. They either see Zillow as a threat, they see Zillow as a great benefit, or they do not care one way or the other about Zillow.
It seems to me though that the majority recognizes Zillow as an organization that continues to move closer and closer to our space and it has the potential to control a healthy portion of what we have traditionally done on our own.
If you see Zillow as the big bad wolf (making us agents Little Red Riding Hood), then I propose you should take a broader look at how the digital marketing space is evolving, as there are many more wolves out there than just Zillow.
Step Back Out Of The Box
To understand the marketing evolution that is occurring, one must take a step back and view the entire business world beyond just real estate brokerage. There are many other "Zillows" out there, and they represent a similar threat to those other industries in which they compete. So who are they?
They are merely DM organizations that are publicly funded. They are mega-marketing machines with the sole purpose of generating traffic in specific niches. They have no intention of servicing the consumer; rather they form to take advantage of the lack of digital marketing skills in industries that have not embraced DM. These digital marketing organizations generate customer leads and then, in turn, sell them to local business owners who then convert them to consumers of their products or services.
In every industry, there is always a group of business owners that embrace these mega DMs as an opportunity to outsource some or all of their marketing efforts. They buy leads and mistakenly see this as a way to simplify their operations, allowing them to focus on customer service rather than generating business. They believe the marketing company will “market,” while their own business will “service.” So who am I writing about?
Just a few examples. Does HomeAdvisor offer any benefit to the consumer? Can they fix the HVAC or unclog a toilet? No! But they can sell online consumer information to HVAC companies and Plumbers for a nice fee. Is Angie's List any different? Not really. But here's the thing.
Ten years ago, in your town, the largest plumbing company was local. Today, it's probably the plumber that is willing to pony up and pay for leads from the big DMs as we mentioned above. It does not matter how many years an organization has thrived through traditional marketing methods and word of mouth, digital is taking over. Death is coming to organizations that do not embrace digital.
A well-funded DM can take over any industry including Doctors, Lawyers, and all brick and mortar businesses that are not actively working digital channels. It comes down to this for all of us who operate as small businesses:
EMBRACE DIGITAL OR DIE
If you are not educating yourself on digital marketing, if you are not creating digital marketing solutions for your business, you are losing ground to those that are. It really is that simple. If you are only a year or two away from retirement, then it really does not matter. You can survive on word of mouth. But if you intend to work many more years as a real estate agent, what are you doing to own your local digital space?
I do believe Zillow and a few other organizations will control the flow of real estate activity for most locations because I believe the current structure of the real estate brokerage industry is too fragmented to counter the invasion from real estate digital marketing organizations. Are you defending your area of operations?
Enhance Your Digital Marketing Skillset
Fortunately for ActiveRainers, there is a solution. If you are on ActiveRain, then it is likely that you are at least trying to get a handle on the growing channels within digital marketing (DM). Content marketing is obviously one major tenet of DM, and ActiveRain is an excellent place to improve upon your content marketing skillset.
But there are others, and you must continue to grow. Evolve. Learn.