My report from ringside.
Labelled future today.com the panel consisted of Dan Lee, CEO Globrix, Ian Brown of thinkproperty.com, Lee Bramzell of propertyindex.com and Miles Shipside of Rightmove.
The legendary Bob North was our compare and he didn't disappoint. Kicking the conference off by asking "where should agents spend their marketing budgets?"
After brief introductions and some statistic spinning Dan Lee sought to expose new comer propertyindex.com by stating that when he last looked property index only had 2000 properties in London and asked how he planned to compete. Lee Bramzell's soon to be standard response was that many agents were signing up and they hoped to grow. Naturally he disputed the 2000 figure. A quick search confirms they only have about 2,400 in all of London.
Bob North loved this and commended Globrix for throwing "the brick in the pond". The discussion then moved on to costs and the microphone was before Ian Brown of thinkproperty who made the following statement:
"£49 [for a portal subscription] is no longer value for money and therefore I can announce that we are going to be free" Yes, you heard it here first for all non Vebra clients it is going to be free to list in the portal (an official announcement will be made soon). For current Vebra clients they will apparently receive more advertising options.
It became apparent to the writer that as various issues were explored some cracks were appearing in the propertyindex model. Mr Bramzell referred to an affiliate program they planned to introduced that would see agents receive 50% of all value that passes through the site. To the writer this was plainly a drawing board idea thrown out in a little desperation. Great in principle and discussed previously in this blog, but without any detailed explanation it didn't raise hopes.
I have to say, Miles Shipshide of Rightmove had the mannerisms of a man who didn't want to be there. He bemoaned agents who didn't use rightmove plus (he says only 50% use it). Whilst this is a valid point he then let out a vicious right hand hook by claiming Globrix was untested technology and received "less traffic than the Aberdeen Property Centre".
The discussion then took a more constructive approach with all the portals agreeing that software providers and backend solutions should do more when it comes to measuring traffic. Indeed, many comments form the floor from agents indicated they were crying out for good statistics. Thinkproperty were challenged to deliver stats back to the agent and in another scoop, Ian Brown said "yes they would". All agreed unanimously that agents should be looking at their stats, measuring their traffic and conversion rates and determining their costs per lead. Sound familiar??!!
Bob shared these views and then steered the discussion back to costs. No doubt to get a little floor show. First up, Rightmove. Question from the floor. "why in this troubled market have you increased your prices", Miles replies "we haven't". I see at least four people stand and shout "yes you have". Miles tried to defuse this by saying see me after to one disgruntled agent, but one agent then pitched in and explained that he dealt primarily with retirement homes on a nationwide basis and his costs had gone up 1000%. Wow! "ah yes" explained Miles, "we have introduced geographical charging as we had complaints from other agents and that is why you are being charged more". Geogrphical charging? That is a new one on me!
Swinging back to relationships with software providers the panel agreed again that we should all try and work together to achieve common feeds and standard measurement. Time for another announcement. Globrix announced they will be launching an analytic package for agents next month, which will help agents analyse their traffic.
In conclusion, the message from the panel was clear. To understand who best to feed your properties through you need to be able to understand what we are telling you about traffic delivery, costs per lead, conversion and everything else this blog has raised over the past 12 months. Agents need to improve their websites, improve their analytical abilities and get to grips with online marketing. 'Measuring' was the buzz word of the afternoon.
Cost was another issue and if Globrix can deliver a decent user friendly stats package for free then they are once more pushing the boundaries. Indeed, some argued after that it is the responsibility of the portals to provide this information, especially if one is paying them.
Returning to our boxing theme, I think propertyindex came out of their corner too quickly and met with a few nasty jabs that stopped them in their tracks, staggering around the ring they just made the first bell. Round 2 thinkproperty thought they had a good right hook with their announcement, but it only glanced the opponents and didn't make full contact and I fear too much energy was used in that blow. Round 3 heard booing from the crowd for the defensive display of rightmove, very much gloves up and not one for the crowd. Round 3 saw Globrix boxing clever throughout landing some nice jabs and then the killer body blow almost came unnoticed as they introduced their forthcoming analytical package. You almost hear the ribs crack!