Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Hip Owls

Hip and Cool does not mean slick Home Information Packs in this instance. Yes, Property Owl is cool and that is official. Graffiti artist Blunt has Incorporated the owl which is seen as one of the coolest animals on the planet. Move over lions and tigers, the Owl is coming. You watch, this time next year kids will be wearing Property Owl clothing on street corners.

Well, maybe we will stick to property management systems and property search portals, but it is interesting to note that even graffiti artists like the Owl.

Just a light hearted post.

Seth Godin Podcast

I have grown up with Seth Godinand have tried to adopt many of his ideals and expand upon his advice throughout my businesses. I missed his recent webinar when he discussed his new book Meatball Sundae so I was pleased to find the following podcast on the Ubertor blog. As a bonus, Chris Anderson of The Long Tail fame was also at the table.

It is well worth a listen and examines some of the key areas of marketing for the future. It is also good to note that we are following the right course by listening more to customers, joining their conversation, developing our community and socialising with them to bring a product that is actually useful.

Cheers – the Property Owl Community

The Owl Elevator Pitch

Ubertor has an interesting post regarding 60 second elevator pitches without using screenshots or demos. This interested me for a number of reasons, but mainly because I have been working on a demo for our product and I was getting a little bored. I have seen hundreds of product demos for all sorts of management systems and they all tend to do the same thing, the cursor moves around the screen, more screenshots and a voiceover with perhaps some amusing story tellers. Frankly, many are a little dull and not that useful.

I like the idea of a 60 second pitch with no demos. Videos from the heart without editing allow a user to understand the person who made the product and thus their product. There will of course be those that say it is a terrible idea and you should always show your product and they may be right for some industries, but management systems/software for estate agents all look very similar, even the fantastic ones like our system !!

Anyway, I have either found the perfect demo or the above is really just a stop gap excuse for not having finished our demo. I am not sure the product demo, roving cursor movement is dead, but I do see worth in the 60 second pitch with perhaps each complimenting one another. Indeed, 60 seconds on a site with 7 million traffic per month is good work, so well done to Ubertor.

To this end, I am now working on the Owl elevator pitch.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Property industry a buzz with Roost

Roost is another search in the property market, but over in the USA.

One of my favourite blogs the future of real estate marketing says that Roost is amazingly quick. Unfortunately, it was very slow for us (perhaps due to all the hits following the blog entry) and I was confronted with a terms and conditions check box in the middle of the screen as a pop up! What’s all that about - lawyers and (real)estate agents, why do they get a bad press I wonder?!

I guess saying it is super fast was the kiss of death and it does have some good features and we also like the whole bird theme going on,namely, Roost, Nestoria, Property Owl.

We are following suit with much of what we are creating and we hope that when we launch (a) we get such favourably reports, and (b) our site doesn’t grind to a halt.

Good luck to Roost!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

It is all about location!

Quiet cul-de-sac, next to the river, surrounded by good restaurants. Yes, our local urban fox has found the perfect den/lair or whatever it is called.

She wanders past our office at all times of the day, looks both ways before crossing the road (I kid you not!) and then strolls to the first of the few restaurants where she dines. Indeed, you don’t see her at night and if you are walking along the pavement she will just stroll by you as if she were another suited office worker.

Our fox is a 'she' as we have named her after a lady (I can't say who) but I am sure some keen fox observer will inform us whether our fox is a boy or girl.

Whilst bold on her feet, she is still a little camera shy and this was the best picture we have managed.

Someone asked after I took a snap of our confident friend, why are foxes tolerated and rats not? Surely they both behave in similar fashions?! Who knows (who cares), but I for one look forward to the day when chavs and Sloane rangers (who are basically the same people) accessorise foxes with studded collars and shaven midrifts and parade them down the high street.

Much has been written about the urban fox and if you are interested in some faqs have a look at the wildlife trust

Anyway, enough rambling. This post only appears as we have been trying to take a picture of her for weeks and owls are not as popular.


Property Fox (formerly Property Owl)

The real economic indicators

The Daily Telegraph reports that Foxtons estate agency is coming under attack for comments made by their staff to members of the public.

Apparently, a local resident complained about the Foxtons mini cars being left in all the parking bays. Foxtons staff apparently hit back with some choice comments made anonymously (they didn't understand IP addresses).

But what does this tell us? There are not enough parking bays, there are too many Foxtons minis, don't send abusive email from work? Well maybe, but the real truth of the matter is there are no listings and no appointments and probably less staff. Indeed, all the agents who have managed to hold on to their precious minis are sat in the office emailing the public using made up names. January is always quiet, but this year is compounded by the introduction of Home Information Packs (HIPS) and now a slowing economy.

This also tells us that the Balham area is particularly quiet and I suspect most Foxtons managers will be hastily instructing staff to get in their cars and drive around looking busy. Far better PR value knocking over cyclists and ‘rushing’ around!

So if you want to know how the housing market is going (and thus the economy) look out the window at the parking bays and if they are full of estate agent’s vehicles, times are tough.

Anyway, the estate agent bashing season is officially open. The lawyers will be next!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Keyword Misspelling

Would you believe how many people misspell the word property when searching for that word? We asked 20 people to type property into google search and this was the result:

- 10 people got it right first time
- 4 people typed – proeprty
- 3 people typed – proprety
- 2 people typed – propererty (or something like this)
- 1 person typed – cheese, but he is a very sick individual

Anyway, whilst this was a light hearted Friday afternoon experiment it did show what we all know: people constantly misspell search terms. Google does of course offer the ‘did you mean this’ feature but just how much traffic is lost (and/or potentially gained) through misspelling? Others far more intelligent than me have discussed this issue in a number of places, such as Seomoz but our playground experiment shows that 50% of people misspelled the word. Granted, it was not very scientific and maybe they are all poor spellers (well most of them write code!) or dyslexic, or both, or just wanted to trash the experiment who knows, but I was one of the proeprty clowns and I am well aware that I often make this mistake. It is also a difficult word given the keys are so close together.

Do we therefore rush off and buy misspelled domain names and fill our pages with misspelled keywords. The blood sucking domain industry would have us do this as would some alleged SEO experts. On balance, we feel that perhaps it is better to include some intentionally misspelled copy in your content, certainly at local level, but state why. For example, mention that people often miss spell an area such as Poole or Bournemouth and how they misspell it (even explain why, history etc). You may pick up a few punters and be top of the google ratings for once. Indeed if a user is actually looking for your site, misspells the search term and another company appears the user may just avoid the ‘did you mean this’ link and look directly below at your competition. Think, how easy is your company name to spell (moreover type), many users still find sites they frequently use by using search.

We are trying a few variations on different pages and will keep you updated as to what happens.


Friday, 11 January 2008

The Big Green Challenge (BGC)

The Big Green Challenge flashed across the radar the other day and it struck us that estate agents, commercial agents and all other professionals were in a unique position to assist in reducing the carbon footprint – if we listen to the government (which of course we do not) then the home is one of the largest polluters on the planet. It is not our intention to get into an environmental emissions argument, but with Home Information Packs (HIPs) forced upon the industry the buzz at the moment is to ensure your home is as environmentally friendly as the rainbow warrior. Indeed, we have all seen the Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) (coloured charts) that tell the home seller/buyer whether a home is a good green or bad green!

Anyway, we thought why not use the HIP process and the useless EPC chart to actually do some good for the community and the world at large. Why not enter the Big Green Challenge and encourage every estate agent to enter into a programme that would see home sellers/buyers committing to a monitoring period during which time they would be encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint through a number of schemes and educated in the benefits of green wellies. Indeed, we would all benefit from such a scheme: the agent has an opportunity to continue marketing and building relationships with already known clients (something agents too often neglect), the community benefits due to the locality and proximity of agents' clients and the world is a better a place. Who knows we could even win and share the prize money of £1 million with our agents to continue and spread the green love.

So it is with great sadness that our ideas will not see the inside of the judge’s brown envelope as we are not permitted to enter this competition. Why?! We are not a ‘not for profit’ organisation (unfortunately not making a profit is not the same!!). Without getting into another debate on business and the environment, if the organisers, The Daily Mirror and NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) had considered other industry examples, such as how the travel industry is responding to environmental issues, they would have recognised that effecting change through enterprise is one of only a few sustainable solutions to long term environmental change.

Rant over. We think we could help make a change and £1 million competition to be shared with all our agents is a good incentive. Let us in!!

As an aside -

Mashup map thoughts – when data is available for EPCs we can plot this on the map and indicate what are good areas and bad areas for green wellies, green zones if you like!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Help and Listings

Its all about me! The attached video found at the great future of real estate marketing site and produced by 1000wattconsulting asks whether lead generation is dead. We say every estate agent should watch something like this video and then not ask what is dead, but ask what does the customer actually want?!

Property Owl asks this question on two fronts, what does the estate agent want and what does the buyer/seller want. It does not take a rocket scientist to draw the conclusion that both elements require 'help' and 'listings'. Indeed, both distinctive groups want the same! Listings are essential to the estate agent, but also essential to the user. Help is crucial to the user and crucial to the estate agent.

Has anyone ever looked at these two groups with this philosophy in mind?

Our aim is to make our property management system so easy for the estate agent they will be able to concentrate more on listings which - sorry if this sounds like a sales pitch – means there is more time to help the customer and thus provide them with more listings. Simple!!

We know that many in this industry spout this mantra, but just how many of them fully appreciate the simple logic of the above?