Unfiltered Realizations From 2007January 1, 2008
On this, the first day of 2008, I’ve thought about the past year and am sharing my realizations from 2007. Some are critical and others are self critical. All are honest observations.
I’m Not The Best Blogger Out There: I’m not even sure that I can be called good by any measure. If I had to honestly evaluate my blogging, I’d use the word, “persistent“. After over 400 posts on this blog and our ActiveRain blog, I still get very few comments. My “points after post” on Active Rain are horrendously low. Just in the past weeks, I’ve concluded that selling on the blog just isn’t working. In the case of ActiveRain, readership seems to be going down. Jeff Turner has the best approach for a blogging vendor that I’ve seen…sometimes I think that some people over on Active Rain don’t even realize that he is a vendor because everyone else is hawking his product for him. What a great space to be in and admirable reflection of the power of blogging. We need to work to get our product and our approach to a similar place in 2008.
That said, my general manager, Alicia, has done a super job of building our Spanish language real estate blog into one of the most visited real estate blogs in Spanish with over 300 average visits per day and a good 5-7 solid business leads generated per week. She has even
strong armed convinced a number of influential real estate industry professionals throughout the Americas to participate.
Users Tell Us Every Day What Is And Isn’t Working If We Listen: One thing that I’ve learned in 2007 is if more than two people ask for clarification about the same thing, then the message isn’t clear. If the message or functionality isn’t clear, users tell us every day by way of email, telephone, or just their actions on the site. If people are watching certain videos all the way through and not others, taking the time to *really* figure out why can reap rewards. Every day, visitors to the site are telling us things if we are honestly self-critical enough to listen – even when they don’t send an email or call. All of my listening mechanisms on and offline need to improve in 2008.
We Need To Find More Customers Like Ines Hegedus-Garcia To Listen To In 2008: Ines is a wildly successful REALTOR and blogger in the Miami area. We did some property videos for her around mid-year. Little did I realize how she would get us to think completely differently about the real estate business. Her standards for a successful video were incredibly high and often laid out in excrutiating detail. My notes from our conversations are still a veritable treasure trove of REALTOR expectations for property video production.
It would have been oh so easy to just nod and agree, and then go off and continue doing what we were doing. But we didnt. We listened (even to the hard messages) and our business is so much better for it. I still find myself occasionally thinking about what Ines might have to say while reviewing an edited real estate video.
From use of widgets to why she loves/hates certain online products to what details should and should not be highlighted in a property video, Ines made a world of difference for us. We incorporated a bunch of technical and business process items as a result of our time spent with Ines. About half of our work items for 2008 are derived from things that Ines said that we need to make easier in order to expand our business.
Our Competition Helped Us Understand And Drive Our Own Business: Friends who are now venture capitalists define competion as a validation that someone else sees your market as a viable business opportunity. When we started this company, there were just a handful of real estate video companies – one well blogged about infrastructure provider and a few service providers. Today, there are a handful of real estate focused video infrastructure providers and seemingly hundreds of service providers. Some open, unfiltered thoughts about our competition:
– Our competition helped us to define our goals in 2007 (increased views, gross profitability, and lowering the upfront costs of video production). We even developed a real estate video manifesto by deciding how we didnt want to be like certain other real estate video companies. In 2008, we’ll extend these goals into leads, profitability based on infrastructure, bringing the cost per video view under $0.05, and lowering the barrier of entry for video versus virtual tours.
– You can learn just as much from companies that aren’t getting results as from those that do. This helps define what to worry about and what not to worry about. For instance, being constantly plugged and blogged about by a few A-List real estate bloggers can mean little in terms of profitability or video views if there isnt a plan or subsequent execution to back up the exposure. A simple formula of really thinking about the business value proposition for real estate video and focusing on prospective buyers seems to be what bring both profitability and video views. We’ve actually been fortunate throughout 2007 to have one fairly well known real estate video competitor providing great counter examples of what *not* to do in this space in terms of profitability, video views, and execution.
The Difference Between Sales And Marketing: I am a technical guy so sales and marketing were always someone else’s problem prior to Vidlisting. 2007 taught me the difference between sales and marketing – sometimes the hard way. After traveling to 10 countries and selling when I should have been marketing (and vice versa), I think that I finally have a basic handle on the two. Marketing gets customers in the door so that sales can be closed. Marketing scales whereas even great salespeople dont. Our sales need to scale beyond the few. 2008 means that I have get better at both and, at the same time, help others get better as well.
Monetizing Real Estate Video Can Mean More Than Just Ads: People always ask us why Vidlisting.com doesnt have advertising (answer: many high traffic sites make surprisingly low revenues from ads). 2007 taught us that how to monetize almost 100% of our videos without advertising. I’m happy with what I’ve learned during the year in this case. We dont have follow the crowd.
Hiring Wisely Is The Secret To Running A Successful Startup: When there are just a few of you, every employee is important to the business whether an owner or employee. We floundered on the technical and the sales side at times in 2007 because of some poor hiring decisions made in 2006. Different choices would have likely produced very different results and let us finish more initiatives this year.
Finish The Technical Infrastructure Before Serious Business Development: We got caught in a cycle in mid2007 where the travel required to generate business was taking away from the oversight required to correctly finish our technical infrastructure. People grasp concepts better when they can see them in action. Only a huge two month effort got us out of that loop. Far more attention will be paid to this lesson learned in 2008.
The Right Association Can Make All Of The Difference: The REALTOR Association of Greater Miami and The Beaches (RAMB) is one association that is laser focused on helping their members be successful. We are so lucky to be affiliated with them and learn from them almost every day.