Ju-jitsu is the ancient art and technique of using your opponent’s force and momentum against him rather than confronting it with your own force. First developed and practiced during the Muromachi period in Japan (1333-1573), this old style of martial arts training was focused on teaching the unarmed or very lightly armed farmer/warrior to fight a heavily armed professional soldier. “So what does that have to do with me and Zillow?” you ask. It has everything to do with you and Zillow. First let’s get a couple of things straight:
One, Zillow is not your friend. Zillow, and other big aggregators like them, have injected themselves into the real estate transaction by using your listings to attract and capture your would-be customers. Then they sell those same customers back to you extracting a large slice of the commission income in the process. Zillow is your opponent.
Two, Zillow is much larger than you are. With a market capitalization of $5.8 billion they are much larger than nearly anyone in the real estate space. They have resources at their disposal that you can only dream of. They have capitalized on the blunder of our own trade organization to build their massive company, and at the rate they are growing, they will soon dominate the real estate services space.
You, like those ancient Japanese farmers, are being attacked by a massive and very professional army intent on squeezing you out of the very profession you have invested much of your life mastering. And don’t think for one second that you can oppose them. They will crush you and never even notice. You, like those farmers, need to learn some techniques to use their own massive power and momentum against them. You need to learn some ju-jitsu. Some Zillow ju-jitsu.
Since the recent announcement of the pending merger of Zillow and Trulia (“GodZillow”) I have been pondering how best to respond. How can I possibly use the power and momentum of this mammoth company to my own advantage? And how can I help my readers to do the same thing? So with this problem marinating in the back of my mind I continued my day to day business of running my technology company, training agents, and managing my brokerage.
In my technology business, one of the most frustrating problems we continually encounter is working with local real estate boards to get IDX searches for our agents’ Ultimate Websites. Most of the local MLS providers want to not only charge the agent to use their own data, but they want to charge us as well for allowing them to display it on their website. Instead of serving their members, they are trying to exploit them. So I’ve been quietly looking for a national IDX company for years — one that could save all our agents money and make my life easier in the process.
Eventually it hit me — ju-jitsu! Why not use the very best real estate search websites instead of IDX? After all, it is the same information. In fact, you are not going to provide a better home search than Zillow or Trulia or Realtor.com — not without spending millions. I’ve probably seen a thousand different IDX sites across the US and Canada, and I have never seen one that is even close in user experience to any of the large aggregation websites. If you are honest with yourself you’ll have to admit that Zillow is better than your IDX. So is Trulia, and Realtor.com from a consumer’s perpective.
I’m telling you to love your enemy. What if you could use all of their collective momentum against them? What if you could create a website that was a one-stop search site? An aggregator of aggregators. What if you put all of the very best home searches in one location and you made it simple to compare their various offerings. Each one offers things the others don’t and you could offer it all.
And now add one more powerful search that none of them have: the sex offender registry database. Do you think your clients might like to know if they are considering a home next door to a registered sex offender? You better believe they would — and now your website can offer that information right next to the very best home searches on the web.
The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea. So I put my development team on it. You are going to love what we came up with! Zillow ju-jitsu! And I decided that I would be the guinea pig. I would try it first on my own website. And my customers absolutely love it! Best of all, before they ever see those other searches, I’ve already captured their information. I have an opportunity to engage them before Zillow ever knows they exist.
I know what you’re thinking: “But what if they register on Zillow and then Zillow sells the lead to some other agent?” Let me ask you a question. Do you really believe that your customer thinks you are the only agent out there? Or that your company is the only real estate brokerage? In today’s economy we either add value or die. Don’t worry about other agents or companies. Just get there first and never give your customer a reason to look elsewhere.
So let’s think for a moment about the customer path to your website. You customer first sees your online ad either in a search engine or on a free classified site and clicks on it. He is directed to your LCM-Web gateway where he registers. From there he is directed seamlessly to this search page.
Here’s what is so crucial: No matter where he goes from there, you’ve already captured his information and he’s a new lead. Let’s say he clicks on the Realtor.com search. When he does, a note is inserted into his record telling you he visited Realtor.com as well as the properties he searched when he got there. Or maybe it was Rent.com or Craigslist or Zillow. Maybe it was several different sites.
What’s really powerful is that now you have something to discuss when you make that all-important initial call. You might mention other similar properties that are on the market, great deals you know about in their price range, the strengths and weaknesses of the various searches. Here’s one you’ll love: If they go to Zillow, you might say, “Lots of my customers are somewhat doubtful of the “Zestimates” and I’m happy to do a quick valuation so you can have a second opinion.”
In other words, when it comes to engaging online shoppers the key is finding engagement opportunities, and this new powerful search aggregator gives you tons of engagement opportunities. We all know that the hardest part of making that first connection is the deathly silence when you have nothing to talk about. It’s uncomfortable for both you and your customer. Once you can get past that, the rest is easy.
So being able to ask them, “So what did you think of that Homes.com search?” might be just the icebreaker you need. Whatever they answer there’s no pressure because it’s not about you or them. You might suggest they check the Craigslist listings regularly because they are always being updated and that clicking to it from your site will always get them the most recent posts.
You get the idea. Lots of good information to help your clients and zero pressure. Starting that first conversation is now easy. And when they search you can look at the customer notes in your Pipeline client manager and see what they are looking at allowing you to better help them find it.
Best of all, you’ve effectively stepped in front of Zillow or whichever big home search and engaged the customer before they got a chance to effectively steal your lead. You’ve taken advantage of their size, their strength, and momentum and used it to your advantage. You’ve used Zillow Ju-jitsu.