Developing a REALTOR® Association Internet Strategy
Many real estate professionals are spending time and money developing their “Internet Presence.” While many have moved quickly, most are just beginning the journey. An Internet Presence today is as important to your advertising and marketing program as your business card!
No matter where you are on that journey, you must develop what we at InternetCrusade™ refer to as an Internet Strategy. If you are doing nothing, the result is an Internet Strategy by “default.” You may not call it that, but that is exactly what it is. The alternative is an Internet Strategy by “design,” with you in control.
InternetCrusade’s™ Internet Strategy has two integrated elements, an E-mail Presence, and a Web Presence.
1. E-mail Presence -– This is step one (and the most critical). You must have a program for “getting your members connected.” Developing and maintaining an E-mail presence requires:
A. Implementing a program to get the members online and connected. A major consideration here is to find a good ISP (Internet Service Provider), possibly one that will help revenue share with you. Then, encourage your members at every opportunity (new member orientations, CE events, fax broadcasts, print publications) to get online and participate in communication with the association and other members.
B. Developing a mail list (aka “List Serve”) or maybe a number of them (examples: RealTalk, AETalk, MLSTalk); providing for ongoing conversations on some different topics and issues (legislative, MLS, market conditions, events, etc.).
2. Web Presence -– Your Web Presence (which begins with your website) becomes a part of your identity as an association; how your members “see” you (provided they are connected), and also how the public “sees” you.
Additionally, your Web site can provide a “password protected” area (InTRAnet), where information such as meeting minutes, association administration, and sensitive information can be made accessible to your members. You can also provide the public with valuable information about your locality and the REALTORS® that serve them.
If your members are not online and connected (which is more than just having an E-mail address, it is using E-mail regularly and effectively), your Web Presence will not be as effective as it can be.
Before you spend any money on a website, determine:
- Who is your audience (your members, the public, or both)?
- What is the purpose of the site?
- Who will decide its purpose (task force, committee, staff, Board of Directors)?
- Is there a “process” for deciding its purpose? What is that process?
- What do your directors know about the Internet (how will you get them up to speed)?
- How much should they (the directors) know before they make decisions?
- How much do you, the AE, know about the Internet and how much should you know?
- What about consultants? How do you choose them? What do they know about the members?
- Who will design the site?
- Who will create the content for the site?
- Who will maintain the site?
- What maintenance is required?
- What resources will you allocate to the site?
- What is the true cost of the site (when you include staff time)?
- Are there any "political issues" to consider?
As you can see, you must determine what you want your website to do and be; and then, what you want it to look like?
Associations are spending money on technology, and many are doing so with no Internet strategy. When looking at technology expenditures hardware, software, websites and the Internet, it is very important to consider what you want to accomplish with the technoogy, where you want it to take your association, and what non-dues revenue can be derived from technology and technology services.
A challenge? Sure, but you are up to it. Besides, you don’t have much choice (or much time), it’s the way the world is going.
Create an Internet strategy and review it frequently. Don’t throw away hard-earned association revenue without an Internet Strategy in place.
(Saul Klein is CEO of Real Estate Electronic Publishing Company, home of RealTown.)