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Marketing REALTORS: What Title Reps Can Learn From IBM and KODAK

Title Rep MarketingBlockbuster Video, Empire Records, Broadcast News what do they have in common?

When I was a kid, I loved movie night – Fridays. My father traveled a lot for business so on Friday’s my brother and I got mom’s homemade pizza and a movie. That movie always came from one place – Blockbuster Video. I could not imagine why that would change.

When I got older, my parents let me venture past my neighborhood, as long as I had my best friend Jonathan with me. Like many teenagers our favorite things to do involved girls, that meant – the mall. We’d catch the bus in Syracuse and head to the Camillus mall. Growing up in NY, I loved Rap and R&B, If you wanted the latest EPMD, LL Cool J or 3rd Bass tape [yes I did say tape] you simply had to go to the record store. That record store, more often than not was Tower Records. I could not imagine why that would change.

Growing up in New York, no matter what my brother and I were watching on TV, when 6:30 came it was time for the Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. Yes sir, we were an NBC family. My dad trusted Tom Brokaw, I thought he was a genius, I could not figure out how he was able to memorize all of his lines. Tom Brokaw would come into my living room and millions of other households and deliver the news. I could not imagine why that would change.

While I am sure Blockbuster, Empire Records and the Nightly News share more than 1 thing in common, one thing comes to mind immediately. Failure to change. The Internet has decimated their businesses. More often than not, what brought down these businesses was not just the Internet but a failure to recognize a change in behavior.

Do you have Netflix? I do. I can stream a movie right through my Blu Ray player, Apple TV or Nintendo Wii, it’s convenient and cheap. Just the way we [Americans] like it. While it may seem like an obvious choice now – streaming video’s from the Internet – it obviously wasn’t for Blockbuster Video. Back in 2000, BlockBuster had an option to buy an up and coming competitor that would eventually challenge their livliyhood for $50 Million, they chose not to. That company was Netflix. You know what happened there.

My point is, are you ready for change? Is something right in front of you that could effect your title business in the future? Are you IBM or Kodak?

International Business Machines (IBM) or “Big Blue” as I grew to know them (my dad worked for IBM at one point) is an American success story – one that almost disappeared. You have probably seen the new IBM commercials prompting us to “think differently” and their products like the thinkpad. Ironically it is IBM’s inability to think differently, to change, that almost caused the company to fail.

Back in the days if you had a hard disk drive an electric typewriter or a PC it was probably from IBM. With 400,000 employees IBM was America’s company. IBM was an early pioneer in the PC market but they made a critical mistake. Up until this point, IBM made it’s own products, when it came to the PC, IBM chose not to build it’s own proprietary operating system [windows, iOS etc] and microprocessor, outsourcing those products to Microsoft and Intel. See where I am going with this? When the PC revolution began, IBM lost its dominance in personal computers. They went from sales of $5 Billion annually to $3 Billion. In 1993, IBM announced an $8 billion loss for 1992, which [at the time] was the largest one year corporate loss in American history. IBM was no longer relevant. To say things looked bad for IBM would be an understatement.

Under new direction, [IBM went outside it’s own organization to find a new CEO in Lou Gerstner], Gerstner stopped IBM from selling off core businesses that would not have allowed it to offer integrated business solutions for its customers. They dropped low profit industries – hard drives and printers – and instead they integrated whatever technologies the client required, even if the technologies were from an IBM competitor. Today IBM is back in the black and positioned itself as a technology and solution leader.

Kodak, another New York company, once a household name is in trouble. After 120 years the company is close to sliding into the abyss. Kodak has become irrelevant. Based in Rochester, NY Kodak is known for photographic products, take a look at your old photos of you and your friends looking corny [I have tons of them] and they are most likely taken with a Kodak camera, on Kodak Film or processed using Kodak chemicals. Kodak was everywhere, with it’s distinctive orange and red “K”. If you were thinking photography you were likely thinking Kodak.

Today, Kodak is in trouble. It has failed to invent new and innovative products, or discovered new business opportunities. Kodak initially succeeded by offering consumers innovative products that allowed them to capture everyday moments. It failed by not continuing it. When you take a picture today are you doing so with a square, boring, plastic camera, with film or using a sleek, digital, metallic camera? Most likely neither, today most consumers are using their smart phones to capture life’s most important memories. This is Kodak’s problem. It has failed to change, to stay on top of the shift in consumer behavior.

So what can you learn from IBM or Kodak? You may not realize it yet but you may be having your own “Kodak moment” soon. Here is Phoenix, and other parts of the country – CA, FL, NV – our markets are dominated by distressed property sales, short sale and REO. Many title companies have invested their time and resources in creating tools and systems to help real estate professionals serving these segments. Like all markets, this too shall pass. We will return to a normal market, even if we don’t realize it immediately – when we do. REALTORS will then be looking to their title companies for help with real estate marketing.

Failure of many title companies and title reps to learn the new real estate marketing realities of WordPress, Content, Indexable IDX Solutions, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Optimization, Video, Video Optimization could relegate them to the destiny  – of Kodak.

Your cheese has been moved, even if you don’t realize it yet. Real estate agents, your ideal customer, will come out of 5 – 7 year tunnel or process of marketing their services to asset managers and distressed sellers, where they can easily see who needs their services, to one where they will not know which way is up. They will be looking to their title companies and title reps for help with these new marketing realities. What will you do? Will your value proposition be discounted postcards and flyers, free printing, WIFI, great service! or will it be training and implementation of these new technologies. Will you be IBM or Kodak?

IBM has stayed competitive and relevant. Kodak has not.

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Hi I'm Stephen Garner, I'm just a guy in the title industry {in Phoenix} trying to change how real estate agents market themselves and their services. To that end, I teach my clients HOW TO leverage sales technologies like WordPress, Content, Video, Camtasia, Final Cut X, iMovie and indexable IDX solutions to convey value and help your ideal client find you online when they are most interested in learning about you and your services. I work for escrows. Hire me!

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