Tuesday, February 28, 2006

HomePages wins four Telly awards

Earlier this week we learned that the HomePages.com TV spots have won four Telly awards - a group of awards distributed annually for excellence in local and cable advertising. Both HomePages.com television spots - the "Powerlines" and "Nowhere USA" spots - won silver awards (best in class) for the real estate category and special effects category.

Special thanks to Jones Advertising for their great work on this campaign. We've already have great success with the campaign running on several cable networks in the past two months, including TNT, CNN and HGTV.

You can check out the "Nowhere USA" TV spot here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Feeling the energy in Yakima

I'm in Yakima today visiting the new office. Great opportunity to hear and see the new team in action, answer questions they have about new products like HomePages, and make sure they're fired up about working at HouseValues.

The second I walked in the door, though, I realized that this team is already fired up. Talk about a passionate group of people! There's a serious buzz at the office, reps on the phone with new customers and prospects, very excited about our products and their customers.

This is an incredible community, too. The talent pool is fantastic, it's a beautiful part of the state, and just a couple hours away from the Kirkland office.

Had one rep mention to me in the kitchen that this is the best job she's had in years. Sometimes people say things like that because they think it's what you want to hear, but the excitement in her eyes didn't lie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Consumer traffic still growing

Traffic statistics are in for January from Nielsen NetRatings. Great news for HouseValues: our network of sites (which includes HouseValues.com, JustListed.com and HomePages.com, among others), had more unique visitors in January than AOL Real Estate, Yahoo! Real Estate, Homes.com and many other top real estate destinations.

Interest in HomePages in particular has definitely picked up. Not only did the TV ad campaign kick into high gear in January (with spots running on several networks including TBS, Fox News, HGTV and more), but the MSNBC relationship and some great PR also helped our cause.

And things are just getting warmed up (literally), as the busy spring home-buying season is still ahead of us.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Inspiring real estate agents nationwide

For several years, we've produced what we call at HouseValues a series of "Profiles in Success". The original idea was to write a customer success story, and print it on what would essentially look like the back of a baseball card - a picture of the successful agents, some of his or her "success stats", and a short story explaining how he or she has become so successful.

We've developed hundreds of these Profiles now, many of which are now featured on the Agent Success Network. Even more customer success stories are now featured on Agent CEO, a new Web site hosted by Claudia Wicks, our director of real estate training and content.

We use these profiles in our marketing, but they've also been insipirational to new customers just starting out with HouseValues. It's incredibly powerful for new customers to read story after story of other agents, just like them and often in their own market, seeing success and making dramatically higher incomes using the HouseValues system.

If you're interested in seeing more of these Profiles in Success as they're published, check out Claudia's Agent CEO site. She regularly publishes links to new profiles, some interviews with successful agents, and other advice coming out of our subscriber base. Better yet, use the email subscription service on her site to have new profiles sent straight to you when they're published.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Great products first, marketing later...

Yesterday's loyalty marketing presentation at the iMedia Brand Summit went very well. It was a great chance to raise visibility for the HouseValues business, and HomePages in particular, among several major brands, plus share some of our learnings around what makes for successful, high lifetime value products.

My premise was that effective loyalty marketing starts with two things that aren't always thought of as marketing:

1. A great product, that emotionally connects with your customers and fulfills a basic need or desire
2. A deep understanding of your customer, an understanding that allows you to anticipate what they need better and sooner than they know themselves

Good brands and companies are marketing-centric, in that the above two vital elements don’t emerge independently from a product development and research team. The marketing plan starts with the consumer, then the product, then the marketing.

Allow me to use HouseValues as an example. HouseValues services millions of home buyers and sellers each year, giving them free access to the information they need when buying and selling homes. That information is available on several Web sites, such as JustListed.com and HomePages.com, with the follow-up for specific requests made by local real estate professionals, who are experts in each of more than 20,000 neighborhoods nationwide.

HouseValues began almost seven years ago with a product that met both consumer and real estate professional needs. Prior to selling their home, consumers need to have a better understanding of how much their home is worth. HouseValues.com delivers on that promise.

Real estate professionals, on the flip side, are constantly seeking a better way to meet prospective home buyers and sellers. Newspapers, direct mail and cold calling are all expensive, inefficient and largely ineffective. By making introductions with home sellers who proactively request a service that real estate agents are uniquely positioned to deliver, both sides are happy.

And these products are built based on a deep understanding of both customers. HouseValues founder Mark Powell is a second-generation real estate agent, so he knew first-hand what his customers needed. Extensive research of home buyers and sellers validated not only that the majority of consumers seek the value of their home before selling, but they do so several months before selling – and well before they typically look for a real estate agent.

By connecting interested consumers with interested real estate professionals months before a possible transaction, consumers get exactly the information they want while the real estate agents get a critical competitive advantage that, if worked right, will win them the consumer’s business come selling time.

Based on the above customer insight, we know there may be a period of many months between the delivery of the home's market value, and when consumers will be ready to sell. Our loyalty marketing challenge, therefore, is to bridge that gap on behalf of our real estate agent customer, keeping them top of mind with the consumer, so that they’re the first call when the consumer is ready to sell.

It's exciting to see this strategy in action every day, as consumers and real estate agents connect across the country in mutually-beneficial ways.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Live from Cincinnati, it's HomePages!

We announced today the launch of 33 new markets on HomePages (including Cincinnati, featured in the screen shot here). What's particularly exciting about this for us is the fact that, for consumers in those markets, it's like the product just launched. It's exciting to talk with press in those markets who are playing with the site for the first time, and getting really excited - finding their own homes, finding their office, and seeing just how powerful it is to search for homes not just based on the house itself, but based on the neighborhood and local features important to every home buyer.

Consumer momentum and awareness is also growing at a rapid rate. In just the past week, I've heard several inbound stories from our real estate agent customers who have had customers walk into their office, and say they want their home listed on HomePages.com. One agent actually called in and said her prospective client would only list with her if her home would be on HomePages. Not a bad reason to become a subscriber!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thinking long term to capture buyers and sellers

The majority of real estate agents nationwide still think of a "good lead" as someone who's going to buy or sell in the next 30-6o days, but research again and again has proven that this isn't how consumers think.

Last year, Hebert Research found that consumers spend up to four years thinking about a home purchase or home sale. And when the active thinking begins, it can still take up to 16 months to actually complete the deal.

These buyers and sellers will eventually buy or sell, but they're on their own schedule. Yes, accelerators like relocation or kids can change the schedule, but a "good lead" isn't just someone who's ready to buy or sell right now. Smart agents are building relationships with prospective customers over a long period of time, knowing that a good relationship will mean earning their business when they're ready.