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October 06, 2008


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David - whatever Matt thinks about it is irrelevant - this is good stuff for anyone!

One question about meeting with buyer personas - (and I am pulling in some thoughts as well from TUNED IN) - when you mention "getting out of the offices" and meeting with your buyer personas, is this done via "traditional" methods like face-to-face interviews, meetings, forums . . . or is there an online forum that you recommend? I can see chatting around different persona blogs, but what is the best forum for meeting with your personas? Seems like "new rules" still require some traditional methods of persona research.

How effective is something like SurveyMonkey emailed out to personas to gauge their pains and needs? Can we effectively "cyber-engage" our customers (for the purposes of research) or do we have to step back a little?

david Meerman Scott

Hi Randy

Surveys and focus groups are ONLY good to confirm the things you already know. NEVER use these tools to do primary research.

For primary research about buyer personas, you need to talk with people on their own turn -- in their homes, businesses, clubs, whatever. That's why you need to get out of the office.

A secondary source can be to read the blogs that your buyer personas read.


Kansas Realtor

The market right now is so different than it was even 5 years ago. To stay abreast of the changing times, you would do well to implement the advice listed above.

David Pylyp

Great Responses and questions that apply to everyone.
No matter how they found the house, I still need to door knock to find the client with a need to purchase.

Andrew William

A secondary source can be to read the blogs that your buyer personas read.
Andrew William


Matt Gentile


First, let me say thank you for all of your hard work and insights. In regard to your assumptions. A. Yes, we are the largest real estate franchisor with 8,900 offices and over 140,000 real estate professionals.
C. You are correct 84% of homebuyers begin their research on the Internet. In regard to your second C. I'm not sure what impact television advertising has on a consumer's choice of products and services. I'm all about earned media, not paid. I'm sure advertising has some impact; otherwise, why would a Superbowl commercial cost so much.

Now, with regard to your points.
1-2. We are certainly looking for alternatives to traditional advertising; however, I don't think you have a realistic picture regarding resources. I'm not sure how many major dailies employ 20 beat writers for their real estate section, but my guess is zero. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea, but the resourcing estimate is just not realistic.

How would I work around those constraints? My goal would be attack points 3-7 by mobilizing our network of professional REALTORS to develop expert content for use in the social media channels.

Next, the question of how to leverage our massive global network to capitalize on CENTURY 21 System generated media content (podcasts, videos, interviews, photos) to maximize SEO back to our listings?

In an organization of our size it all comes down to systems, communication and adoption. Can I get all 140,000 professionals to join a CENTURY 21 Facebook page or join Linkedin? Probably not, but by deploying small chunks of easily adoptable social media activities via our world class training team using Webinars (point 8)and live regional training, we could gain enough critical mass to make a dent in points 9 and 10. By creating enough spiders and crawlers (it is Halloween afterall) we could "move the needle" with regard to SEO and ultimately more traffic to our listings, more contacts, more appointments, more sales contracts, more closings, more business.

Sounds like a plan.

Thanks again David. I look forward to hearing your presentation at NAR.

Best Regards,

Matt Gentile


To have a real estate business, one must implement rules and techniques of making the business competitive and making sure that in every problem there are many possible solutions when that problem arises. I am very much thankful for this informations

Josh Peters

I was going to post up an idea or two but then the whole thing spawned into a big ol' blog post of it's own where I listed the top 10 things I would suggest for a local chapter of Century 21. I was going to post up an idea or two but then the whole thing spawned into a big ol' blog post of it's own where I listed the top 10 things I would suggest for a local chapter of Century 21. http://shua.typepad.com/shuablog/2008/10/using-social-me.html

David Meerman Scott

Hey Matt,

Glad you found some of the ideas helpful.

However, I do feel that you may have a misconception on my idea of hiring a large editorial team to work at Century 21. I am not suggesting that they be "real estate beat reporters".

Any smart journalist can get up to speed on what's required in a new area. In fact a real estate reporter is exactly the wrong person because they would likely use too much jargon and make too many assumptons for the people you are trying to reach.

Sadly, there is, in fact, a HUGE pool of talent. Local newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations have been laying off reporters for several years now. You CAN pick up smart editorial specialists.

Matt, I urge you not to dismiss this. It is the most important component of the plan. If nothing else, just hire one journalist as an experiment to see what they can do.

Oh and one more thing. Superbowl ads cost so much for the same reason that Mercedes Benz cars cost so much. Corporate executives and their ad agencies trump of the Superbowl ad as the ultimate marketing status symbol so people want one.


Mike Lefebvre

As a former Century 21 agent and a self-proclaimed poster boy for their new media efforts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WFV3S44Y6g I was thrilled to read your post after being teased with the title. I think your ideas are spot-on and revolutionary. Unfortunately, perhaps a little TOO revolutionary for a mammoth like C21 to actually adopt and implement.

I think Matt’s response was very telling. He starts off by reminding us how “big” Century 21 is. I always try to remind agents in my office when they come up with more agent-centric marketing that, “It’s not about you, it’s about them.” One of my frustrations about the Century 21 message, including our local franchise’s message, was that it was always “we are the biggest” and “we have the most agents/listings/yard signs”. I constantly put myself in the mind of the consumer and said, “So what?”

I hope Matt puts a little more thought into your Points #1 and #2 because I agree that they are the most revolutionary and most-likely-to-shift-the-paradigm ideas you proposed. Like you said, try it on a small level at first. Dip your toes.

No, they won’t get 140,000 agents to join a C21 Facebook group or sign-up for LinkedIn. What’s the old rule? 20% of the agents do 80% of the business. Having 140,000 agents on board is NOT the key. Having 28,000 agents who “get it” and are committed to the “new rules” is the key. Help lead the pioneering 20% to the next level. If you build it, they will eat it up. Or something like that...

And please, for the love of fashion, lose the gold jacket. I’m sure they get all kinds of mixed reviews (both good and bad), but I have yet to come across someone OUTSIDE of the Century 21 family that doesn’t crack a sarcastic grin or roll their eyes when the gold jacket is mentioned. I’m no fashionista (hardly) but whether it’s “hip” or “now” matters little. It’s the uniform (pun intended) reaction it generates in my experience. Sorry, not even Geoffrey Beene can make this thing cool. Retire it in the archives in Parsipany, but please take it off the front lines.

Century 21 has a ton of phenomenal brand recognition to build on, and based on Matt’s comments and some of the people I came to be aware of at Corporate, I’m convinced there are some really smart people there willing to drag the company kicking and screaming into the digital age. I sincerely hope they listen to the advice of people like David and Jonathan http://tinyurl.com/4hl8mh and totally reinvent the brand to thrive in the exciting next phase of the real estate industry metamorphosis.

My fear is that they are just too big and slow to move quickly enough.

Just My Five Cents,
Mike Lefebvre

Matt Gentile

David and Mike,

Again, thank you for such passion and idea sharing. In regard to your recommendations in points 1& 2, I will most definitely fight to expand our "reporting" capabilities into the field to capture more "real-world" personas and stories.

I understand how easy it can be to get caught up in the "how big we are" marketing. I agree with your points to enlist those brokers / agents who are pioneers in social media at the beginning and working outward from there.

With regard to the Gold Jacket, it is our Nike Swoosh. Say what you want about its look, it causes a reaction and immediately identifies you as a real estate professional. I like to compare it to how Johnny Cash went out of favor in the 70's, but came back more popular than ever in late 90's and today. The Gold Jacket is here to stay. You just cannot pay for that kind of immediate brand recognition.

seo services

Nice post.
Thanks for sharing with us.

Josef Katz

Great post. I am a big believer that content is king in today's world but I can see Matt's problem. His organization has been running mass media for so long that it probably feels there is a risk to the business if they stop running the media. This is a case of 'push' vs 'pull' media which you and Mark Smiciklas described in your posts. I personally still believe there is a place for targeted 'push' media in the marketing mix but 'pull' is always going to be most effective. The biggest challenge for most companies is how do they create enough 'pull' to make up for the reduction in reach of 'push' media.

Juan David Londoño


Great post, ideas that can be implemented to any business not just real estate.

Thanks for keeping us thinking on how to reach the masses.

Juan David Londoño

Jay Thompson

Fabulous post David.

Like the esteemed Mr. Lefebvre (who is indeed a poster-boy for new media in real estate) I too am a former C21 agent. I left C21 to start my own independent brokerage in February of this year. I don't have 8,900 offices and 140,000 real estate professionals. I have 1 office (virtual, no brick & mortar presence) and 8 agents.

And in seven months, we've built our minuscule brokerage to a point where it has more listings and more sales than the "traditional" C21 brokerage we left. All thanks to social media.

Matt, you are never going to get 140,000 agents to blog, or join Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Heck, I can barely get eight agents who are very web savvy to do it. But there *is* a core group of people out there clamoring to do it -- they just don't know how. I see so many failed attempts, so many start and then give up after they see the work involved. But there is *no question* that Social Media and Social Networking can pay off for a real estate professional/brokerage.

C21 does have tremendous brand recognition and I wish I had a thousandth of their marketing budget. But to be blunt, their web presence and "web savvyness" of many C21 brokers is very weak. Google "Century 21 real estate " and *this post* comes up #6. C21 corporate and C21 franchises should *own* Google for that term. Just last week my old broker called and basically accused me of cheating because I still outranked him in search engines for local C21 terms. Yet on the very brokerage site, the IDX search was broken, the site looks like it was designed in 1987, and he still had me in his agent roster -- with my phone, email and a *link* to my site.

I've taught dozens of classes on blogging and social media. Without fail agents walk away energized and eager to dive into blogging and social media. Without fail the vast (VAST) majority put no sustainable effort into it. It is hard WORK. It needs follow up training. The brokers I've conducted classes for don't seem willing to provide such training because they either 1) don't believe it will work; 2) don't have the money despite having just run a boatload of ads in Homes & Land or the Sunday paper; or 3) don't understand it.

Train and re-train them. Provide the tools. Provide the follow up.

"I'm sure advertising has some impact; otherwise, why would a Superbowl commercial cost so much."

Superbowl commercials sell beer, cars and next seasons TV shows. They don't sell houses. Today's home buyer and seller aren't looking for a C21 professional. They don't care if they are sporting a gold jacket or holding a handful of balloons. They are looking for the best agent they can find that can guide them through the daunting process of buying or selling a home.

And they are looking for them on the Internet.

David Meerman Scott

Holy cow, Jay. This post is on the first page of the Google results for the phrase "Century 21 real estate". Thanks for pointing that out. It's interesting on so many levels.

Best, David

Jay Thompson

It's very interesting David. You'd think there would be 8,900 independently operated Century 21 brokerage sites ahead of you.

It speaks volumes that there aren't.

Michelle DeRepentigny

As a former CENTURY 21 managing broker, your post was interesting to me on two levels. Ironically a PR professor from our local area sent me a link to your blog from twitter because she knew I'd be interested. IMHO, any real estate office that is not promoting and leveraging social media is about to be left behind.

After running an independent brokerage for 4 years, I am now affiliated with another Realogy brand as an associate broker and I chose the company in spite of, not because of, their franchise affiliation. I chose the broker because he is young and not scared of social media and non traditional methods. And yes, they do have a facebook group with approximately 50% of the agents being memebers of the group.

I understand the branding behind the gold jacket (I still have 2), but I also remember how the gold swingpost sign was a huge branding item that now comes in red for ERA and white for Coldwell Banker. Mass media, social media aside it seems that Realogy dilutes it's own brands unique marketing positions and the only thing CENTURY 21 may have left is the gold jacket.


Three years ago I sold my first home without any Net resources. But it was very difficult for me. I heard that some services can publish ads about my home in the Internet. Can you help me to choose between http://fizber.com and http://trulia.com ? Do you know anything about these services? My friend said that "Fizber" better than "Trulia". But maybe he wasn't right. So I need help.

Pure Digital

Again, thank you for such passion and idea sharing. In regard to your recommendations in points 1& 2, I will most definitely fight to expand our "reporting" capabilities into the field to capture more "real-world" personas and stories.

Alecia Huck

Found your article thru Matt Dollinger in Chicago--sparked a lively discussion. I sent him a detailed reply and thought I'd repost it (in part)here and join in the conversation. Thanks for the thoughts!


1. The good and bad thing about social media is that it’s a very useful tool. And, as with all useful tools, people have a tendency to fall in love with them and seem that tool as a solution for EVERYTHING. Successful people know that success is more about strategy than magic. People get wowed by the tool of social media and forget about the strategy.

2. Social media is also a challenge for people because it can serve two very important functions…one, it’s a CHANNEL (or often multiple CHANNELS)…you could also think of these as spheres of influence. Second, it’s also a place where you can execute your BASES strategy (essentially sales is about moving new clients around the bases—like in baseball. The key is to focus on what takes them from 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and so on VS. meeting someone and INSTANTLY getting their listing and referrals.)

3. What people need to be doing is thinking STRATEGICALLY about how they already connect with clients and how they can use social medial to enhance what already works to connect w/ new people, open up new CHANNELS (like meeting great people on Twitter), and using their on-line presence to attract new people (1st base) and provide information and resources that will move people around the bases.

Several other points…

a. Century 21’s ad campaigns suck because they don’t create what I call a “That’s Me” experience. When you see an ad or hear something that makes you instantly go…THAT’S ME, they’re talking about something I care about, then you’re connecting. The outlet or format is irrelevant. “THAT’S ME” can even be completely focused on the seller…it’s just got to handle that “so what” problem the guy mentions. Lots of experts make the mistake of speaking with a sales hat or expert agent hat on. It’s tough for most people to THINK LIKE CLIENTS. They can’t unlearn what they know long enough to do so (called the CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE.)

b. Solution to the above…CLIENT ENGLISH. The guy recommends getting out and interviewing actual people (in your notes you were thinking about what questions you should ask.) I developed a CLIENT AUDIT & INTERVIEW process to teach people how to talk to clients and capture that CLIENT ENGLISH—how they think about you, your solutions, themselves and their own situations.

c. From there you develop detailed CLIENT PROFILES. These are often both demographic and PYSCOGRAPHIC (personality, values, etc). Done well, they allow you (and your referral sources) to easily identify the people who should become your clients. Online materials can be tweaked to speak directly and directly appeal to specific profiles both in communication style and resources available.

I could go on and on (hard to restrain yourself when you LOVE the topic and ideas.) I’ll end by saying that one option that could be scaled up for large brokerages is the version of what I gave to a client on Friday. She’s gotten 6 referral listings in a fairly small neighborhood. She needs to connect with more people in the neighborhood and expand her presence. A GREAT way to do that would be to put together a “best of” list (best dry cleaner, local pizza joint, babysitters). This gives her a great reason to introduce herself to the people in the neighborhood and ask them to help her find 3 people for her best of list. She can redistribute the list over and over. She can put it ONLINE.

Imagine if the entire Century 21 force had a specific, implementable strategy that could meet each agent on their technology terms and get them moving. Imagine combining their resources to create a massive online library of neighborhood information AS WELL AS the calculators, financing, etc. info.

Imagine how much business would be generated by getting those agents off their butts, into neighborhoods and talking with past clients. They would get new business almost despite themselves. And they could brand themselves as the biggest little neighborhood experts in the world. Massive global resources, all to make your little corner of the world home.

I’m not a social media expert, but I am a STRATEGY and MESSAGING expert. Getting tired of everyone acting like the internet is a magic wand and that a few youtube videos can make you a millionaire. It’s true for some people but MOST that I encounter need to get good at their ON THE GROUND efforts before they go nuts online. Or at least as part of a comprehensive strategy.

houses for sale in Lafayette Colorado

When it comes to effective rules in real estate marketing, this is a tried and proven way to know when to invest and what strategy to be used. Thanks for sharing your ideas.



Hi David,

Last Thursday I enjoyed your presentation at Marketing Pioneers in the Netherlands. It was very inspiring. Thank you for that.

This blog post is placed in November 2008. I am very curious if Matt and 21century done anything with this plan. Do you know?


PS Here are some great pictures:




David Meerman Scott

Jan - Glad you enjoyed it. So did I.

Yes, the did change the marketing mix. See here http://bit.ly/bfCA2W



Really your post is very informative in current real estate scenario.I appreciate your post please keep it up.


Just found this post, and I see that C21 still has the same mindset they had when this post was first originated. They along with all the other brokerage franchises "don't want to get it". Typical of people who learned the wrong way and are now teaching the wrong approach.

You were challenged and responded in kind, and by their response, C21 really didn't want what you had to offer.

Real estate brokerage is a culture of "what we do is good enough" and "we're real estate professionals and we know what's best". Yearight!

What other industry is still trying to sell products the same exact way that they did 50 years ago. And is there another industry where every company peddles the same products the same exact way as all their competitors do? I doubt it.

They talk about being professional, yet they'll hire anyone who has a pulse. And they want us to put the value of our homes in their incompetent hands.

I hope real estate brokerage is Apple's next target. They're easy prey.

I love reading your materials. Keep up the great work.

I'm a smarter business person because of it. Thx

David Meerman Scott

Steve - I haven't revisited their marketing in over a year. I'll have to do that. David

Rob McCance

You wrote a post that long on what basically amounts to: write a lot of localized content to help with SEO?


Then a followup to prove it works?

Ok. Whatever works. I guess it's never too late for a old stodgy real estate brokerage to get with the program.


Hi David,

thank you for an interesting article. I would have a question -do you reccommend to have local facebook pages for each C21 office in the country or wouldn´t be better to have only 1 central Facebook page for whole country (e.g. Czech republic)? If we let our offices to have own Facebook pages I think that we lose the synergy effect. We can have 1 page with thousands funs or hundreds pages with several funs on each page. Please, could you give me an advice? Thanks a lot, Vasek, Prague

David Meerman Scott

Rob -- believe me. It works. Sure as hell beats simply pounding a sign into the yard and running a newspaper ad (although you should continue to do those things too).

Vasek - Facebook is for personal connections. Each broker should have a Facebook profile. I guess I'd agree that each country should have a page rather than each office.

James Strock

Wonderfully informative post and follow-ups!

Ann Macdenial

Great post, concepts that may be implemented to any business not simply land.

Thanks for keeping us thinking on a way to reach the plenty.

George Avakian

Great information, but how would you guys tailor this to a smaller boutique commercial real estate investment firm?

I've been doing my best to apply the new rules to our firm for the last couple of months now ( http://www.verdugoproperties.com ) and so far have seen some success. Eventually, I'll find the write people to have as quality content generators for for the time being I'm writing EVERYTHING myself and it takes up a lot of time that could be spent meeting property owners.

Here's the difference with commercial real estate as opposed to residential (what C21 specializes in):

- Commercial investors are sometimes institutions like life insurance companies, trusts, REITS, mutual funds, private equity funds, municipalities, etc.

- Even if you are to make contact with property owners, 99% will not even talk to you about anything transactional nor are they interested in hearing any kind of market news because they're just not making any moves so they don't need it.

- I don't know about you, but I haven't met many elderly people who surf the web, read blogs, follow people on twitter or post stuff on facebook. Nor do they google stuff about their buildings.

So with all of these challenges, how can I give my targeted audience beneficial information while creating a "hype" that will be a catalyst in the market?

David - I just sent you a facebook message about this by the way. Disregard that whole "not asking for help yet" part because I've clearly hit a 20 foot high brick wall without realizing it lol.

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