When you think about the best practices for MLSs and Associations to communicate to the members, the goals line up pretty clearly:
Onboard new members more efficiently
Engage members in an education pipeline
Drive adoption of member benefits
Improve event registration numbers and efficiencies
Drastically reduce the effort required to collect dues and gather them sooner
Maximize member PAC contributions
Streamline and automate customer service processes and procedures
Accomplishing these goals will allow your staff to concentrate on delivering the best possible service to your members in the most efficient manner. Achievement of these goals requires utilizing state of the art concepts and systems, specially designed for your Association.
It is interesting to note that Associations have long educated their agents to encourage them to use CRMs in their business, but few Associations have adopted CRMs for the Association. Does your Association have a CRM?
This article is the first in a series explaining how to develop a foundation and technology plan to accomplish the above-stated efficiencies. Our solution is specially built to be scalable for MLS and Association organizations of all sizes and vastly differing resources. We have collected the best practices and systems from leading MLS and Associations of REALTORS®.
Our experience integrates popular Association Management solutions and MLS databases to make them work with other 3rd party platforms which you may currently be running.
Accomplishing this requires three major components.
Understanding the fundamentals of marketing and communications funnel.
Building a Technology Foundation
Power Your CRM With Member Profile Properties
Developing the Marketing & Communications Funnel
Once you have integrated your customer records into a living data base, that becomes the foundation that becomes the lynchpin of developing a center of excellence in communications.
Controlling the top of the funnel is of the utmost importance and often comes naturally to our industry. There is one certainty, and that is the fact everyone HAS TO get to the MLS.
At the top of the funnel is what we call Point of Entry to the MLS, of which there are three options will I discuss in depth in a future article of this series.
- Association/MLS Customer Portal
- Member Mobile Application
- Direct Bookmarked URL to a Gateway (e.g., Clareity Dashboard)
The middle of the funnel varies by location depending on your member’s user experience, each bringing different levels of effectiveness.
- Members can only log in directly to the front end of the MLS with single sign on.
- Single Sign On Dashboard to access other valued premium and included technology services
- Member Management Portal to allow agents and brokers to access and manage their accounts and get access to services.
Finally, the bottom of the funnel. The front end of the MLS and all of the significant providers include some level of messaging.
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Next Article: Understanding the Association and MLS Marketing & Communications Funnel
In our first article in this series, we outlined the CRM for Associations and MLSs. For example's sake, we will assume an entirely robust funnel environment, supported by the existence of your Association or MLS CRM. But keep in mind that any level of implementation is advantageous, and a technology plan can be developed to prioritize needs.
1. Top of the Funnel
a. Mobile Phone/Tablet
i. Push notification to a mobile app
ii. Messaging thread in a mobile app
iii. Text message
b. Enterprise Level Website
i. Browser notifications on the AOR/MLS website
ii. Custom messaging on the AOR/MLS website (business logic written directly into the code or on powerful CMS)
2. Middle of the Funnel
a. Custom messaging on a Member Portal
b. Custom messaging on an SSO Dashboard
3. Bottom of the Funnel
Custom messaging on the MLS Front End
We now have redundant layers of communication. It is utterly impossible for a member to conduct business without seeing the message or call to action. Notice that we haven’t mentioned e-mail. Purposely so, in such an environment email is by far the weakest channel. Agents, brokers, and consumers are so overwhelmed by bulk email that it is hard to drive engagement beyond open rates of 20%. With notifications on mobile apps, the engagement levels more than triple in our experience.
The days of email being a primary route of communication are gone. Automated email marketing, segmentation, nurture campaigns, IFTT (If This Then That) enrollment workflows, AB testing are for lead generation and conversion --to be used to engage and build a customer base. I am by no means saying that the endeavor is useless. It must be used as complimentary component to developing a center of excellence in communication. Associations and MLSs have already accomplished the capture phase of onboarding customers. What remains is engagement, retention and upselling. In the world of organized real estate that implies quantifiable value proposition and conversion tracking so that all of the benefits and services that we work so hard to bring to the membership are utilized and appreciated.
If reduced to the lowest common denominator what we want our members to do is just two things.
Read important communications-e.g. New Laws; We have new forms
Complete a call to action-e.g. pay dues, register for class/event, contribute to the PAC
Side Note: Last quarter, dues were collected 27% faster than ever before without running a discount promotion. Email unsubscribes were down 63% (transactional blaster used for parent email and regular for nurtures). Inbound phone calls to pay down 42%. Service center walk-ins to pay down 77%.
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As we touched on in earlier articles, our industry is fortunate in that we already control the historically most challenging aspect of communications. Driving eyes/traffic to a single point of engagement, in this case the MLS and Association portal.
Usually, customer adoption takes piles of money, time, and effort to convert. The effort to drive engagement includes paid campaigns to your custom audience, content creation that is targeted to your customer personas, constant testing of multiple landing pages, etc. Depending on your local landscape this happens one of three ways.
Log into an AOR or MLS website
Via a mobile application
Bookmarked URL for a Gateway
MLS or Association Member Website
I will start with the point of entry that is most generally followed. A website login. The most important factor here is, does your area have an Association and MLS website as a point of entry? If so, that is the first potential problem. These need to be consolidated into a single place.
Assuming this is the case then the question is can I make both logins point towards the same asset? e.g., a Clareity Dashboard. If the answer is no, then that needs to be rectified. Ownership of the MLS makes this easy, but since most MLS ownership is among multiple associations, it can get more complicated. Even as an Association in a regional MLS, you can create an environment where agents prefer to login through your gateway if you deliver more value.
In a situation where the association site log in points to a member experience (Rappatoni IMS or Ramco Member Portal) and the MLS website points to the MLS front end, options need to be explored to unify the experience. To drive the value you provide, the goal is to create the best possible user experience for your customer. If you cannot engage your customer at login, it is difficult to drive your communications programs or adoption of member services.
What matters is all traffic is pointed to a unified experience. Then efforts can be made to surface relevant data to whatever that asset is.
Deployment of a mobile application as a point entry to MLS is paramount. The value of being able to identify the members phone and service push notification can't be understated. It is extremely tough for anyone to see the little red number hovering above the app tile and not clear it!
Making a mobile application choice depends on what ancillary goal the organization has.
1. An association application
2. A real estate search app
Distribution of a mobile application for the association provides an opportunity to layer communications as well as build additional revenue streams for the organization. The downside is the real estate professionals are already prompted to download more al la carte products than any demographic.
Real Estate Search Application
There is no shortage of these as we all know. I suggest that whichever one chosen for agent-client interaction gets repurposed as the organization’s point of entry application. Hold judgment for a second and let me explain.
We want adoption of our member benefits and so do the vendors that provide them. So I don’t think it is too much to ask a provider to surface a branded association version as the point of entry.
Imagine if anyone that interacts with education, events, service centers and emails is prompted to download what will be used to log into the MLS, pay dues, register for events/classes, save event schedule to their phone, etc. This is the heart of delivering value as an Association.
All it would take to accomplish this is for the app provider to add a single custom-branded entry page. This puts you in first position to communicate your value to your members.
The result will be mass distribution of the search application with the added benefit of controlling top of the funnel.
Book Marked URL
If after analyzing the current environment it is determined that a significant percentage of the membership has bookmarked the direct URL for the front end of the MLS, then steps can be taken to move that traffic into the preferred ecosystem. Lacking the intention to deploy an SSO experience then the most straightforward course of action would be to implement a web page with browser notifications and promote download of the mobile app pointed at the MLS gateway.
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Next Article: How MLSs and Associations Nurture their Customer
Previous Article: Understanding the Association and MLS Marketing & Communications Funnel
Middle of the Funnel--Bottom of the Funnel
Once the top of the funnel is built it is now time maximize the most efficient point of communication that can be deployed. Middle of the Funnel.
There are three options for developing this traction point, each offering differing capabilities.
- Custom Web page/Front-end of the MLS
Association Member Portal
Even though Rapittoni garners the most significant market share, I am sorry to say it is the worst member interface to accomplish our goals. That leaves RAMCO, which fortunately is built on the 365 CRM and MMSI Membership Director, which has done great UI/UX work.
Before we continue let’s remember that membership traffic should NOT be split over a member portal and MLS log in. Rather the member should only be able to follow one lane to get to the MLS.
Both RAMCO and MMSI provide billing, events, education, PAC contributions, messaging functionality and open API’s. If each module is robust enough to fulfill the organization's needs then all completed actions can be tracked.
If the member portal is the single "on-ramp" to get to the MLS then an email will quickly become obsolete.
Single Sign-On Dashboard with Notifications
Many Associations provide an SSO dashboard such as Clareity as the gateway to the MLS. By definition these are a great aggregation point for messaging and is already built to recognize the agent. The next step is to classify the agent into marketing buckets or personas, build the dynamic assets to display to them for the services they use, and the workflows to drive conversion of products that they have not adopted.
Custom Web page/Front-end of the MLS
A web page is just a visual representation of data and as such one can be created/hosted to display segmented experiences. An example of this is the member interface on the MLS. Take control of the opening page, host it on your domain, and power it with your CRM in a way that communicates directly to the agent.
The full power of layered and segmented communications is now applicable. Choose the type of campaign to run and outbound channels to be leveraged. Be it text, push, browser notification, custom messaging on the member portal, the front end of the MLS and or email.
Additionally, track the channel most often engaged by the member on an individual basis and optimize communications to that preference.
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Next Article: Building an MLS and Association Membership Technology Foundation
Previous Article: Engaging Agents and Brokers with Your Association or MLS CRM
Consolidating your membership roster for Association and MLS is a key strategy in developing the most successful CRM system for driving membership engagement and enhancing your customer value.
So let’s scope the process.
What Association Membership Management (AMS) solution are you running?
Identify the data tables that a relevant to your needs.
Develop the data transfer process
*Merge AMS and MLS member profiles*
Rapattoni and RAMCO dominate the space. Each comes with its inherent pros and cons. But in my opinion, both are built with a core focus on accounting systems for which they perform well. Then there is MMSI that pairs a strong accounting system but places special emphasizes on member interface.
Now to be clear, we are not getting into the conversation about changing your AMS. The entire point of this program is that it can work with any AMS. While specific capabilities will be exclusive to each, vast improvement is possible with each.
Without addressing the technical specification involved (though reAltitude can offer you detailed documentation), instead, let's concentrate on the overall concept.
Identify the Data Tables
The bare minimum is all of the member's profile and contact record. Next up is their associated billing and status data. Then if you are using the AMS for event/education registration, committees and PAC campaigns, grab that too. All of this information needs to be consolidated into a single record to provide your staff with a 360-degree view of who your customer is.
There are many more moving pieces here, but for simplicity's sake, we can demonstrate a campaign now.
Dues billing is done one of two ways.
First, with the transactional blast out of the AMS. The member can't unsubscribe, but there are no nurture or tracking capabilities.
Second, a flat file is generated of open invoices and dropped into a mailing system (Constant Contact, Mobile Storm, etc.)
Even if we assume the first email is delivered, opened, clicked, and dues are paid without any nurtures there is still a huge disconnect. At some point, someone has to go back into the AMS manually, recreate the flat file less the closed invoices, pull the old data out of the mailing system, scrub the two, and upload back to the mailing system. Two or three days’ pass and we do it all over again. This is a monumental waste of time and we haven't even considered walk-ins, mail-ins, and phone payments yet.
A real closed loop is demonstrated when you can identify the properties for list generation, choose your delivery channels, track all the way through conversion (dues paid), and that profile is automatically scrubbed off the next round.
Side Note: The channel the member engaged in, the date/time they did so, and the action completed all become new profile properties of that member used for list generation.
e.g. I want to generate a list of every broker and agent that paid their dues via a text link, two or more consecutive times, attended the Expo, has been a member 5+ years, with 10 or more agents, all in compliance in these 3 zip codes so we can send them Starbucks gift cards.
Develop the Data Transfer Process
Accomplishing this occurs in multiple ways, and the optimal will depend on the AMS you're running, the version, and what other goals you have for the data. For now, we can focus on two.
Via dynamic Application Programing Interface (API)
Install a data lake
Different systems have different API capabilities that detail what data is included, how often it can be called etc. In some cases, a custom API may be a necessity.
If you foresee wanting to do custom development with the data, then you may want to consider a data lake. In this scenario, you would send your data to the storage to normalize for your CRM (and any other platform you want) for consumption.
A use case would be that your AMS doesn't allow real-time calls, you want data in your CRM, to build an intranet for your dept. heads and a custom event registration because you don't like to use the one your AMS provides.
Merge AMS and MLS Member Profiles
While not necessary, if you want to make a drastic leap in how you service your members and improve operational efficiency then you will want to merge profiles.
The best way will vary case by case but here are some of the ways it can be done.
Your AMS allows you to write to the database
Your Clareity Dash consumes the AMS data as it is already absorbing the MLS data
Your MLS consumes your AMS data and sends back to the association
An elementary example of what this would offer would be to surface MLS data in real time as a member benefit for the brokers. e.g., When a broker logs into the member interface (member portal or SSO), brokerage data could be displayed in aggregate. Year to date transactions by unit volume/dollar amount, # of current listings, # in escrow, number of pending are all categorized by the agent.
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The first step in making all this possible is setting up marketing and CRM platforms. There are many and choosing one will be a based-on resources and individual needs. The critical thing to remember is that all modern systems have an open API and can work together.
There are various industry-specific nuances that need to be addressed, such as "I am running Rapattoni AMS. What CRM should I use?”
As with every subject in this article, there is a lot to be highlighted in setting up these systems, and once you start, your mind will run wild with the possibilities it affords.
There are three main things to concentrate on to get started, which can be accomplished a variety of ways.
Merge AMS and MLS member data into one CRM profile.
Segment the membership into personas or tags
Identify your marketing and communications funnel.
Now it is understood that each organization has different priorities at any given time. So if your only channel as of now is email, that is fine. Remember that this is just the foundation.
With the power of a marketing funnel, personas to develop segmentation, and robust member profile data powering a connected CRM and marketing platform, you are ready to get started.
How to Develop Personas Using Tags
Although extremely important, we will just touch on this topic for now. If you want to explore in more detail you can download this workbook.
Every company must understand their customers and members are our customers. Most of you have heard of consumer profiles. Well, your AMS and MLS member profile data are just that. Now, most of you are thinking that the personas are Broker, Agent, and Affiliate. To the degree that is correct but let's just use Broker in a remarkably reduced version of the persona concept.
Broker-name-contact; info-office; info-brand-business model; #of agents; years in business; year to date transactions volume; year to date transactions by unit; # of live listings; # of listings in escrow. You get the idea. Are they a member of a team? Do they focus on Luxury or Condos or some other specific property type? Do they speak specific languages? Using tags, you can more succinctly frame your value to your users.
Correct segmentation means engaging the member when they want, how they want and with relevancy. To do that you must get to know them.
Side Note: To date, we have well over 700 profile properties on each of our members.
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Next Article: Using Browser Notifications to drive Engagement for MLSs and Real Estate Associations
Previous Article: Building an MLS and Association Membership Technology Foundation
For MLSs and real estate associations looking to engage members, the low open rates on bulk emails might sound disconcerting. But there is a solution that has been shown to triple the rate of engagement: push technology, or browser notifications.
Helping get a web user receiving push notifications is a fairly simple process done one of two ways, enrollment when the website is visited for the first time or when the member joins the organization. Like a lot of what goes on at that marketing stage, a fair bit of this process can be automated. Here’s how it works.
How it works
It starts with current or potential member, visiting an MLS or association website. From there, software enabled in the website can check if a web visitor is subscribed. If the user is not subscribed, then they can be automatically asked if they want to subscribe.
The last step is fairly critical, as subscribing a web user to a service, in general, is not advisable without their explicit permission. Click-through rates and engagement will generally be much lower for content sent to a user that they did not request.
It is standard practice to ask a new member for contact information and preferred method of contact. “Which email address do you want this sent to or do you want it snail mail?”
Occasionally, to ask for preferred method of contact per subject. “I want dues invoices sent to my office street address, call me if there is a compliance issue and email everything else.”
Rarely, to ask for preferred method of contact per subject by current communication channels. “I want dues invoices sent via browser notifications, call me if there is a compliance issue, text me if there is going to be an MLS outage and I only want emails about educations/trainings.”
Implementation of browser notifications and NOT poisoning the channel is the first step in engaging member by preferred method.
It’s a fairly cut-and-dry process but one that can be highly effective at cutting through the noise and clutter of today’s online experience and the world in general. Browser notifications help ensure that MLS or real estate association members read important communications, pay dues, register for events and much more.
Browser notifications enable numerous functions and capabilities. They can of course notify a web visitor when there is a new email, message or special publication, perhaps a new white paper or ebook, ready for them to download. With ever-evolving laws and regulations in the real estate field, automatic notifications can prove invaluable for realtors. Far from these messages seeming intrusive, a realtor might feel grateful to the MLS or association that provides them.
Functionalities and capabilities
Browser notifications can also create end loops of sorts. They can show special offers from an MLS or association website, perhaps an upcoming professional development night for realtors. Once the realtor has signed up for this event, the notifications can be used to send reminders about it. And after the event has passed, a push notification can be used to request that the attendee take a survey about their experience.
An organization that truly wants to service their members at the highest level would offer to customize this channel for each member.
This is easily set up in any marketing platform. Timely engagement with personal relevancy is the hallmark of marketing and communication in the 21st century.
Real estate is a highly data-driven field. Browser notifications can help to gather more information while keeping end users -- the realtors who receive them -- better informed. They’re a fine use of technology.
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Next Article: Business Logic for Real Estates MLS
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Are You Conducting Business Logically?
Long gone are the days in real estate when seemingly all it took to sell a house was a “For Sale” sign and a savvy realtor. Today’s real estate professionals must navigate an increasingly complex sales world with prospective clients, needing every available tool at their disposal.
For this reason, smart MLSs and real estate associations should use business logic to create, store and update data. This information enables us to match well-suited products and services for our members, to get them quickly on-boarded and engaged -- and to help them excel.
Business logic, defined
Business logic is essentially the portion of a computer software program tasked with encoding business rules that determine how data is created, stored and updated or changed. It helps to create and enforce workflows, enabling documents or data to calculate and transfer from one person to another.
For obvious reasons, business logic can positively impact any number of different sectors. What company wouldn’t want a codified way to amass and leverage information? That said, business logic is especially vital to MLSs and associations, given the constraints that their members rwork under. A realtor must contend with long sales cycles, sizable lists of clients and a seemingly never-ending amount of collateral information. Well-deployed business logic on an MLS or association website can help a realtor make sense of everything that the organization is offering. In turn, quantifying the value of their membership.
Business logic is the extra helping hand for the real estate industry. It is the greeter at the top of the sales funnel, systematically nurturing fresh leads into potential sales. It ensures that prospective clients don’t fall through the cracks and, just as importantly, that real estate professionals don’t lose out on attainable income.
Practical applications for business logic in real estate
There are a large number of ready-made, easily-deployed business logic applications for the real estate industry today. These include a seemingly-myriad amount of cloud-based functions. Firms with their own computer programmers can also extract business logic from business rule management systems or other customizable databases.
There is also often custom messaging available through real estate association or MLS websites, business logic that realtors can access directly through CMS platforms. Thus, it is vitally important that MLSs and associations have clear business logic strategies that they continually refine. It will help ensure that they are reaching the broadest number of members, with the era of simply sending out a mass email and counting on a strong open rate long gone.
Technological applications for business logic have come a long way in the past decade, evolving from monolithic designs to microservices to cloud-based functions. These applications will likely continue to rapidly evolve and reshape the real estate industry, with seemingly boundless heights possible for those who embrace business logic.
In today’s ultra-competitive real estate market, business logic offers a win-win for a variety of professionals within the industry.
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As a REALTOR® Association Executive, you are not only responsible for the constant improvement of your personal leadership skills, but you are also responsible for the growth and cultivation of the skills of your volunteer leaders. You are the one responsible for inculcating in the mind of the novitiate volunteer, not only the traits, characteristics and examples of effective leadership, but very importantly, what I refer to as the Three Core Principles of association management and leadership, upon which your association was built, and will continue to grow and thrive in the future:
- Associations have a perpetual life
- Associations have a continuum of leadership
- Associations have a continuum of membership
Association Executives and their staffs are the consistency and the glue, the true leaders of our REALTOR® organizations. As such, it is your duty as a leader, to ensure that leadership is part of the DNA of your organization.
Visibility is the Key
Leadership ideas and concepts should be visible to all members each and every day, and brought to consciousness whenever possible. Strive to create an environment of leadership. Keep in mind that true leaders also make the best followers.
I am a proponent of large, visible charts, graphs, and posters. Repetition is the mother of learning and seeing something day in and day out will leave a lasting impression over time. At the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the walls of Luce Hall (the Naval Science building, where I attended my first formal training in leadership) were lined with plaques with famous naval sayings. The technique was repetition. The intention was to move an idea “from the head to the heart.” Some might call this “brainwashing.” I prefer to call it learning and conditioning. The result is that ideas, concepts and philosophies become part of one’s belief system when observed, considered and weighed repetitively, over time, whether conscious or unconscious.
Written on plaques in Luce Hall, USNA, Annapolis:
“Men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship.” – John Paul Jones, Father of the American Navy.
This imbued in Midshipmen that one’s men and women are the true measure of success. Is that not true today?
“Don’t give up the ship.” During the War of 1812, Captain James Lawrence commanded the USS Chesapeake in a single-ship action against HMS Shannon. He is probably best known today for his dying command "Don't give up the ship!"
Leaders are called to place mission over personal interests. Since human beings are programmed to do that which is in their own best interest, it often takes time and repetition to displace old philosophies and human tendencies.
“If the mast goes, we go with it, our post is here.” -Midshipman Jarvis, USS Constellation
Dedication and perseverance are still the marks of good leaders
“He who will not risk cannot win” - John Paul Jones
Leaders are willing to take risks, calculated risks.
Looking at these, in a casual way…day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, I can attest, leaves a lasting impression…from your head, to your heart. They become part of the way you think.
Of course, this methodology is well known. Millions of dollars are spent each year on neatly framed motivational quotes, posted in conspicuous places, and for what purpose? “From the head to the heart.”
What does this have to do with association leadership you may now be asking yourself? Associations require leaders who understand, feel if you will, those cornerstones mentioned earlier in this article. Concepts required for the effective, year after year development of our REALTOR® Associations. It is imperative that these concepts be introduced and held constantly in the eyes (minds and hearts) of all members. Having these concepts integrated into the thoughts of our associations will help provide more consistent, member benefitting decision making, year after year, decade after decade.
Three basic concepts of association management that must be ever present are:
- Associations have a perpetual life
- Associations have a continuum of leadership
- Associations have a continuum of membership
Consider creating posters with these concepts prominently displayed at your association, in the lobby area and in the Board Room. They will make a difference.
Let’s examine each of these Principles and the impact an understanding of them will have upon your organization.
Associations have a perpetual life
Not only must associations serve their members today, they must be prepared to serve their members in the future. Here is an important distinction…serving your current members in the future, while at the same time preparing to serve future members. These are two different things. Associations that do not do both, place themselves in peril of becoming irrelevant, and possibly extinct. The consciousness of perpetual life will help guide your association into the future.
Associations have a continuum of leadership
Decision making at associations should always be done in context. Your association is not where it is today, in the position it is in today, based upon the actions of the current leadership. It has a history as a successful organization because of the work and dedication of many years of volunteer service by others.
Associations have a continuum of membership
Have you ever had a board of directors want to give rebates to the current members because there was a revenue surplus in a particular year? What they fail to realize is that any surplus is only a surplus because the association managed its financial affairs properly. Should new members be entitled to a refund when the reason there is a surplus is many years of work by past volunteers?
Begin with the Fundamentals
Don’t assume that your board of Directors is conscious of good leadership. Provide short, simple, leadership tips and basics on a recurring basis, year after year.
Here are a few fundamental concepts exemplified by those we would consider good leaders...
Commend in public
Reprimand in private
Jobs of a Leader:
Perform their current job
Prepare for the next job
Train their successor
Begin with the end in mind and work projects to completion.
Leadership is not just a position. Because one is a president, officer, or director of an association does not make one a good leader. Leadership is a skill which, for most, improves with practice and experience, over time.
Make this year the year you create and build a “Culture of Leadership” at your association. Now is the time to set in motion simple leadership projects which will pay huge dividends to your organization in the future. If not you, who? If not now, when?
Saul Klein is a 1972 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent 6 years in on Active Duty in the US Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer. He has been a licensed California Real Estate Broker for 32 years and he was the 1993 President of the San Diego Association of REALTORS® and its 1999 REALTOR® of the Year. Saul was the Real Estate Industry’s first Internet Evangelist and the creator of the NAR E-PRO online Technology Certification Program and the creator of many online communities, including AETalk and RealTalk. He is the CEO of RealTown and resides in San Diego, CA with his wife Janie, who has been his inspiration for the past 35 years.
Structural changes are taking place in every aspect of the workplace. The real estate industry is not an exception. The way our members sold real estate ten years ago is not the way they sell it today and the way they sell it today is not how they will sell it ten years from now. Their market, job description and needs are being transformed. Driving forces and concepts affecting and threatening our members and our associations as they currently function include:
- Board of Choice
- Public access to the MLS
- Agency liabilities
- Loss of MLS to outside entities, which results in loss of MLS income
- Buyer Brokerage/Broker Buyer Brokerage/Broker Compensation
- Alternative revenue sources
- Decreasing membership
- Staff driven vs. volunteers drive, the dynamics of changing leadership
- Added value, more for less
- Dealing with the "I want it all, I want it now, and I want it for nothing" syndrome
- Decrease in available volunteer time as time becomes more valuable and the membership shrinks
But in every threat, there is an opportunity, an opportunity to ride the forces of change in the direction in which it is already headed, and reaping the benefits.
A Time for Managing Change
The time to deal with all this change is now. The margin of error is slim. Association leaders, staff and volunteers, must create the Association of the future or their Association of the present will perish! Our industry is going through nothing less than a paradigm shift. As stated by Joel Barker, author of Future Edge, "When a paradigm shifts, everything goes back to zero." Large associations and small, rich and poor, it matters not, all are in danger of extinction. Become the creator of your future, not the victim.
Creating a future by design instead of a future by default requires being able to deal with massive (and increasing) amounts of information in a fast-changing environment.
The problem is, few people know what to make of it. So instead of knowledge being power, random knowledge is just information, and too much information leads to confusion. And technology continues to quicken the pace. Associations across the country are talking about it. The question is what are they doing about it and is it enough, or is it too late?
We are experiencing more than change; it's a revolution of greater historical significance than the Industrial Revolution.
The world is in the midst of the greatest social, economic and technological explosion that has ever been experienced. The question each of us must ask is, "Do we want to be part of it?"
We will witness in our lifetime a greater change in the job descriptions and skills of workers that took place during the Industrial Revolution. Real estate is not an exception.
Understanding, identifying and capitalizing on change will make the difference between economic (and personal) success and failure. Remember, change does not happen all at once. It is continually taking place, unseen by most. Only by becoming an astute observer will you benefit from the opportunities created by global transformation.
Today is not the age of information, it is the age of applied knowledge. Information out of context is worthless, yet information framed in the right context can be worth millions to someone who knows how to apply it.
Congratulations on reaching the highest elected office of this association. Read this manual as early in your President-Elect year as possible. Refer and add to it as often as possible, pass it on to your successor.
Have a great year. And take advantage of the excellent learning experience in front of you.
This is a year to pay attention to the issues, decide where you would like to have an impact, learn as much as you can about the functioning of the organization from the top, and support the President. Take the time to attend as many committee meetings as you can. The more you are seen or visible to the membership, the more valuable you are to the organization. It's a great job, all the glory, none of the responsibility. A lot of the members don't know the difference between the President and the President-Elect. Sometimes it is difficult to be so close to the seat of power. Just remember, you'll get your shot at the helm. Listen to the staff.
On Becoming President
One year is not a long time. Your time as President will fly by and you will not have time to accomplish as much as you would like. Choose that which you want to achieve and accomplish, focus the bulk of your effort on it, and rely on your incredibly professional staff to carry out the day to day affairs of the Association. Do not attempt to micro-manage, that is what the E.O. gets paid to do. Always remember that there is a "body politic" and that many people will attempt to influence you, intentionally and unintentionally. Be on guard for personal agendas. Utilize the Officers, staff, and committee's (Chairs and Vice Chairs) time and expertise to accomplish your agenda for the Association for the year. Stick to the Strategic Plan.
This is the only known manual on becoming President of this organization. Even though we spend a year as President-Elect, the fact is that because there is no manual for that position, you will do a lot of on the job training as President. As early in your President-Elect year as possible, read:
- Association by-laws
- Primer on Robert's Rules of Order (don't be afraid to talk to our parliamentarian and to utilize his services)
- Committee Formats - expectations of the President sometimes appear in these documents.
This job can be extremely time-consuming, taking half of each working day (plus the seven trips a year, 35 to 40 days of travel). Even then you will not be able to keep up with everything that goes on. Try to attend all committee meetings at least quarterly. The only volunteer who has access to "everything" that is going on at the Association is you. You are also the inspirational leader, so it is necessary that you read all the minutes to all the committee meetings and correspond with the chairs and vice chairs in writing at least quarterly. Also "well done" letters to as many people as possible as often as possible. You are the association and a letter from the President is a treat for most people.
In addition to dealing with the volunteer side, you can also be very valuable to the association by taking a personal interest in the staff. Special commendations, birthdays just saying hi to as many of them as you can every day makes them a happier and therefore a more productive resource (We do spend a large portion of our budget, appropriately so on this resource.) To summarize:
- Attend each committee meeting at least once; quarterly is ideal. It shows a real interest in the work of the volunteers. Attend all Budget and Finance Committee Meetings.
- Read the minutes of all the meetings. Check at least quarterly to see that committees are accomplishing their goals as delineated by the strategic plan.
- Send letters to the committee chairs, vice chairs, directors, officers quarterly.
- Send "well done" letters to members and staff who have been brought to your attention. A commendation from the President sometimes results in an association supporter for many years.
- Be interested in the staff. Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge.
- Remember staff and directors on their birthday.
- Make as many office visits as time allows. No more than two per day, about 20 minutes to 30 minutes in duration. You may take another officer, director, or member of staff with you who may have some vital information to relay to the members. Examples would include your Government Affairs Director, Education Director, Special Events Director, MLS, etc.
- Send thank you letters to the office manager/broker/office contact that set up the appointment.
- Remember and use as many names as possible. The most critical word in anyone's vocabulary is his or her name.
- Be responsive to the press. Remember, they have deadlines and your association wants the press. Visibility is essential to the self-esteem of the members.
Office of the President
This organization needs to look at what it wants its President to be and do. Our staff is capable. If you don't have the time to perform some of the functions, they can be delegated. If during your year as President-elect you know that you will not have much time to perform a lot of the President' duties, have discussions with the current President and next years President-elect to see about spreading some of the workloads around.
How much time is feasible for a President or President-elect to spend each week on behalf of the association? Two hours a day, five days a week equal 10 hours, which is 25% of a 40-hour week. Should we expect someone to sacrifice more or less than 25% of their income when they serve in this position? Whatever that level is, any time spent above that should be compensated. (A fee should be paid.)
Set the association calendar to fit your schedule. Because I travel, I like to get all my "staying in town" in the same week. Before my year as President-elect, Executive Committee and the Board of Directors met a week apart. Orientation was on an odd week. I preferred to have all three in the same week.
Set Agenda for yourself. Some of your year will be comprised of unfinished business from the year before (and maybe before that) plus whatever other items come to the surface during your term (or whatever items you bring to the surface). Here was my agenda as formulated during November/December before I took office:
My Areas of Focus
- Existing areas:
- SANDICOR – Dealing with a new, failing regional MLS
- Examine MLS Alternatives
- Strategic Plan - Emphasis on education and technology, "Knowledge is Power"
Prepare the leadership and the membership for change, paradigm shifts. What is impossible in your business today that, if it were possible, would fundamentally change the way you do business?
- Buyer Broker's Task Force
- Examine potential outlawing of dual agency
- Employee vs. Independent Contractor
- No Association geographic boundaries
- Increasing membership
- Structural Review Task Force
- Financial Management Review Committee
- Less dependence on MLS income as it may not always be there
Buyer Broker Task Force - This entity must develop its mission statement, format, decide meeting dates and membership, before the first of December (as must any new task force).
Financial Freedom for the Realtor - individual integrated business and personal financial planning. Message from the top. Plan for yourself because the government is not planning for you. You are responsible for your financial future.
Analyze and implement a financial plan through the Financial Review Committee. This committee must develop mission statement, format, meeting dates and members before December 1.
Be visible to the members. Have a "Heard on the Street" segment in a monthly message. Make at least one office visit per week, report exciting findings in the monthly message. The best form of communication is face to face. The members appreciate a visit from the President and you will accomplish the most for the Association if you are accessible to the membership.
Complete Structural Review for decision
Review by-laws by by-laws committee
It is the leader's responsibility to train the future leaders to think in visionary terms rather than focusing on the present.|
Don't take things personally. Because of the politics of associations, you will always have someone second-guessing your decisions, actions and motivations.
Pay it little mind (it's only human to let it get to you a little). Show your anger rarely, when you do show it, it will have more impact. One of the first things I learned in Leadership 101 at the Naval Academy was:
"Commend in public, reprimand in private."
This basic management principle will be the cornerstone for a successful year. NEVER forget it. It applies to both volunteers and staff.
You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility. Always remember leadership through precept and example.
A leader's three primary tasks:
- Perform your current job and responsibilities to the best of your ability
- Prepare for your next position
- Train your replacement
On Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs
Listen to the recommendations of staff, they work with these people, your volunteers. Give yourself plenty of time by starting the selection process in August of your President-Elect year. Also, solicit input from your volunteers, give yourself time to decide.
On Executive Committee at Large Positions
It is important to appoint people who not only are qualified but who are in agreement with your goals for the year and who will support you at Executive Committee Meetings and at Board of Directors. Remember that part of your job, as a leader is to groom future leaders. The Executive Committee is an excellent place to do this.
You are an Ex-Officio member of all committees, but pay particular attention to the following:
- Budget and Finance Committee
- Attend all meetings of this committee. Remember, and make sure the committee members remember that this is not a policy-making committee. Its job is to oversee the budget process and not to decide which individual budget items should be cut in the name of prudent money management.
You are a member of this committee. You may have an interest in participating in some of the interviews. Take the time early in the year to fill this committee. Your job as President is to train the future leadership. Your interest in the nominating process is extremely important.
Be prepared for requests for interviews by either the print media or television on Christmas Eve. It might be a good idea to be proactive at milestone date (Christmas, New Year, etc. and at least have prepared statements or interviews set up on your schedule).
Committees should be just about filled no later than the week before Christmas. The sooner you find out which committees need members the sooner you can see that something is done about it. Perhaps help select some particular committee. It may be possible, in the future, to line up next year’s committees at orientation.
Have a list of all the directors and officers and their spouses.
Have a birthday list of the directors and officers.
Have a list of all staff and their spouses.
Have a birthday list of all staff and give them a card or present on their birthday. I got each one a box of 9 Nordstrom's truffles on their birthday, presented by me to them on their birthdays or the Friday before in the event it fell on a weekend or holiday. A personal note about them was included on the small card.
Always notify appropriate committee chairs and vice chairs when a staff liaison leaves the Association, be it termination or just temporary departure. Also, notify your President-elect. Keep in mind that the staff is the realm of the executive officer. While your input may be asked for, it is not necessary and always let the EVP make the staff decisions. That is something else they get paid to do.
Strategic Planning Committee
Most people do not understand the strategic planning process. The link to the budget process is very important.
The context for the year is developed here. I believe that it is important enough to always budget for a facilitator. Do not be "penny-wise and pound-foolish." Schedule a 2-day (minimum) retreat each year.
If any of your projects for your year need to be funded, your input is required here. Always have a good number of directors on the strategic planning committee. When presenting the Strategic Plan (and the budget) to the Board of Directors, the following process is suggested:
- Three weeks before Board of Directors Meeting send Strategic Plan and Budget to Directors with a cover letter. Letter to indicate: Importance of documents and that supplemental material is available at the Association office. Request directors submit all questions in writing one week before BOD meeting.
- Two weeks before the meeting, President (and President-Elect) call all directors and officers to remind them of the deadline.
- You may even consider that the only items on the Director's meeting agenda that month are the Budget and the Strategic Plan.
Strategic Planning - General
The strategic planning process is more important than the planning document your committee creates. Leadership should encourage "strategic thinking" which is a necessity for the future success of the organization. The strategic planning process must be designed to develop a permanent, dynamic planning attitude. It must become part of the Association culture. Strategic planning is a state of mind, not a destination.
The strategic planning questions:
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to go?
- What are our strengths?
- What are our weaknesses?
- What are the threats to the association and the membership?
- What are the opportunities?
- What are the outside forces and threats that we will encounter as we implement the plan (social, economic, governmental, industry and consumer trends)?
- What is currently impossible (possible) to do in this business, that if it were possible (impossible), it would fundamentally change the way in which you do business?
You must analyze the internal and external forces that will influence the organization as it moves to accomplish its mission.
Don't get lost in the details, or choose people for the committees who do. This is all about the "Big Picture."
Include radical thinkers and innovators.
Make sure all the people appointed to committees understand the commitment that will be required, especially the time.
Always bring in an outside facilitator for your strategic planning process.
Chairs and vice chairs must develop plans of action to implement the strategic plan (possibly at a workshop that will help them write and build their POA's (Plans of Action). This should be done in November and before the annual leadership meeting.
Participants in the process will gain experience and information that they can take back to their companies and daily life.
It is an educational process. Only people who are interested in being part of the future, acting instead of reacting should be made part of the team.
Strategic leadership is in the follow through. How is it carried out and monitored?
The budget process should be integrated into the strategic planning process. Members of B & F should be on the strategic planning committee.
This person must be able to work with you or your scheduling entity to coordinate your time. He/she should confirm all your travel arrangements three weeks from the scheduled event, even if you make the reservations yourself. There are so many people flying to CAR/NAR if you don't make your reservation early enough, you may not get departure and arrival times you desire.
Keep notes and even make recorded voice memos using your phone. You must discipline yourself to do this. It will create a valuable record not only for you but also for the Association. Often we need to recall decisions of past leadership and it is always nice to hear from someone who was there and in the proper context.
Call in at least three times a day and check your messages. If possible, be reachable by cell phone (call or text).
Accessing Member's Needs
Must be done at least semiannually, and the organization must respond to the needs of the members in a timely manner.
Your association must be a resource to its members, a partner, indispensable to their business. Have a great year and feel free to add to this.
Welcome to AE Talk. We are the resource for Association Executives of Real Estate Associations. This blog is powered by a partnership between RealTown and RE Altitude. We invite you to explore this site and maximize the value that you can bring to your association.
You may love them, you may hate them, you may even be one! But attorneys perform a critical role in the real estate industry. Do you need one and if so when? Saul Klein and John Reilly (who knows a thing or two about lawyers) spend some time examing this interesting topic.
Technology companies often make the mistake of developing products for the real estate professional without understanding the many ins and outs of working with the technology that runs real estate and the associations that control that technology. Long-time real estate expert Saul Klein dives deep in this video to explore the world real estate tech development and what issues must be considered before diving into real estate tech.
Communication Plan for Associations - What's Your Plan of Action? - In our decades of working for and with real estate associations across the United States, we've found the most common complaint coming from association staff and membership is regarding executive directed, organization-wide communication.
Communicating effectively at all levels of the organization seems to be a challenge for many associations. Great communication requires the creation of a communication plan and commitment to its implementation.
We've encountered this exact issue so often we've developed a communication implementation plan. Use these guidelines for enacting a new communication plan for your association. Or review these guidelines to ensure your current communication plan is robust and thorough.
Communication Plans Require the Following Considerations
ONE. Identifying the different channels of communication at your association. Some examples could include:
- Leadership to Staff
- Staff to Leadership
- Staff to Staff
- Staff to Member
- Member to Staff
- Member to Member
- Association to Public
- Committee Chairs to Committee Members
- Committee Chairs to Committee Chairs
- Committee Chairs to BOD
TWO. Identify benefits derived from effective communications and which of those benefits you wish to experience.
- Cost Savings
- More Participation
- Greater Understanding of the Workings of the Association by Everyone (Members, Staff, Public, etc.)
THREE. Identify current communication means used by your association and other tools you are not using.
- Social Media - Facebook/Twitter/RealTown Communities
FOUR. Identify sources of content to communicate besides the "as needed" communications.
FIVE. Decide which communication tools will be employed for each communication channel.
SIX. Determine the frequency of current communications down the channels identified.
- President to Board of Directors - Monthly by Meeting and Weekly by E-mail, Supplemented by Website
- Committee Chairs to Committees - Monthly by Meeting, Weekly by E-mail
SEVEN. Determine person responsible for ensuring the implementation of the communication plan.
EIGHT. Monitor results.
If you feel you need better communications at your association, what are you doing differently to accomplish your desired results?
We've heard insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I think Albert Einstein said this, or maybe it was Ben Franklin, actually, it's probably a Chinese Proverb. But getting serious about communicating with your membership and the other people within your association is no laughing matter.
Too often Association Executives delegate communication plans to others, rubber stamp the entire process, or leave out disciplined communication entirely. But building, implementing and monitoring an organization-wide communication plan is one of the most important tasks an AE can endeavor.
What's your experience with communication within your organization? How did you overcome obstacles set in your path to deliver a great communication plan? We'd love to hear from you!
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